Common Cause newsletter, sent 30/05/22
Honestly, putting together a newsletter this month has felt challenging — I am navigating life with almost one-year old twin babies and very little sleep, which has left little room for lateral thinking. I have been reflecting on how entirely exhausted and burnt out many of us are; navigating systemic and personal struggles at various intersections of power and privilege. Even in the UK, one of the richest and most parasitic nations in the world, we’re facing rising costs of fuel and food which are driving more and more people into poverty. I am a middle-class, white, able-bodied woman working part-time and I can only do this work because I’m fortunate enough to have family members willing and able to support my husband and me with free childcare (which has become unaffordable for many). But I am also in debt.
In times like these I hear the relentless hyper productive, well-trained neoliberal voice in my head telling me that I need to ‘work harder’, make more money, take on extra work, work through the night while my babies are (kind of) sleeping. It’s the voice we know well, the one that singsongs through the media that ‘we have the same 24 hours as Beyonce’. I know many people can relate and I know many others have greater struggles than I do.
But this story that we’ve been told is the same story that allows Elon Musk to buy Twitter for $44 billion on a whim while the World Food Programme (for better or worse) suggests that $6.6 billion would help (temporarily) avert famine for people across 43 countries. It’s the same story that allows Senator Mitt Romney to tweet that “Grief overwhelms the soul” and that “We must find answers” in response to the 7–11 year old school children shot and murdered in Texas this week, at the same time as taking $13,647,676 in contributions from the National Rifle Association. It’s the same story that, between March and September 2020, when most businesses and people were struggling, allowed Jeff Bezos to increase his personal wealth so much that he could have given all 876,000 Amazon employees a bonus of $105,000 and be as wealthy as he was pre-pandemic*. It’s the same story that means that a new billionaire has been created every 30 hours during the pandemic, with billionaires in the food and energy sectors increasing their fortunes by $1 billion every two days; whilst nearly a million people could be pushed into extreme poverty in 2022 at nearly the same rate.
We need new stories. New stories where people like Musk, Romney and Bezos aren’t able to accumulate such wealth and power at the expense of everyone else, to do with as they please, without mandate or accountability. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, for example, set up to “fight poverty, disease, and inequity around the world’ could start by dismantling the systems that allowed its founder, Bill Gates to accumulate $129bn, to become the biggest private owner of farmland in the USA, to mine for Colbalt in Greenland or to contribute to what’s being called a ‘vaccine apartheid’, whilst 88 per cent of the 3,000 of the Foundation’s charitable grants ($63 billion) went to recipients in the wealthiest, whitest nations, including the USA, Canada, Australia and European countries.
We don’t need charitable donations at the whims of the (mostly), white, male, western and wealthy. We need a serious redistribution of wealth and power (in all its forms and at all levels of society) and to redefine what it is we actually need when we feel extrinsically motivated to accumulate more of it — because it’s so easy to think that it might be the solution to all our troubles. The truth is none of us benefit from people becoming richer or more powerful. It’s in these moments that I remind myself that excessive financial wealth isn’t the answer; that I don’t want anything in my life to come at the expense of anyone else’s’ life, and that what I’m actually desperately seeking are systems that are founded in equity, justice and community care that allow all life to thrive and flourish.
It’s why I feel the work we do at Common Cause is so important — we need to talk more about what it is we collectively value as humans, and why we live in a system that is so out of balance — that promotes wealth and power and social status over things that are so important to us all, intrinsically; community and compassion and love for nature.
With care and solidarity for these times we’re in.
Elsie, Ruth and Tom
*ethical consumer magazine, issue 193, Nov/Dec 2021, p11.
From Common Cause
Values 101 Workshops
Our Values 101 workshop dates for the rest of 2022 have now been announced where we’ll be exploring how we can create the cultural conditions necessary for systemic and durable social and environmental change. We also still have slots available for our next workshop in June. You can find out more and register by visiting our TicketTailor page.
As usual, if you want to attend, but don’t fit in to one of the remaining ticket categories, let Ruth know via email and she’d be happy to arrange a cheaper ticket for you.
In the world
A brief selection of books, articles, videos, podcasts and events that resonate with us that we think you might enjoy…
Book: The Entangled Activist
In this book, friend of Common Cause, Anthea Lawson, examines how activism is entangled in the very problems it seeks to solve and suggests that perhaps transforming ourselves in intricately linked to transforming the world.
Find out more and purchase the book here (or from your local independent bookseller).
Anthology: Culture Hack Labs
Culture Hack Labs presents a series of created and curated content on the dominant narratives and how they can be reframed for systems change. CHL is centrally focused on finding life-affirming narratives that can guide us through the uncertain territories of this transition.
Find out more and download the first issue here.
Blog: Culture, Deep Narratives and…. Whac-A-Mole?
Our very own Ruth Taylor recently wrote a piece for Reset Narratives reflecting on her journey to narrative change work and proposing two ways of working that she hopes to see take root across the social and environmental change sectors in the future.
Read the article here.
Event: Our Time on Earth
We belong to an incredible ecosystem. One species among millions of others, striving to live together in a delicate balance. It’s a vital connection, and one we can’t afford to lose. It’s time to look at our world — the natural world — in different ways. Join The Barbican on an immersive exploration of radical ideas for the way we live. Where technology brings us closer to nature, and indigenous insight reconnects us to our roots. Enter the story of our future, with perspectives spanning art, science, activism — and more.
Thu 5 May — Mon 29 Aug 2022, The Barbican. Find out more and book here.
Handbook: The Nature Connection
Nature needs people and organisations that take the challenge of transforming the human relationship with nature seriously. We are seeing more and more people across a range of roles and organisations helping to meet this challenge and connect people with nature.
Access this new guide for increasing people’s connection with nature here.
Article: Cynics masquerade as wise, but they’re doing everyone a disservice
Torsten Bell writes about the perception gap in their latest short article for The Guardian.
Read it here.