Friday, March 02, 2012

Corporation Meeting

:: Trip to AFSC / Philly ::

So here I am in Philadelphia at the annual corporation meeting.  I'm representing North Pacific Yearly Meeting. I also have long experience with the local (Portland) AFSC office, though not so much in recent chapters.

I was wondering if Hugh Thomforde would be here again this year.  He showed up just now at breakfast.  We did some catching up.  Hugh and I were part of the small clique of Quakers that met in Rome, Italy in the 1960s.  His dad worked for the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).  Now he lives in Arkansas.

Last year, we had a timeline about the AFSC around the breakfast room.  This year it's The Faces of Occupy.  Philadelphia's camp was right nearby and used the Friends building for bathrooms and a kitchen.  Hugh says Little Rock still has its camp still going.  I showed him some pictures of from Occupy Portland on the Mac Air.  Then we moved in the Meeting for Worship.

Mom and I met at the Philadelphia airport last night and had a small meal of mussels and crab soup. This was behind the security line, so mom's carry-on, which US Airways had wanted to check, went ahead to the baggage claim area.  Recovering it from the office, where they said it would be, took some fussing, but it all worked out.

AFSC is a Quaker meme pool and switchboard, one might say.  It rises to the occasion.

Does this corporation have corporate personhood?  US law currently says it does, but Quakers have a history of considering lawyers and the law behind the times (look at immigration law), mired in superstition and obsolete thinking.  That's a perk of having a religion based on continuing revelation I suppose.  This is how new rules come about.

The AFSC has the word "American" as a first word, which suggests "America" has some role to play in Friends service.  In the obsolete world order, Americans saw themselves as helping the world be a better place.  These days, more of Friends' work is about educating Americans to be less destructive in the world.  As civilizations go, many of the North American ones are turning out to be quite militaristic and therefore frustrating and debilitating to many peoples around the world.

People "look up to" Americans a lot less than they did when the AFSC was first founded.  Working in a world that demonizes / vilifies Americans (USAers call themselves Americans) is more challenging in some ways.  As we move towards a Global University aesthetic, we learn to accommodate these twists and turns, to stay effective.

Mostly the AFSC needs to focus on its North American regions, of which there are four.  The rest of the world will be better off to the extent that Americans get their act together and stop being a drain on the world economy.  Helping peoples to avoid coming under the jurisdiction of American laws and lawyers is a worthy objective (remember the Bremer Edicts?). Many of their ideas regarding intellectual property, corporate personhood etc. are not conducive to human / humane development.

Importing better ideas from elsewhere is a top AFSC priority the way I see it, especially where alternatives to violence are concerned.  Occupy is one of those imports, to which USAers have added their spin (each city in a different way).  The idea that the USA has something valuable to offer is more back burner these days -- it does, but mostly USAers need to do their homework.

Friends are not uniform in their practices and expressions of belief.  The AFSC gets caught in the middle sometimes, as Friends project their fears and worries about one another's lineage onto their various agencies.  Many Friends have distanced themselves from the AFSC even as they have distanced themselves from other Friends.  This is not unusual for a religious tradition:  it forks and branches, not unlike software projects on Github or whatever.  Such is life in the big city.