Changing Things One Locality At A Time


imageThis is another off-topic post, though this one is likely to cause less of a stir. Instead of religion, I’m talking politics. How is this less controversial? Simple, I’m not taking sides, talking about a specific issue, or mentioning atheists.

That all said, if you only like to read my writings about the world of the Information Professional, just move on now.

Still here? Good, let’s proceed.

Where is Henry Clay?

The other day, I was sitting with a group of friends. Living in DC, we are subjected to more news about our dysfunctional government than other cities. The reason is simple…The Federal government is the largest employer and has a say in the running of the District of Columbia.

We are tired of hearing about the fighting. Neither side appears willing to compromise on any issue of substance. They even seem to disagree on items that should be simple, like transportation or jobs. Both sides seem willing to concede a minor point here or there, but too many of the key issues are considered untouchable.

Divisions in politics aren’t new. In the first half of the 1800s, it was Federalism versus States Rights which usually manifested as the North versus the South. There was a lot of heat and anger. There was also the ability to compromise.

The Missouri Compromise, the end of the Nullification Crisis, and the Compromise of 1850 are big ones from that time period. All were compromises by both sides of the issue. Those situations gave each side something they wanted, maintained the balance of power, and allowed each side to save face.

While this is a simplification of history (go read about them), the facts are simple. Sides that were diametrically opposed were able to arrive at a solution that helped our country move forward. The Compromise of 1850 is credited with delaying the Civil War for 10 years.

Why isn’t that happening now?

Look in the Mirror

It is easy to say that there is no Henry Clay to broker the needed compromise. The reality is that it is our fault.

Most politicians start working towards reelection on day 1 of their term. The reasons are many, but one is the 24-hour news cycle. Everything is captured and played back. Politicians seem to care more about how they look in the press than doing what is best for the country.

Politicians are what we’ve made them. People may complain about biased news coverage. It is our fault as stations focus on ratings. They put on the air the things people want to watch, even if that means comparing Presidents to Communists or Hitler. That is what they will do for ratings.

Politicians play into it and there is nobody to blame but ourselves. These same news channels make us angry and our elected officials reflect that anger.

When the sharing of a Golf game can cause a ruckus, there is a problem in this country.

Start Local

If we want representatives that represent values that are worth emulating, we need to exhibit those values. We need to get out of our neighborhoods and help our communities.

  • I can help at my kids’ school, but wouldn’t it be better to help a school struggling to make ends meet?
  • We can give money to a school, but wouldn’t it mean more to go out and fix the school up?
  • We can build a playground, but wouldn’t it be better to create programs that get kids in safe, constructive activities every day for years?
  • We can donate food, but wouldn’t it be better if we went to the shelter and help teach skills that help them get a job?
  • You can “Adopt-a-Mile”, but isn’t it better to find the messiest parts of the city and go were help is most needed?

The thing is, there are lots of things that we can do to help. Look for things that have longer lasting impacts. Look beyond your neighborhood and gaze out over the city. Think about a community that helps each other instead of rushing home to catch the next episode of Mad Men.

In a world such as this, what kind of people would rise to prominence? When there is trust and faith in your fellow man, what kind of attitude will the politicians take to their jobs.

Can we transform those politicians into leaders that aren’t worried about the next election or sound bite? Not overnight, but over time.

Joseph de Maistre once said, “Every nation gets the government it deserves.” Can we work to deserve better?

It starts local. From there we can take it national.

2 thoughts on “Changing Things One Locality At A Time

  1. Les says:

    Well said. I agree with all of your views, for me though the hardest part is dealing with the changed perception – I am amazed at the number of people who have plenty to say about how great t was in our community when they were growing up, and lament the fact that it has changed, but try to mobilise a group of them to turn up on one day a year to clean up the village and they are all busy!
    It is hard to stay motivated when your community efforts are looked down on by so many in modern society as being beneath them.

    I believe that in many ways what we have now in terms of political leadership sadly reflects modern “values” which I see as:
    – get ahead at all costs
    – every person for themselves
    – what’s in it for me
    – fame

    This last point fascinates me, and it links to your points on 24 hour news and broadcasters showing what people will watch, in a survey (http://www.rte.ie/radio1/fame/1094528.html) of young Irish teenagers, 80% of girls and 85% of boys stated that they wanted to be famous – they were not particularly bothered how (sports / acting / reality TV), so why not politics!

    What is interesting is that you are writing this in America, and I am responding in Ireland – completely different countries but remarkably similar problems.
    Les

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    • Les, thanks for your comment. The 24-hour news cycle impacts everyone. I was actually talking to someone in England the other week and we each made some comment about the different situations in our countries. We agreed that all countries are broken, always have been. The difference is in the how and the degree.

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