From Black Lives Matter to Fight for 15 to the millions of voters fighting to get money out of politics, the tides are turning again: people are insisting, en masse, that they are worth more. I was raised by warm, open-minded weirdoes who loved me dearly and cherished my eccentricities, and yet, much of the confidence that they cultivated in me was eroded over more than a decade of working underpaid, underappreciated, understaffed, often downright invisible jobs in education, Early Intervention, and disability care.
This was one of the biggest aha! moments I had in the process of becoming a Caring Economy Conversation Partner. Not only is the devaluation of caregiving, and any work associated with the “feminine” deeply embedded in our culture, that devaluation can also drain our personal sense of self-worth. I know so many teachers, social workers, child care professionals, elder caregivers, moms, dads, and grandparents who feel like they are nothing special - and yet, they’re doing the loving, creative, complicated and crucial work of shaping human development! (Or, to put it in terms that the wealthy might appreciate, "developing human capital.") I interviewed people about the role of care in their lives, and I asked them, “What if care was glamorized, and there was an American Caring Idol show? What qualities do you have that would win awards?” Most people found it very hard to answer. Self-care was a difficult topic as well: many responded that they had no time for it, and some had trouble even wrapping their minds around the concept of paying attention the self.
But a society in which no one cares for the carers is a society in danger. As Riane Eisler asserts in her book The Real Wealth of Nations, we need to look at larger cultural patterns which reward violence and domination with economic incentives, and we need to demand visibility, respect, and financial support for a culture based on partnership. Going from patriarchy to matriarchy, or capitalism to socialism, would not necessarily break cycles of domination. We can only do that by actively embracing partnership – a commitment to nonviolence, power with, rather than power over, and hierarchies of actualization, rather than hierarchies of control. (As you can see, 54% of the US budget goes towards the military - talk about domination! A mere sliver off the military budget would double the size of the yellow slice, which represents education.)
We can look at every aspect of our lives through a domination/partnership lens: government, classroom, home.... It's eye-opening to see how even well-meaning people perpetuate domination in subtle ways - for example, as a rookie teacher, I used too much lecture, rigid rules, and threats of consequences, before I learned that my students were calmer and more motivated when I gave them the power to set their own learning goals, and to hold themselves and each other accountable for achieving them.
Everyone I spoke to thanked me for sharing what I learned about the Caring Economy, and for listening to stories that few people ask them about. They’re hungry for more conversation, and now I’m planning events for caregivers from all walks of life called WE ARE WORTH MORE. We’ll gather at a local library to share a meal, tell stories, play mingling games, and share resources that will help us to build solidarity, and to confront those prejudices against caring that keep us from demanding more support.
Many caring people find it hard to believe that there are people out there who want to exploit or abuse us, or deprive us of our rights. But from police brutality and systemic racism, to voter suppression in largely low-income areas, to the union-busting, social welfare-starving economic terrorism going on in my home town Chicago and throughout the state of lllinois, it’s clear that some people don’t care about us and the people who we serve and love. How can we harness the rage that this stirs up in us - and, rather than letting it burn us, use it as fuel? As my fellow Caring Economy Conversation Leader, author and radio show host Rev. Dr. Karen Tate urges, “We need to find our sacred roar!"
I have begun to see plutocracy – government by the wealthy – as a kind of sociopathic disease. (Sociopath: a person with a personality disorder manifesting itself in extreme antisocial attitudes and behavior and a lack of conscience.) Angry as I am at the politicians and their donors who have neglected my daughter’s school, taken away my right to unionize as an Early Intervention therapist, cut women’s health, disability and violence prevention programs, I also feel sadness for their lost, uncaring, and dim spirits. My work with the Caring Economy Campaign has also inspired me to host a brainstorming – or “heartstorming” – session with fellow artists and activists on how to use graphic art and performance art as political action. Like good parents – gently, compassionately, but firmly – we can put the plutocrats in time out. And we can prove to the general public that a partnership culture is possible, if only we get out of the house, speak our truths, and listen to one another, exercising that innate curiosity that makes humanity so great.
UPDATE 6/21/16: We held our first We Are Worth More event, and it was a great success! More events to come... check out this link for more.
For more about the Caring Economy, visit caringeconomy.org, or order Riane Eisler's The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economics from your local independent bookstore. The Caring Economy Campaign often hosts free webinars attended by people from around the world, and if you would like to join the Caring Economy Advocates program, scholarships are available for this wonderful experience!
Would you like to partner? Questions, comments, constructive criticism, stories and bright ideas welcome! Please write to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about the artistic, therapeutic and community organizing work that calls me, check out one or two of my many personalities:
Power to the Parents: Intergenerational Community Education www.owltreelearning.com
Kate Duva: Stories, Performance, Poetry, Collage www.kateduva.com
Watch "Find the Eye of Your Storm: Fierce Compassion for Political Action" at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LolZUeLtha8