Grace Lee Boggs and a Culture of Resourcefulness

Want to be moved and inspired?

Please take 2 minutes and read the transcript below of Grace Lee Boggs on Democracy Now yesterday in which  she speaks with Amy Goodman about themes I’ve also lived and taught for years – that as we let go of consumerism and “job-ism” we recognize our most potent resources are our creativity and our community. I’ve highlighted my zingers. And this is precisely what I want to share in my class at Schumacher college next month.

AMY GOODMAN: Speaking of Detroit, we’re also joined by Grace Lee Boggs, who has just published her umpteenth book. It’s called The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century. Grace is 96 years old, here in New York, though headed back to Detroit, legendary activist. Grace, talk about where we are today and where we need to be. I mean, certainly, Detroit is ground zero for the economic downturn.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Well, I think that we are at a very critical time in the history of the world. And I think that there’s a sense out there to which the President and the others do not speak, that this is a time when we have to make very deep changes. I think people understand that the empire is dying, that the welfare state that it made possible is also no longer possible, and therefore that we have to begin recreating our relationships with one another and with the rest of the world. And it’s a very troubling time for most Americans, but it’s only, I think, a relatively small number who understand that we have to create the world anew and that we have to call upon the powers within ourselves to do that. It’s a huge moment, and we’re very privileged, actually, to be part of that moment, and to speak to it, not from the White House, not from D.C., but from our sense of what people are searching for.

The first chapter of our new book is called “These Are the Times to Grow Our Souls.” I think people—some people recognize—I’m not saying all people recognize that, but this is really the time to grow our souls, to begin making a life and not just a living, to begin talking about things not just in terms of budgets and how we can use this sum of money and that sum of money for that purpose. People are suffering economically, but I think they understand that the issue is not an economic issue. It’s a question of, how shall we live? How shall we continue the evolution of human beings? What does it mean to be a human being at this time on the clock of the world? And I think we have to speak to that. I don’t expect President Obama to speak to that. And that’s why I don’t think demonstrations and protests are that meaningful. From the White House, you talk about history in a different way: you try and tell people that the American Dream is not dead, that we can re-bring it back to life. And people know, in a sense, that it is dead, that we have to create a new American Dream and that the opportunity to do that is a great privilege, a great challenge.

JUAN GONZALEZ: … you’re saying that you believe that the real revolution is not a political one, but is a cultural one, or, as you’re saying, in terms of reshaping our relationships with each other. But how do you respond then to the millions of Americans who are out of jobs, who say that they may want to change their relationships to other people, but they also have to be able to make a living to support their families?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Well, let’s—that business of making a living, I think, is what we need to challenge. I think that in Detroit, because of the devastation of deindustrialization, we recognize that we have to reimagine work, that we have to reimagine how we relate to one another. We have to see that the jobs that paid us income also turned us into consumers and robbed us of some of our creativity, and robbed us also of our obligations to one another and robbed us of our relationships to community, and that we have to restore those. And that’s part of what human beings have done through the ages, and that it’s a privilege to do that. It’s difficult, but it’s also a challenge.

…there are huge financial issues in Detroit, but you can’t look at a time like this mainly in terms of finances. You have to ask yourself, if 10,000 students are dropping out of school every year, creating a huge fiscal crisis, is it a financial question, or have the schools failed? And were they created at a time when people were thinking an industrial society and preparing children for a job in a society that no longer exists?…

And I think it’s very difficult for someone who doesn’t live in Detroit to say you can look at a vacant lot and, instead of seeing devastation, see hope, see the opportunity to grow your own food, see an opportunity to give young people a sense of process, that’s very difficult in the city, that the vacant lot represents the possibilities for a cultural revolution. It’s amazing how few Americans understand that, even though I think filmmakers and writers are coming to the city and trying to spread the word.

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