Bulletin No. 9

Day 5, 1 am

Which would make it Day 6, of course, but I haven’t gone to bed yet, so it’s still Day 5. I did take a nap this afternoon, at long last.

Things have calmed considerably–perhaps the influence of the weekend. After the rally last night my friend gave me a ride back home so I could feed the cats, take a shower, and get some clean clothes. And then I came back here–the place that actually is home now–and chilled for awhile and wrote up the rally for y’all.

Today we had several more classes in the morning–the current estimate is that over 1000 students have been through. We are getting this teaching thing down. And from 11-12 on KRUI (the student-run station here) James Tracy and Matt Killmeier were on political discussion show called “Point Blank” with our dear friend Joel, the founding and perhaps only member of Students Against the Methods of Students Against Sweatshops. He’s a funny guy, but we’re grateful to him in a way because his existence got us our radio spot. And he does do some research–he’s just a little misinformed about how much work has already been done by SAS and perhaps a little inexperienced in just how bureaucracies work.

Anyway, Matt and Jim sounded _great_. They knew their stuff, and there’s an inherent confidence in them–they sounded relaxed, reasonable, well-informed–all the things that you want people speaking for you to be, and all the things that, increasingly, all of us are becoming. We all increasingly speak with the confidence that comes from deep questioning and good information combined with purpose and vision. (God, do I sound like I’m writing mission statement stuff yet? Blech.)

But really–there’s something in this. As I helped with the teach-ins today and as I listened to Matt and Jim, it struck me how very much this organization and this movement has been communal–how much we have all been the authors of the philosophy which guides it. Of course, I may be more inclined towards thinking in this pattern because I’m taking a class right now which focuses on just this question–on the differences and similiarities between authoring a book and authoring a movement and how it all works and what it all means. But listening to any of us talk these days, if you have heard the conversations that we have, you realize that you are listening to a human palimpsest, a book which we’ve all written. It’s like stone soup, really–we started out with nothing but stones, nothing really much at all, but as more and more people realized how great a movement, how great a world could be built with those stones, they each came bringing the other things that they had–the mortar to fill the cracks and the boards to make the floor and the pictures to hang on the walls. Wow, I realize I’ve just moved from soup to books to movements to houses, which may well make me nuts, but you take what you can get.

I have learned so much from the people here: I have learned facts and figures, I have learned history, I have learned current events, I have learned more rhetorical technique. I’ve even learned something about basketball. (Have I told you all the basketball metaphor? It’s so good! Matt came up with it originally, and now we all use it. Okay, here you go:

Imagine that the university here has a losing basketball team. I mean, they really suck. So what does the U. do? They hire a new coach, of course. This coach is called FLA. So FLA coaches for a year, but actually, he really doesn’t do anything. He barely even holds practices. After a year, the team is still terrible, hasn’t won a game. So the U. decides to hire another coach, and this one’s called WRC. He’s all gung ho, holds practice, kicks some people into shape, shows a lot of potential. But the U., instead of firing the old coach, FLA, decides to keep both of them on. When it comes to game time, FLA wants the team to use a zone defense, and WRC wants them to use a man-to-man defense, and when it’s time to play, the team can’t really do a thing.

We find this goes over really well around here–you get these guys saying, “You can’t play ball using zone and man-to-man at the same time!” It’s great. Then we try to get them to see how this won’t work when it comes to factory monitoring strategies, either. Anyway, the other day I finally got someone to explain the basketball end of it to me–I felt like kind of a dope for using this metaphor without really getting one end of it, although of course the end I don’t get is the one everyone else does. I myself have been using a health care analogy: the FLA is an HMO, and just as you don’t want your health decisions being made by insurance folks whose primary interest is profit over patient care, so we don’t want factory monitoring to be done by people who value profit over human rights.)

(I bet you forgot that was all paranthetical, didn’t you? I’m so snidely.)

But the movement’s philosophy is cohering, despite–or perhaps because of–the way we work, the way we all get to talk at meetings, the way we don’t have a president or a spokesman or a PR department. What Ned–who gets quoted most often, it is true, because he’s such a master of the well-turned phrase (“Physically, we may have been moved a few feet, but in our demands we have not budged a single inch”)–says is true: we’re all spokesmen. Even if we don’t all get quoted directly, we all speak because the things that we say have all be influenced so much by each other. Now while there could be some disturbing things going on here (silencing of authorship or disappearance of certain people–namely women, I suspect some of you might say), from the midst of it I still find it terribly exciting.

Well, the weekend looks like it will be pretty mellow. We all need a little break. I mean, I find just teaching my kids at Willowwind is tiring enough–talking to all these classes that have been pouring through here, plus other random people who just stop in, plus the occasional administrative type who deigns to address us, is positively draining. And yet I haven’t felt tired. My mom wrote me an e-mail all about the effects of adrenaline on the body long term, but I don’t remember what they were.

Right now we’ve got maybe 12 or 15 people spending the night–we’ve started signing up for shifts so that people who’ve been here all week can go home and take showers and check their mail and maybe even take a little nap. Ned finally went home to shower because he figured his students shouldn’t see him in the same clothes he taught on on Monday. And I think we even got Heidi to take a break for awhile. (That Heidi–she’s indefatigable).

Dave and the security guard who’s been assigned to us are chatting about guitar playing and music right now; someone else is strumming away. Jamie and Cara were just saying “Ooh, it’s a slumber party! We have to talk about boys now.” “Or play Truth or Dare,” I added.

Oh, one last note: Today I made a huge sign–two big pieces of posterboard–with the quotation that I’ve been reading from classes from time to time:


A second basic fact that characterizes nonviolence is that it does not seek to defeat or humiliate the opponent, but to win his friendship and understanding. The nonviolent resister must often express his protest through noncooperation or boycotts, but he realizes that these are not ends in themselves; they are merely means to awaken a sense of moral shame in the opponent. The end is redemption and reconciliation. The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community, while the aftermath of violence is tragic bitterness.

That’s Martin Luther King, Jr., of course, from his first book, Stride Toward Freedom, an account of the Montgomery bus boycott. Anyway, as i was putting this together, Ann Rhodes (VP for University Relations) stopped by and said, “Oh, you have such nice handwriting!” “Thanks,” I said. “Lincoln Elementary School.” A couple of other people (though none of them higher-ups) made similar comments, but none of them, I should add, bothered to read what it is I was writing. Anyway, I stuck it up right in the little alcove outside the Office of the President, which is the first stop for all our visitors. We’re not just a bunch of kids who wanted to take over a building, dammit–we’re creating the beloved community right in here. I guess some people just don’t want to join it.



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