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Chapter 1 Where to Start

Chapter 2 Language and Giving

Chapter 3 Reciprocity

Chapter 4 Definitions and Exchange

Chapter 5 The Concept of Man

Chapter 6 'Marksist' Categories

Chapter 7 The Collective Source

Chapter 8 Castration Envy

Chapter 9 Is = $

Chapter 10 Value 157

Chapter 11 Shifting into Exchange

Chapter 12 Giving Value to Exchange

Chapter 13 Market and Gender

Chapter 14 Deserving to Exist

Chapter 15 Pointing and Patriarchy

Chapter 16 The Point of the Ego

Chapter 17 What Does Democracy Re-Present?

Chapter 18 The Unmasculated Agents of Change

Chapter 19 Dreaming and Reality

Chapter 20 Giving and Love

Chapter 21 From the Garden to the Grail

Chapter 22 Cosmological Speculations

Chapter 23 After Words Practicing the Theory

Index of Figures

Selected Bibliography

Return to Home Page

Chapter 23

After Words Practicing the Theory

There are many different ways of creating a transition towards a paradigm shift. For example, there would be immediate and far-reaching effects if the First World institutions would for-give the 'Third World' debt (which has actually already come back to the 'First World' many times over). We could begin by for-giving the interest. This positive step could be accompanied by our beginning to co-municate materially with the 'Third World' in respectful and life-enhancing ways. We could also give abundant money to the ex-Soviet countries, recognizing that our capitalist tendency to plunder has not caused them to create a better society but has only reduced them to dire poverty. Most importantly we could stop wasting the world's wealth on arms production and the military--and use the resources instead for a nurturing economy.

In the US we could change the punitive prison industry and mentality to an understanding of the social causes of crime and an attempt to give children and youths lives worth living. We could recognize everyone's need and human right to be grateful for a good and joyful life, and the right to have something to give. We could stop some of the terrible wrongs which are being committed such as the sexual trafficking of women and children. We could recognize that most immigrants coming from the South to the North are simply following the path of resources which have been drained from their countries by the North as unpaid gifts. We could stop that drain, and welcome our sisters and brothers. (If we weren't spending the money on armaments there would be plenty for everyone). We could stop the devastation of the environment, considering it a gift for our children and our children's children. We could elect many more women with compassionate values to public office. Progress in any of these areas--and there are many others--would have a positive ripple effect everywhere and would bring forward the values of the gift paradigm.

The point of view of the gift paradigm needs to be consciously put into practice. I have tried to do this by creating the Foundation for a Compassionate Society, and the more political (not tax deductible) group, Feminists for a Compassionate Society. Actually, I have been practicing the theory expressed in this book since 1981, by using my resources for social change. Before developing the theory, I practiced the gift paradigm less consciously, as a wife and mother.

For me personally, one positive effect of the theory has been to liberate me from psychological and social pressures which kept me from giving to needs outside the family, and I believe that taking on a more activist giftgiving role helped to heal some psychological problems with which I had been struggling. It has now become clear to me how much giftgiving is going on all the time everywhere, convincing me that giftgiving is the normal human behavior. In fact, everyone's giftgiving practices are being blocked by exchange and made difficult by scarcity, but also by patriarchal values, which interpret giftgiving as exchange, dismiss it as ineffective and weak, or over-emphasize and sentimentalize it. Finding giftgiving in language makes it possible to consider giftgiving as what makes us human. It is my hope that affirming giftgiving as the human way will promote its conscious practice.

Unfortunately, giving to satisfy the needs of individuals does not in fact change the social system which creates the needs. After the system is changed, giving to satisfy the needs at the individual and at all other levels will be the guiding principle. For the present there is a huge need for resources to be devoted to social change. And each of us needs to give at both the individual and the social change level while shepherding our various energies to keep ourselves from exhaustion since we are still living in the exchange paradigm.

One reason givers also hide their own giving is that it may appear that they are giving in order to achieve the ego-dominance that masculation requires. The logical contradiction in such 'ego-oriented altruism' casts doubt upon the altruism itself, making it appear non-existent. The people involved in the giving and receiving interaction can get through this contradiction by developing the radical trust and forgiveness that are possible in the feminist social change movement. Another reason people do not give visibly is that religions and moral preceptors promote hidden giving and sacrifice as morally superior. While this tactic may have the effect of avoiding the pitfall of ego dominance, it also effectively keeps the model from becoming visible and from causing a ripple effect.

A great deal of psychological sensitivity has grown up around giftgiving and receiving, perhaps because, for most of us, it has such deep connections with childhood and has otherwise been blocked and stunted. Our gut reactions about it are extreme and uninvestigated, our defensiveness and discomfort immediate. We find exchange easier to deal with, more respectful, 'cooler.' Our psychological reactions validate a habit of mind about 'appropriate' giving--giving which does not go to excess--and therefore, of course, does not really change anything.

As would-be givers we tiptoe in politically correct ways through a society which is devastating the planet and creating daily hunger and death for millions who live 'elsewhere.' Our aplomb is salvaged at the cost of our effectiveness, and the negative drift of the status quo prevails. Those who continue to be awake to the suffering of the many and the sickness of the system plummet in despair because they do not see the whole gift-based side of life that continues to exist or the glimmers of social change that are actually happening. Religions and governments co-opt giftgiving, making it appear to be one more masculated ploy, often a tool of greed and corruption. At best, there seems to be a civic duty to 'give back' to the community--within the pre-established parameters of the system.

Given all of these considerations, I decided to practice giftgiving visibly for social change by creating the organizations I have mentioned. I created and supported social change projects, using exchange--salaried work--for changing the system towards giftgiving. The Foundation and Feminists for a Compassionate Society are both hybrid solutions of this kind. I also used the money I inherited to fund progressive and feminist projects for social change that were already existing. For several years I enlisted the help of my cousin, Sissy Farenthold, who had made a career as a feminist political leader and activist, and who 'knew the ropes' better than I did. Sissy helped me find groups to which I could give. Then I acquired physical locations (land and buildings) in which on-going woman-led projects were implemented. I started or supported activist and educational projects, as well, hiring a number of women to manage and carry them out. Some of the women had already started projects of their own or created them later, with or without my collaboration and input.

I have grappled with the contradictions inherent in practicing giftgiving to change the system which gave me the resources to give. I have also grappled with the contradictions in using exchange--giving women salaries--to change the exchange system towards giftgiving. And I have had to make a policy not to give to individuals for their own benefit because it was essential to devote the money to social change projects. Perhaps someone else might have thought of other ways of practicing the theory. This is what it occurred to me to do, aided by the Goddess's gifts of good timing and good fortune.

Sometimes, the women of FFACS did not agree with me or with each other. We had long and at times painful discussions, but we usually got through them with our friendship and feminism intact. I have been committed to making the Foundation as diverse as possible, and it has indeed been a place where women of color and white women, old and young, gay and straight, local women and women from other countries have worked together. In fact, I believe it has been an environmental niche for peace, where a multitude of voices can be heard and the thinking of the many is in evidence. I am very grateful to the women who have been involved with the FFACS over the years, and I feel very blessed to have been in their company. At the staff meetings, which take place every Wednesday, we listen to each other's reports. The amazing variety of information and experience, commitment and courageous imaginative action confirms and inspires our sisterhood--and gives hope to even the most jaded visitor.

So many general social needs have arisen, due to the psychotic practice of patriarchy, that social-change activists have their hearts and hands full. The truth is that every need is connected to every other--environmental needs are connected to human needs, hunger to militarization, respect for single mothers to world peace, domestic violence to racial violence and to international violence. Pulling a thread at one end of the tangle of problems touches all the other problems. Satisfying any need for social change--'making a difference' as it's often called--provides the possibility for everyone to visibly and intelligently practice the gift paradigm at a general social level.

The model of women giving to satisfy social needs, giving of time, intelligence, creativity, commitment, and money demonstrates the potential of the generalized gift paradigm as the solution to the whole complex of problems caused by the practice of the exchange paradigm. The gift paradigm visibly practiced for social change by women can have a wide-reaching ripple effect. While there are many activist projects now going on in the US and in other countries, many of them still operate according to patriarchal structures and thus perpetuate the problems they are trying to address.

Projects which deal with violence in the United States often try to change the individual or attempt legislative reform without changing the society as a whole. The connections between domestic violence and international violence, for example, are all too often ignored. Nevertheless, all the people who are now involved in the movements against sexual and domestic violence, for social justice, peace and human rights, and for ending hunger, war, racism and homelessness, as well as those dealing with healing from addictions and psychological problems due to patriarchal violence, are moving towards the gift paradigm--whether they are male or female, and whether they know it or not. I do believe it is important to promote women's leadership in this transition because women are originally unmasculated, with a model which is already so different from the 'privileged one.'

1997 is the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Foundation for a Compassionate Society, though many of the projects began much earlier. Stonehaven Ranch is a retreat center near San Marcos, Texas, which began to operate in 1984. It is open for retreats by peace and feminist groups every weekend, free or at a low cost. Literally thousands of people working for social change have been nurtured in its woman-led atmosphere over the years. Margie First and Nancy Wilson presently manage it, 'nurturing the nurturers.' Other projects begun in the 80s, such as the Austin Women's Peace House, had a lifespan of several years and then closed for one reason or another. A weekly program on Austin Community Television, "Let the People Speak," hosted by Trella Laughlin, was part of our activities from 1985-1994. Several other regular community television programs, including one by myself, "Feminist Values," one by Sally Jacques, "Arts and Activism,' and one by Frieda Werden, "Women's News Hour," have taken its place.

Practicing giftgiving in an exchange economy depletes the giver if she is acting alone. Since, except for a few relatively small contributions, I am the only person giving money in this organization (though the other women give time, energy and imagination) my financial resources are being depleted. I have had to close the donation program which functioned from 1981 to 1994, and some of the other projects. The Grassroots Peace Organizations Building housed the Foundation's offices and provided office space for many other peace groups, including both women and men. Located on Austin's main downtown street, this little building was an outpost for social change in the flow of the mainstream. I sold it in 1996 to continue to maintain the Foundation. A beautiful facility on Lake Travis, our second retreat center, called 'Alma de Mujer,' was part of the Foundation from 1988-1996, when I donated it to the Indigenous Women's Network. It continues to be successfully managed by indigenous sculptor Marsha Gomez with the help of Esther Martinez.

In 1985, I was able to fund and 'woman'--together with a group I helped originate, 'The Feminist International for Peace and Food'--the Peace Tent at the Nairobi, UN Decade for Women Final Conference. The tent was very successful, providing a safe space for debate and discussion between women whose countries were at war with each other. Thousands of women attended the events there. Two of the women who helped to organize the tent, German Ellen Diederich and Afro-German singer Fasia Jansen, have worked with the Foundation for many years, first womanning a Peace Caravan to the Soviet Union (before the fall of the Berlin Wall) and later creating the Four Directions store (an attempt at cause-related marketing). They continue their on-going work for peace. Many other groups collaborated on the Peace Tent, including WILPF and WIDF. It was a successful model of women's dialogue which has been imitated many times thereafter.

Peace Caravans were also organized in the US, in which women went from town to town talking about the Nairobi meeting. US Quaker Alice Wiser and German Gertrude Kauderer drove them every summer for several years. Meanwhile, we also did a lot of support work for the Central American self-determination movements, sending delegations to El Salvador to investigate human rights abuses, death squad activities and the US government's involvement.

Ellen and Fasia organized a tour of the Salvadoran Mothers of the Disappeared in Europe, which was useful in disseminating information. We sent a fact-finding delegation of attorneys general from the US to Central America (I was part of the delegation as well). I supported women from the global South to travel through the US, talking about the realities in their own countries (through the 'Third World' Women's Project of the Institute for Policy Studies organized by Chilean, Isabel Letelier).

All of this work culminated in two meetings between women leaders from the US and women commandantes from El Salvador's FMLN. In these friendly encounters, it was quite clear that women's values could overcome war and antagonism. We talked about our children and about the future. We had serious political discussions, but we also danced and sang together.

I have had a long-term commitment to women from the Global South and to international feminism. I have supported women in international groups and conferences and helped with publications and computer networks. Over the years, I have supported a number of projects in the South and of women from the South living in the North. Presently Filipina activist Charito Basa is on the staff, working with immigrant women living in Europe.

I think that media are especially important for providing the point of view of women to the public. In 1991, I started FIRE, the Feminist International Radio Endeavor, a two-hour daily program presented from a women's perspective, one hour in English and one in Spanish, on Radio for Peace International, a short wave radio station in Costa Rica. Maria Suarez, from Puerto Rico, and Chilean Katarina Anfossi are the instigators of these programs.

WINGS, Women's International News Gathering Service, was started independently by Frieda Werden and Katherine Davenport in 1986. After Katherine Davenport's death, Frieda returned to Austin and joined the Foundation staff in 1992. Since then she has continued to produce WINGS weekly programs, with the collaboration of many volunteers whom she also trains. Frieda also provides radio training at WATER, Women's Access to Electronic Resources, a facility in Austin which was birthed and is being freely nurtured by videographer Fern Hill. At WATER, women receive free training in video, radio and computer. Amanda Johnson and Felicia Hayes provide training and are on the Foundation staff. A large community of women has grown up around WATER, using its resources and volunteering many woman-hours. A particularly exciting collaborative effort is the yearly International Women's Day Media Festival, a 24-hour multimedia event put on entirely by women and involving several other media facilities throughout the city.

An indigenous resource center and museum, Casa de Colores, is open to the public on the border between Texas and Mexico, under the care of Helga Garcia Garza. Festivals of Danza, gatherings of youth and elders, traditional medicine and healing unite ancient spiritual traditions of the indigenous peoples of the US and Mexico. These meetings and the museum of art and artifacts allow people from the North and South to reconnect with their cultural heritage.

Part of the effort to change values flows into the movement for alternative spirituality, especially the Goddess movement, and support for indigenous peoples' earth-based spiritual traditions. The Stonehaven Goddess Program, organized by spiritual activist Pat Cuney, has been ongoing, and many of the authors and teachers of the Goddess movement have given workshops there.

I built a temple to the Egyptian Goddess Sekhmet in the Nevada Desert near the nuclear test site to honor the birth of my daughters and to take a stand against nuclear testing from the point of view of women's spirituality. The statue of the lion-headed Goddess by Marsha Gomez bears a plaque which reads, "May women be as strong as a lion in giving birth to the future." The statue of 'Madre del Mundo,' also by Marsha Gomez, shares this sacred space. Wiccan priestess Patricia Pearlman cares for the temple and welcomes meditators, nuclear protesters and celebrators of mysteries. I was able to give back the twenty acres of land on which the temple is built to the Western Shoshone, to whom all of that area originally belonged.

One particular area of concern has been the damage done to the environment and health by nuclear radiation. The women who work in the (more directly political, not tax deductible) part of the organization, Feminists for a Compassionate Society, have created excellent and effective projects in opposition to the proposed nuclear dump in West Texas in the little town of Sierra Blanca on the border with Mexico. Erin Rogers has been particularly effective in organizing against the dump and in collaborating with other activist groups.

Susan Lee Solar has created a Peace Caravan, a mobile anti-nuclear museum, and travels from town to town discussing the nuclear issue. The transportation of nuclear waste is very dangerous, and the mobile museum is particularly effective at informing people along the routes it takes. The Foundation has also undertaken to do health surveys near ex-military bases to reveal nuclear and toxic waste residues and their effects on the population. Yana Bland, who also started the Association of Women of the Mediterranean Region with Foundation support, has conducted a survey near Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. Another health survey has been implemented at Clark and Subic bases in the Philippines.

It is difficult in such a short space to describe all the projects of these organizations. Recently, we put on a series of conferences, including one on 'Feminist Family Values' at which Angela Davis, Maria Jiménez, Gloria Steinem and Mililani Trask spoke to a crowd of two thousand. A second conference, on 'Feminism and Fundamentalism,' brought together activists and thinkers from different traditions to discuss patriarchal religion from a feminist point of view. Mahnaz Afkami, Marta Benevides, Yvonne Deutsch, and Robin Morgan presented their thinking together with a local panel, which included activist Cecile Richards.

Anti-nuclear gatherings are being held yearly to network among women opposed to the nuclear cycle. In all of our activities, we recognize the connections among the issues, especially the connection between military spending, the creation of poverty, and the depletion of the environment. After the sale of the Peace Building, we moved our office to a more standard office building. A core group of special project coordinators works there, including Sally Jacques, Suze Kemper, Mária Limón, Pat Cuney and Sue MacNichol. The Foundation and Feminists' administration offices are in Kyle, Texas, and are run by San Juanita Alcalá, Rose Corales and Angeles Romero. Our stalwart accountant is Mary Nell Mathis.

Our recent collaboration with Plain View Press has made possible the publication of the proceedings of the Feminist Family Values Forum and the Feminism and Fundamentalism Conference. Books from the Association of Women of the Mediterranean Region are also available, and a re-publication is forthcoming of the proceedings of a conference on breast cancer and low level nuclear radiation, held in 1993. Videos and audio tapes of many Foundation and related events can be ordered through the office at P.O. Box 868, Kyle,Texas, 78640. You can write to me at that address also. I would be very interested to hear what you think.

All of these activities and numerous others, which I do not have space to name, have been an attempt to practice the gift paradigm at many different levels and in parts of 'reality' from which it is usually excluded. The Foundation has grown up organically with many twists and turns; like life, it is messy and riotous, as well as nurturing and consciousness-raising. So many man-made things and theories are like plastic, with all the molecules in a straight line, or like cities, with houses in endless orderly rows.

Putting a theory into practice means that it has to seep in, through contradictions and misunderstandings, through disbelief and different frames in order to be able to grow, flower and bear fruit in many different ways. An additional difficulty arose from the fact that I am publishing this book only now, after many years of the practice. I only explained the theory verbally and, perhaps, not always convincingly. I was willing to take this risk because I believe that, due to our socialization to nurture, all (or almost all) women already operate according to the values of the gift paradigm.

These values are often buried under an overlay of exchange paradigm beliefs, however. The contradictions within each woman are explained away in one way or another, and we learn to live in patriarchy by remaining unconscious of our own values, or by pushing them into the area of emotion. The Foundation for a Compassionate Society and Feminists for a Compassionate Society are, apart from all the services they have performed and changes they have succeeded in fomenting, consciousness-raising organizations. Their existence alters re-ality, satisfying the need for an example of women's giftgiving on the external, which can validate the giftgiver within each of us, giving the gift paradigm the dignity it must have if it is to be recognized as the principle by which humanity can achieve peace.

Some words came to me in a dream: "Peace on Earth is the next step in human evolution." May it come quickly.


Figure 41. The mystic rose.

figReprinted with permission. © 1997 World Game Institute.

*I got the idea to use this graphic from Hazel Henderson's book, Paradigms in Progress: Life Beyond Economics. Many of the strategies suggested on the next page still presuppose the framework of exchange.

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