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!


I will state outright that I am an avowed peacenik.  I have a hard time believing that violent force is justified (or successful) in the vast majority of international incidents.  But, I know that 9/11 has made that a sometimes seemingly indefensible position.  I will say that if we KNEW for certain that the planes were headed for buildings, than perhaps I would support destroying the planes before they destroyed the buildings, but we didn’t have that choice.  And we certainly could not prove the connections between many of the places we bombed and the 9/11 attacks (or possible future attacks).  Self-defense is important and justified, but at what point do we get to claim self-defense without allowing others that same benefit?  So, I have a hard time seeing military action as justifiable in most instances, but I also try to understand where those who do support military action are coming from.  And sometimes they have pretty good (and realistic verses my more idealistic) points to make. 

But, I just read at about the recent Republican debates and the candidates’ responses to the question of preemptive NUCLEAR attack against Iran if they fail to fall in line with our requests in their nuclear weapons development.  Now, even if I ignore the total hypocrisy of saying, “let’s nuke ’em so they don’t get a nuke,” I can not possibly understand someone saying that using nuclear weapons in the Middle East is a good (and justifiable) idea.  But, I guess four of the candidates came straight out and said it.  A related blog post by William M. Arkin at gives direct quotes from those candidates and a post-debate interview of Fred Thompson (of Law and Order fame – why doesn’t Jack run instead?!?!?) had him agreeing.  The remaining six candidates had the chance to speak up on the issue following the direct questioning, but only one, Ron Paul, chose to speak out against the use of preemptive attacks.  The former Libertarian candidate responded to a question from the audience on moral issues faced by our society by saying that he saw the viewpoint of the others as a moral issue.  I’m not Republican and I’m not really Libertarian (although I sometimes find myself leaning that way, especially with our current government), but this is a guy I definitely need to look at further. 

I have long been disappointed in the political debates that happen in our system.  As an instructor of argumentation and communication and a coach of intercollegiate debate, these debates often make me cringe.  So, I have to admit that I don’t tune in to the vast majority of debates, choosing instead to follow up on them through the media and blog coverage.  It is interesting that it was incredibly difficult to locate any comments on these answers in the mainstream media. and the World Socialists were the primary reactions I saw, with the blog from the writer giving some coverage to it.  But, I can’t figure out if this is because the media is trying to cover up the candidates true positions or if they view this as an issue that just is not that controversial.  Could it be that the possibility of using nuclear weapons in retaliation, but especially PRE-EMPTIVELY, is not controversial?!?! 

What do you think?  Is using nuclear weapons, even in a “tactical” and “limited” attack a-okay in today’s international context?  If you think it is controversial, than why not more coverage of these responses in the mainstream media? 

et cetera