Herding Porcupines in the MRM

what this Quaker thinks the MRM could learn from the Religious Society of Friends

This last few months within the MRM have been incredible and exciting. I’ve watched with delight as the MRM has blossomed into being a real life movement rather than existing as an online community. I’ve also been aware this sudden expansion is going to generate a need for organisational and governance structures, if we are to maintain this kind of momentum. This need for organisation concerns me. There is a risk, if we establish hierarchies and processes along traditional lines, it will set us up for internal conflicts and schisms. Equally, poor decisions on organisation and governance could also result in cult of personality and/or burnout for those to whom leadership falls.

The MRM is full of strong individuals and activist personalities, and one of the reasons I feel comfortable on AVfM is because of this feisty individualism. This kind of atmosphere is familiar to me from my faith community. I am a member of the Religious Society of Friends (RSoF), also known as Quakers. Liberal Quakers joke about themselves, saying that if you ask two Quakers for an opinion you will get three answers. Despite this diversity, we have managed to maintain a cohesive organisation, through finding a structure and a decision-making process that is both non-hierarchical and responsive to issues raised from within the community.

Disclaimer: I am not expecting the wholesale adoption of these ideas. Rather I would like to share an alterative model of governance, which has worked for Quakers for almost 350 years. I am aware I am speaking as one individual within the MRM and speaking as someone from a liberal unprogrammed Quaker perspective  (some Quakers are conservative and pastoral). I am putting forwards a series of ideas that may seem strange and alien to many of you. Regardless of whether any of these ideas are adopted or not, I would hope that this article provokes some timely discussion on how we organise ourselves within the MRM, as we can ill-afford mistakes that might set our movement back decades, if our structures result in division and infighting.

Quaker governance finds its roots in our testimonies.   Amongst the core testimonies is equality. Equality within the RSoF was manifest by early Friends in the refusal to remove their hats and to use the plural pronoun “you”, instead of the singular “thee” to people of socially higher status. In addition, they were prepared to withhold tithes, as they saw that tax ending up in the pockets of the clergy, rather than being distributed to support those with need.

Quakers hold to the idea that voting to decide an outcome is both divisive, and fails to recognise the truth that radical and alternative solutions, which address the concerns of all parties, can be found when thoughtful reflection is undertaken. I hesitate to use “god-language” in this forum, but we Quakers say that our business meetings are “meetings for worship for business (MfWfB)” and it is the divine Light that guides us to making the best decision.

Within the majority of the different Quaker organisations across the world, the worship groups, called (in the UK) Local Meetings (LM) are the core decision-making bodies. LMs hold responsibility for approximately 90% of the decisions needed to run the day-to-day life of our community to support and care for our members and attenders. LMs decide where and when the community meets for worship and how locally held money is allocated to different aspects of the community. If the LM owns its own premises, how the premises are looked after and who the other users are will be decided locally.

Within any Quaker meeting there is an appointed clerk (or co-clerks).  The Clerk’s role is to listen intently to what is said at the MfWfB and to formulate a minute reflecting what they are hearing. If the Clerk wishes to contribute to the discussion in the MfWfB, he or she must step away from the clerking table to speak, so it is obvious s/he is speaking as an individual, not as the Clerk. Once the minute is composed, it is read out to all present, and the question is asked “Does this reflect the will of the Meeting?”

Those in agreement will say; “I hope so”. If you disagree, then you suggest how the minute should be amended, and it will be re-drafted after some discussion and reflection on the amendment. As with all offices in a Quaker meeting, the  Clerk is appointed for 3 years and can only serve two consecutive triennial periods.

Quaker business practice sounds difficult and cumbersome to people who have never experienced it. Quakers themselves make jokes about minutes that take years to agree – the colour of the meeting room carpet is an apocryphal minute that takes 9 years. Yet this process has proven to be effective and functional within our diverse congregations, and has sustained us through some tough decisions, in our history as a community of activists.

There are a number of positives to this method of conducting business.

First, it takes away the power of voting that can result in division and a sense of “win-lose” forming within a group. Establishing solutions with zero-sum outcomes is what causes schisms within organisations where there are high numbers of activists.

Second, it enforces personal accountability to the business of the community. Quite simply, if you want to be involved in the decision, you need to be part of the process, as a minute can not be overturned unless there are legal or financial implications to the decision that were not known at the time the minute was agreed.

Third, it gives authority to those named in a minute to act on behalf of the community to undertake specified and agreed activities. There is no ambiguity about what is to be done by who and by when, if a minute is written with due care and attention to detail.

How are the other 10% of the decisions get made within the RSoF? Approximately 8-9% of them are made at Area Meeting (AM). AM will hold responsibility for functional and structural decisions that have implication for a geographical group of LMs. As a rule, the work of the AM is done when there is a need for more specialist skills to undertake a task. The statement on safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults is an example of an AM level decision-making.

Our safeguarding statement and procedure was developed a small committee of Friends and then ratified in AM, in a similar process as described for writing a minute. I was my LM representative at AM when the safeguarding statement was read out, and yet at that point I could still stand and request a considerable amendment to reflect that there will be members and attenders in our community who may be falsely accused, a matter included in the final document.

The last 1-2% of decision-making is done at Yearly Meeting (YM) level. My AM is part of the Britain YM, which is the oldest and largest of the YM in the Quaker world. The Britain YM has political influence and financial assets as a result of our industrial (Cadbury, Fry) and banking (Barclay, Lloyds) heritage, plus our long-established history of political activism, which has required the formation of an executive called Meeting for Sufferings (MfS), made up of representatives from each AM, but this is unusual amongst Friends. British Quakers also meet yearly, and any member can attend Y. Commonly 1,000-2,000 people will gather for MfWfB as part of the YM.

MfS and YM always prepare documents in advance to circulate through AM and LM about issues of national concern. Any LM or AM can respond to these issues, by preparing minutes of response. These minutes will inform the processes of the YM or of MfS. Equally, a person in a LM could raise a concern, and if supported by their LM and AM after a process of discussion and discernment, their concern can be sent to MfS or YM for discussion and possible action.

The “big” decisions made by YM or MfS are often the visible and press-worthy actions of the RSoF in the UK. In recent years, Britain YM has declared our support of gay marriage, and affirmed our commitment as to develop as a sustainable, low-carbon community. MfS directs our parliamentary lobbyists in several areas, including support of a legislative change to allow those who entered military service at age 16, to have the option to change their mind on their turning 18 years without penalty.

Not all our decisions as a YM are made easily. Last year, there was a commitment to end trade with, and investment in, companies and organisations who profit from Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories of Palestine. This declaration gave us considerable adverse press and strained previously excellent relations with the Jewish community in the UK, but follows in a long tradition of Quakers being “two steps ahead” on social causes. Returning to my starting point on testimonies, Quakers have always held to a testimony of Truth, and this can sometimes be uncomfortable, when our truth is out of step with the mainstream.

I believe there are some good things to learn from Quaker experience that could help inform the discussion we need to have as a movement as we begin to create organisational structures.

1) Where possible, care should be taken that decision-making is done avoiding zero-sum scenarios. By avoiding voting, this means that many options will be discussed and a solution that all people can accept will be found. Often where people can not “agree” a decision, they are willing to accept a decision, as long as they feel their perspective has been considered and heard in the process of coming to a way of moving forward.

2) Participation is encouraged by the process of minutes being thoroughly agreed in meetings, and the process of preparing documents in advance enhances personal accountability and allows for informed discussion.

3) Minutes giving both direction and authority to individuals, allowing for clear chains of accountability. Quakers being activists, once a minute is decided usually get on with what is needed pretty quickly afterwards!

4) The local groups must be largely autonomous to make decisions on matters that affect them directly. These groups should be able to prepare responses to concerns that affect the wider organisation. Where local groups identify an issue that may have wider implication, they should be able to transmit that information both upwards and sideways in a structured and efficient manner.

5) For activities that have wider than local impact, or which demand specialist skills and knowledge, geographical clusters of groups can to pool together to have that expertise and work shared

6) To avoid both fatigue in natural leaders or the negative impact of cult of personality within groups, where there is a need for formal office holders, have the jobs for a specified term. This, along with co-sharing of key posts also develops potential new leaders and allows for succession planning.

6) For issues of national or international importance, there may be a need for an executive for some decisions, but there should be the opportunity for all members to participate in decision-making at some point in the year, as the gatherings have a two-fold purpose of building community identity and ensuring ownership of national and international issues.

And the reference to porcupines? Most MfWfB are like herding cats until anything contentious is discussed…then it is like herding porcupines; cat-like in nature and prickly. At our most recent AM, I was the porcupine in the midst. Yet, I felt my voice was heard and my contribution valued. As we were dealing with an issue that will take time to evolve, I will have responsibility to be there for other AM where it is raised, if I want the community outcome to reflect my position. I know already that my questions will be raised at MfS and YM, as the Clerk felt I had raised a significant point that had been overlooked. 

About Aimee McGee

Aimee McGee lives in rural Eastern England in the community where she
nworks as a health professional. She is a human rights activist with interest in gender equality and disability advocacy. She plays in a brass band and shares her house with 2 tabby boy cats. Good coffee and English beer are her main vices.

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  • http://pinterest.com/zetapersei/male-privilege/ Perseus

    I rather like it. It sounds like a sustainably fair, inspired, and highly evolved methodology. This was a lot of work, thank you Mrs. Mcgee.

    You’re a Quaker? Gnhaharly.

    • Aimee McGee

      Yep, turned up in meeting aged 19 with shaved head, Doc Martin boots and an FU attitude. My home meeting was composed mostly of people over 70 years of age. It should have been a recipe for disaster but was one of the best things I ever did to ground myself. Nearly 25 years on, I still feel I belong, despite being in a different YM from where I started.

  • HurleyHacker

    I sit here and scratch my head. Where is the MRM? Is there a lobby group in D.C. ?. Is their a structure of organization I have failed to see?. (Is possible).
    I will support a MRM that educates and informs all who care to listen. I can support any activism that FTSU. What is this piece referring too?.
    I remember a Protest in front of the State Capital of California around ’92. We had over 250 strong marching on the capital steps, We then went into the Capital building and confronted the minions there. Our tiny group hosted the event and planned more. It was a rousing success and gave up some satisfaction of doing something. We dissolved into factions because there was a governing body that set limits to our peaceful but vocal protests. We were a MRM but did not need some structure to limit us. We were at war then and still at war. There are no rules but to move forward and destroy the enemy. This forum and activists in Vancouver postering and raising awareness is a stroke of brilliance. Awareness, education, demonstration hit them hard and often. Set up some organization but when you lose sight of why we are here and our purpose then it all become meaningless memories. I will sit out on “committee” meetings and discussions groups .. I will however hold my protest sign even if it is me doing it and get more done. Bah bitter, old, disgusted.

    • Aimee McGee

      Unfortunately human nature is to make organisations, as an activist personality, I fidget my way through most MfWfB, but I also see that if we have to have structure we need one which is going to let the activists be heard.
      Why do we make organisations? Because humans naturally group into association clusters then each group seeks shorthand ways of communicating with others, so they identify natural leaders.
      Wish there was some other way…

    • http://www.deanesmay.com Dean Esmay

      There is a delicate dance in any peaceful human rights organization must have between freedom of individual initiative and the need, yes, NEED, for organization, and the need, yes, NEED, to be able to distance yourself from irresponsible individuals.

      Let us look at two examples, one right-wing one left-wing, so no one will view this as partisan. Both are American examples:

      TEA PARTY (Right wing): Organized loosely. Fractious. No violence from them, but frequently compared to violent individuals anyway since they shared some goals with some violent individuals. Not racists, but frequently compared to racists because of some racist individuals who say similar things to them. Stayed organized, but eventually fractured into at least four separate organizations. Occasionally an idiot would show up to one of their events and embarrass them. Nevertheless, with boots on the ground, and despite a hostile media climate, they stayed organized–loosely organized but organized–changed the American political narrative. Has petered out, mostly, though they may be back, because they do have organizational structures and specific goals, which is getting certain politicians elected. Whether you view Tea Party as bad, or good, or indifferent, no matter: they changed things.

      Occupy Wall Street: Got a whole lot of attention. Had zero organizational structure to speak of. A few leaders, but people who refused to acknowledge responsibility for much of anything. Worked on the presumption that they needed no organization, had only to assume right-thinking people would share their goals and the world would change. The result: a lot of noise. Some individuals showing up at OWS events who were violent, unruly, and/or racist (at least one photo captured of someone saying Wall Street was controlled by international zionazi jews, embarrassing almost everyone but since no one was in charge no one was able to make them go away). Whole movement full of energy capturing millions of people, the upshot of which, so far, is sound and fury signifying nothing while annoying a great many. Slightly changed the political narrative (phrase “the 99%” has entered the American political lexicon) but their actual accomplishments? Hard to say much of anything. At the moment they look completely defunct. Whether you are hostile to, sympathetic to, or indifferent to Occupy Wall Street, the lesson is clear: they got little to nothing done except to make a lot of noise.

      If the goal of the MRM is to make a lot of noise, that is extremely easily accomplished. It also takes only one batshit insane individual to do some batshit insane thing to make absolutely everybody look back, IF there is no organizational structure to set SOME sort of ground rules.

      I will also note that there is a lesson in EFFECTIVE versus INEFFECTIVE action. I will use the case of Mark Ball to illustrate ineffective action.

      First mistake the man made was to set himself on fire. Horrible, horrible choice. No one should do that, ever. However, even if you’re going to do something that stupid, don’t compound the stupidity: he didn’t bother telling anyone what he was going to do or making sure he had any press attention. He thus wound up a footnote in the oddities section of a few news pages here and there as “crazy guy sets himself on fire, apparently because he was mad.” So not only did he make the stupendously bad mistake of committing suicide, but he also did absolutely no good whatsoever for anybody: not himself, not his kids, not anybody else or anybody else’s kids. He literally accomplished nothing except got some attention on MRA sites, who weren’t even sure what to say about him except that they were upset.

      If you are going to take effective political action, you must figure out what will be effective and what will not, and plan accordingly. Violence will always make things worse, it will cause decent people everywhere who might otherwise listen to you to stop listening to you. Incoherent rage will also get you nowhere, it makes you look like a lunatic. And if there is no one able to say “that person is a lunatic and is therefore not one of us,” then the lunatic who does something insanely stupid is automatically “one of us” unless someone has the ability to say “she damn well is not one of us.”

      This is always a delicate dance, ALWAYS. You must have SOME level of organization and SOME level of authority to say “we speak for the group” or “that person is not part of our group or our message.” You must learn message discipline, or at least to follow people who have message discipline.

      Even when you say this is “war”: How many effective wars were ever won by a bunch of incoherent belligerents with no plan, no organization, no leadership, and no structure? Let me tell you what “war” with no plan, no organization, no leadership, and no structure looks like: a chaotic street riot. So if your goal is to be dischordian, great, go off and do any damn foot thing you feel like and encourage everyone else to do whatever damn fool thing you look like. Just don’t come crying to me when what you get is an incoherent mess of people yelling and otherwise getting nothing done.

      The only other problem is, if you’re TOO organized, you can devolve to a cult of personality. That’s devastatingly bad in the long run too.

      So you must find a way to thread this needle. So far AVfM is doing it. Might AVfM one day fracture into multiple organizations due to infighting? Could be, although if it’s multiple groups working for similar goals with slightly different approaches that can be a strength not a weakness.

      The example of the Society of Friends is interesting. I don’t know that MRAs can adopt ALL their methodologies, but it looks like a very good starting point model for figuring out how to loosely organize without turning into a straitjacket.

      • Aimee McGee

        Dean, thanks for the US applicable response. I must say they are elegant illustrations of why some structure is important.
        I have no vested interest in how the MRM organises, but I know as an activist personality I need to trust that there is some way of being heard if I’m going to thrive in an organisation. I do think this is an activist trait rather than an Aimee McGee one!

      • Ex Machina

        Very good points,also,same goes for the OP.

        My concerns are that should any level of organization resembling this arise, the feminists and white knights will simply go from a stalemate (trying to take us all down) to a checkmate (take the MRM’s leaders and organizers down).

        For this reason,the organization of a military force is more appealing to me.There is less in the way of democracy,but more in the way of maximum bang for your buck in the form of organizational coherence. Aimee mentions schisms and fracturing, this cannot happen if one’s primary allegiance is to his unit,then his corps or regiment. Firstly, the structure I’m talking about would be breaking all those interested in Men’s Rights down into separate groups.

        1.Organizational or leadership positions,for the sake of resolving inter-factional disputes and shaping direction,handling and dispensing MRM resources,etc,comprising the least number of members. These would be the greatest among us in terms of on-the-ground activists (generals) and organizational knowledge (officers). Their duties would be advisory and administrative.

        2.Lower officers would coordinate functions,approve messaging,interface with the public on behalf of leaders,relay actionable information between squads or units.Comprising a small,but greater share of our group,their duties would be low-level administration and and high level executive actions,such as organizing and leading marches,protests,sit-ins.

        3.General Men’s Rights crowd. These are those that are sympathetic to Men’s Rights but unable to offer much in the way of financial or other assistance. The job of these people is to do whatever on the ground activist work they can do,disseminate information,grow the base,constantly repeat all the information we have for the benefit of those to whom the feminists constantly disseminate their lies. So when a Men’s Rights luminary gets tired of repeating,for the gazillionth time, that the “wage gap” has been debunked, that’s where the troops step in to disseminate the truth, tell the femmies to fuck off, and hold that ground so those who are organizing an offensive push can stick to more important work.Comprising the majority of members,the goal of this group is simply to fight where,how,and when it’s necessary,as ordered. This group can be broken down into battalions of 300 or more and headed by an officer,which can then be broken down into smaller squadrons of perhaps a maximum of 10 commanded by a captain,depending on the objective.

        A chain-of-command and field promotion system for,say, when one of our officers is attacked by a mob of hairy harridans and sidelined permanently or temporarily ties the whole package together. You get your “voice” in the movement because everybody has a chance to move up to officer level (which will probably be a very good chance in the beginning of our organized ground-level agitation,as many of us will probably be arrested or otherwise accosted),the MRM gets its specialists doing what they do best full time in the background and safe from harm,and we get the kind of action that we really want to see from our members because the talent for each job is consolidated where it needs to be in the organizational structure.

        Whatever the ultimate direction, I believe we should eschew the cults of personality Aimee McGee mentions and instead opt for a rotating subdivided structure of leadership that plans for our pieces being moved off the board in the hundreds or maybe thousands and provides for this eventuality with new leadership instantly moved into the vacuum that would be created by such an event. A military group dynamic indisputably provides discipline,cohesion,and morale.

        Since no MRA’s will be chucking live grenades at anyone,such a structure would be largely pragmatic and ornamental. Even those with religious objections to enlisting in their country’s armed forces could enlist for a tour of duty with the MRArmy to drop truth bombs on on Ho’ She-Men.

        • Turbo

          Are you listening Paul.

        • Aimee McGee

          This is a really interesting post, thanks. I’m mid week with heavy clinical commitment so will revisit later this week, but wanted to say I see lots of parallels in our respective models.

  • Codebuster

    Interesting perspective Aimee. I’m always interested in ideas from outside the box. I can see where the Quakers’ method of establishing consensus has its place, but I don’t think that the human condition has evolved to the level where that could work. The joke about minutes taking years to arrive at agreement speaks for itself. Can you imagine where this herd of porcupines would be if we had to arrive at consensus by factoring in the opinions of the assortment of MGTOWs, PUAs, masculinists, reformed feminists, etc that frequent/have frequented AVFM? I like the decisive manner in which Mr Elam is running things. Under his guidance, AVFM has fast-tracked a clear, compelling vision whilst avoiding being hijacked by the “men-are-wonderful-because-they-have-dicks” brigade, and that must surely be a good thing.

    • Aimee McGee

      Just out of our LM MfWfB, 90 minutes to agree 10 items, hear a report and discuss one potentially contentious issue. We are on a 5 MfWfB cycle per year, and it seems to work.
      Leadership like Paul’s is a gift but we must plan for a future where Paul can not provide that leadership. Leaders get old, sick, tired or if they are initiators of work, they move on to other stuff.
      The colour of the meeting room carpet joke reflects that we often make the biggest hash of the seemingly small details. I’ve sometime sat in MfWfB expecting something complex to be contentious, and it will pass through with clear direction, usually much to the relief of the clerk.
      This process is far from easy…I’m hoping that by discussing these issues we can talk about the challenges we will face.

  • Tawil

    Thanks for sharing that part of your life, Aimie…. you provide insight into the rich tradtions and decision making processes of the Quaker world. Love the concept of “you” instead of “thee”.

    Would love to sit in on some of those meetings one day, and witness it all in action. I’m sure much of it could be useful for any community group, not to mention AVfM which already has a sense of inclusion and equality you describe.

    • Aimee McGee

      The use of ‘thee’ had almost slipped into the past but I am seeing it being revived in some families…and you know an Elder (another 3 year appointment) is about to say something you might want to listen to carefully if they “thee” you!
      Tawil, if you were in the UK, I would gladly welcome you to sit and see how we do things in LM and I suspect our AM clerk would also be happy to have you observe. Queensland has a fair number of meetings, but I’m not sure about their size or health!

  • http://www.shrink4men.com/ Dr. Tara J. Palmatier

    I don’t know which I like more — the ideas Aimee has expressed in this article or the the image of rad fems’ heads imploding as they try to twist MRA organizations and groups modeling themselves on the principles of a pacifist religion/group as being “hatey,” “rapey,” mysogynisticky” and “creepy.”

    I heart thee, Aimee.

    • vklaatu

      Their heads will spin even more when they see politically moderate but staunch atheists like myself just accepting them simply as another person who desires parity between the genders.

    • Aimee McGee

      Hehehe…I’m a bad Quaker sometimes because I enjoy idea of the discomfort that some feminists must feel having their worldviews challenged. Most YMs have a booklet called ‘Advices and Queries’, which give something to reflect on in terms of personal application of testimonies. A regular favourite in my LM is No. 17 from BYM, which ends ‘Think it possible you may be mistaken.’ It reminds us to hold lightly our strong convictions and remain truthful at all times. I’ve got no doubt of the need to act for gender equality, but I’m willing to hear different approaches-there is not one true way!

    • Rog

      doesnt this ultimately give the fems a target to shut down tho?,, i thot one of the strengths of this movement is that the mrm doesnt have to be subject to the fear of having anything shut down and theres no orginization to sue? i could be wrong but as soon as you have an orginization in canada you are subject to the PC police (run by gender studies graduates btw) maybe its different in the states but i could see it being worse down there rather than better TBH

  • http://mrathunderinthehammer.blogspot.com/ Dannyboy

    I like the structure of this Aimee.
    Quaker principles of decision making will be a great add to the community.
    (small critique you repeated the # 6 twice)
    Thanks for writing this out and for the education on your religion.

    • Aimee McGee

      Danny, this has probably been the toughest thing I’ve written in a long time. It was a real exercise in thinking how to convey something I’m still wearing L plates on after 25 years of participation.
      I’m glad it has been we received, thank you.

  • Steveyp333

    Shut up and make me some porridge

    • Aimee McGee

      Ok, just lost a bet with myself…I expected an oatmeal joke a bit earlier!
      I prefer my chocolate a la Cadbury…but if you want porridge I will make it burnt, lumpy and runny all on one bowl :)

  • Carlos

    Great article. I love seeing the increasing emphasis on effective rhetoric, message discipline, organization and meaningful activism.

    There are many forces arrayed against the rights of men. It’s not just feminism. Feminists are the useful idiots, the secular priesthood who provide the rational for the emasculation and oppression of males. They are not the force so much as they are the pretext for the real forces. Almost every aspect of the modern day status quo is dependent upon male disposability, gynocentrism and familial instability. Changing this status quo will require confronting these vested interests eg. the military industrial complex, prison industrial complex, sexual grievances industry, the divorce industry, etc and all those who benefit from turning wife against husband and child against parent.

    It is not enough that we have truth on our side or that our ranks are swelling with passionate men and women who have taken the red pill.

    I don’t pretend to have the capability, commitment or credibility to be a part of it but I hope to see some sort of Council on the Rights of Men come together in the near future which sets about to establishing a more formal and structured system to FTSU.

    • Aimee McGee

      As an activist personality I struggle with structure, but I’ve lived to see the benefitsnot well considered structure In other spheres of my life. At the end of the day I want something that works to move the MRM into the mainstream. I don’t know what that particular structure is, but I can share ideas.
      My SO is also Quaker, he is planning to read this today…he’s aware of my activist stance, but has remained one step removed from it until I told him what I had written on…eek! I will admit that’s enough to give me girly palpitations 😉

      • http://www.avoiceformen.com Dr. F

        Aimee, thank you for this one.

        Many of us have at at least one good write in us and I suspect you have many more to come.

        The Quaker life I suspect is very rich in diversity of it’s people and approach to just about everything, food, music, literature and so on, and your MRA angle must cut a swathe through their midst sometimes.

        Sitting through a meeting would be fascinating be it an LM or an AM at the YM in the UK OK. (Pardon. /Smartarse mode off.)

        When are you going to write your next one Aimee as I await as egg-sitter Horton?

        • Aimee McGee

          Next article is gestating…hopefully not as long as an elephant gestation.
          My MRM activism in LM at the moment is a zero tolerance for minsandry be it deliberate or unintentional in language. “would what you have just said be acceptable with reversed genders?” is getting to be a well known comment from me. I’m speaking with an Elder who I trust to seek a way of bringing a core issue of the MRM to wider recognition in the AM and YM. Watch this space…
          On Quaker acronyms: if we are testing a concern or a personal decision we have an option of a MfWf clearness. One meme going round Quaker circles at the moment is “I need a clearness meeting to work out which acronym I am”. So no need to apologise for smart arsery…it’s probably been done by a Friend :)

  • Wulf

    Did the Quakers get this method from the Haudenosaunee ?

    • Aimee McGee

      Thank you for that interesting look at a similar process. I would have to check, but the dates of the Quaker travels into the Americas I think are after the majority of the recognisable infrastructure had developed…it is possible there was some influence and I will ask some North American Friends about what if any time was spent amongst the Haudensaunee peoples by Friends.
      My question is – does it work for these (your?) people? It’s a model that looking from the outside seems so alien to those who haven’t experienced it. Yet I’ve seen tough decisions made with a minimum of alienation of activists with different views.

      • Wulf

        I am outside both cultures and was struck by apparent parallels between what you describe of the Friends and what I have read about the Haudenosaunee Confederation, most recently George Croghan and the Westward Movement, 1741-1782 (1922) by Volwiler, A. – and History, Manners and Customs of the Indian Nations (1876) by John Heckewelder.

        There is evidence to support that the Indigenous “consensus democracy” has been continuous since about 1142 CE and therefore works. Since the Peace Testimony of the Friends was in 1661 I perhaps erroneously assumed a connection.

        In either event, sorry I went off topic. The methods deserve very much respect.

        • Aimee McGee

          I love these kinds of off topics, because I’m always fascinated to learn about other cultures.
          The timeline does raise some interesting questions, I know exactly who I need to ask, if she doesn’t know, she will know someone who will know about which indigenous tribes the early Quaker travellers to the US spent time with.
          The peace testimony in its original form is an interesting document from a political perspective. Several leading Friends including George Fox either held or were offered commissions in Cromwell’s army. At the Restoration, they were on the hit list for Charles II. Margaret Fell presented the Peace Testimony to the king because she was the only leader at that time not in prison. It didn’t stop the persecution of Quakers, she was arrested PDQ after her audience…

        • Keith

          The Mohawks, elder brothers of the Iroquois Confederacy and keepers of the eastern gate of the long house of the Five Nations.


  • andybob

    Thank you for this thought-provoking post Ms McGee. Your perspectives in comments and posts always convey tremendous wisdom and depth. You are a very welcome addition here.

    • Aimee McGee

      Thanks Andybob, I’m glad to be here. I was speaking to one of the London MRAs and we agreed we are at the start of something really exciting

  • keyster

    Aimee – The issue is not organization, it’s funding. First you get the funding and THEN you organize around it. AVfM and other nascent but disparate MRA groups operate on shoestring budgets, hence the growing online presence.

    The next step is REAL activism; publicity campaigns, political involvement, spokesmen, travel and administration costs, salaries so real activist/experts can do this full time, and live and eat. Management, agendas, mission statements, branding, etc.

    The MRM is woefully under-funded. What’s needed is a concerted effort to locate a benefactor that sympathizes with the MRM and is willing to kick in start up costs – an office in DC/London/Sydney.

    Online/”virtual” activism goes so far if you can’t even get the porcupines out from behind their LCD monitors. First try and get a few MRA to agree on a meeting place, then after a few months of that, get them to agree on a date, and then after a few months of that when the time actually comes get them to buy tickets for a flight…and by then everyone bails at the last minute but one or two.

    It would seem porcupines are rather poverty sticken misanthropes. I apologize for raining on any kumbaya moments and I appreciate your efforts and ideas, but you need to study porcupines further and the machinations of social activism – – the money and the politics of it.

    Feminism Inc. in the USA alone is over $1 Billion a year in endowements and donations. The MRM is at most .01% of that. While you can have an effective “virtual” organization around that, you’ll never get to the next level of a REAL organization; with real names and faces and addresses and letterheads and a staff of full-time activists.

    We just need a million dollars or so for start up costs. After that the MRM can sustain itself through donations — if it’s managed right.

    • Aimee McGee

      Thank Keyster, this is exactly why I posted this, I wanted these debates and discussions to be had.
      I’m just cooking dinner, but will get back to you with a longer response after the evenings housework

      • Aimee McGee

        Yooohooo! Quote miners, look here, domestic servitude. Yes, cooking and housework…my cats are such misogynists, I am oppressed by the minions of Tac

        Patriarchy? Nah it’s catriarchy in this household (signed Archie the supreme leader and he who must be obeyed)

    • Aimee McGee

      Keyster, addressing your points in some kind of order: please correct me if I misinterpret them!
      1) You are preaching to the front row of the choir on the issue of woeful underfunding. I so agree and want to slip either Bill Gates or Richard Branson some red pills. However, I am kind of used to underfunding being a public health specialist, to the extent I was meeting with a colleague who had managed to get the financials on a rival programme from somewhere and we were both shocked at what they were charging per patient, and bemused how we were getting better results for a LOT less money. I’m used to doing real-life campaigns on the smell of an oily rag so I guess that contributes to my incurable optimism.
      2) On branding, mission etc I ask this question. If our anonymous benfactor gave us £10 million tomorrow, so we could establish offices in the US, UK and Aus, would we be ready? Can we afford to wait until that money arrives before we look at structures of governance? Just asking, because sometimes you need to show a benfactor you are going to manage their money wisely.
      3) I also get the difficulty of getting folk to meet up. Hats off to Rod in London for getting 8 of us there a few weeks ago! (I’m already looking to see if I can combine a work meeting in London with meeting up with some of these folk sometime in November. My big problem is a career that gets in the way of activism). However, I also stand by the following. “Remember your responsibilities as a citizen for the conduct of local, national, and international affairs. Do not shrink from the time and effort your involvement may demand.” (A&Q 34, BYM). I can tell you in great detail all the things I would rather do than go to MfWfB, and dragging my sorry arse there at times is a challenge. But I come back to, if I don’t particpate, I can’t complain – and that is at any level in any organisation I am part of. To give an interesting example. I talk about in my original post the support for the issue of the Occupied Territories. This originally came from a request from Ramalla Meeting to consider this, which went to all YMs worldwide. When it arrived at BYM we were just past our Yearly Meeting, and it went to Meeting for Sufferings. This resulted in the document being sent out for consultation to AM, which was expected to be raised at every single LM in the UK – all 500 odd. The responses from the LMs were pulled together by their AMs and this was sent back to Sufferings. I made a decision to not participate in the discussion at AM on this topic, because I was aware I had some “hot buttons” on this issue, having a number of friends who are from Palestinian refugee families. Hell, I think I went and visited someone in hospital for the hour or so I knew this was going to be a tabled minute (and given how much I hate hospitals, this is a statement of how much I wanted to step away from the issue). I read the minute that went to MfS from our AM, and a lot of the text from our AM minute went into the statement from MfS. You would think this was the end of it, us Quakers being very clear on “if you are not there, you can’t change a minute”, but the howls of indignation that came through our weekly magazine how it was a YM decision…blah, blah, blah… recording clerk for YM responded in the end by giving a clear outline of the efforts made at consultation and reminded everyone of their responsibility to participate in MfWfB if they wanted their opinion to count. Quite simply he was saying “You all have adult agency, you have a choice to read your documents in advance and turn up to meetings if you have an opinion. If you don’t that is a choice, as much as if you do”
      The single biggest question I get from many people in life is how do I find time to do all the things I do (both activism and things to keep me well and happy, like playing in my local brass band). Simple answer – I keep doing stuff. Someone asked me recently about what I did for “me time” – and the truth is I get enjoyment out of doing activism and the things I do to stay well, so that is all me time. If I am really lucky like this moment, I have a cat sitting on my lap as I type…quality me time that is.
      Anyway, thanks again for raising these points. Like I said, we need to have these discussions…mine is not the only solution…and the more we talk and have good ideas, the more likely we will be ready to spend that £10 million cheque wisely when it arrives!

  • JGteMolder

    Good stuff, seems like a good structure.

    There are two point 6 in the list though, after 6 comes 7, prickly or no.

    • Aimee McGee

      I’m numerically challenged 😉 thanks for the feedback