[sixties-l] Doing Something (fwd)

From: sixties@lists.village.virginia.edu
Date: Sat Sep 07 2002 - 17:27:24 EDT

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    ---------- Forwarded message ----------
    Date: Fri, 23 Aug 2002 14:15:05 -0700
    From: radtimes <resist@best.com>
    Subject: Doing Something

    Doing Something


    by Geov Parrish

    I came back from vacation a couple weeks ago, and, not surprisingly, the
    news was grim. Wars here, trampled civil liberties there, hard times all
    over the place... The lunatics are not only running our asylum, but
    spending their days either feeding their bloodlusts or trying to remember
    where they put their keys. If these aren't the end times prophesized in
    untold numbers of religions, they're a heckuva warmup act.
    It would be easy, especially for someone like me who's submerged full time
    in this stuff, to get discouraged. But then I read my mail.
    Or rather, I try to put a dent in it. Here's a random sampling from the top
    of the stack sitting next to me at the moment: Ground Zero Center for
    Nonviolent Action;
    Left Business Observer; Women Against Military Madness (Minnesota); the
    Anderson Valley Advertiser (Mendocino County, Calif.); Jobs With Justice;
    Prison Legal News; Nuclear Resister; the New Hampshire Gazette; Dollars and
    Slingshot; Parting the Tide (Los Angeles); Random Lengths (San Pedro); The
    Match!; Homestead Community Land Trust; Portland Alliance; Justice Matters
    (from the Western Prison Project); No More Hiroshimas! (a Japanese Peace
    Group); The Insurgent (Eugene); Oregon Peaceworker; Fairness and Accuracy
    in Reporting; Nonviolent Action (from London); the Catalyst (from the
    Children's Alliance); and, of course, standbys like CounterPunch, Z
    Magazine, the Hightower Lowdown, the Progressive Populist, and even the
    other things in the publications that I write for, like In These Times and
    Eat the State!.
    Four inches down, about two feet to go.
    And that's mostly from this country, there's a lot we can learn from the
    staggering number of extraordinary campaigns and victories for freedom,
    self-determination, and the like being waged all over the world. And that's
    just the print publications. At the moment I have about 2,100 unread
    e-mails still to slog through, from before and during my journeys, which
    might explain why I haven't written back to some of the letters you Kind
    Readers have sent my way. Some of my e-mail is spam, but more of it is
    inspiring, and there's an endless profusion of newsletters, e-zines,
    publications, and web sites, much of it detailing not just what's wrong
    with the world, but what they're doing to make it better. They're lobbying
    and organizing to change public policies; they're also creating
    institutions themselves and not waiting for the resources, community
    participation and mutual support that government and big business should
    help foster, but usually don't. There's housing endeavors, alternative
    media, mediation and conflict resolution, support for domestic violence
    victims, health care for the poor, substance abuse projects like needle
    exchanges and community education (as well as treatment programs), food
    banks, seed banks, sustainable agriculture (and CSA's community supported
    agriculture), barter programs, tutoring programs, workplace organizing,
    credit unions, arts festivals and music jams and poetry orgies, kids'
    activities, day care co-ops.
    And on, and on, and on. People who care, meeting needs that often could be
    met for the cost of one cupholder on some new
    F-35-AX-Fighter-LazerQuestVision Z DestructoJet. While the state extorts
    money from us and hands it to the wealthy, a lot of ordinary folks of
    considerably less means are out there making a difference instead.
    One of the privileges that comes with making a living by immersing myself
    in mostly bad news at our country's higher political levels, but also being
    able to pay attention to my own community, is speaking with, and finding
    out about, all the people doing wonderful and inspiring things at the lower
    levels, in local communities, under the radar. Such folks mostly draw
    benign contempt (or the occasional patronizing human interest story) from
    local TV "news" programs focused on car crashes, sports, salacious
    celebrity sightings, crime, sports, scandal, program promotions, sports,
    and five-day weather forecasts. (Not necessarily in that order, because any
    one story can fall into three or more categories.)
    The actual lived experiences of the friends, neighbors, and co-workers in
    our cities or towns have no more to do with such "news" than do Temptation
    Island, Survivor XIV, or any other storyboarded, "reality"-themed program.
    And the real news might be as close as tonight's meeting in the church
    basement on the next block.
    I do a lot of public speaking, especially in schools, and have also been
    lucky enough to do some speaking tours around the country over the years.
    One of the unavoidable lessons is that there are good people doing
    remarkable things everywhere, even in the most unlikely-seeming of places.
    And in the months since September 11, as the venality, corruption, greed,
    and organized brutality of politicians and CEOs has seemingly snowballed,
    so, it seems, has the response from outraged Americans wanting their
    country back. My mail is way up, including lots of groups and coalitions
    and projects that didn't even exist a year ago. Every time I talk with an
    organizer, author, lecturer, or pundit who's touring, she or he reports the
    same thing: people hungry for information, appalled at the direction of our
    country, and wanting to do something.
    To those folks, many of whom haven't thought of themselves as activists in
    decades, or haven't ever even dreamed of getting involved, I can only offer
    three things. First, you're not alone. Just because it's not on the evening
    news doesn't mean it's not happening, and just because this or that skewed
    polling question shows broad support for or one or another policy atrocity
    doesn't mean it's popular, cast in stone, or can't be stopped.
    Secondly, creating a better world isn't just about stopping things from
    getting worse -- it's also about creating ways for things to get better.
    With the spirit and creativity and sheer wealth of this country, it's
    inexcusable that our government, at virtually every level, is so rarely a
    force for good, but that's because it's not designed to be. If it ever was,
    and the history of nation-states is not encouraging on this point -- it's
    not any more. But there are plenty of other institutions, from radical
    activist groups to church choirs to principled unions to intentional
    communities to nonprofit foundations to community-minded small businesses,
    that are doing it instead.
    And that's the third item. It's doable. We can make a difference,
    individually and working together. For some reason, stories of ordinary
    people organizing to improve our daily lives rarely make headlines, even in
    papers like this one, but especially not in the dailies and TV shows seen
    by millions. Those stories should make headlines, and they're everywhere.
    In this country and in much of the world, our formal political process
    largely has been stolen from us, and is being used to inflict a bit of good
    and a lot of harm. In response, some people are trying to increase the good
    and minimize the harm in those policies; others are trying to take the
    system back from the greedmongers and warheads (or is that warmongers
    and...oh, never mind); and still others are trying to create entirely new
    long-term systems that will work for the ideals our democracy once promised.
    All of these paths are essential, and all of them are making a difference.
    Plus, getting out and doing something is a lot more fun than just grumbling
    at the headlines.
    Those headlines, in these Dark Days of Dubya, are frequently grim. But I'm not.
    I'm an optimist; I could hardly be otherwise. I read my mail.

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