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Election 2000
Election 2002

"Wherever two of you are gathered together,
there is Politics in the midst of them."

    For most of my life I bitterly avoided politics -- school politics, office politics, club politics, family politics. Most of us hate what we call "politics" -- usually meaning manipulative favor-brokering to achieve personal ends within a group.
    Now I talk to City Councils and Neighborhood Councils on a regular basis. I campaign for initiatives, write letters to politicians, and do my utmost to influence public policy.
     I didn't jump from There to Here. It was a step-by-step process of seeing things that had to be done and taking a part in doing them.
    There are times now that I get called an "activist" in a disparaging tone, as when people who oppose certain homeless actions say, "You aren't a homeless person, you're just an activist." To me, "activist" just means "a person who acts." There are those who read about issues and discuss issues and speak up about their opinion on the issues -- and there are those who act on the issues, to create an actual change in conditions. Many people are intolerant of both, but they are far more intolerant of those who are doing something than they are of those who are talking about it.
     It is necessary to read about issues, think about them and discuss them, before you act. And speaking up about your opinion is an action, one that can have a measurable effect. But sooner or later, to move your ideals into the physical universe, you have to physically do something about them.
     I have been called a "radical," and a "left-wing radical." I am not sure that all left-wing radicals would claim me, because I have been known to express doubts whether Che Guevara was, in fact, the Messiah. However, I don't get at all upset about being called a left-wing radical.
     Frankly, I don't care if you call me left-wing, right-wing, or a Purple Mongoose. There is some value to defining terms and clarifying our concepts. It is also possible to dissappear into a spinning morass of ever-spreading verbiage.
     My favorite way of defining "fantasy" and "science fiction" is to list some of my favorite fantasy books and some of my favorite science fiction books. I'm going to try to describe some of my political ideals by example. Then I'm going to get back to work.
     Find Washington State, County, and Seattle City Officials

Empowerment: Currently one of the most overused words in Politically-Correctdom. Will often cause nausea upon appearance. Many people who are actually doing it are trying to find alternate words for it, to avoid the gag reflex.
    In actual practice, if an individual has the controlling voice in the decisions that affect her life, she is "empowered." To give a person control over the decisions that affect her is to "empower" her. This can be done by providing information, by teaching skills, by delegating power, or a number of other ways.
    You do not empower people by telling them what to do "for their own good." Occasionally, the most empowering thing you can do for someone is to allow her to fall flat on her own face. I have learned a whale of a lot more in my life from the decisions I made for myself that were wrong, than I did from the decisions other people made for me that were right.
    Transferring skills is critical to empowerment. You are empowering your children when you teach them to cook and clean and mend clothes for themselves, instead of being the only one they can depend on to do such things. If you are the only one in the shelter program who knows how to do email, and everyone has to send and receive their email through you, you are disempowering the whole bunch and you'd better get hopping on a training program.
    Empowerment isn't something a bunch of radicals thought up in the 90's. It wasn't called "empowerment" when the Boston revolutionaries declared "no taxation without representation," but it was the same idea. It wasn't called "empowerment" when generations of relatives advised over-protective moms to "let your children make their own mistakes," but it was the same idea. It isn't really a revolutionary idea for Americans. It's only a revolutionary idea when you apply it to people who might not do what you want them to do, if you empower them.

Self-management: There are bureaucrats who consider that they are running "self-managed housing" because the residents are allowed to choose the color of paint on the walls, and who is going to carry out the garbage.
    There are others who deny that a shelter started by homeless people and run by homeless people is really "self-managed", because a purchase of toilet paper was made without obtaining group consensus first.
    I regard these as the signs that a program is "self-managed":

  • The people in the program refer to it as "theirs."
  • Individual members will point to particular constructions or events and say, "I did that."
  • The people who benefit from the program have a voice, a controlling voice, in how it is run.

  • Consensus: Your soul has not been truly tried until you have been through The Consensus Meeting From Hell.
        If you are truly dedicated to empowerment and self-management, then it follows as the night the day that everyone in your group must have their say in decision-making and no decision must be acted on until all disagreements have been resolved and the decision formulated is one that everyone can live with.
       And if you make every tiny decision in your organization by this full process, you are a dang-fool idjit -- but at least you will die young of nervous prostration and take yourself out of the gene pool.
        It is immensely valuable to pursue consensus: when a solution is found between two opposing viewpoints it is often better than the solution that either party could have come up with alone. But true consensus takes sincere effort on the part of all involved to actually achieve a consensus -- not to achieve getting everyone else to agree with them.
        Like most things that are important, consensus is not easy. It takes a lot of active effort to make sure everyone is speaking up and being heard -- and to keep the ball rolling at the same time.
    For more information on consensus:

  • The Consensus Process post at Activism.Net
  • Getting Things Decided: The Consensus Process
  • On the Formal Consensus Process as used by the Chicago Alliance
  • Amazing Graces' Guide to Consensus Process -- if you are comfortable in groups that begin with everyone breathing together, you may prefer this description of the consensus process. It is as thorough as any of the others.

  • Political system: There is much talk on the email lists about democracy vs republicanism, socialism vs communism, anarchy vs everybody, and the virtues of Fredonism (or any other newly-invented system). In my opinion, you can have the most ideal system in the world, and if you have malicious thugs running it it's going to be hell. If you have well-meaning thugs running it -- the kind who want to control everything you do "for your own good" -- it may be hell. On the other hand, you can have a totalitarian dictatorship, and if it's run by the right people it could be heaven (in fact this sounds just like the Christian Fundamentalist view of Heaven).
        I have explored alternate political theories myself. Currently, I believe that if everyone practiced the three principles above -- empowerment, self-management, consensus -- in families and neighborhoods and companies and on up through cities and counties and nations, the world would run as close as is humanly possible to the balance of personal freedom and public order that any theorist is after in all these political philosophies.
        One study in "what makes a good marriage" found that the skills of "active listening" and conflict resolution were of minor importance to one critical factor found in all lasting relationships -- the willingness to let the other person be right.
        I propose that most of the problems in the world today could be handled if we worked together as a community, listening to each other and actively seeking common ground and mutually workable solutions. I propose that each of us temporarily table the urgent need to Be Right; until, let's say ... sometime after the Heat Death of the Universe?
        My fiancé says that I am manic and delusional and I should take another Lithium. I say that ideals are worth pursuing, or we never get anywhere.
        What do you think?



        If you vote, your vote may not make a difference.
        If you don't vote, your vote will definitely not make a difference.
        I am in favor of speaking up, speaking out, getting involved and making yourself heard on all hands.
        So vote. It won't take any more time than you probably already spend griping about politics, and it can't be any less effective than that, can it?
        Once you start voting, of course, you might want to go farther. Help turn out the vote. Spread information on registration. Organize transportation to the polling place on voting day. Do your bit to make it fashionable to actually know what the hell the local elections are about. Adult humans have been known to get perennially excited over which tribal group can bat the ritual ball and run around the sacred circle the most times. At one time in human history local elections raised that much fever. Cycles do turn. Make history.

    League of Women Voters of the United States, with links to your local chapter.
    The vote does count -- make every vote count!

    Q. How many militant feminists does it take to change a light bulb?
    A. One. And that's NOT funny!

        Okay, it's one of my favorite jokes. My only real difficulty with some people who call themselves feminists is that it sounds so odd to me to hear someone say, "I insist on being treated like a human being -- you male-chauvinist pig!" The group I ran with in the sixties used to like to say "We're not just for feminine liberation -- we're for human liberation." I still feel that campaigning for the human dignity of any group -- whether the homeless, the mentally ill, women, or immigrants -- requires that I respect the human dignity of everyone, even those opposed to me. (Although I still claim that certain mayoral figures sexually molest underaged male hamsters, I claim it calmly and with dignity.)
        But I have seen a real cultural change in my lifetime. I grew up with a mother who worked, and wrote, and spoke publically about her beliefs -- but I was one of the only girls in school who did. I had to run with the boys to find anyone to discuss science and science fiction with. In my thirties, working as a computer programmer, I looked around and realized that I was surrounded by technically trained women who read science fiction. At least one of them had the hots for Stephen Hawking just as much as I did.
        Today I work with a group of homeless and formerly homeless women, WHEEL, who organize and campaign for programs to address the problems of homeless women. We are respected in this town, Seattle, where we have had real effects. I've stood up in public meetings of the City Council and the State in what I call my "three-week-old clothes and three-day-old hair," had my say and been taken seriously. I don't think the Mayor's office calls me a grrrl, but when I brought an injunction against the City all by my non-attorney lone self, they sent six City people down to Court to handle me. (WHEEL)
        I and my friends are women who work for the dignity of women and an increase in their power over their own lives. Now does that makes us feminists, or grrls? Personally, I'm too busy to worry about the label.
       But anybody who thinks feminism is dead, isn't paying attention.

    Contradictions of Feminism
    Other sites for women

    Roll on with WHEEL


        I got to this point on my page and asked my sweetheart Wes, "What other political subjects have I expressed an opinion on lately?" He looked at me and said, "You're always expressing an opinion." Some things I have already created a page for are mental health rights and homelessness. My opinions are also brazenly woven into my book reviews at Active Books.

    Short-summary opinions:

        The only conspiracy theory that I completely agree with is, "The paranoids are out to get us all." However, when a lot of people share similar motivations and circumstances they can act in a close imitation of a conspiracy. This explains the rise of corporate power, the world-wide wave of repressive anti-poor legislation, and the rise of grassroots activism.

        When capital is allowed to pool in large amounts in limited areas it distorts the fabric of society. I also don't know of any way to redistribute wealth that doesn't involve narrow-minded people acting morally superior and giving other people hell. I think we have to find a way, within a few more years, or we are in for violence. Right here in River City, folks, Trouble with a capital T.
        More links on Corporate Welfare

        Words are defined by the way they are used. The working definition of a cult is, "A bunch of people who believe strongly in something that I don't." My grandfather believed that Roman Catholics stockpiled weapons in their basements in preparation for the Pope's call to rise and take over the country. Twenty-five years ago most people I knew considered Bahai's to be dangerous mind-washing cultists -- they are now quite respectable. I have personally studied Scientology, Mormonism, Nichiren-Shoshu Buddism, and Hare Krishna, and all four have respected my freedom of thought much more than friends who learned what I was studying and wanted to protect me from myself.
        The more faith you have in your own beliefs, the easier you feel about other people expressing theirs. If you know reality, then they are inevitably going to discover it, aren't they?
        In a world of many cultures and religions, drawing constantly closer with modern communications, more economically interknit, and more vulnerable to new weapons every day, tolerance is no longer an option -- it is a necessity. We must learn how to express our own opinions and let other people express theirs at the same time, peacefully.
        Start practicing.

        Free speech is a rock-bottom necessity for a free society. Advocating hate and violence is not free speech -- it is a crime. Tolerating hate-advocates in the name of "free speech" is suicide.
        This is a tough and controversial question, and it ought to be. It should never become easy to decide that we will not let someone broadcast on our airwaves, be published in our magazine, or speak on our stage. But to say "yes" to one thing usually means saying "no" to something else. If you are in favor of human dignity for all people, and the value of human life, then you cannot condone people who advocate killing "lesser races," or any other of our multiple social insanities.
        Responsible Free Speech Campaign

        Violence is occasionally necessary -- in self-defense or defense of our loved ones, for instance. War is occasionally necessary -- I still think Hitler had to be stopped.
        But war and violence are such easy options that if there is not strong opposition to their use, challenge and questioning and self-questioning, they get used increasingly often.
        Many wars are wrong. The Vietnam war was wrong. But it is also shameful to mistreat the veterans who returned from that war -- or to ignore those who never returned.

  • The Association for Service Disabled Veterans (ASDV)
  • Operation Just Cause
  • My Adopted POW/MIA, 1stLt. Gerald Oak Alfred, Jr. "Alf"


    Real Change, Seattle's homeless newspaper.

    Free Minds Online -- the Q Campaign for responsible journalism on the Internet -- where we are all the media.

    Outcreate the Destroyers, the Seattle affiliates of the Coalition to Stop Police Brutality.

    Singing Bears: A Home for Activist Art, using the creative arts for social change.


    Top MOMS Sites

    Anitra L. Freeman: Creativity<->Empowerment
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