Because I identified with Eric Ginsburg pre-graduation Guilford experience, I felt as if his post- graduation story offered me a lot of insight and a lot of complex topics to ruminate on. When Ginsburg graduated he ideally wanted to do a lot of community organizing work (which I am also interested in). He worked with Beloved Community Center and the IAF was up front with us about acknowledging the pros and cons of each role he tried to fulfill. While this was the work he felt dedicated to do, he also had qualms about whether or not he should be the one doing it. When working with the IAF he asked himself, should a cis-gendered, white, non-religious, dude be telling radical black churches what to do? It was hard for him to be the “Face” of some of these organizing groups when his identify did not reflect the actual group.
Ginsburg also suggested that the “revolution should not be funded,” maybe it is not in your (a white persons) best interest to be a paid full time organizer— and he posed the question maybe you should engage in the struggle but be paid elsewhere? I have been grappling with this idea for a while because I want to be working to dismantle systems of oppression, I also believe that a middle class college education white women is not necessarily the person who needs to be paid to be doing that work. There are many people or color who are already doing this work unpaid and perhaps a way to be an ally is not to take money for work that many people are already doing. I thought this was an important question to be wrestling with because when doing justice work it is always crucial to be analyzing and questioning your role and identify and figuring how you should best fit in.
Ginsburg mentioned that he had some jobs he tried to work to supplement his other non-paid work. He also struggled with the fact that some of the other jobs he worked to make more money with did not align with his values. First he noted that “capitalism is an inherently oppressive system – so earning capital might never feel ‘good’” but that sometimes it has to happen anyway. A question he proposed that I appreciate was “are my politics that everyone should have my politics or that I should be able to sit and understand people that are coming from different places?” This is also something I have been thinking about a lot. It is important for me to surround myself with people who all agree with my values, or is it important to surround myself with diverse opinions so I can try to expose them to other view points? What is most effective? What is worthwhile? What has the most impact? I think it will be a combination of all of the above. It is probably impossible to be able to always be surrounded by people who agree with you at all times, it is just a matter of discerning what is most important to me at different times in my life.
How do I find a way to make money, which is still crucial for survival in the capitalist society we live in, while still having integrity to upholding my values? Yvon Chouinard found a way to make it work for him. Yvon Chouinard is the founder of the Patagonia company, but also a wild outdoors fanatic. He is a rock climber, kayaker, surfer and more. The company grew naturally out of his passions for outdoors gear, but he never fancied himself a businessman even though his company is now worth billions of dollars. He says that “The capitalist ideal is you grow a company and focus on making it as profitable as possible. Then, when you cash out, you become a philanthropist. We believe a company has a responsibility to do that all along—for the sake of the employees, for the sake of the planet.” He wrote a book called Let My People Go Surfing which is a manifesto for his employees to understand that sometimes, work doesn’t need to come first. If there is a swell coming in, you can’t schedule time into your work day next week to go surf, you have to go now. Chouinard aims to have a hands off approach and maintains that if you can get your work done, by all means go surfing when the swell comes in. Patagonia also tries to set an example to other companies regarding how to engage in sustainable practices. They aim to harvest their cotton from places where is rains a lot (because it takes 180 gallons to produce a t-shirt), and work with people to create national parks around the world. Even though there are flaws and privileges in this company/lifestyle Chouinard has found a creative solution to a problem that he saw in the business world. He has found a way to create an extremely financially successful company while still prioritizing spending time outdoors, and also maintain and preserving the environment.
My main take away from the last week of class there will never be a simple answer. As Eric Ginsburg said “I learned in my 20s that everything is a grey area.” I will have to discover what feels right for me as I go. It will probably include a series of “failing” as both Ginsburg and Chouinard experienced, but ultimately all experiences will inform who I am and how I can live out my vocation with integrity. As Rilke says “And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer” (Rilke, Letter 4, 1929). I will aim to also keep reevaluating and living the questions now.