The Meliorist – It takes you…











{October 7, 2007}   Back in action…

Well, I’ve been on a hiatus.  Moving from one end of the big state of CA to the other and settling into a new job.  I questioned whether I would keep this blog going or not.  I’ve been exploring new ideas and trying to figure out the direction I want my larger life to go.  But, here I am.  And it is something that just clicked for me in the last two days.  I have a problem staying focused on singular issues.  There is so much stuff going on in the world that is worthy of my attention, how can you just look at one and say “that’s it”?  And although some would say a singular focus is necessary, I think it a singular focus ignores the complexity of our world.  Let’s face facts – many of our problems are completely interconnected, but by pitting groups against each other in a struggle for attention and resources and goal statements, we tend to not only downplay that complexity, but greatly decrease our capabilities at being able to solve our problems. 

So, I care about a lot of things.  I think the War in Iraq is going poorly and should be ended ASAP.  I think that we are seeing huge negative environmental effects across the globe from our overuse of petroleum products.  I think we have a generation of young people who are often directionless – taught to the test, and finding there is no “test” in the real world.  I think our government lies to us more often than not, and we don’t even know the half of it at this point.  I think that we have spent so long building bigger houses and bigger cars and bigger buildings that we have lost our ability to appreciate the small things. 

But, I have not lost hope.  And that is what this blog will be about.  It will be about my hope for the future.  My little things that I hope, when added to everyone else’s little things, will have big effects.  After all, we didn’t make a mess of this world in a day, or with only one person contributing, so it may take a while to clean it up and it will certainly take more people.  But, I’m excited.  I’m back to feeling positive and hopeful and excited about adopting new ideas, hearing new perspectives and taking new actions.

I had a conversation with someone about anti-war efforts the other day.  The gist of the conversation was organizing efforts that are taking place in our community and the difficulty of “staying focused” in those activities.  I was saying that I had considered having a “teach-in” night on Iran to demonstrate that they’re not all that different from us, even though they have been portrayed in mainstream media as being some sort of distant, backward society of American-haters.  The response to this shocked me – basically, I was told that the idea had already been pitched in their group and that this person had lobbied NOT to have the event because it would “divert our focus and efforts from the War in Iraq” to a “war that hasn’t happened yet.”  Although I can understand the fear, it seems to me that we need to stop saying no to expanding our educational efforts on issues, whether they “fit” exactly into our vision or not, and start saying yes and then explaining how all of the issues are intertwined.  I believe that these “singular focused efforts” are not really making them more effective, because it lends itself to creating divisions rather than coalitions.  Couldn’t we have had the Iran event and then talked about the similar messages that came out about Iraq prior to our invasion there?  Couldn’t we have tied in the anti-war goals of that group along with the educational efforts on the Iran issue to both solve and current problem and take a step toward preventing another problem? 

It seems to me that we need to start recognizing and welcoming those from other activist groups into ours and tying together the complexities that allow the problems to develop in the first place.  I envision a GIANT wall where we’re putting up pictures/logos from the groups, then drawing lines to other pictures/logos of groups that are working on issues related (even, especially if indirectly) and in the end, we would see that all pictures/logos tie into all other pictures/logos.  Because our world is a system – and any change in that system creates a ripple effect throughout the entirety of the system.  Let’s start making those ripples positive instead of negative.

So, my new goal here is to produce material that both educates and begins to build this big organizational chart of issues that are tied to one another.  As an activist, my goal is to start to learn more about the complexity of relationships between issues and start to produce common ground between activisms.  And, I’m going to go ahead and plan my Iran teach-in and I’m going to go ahead and invite the anti-war group.  If they choose not to see the relationship and take the opportunity to talk to those who are of a common belief, so be it. 

Let the organization chart begin!



Despite all the checks and analysis, an Orange County parking ticket bill would have missed the mark without last-minute intervention.  This article does a good job of pointing out the importance of communication and debate basics to “real-world” policymaking and advocacy.  Things like defining your terms, being as specific as possible about what it is you are advocating so everyone is on the same page, and insuring that you consider the actual impact of your advocacy before going gung-ho to convince others of your point of view…

http://www.ocregister.com/ocregister/homepage/abox/article_1730111.php

In addition, I had an interview at Sac State a few years ago that Barbara O’Connor was involved in – she is a prolific reviewer and commentator on political communication.  It is nice to see an academic connecting their studies to the everyday happenings in our world. 



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.”



et cetera