“Are we smarter this week than we were the week before?”
This is the question that Dave Batstone posed to us as the ‘Not For Sale’ staff at the monthly ‘Staff Summit’ meeting that took place on Monday. I love the rare opportunity to ‘down tools’ and spend time re-aligning with the vision of the organisation, the purpose of the work that we do, and evaluating the effectiveness of our activity. I like listening to everyone sharing their thoughts, and appreciating that although we all have different roles, and different approaches to completing our tasks, we all share one common goal: ending slavery in our lifetime.
Today I was at a community event in San Mateo, helping to man an NFS booth. There were a number of different local organisations and businesses promoting their work and – long story short – I ended up having a free consultation with a local chiropractor (note to reader: masseur and chiropractor….NOT the same thing.) Anyway as the guy folded me up and then basically drop kicked me, I heard most of my vertebrae crunch ‘back into place’ (where were they before I ask myself?). The guy seemed pretty pleased with the result and assured me that I would benefit from doing this at least once a week…
The whole experience took me back to Monday and made me think about how our monthly NFS summits are much like a theoretical re-alignment. While a chiropractic session physically re-aligns the spine, staff summits serve to re-align the ‘spine’ of Not For Sale. In much the same way that I was not aware that my vertebrae had strayed, I think that it is possible for elements of such a vast, varied, and rapidly expanding movement to slowly shift over time.
When I spend time video editing for long periods, my neck and back become painful – over time this small dull ache accumulates until I can no longer ignore it and have to go for a run, or a swim, or con someone into giving me a back massage. The same is true for the vertebrae of Not For Sale – because each platform has its own aims, action plans and culture, despite being part of the same spine, they can begin to drift apart from each other and operate less cohesively. Over time, this would begin to cause ‘pain’ to the overall movement, but staff summit re-aligns the entire Not For Sale team with one audible ‘crunch’.
Dave’s question facilitated that re-alignment: ‘Are we smarter this week than we were the week before?’ It’s so important for us as abolitionists to be on the front foot, taking new territory each week, if we are to beat an issue which, despite incredible efforts so far, continues to win with an overwhelming majority. As long as slavery continues to exist, we have not achieved our goal. The fact that slavery still exists is testimony to the fact that we have not yet discovered the winning strategy. We need to have the courage to push forward with new initiatives and new action plans in an attempt to find the solution – even if we are wrong. We might get it wrong 99 times in a row, but strategy 100 might just change the world.
Thursday night I got back late from a community meeting in Santa Cruz where we had been sharing about the ‘Zero Tolerance Communities’ initiative with local business leaders. It had been a long day and I wanted to take a bath before falling into bed. I had only ever taken showers in the bathroom I was using – I flipped the lever to plug the drain, set the bath water running, and wandered out of the room. When I came back in I realised that although the bath was ‘plugged’, the water was still escaping and the bath would not fill. I was pretty committed to taking this bath and so tried to cover up the plug hole with a cup. Fail. I was well aware that there was an alternative bath downstairs that was available, but by this point I was on a single minded mission to take a bath in THIS bathtub. This is the bathroom I am used to using – ‘my’ bathroom, that is familiar to me.
My determination intensified as my stubbornness kicked in and I used all possible problem solving skills, tools, and available methods, in an attempt to triumph at ‘girl .v. bath’. About 25 mins into the palaver, I suddenly realised how ridiculous the endeavour had become when Christy, disturbed by the noise, came in asked me ‘What the heck are you doing???!’ Lol I had to stop and take a picture of my ridiculousness:
So – the moral of the story here is: I could have had a bath far more quickly, easily, and successfully, had I been willing to set aside the fact that I ‘prefer’ to use the upstairs bathroom, and ventured into the unfamiliar territory of the downstairs bathroom.
I think that this is what Dave was talking about on Monday (little did he know!). Here at Not For Sale, as entire organisation, or as individual fellows/staff, we have a choice. We can choose to stubbornly persist to channel our energies and resources into the same familiar and preferred initiatives that we used ‘last week’, or we can choose to intentionally act ‘smarter’ and try something new. That ‘something’ will probably mean that we will have to leave behind what is comfortable and familiar, but we might just find the result we are looking for, the result that we have not yet achieved. Are we willing?