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eBook formatPaperback, (torrent)En
PublisherBlack Rose Books
File size1.9 Mb
Release date 01.12.1985
Book rating4.59 (9 votes)
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You can’t say that this is a popular book on GRs with 3 ratings. But if you are a community organizer or are interested in social change, this book is available for a buck on and and I think you would enjoy reading it. It has actual examples of community organizing as well as considerable discussion of approaches to organizing. It is easy reading but has some deep ideas. You could check out the links to the internet that are included in the review to see if they peak your interest. If you don't like "touchy-feely" at least a little bit or if you have never know any "granola" people, you probably won't like this book.

Francis Peavey
born: August 16, 1941
died: October 10, 2005

Fran Peavey was a self-described futurist but also a social activist, community organizer, anti-war activist, social change agent, pacifist and listener.She also described herself as “fat” and said “my fatness has given me valuable distance from the accepted norms of American womanhood and may have helped me be more open-minded about considering change.” She traveled the world with a sign that read “American Willing to Listen,” listening to and talking with hundreds of people.Among all else, she was an environmentalist who wanted to develop a sense of what the world was thinking. She saw nuclear bombs and nuclear power as threats to the earth just like air and water pollution.

She developed the concept of “strategic questioning” and outlines its beginnings and her use and development of the concept in Heart Politics. In the Strategic Questioning Manual (available as a PDF file, see below) she wrote:

Strategic questioning is a way of talking with people with whom you have differences without abandoning your own beliefs and yet looking for common ground which may enable both parties to co-create a new path from the present situation. In every heart there is ambiguity; in every ideology there are parts which don't fit. Strategic questioning by someone who is perceived as neutral may help the questionee think beyond old answers. New policies may be envisioned, whistle blowers encouraged. This is one of the most important features of strategic questioning.

Peavey is a story teller and a comedian who can write and speak in a down to earth, understandable language:

Often I think about these things while sitting on the toilet. In the renaissance, I sometimes imagine, there must have been a woman a little bit like me, trying to make sense out of a very confusing time. What was she thinking about as she sat on the toilet? What were her questions?
. . .
Human beings are a lot like crabgrass. Each blade of crabgrass sticks up into the air, appearing to be a plant all by itself. But when you try to pull it up, you discover that all the blades of crabgrass in a particular piece of lawn share the same roots and the same nourishment system.

From the book, a peace activist’s joke:
In the work against nuclear war, it’s particularly hard to have much sense of accomplishment, but I always remember my friend Bob’s story. In a taxicab in New York City, the driver asked him what his work was. Bob said, “I’m working to prevent nuclear war.” “You’re doing a great job,” the driver replied. “Keep up the good work!”

Describing organizing, Peavey wrote:
Before the park existed, people had congregated on Sixth Street without any collective purpose. Our job as organizers was not to define their purpose but to help it emerge. We tried to empower people without controlling them, to trust that they were more knowledgeable about their own lives than we were. We viewed ourselves not as the people with answers, solutions, or decisions but as facilitators, enthusiasts, support people.
. . .
An early hypothesis was that the street people had chosen this way of life. But the more time I spent on Sixth Street, the more tentatively I held this hypothesis. I kept wondering: could they have chosen otherwise, given the doors that had been closed on them by racism, poverty, and their consequent feelings worthlessness.

Politics is in the equation but people really matter a lot.

[Heart politics] is political to the extent that it challenges the status quo and affirms the possibility of a more just and humane future. It emphasises the links between personal and political action. It stresses the need to respect those we oppose, as much as those we support. It eschews simplistic solutions, but endorses the idea that the common good can best be realised by people operating from their hearts as well as their heads.

Just walkin' and listenin’:

Some of us feel the best way to relate to the rest of the world is by exploring and listening — and slowly but surely discovering how (if at all) we can help.

You might think this approach is too counter-cultural to contemplate, but in the hands of serious thinkers and activists it can be a powerful tool.

Anti-war activist Fran Peavey has spent a good part of the last two decades sitting on benches in foreign countries with a sign, “American Willing to Listen” — or just going up to strangers in foreign lands and initiating thoughtful conversations — and now has a marvelous sense of the world’s social, psychological, and historical currents.

“Although theoretically I was fighting for the survival of every human being on the planet,” Peavey says in her extraordinary memoir, Heart Politics Revisited (rev. 2000), “I didn’t actually know many people outside the U.S. . . . I really loved people only in California and Idaho. I needed a global heart.”


Heart Politics is the story of how one person found the world needing some improvements and set about working for those improvements, changing the world, and how she came to believe

that in order for a massive social structure to make a change, it takes people working toward the same general goal from many different points of view, with many different analyses, strategies, and tactics. It takes groups working on demonstrations, legal challenges, legislative lobbying, entertainment, prayer, education, funding, media work, and so on.

In conclusion, this sums up her life simplistically, as obituaries often do:

Frances "Finley" Peavey 69, died peacefully, October 5, 2010. Family stated "Fran's great love, compassion and spirit have touched thousands of lives around the globe. Her love of justice, nature, and people was evident in all she said and did. She truly lived the principles she espoused. Her sense of humor and wit were priceless gifts to any gathering. She was a beautiful, unique spirit and will be missed by all she knew." Fran was born in Twin Falls, ID to Tom & Dorothy Peavey in 1941. After college, she taught at Roosevelt Jr. HS in SF and pursued doctoral studies at USC. She returned to the Bay area to teach at SFSU. Fran was an organizer in the International Hotel struggle and the Sixth Street Park. She performed as an Atomic Comic with Charlie Varon, and traveled abroad, sitting with a sign "American willing to listen." She founded Crabgrass and collaborated with Indians to form the Sankat Mochan Foundation in Varanasi, whose goal is to clean the Ganges River. Fran wrote many books, and taught workshops on heart politics and strategic questioning in the US and abroad. Work on peace, reconciliation, and water were the focus of her passion.

Fran Peavey asked many questions in Heart Politics. She doesn’t answer all of them. That is what strategic questioning is all about. Helping you figure out the answers.

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