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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Reprinted 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.