Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My New Year Resolution For The Weave

You know. I'm sitting here prepping for my New Year's Eve gig at 2nd Wind this evening (starts 8.30pm; Broadleaf open, then me as Pop Vox / Geoff Gilson; notice how I slipped that in - sneaky, huh?).

Anyways, I'm getting ready to party. Which is unusual for me. 'Cos I don't get out much. Could explain some of my 'unusual' social skills. And suddenly it hits me. Maybe I've been too harsh on the Weaver Street Market Co-operative corporate office management team? Maybe the problem is that they just don't get out enough?

I mean, they sit in those big, carpeted, plush, well-lit, ambient offices in Hillsborough, surrounded by mile after mile of verdant green, open, rolling countryside. Only the sounds of Mother Nature to keep them company. Behind a complicated combination lock on their front door. Who wouldn't feel a little out of touch?

How can they possibly know what it is to grind away on the shopfloor earning the money they overspend, if they're never given the opportunity to undertake the same work they keep asking us to engage in harder, for less?

How can they possibly know how demeaning and ridiculous it is to be Mystery Shopped by strangers, when no-one is able to come and make surprise visits on them (cf. combination lock)?

We complain about how distant and removed so many of their decisions seem to be. But have we stopped to think how difficult it must be for them to work out the right answers, when all they can do is guess at the consequences, since they never get to see them?

Of course they don't consult workers and owners. Even though, being in a co-op, we all know that they should. They don't, because they're shy. From being tucked away for so long.

So, I want all of us to resolve to do what we can this year to help all of our friends in the WSM corporate office management team to throw off the shackles of somnolent office pastime, and come out and join us in getting their hands a little dirty on the shopfloor.

Encourage them to get out a bit more, meet the folks who actually keep the co-op running, and strike up conversations with real owners, customers and workers.

And if that doesn't work, maybe grab an apple pie, and head on out to Hillsborough, and pay them a wee Mystery Visit or two. Whad'ya say?

Happy New Year!!

Monday, December 30, 2013

POP VOX w/Broadleaf -- Tomorrow!!

Tomorrow. New Year's Eve. 2nd Wind, Carrboro. Caribbean Pirate theme. Hi-energy Beach Pop. With first Broadleaf. And then Pop Vox / Geoff Gilson. Beginning at 8.30pm. Into the early hours. I'm so excited my pieces of eight are all going jingle jangle!! FB Event Page: http://tinyurl.com/l4zu5dp.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

POP VOX w/Broadleaf - Caribbean Pirate New Year's Eve

Now don't forget, the theme at 2nd Wind for New Year's Eve will be 'Caribbean Pirate.'

I'll be digging out the Foam Rubber Beach Pirate Sword. And possibly some pics from yesteryear of the various incarnations of Cap'n POP VOX.

In the meantime, Merry Christmas to all, and to all an 'oooh aaargh'!!

Facebook Event Page: http://tinyurl.com/l4zu5dp.

Friday, December 20, 2013

A Visit From St. Nicholas ... ??

"Twas the night before Christmas
When all through The Weave
Not a creature was stirring
Who didn't have a peeve ... "

Hmm. Curiouser and curiouser. Every single one of the previous nine Christmases I have celebrated as an employee of Weaver Street Market, we workers have been offered a choice of gift. This year, not. We were summarily presented with a WSM Gift Card.

Now, a gift's a gift. Granted. But is something else at work? Is it not so much a jolly fat man in a red suit that will be visiting us next week as a guy with red ink?

Tell you what. I'll make a list of some recent occurrences. And you connect the dots as you see fit:

1) By all accounts, the very expensive refit of the Carrboro store ran over budget, and has not yet been completed. There is a degree of consternation among both customers and employees that the single-minded drive to create an energy-efficient entity has left what was a rather homely co-op with all the atmosphere of an underused morgue. And there is strong suggestion it is having an effect on sales.

2) We are now on our second bagel machine.

3) Panzanella will close tomorrow (December 21). Apparently the WSM Board of Directors made the decision in principle to close Panzanella a year ago. But there was no consultation with owners or workers. And certainly the first we in the Southern Village knew store about it was when we were told (without consultation or any other advance warning) a month ago.

4) Employees will shortly have their pay paid by direct deposit, whether we like that or not. Apparently this will save the co-op money. Again, there was no consultation. And WSM Employee Co-op Policy demands that workers have meaningful input into all major decisions affecting workers and their workplace.

5) Starting about three weeks ago, all the managers in all of the WSM entities began applying the old poke-in-the-back-look-busy school of management with fervor.

I could wax lyrical, as someone who, when he was merrily dancing the capitalist fandango on the other side of the political aisle, was paid six figures a year as a management consultant, about what it looks like when a company gets itself in a cash flow mess (again).

But I won't. As I said, I will let you connect your own dots. But I would suggest to customers, keep a look out for further weird decisions where you are not consulted; and to employees, beware corner-cutting and even more back-prodding ...

[Oh yeah. As always, I am bound by another section of WSM Employee Co-op Policy to point out that these are my views, and not those of Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un, St. Nicholas or any of the WSM corporate office management team ... ]

Saturday, December 14, 2013

POP VOX, New Year's Eve, 2nd Wind ...

Absolutely the only place you will want to be New Year's Eve is 2nd Wind, Carrboro. Seeing in the New Year dressed as a Caribbean Pirate (can't say 'Pirates of the Caribbean' for copyright reasons!).

Singing and dancing along to hi-energy interactive (Caribbean) beach pop. Provided first by popular reggae band #Broadleaf (Greg Sronce, SV Deli), and then by Weaver Street Market's very own one-man Boy Band Pop Vox / Geoff Gilson (SV Kitchen).

The fun starts at 8.30pm and continues (me hearties) until the very last drop of rum is drunk. Or Jerry walks the plank. Further details to come. This is one yo-ho-ho you won't wanna miss ... !!

[Remember what #ThePosterGuys had to say of #POPVOX: "The most entertaining live show I have seen in the last five years."]

Monday, December 9, 2013

Does Mandela's Legacy Touch My Locale?

There will be much talk over the coming days about the true legacy of Mandela. What it is, and what it isn't.

For me, a middle-aged white Brit, of American parents, a former Thatcher groupie, but now more center-left, the lasting legacy of Mandela will be his achievement in creating the space which allowed South Africa to transition to black majority rule without massive bloodshed.

While a reasonably successful activist with the British Conservative Party in the Eighties, much to my discomfort, the partner in the law firm which I managed took great pleasure each month in adding to the spread of literature on offer in our waiting room the propaganda magazine from the South African Embassy.

I had always opposed apartheid. While finding favor with much that the British Conservative Government of Margaret Thatcher was achieving in restoring balance to the public finances left in an unholy mess by the British Labour Party in the Seventies (a situation with which some find analogy with the current Conservative-led UK Coalition Government).

Not surprisingly then, there was regular discussion, both in the office, and in my immediate political circles, about my views on South Africa, not least because they differed with so many of my political confreres.

There was, however, one thing on which we agreed. And this agreement was fueled not only by what we read, but also by direct contact with white expats of South Africa. Namely, that transition to black majority rule would only occur after a bitter civil war. No-one believed it would be possible without.

Yet, from the moment Mandela was released from prison, he lived the reconciliation he preached. This incredible and continuing act of statesmanship allowed others, both black and white, to put aside anger and fear and guilt and hatred. And create new institutions of governance in an atmosphere of peace and calm.

That is Nelson Mandela's greatest legacy. All the talk of what has happened since. The corruption. The lack of progress towards justice. All of this should be laid at the feet of his successors. Not his.

A couple more points about justice since we are here. It's all very well the smug armchair progressives of the West decrying the lack of progress in South Africa. Look to your own countries, and the hundreds of years it took to progress to what you now calmly accept as your democratic and liberal birthrights.

And something I think that Mandela himself would have (and has) emphasized, if he were presenting his own eulogy. He did not release himself from prison. He did not achieve black majority rule on his own. It took the magnanimity also of white Afrikaan leaders, responding to the space Mandela created, to work with him in partnership to bring about a new South Africa.

Indeed, as some of you will know, I am regularly disappointed in my own locale, Chapel Hill/Carrboro NC, one of the acknowledged bastions of progressivism in the US, as to how those who shout liberal platitudes the loudest, are very often those who forget them when the difficult moments arrive, and they have to put themselves, their careers, their reputations at risk actually implementing genuinely progressive ideals.

I think of the co-op where I work, where many of management and the Board of Directors speak and write far more eloquently than I about the benefits of liberal ideology. Yet, they all too happily run a co-op based on capitalist ideals of profit and productivity, rather than democracy and inclusion in decision-making.

I think of the local progressive discussion forum which censors views it does not like. I think of the local community radio which castigated me for inviting a Republican election candidate onto my chat show. And I think of the local liberal folk who operate a water-tight political machine, to ensure that only the chosen receive endorsement, so as to keep local political office pure.

Each and every one of these so-called progressive activists could learn something from each and every one of the Afrikaan leaders who worked with Mandela to help him create his legacy.

For each one of those Afrikaan leaders had the courage to act in a progressive fashion, based simply on blind faith. Regardless of their own instincts and fears. And in so doing, they acted more progressively than many of the so-called progressive leaders in my co-op, my municipality and my community.

There is a long way yet to go in South Africa. But Mandela has shown the way. By using his own decency to create the space for others to find their courage. That example has much to teach the rest of us. Not least my fellow local progressives ...

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Nelson Mandela, 1918 - 2013

When I was a child, I spake as a child. And I was a child of the Maggie Thatcher Revolution. The same Margaret Thatcher who supported the regime in South Africa which kept Nelson Mandela under lock and key.

When I became a man, I put away childish things. And when I was old enough to understand more about the world, Nelson Mandela, finally released from prison, taught me many things.

The most important was that the most precious human commodity one can cherish, and the most awful one can try to suppress, is dignity. Nelson Mandela never lost his.

He remains one of the primary forces that moved me from my early rightish views to positions that allow more for the humanity of man (and woman). Where I am comfortable believing that people are more important than politics. Empowerment more important than direction. And dignity more important than pride.

I do not remember Nelson today. I never forgot him. And I miss him already.