re: “INVITATION to help achieve a liveable world” (fwd)


Richard Moore

Date: Thu, 17 Sep 1998
From: •••@••.•••
Subject: Re: INVITATION to help achieve a liveable world
To: •••@••.•••, [suppressed list]

Greetings one and all: The recent mail-out from Eric Fawcett (Science
for Peace activist who keeps us all wonderfully informed - thank you,
Eric!) provoked some reflection.  Please use what is useful, and discard
the rest.

The thoughts and analysis of the new global reality expressed in the
email (attached below)  certainly are shared by many
progressive NGOs and organizations supporting justice: women, environment,
international, labour, anti-racism/colonialism, world federalism,
democratic development, etc.. The interlinking opportunities afforded by
the work of the Citizens for a Democratic Renaissance may well help us

The following analysis and suggestions derive from long years of community
organizing in Ontario.  The points made are from my own, possibly
faulty, observation as I work on the ground, not within the organizations
cited below. However, these points are meant to deepen the discussion, so
please try  to ignore petty errors in favour of the general concepts.

      1. Most organizing efforts are still top-down.  For example, the
OFL in Ontario is just starting a mobilization campaign with materials
from the centre to influence communities, communities who have their own
stories, materials and methods of mobilizing. (Hopefully the workshop
component will be able to counter the "top-down approach.) A few years
ago, one hundred thousand of us turned up in Ottawa to try to defeat NAFTA
with no action plan. The "John Sewell" movement for municipal democracy in
Toronto brought enormous energy to a serious problem, but used the old
familiar formula - "top down" organizing. Moreover, his advocates came
into small communities with "his message" and took little notice of the
already active work being done, or of the irrelevance of the Toronto
message outside Toronto. The waste of resources in top-down
moblizing overwhelms those of us working at the bottom with very little.

The Action-Canada network suffered some of the same problems.  It
was a VERY useful organizing concept - great policy development, but
stayed "top down", instead of developing a two-way (down-up-down)
organizing methodology.  There were (and are) dozens of Social Justice
Coalitions in communities across Ontario which were seldom consulted.  The
Ontario Coalition offers some contact and help across Ontario, but remains
(probably for lack of resources) primarily a Toronto -based organization.
Top-down organizations unconsciously support the status quo - and that is
what we are desperately trying to change.  Our actions must match our
analysis or we repeat the problem.

In short, what is desperately needed is a new understanding, acceptance
and practice which promotes participatory and inclusive "process" as
a major goal of our justice.  Process should accompany the actions
we do, individually and collectively, against global inequity. In this
model, grass-roots organizing is the base, and other structures are
developed to support local mobilization.  Change has to be initiated and
sustained at the local level first (and forever) if public opinion is to
be influenced in the long-term.

There are models which work better than those mentioned above.  Ten
Days for Global Justice feeds itself from local committees,
and centrally produces materials for use locally after consultation and
common goal setting.  The Ontario Environmental Network seems to exist to
move information among members who then act upon it within the spheres of
their interest and feed the centre for advocacy, etc.  A most powerful
model comes from Brazil where a coalition of over 900 organizations and
individuals launched the "Campaign against Hunger, Misery and for Life".
IBASE - an organization ressembling our Social Planning Councils - played
a major role in ensuring a grassroots focus for the campaign.  The message
was simple: You cannot be a full citizen if others are hungry".  People
were urged to do something - not to wait, as no one else would tell them
what to do.  They were invited to form committees and negotiate with the
hungry as to what could be done.  The central group was a clearing house
for information from the grassroots.  Central passed on success stories to
each other local committee and the media, and worked integrally with media
people on national and local media campaigns (which were
extremely successful).  At its height, the campaign had over 3000
local committees engaged in countering the effects of global greed.

These models give me hope.  There are millions of people who are genuinely
concerned about the negative changes of globalization affecting them,
their loved ones and their country.  Moreover, public opinion polls still
indicate that the Canadian public is committed to global justice.  Our
organizing strategies have to provide methods to achieve it.

      2. Briefly, the progressive movement in English Canada remains
sectoral, each group (environment, women, etc.) working primarily and
often criticaly with their own issues.  The need for a major
inter-sectoral commitment is the only way we will ensure the resources to
do what is needed in the struggle against global economic, political,
social and cultural hegemony.  The organizing principle for such a
combined movement would be best fed from local communities.

      3. A wise Aboriginal person at a recent workshop held at Trent
University on "Practical Ways of Sharing Equity" gave us a wonderful
strategy.  Paul Kayanesenh Williams of Six Nations at Grand River notes
that "all the tales tell of monsters.  The way they are brought
down in the stories are through the tricksters.  Capital, in the form of
transnational corporations, is our faceless monster.  Its proponents, who
have no connection with reality, who are citizens of nowhere, whose names
mean nothing and whose appetites span the world, fail to see the damage
they cause. And the way to defeat the monsters is not to attack their
strengths, but their weaknesses."  This type of action also calls for
firmness in our beliefs, a knowledge of our traditions, analysis of
equity, analysis of capital strengths and weaknesses, joint work...
and FUN!

In closing, we need to focus on "how" - the process- of bringing together
the progressive thinkers into a new way of respecting local communities,
local struggles.  Hopefully the invitation from the Citizens for a
Democratic Renaissance can help provoke this discussion, and provide us
with new contacts and analysis for support this change.

                [Attached: Text of the Invitation]



                  Create a sane and livable world
                  in vibrant democratic societies.
             Bring global corporate power under control.
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                                  -- Frantz Fanon