The Meliorist – It takes you…











{June 14, 2007}   Post-college activism – a myth?

I came across this article and thought it makes a great foundation for this first substantive post at The Meliorist.  It seems, from this article, that today’s prospects for progressive activism are neither as attractive, nor as pedagogical, nor, perhaps, as successful in the long-term as they once were.  As the article tells us:  “One could question,” says Fisher, “whether Saul Alinsky, Ralph Nader or Cesar Chavez would have become successful at leading different aspects of the progressive movement if they came up through the model we have today.”

It seems that outsourcing has not only stripped numerous factory workers and call center employees of their positions, but are now threatening to displace realistic entry-level positions in activist organizations.  I was not really aware of this shift to outsourcing, and it does seem a little sad.  And I can certainly relate to the need to make sacrifices in ideological positions in order to pay the bills.  My first job out of grad school was a corporate position for a year, just so I could start making my loan payments, buy a car, rent a place of my own, etc.  I was lucky to find something that paid almost as much a year later with an outreach program that received its funding from a grant, but it was certainly not something I could count on being available to me.  Its a little depressing to see the number of my friends and classmates who truly cared about the world become desperate and take jobs “temporarily” to pay the bills that became more permanent in nature when those bills just grew as more and more expenses were added to the mix.  Its not easy to walk the walk when you can not afford a new pair of shoes!

The article discusses the importance of funding to progressive activism.  It identifies the funder of my outreach program, Soros, which provided me with five years of gainful employment at a living wage.  I wasn’t going to get rich from that job, but I could afford to pay my bills.  This is something that the article seems to indicate is a rare opportunity. 

So, what do you think?  Is this, the closing statement of the article, true?

“But until progressive veterans realize the necessity of this support, organizers like Nelson will be left with a choice: sell-out or squeak by. It’s one that committed young people like her should not be forced to make.”

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