Saturday, October 26, 2002 Meeting Notes
Brief summary version:
At 9:10 a.m., Colleen Waterhouse began by leading the group in a moment of silence for Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, who died yesterday in a plane crash as he was campaigning to retain his seat in the U.S. Senate. Then she introduced our special guest, Julio Quan, and his wife, Maralise, to this special workshop. "In Julio, I think we have another Paul Wellstone," she said.
Julio Quan began by speaking of his experience as a visiting professor in Minnesota, Paul Wellstone's home state. He spoke about language and the difficulties of using language to communicate, and asked us to remember that English was not his native language, but one of the seven languages he's learned -- and not an easy language at that (he pointed out that using English spelling, it would be possible to spell 'fish' as 'ghoti' [cf. laugh/women/nation]). He mentioned other features of Spanish that indicate how language is the language of the conqueror, or reflects hierarchy. "The way in which we speak is the way in which we think." He said he began by discussing language and communication because he had heard that this was a wonderful group, but that there were sometimes difficulties in communicating among the members.
Julio described his own life's course, beginning with his experience as an academic in Guatemala. He said that academic freedom in Latin America is a movement that goes back to the 1780s. In Latin America, universities are islands of democracy in undemocratic societies; professors are chosen by election by the faculty. (In the U.S., by contrast, they are usually appointed by university trustees who are, in general, rich business people.) At the beginning of the 1960s, he said, many Latin Americans were studying in Europe and the U.S., where they found people interested in learning in the streets as well as in the classroom and in the library. When these students returned to Latin American, they worked to transform their institutions. Although his field was political science, Julio Quan became a professor in a Guatemalan school of medicine by being elected "temporarily" (he stayed ten years) to the faculty of a school of medicine after giving a talk in which he called attention to the leading causes of death in Guatemala, their roots in malnutrition, and the need to focus on preventative rather than curative medicine. In Latin America, he said, when you try to change institutions, you are not fired, you are fired upon. The policy of selective assassination is used as a form of low-intensity warfare. At one time he was receiving an average of fifteen death threats a day. When he received a call threatening harm to his children if he continued speaking and publishing as he had been doing, he chose to spend some time abroad, and for many years tried not to publish. He never returned to Guatemala, since while he was away, a hundred professors were assassinated there. He said he thought it was sad that war and militarism - the real problem -- have now come here, to U.S. society.
These experiences demonstrate an important point, he said: that the way to control people is to control their minds and hears. Julio's response has been to search for the truth. "This is why I believe we have to be as accurate as possible in what we say." We are told that the truth will make us free -- we also know that we can be killed for telling the truth. In this contradiction is the heart of the problem.
Julio was offered the position of director of the conflict resolution program in the Peace University (set up by the United Nations in Costa Rica) by the president of Costa Rica when this individual became became its chancellor. This is where he met Maralise, now his wife. After fifteen years there, they came to the U.S. They now live in Seattle, where Julio is now devoted to putting his experience and what he knows to work in the service of the people of the United States.
Julio said he is a person devoted to the search for truth, and also to the application of truth, without which truth is insignificant. He told how he came to the U.S. to learn about computers, and got involved in the civil rights movement, which led to his being beaten. In order to work for nonviolence, he said, it is necessary to be prepared emotionally, intellectually, physically, and spiritually for the violent repression this work can encounter. Three things are needed, which can be remembered by remembering three letters: CHA. They stand for Conocimientos, Habilidades, Actitudes [Knowledge, Abilities, Attitudes].
Julio also described Maralise's work in Costa Rica, and the importance of U.S. political figures who had identified with the cause of human rights in Central America - e.g. Jimmy Carter, and also Bill Clinton, who in August 2000 came to Guatemala and formally apologized for violently repressive policies that the U.S. had backed there. He said that Maralise (who will soon be serving as an aide to Dennis Flannigan) was more than a spouse. He observed that friends share the same tactics, companeros share the same strategy, hermanos share the same mission, and brothers/sisters share the same vision. Also, we should remember that the most important thing is to enjoy what we do in our work for peace and justice. "I want not to spread poverty, but wealth."
Julio asked how he and Maralise could help PJH. "What do you need from us?" He pointed out that members of the group really possess about 500 years of experience as well as considerable resources. "What do you need?"
Various PJHers responded. Ken said we needed communication. Karen said we needed to learn how to weather the present storm. Elaine said we needed to discuss our decision-making process. Amy said we needed to focus on long-term solutions. Flo said we needed to focus on getting things done. Karen (the other Karen) said we needed not to assume that we know what we are about, that we needed to question what we are about. Carl said that as Tacoma's peace organization we need combine our differences into common activities. Pam said we need redefine our goals, to recommit to them and rethink our mechanics. Ken said we need to do what our flyers say we do: look for positive solutions and seek alternatives to war. Benjie said we need to make time to do these things. Al said we need to spend less time on check-in and more on business, and to find ways to protect and preserve our freedoms.
Julio Quan observed that at the internal level PJH needs to determine how business is conducted. He emphasized that the best way to meet is to know exactly what is to be done, and the next best is to know what outcomes are desired. An agenda should indicate all the points needed to reach the desired outcome. Start with a focus on outcomes, he suggested, and conclude by summarizing decisions.
The group responded with discussion of its functioning. Marisela emphasized that we are a leaderless group and that this has been a blessing, though as a downside it made it impossible to publicize in advance an agenda and limited the amount of time available to work on business. Ken said it would behoove us to examine our structure. Colleen observed that we are not leaderless, rather, we are non-hierarchical. She said that we should not question whether this is the most effective way to work, rather we should *make* it the most effective way to work.
Julio Quan said that when the people leads, leaders will follow, so the group has to lead, with individuals taking on responsibilites. He pointed out that modern technologies (e-mail) made it possible to communicate and discuss unresolved issues, and that the group could act to make sure that all members had access to these technologies.
Karen (the first Karen) said she valued the process and presence of the group, and that we accomplish things by realizing the ideas that the group has decided to support.
Julio Quan emphasized that identifying the desired outcome is a way of focusing action. He advocated the "focal theory of action" (an idea of Che Guevara's: you create a focus of action so that its effects will radiate to other places ['foco' also means 'light bulb' in Spanish]).
Chris said we have many different ideas, all are interconnected -- the problem is, how do we maintain our focus? Pam noted that we really have two groups, which are not as connected as some might think: 1) Saturday meetings; 2) the internet group. Marisela said there is a third group: 3) the vigil. Carl said what we need to do is to define the organization's nature. Elaine wondered how radical the group really is. Karen (the second Karen) expressed questions about our aims and motivations. Karen (the first Karen) said that she now thought of herself as part of evolution rather than of revolution, and noted that the environment was a neglected element in our discussions, except when she brought it up; she said we have many pieces but "how we create a whole, I don't know."
Julio Quan said, "You DO know. You are here to share and to build together." Karen (the second Karen): "And to move forward." Julio: "Why not move up? ... If you don't meet people's needs, they will boycott the group, perhaps not at the conscious level." He recalled that Gandhi used to say: first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, and then you win. "You can embrace unity in diversity." It is important to identify outcomes to give a sense of accomplishment to the group. In a consensus group, the aim is not to conquer, but to add. The problem is people who say they want to do things but don't do them. We should congratulate each other on our contributions. Don't think about agreeing or disagreeing, but think rather about contributing. The most important part of criticism is self-criticism. Whenever you criticize something, give an option to improve -- otherwise, it's a judgment.
Marion said she thinks the group is functioning well -- [general applause] -- but that rather than people being committed to supporting common action, they often participate based on a personal judgment about the worth of this or that action. Marisela also said she thought the group was working well, that like Marion she felt she'd found a home, though she also wants action.
Julio Quan said that everyone wants to be efficient, but you also have to worry about being effective (or efficacious).
Flo observed that amount of time spent on check-in has been very frustrating to her. Carl said he sort of felt that way, though not to the extent Flo does. Pam said she's often felt that way too, but that there was value in allowing a process to work through. Dorothy said how much she values the check-in and attributed to it the level of trust we have developed in the group.
Julio Quan said: "So far we've talked about what you need. But what about the needs of peace?" He urged the group to be more positive, to embrace the positive value of peace rather than the unfocused "alternatives to war."
Ken observed that this phrase came from a recognition that some sort of action was needed, and that people associate peace with passivity. Several people discussed how the group felt at the beginning that it was making efforts to be as inclusive as possible.
Julio Quan urged the group to be modest. "Look for one alternative to war. Look for one focus." Ken observed that he supported a focus on peace, but that it was important for the group to present itself to the community in a humble fashion. Julio said: "From an outsider's point of view, my first conclusion is that you are an incredible resource, and that you have a duty to present an alternative. History will not absolve you if you do not get your ass in gear and present a decent alternative to the people of the United States. A process of discussion is necessary to present a single front, or else *peace* will lose." He pointed out that "radical" is not originally a political term, that it refers to *roots*. He said that crises come from conflicts that are unattended to, that conflicts come from problems that are not resolved, and that problems come from unsatisfied needs. "It is up to the people of the U.S. to identify the underlying needs that are not being satisfied." Four tasks can be distinguished conceptually: maintaining peace, peparing peace, building peace, and recuperating peace. They are all interrelated. Julio said that he and Maralise had more to offer PJH about these subjects and are willing to come back at a future time to help us further. One advantage they [and we at PJH!] have is that Julio and Maralise are not asking to be paid, and are willing to do all they can to help us. "And when we are not needed, kick us out." (This is a positive, not a negative moment -- there are many other groups that also need their help.)
Chris said she was still struggling with whether plural "alternatives to peace" is not the best way, with an enriching openness to many approaches.
Julio Quan said that in tactics, you look at your opponent's weakest point. In this case, it's the fact that most people (except for those who need a psychiatrist's help) do not want war. (He acknowledged that many people need psychiatrists' help!) For action, he said, you need to organize, to choose *one* strategy. He explained that tactics are what you do, whereas a strategy is why you are doing that and where you want to go. Every strategy materializes in tactics. A strategy is more than a goal, it's also a reason for going there. Julio concluded by saying that he had rarely seen a group so diverse and committed. "I want this group to be a catalyst."
The meeting then addressed itself the pressing matter of plans for the peace vigil, and decided (1) that we would identify and announce which days we would cover the peace vigil in front of the Federal Courthouse [a sheet was passed around and resulted in these days: Sunday (at least Elaine & Marion), Wednesday (at least Marisela & Jim), Thursday (at least Mark, Elaine, and Pam), and Friday (at least Mara)]; (2) that we would encourage others to come on other days; and (3) that, following Benjie's suggestion, in the next week we would reach out to other groups in the community to try to have them adopt responsibility for the vigil on days other than Wednesday, traditionally PJH's vigil day.
This very special meeting of PJH concluded at 1:05 p.m. with the group very warmly thanking Julio and Maralise for spending the morning with us.