Owning-Class Divestment

Dear owning-class Co-Counsellors,

I am facing a crux (fork in the road, challenge, mountain to climb). I want to figure out how to move us owning-class Co-Counsellors out of a stuck place.

We are people born and trained into privilege, entitlement, control, and a form of material security. Some of us have access to real wealth—millions.

In the past a few with owning-class backgrounds have seen themselves as a force for changing the status quo, as people who could use their wealth, advantage, or position to assist in the liberation of all oppressed groups. Engels, Buddha, Francis of Assisi, Emily Pankhurst, and Mandela did this. They were owning-class people who took on [undertook] political, racial, religious, or institutional challenges and made a difference.

Suppose you took seriously the possibility that you, who have been in RC and worked on owning-class issues for some time, are a force—a force for good that has not been mobilised hitherto.

What would you have to face to come out and be counted, be visible? Tim Jackins has asked, “What do we want to be remembered for within our families? Did we free them? Did we help them escape?”

INCREASING WEALTH

You are familiar with the introductions at my workshops. I ask people, among other things, “How rich are you?” “Where did the wealth come from?” Then we set up support groups based on what people have disclosed about their wealth, past or present.

For as long as I have led you, we have had the commitment, “No matter how frightening it feels, I will give up the control of wealth and the justifications for it.“ Many of you have attempted to honour that commitment, yet at my workshops I find that the money people own or may inherit has increased. The support groups for “people with owning-class patterns but no money” and “people with mere thousands” have dwindled, and the support groups for “millionaires” and “multimillionaires” have increased. At the last workshop, the amount of wealth represented was well over a hundred million dollars.

You see why I am saying we are stuck?

ISOLATION

As I face the pernicious hold that capitalism has on us, I find myself discharging on what I felt as a little one: “Why are they so mean?” “How can the world be like this?“

I think the answer to the questions I am asking and the challenges we are facing is to end isolation. If capitalism is to function, people have to be divided. And for men and owning-class people in particular, the disconnection and aloneness have to be made acute.

NEXT STEPS

Here are some ideas for next steps:

Point zero: Make sure you are in an owning-class support group or at least discharging weekly with an owning-class Co-Counsellor.

1. We have a plan to reach for the owning class in the wide world. How about reaching for the owning class in RC? Call each other, read this letter and discharge about it together, laugh with each other and enjoy what we are striving for.

2. Have sessions on the following: How much money I have minus how much money I need equals the amount of money I am holding on to to satisfy my frozen needs.

3. If you have been in a millionaire or multimillionaire group, call someone in the group with whom you made a connection and ask what good the group did and what should be done next. Share your experience and thinking, without pretence or shame.

4. Notice that the number of Jews in our workshops has increased. I am delighted about this—we have done good work to make our workshops safer for Jews—but the increase is disproportionate. The Christian Gentile owning class is holding back. They are not accurately represented. Bring them in!

5. Follow the example of the person who wrote to me after leading a support group at a workshop, “Everyone was younger by decades and different from me in gender, race, religious background, and more. I felt scared of not understanding and of making a mistake. Through the fear and confusion, I decided I could love, look, and listen.”

6. Talk, talk, talk about money, to owning-class friends, family, and new acquaintances.

7. Reach for each other, over and over—when you are lonely, when you are happy, and especially when you don’t want to!

8. Take yourself seriously. There is no one like you and no mind quite like yours.

9. And, as Barbara Love (the International Liberation Reference Person for African Heritage People) would say, “Discharge. Discharge. Discharge.” When you have had a session on this letter, please share your thinking.

Much love,

Jo Saunders

International Liberation Reference Person for Owning-Class People

Winchester, Hants, England


 

“A HAPPY AND CONNECTED LIBERATION LEADER"

Dear Jo,

My wife and I are two years into a program of giving away the money that we, and a financially dependent family member, will not be needing. These two years were preceded by another two of deciding, discharging, and doing financial planning. Finally I simply started, before I felt that I knew enough to do it well. I’m still learning and experimenting. We plan to donate the remainder of the excess over the next five or six years, learning as we go.

I’ve realized the value of acknowledging my position as a donor and welcoming the opportunities it brings to connect with other donors. Although I’m still somewhat uncomfortable at events at which most of the people are strangers, when I remember my direction, “I am a happy and connected liberation leader,” things go much better.

I have an owning-class friend (I met her outside of RC, and she’s now a Co-Counselor) who has been following me in divesting her excess money. She had been wanting to start—inspired by you—and I have been helping her make that practical.

After selling my company and retiring eleven years ago, I took formal leadership in the Jewish community and on some local committees focused on the environment. With one exception, I have recently stepped down from formal leadership and have been joining new groups to see what role I can play in moving them beyond their narrow mission and toward liberation alliances. I have a lot to learn.

I believe that here in the United States, reversing climate change will be accelerated when USers can acknowledge the genocide of the Indigenous peoples who lived here before the white settlers. I’d like to learn how to lead such work.

The groups I am working with are often led by owning-class white people. Making connections with these people has not been difficult. Moving the organizations toward human connection and liberation will be the big challenge.

I have been following your lead as best I can. But my actions, while forward moving, have been hindered by distress, including Jewish material, that narrows my thinking and makes me timid. I have been discharging on it and expect that it will yield, allowing me to think bigger and act accordingly. I am seeing some changes already.

Peter J. Barrer

Newton, Massachusetts, USA


 

WHERE I AM STUCK AND WHAT I NEED TO DO

Hi Jo,

It is hard to write because, of course, my reason for not divesting more is distress. Here is where I am stuck (in other words, where I have fears that justify wealth):

  • I come from a long line of people who owned small family businesses. In particular, both my parents were raised in the Great Depression in families who had small businesses. That left them with a lot of fears about financial security. There was not a week in my young life when my father didn’t make some reference to the Depression and a hardship during that time. I have inherited their fears. I need to discharge more on the patterns that came to me via contagion.

  • I love RC and have great RC relationships, but I struggle to believe that my wide world relationships are solid. It looks like if I come through the door with resource and attention, I will have friends. There is not a lot in return. And it looks like if I fight for something better, the friends will leave. I’m sorry; I’m really stuck there. I am constantly working to have community around me, but it feels hopelessly slow. Until I can understand human capital in the wide world, I will continue to grip the money.

Here is what I need to do:

  • I need to appreciate what I have done. I come from parents who, when they died, gave about .01 percent of their millions to charity—even though I continually pushed my mother to give more. In the four years that I’ve had control of their wealth, I have given away about $150,000. I know it’s not enough, but it is a huge change from the patterns I came from.

When I counsel with owning-class people who have given money away, they don’t look like they are pleased. They look like it is never enough. I think that if I can’t appreciate and celebrate my small moves, it will be hard to make bigger shifts.

It would be interesting to ask other owning-class RCers how much more they have given away than before they began discharging on divesting. I would be giving away nothing if I hadn’t been doing that work.

  • I need to fully claim my place as an owning-class person. (I am much more interested in my middle-class world of saving and budgeting.) I need to understand my place as a donor. It is way more uncomfortable to spend money than to do the “responsible” thing of increasing my savings.

  • I need to understand that the money is mine now. It seems like internalized oppression makes most women who are working on divesting feel like the money belongs to some man, or some other person in their life. They don’t fully claim their wealth. I still think of the money I inherited from my parents as theirs, even though they are not alive. I feel like I need to do what they would want me to do with it. That plays a bigger role than I usually think.

Anonymous

USA

Reprinted from the RC e-mail discussion list for leaders of owning-class people

(Present Time 192, July 2018)


Last modified: 2019-05-22 16:58:21+00