National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee

National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee
Friday evening panel with Mira Luna and Kwan Booth
Introduced by David Gross

Return to first gathering page.

“Innovative Social Justice Networking Techniques”
Introduction by David Gross, Northern California War Tax Resistance

War tax resisters share this valuable insight that our personal economic decisions are a way we cast our vote as to what sort of world we want to live in.

When you hear about “the economy” on the news, it can sometimes sound like “the economy” is a machine, with the Treasury Secretary or the Federal Reserve Board in the driver’s seat, and dials marked NASDAQ and GDP on the dashboard – but really, the economy is more like an ecosystem: a web of interactions and links of reliance that thrives on diversity and mutual respect, not monopoly and hierarchy. The economy you read about in the business pages is just one part of the economic ecosystem: the rest of the iceberg consists of all of the exchanges and mutual decisions that never show up in the GDP but that make all the difference in whether our lives and our families and our communities are healthy and contributing to a healthy world.

This conference itself is, among other things, a set of exchanges and gifts – economic activity – and represents our votes as to what green shoots we want to see thrive in the economy as a whole.

At past conferences, I’ve heard a lot of frustration from people about the difficulty we have of getting the word out, attracting new people to war tax resistance, and keeping resisters organized and contributing to a thriving war tax resistance movement. We sometimes feel like isolated trees in this economic ecosystem when what we really want is to be whole jungles.

The good news is that there has never been a better time to experiment with new methods of outreach, organization, and community-building. The bad news is that there are so many of these new tools and trials and experiments out there that it can be hard to know what’s worth trying and what’s just a dead end and how to know the difference.

We have two panelists who can help us sort out this tangle:

Kwan Booth is at the forefront of the movement to reinvent and reinvigorate a more local and grassroots journalism out of the ashes of the old institutional news media empires. He is an award-winning journalist and co-founder of the hyperlocal news site Oakland Local. Not only is this work an example of bottom-up community empowerment, but much of what he covers is about organizing and grassroots activism, so he’s got his finger on the pulse of what is working for a wide range of groups.

Mira Luna works to create and promote alternative economic solutions. She founded Bay Area Community Exchange, Timebank (a nontaxable volunteer exchange system), and Just Alternative Sustainable Economics. She serves on the boards of the U.S. Solidarity Economy Network, Shareable Magazine, the San Francisco Community Land Trust, and TransitionSF. She can tell us about new local economic models that we can build and support that will help us take more of our economic lives out of the taxable economy, and particularly about local currencies, which I know many of you have been curious about.

Mira Luna, founder Bay Area Community Exchange, spoke on alternative economic solutions. Rough notes from her talk:

We have the power to change things instead of electing people who say they will change things but then don’t. Found political work a dead end. Started working on economic systems. Need to change the structure of the economy.

Key element to new economy: people will have equal participation – can’t do on national level because you lose transparency, ability to get feedback, etc. Things can go back to the local level. Here in Bay Area we have what we need to survive. Democratic participation, community self-sufficiency – elements of the new economy. Just 100 years ago most needs were provided on local level and family and friends through gift economy and exchanges. In great depression there were hundreds of local currencies. Mali is almost entirely the gift economy, based on trust, not competition. The dominant economy – money economy – has consumed these older systems that we want to grow back, take back. How to do:

  1. More self-sufficiency: grow own food, provide own energy, replace the bigger structures
  2. Create local currency – People have skills but so many are unemployed because there is not enough money. With local currency and other forms of trade we can regenerate that energy/skill/work. We created a Time bank – a non-taxable local “currency” based on time. No contract. Everyone’s hours are equal. Not a threat to the market economy. Informal economy exists for those on cash basis – some jobs people deal in cash or barter. We could scale it up here and with local currencies. If we trust each other to take care of on another, we won’t need insurance and retirement accounts. People are more interested in building relationships and trade/share rather than building up your bank account. In the general culture there is no trust to take care of each other over time; time bank is focused on building that trust. Forming “gift circles” where people learn about skills, learn about needs, share and trade. Based on reputation, friendship, how much you’ve given to your community – not what’s in your bank account or what you’ve taken from the community. Happy to see people get something that fills a need. Must first ask: What do we really need?

Alternative economic projects exist and are also happening on national scale – credit unions, urban farms, etc – network these groups to build wider systems.

Land and labor are the basis of alternative economics. Hard to be self sufficient if you don’t have access to land. Organizing tenants to buy back building or apartments is the way to stop gentrification. Co-housing model – cooperatively owned, tenant run. Studies show that cooperative housing show lower crime rights, high civic activity.

Solidarity economy – it’s not capitalism or communism. Self-defined through actions and projects – decentralized, non-hierarchical, localized, democratic economies. Those are the values. U.S. Solidarity Economy Network is national. A feeling that people know where the economy has to go and the values that it defines or defines it.

You can see Mira give a similar talk on YouTube

Kwan and Mira

Kwan Booth, Senior Community Manager, Oakland Local

Right now is opportunity to create your own news, get your own info online. Right now a lot of it is free. Not long ago you had to use print and slower outreach. There are 500 million on Facebook. You can get a fraction of that but you have to know how to use the technologies and who the communities are.

Social networks – Facebook, Twitter, Flicker, MySpace, etc. Think of the internet as a city. Everyone on internet can have a presence in this city. People on Facebook gather around specific interests, develop community.

N.Y. Times – they have a community online with not much play for us, for alternative/progressive groups; people in our communities developed their own communities that are independent of the mainstreams like the N.Y. Times – we can creative our own equivalent of the N.Y. Times. You can create a website in 30 min that can look as good as the Times. We can create our own and also say screw them. You can be your own media outlet. Teaching these skills in general communities and getting people able to use the technology that is available.

The window of opportunity is closing – the big media is starting to look at this and figure out how to control it. “Net neutrality” means we can all use everything that’s available. Cable TV is an example – now you have to pay for more stations. Net is all available now, same rights for all. ATT, Verizon, Comcast are pushing legislation to close the net neutrality laws. They want to create a tier system so that you can get a certain number of sites free but might have to pay more premiums to get more sites. If net neutrality is closed the freedom to create and innovate will close also. In 2–3 years it might not be as open as it is now. Now is so opposite from past media where the top editors controlled it, told people what to do. Now anyone can get on and write their own news. Doesn’t take money to put your news online.

Intergenerational aspects of FB – or across ethnic boundaries – People use the web differently, and there are segmentations. Not always seeing the outreach to young people through websites that strong. Young people attached to their cell phones. Older people want larger screens. When people step out of comfort zone and try something new it’s enlightening. Find out where online a certain group exists and use their tools the way they use them to reach them.

Check out:

Thinking in sound bites – using Twitter, quicker outreach – changed ideas about things. Most success in Kwan’s communications has been understanding where people are online and using the tool in the way they are using it. On Facebook – figure out who you want to talk to and speak to them in that language.

Location-based Google groups

Text messages are powerful – young people send xxx per day and check them 2–3 (more?) times a day. That’s how they get their info. News, events, etc. – send one text to everyone and to website to donation campaigns with links to larger campaigns. That’s like passing out 100 flyers simultaneously.

Young people don’t get news off websites. On Facebook news gets posted. They also follow “Pseudo news” – more entertainment, like Daily Show.

Media Action Grassroots Network. They experiment with different ways to reach young people.

Posting short video on YouTube. Parodies of lady gaga songs have been popular.

You can follow Kwan online.

NWTRCC’s Facebook page — click on the FB logo to the left or click on this link and post something about WTR!

Return to first gathering page.