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Lita Kurth
Lita Kurth
Lita A. Kurth is a Jungian Anarcho-Syndicalist teacher and writer

Sustainable Solidarity: Now Appearing in Wisconsin


by: on July 3rd, 2013 | 15 Comments »

Credit: L.A. Kurth.

Recently, I had an experience of solidarity so precious it stands out as a significant moment of my life. And it wasn’t associated with victory. On the contrary, it was accompanied by virtually nothing but defeat. At a recent Working Class Studies conference, I heard from and sang with members of the Wisconsin Solidarity Singalong, an overlapping and unofficial group who have sung historic and updated protest songs in the Wisconsin State Capitol every weekday noon (so as not to disrupt official business) for over 600 days. Let me pause and ask: What would it take for you to protest every weekday noon for 600 working days – without ever being successful? How about if you were ticketed hundreds of times (the “conductor” of the singers had personally received 140 tickets), harassed, punched in the face, sent to trial? This is in the context of spectators being “tossed from the chambers for things like taking a picture, displaying a sign, reading a newspaper or wearing a hat.”

What happens to freedom of speech when you can’t put tape over your mouth to express protest at not being allowed to sing? What happens to you as a result of this commitment? I think the answer is your life changes – and the world around you changes, on an almost invisible yet vitally important scale.


What the Right Understands About Poverty and Dependency


by: on April 16th, 2013 | 4 Comments »

David Azerrad in a recent post at the Heritage Foundation’s site, “What the Left Misunderstands about Poverty and Dependency” offers a long list of right wing assumptions: that housing, food, and medical assistance prevent people from marrying and working, that government assistance “erodes the virtues that allow people to flourish,” and most astonishingly, that “all Americans – conservative and liberal alike – believe in a strong safety net.” I sent him an email with several questions (if he answers, I’ll provide that in an update). Here is the first:

When you mention, “the virtues that allow people to flourish,” which virtues do you mean and what would be “flourishing”?


Salvation at the Animal Shelter


by: on April 9th, 2013 | 6 Comments »

Salvation. A word I view with suspicion. When I hear “accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior,” I have to hold back a wave of revulsion. Though I know some people’s lives have been transformed for the good at revival meetings, for me, “getting saved” (which I did three times in different churches) brings up bitter anger at the adults around me and disappointment in myself. Each time, my “salvation” meant a child collapsing under intense fear, pressure, and manipulation, abandoning her true self in order to conform and be accepted. My real salvation came through therapy and therapeutic groups.

Lita's cat, Mimi, at her new home. Credit: Lita Kurth

So when the writers’ group at the church I attend gave the prompt, “salvation,” I was stuck. Finally, I decided to write about literal salvation, saving someone from a fire, from an oncoming truck, from death.

The Salvation Story

Ironically, it was a Sunday. We sat on the concrete benches under a dead tree watching the daisies and finding snails until ten o’clock when the shelter doors opened.

The woman behind the desk discussed the cat selection. One prize beast displayed in a prominent glass box was double-priced, highly desirable, and it would go quickly. We glanced. Too large. And walked on.


Gimme Shelter: (un)affordable housing


by: on February 6th, 2013 | Comments Off

I just came back from a superb meeting on affordable housing at Sacred Heart Community Services, an agency known for practical, street-level work. Then I started talking about the issue with friends. Here are a few jolts that stuck with me:

photo by Darafsh Kaviyani

  • In Silicon Valley, the greater San Jose area, the list for subsidized housing is around 40,000 names long; it would be longer, but they aren’t taking names any more, so we can’t know the true extent of need.

  • Even veterans have been bounced from one agency to another with no one making help a priority. One of them, an articulate person not immediately recognizable as homeless, attended the meeting. He said he had been homeless “only a couple years.”


Doing the Right Thing: From Tolstoy to Minimum Wage


by: on November 3rd, 2012 | 5 Comments »

Recently two seemingly unrelated events came together: I volunteered for Measure D to raise the minimum wage in San Jose to ten dollars an hour, and I watched another episode of the BBC’s excellent production of War and Peace.

War and Peace BBC

In the episode I watched, a wealthy family, the Rostovs, is crating up their numerous possessions, china, furniture, dresses, vases, and clocks, to flee Moscow in the face of Napoleon’s oncoming troops. They look out the window: a long line of wounded Russian soldiers is wending its exhausted way through the city – now abandoned by most of the rich. At first, the family watches, curious, as the soldiers drag and are dragged past their front door. Then the daughter, Natasha, a person of great spirit and integrity, asks what it could hurt to let the wounded be brought inside and laid on the floor; the family is leaving the city anyway for their country estate.

Just as the family is about to leave, an officer begs them to take a few of the wounded along. Natasha’s father okays replacing a few boxes with soldiers. But when his wife hears of this, she bursts into an impassioned plea: These goods are our children’s heritage! You’ve mismanaged our money, made bad business decisions, and now you’ll deprive them of this too?

Her husband, chastened, goes back on his decision. Natasha, however, explodes: These are only things! I don’t want them! How can you save things instead of human beings? She points down at the soldiers: These are human beings!

In the end, they make the miraculous decision to leave their goods and fill the carts with wounded soldiers. As it happens, lying among the wounded is someone they know, someone very important, but they only find that out after the decision is made.


Capitalism and Hope?


by: on September 29th, 2012 | 4 Comments »

book coverWhen was the last time you read a critique of capitalism that included the word “hope”? Read on, dear reader. But first, let me lay the groundwork with a little story: I support Occupy San Jose more in word than deed, but one day while delivering food and Halloween costumes for the movement’s party, I talked with a few people dwelling in the well-ordered tents in front of City Hall. The participants were grads of “the school of the streets.” They sometimes debated the value of obtaining a GED, but one told me that an activist who had been living atop a light pole for several days was so affected by reading Ideas for Action: Relevant Theory for Radical Change, he decided to enroll at De Anza College, where the book’s author, Cynthia Kaufman, teaches.

Fighting Capitalism: The Practical Way

How wonderful that a book could inspire someone to positive action. I was intrigued. Well, Cynthia Kaufman has a new book that seems likely to have the same effect: Getting Past Capitalism: History, Vision, Hope (Lexington Books, 2012). She described it to me as a hopeful book about combating capitalism.

So how does this brief (156 pages) but valuable book propose we get past capitalism? First, by improving our metaphors, seeing capitalism not as a monolith with a “command center” that needs to be taken out, but as an infection that has “become entangled with our cells and needs to be fought from within and from without.” Kaufman mentions being influenced by a talk given by the geographer Julie Graham, who suggested a feminist model of “pushing back on practices [we] are opposed to.” “It was exciting,” Kaufman notes, “to see that there are realistic alternatives to capitalism, that we thrive in those alternatives right now, and that society can be transformed to the extent that those alternatives become … more predominant in our lives.” We need to look for “advances” rather than “clear victory.” All the same, our long-term project is “getting rid of capitalism,” and it can be done.


Writing for Change in San Francisco


by: on September 17th, 2012 | 5 Comments »

At first, I was worried that a one-day conference wouldn’t be worth $99 or, at the last minute, $149, but the moment I was welcomed into the Unitarian church on Franklin, I received a nice string backpack containing three new books, all useful, and two, especially valuable. Already I had recouped $60! And there was much more. This is a conference I believe many Tikkun readers would appreciate.

photo by Marty Castleberg

Hawken and the Seattle Protests: Writing That Changes the World

The best moment – Paul Hawken’s speech – came first. It was wonderful to hear that someone hugely successful, the pal of people like Clinton, had shown up in person at the WTO protests in Seattle, an event he felt was grossly misrepresented by the likes of Tom Friedman who opined from a continent away. In response, he wrote a 10,000-word email. He asked for no payment from the publications that accepted it, but wanted them to give up exclusive rights so that it could be freely and widely shared. Eventually, it turned into his latest book, Blessed Unrest, a title that came from Martha Graham’s words:


“Work is slow. Send the CEO home”: an Unhappy Labor Day


by: on September 2nd, 2012 | 2 Comments »

Professionals, ask yourself, when is the last time you heard these words? “Work is slow today. So the CEO has to go home.” (and by the way, his pay will be cut down to the precise hours worked). And since some of the work he’s doing is not executive-level, let’s call him an administrative assistant while he writes emails, and a VP when he’s not leading a meeting but merely attending one, and pay him at lower levels for those hours.

Should a teacher be paid clerk wages while she photocopies materials for her class? Should a manager drop down to a waiter’s pay while he helps out on the restaurant floor? Salaried professionals and executives would scream if those outrageous conditions prevailed, yet millions of wage-earners have to accept them.

The Third World Here at Home

A majority of service industries in the U.S. have a third world within the company, one you don’t have to travel to China for. Two major abuses are rife in this sector: unreliable hours and temporary “promotions. Here’s how it works:


How I Spent my Lent


by: on April 7th, 2012 | 4 Comments »

One day in Lent went like this: another scattered stupid day of laundry, a crazy amount of mediocre cooking, bad feelings about myself and my negligible achievements, and attempts to pull myself out of self-absorbed self-criticism. Scurry, scurry, worry, worry, and meta-worrying about worrying. Tiring.

I got simple things done – a haircut, but only after wasting inordinate amounts of time surfing the web for “flattering haircuts for older women,” printing some images, doubting, looking for signs, irked at having to make all these decisions myself without clear divine commands. (Maybe the command I didn’t hear was, “Is this really important? Please live with more gratitude and now-ness.”)

That night, trying to decide whether to add doing a textbook to my list of tasks, I went to a Taize service at a local Church, a ritual I got into last year with my friend, Marilyn. I love to watch the candles, flickering as if they have a soul. Sitting in the dark, the computer well out of reach, I try to spare thought for others, think about Jesus in Gethsemane. Up above the altar, a big, round stained-glass window shows that scene, idealized. Why, I wonder, is Jesus’s face raised to the sky in prayer? Why that posture? Wouldn’t his head be down on the stone in agony and pleading? Around him are brilliant reds like chili peppers, and stunning blues. Closer to the congregation, two white lambs stand guard, one proudly holding a denominational banner, apparently with its leg. I wonder (but not in a harsh way) why martyrs need clean robes and how lambs can super-proud without dirt on their wool. Is this representation of myth an acknowledgment that daily life has so many dirty clothes and animals acting like animals? What would it be like if the lambs in church looked real, silly and fearful with maggots in their tails? What if Jesus looked like an everyday person in a country under occupation? Maybe we would find it hard to hope; maybe we’d resent being reminded of the world too much around us.

I believe in the value of ritual. Though not Catholic, I like to observe Lent in an interfaith way: a little bit of Ramadan for solidarity with the poor, a little bit of Judeo-Christianity for depth in simplicity, a little bit of Native American enlightenment through solitary retreat, a Jungian belief in the balance of feast and fast. In an unorthodox way, I decided to try out the experience of relinquishing several needless things during this period between Mardi Gras and Easter: candy was the first thing. For years, I never ate candy and somehow I’d started eating it regularly. The second thing was crabby negativity, a lifelong habit. You can guess which one was easier to give up.


Occupy Faith: the Interfaith Tent at Occupy Oakland


by: on March 4th, 2012 | 1 Comment »

Occupy Faith: the Interfaith Tent at Occupy Oakland

Hate crimes? Robbery? Violence against police? If you Google “Occupy Oakland,” you might miss another deeper story, the story of Occupy Faith, the Interfaith Tent, now metaphorical, though no less strong, that has supported and borne witness to Occupy Oakland since October 24, 2011. Nichola Torbett,Director of Seminary of the Street (“At the intersection of radical love and justice”– my favorite neighborhood!) told me about the origins and activities of the Interfaith Tent which are myriad and moving.

Interfaith Tent at night (photo by Alexandra Childs)

Occupy the Present

Meditation, counseling, nonviolence training, singing, dancing, sharing food and clothing with those who needed them, creating posters -”Remember MLK, radical nonviolence…” “Peace creates kindness creates peace.” “Occupy the Present” and “Occupy Your Own Heart with Love and Compassion” – were all Occupy Faith activities. In Ms. Torbett’s words, they came to “provide a critical spiritual presence that honored and welcomed all religious traditions and people who were non-religious.”

But it wasn’t all warmth and joy

The beating of Iraq veteran Scott Olsen was a decision point for Occupy Faith. Following that incident, they formed a Planning Group and “helped to articulate