rn: Strategic Questioning (Fran Peavey)


Jan Slakov

Dear RN,

Thank you, Richard, for down-loading the piece on co-intelligence by Tom
Atlee. I imagine I am not alone as someone who will read things like that if
it is made easy for me (i.e. in the body of an e-mail message) but, for
whatever reason, would not get to a web site.

I have recently been reading a book, _By Life's Grace: Musings on the
Essence of Social change_ by Fran Peavey (New Society Publishers). It's
great, and one section of it surely fits in with the discussion on
co-intelligence, the section on "Strategic Questioning".

I haven,t even read that section yet, but I looked it over, and it looks
very useful.

Here is what Congressman Ron Dellums had to say:

"This is a rich book for lean times... The section on "Strategic
Questioning" alone makes this book a prize. [In it], Peavey shows us how to
gain leverage by analyzing problems, and solutions, through a series of open
questions. For those of us wise enough, or fortunate enough, to possess this
skill, _By Life's Grace_ hones it; for those of us who ask dead-end questins
which lead to dead-end responses, this book will be invaluable." 

-Representative Ronald V. Dellums, US Congress

... I have read other parts, and there is one part I really want to share
with you, but most of all, I can recommend the whole book. The part I
particularly want to share is from an essay entitled: _People Are Killing
People_. Here:

 It starts like this: "The only sacrifice greater than losing one's own life
is being forced to take another's life." It ends with words like this: "It
is very tempting for the people not doing the fighting to retreat into
judgement and self-righteousness as if they themselves have no
responsibility for the war.... How many of us have the determination to
refuse to pay taxes to fund this war?
How many of us continue to drive as if oil had no price? No price in human
life? No price for the planet?

No one is above responsibility for this war - it's our war. One of the
things I learned from the Vietnam war is that veterans are not alone in
their moral pain. It is our collective pain. When we have a war it is not
their war, it's our war."  In the middle she writes: "It seems very costly
to the human spirit to ask one person to kill another. All societies spend
lots of energy teaching their young children not to harm other life -
siblings, neighbours, kittens, birds. Then when that same society needs a
killer, it spending enormous resources training him (usually the killers are
still "hims" to disregard what he has previously learned about decency....
It is costly to train killers; it is also costly to return these killers to

... I ended up quoting from this essay in a letter to a local school board
official. A friend and fellow activist had alerted me to how local Gr. 12
students had been asked to bring frogs into school to be dissected. We were
upset that this was teaching the students to see these lives as disposable
(all the more amazing given that amphibians are in a precarious state in

In my letter, I pointed out that this is the Decade for a Culture of
Non-violence, that teaching students reverence for all life is of crucial
importance, etc. I offered to help with any effort they want to make to
promote a culture of non-violence. I am quite sure my letter made its
impact; the official replied right away by phone and assured me he would
follow up on this....

So much work to be done, eh? But there are so many of us earthworms, working
away, and so much reason to hope.

all the best, Jan

PS Here is a bit more from the back cover of _By Life's Grace_:

"What we know of life is only where we have decided to rest with our

_By Life's Grace_ collects the keen, sometimes funny, always thought
provoking observations of a remarkable woamn who has managed to keep her
heart and soul open to new people, new experience, new ideas, and new
strategies for social change. Whether in the streets of San Francisco, on
the banks of the Ganges, in the corridors of state power, or exploring the
rooms of the spirit, Fran Peavey gently but persistently opens eyes to new
ways of seeing the most painful - and the most hopeful - realities of our times.

Whether grappling with HIV, working to end homelessness, marrying the woman
she loves, opposing the Persian Gulf War, or cleaning up rivers, Fran always
maintains - and shares- her keen sense of the ridiculous and her gift for
bringing together coalitions of people separated by race, culture and class.
She offers grace in a time when we are testing out, with each other, the
bare foundations of our hopes, fears, values and dreams.