Thoughts on Human and Social Development

Yesterday the Dallas/Fort Worth Project for a Participatory Society held an event at 1919 Hemphill in Fort Worth on Kinship Vision. The event was a showing of the Z Video presentation by Cynthia Peters.
While mostly women said they would attend not one showed up. It was a "sausage fest."
That’s not to say it wasn’t productive.
Myself and five other guys watched the video and then discussed it and other things.
We discussed Cynthia’s "balanced life complex."
Some of the folks weren’t familiar with Participatory Economics so I briefly explained the features of social ownership, equitable remuneration, participatory planning and balanced job complexes. Then we explored why incorporating care giving might be needed into the fold.
If divisions of labor at home made it to where women monopolized/were resigned to the servicing then we might have a good understanding of the lack of participation in social activities by women, especially for those who don’t have the resources to help them balance their lives. If a woman is responsible for cleaning the house and taking care of the kids and doesn’t have the resources for daycare then it will be difficult to get out of the home.
I agree quite strongly with Cynthia that we are affected by how other families around us rear their children. I have a vested interest in them receiving good social guidance. Their lives affect mine and since their earliest introduction to society is in the family we are all impacted on how we conduct ourselves at home. And it’s not that we need to impose ourselves into the lives of others, but that we need a way to bring us out of our seclusion and make our lives transparent. Maybe my neighborhood felt that daycare services should be a public good and not a private service. And maybe we organize some daycare services and if these services were incorporated into our balanced job complexes then families not only have the resources to be more socially involved but there is an institutional mechanism to bring families out of seclusion. If I am involved in the care giving services of my community and these services are discussed and planned in a participatory fashion then I bring my concerns, issues and perspective to the table along with the others of my community. This provides us a space to be transformed by our relations with others.
And that’s really the issue. Social institutions are not just for providing an end to something. Economies aren’t needed just to provide items for consumption. We have desires and fill fulfilled in a variety of ways by our work and our consumption. It is also a way of building strong social bonds and becoming closer to the ecosystems we rely on. The same is true for political institutions. We don’t just need legislation and adjudication of disputes. We need interaction. We grow from our understanding of others. When we look at issues we need more than our own reaction to them. We need to comprehend how others are affected, to have a forum in which to discuss and resolve these things. Perhaps our views aren’t right and by listening to others we learn something deeper. This is what the Zapatista’s mean by the importance of listening.
What kind of social institutions do we need that provide the maximum human and social development to ALL? If institutions create classes and divisions and disperse rewards and hardships inequitably based on income, race, gender, etc is this desirable? I wouldn’t think so and I doubt very seriously that many people do. Having rights or freedoms is only half the solution. Equitable access to opportunities is the other half, and it’s the social institutions we construct that will be the sources of these opportunities. If we want a Participatory Society then we need all members of society to be able to actively participate in the self-organizing and self-managing of it. We will have to look beyond the workplace or the government. The home and community are just as important to look at.
The other day I was talking to someone about revolutionary organizing and I heard the same old tired speech about the central importance of economics. Other issues like race and gender and ecology and so on are "too much flora" that drains us from what should be our main focus: abolishing Capitalism. I am all for abolishing it but social liberation involves more than creating a classless society, economically speaking. Class divisions and adverse social relations go way beyond economics. For example, the US Department of Labor routinely publishes statistics and its bureau on women pointed out that low-wage services jobs are dominated by nonwhite women. Now, it’s not that class analyses intrinsically single out nonwhite women to be exploited. There are other social forces than economics at play which help explain why this particular labor market receives such lower wages. Even white women working in the upper echelons of the workforce who have equal or greater education and experience than their male counterparts receive, on average, 20% less. Again, it’s not class that says women get less, or that non-white women get considerably less. And not incorporating those issues into our focus is not very comforting if resolving them is a goal.
My wife and I have a sort of balanced job complex at home. We spread out both the rewarding tasks and the not-so-much-rewarding tasks. I feel empowered and deeply rewarded by my active involvement in care giving. I would rather change a dirty diaper than clean bottles. When I make eye contact with our six-month old baby girl – my little "boogie" – and she is watching me carefully with a smile, that is fulfilling. As an atheist it’s the closest thing I could describe as spiritual – that emotional bond I have with my loved ones, especially my girls. I would be depriving myself of that if I pushed the servicing responsibilities off onto my wife.
I think this is where the potential for revolution and social liberation can broaden and take off – by exploring deeper into human and social development. Participation, equity, self-management, and more are things people broadly identify with, being a social species with the desire for fairness and good relations. And that’s one of the things I am getting from the DFWPPS events. We are looking at a variety of social issues, looking at how we are impacted in a variety of ways, and then discussing what would be preferable to fulfilling our lives and those around us.

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