Real Change: Join the Club

By Alan Preston

Via Real Change

Do you lie awake at night wondering if your job is secure? Are you one of the growing number of Americans who are officially unemployed, underemployed or anxiously employed? Do you worry about your children’s future and wonder what their lives will be like in the face of economic challenges, globalization and climate change? Chuck Collins worries about these things too, and he believes it’s time we start talking to one another and creating shared security and resilience.

Born into the Oscar Mayer family fortune, Collins became uncomfortable with the gap between his privilege and the struggles of Detroit working-class families that he came to know. At 26, he gave away his inheritance and dedicated his life to working for economic justice. As co-founder of United for a Fair Economy and senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, Collins develops policies to combat extreme economic inequality (inequality.org). He came to Seattle recently to participate in a community gathering about common security clubs, support groups for people facing economic insecurity and isolation.

According to a 2006 study by Duke University, one in four American adults feel they have no one to talk with about things that matter to them (up from approximately one in eight, 20 years ago). People have far fewer ties with a social network beyond their family, the study found, and without that network, they feel vulnerable and hesitate to take political action. Common security clubs, sometimes called “resilience circles,” are one antidote to this trend. I caught up with Chuck Collins the day after his talk at the Seattle Labor Temple and he shared some thoughts about the personal and societal benefits of common security clubs.

Can you give me a brief description of common security clubs?

They are small, face-to-face groups, usually 10-20 people who come together for the purpose of facing together the economic and ecological times that we’re in. They have three purposes: learning together, mutual aid and support, and taking social action together. They started after the economic meltdown of 2008 when a lot of people discovered that they didn’t have much to fall back on, and didn’t have a web of support that they could call upon, and felt isolated and alone and frightened.

Can you say a bit more about the three parts: learning together, mutual aid and social action?

Learning together is having a group of people who meet regularly to learn, to talk about what’s happening in the economy, what’s happening around us, read articles, watch videos and share impressions. The most popular is reading short articles and watching short videos and talking about them.

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