A Fulfilling Working-Class Life

Dear Harvey,

This letter is to bring you up-to-date on some of my progress over the past year.

Discharging on reality and closeness continues to go well. One of the results is that I seem to have some extra slack around noticing the issue of power and feeling more eager to pursue it. It occurred to me that one way of describing power is the ability to make a difference (chronic powerlessness often makes it feel as though I "don't make a difference"). I've tried a variation of "Why do you love me, counselor?," changing it to, "How do I make a difference to you, counselor?" It has brought discharge and has been helpful to me in noticing that I am powerful. Using understatement, I have tried, "It sometimes happens that someone makes a difference to somebody," which has also been helpful.

In the eliminating addictions department, I have cut way down on the amount of time I spend preoccupied with sexual fantasies. As I continue working on reality, the pseudo-reality of fantasies is becoming increasingly unacceptable to me. Compared to a year ago, I fantasize less than half as often, which is a big change for me. Replacing the fantasies with more real closeness is going well, and the number of close friendships in my life has grown this year.

I've also been in the best health ever. I do aerobics three times a week (twice at home watching an RC video or a good movie and once at the gym with a group of "regulars"-a very energetic Saturday class). I've also been continuing with an all-plant-food (vegan) diet. I turned forty this past August and feel great (aside from restimulation) and haven't had a full-blown cold or flu in more than a year and a half. Also, at a recent workshop, I confirmed that a life-long allergy had disappeared-one morning there were walnuts in the pancakes at breakfast, and instead of my old allergic reaction there was virtually no reaction, except they tasted good.

My four-day (thirty-two-hour) week at the machine shop is working out well, thanks to the flexibility that has developed in my relationship with one of the main managers, Bob. Despite the patterns that continue to circulate in the shop, naturalized RC has made a real difference that is even apparent to visitors. One of the salespeople who drops by occasionally to sell us supplies told me that he visits lots of machine shops in his job, but he always enjoys coming to our shop because we're such a friendly group of people. He is beginning to spontaneously express his appreciation of us, including of me (this is a change from his past put-down humor). Also, when Alex, the plant manager, and I have an argument, we are able to shake, express our feelings directly, and continue to treat each other well without getting into personal attacks. Bob sometimes brings up my "philosophy" (which he has read about in detail in my "eliminating classism" paper) and makes comments that let me know he thinks about it. At one point he said that he could live with a society in which everybody had the same income. After showing him my article on e-mail in the April Present Time, he started asking me more questions than usual about RC. Bob has frequent contact with the owners of a number of other machine shops in the area, many of whom are typically very harsh and unfair to the employees, and Bob argues with them about how the workers should be treated like human beings. He uses examples from our shop and seems to be spreading good information around. He's still largely caught in the patterns of this society, but he's on his way to being an ally.

My Spanish, though still not fluent, is coming along, thanks to daily practice and assistance from the other production workers who readily answer all my questions. People also ask me questions most days about various things. Recently Constantino was reading a library book about a leftist political movement in Chihuahua in the 1960's and wanted me to explain (in Spanish) the difference between Marxism and Leninism. I think I managed well enough that he got the basic idea. He also asks about my letters to newspaper editors and wants to hear the subjects I'm writing about. Eulalia has been discretely sharing news with me about her husband's union organizing activities at his job, and we talk about prospects for our own workplace.

In terms of work, the company is somewhat busy, not very busy. The Boeing strike has not seemed to affect us much yet, though they usually do eventually.

The company purchased a new CNC lathe this year, which I operate occasionally, and there is a substantial order coming that will keep it busy for awhile. It looks like we could have more work next year than we've had since the '80's, unless the bottom falls out of the economic system before then.

During this past year of riding buses, I've developed about thirty new acquaintances in the community whom I say hello to and talk with. Usually we see each other going to and from our jobs-in garment factories, construction sites, restaurants, machine shops, etc. Most are from Mexico, with a few Central Americans, Filipinas, and Chinese. Some work at the local Goodwill. I am also developing a circle of disabled worker acquaintances. I sometimes give away copies of Como Dar A Los Niños Una Ventaja Emocional when it seems appropriate. So far, most people seem shy about becoming friends with me beyond a bus stop chat, and I'm discharging on my own patterns that are involved. But there is one young adult factory worker from Puebla who visits me sometimes and is interested in playing a part in social change. I think we are on our way to becoming close friends.

I still visit Zaven occasionally (my former co-worker in the Armenian community who continues to do machine shop work), and I've made good friends with his seven-year-old grandson, Eduard. It's good to see how Zaven has used much of the RC information I've shared with him over the years. He remembers that Eduard gets to be powerful and win, and if he forgets, Eduard reminds him "I'm in charge!" Discharge and closeness seem to be a regular part of Eduard's life. Zaven's middle daughter is now expecting twins.

One highlight of the past year has been finding a way to have regular contact with the Los Angeles Chinatown community, a few miles from my neighborhood. I joined the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California and have begun attending their monthly open houses. They have acquired two old buildings that they are in the process of renovating as an historical center, and the open houses have been basically work parties-replacing window glass, disposing of accumulated junk, trimming plants, painting, etc. While I help out I'm getting to know several people who work there, and for the first time I feel like I have a growing relationship with the community. My father was born in the neighborhood in 1915, and the Lebanese side of my family lived nearby until the 1940's, so it's also an opportunity to learn more about my family history. Some of the old census documents (1910 and 1920) displayed at the center include some Nicassio's and some people from Syria.

Our Peace and Justice table at church continues to be a gathering place for the activist members of the parish and a source of information to everyone. Cardinal Mahoney has written some (liberal) statements on affirmative action and welfare reform which we've made available, and they have drawn people to our table.

Horace has recently started an African-American fundamentals class in Pasadena that includes several new women and one new man, plus Don Hutson, an ongoing student. Don is a social worker and trade unionist (shop steward for his local) and attended Barbara's workshop in Hartford this year, plans to attend the Native American workshop in Northern California next month, and is a relative of Dottie Curry! He lives in my neighborhood, Highland Park, and we have been Co-Counseling for about six months now-I can just walk over for a session. In October, Horace rented a seven-seater van and drove up to Barbara's Northern California African Heritage Workshop with four of his students and a few other people, including a woman leader he has been doing National Coalition Building Institute workshops with in the wide world (he is getting her ready to take over his job as leader of the Los Angeles chapter and has introduced her to RC). It has been very encouraging to see the nucleus of our future Area growing lately and to begin reaping the personal benefits in my re-emergence. Horace is still teaching his once-in-awhile class in Pomona, which draws black Co-Counselors from other parts of the Region.

In the wide world, Horace continues to use RC to good effect in his teaching at Drew University of Medicine and Science in Watts-Willowbrook and also at the University of Southern California. The African-American faculty support group at the University is going strong and is now largely in the hands of people whose leadership Horace has helped develop. He is continuing to pursue the issue of health care reform and has taken steps towards getting his own political project off the ground. Recently a Pasadena human relations group gave him an award for his Black-Jewish dialogue and other work in the city. Earlier this month, the ABC evening news had a piece on racial dialogue in Pasadena that included a clip of Horace speaking. Friends and relatives across the country called to tell him they saw the broadcast.

In Los Angeles this year, I've been encouraged by our wide-world Catholic liberation work. Horace and I have helped bring about some changes in The Tidings, a weekly publication of the Los Angeles Archdiocese that is distributed to all the parishes in the Los Angeles region, as well as to 25,000 or so individual Catholic subscribers. Horace has been a member of The Tidings' board of directors for the past several years, and when I suggested to him that there be more input in the paper from rank-and-file Catholics, he began encouraging the editor to include more letters to the editor. When this didn't happen, Horace and the Board asked to see some of the letters that were being rejected for publication. They were never shown the letters, but after that, letters to the editor began appearing, including some of mine. About five of my letters have appeared over the past few years, mainly challenging sexism and conservatism in the Church. It seemed as though whenever one of my letters was published, there would be a flood of letters the next few weeks from like-minded Catholics speaking out on similar issues, and it began to have a snowballing effect.

One concrete result has to do with one of the most conservative local priests, who has written a weekly column in the paper for years and was also the official Archdiocesan spokesperson who was always quoted by the Los Angeles Times. This year his position was not renewed by the Cardinal, and Horace heard the decision was due in part to the letters to the editor challenging his columns. The paper is now occasionally including the views of those who think independently and want to reform the institution, as well as more articles with social justice themes (one had a banner quotation, "Feminism is a blessing to the Church"). There is still a lot of work to do, but seeing some changes in the largest U.S. Catholic archdiocese has reminded me that individual Catholics can have an effect.

In the RC Region, I continue to Co-Counsel with some Regional leaders and people interested in working-class leadership. Mary-Linn Hughes is helping me prepare for a Regional Wygelian Leaders' meeting for Raised and Currently White-Collar People (those who are both), which I will be consultant for and she will convene. In RC outside the Los Angeles Region, I recently attended a men's conference in the Bay area where I enjoyed meeting Chris Austill. I proposed a support group for "raised and currently blue-collar men," saying that it's a good idea to have support groups for specific kinds of working-class people. Steve West (a carpenter from Portland) and I had a two-person group, which was a highlight for both of us in the closing circle. I received valuable reminders of how much people care about and respect me, even though we may have never met before! I also got some interesting information from Jerry Saltzman about the early history of RC in Los Angeles. In August, Nuccia Foulkes from Luxembourg paid me a visit, and we spent several days Co-Counseling intensively, going for walks, and talking about Italy, Italian history and culture, some of our cultural patterns, and Italian RC. I enjoyed many things about our "Italian Workshop" and learned a lot. Also, I've been in touch with other RC machinists more regularly lately. Betsy Beach in Rhode Island and I have exchanged letters and had a phone mini-session just prior to her leaving for Beijing. Stuart Rodes in Maryland and I have been exchanging e-mail once a month. It's been great to talk with them about details of my work life that I rarely talk about with non-machinists, even in RC, and it was exciting to exchange e-mail with Betsy while she was in Beijing. Meeting Francie Chew at my first Asian liberation workshop in February and seeing Dan Nickerson again this month at his working-class workshop were two additional highlights (both leaders are doing excellent work). I've also been using e-mail and long-distance phone calls more as a contradiction to isolation. I have been having monthly phone minis with Mary Ruth Gross. Joanne Bray, David Jernigan, and others have also been very accessible to me by phone or e-mail.

In the world of computer networks, after spending some time exploring the possibilities, I've taken a break from most of the discussions I was having and am now developing some ideas for how I want to pursue this tool. Right now I'm working on a document that lists all the commonly asked questions about eliminating classism that were raised in previous discussions, plus my best responses. Besides distributing it in its entirety, it will help me answer future questions about class issues rapidly-just cut, paste, and send. I am also thinking of setting up my own home page on the Internet for distributing my writing. Meanwhile, I've been noticing that "classism" is being mentioned more frequently in the wide-world media, and this seems a good sign. I have also tried subscribing to a mailing list called Palestine-Net, which together with my Arab e-mail friends is one way to keep in contact with the Arab world. I do most of this computer work at the end of the day for thirty minutes or so. It's relaxing, interesting, and seems at least as useful as watching videos or TV.

Harvey, I hope the changes you've made in your life this year have brought you well-earned rest and fresh energy. With best wishes for a happy holiday season and much love,

Victor George Nicassio
Los Angeles, California, USA


Last modified: 2017-05-06 23:35:41-07