Quiet direct action: You+1 and Living Room Conversations

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Marching and sign waving at rallies bring attention to issues, but does change happen?

When I open up my computer and check the latest social media news feed; flip on the TV to watch a political candidate debate; or catch a radio newscast at the top of the hour; the content is nothing but yelling and screaming, finger pointing, repositioning, pivoting, and general noise.

It’s estimated that over 5,000,000 people participated in the first Women’s March on January 21, 2017.

Following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on March 24, 2018 there was an estimated 800,000 who showed up at the March for our Lives rally in Washington, D.C.

As far as I know, women still don’t have equal rights, domestic violence is still happening, and little has been done to curb gun violence.

If “liking” facebook posts; ranting, chanting, raving and waving signs at rallies aren’t your brand of activism, here are a couple approaches, You+1 and Living Room Conversations, that are  direct actions building quiet alternatives to reacting to what’s happening in the status quo.

you plus one card

Click on the image, go to the website and sign up to receive some You+1 cards to add to the quiet revolution.

You+1 is described as “A civil movement of quiet involvement and individual diplomacy.” It’s very simple and here’s the motivation behind the movement:

“I care about this country and the people who live here, and yet, it is quite likely that I will choose to become uninvolved with a political campaign that is too loud, too noisy, and too bullying for my sensibilities.  

“It occurred to me that others might feel the same way.  So I did some research. Did you know that 43% of eligible voters, 100,000,000 people, did not vote in 2016? 

“What if each of us made a personal commitment to find one person who didn’t vote in the last election…  and if individually, we made the effort to connect with that person, to listen, to build a bridge… And what if we were each able to bring one additional vote to the polls in 2020?

“If we did that, we would change the outcome of the election.  Not through grandstanding, but through caring, quiet involvement and personal diplomacy.  

“One vote can feel like a drop in the bucket.  But amazingly, if we each bring just one more person, just one, there will be more than enough votes to elect a truly representative president and congress.

“Can we do it?   

“Yes.  The math is simple and it makes sense. The individual effort is small and rewarding.  But it will take a lot of people. I am not discouraged by large numbers, because I believe that many, many people care.  We just don’t know what to do. Or, worse, we believe that doing something won’t matter.

You+1 is a way to do something that matters. It is not about: Campaign donations. Negative advertising. Name-calling. Or, who can shout the loudest. Instead, it is about individuals taking quiet, meaningful actions to change our country.”

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Living Room Conversations engage people with diverse perspectives in a safe space where difficult issues can be discussed and for each to learn about points of view different from their own.

Living Room Conversations is another face-to-face means of quiet civic engagement. Living Room Conversations are a conversational bridge across issues that divide and separate us.

They provide an easy and safe structure for engaging in friendly yet meaningful conversation with those with whom we may not agree.

These conversations increase understanding, reveal common ground, and sometimes even allow us to discuss possible solutions. No fancy event or skilled facilitator is needed.

“Major disagreement on important issues is a fact of life, but it doesn’t have to create insurmountable divides. We hope for a world in which people who have fundamental differences of opinion and backgrounds learn to work together with respect – and even joy – to realize the vibrant future we all desire for ourselves and our families.

“Through applying and adapting our conversational model, we hope participants will build relationships that generate understanding and enable collaborative problem-solving.

“Living rooms used to be the place where people would gather to socialize and relate with each other. Inviting someone into your home was to treat them as valued and worthy of respect.

Living Room Conversations can take place anywhere, which these days includes the virtual world. Video chat allows us to bring each other into our homes, with all that represents, at a scale never before imagined.”

You+1 is a great follow up “next step” after participating in a Living Room Conversation.

Regardless how you involve yourself, get up off the couch and SHARE!

By: Alan O’Hashi

Get up off the couch and SHARE

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Get up off the couch and SHARE is a quiet means of of saving the world one person at a time.

“Get Up Off the Couch” is a call to action. It’s largely an initiative of the Cohousing Association of the United States. The idea is to build a grassroots network of cohousing communities, their members, groups, organizations and other individuals who want an alternative way of bridging social and cultural divides plaguing our country today.

Get up off the couch and SHARE:

Cohousing Nation, by definition, lives a “New American Way” that emphasizes balancing the good of the whole over that of the individual; accepting that all people are different and all are welcome and valued; power and strength are replaced by consensus and shared decision making.

As such, cohousing communities have the potential to bridge cultural, social, and economic divides that plague the United States today.

Change has a better chance of happening from efforts by cohousers. The average cohouser has at least some social justice blood running through their veins.

The data define a typical cohouser as having these characteristics: Caucasian, high perceived social class, high income, highly educated, 65 percent of the time an introvert, and 70 percent of the time a woman.

What if cohousers, who largely are members of the dominant culture, become gatekeepers who work together and become allies with marginalized groups, rather than marginalized groups trying to break through the glass ceiling, with few allies there.

Inclusion will happen organically as the dominant culture becomes more inclusive. There are around 170 existing cohousing communities and another 150 in formative stages. That’s 30,000 cohousers.

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Cohousers can redefine Superman’s American Way.

Remember the old 1950s TV show, The Adventures of Superman? The narrator told my friends and me to model Superman’s can-do behavior because, “he fights a never ending battle for truth, justice, and the American Way.”

Superman’s “American Way” is based on rugged individualism; cultural divides narrowed by assimilation; and quests for power and control.

There isn’t anything inherently wrong with the “Old American Way,” but it needs to evolve along with society and one way that can happen is through a collaborative approach that results in truth, justice and a “New American Way.”

The current political climate continues to fuel a growing fear among 30 percent of the U.S. electorate that the country will soon lose its 1776 version of American cultural identity.

Current events around over-crowded detention centers for illegal immigrants and those seeking asylum are indicators why we need to become better cultural change-managers, rather than controllers of cultural change.

What does the cohousing and “get up off the couch” solutions look like?

secret sauce

Cohousing Secret Sauce is the main ingredient that can be poured over any housing configuration.

Cohousing brings individuals together to form a community. Housing is housing, but what differentiates cohousing from other housing configurations is the “secret sauce” that mixes several ingredients. The recipe can be altered to meet differing tastes:

  • Relationships – Neighbors commit to being part of a community for mutual benefit. Cohousing cultivates a culture of sharing and caring. Neighborhood size is typically between 30 and 40 homes that promote frequent interaction and close relationships in a variety of housing configurations.
  • Balancing Privacy and Community – Cohousing neighborhoods are designed for privacy as well as community. Residents balance privacy and community by choosing their levels of community engagement
  • Participation – Decision-making is participatory and often based on consensus. Selft management empowers residents, builds relationships and can save money.
  • Shared Values – Cohousing communities support residents in actualizing shared values.

A certain ilk of the citizenry, mostly Baby Boomers and older, who experienced the Cold War, will try to reposition the conversation by calling intentional communities “creeping socialism.” Granted, this lifestyle isn’t for everyone.

Cohousing isn’t about over throwing the government, but rather a reaction to how the general market is changing because it’s basically less expensive to live more collaboratively (higher density neighborhoods) and sharing resources (five households don’t each need a lawnmower).

The wave of the future is the Millennials generation making change today, mostly for survival. They being saddled with the the national debt of their parents, grandparents and great grandparents; forced into a college tuition system that will keep them under the thumb of Wall Street until they are old and gray are two reasons why young people are de-commodifying the American Way.

Millennials aren’t interested in living in huge homes in the suburbs far from their jobs, cultural, and entertainment activities in the urban core.

The tenets of the Millennial generation’s New American Way would say, a home is where we live, not an investment. The only time a house should be commodified is when it’s time to move.

Rather than saying, “The yard needs more trees because it will increase our property values,”  The New American Way perspective is, “The yard needs more trees because they will improve the places where kids can play.” As a side benefit, property values may increase.

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Cohousing communities can offer up their common houses to grassroots groups.

For cohousers, getting up off the couch should be second nature. As individuals, join groups that align with cohousing values.  Host events and participate. Show the way!

Offer your Common Houses space to local grass roots groups for their meetings and/or actions. Finding inexpensive or free space is an on-going challenge for many organizations.

Get up off the couch and SHARE the cohousing “secret sauce,” soon available at a farmer’s market near you.

By: Alan O’Hashi