Archive for category: NPIC
Ask your liberal friends about Danny Glover. They will say – superstar actor featured in the Lethal Weapon film series. Civil rights activist. Democracy Now regular. Supporter of Bernie Sanders for President and for single payer national health insurance. But ask older Americans who watch a lot of cable television about Danny Glover, and they will tell you about Danny Glover – paid actor for big pharma and the insurance industry.
The post Danny Glover Under Cover For Big Pharma And Insurance Companies appeared first on PopularResistance.Org.
On the show today, Chris Hedges discusses the lies and fantasies told by the mainstream environmental movement about how to solve the climate crisis with authors and activists Derrick Jensen and Lierre Keith.
A new book shows how technology will not solve our environmental crisis. We will not extract ourselves from the death march toward extinction by recycling, building wind turbines, relying on solar panels or driving electric cars. This is a fantasy sold to us by an environmental movement that promises we can continue to indulge in orgies of consumption and maintain the levels of waste and perpetual growth that define the industrial age. The fact is our time is up. The forests are dying. Water is polluted, and in many places poisoned. Industrial farming is depleting the soil.
The post On Contact: Mainstream Environmental Movement Lies appeared first on PopularResistance.Org.
PALESTINE MARCH DC PHOTO: NUHA MAHAROOF / IG (SRI.LANKAN)
When Some Progressive Groups Can Issue Solidarity Statements on Palestine Online, But Cannot Take to the Streets for Palestine, They Lose Credibility
Last Friday, 60 young climate activists from the Sunrise Movement protested in front of the White House. The direct action was fairly mild compared to other Sunrise actions. The event was precipitated by President Joe Biden’s announcement that he would be reducing commitments for climate spending.
Now compare that to the National March for Palestine a week before on Memorial Day weekend when 35,000 protesters showed up in DC from all over the country. Not a single major media outlet covered the event.
Sunrise’s visibility brings a progressive gravitas. So when Sunrise is absent from international solidarity movements, its absence leaves march organizers and Palestinian rights activists rebuking the Gen Z and Gen Y climate movement that is supposed to center voices of color.
Sunrise’s national leadership and its local DC hub discount the intersectionality of the climate movement when they fail to show up. Again and again Sunrise seeks to center voices of young American people of color, but being black and brown and young and woke doesn’t make one immune from U.S. imperialist ambitions in the form of climate hegemony.
“This is the first Sunrise Movement escalated action directly targeting Biden at the White House since he entered the presidency,” a statement from the organization read. “But definitely will not be the last.” https://t.co/FyqAYEeVRI
— The Hill (@thehill) June 4, 2021
The past month’s protests for Palestine were part of a tectonic moment of international solidarity.
The Climate Civilian Corps that Sunrise Movement is currently touting is just another policy puzzle in the arsenal of climate policy. Sunrise Movement’s 400-mile trek is meant to drum up support for a Civilian Climate Corps and Green New Deal. It’s also a media grab to promote the Sunrise brand.
Meanwhile, unfunded and underfunded antiwar organizations do not have the benefit of protecting white spaces, which is essentially what climate activism does with the exception of indigenous water protectors protesting oil pipelines contaminating their land. Sunrise speaks broadly of jobs and has learned to package its messaging to appeal to an audience that rarely challenges the Pentagon as the largest consumer of oil and largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Speaking out with antiwar messaging may dilute the message and hurt Sunrise’s perceived brand. So it treads cautiously. Yet it is for precisely this reason that 60 young activists fighting for environmental protection of white spaces get more media attention than 35,000 Palestinian rights protesters and 100 buses in DC.
The climate movement needs to look inward and see the history and legacy of colonialism and slavery that have led to the climate crisis, including its own erasure of Third World voices and people of color. Sunrise cannot be pro-climate, without being staunchly anti-war. Where will all this money come from for the Climate Corps? The most likely place would be the military budget, which needs to be slashed – hook, line and sinker. Otherwise, climate change advocacy is just middle class idealism against the backdrop of Third World deaths, devastation, and natural resource exploitation.
Playing nice has only gotten climate advocacy so far. President Biden backtracked on half of his promises to placate right-wing Republicans who will sabotage him anyway. President Biden needs to be reminded where his base is and to support those who got him elected, instead of making half-baked attempts at compromise and negotiation with Republican climate deniers.
“Over 35,000 protestors converged in Washington DC this Memorial Day weekend for The National March for Palestine, the largest nationwide protest against U.S. foreign policy in decades.” https://t.co/JEimspe6cs
— Michael Arria (@michaelarria) May 31, 2021
Having Sunrise DC Hub members show up in their individual capacity at Palestine protests instead of with the weight of their organization undermines the antiwar movement. If the Sunrise Movement and other progressive organizations, including Democrat Socialists of America and Justice Democrats, cannot speak out against the war machine in the streets, their words are pie in the sky white solidarity.
Even when 140 Progressive Groups speak out on Palestine, not all of them lend their muscle to actually do the coalition building, grassroots organizing, and media campaigns to support full fledge Palestinian solidarity.
We reached out to Sunrise Movement, DSA, and other major progressive groups to endorse the National March for Palestine, and I am still waiting. These larger progressive organizations can issue solidarity statements until the methane-emitting cows come home, but let’s put this in perspective. Let’s not forget that every cow in Europe gets $2.20 subsidy per day on average. That amount is more than the income of half of the world population. Apparently, it’s better to be a cow in Europe than a poor person in a developing country economically speaking. More than one million people live before the poverty line in Gaza.
Climate groups and other progressive groups suffer from shortsightedness on global antiwar activism. The fossil fuel extraction model depends on the failure of people’s movements to connect the dots on militarism, climate catastrophe, development challenges, energy apartheid, and environmental justice.
📺@LorenzoWard7DC from @DMVBlackLives joined us along with 35,000 supporters of justice for #Palestine on May 29 @ the Lincoln Memorial for the National March for Palestine, led by AMP & @USCMO.
➡️ Don’t forget to sign our petition: https://t.co/EZJLhegMaDhttps://t.co/yOayAHS0kO
— American Muslims for Palestine (@AMPalestine) June 4, 2021
Environmentalists are arguing for better food labels when people are starving.
Sunrise and other progressives groups need to level up.
When Anthony Lorenzo Green, a core organizer for BLM DC, showed up at the National March for Palestine, he said he wasn’t an ally, but a comrade.
Climate change needs to be more than a yuppie excuse to be woke. Climate change activism needs to be klaxon for demilitarization. Progressives need to go hard in the paint on more than just the environment, wages, and healthcare. The hubris of youth and the largess of organizations can fizzle away. Third World liberation voices are hampered and demonized, so they must rely on white and middle class progressives to provide that comradeship.
Progressives cannot merely update policy, but they need to dismantle the entire system that disenfranchises black and brown voices, not only at home, but also abroad. They need to recognize citizenship privilege and see that not only their zip code, but also their passport and U.S. exceptionalism impact their activism.
There, we gathered with approximately 35k people, organized by a coalition of over 100 orgs, to demand an end to Israeli apartheid and to demand freedom for Palestinians. Hear them as they share their hearts. #FreePalestine (2/3)
— Awake Storytelling (@awakestories) June 2, 2021
How can organizations stand against fossil fuel extraction, but remain silent with ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP and other oil and gas companies displace Third World peoples from their homes? How can organizations call for an end to fossil fuel subsidies when renewable energy deployment will rely on rare earth minerals with extractive mining techniques in Third World countries? (Then what’s the answer–give an answer, otherwise it feeds into Chevron’s argument that we must rely on fossil fuels.)
Now is a moment of reckoning.
As antiwar activists, we didn’t enjoy a honeymoon with President Biden. There was no courtship, no exchange of vows, none of that. As antiwar activists, we mobilized our respective communities, Muslims and progressives, nationally for the Biden Harris campaign because the opportunity costs of four more years of a Trump presidency were too costly, too ghoulish. So where are we? Instead of the Trump administration strangling the human rights of our brothers and sisters, we have the Biden administration trampling on our human dignity in the war zones-Yemen, Gaza- funded by our tax dollars.
We have President Biden proposing a record $753 billion military budget with billions for new nuclear weapons to escalate the arms race and make the world less safe. We have the Biden administration pivoting to Asia to prepare to plunge us into another disastrous war.
We still have killing fields in Third World countries, but at least the President isn’t a climate denier.
Save the climate mumbo jumbo and demand an end to the war machine our government funds in the name of peace and oil. The American climate movement must express solidarity with the international anti-war, anti-colonialist movement.
Sunrise, no compromises, no excuses.
Nadia B. Ahmad and Corrine Daly
The post The Revolt Among Progressives: A Third World Gaze on the U.S. Climate Movement appeared first on LA Progressive.
With Democrats in power (for now), powerful funders may be trying to tame or silence progressive peace activists
(Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images)
By Aiko Fukuchi
“We really need to stop putting people on pedestals. It is harmful and dehumanizes all involved. Putting someone on a pedestal is not caring for them. It is not love. You can love, admire, adore, learn from, or follow the leadership of someone without putting them on a pedestal. Putting people on pedestals is part of the binary of how we categorize people into “good” and “bad”. They are two sides of the same coin and they contribute to our collective inability to understand, identify and respond to harm. We demonize people or we put them on pedestals. As we work to be free of a culture of punishment/revenge, we also have to confront the other side. We have to acknowledge celebrity culture and how it stretches well beyond formal celebrities and into our movements, organizations, groups, relationships — just as punishment does. A punitive culture teaches us we have to be “good” or “bad”. It erases away our humanity: our human complexities and contradictions; our human capacity for growth, change and transformation, our human capacity for both harm and love.” – Mia Mingus (IG)
After a few years of working for a couple of non-profits that did not prioritize care or rest and rewarded overwork and lack of boundaries, I crashed, hard. By then, responses to unaddressed trauma and burn out that first presented themselves as anxiety and struggle with sleep had expanded into frequent panic attacks and migraines, dangerous weight loss, and rashes developing under my eyes and on my chest among other symptoms. Looking back at that time now, around a year and a half later, I can see I was operating from a place of survival.
I’m writing this as someone whose experience of burnout was severely exacerbated by notions of individualist and competitive action that were deeply intertwined with capitalist value systems I had internalized where the large majority, if not entirety, of my sense of self-worth was grounded in my ability to be both productive and available. Moving beyond my own individual experience of burnout, after conversations with close friends and comrades who shared similar experiences, it is apparent that the adoption of mentalities present in celebrity culture (individualism, idolization, dehumanization) are also present in many current and recent social justice movements in the United States, and that this is exacerbating systemic issues of burn out and unaccountable leadership, and is ultimately deferring our efforts towards collective liberation. What I hope people take away from this piece is a critique of cultures and practices around leadership progressive and left-leaning movements are maintaining, not a cancelation of individual leaders themselves.
To first lay some groundwork, mainstream celebrity culture is rooted in violent and oppressive systems, and perpetuates falsehoods that argue human connection and value is most efficiently achieved and effectively experienced through commodified goods, individual success, and popularity. While this line of thinking clearly goes against the values within social justice movements, they are still present in many of our spaces. For this piece, I’m specifically referring to dynamics within social justice movements in the United States. This piece is not meant to focus on mainstream celebrities. Rather, it explores how we, as social justice movements, recreate value systems and dynamics of celebrity culture in the ways we idolize leaders in our movements.
I see the dynamics between large social movements and their leaders manifesting a certain category of leadership I’ve recently been referring to as the ‘celebrity activist’, a leader who is idolized, placed on a pedestal, and generally engaged with through an ideology of individualism. This is not to be confused or conflated with ‘activist celebrities’, or mainstream celebrities (pop stars, actors, etc.) who act philanthropically or use their social media audiences as a platform to speak to social issues. Before and while I was burning out, whether or not I was willing to admit it, I frequently perceived the accomplishments of certain individual leaders as purely individual efforts and achievement. I admired their ability to financially sustain themselves from their work before celebrating their contributions to principled struggle, and I was often more focused on their personal lifestyle choices rather than their commitment to liberation. Unknowingly, I was contributing to this larger dynamic propped up by this ‘celebrity culture’ mentality. In doing so, I was simultaneously detaching myself and the leaders I idolized from our respective humanity, which I will speak to more directly later on.
Social media has severely exacerbated this situation, often dissolving the separation between people’s actions and analysis, and their personalities and style, and in this way, we can easily lose our clarity of what we are responding to that a person is offering. When the main outcome we are looking for in our leaders is the same entertainment, inspiration, and endorphin rush we find by following mainstream celebrities and their lives, but in a “social justice” context, we are limiting everyone involved while increasing avenues for potential harm. And while I support leadership that is accountable and structured according to collective need, I question if and how successfully our current leadership culture fosters this, when we are more readily willing to follow someone based on their charisma, rather than their relationship to the movement and critical analysis.
What does this look like?
I think we can notice leaders we have begun engaging through this perception of celebrity and idolization when we reflect on how we discuss and relate to many of our most visible movement leaders, and how this impacts the way we value ourselves, our comrades, and less visible leaders. One way I see us doing this is by placing leaders and individuals in our movements on pedestals, ascribing excessive weight and value to their opinions, and disproportionately rewarding one person’s efforts in a collaborative project or process. It leads to a shift from thinking of someone as a valuable part of a larger, collective movement, into idealizing their efforts, personal lives, personalities, and relationships, thinking of them as the individualized personification of an entire social movement. Additionally, when we consider how we relate to someone and their work we can ask ourselves whether we are seeking to replicate or replace the role someone holds, or motivated to expand, adopt, and build alongside an area of work, value, or practice.
Once we make this shift in thinking, our perception transitions from engaging with someone as a movement leader into viewing them as a celebrity revolutionary. This shift can look like adopting someone’s specific style, brand of swagger, or personal interests without first reflecting on whether you generally identify with these things. This can also look like believing a celebrity activist’s analysis and beliefs to be irrefutable as well as universally applicable and relevant. We see these forms of engagement lead to fragmented relationships, uncoordinated movements, and the formation of social cliques. Not only this, but in these idealized perceptions of individuals, we often disconnect from the reality that even in their greatness, our leaders (now celebrities) still hold the potential to cause harm as we all do. And when we disconnect from this reality, we increasing the potential for future harm they are involved in to go unaccounted for, excused, or brushed aside.
Which leaders we do and do not select into celebrity status is connected to visibility and absolutely intertwined with oppressive structures. The process by which our movements transition leaders into celebrity revolutionaries is heavily based on race, skin tone, ability status, immigration status, English-speaking capability, income and gender presentation, prioritizing cis-gendered people. Applying these same practices of adoration in celebrity culture to movement leaders, especially when this is how we determine who we place on top to receive the most resources and the attention, recreates the same value systems our movements resist.
Why is this Happening?
There are a lot of reasons why celebrity culture and individualism are so present in our movements. Three factors seem to be: 1) capitalist funding models, 2) uninspiring non-profits, and 3) experiencing personal, physical, emotional, or spiritual overwhelmed. These three reasons often feed into and perpetuate one another.
The mainstream funding model in the U.S is steeped in capitalist notions, assigning those with resources the authority to define (in a social context) who is and is not important expressed by what work, people, and locations receives funding and other resource support. This model prioritizes the opinions of white folks, charity-based models, quantitative, “measurable” outcomes, and success framed through an individualistic narrative, while sewing distrust in grassroots efforts and devaluing Black and brown leadership, collective action, long-term investment, and relational, qualitative achievements. This issue is defined and analyzed thoroughly in the report, “12 Recommendations for Detroit Funders”, put together by Allied Media Projects and the current Design Team of the Transforming Power Fund, a community-led fund that, through practice, is creating a template to address some of the funding issues named above.
The United States mainstream funding model is inherently misaligned with the vision our movements are fighting for. It pushes non-profits to compromise on their goals and ability to remain genuinely accountable to the communities they are working with, and present themselves as “independent, innovative, and visionary” while also presenting as measurable and palatable. It tends to fracture our movements by creating a culture that rewards aggressive competition, under-recognizes collaboration, and glorifies suffering for the sake of productivity through lack of self-care and rest, neglecting personal boundaries, and undervaluing community care practices, facilitating burn out, often leading to further harm.
This pressure and relationship to funding often plays a significant factor in the development of an organization’s culture, heavily influencing who non-profits hold themselves accountable to. This frequently results in uninspired theories of change, and contributing to the rise of individualist “celebrity” narratives around leaders. I’ve lost count of friends and fellow movement collaborators who have abruptly left positions at social justice-oriented non-profits, exhausted from navigating harm, enduring violence, having their opinions, contributions, or ideas go unvalued, unacknowledged or claimed by bosses, or simply working hard and feeling no sense that they are making a difference. Many non-profits don’t elect leadership or have clear, effective structures to keep us aligned with community-defined vision and goals and remove or take other accountability measures when they fail or cause harm. Our lack in stronger organizations and structure to support organizing for collective vision leads to a tendency towards individualistic activism. Many organizations are gradually degrading, their initial visions and goals diluted and redirected under the weight of funder demands while their detachment from communities they claim to invest in expands. Many organizations are also functioning under leadership structures that are not elected or clear, and do not offer safe ways to challenge decisions made by directors and other organizational leads whose main work relationships are usually with funders and other organizational leads. It requires continuous and committed effort to maintain collective decision-making and accountability systems, and existing in a social and economic structures that work against this generally leaves these efforts un or under-funded. This puts them in a precarious position where they’re generally the first items ot be deprioritized when organizations find themselves lacking in resources (time, funding, capacity), which is frequent and common. And when we don’t or can’t prioritize maintaining collectively-centered structures, it becomes all but impossible to focus on individuals. Our organizations often fall into over-celebrating individuals, offloading contradictions of systems onto organizations. This tends to fracture our movements, creating a culture that rewards individualism and aggressive competition and under-recognizes collaboration. This structure glorifies the productivity of individual organizers, pushing them to neglect self-care, rest, reflection, personal boundaries, and to undervalue community care practices, ultimately facilitating burn out and often leading to further harm.
These conditions exacerbate systemic and wide-spead experiences of overwhelm. Speaking from personal experience and drawing from conversation I’ve had with a few trusted comrades, when organizers are working with less than we need, running on fumes while facing problems bigger than all of us, it is often difficult to accept our own limitations. This pushes us further into individualist thought. We want to believe we can accomplish more than we can, because we feel a sense of urgency that we need to accomplish more than we can in order for any of our efforts to have value. Worse yet, we may even start to feel as though proving our commitment to a social issue, or to our community’s wellness requires us to suffer for our work, that celebrating or experiencing joy or fun is somehow a betrayal to our community, an idea is articulated in Trauma Stewardship, by Laura Van Dernoot Lipsky and Connie Burk. In my case, this urgent feeling that I needed to always to do more for anything else I did to matter, of refusing experiences of joy, was how I was operating for a long time before I was more or less forced to slow down, ask a few people for help, and clarify, first for myself then for everyone else, what I did, and mostly what I did not have to offer at that moment.
In order for me to accommodate this sense of urgency, I often ended up cutting out parts of my life my well-being really needed me to prioritize. From conversation with friends, and what I’ve experienced and witness, what we cut out often includes investing in personal relationships, acting in solidarity with movements that our work does not center, and contributing to community care in spaces we inhabit. It can also look like de-prioritizing building our own analysis of the issues and vision towards liberation, an exciting, gratifying part of social justice movements. It can feel like just another huge, never-ending task on a long continually growing to-do list.
When we’re in this mental place, it can feel easier to align ourselves with someone else’s vision and framework that feels similar to our own. It can feel comforting to believe that even if we cannot be the super human we think we need to be in order to contribute valuably, at least someone else out there can; that one person’s vision is the only one we need in order to achieve collective liberation.
Engaging in another person’s work in this way can impact us in a few key ways. One way is a disinvestment in one’s own capabilities and potential. When we mainly value our work by how visible it is to another person, or how others’ view our work in relation to someone else’s, it becomes easy to lose touch with ourselves, making it difficult for us to identify and trust our own experiences, and capabilities. We will try to apply solutions that may have worked in well in their specific situational, geographic, or cultural context without considering why applying it to our situation may lead to a different outcome or require some adjusting and rebuilding in order to succeed. It also distracts us from our focus on collective goals and needs, deceiving us into thinking we are focusing on collective needs in moments when we’re really focusing on receiving approval.
On the flip side, this way of engaging in someone’s work or analysis also places far too much weight and expectation on what any one person or one groups’ framework can reasonably accomplish. As Mingus states in her quote found above, this pushes us back into binary thinking. Either a person or their analysis is absolutely flawless and applicable in every situation, leaving no reason to question or challenge, explore otherwise, or develop our own thought, or it is flawed and therefore not worth engaging in. Binary thinking makes it even easier for us to perpetuate idealizing and idolizing our certain leaders while we discard and disavow others, leaving little wiggle room between the two. And while I think it makes sense to listen and learn from clear, accountable leadership, I think this also means learning with leadership, actively engaging by questioning, challenging, contributing, and building.
What are some of the impacts?
So, what effect does this designation of ‘celebrity activist’ have on our ability to both hold leaders accountable and grasp their humanity? In the past, as I was beginning to notice my patterns of thought that viewed movement leaders through a binary lens, and relating to them through practices found in celebrity culture, I also noticed myself disengaging from uncomfortable, or unpredictable elements of their humanity. I saw them as unquestionable, unable to make mistakes or have short comings, and sometimes, I even started to see them as unable to cause harm or enact violence. Allowing space for the potential of certain leaders to cause harm left me feeling vulnerable, conflicted, and defensive. So to protect myself, consciously or not, I left this space out.
I’m sharing this from my personal perspective, but this train of thought is something I see in many social and progressive movements today. This train of thought may be convenient for a while, giving us a fabricated sense of security, but I fear as we continue to collectively refuse to hold these uncomfortable truths, and include them in the image we build of our leaders, ultimately we are opening gaps for potential harm to go unacknowledged, and are creating opportunities for our communities to disempower, silence, and neglect those speaking out against harm caused by our leaders. Community stories and transformative responses have been shared in ‘Beyond Survival: Strategies and stories from the Transformative Justice Movement’ edited by Ejeris Dixon and Leah Lakshmi-Piepzna-Samarasinha. In the same moment, we also expand the potential for our leaders to experience harm and isolation themselves.
Our movements have experienced this over and over. We avoid holding leadership accountable, or even acknowledge violence or abusive they’ve committed for fear it will destabilize our movements. It’s easy for us to support #metoo advocates and survivors of abuse until it interferes with our campaign plans, our community events, our organizational structure. This is the point at which most of us become silent or look in another direction. Our willingness as individuals, organizations, and entire movements to look past violence is often determined by the race, skin tone, ability status, income, immigration status, English-speaking ability, and gender presentation placing Black and brown, disabled, undocumented, non-english-speaking, low-income, trans women and femmes in our movements at the bottom.
Finally, losing sight of understanding our leaders as fellow human beings also means disconnection from their need for rest, joy, care, and community, their limits and their boundaries. It also isolates leaders from their communities and makes it difficult for us (their communities, neighbors, friends, and families) to see when they are struggling and offer care. This can look like expecting our leaders to always be available, always be working, to conflate our leaders with their work, to view them as incomplete without it. It can look like is applauding our leaders for not caring for themselves, for not taking breaks, for suffering, a capitalist, ableist perspective on productivity that reverberates out into our movements and communities.
In addition to everything named here, applying celebrity culture to our movement spaces weighs heavily on how much and if we value care, healing, and other under-recognized and traditionally-feminized work including logistics planning, cleaning and space-creating, etc. When all of us are aspiring to be the most visible and charismatic leaders of a movement, we tend to see behind-the-scenes work, tedious, time and energy-consuming tasks like logistics planning as stepping stones on our ways to greatness, and not as independently valuable.
This shows up when we don’t give ourselves a reasonable timeline or enough resources to coordinate logistics for an event, expecting it to “just work itself out”, when we do not communicate effectively with those leading behind-the-scenes efforts, but give them a round of applause during the closing remarks of a conference. It also doesn’t allow movement members to play to their strong suits. Not everyone needs to have charisma, and not everyone wants to or can be at the front of a room. Let’s invest in people finding the work that feels good to them, not pushing them to fill a role that is convenient for us, but doesn’t work for them. Let’s invest in building movements that support the needs and value the participation of parents, low and minimum-wage workers, people who rely on public transportation, and people with disabilities.
I do not want to see us move into a way of relating which is defined by potential for harm. I want to see us hold ourselves and our leader in the full potential of each others’ humanity, something I do not see us doing when we place individuals on pedestals, refusing to hold space for potential mistakes, let-downs, and harm we all of the potential to cause. Disengaging from our leaders’ humanity also means disengaging from their ability to change, evolve, and transform. Once again pushing us into binary thought of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ people, it creates an opening for mainstream narratives that attempt to justify violent institutions including militarized police forces, and prisons, arguing that there are people who belong there, when we know this isn’t the case.
This piece isn’t about scolding ourselves for our flaws; it’s about identifying our shortcomings and adjusting to strengthen ourselves and our movements as we move forward. It is an offering to strengthen where we are unsteady, and build on where we are succeeding within many of our social justice movements and spaces. The goal of it is not to criticize our movement leaders or tear down our movements. Rather, it is to critique an aspect of our movement culture; how we treat our leaders, the pedestals we build to place them on, and the ways this impacts our relationships to ourselves, each other, and our movements. What I’m asking in this piece is for movement leaders, not movement celebrities. We do not need celebrities who we idolize or idealize, who we don’t feel comfortable questioning, who we don’t feel safe challenging. We need leaders who guide, facilitate, initiate, coordinate, listen, commit, clarify, and follow-through.
Our movement leaders offer critical analysis, historic context, tools, and practices that strengthen our efforts. They also model tenderness, fierceness, and tenacity to achieve healing for their communities and realize solutions that will bring us to a liberatory future. They deserve our attention, respect, and engagement, but they deserve to experience this in a way that is not disengaged from their humanity, or the humanity of those supporting and engaging them.
As community members and the people who make up these movements, we deserve to organizing in a culture that is striving towards our well-being, not just long-term, or eventually, or when this next event ends, but as we move together as well.
Through the current pandemic, many grassroots efforts are already redirecting their attention and actions, placing the focus on mutual aid and building spaces and practices that facilitate connection and trust; We are developing stronger clarity of collective values, and an unwillingness to bend in our practices or leave any of our comrades behind. We are weeding out unsustainable results disguised as solutions, and encouraging each other to envision futures that are breath-taking and irresistible before they are reasonable or palatable to discouraging perspectives or oppressive forces. I am excited for us to continue this work.
Recently, I witnessed two conversations that spoke to the insight of movement elders and ancestors in what out next steps might be, in how we might envision ourselves moving forward. Last December, during a virtual discussion ‘Hacking the Syllabus: Critical Solidarities with Scott Kurashige and adrienne maree brown’, Kurashige and brown referenced Grace Lee Boggs in discussing the idea of us shifting from the goal of all of us becoming charismatic leaders to becoming “doulas for the revolution”. Referring to this idea, Kurashige states, “We have a responsibility to nurture the conditions for a different type of growth and transformation as a doula”.
In response, Brown shares, “The thing I have always loved about being in the doula role is it’s not ‘I come with all the answers for your body’, it’s ‘you, birthing parents, you have a sense of the kind of birth you want, you have a kind of sense of the kind of possibility you want, and you can feel within you and between you all kinds of data that I don’t know, and I think of the same thing for organizers…we should not arrive into a city or a place or a community or our own home or anywhere like ‘I know exactly how this has to go and you have to conform the way you think to the way I think. Instead, it’s ‘you have so much power. Do you even understand the capacity you have for creating miracles? You have that within you.’”
Only a few weeks later, listening in on a conversation hosted by the Boggs Center to hear from movement elders Nelson & Joyce Johnson of Greensboro, North Carolina, Nelson shared, “Often times, we think we are the only ones who can do this work, but that’s just not true…We must keep speaking to the potential of others, even as we oppose what they are doing.”
These conversations made me feel as though within and across our movements, we are already more in sync than we may think we are, and as we continue to build, this connection will only deepen as it has been for decades. As I continue untangling these oppressive thought patterns in my own mind, I hope to be a part of future conversations where we are not tearing ourselves apart, but instead are challenging ourselves to further untangle our practices from the systems we’re fighting and weave a stronger cloth on our own. I want to see us reject individualist, celebrity culture, and lean into exploring what collectively-led and community-defined liberation might look like for all of us.
With his entire archive retracted by the Southern Poverty Law Center and a growing record of disgrace, Alexander Reid Ross now collaborates with ex-CIA agents, cops, DHS officials, and a GOP congressman turned “Bigfoot scholar,” with funding from a Koch brother. Through his many hatchet jobs smearing anti-war leftists as crypto-fascists engaged in a supposed “red-brown” alliance with the far-right, writer Alexander Reid Ross has earned widespread derision and the retraction of his entire archive by one of his former […]
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The capitalist U.S. healthcare system, with its reliance on private, corporate-run hospitals, has failed abysmally at confronting the coronavirus pandemic. The United States has more cases and deaths than any other country in the world, even more than China, a country whose population is four times larger.
U.S. hospital systems and their corporate administrators failed to prepare for a pandemic predicted by state, federal, and international government agencies and infectious disease experts since the 2003 SARS outbreak.
These agencies and experts not only warned about likely pandemics, they wrote detailed preparedness plans and pinpointed critical failure points should healthcare systems and governmental bodies fail to prepare. But in our profit-driven healthcare system, hospitals didn’t stockpile equipment or beds. Why would they? There’s no profit in stockpiled inventory. A ventilator is only useful when it’s hooked up to a paying customer. States likewise didn’t stockpile, nor did they mandate that hospitals prepare. The federal government didn’t check on states and hospital systems, and let its own stockpile diminish and degrade. The magic of the market ended in abject failure with 29 million cases, and more than half a million deaths and counting.
Studies show that hospitals are the largest individual contributors to U.S. healthcare costs, now at $3.8 trillion a year, and that Americans spend more than $1 trillion a year at hospitals. Hospitals are the second most profitable industry in the United States, just behind commercial banking. Hospital systems have been consolidating for years, creating monopolies to control access and pricing, and giving patients fewer healthcare options (or, in rural areas, no options). Ironically, most of these profitable hospitals are “nonprofits,” a status with huge benefits for hospital executives’ compensation packages and hospitals’ bottom lines but none for patients.
U.S. Hospitals: Profit, Nonprofit, Government-run, and “Charities”
The majority of the 5,141 U.S. community hospitals (57 percent) are nonprofits. Just 24 percent are for-profit — that is, hospitals owned by investors like GM and Walmart and structured to benefit these investors via, for example, dividends and appreciating stock prices. Only 19 percent of community hospitals are publicly owned by state and local governments. The federal government also owns and runs hospitals — for example, the VA system. In more urban areas, the biggest hospital systems are typically structured as nonprofits, as are some of the largest well-known systems like the Cleveland Clinic and the Mayo Clinic.
Many nonprofit hospitals started life as part of a church or religious order. These histories — including how nuns started the first hospital in the 1800s, typically treating working-class and indigent patients — are often hyped in hospitals’ marketing pieces. The nuns are long gone, as are the days of providing free care to the poor and suffering. These former charity institutions are now profit-generating machines staffed by well-compensated professional administrators armed with business backgrounds and capitalist ideology. Hospitals are often the biggest employer in their cities and generate revenue far exceeding that of the local municipal government. Even so, one big nonprofit hospital system in the Midwest and West continues to refer to its system as “our ministry.”
Nonprofit hospitals are structured as public charities. Their charitable mission is to provide affordable healthcare and the latest medical technology to the communities they serve. Any profits they make are supposed to be invested in this mission. Unlike for-profit hospitals, nonprofits have no investors looking to make a return on their investment. That said, both nonprofit and for-profit hospitals are private corporations. They are not publicly owned like government-run hospitals, and the public has no say in how they operate, what they charge, what care they provide, and what they do with their profits.
The Benefit of Nonprofit Status? No Taxes
Nonprofit hospitals are 501(c)3 corporations under the IRS code, which allows them to save inordinate amounts of money. They don’t pay local property tax, federal or state corporate income tax, or state and local sales and use taxes. By avoiding property tax payments to the county or city where they are located, nonprofit hospitals shift the financial burden for public schools and other essential services and infrastructure onto individual citizens, who end up paying more to cover the share that the nonprofit hospitals duck.
Additionally, nonprofit hospitals can accept charitable donations, which are tax-exempt for the donor. They can also borrow money by issuing tax-exempt bonds, allowing the hospital to pay lower interest rates. Nonprofits can also buy their pharmaceuticals at a discount through a federal program if they treat large numbers of indigent patients. Originally, hospitals received tax-exempt status because they were affiliated with religious institutions and served some charitable purpose not necessarily related to medical care. In 1956, the IRS implemented the “charity care” standard requiring hospitals to offer free care to patients unable to pay in order to qualify as a tax-exempt entity. Nonprofit hospitals receive subsidies worth $30 billion annually.
Profit by Any Other Name
The IRS says that nonprofit hospitals are supposed to provide “community benefit” and charity care for the underserved, uninsured, and underinsured who would otherwise need government help. (Note that for-profit hospitals also provide charity care.)
Since 2010, as part of the Affordable Care Act, nonprofit hospitals have to list on their annual 990 tax forms how much “money-losing” care they’re dispensing to these populations and how they calculate that number. They also have to list what they’ve done, for free, to better their communities. Investigative reporters, researchers, and consumer advocates have investigated whether these nonprofit hospitals deserve their huge tax breaks. Recent research shows that many are providing nowhere near the amount of charity care and community benefit that would justify the value of their tax exemption. One study estimated that “only 25% of nonprofits provide enough total charity to warrant their tax exemption, and only 20% of nonprofits provide enough incremental charity care beyond what for-profits provide to justify their tax exemption.”
Even worse, when nonprofit hospitals calculate the amount of charitable healthcare they gave away in a tax year, they use so-called chargemaster prices: baseline prices that nobody actually pays and that are many times higher than what commercial insurance or Medicare would pay for the same service or procedure. These shockingly high prices make your medical bills pretty much incomprehensible. Because nonprofits can make the baseline price up, they can vastly inflate how much they “give back” to the community.
For example, suppose that doctors at a nonprofit hospital evaluate a patient with chest pain, and the allowable Medicare amount for that service is $3600. Rather than use the same $3,600 for an uninsured patient and list $3,600 in charitable care, the hospital can use the chargemaster rate, say $25,000, and then list the inflated $25,000 in uncompensated care, almost seven times higher than actual cost of the care the hospital provided. Nonprofits are allowed to do the same for Medicaid patients and other patients using means-tested healthcare programs. If Medicaid reimburses just $2,500 for the same service, rather than listing $1,000 in uncompensated (unreimbursed) charitable care ($3,500 cost of care minus $2,500 Medicaid reimbursement), the hospital uses the chargemaster rate and lists an inflated $22,500 ($25,000-$2,500).
The IRS reporting requirement is so lax that nonprofit hospitals can get away with inflating the amount of their “charitable” care on IRS reporting to retain their enormous tax advantage.
Because they don’t pay property taxes or corporate income taxes on money left over after paying expenses, nonprofit hospitals end up with a tax-free surplus — in other words, profit.This is possible because both nonprofit and for-profit hospital corporations don’t disclose the actual prices paid by their patients.
Nonprofit hospitals use their “tax-free surplus” — profit — on executive and administrator pay and bonuses, in some cases paying these individuals more than for-profit hospitals do. In 2018, nearly half of the CEOs of America’s leading nonprofit health systems had compensation packages exceeding $2.5 million. The highest paid, the top executive, at Banner Health in Phoenix, got $21.6 million in 2017.
Nonprofit hospitals also use their profits to also buy up other hospitals and clinics to eliminate competitors and increase their market share, allowing them to raise prices. They likewise buy independent medical practices to turn independent doctors into employed physicians (after the physicians sign a non-compete clause, of course). They construct new facilities with marble lobbies, and use lobbyists or membership in lobbying trade organizations like the American Hospital Association to maintain the lucrative status quo with help from Washington.
Nonprofit hospitals also earn investment income, often millions of dollars, from their pool of charitable contributions. Surprisingly for a world-renowned healthcare system, the Mayo Clinic owns oil and gas wells in the Permian basin in Texas! The wells were a charitable bequest in the late 1990s from a deceased donor’s estate, but Mayo never divested from this ecocidal industry. Instead, along with other investors, Mayo owns Latigo Petroleum LLC to manage its oil and gas interests.
Do nonprofits warrant the hefty tax advantages they get, forcing individuals to cover the shortfall for critical public services? No. Communities and governments are being scammed by nonprofits’ tax avoidance.
Public health is a public good. Healthcare is a right for all, not a privilege for the few or “charity” for the many. Capitalist profit-based healthcare — including care administered through tax-avoiding nonprofits — cannot safeguard public health. U.S. healthcare must be nationalized, and healthcare systems put under the democratic control of healthcare workers.
“Why such brusque dismissal and puerile invective from the public intellectual? Klein insists that the Reset is a desperate “lunge for organizational relevance,” because the World Economic Forum is lacking in that apparently. This assertion is odd because the WEF counts among its partners Microsoft, BP, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the United Nations.”
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