Thursday, February 19, 2009

Crafting a Free Mind

"Believing in people, the radical has the job of organizing people so that they will have the power and opportunity to best meet each unforeseeable future crisis as they move ahead to realize those values of equality, justice, freedom, the preciousness of human life...Democracy is not an end but the best means toward achieving these values," (Reveille for Radicals xiv).

This passage directly relates to my theories on principles and a principled life. More to the point, I believe those people living within a democratic system not living by these principles are hindering those others they come into contact with to reaching or sustaining their investments in them. Listening to a radio pundit like Rush Limbaugh I have found myself truly angered by his bias. I am not sure whether he intends to ever reach journalistic principles of balanced news but he seems to only give his listeners a constant slant. With such reporting going on (and he certainly is not the only media host with a slant), the consumer must be even more adept at finding the truth within all the sound bytes and techniques to keep you tuned in. The question is: how can consumers become more informed and thereby find an opinion of their own, without resorting to the news outlets with a political bend?
Our democracy depends on informed citizenry. Thus, we need people capable of reaching and maintaining ab 'informed' status and being capable of acting based on it. This is, of course, the free mind we were granted at birth. What we must all rely upon and really cherish is our free minds and look forward to developing our minds into a nourished home for millions upon millions of strange and beautiful ideas.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Building cultural capacity

Cultural Capacity or Cultural sustainability is defined by Jennings and Newman as:
"Creating a political and community culture that sustains itself in such a way that active citizen participation is seen as an ever-present feature of the policy process," (161). Of course, there is some foundational work that must be done before a community has the potential, skill set, and sustainable network to apply programs of pressure or even social uplift to any other population. This process is far harder than it sounds because it requires that every member of active communities be educated and empowered. More, if a community is organized around focus points, then once those focus points are either deemed solved or insolvable the organization will collapse. If you ask why, why wouldn't the organization collapse? What holds communities of people together? More to the point, what binds people and maximizes their effectiveness as political and social players? The connections made between people bind them; not necessarily single-issues like healthcare, war, or the economy. Thus, community organizations working to solve systemic problems within the community and abroad must first establish the community. They must establish a strong cultural network within the organization. The question then becomes how do we create strong cultural foundations that can act as jumpoffs for future actions?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The intertwined roots of consumption and freedom

"Empowerment is important not just because it is a human right, but also because the issues of sustainability are far too complex and difficult to resolve without involving as many different views as possible in a creative strategic conversation. Aristotle called this 'second-road thinking', based on the insight that complex problems require voices of difference," (Jennings 157).

Firstly, we must analyze the implications of empowerment being a human right. If empowerment is a human right, what kinds of acts violate such a right? What exactly is an empowered person? What is an empowered community?

Empowerment is the life blood of community engagement. Turning a numbed and depressed population of people into a community of artists, lovers, and workers, demanding inclusion and influence, the community becomes more and more like a family. With goals of beauty and love, members strive to better understand the interconnections between their environment and the choices they make. Freedom is not merely a product but a process of questioning just how lovingly that "invisible hand" is guiding you to your destination. As a matter of fact, the presence of the "market" in all of our lives is too obvious to ignore. The market can be seen on the streets, in just about every medium through which information is conveyed, and in most businesses. The "hand of the market" now reaches well beyond the marketplace. Or perhaps, the marketplace now extends into our most private places. I do not hope to come to some conclusion on the value of this market's reach. I am only trying to investigate the consequences of such a vast network of money-making ventures. After all, above all else we must recognize that we are always potential consumers and if that consumer behavior can be tapped or channeled in any way, the proper authorities will do their best not to miss an opportunity.

So, when we are considering the intersections of themes such as: freedom, empowerment, and consumption, we must recognize the terrible impacts of capitalism (or more tangibly: seeking to profit) on a person while seeking freedom or empowerment. If a person must buy or sell a product in order to be free, then that person has only moved that much deeper into disempowerment. If, for instance, I imagine freedom to be made of consumer goods (house, car, pool, etc.) then I am actually seeking the feeling I attribute to that consumer good.

I do not believe this kind of consumer-logic must be the keystone of a consumer society. But, I do believe conversations inviting consumers to critically analyze their behaviors must be held. More, in order to create a system fostering these kinds of conversations, we must have organizations based on community empowerment with social aspects infused. Certainly not contrived, but the community must feel more like a family than anything else. Otherwise, the first sign of troubled conversation will break the organization and there will be no future.

The goal is to have a group of people who feel comfortable enough talking about the personal and social implications of their lives. How did it feel when Barack Obama was sworn in as the first black president? How did it feel the next day when racism still existed?

Obviously rhetorical, I merely intend to demonstrate that issues pop up in our lives that we rarely acknowledge; we might even go as far as denying them all together. Instead we must pull these threads of thought out from the back of the mind to the forefront and deconstruct them. Without such a process, such threads develop into straightjackets holding as mental prisoners. This is as good as hell and we might as well just wait until some well-meaning entrepreuner tries selling us the walls to our cell.