The idea behind Crisis Reading Groups is to create a network of tightly-knit local communities built around the intersection of ideas and action. In small groups, and then together on the Crisis Reading Groups forum, we will read and discuss articles on authoritarian government, ecological crisis, and theory of social movements.
On the local level, these communities will:
- create a space for friends to gather and support each other
- collect and uphold communal bodies of knowledge
- use strategy gleaned from reading and discussion to fight fascism and uphold democracy in their local communities.
On the national (and international) level, groups will share
- a common syllabus
- a deep, comprehensive understanding of the power structures that govern society
- participation in the formation of strategies for action
- a platform for launching coordinated nationwide action with strong local roots
The Crisis Reading Groups will be self-driven and autonomous. The Climate Mobilization will provide a loose framework for organization (a weekly syllabus, the basic guidelines included in this manual) and will moderate the online forum which will provide the backbone for the nationwide network. Individual groups must recruit members, schedule meetings, choose and execute local actions. They may choose to add additional elements to their meetings, such as social time, childcare, a shared meal, or additional reading.
Setting up a Group
Finding friends to join:
- Who are the obvious candidates? These people may not be your best friends, but they are the ones who you have found yourself talking to most about the election, what it revealed, and what should be done. Maybe you haven't talked to them personally, but you have seen them post articles or thoughts about the political crisis on social media. They are seriously concerned about what is going on, and want to help, but they also want to understand better how to be most effective. Reach out to these people individually. Describe the article clubs and why you want to be part of one.
- Post a link to the article clubs website on social media with a personal account of why you want to join. Tag anyone who you think would be a good candidate.
- Make a poster and put it on the bulletin board in a local coffee shop or gathering space, if you feel safe doing so. Think about who might see it.
Finding a place to meet:
- Choose a comfortable, safe, and inviting space to meet.
- This could be your home, or the home of someone else in the group.
- If you hope to offer child care, food, or other support for the members of the group, take that into account when choosing a space.
- The meeting space can also rotate, but make sure there is at least one space that will be available whenever you need it.
Tech basics for everyone:
- All members of your group should have an account on the forum, so they can participate in nationwide discussions and strategizing
- "Watch" the Crisis Reading Groups section
- The group leader should post notes from each week's meeting on the forum
- The Crisis Reading Groups section will be organized into separate topics for each meeting (Meeting 1, Meeting 2, etc).
- Separate topics can be created to discuss multi-group actions or projects that grow out of the reading material.
- Individuals who want to suggest reading materials should fill out this form, which can be found on the Crisis Reading Groups page on The Climate Mobilization website. This will make it possible for the organizing team to process the large volume of suggested material. Material that looks useful will be posted on the forum.
Reading groups should try to meet at least every other week. The more often, the better!
Members should expect to devote about 5 hours to the crisis reading group per cycle (around 3 hours to read and 2 to meet), or more, if the club has chosen to add extra articles or activities. Meetings should be oriented around serious discussion and building community. To this end, it is important to work to establish trust and mutual understanding in the first few meetings. Take some time to get to know each other. Establish some agreed-upon guidelines for discussion. Talk about what you want out of the community.
We will periodically post ideas for extra activities on the forum. This might be a movie the group could screen, an exercise for sharing difficult emotions, or an action for the group to take together.
Each week, we choose articles that we believe shed light on the unfolding of Donald Trump's presidency and the surrounding political maelstrom. Additionally, we will include articles on international and historical trends and ecological collapse, to better understand the context and stakes in which these events are unfolding. We hope these articles will tell, from various angles, the story of how we got here; forecast where we could go; and give advice for the best actions to take now to save America and civilization from collapse.
We do not choose these articles because we know that they are right. We, like you, do not have the answers. Neither do these authors. Sometimes, we may assign authors who explicitly or implicitly contradict each other. We hope you will look for these contradictions, examine them, and become familiar with the complexity of these issues. Our hope is through careful analysis, discussion, and exposure to many theories and points of view, we can piece together a more holistic understanding of what is happening and what to do.
If you wish to suggest material, please keep this philosophy in mind.
Some Strategies for Discussion
In any community, and particularly one tasked with breaking down complex problems and proposing solutions, it is necessary to build trust. This happens naturally over time, but can be aided by making a contract between the members of the group. Together, the group should articulate the responsibilities of each member--reading, attending meetings, listening, offering of one’s own experience, etc.--without which the group cannot function properly. The members then agree to fulfill their responsibilities in contract with one another.
Often in discussion, we disagree. Most often when we disagree, we are each partially right. At the very least, there is some reason why we each hold different opinions--different experiences, structures that make one or both of us blind to the full truth, etc.--and there is something to be learned if we can become aware of what draws us to our opinions. We learn the most when we enter the discussion with an open mind, ready to slip out of the preconceived opinions we came to the table with. This is where trust comes in. If we trust the others at the table to continue to value us as full human beings completely aside from the correctness of our beliefs, we are more likely to let those beliefs slide around a bit. We should have nothing but the greatest respect for the person who can come to the table with a question and nothing more--a person who is willing to admit there is a problem which she would like the group to tackle but about which she does not yet have a theory.
When we can, it helps to begin thinking about a question through the language of experience rather than theory. What is my experience, admittedly one-sided, of the theme on the table? How does it differ from the experience of others in the group? Could we build a theory from those experiences? How does that theory differ from that provided by the author? Are they complementary, at odds? Might one fill holes left by the other? What might be a solution to this problem, based on experience? What aspect of my experience is missing? What structures make that experience impossible? How do we resist? Do we create new structures that allow us to have those experiences? Do we break down those that stop us from having them? Finally, how can we enact the solution within this group and then on a greater scale?
On a more specific note, it is useful to have each member of the group come up with a few points she would like to cover in discussion, and then share these all with the group at the beginning of the meeting. This can help keep conversation on track and ensure everyone’s voice is heard.
Turning Theory into Action
Each group should decide how it would like to integrate action into its schedule. To begin with, when the communal knowledge built by reading and discussion is still in its first stages of development, it might be best to integrate simple actions such as getting together, either after discussion meetings or at a separate time, to call local representatives about issues important to the group. The website 5 calls provides a list of issues relevant to local representatives, filtered by zip code. It also provides call scripts.
Later, actions can draw more directly on the knowledge developed through the reading group’s research. Members can draft an op-ed for a local newspaper, create a power-structure analysis of local government, or trace other themes from the reading out through local issues. If the local area is a frontline community for a particular issue raised in the reading, the members of the group could make a video or write an article to share their story with other groups on the forum.
Like regular meetings, action days can include a social component, shared meal, etc.