This column speaks of politics, but not about parties, or issues, or positions. Rather, it is about process. This relates, also, to the previous two posts. Regardless of your ideology, I’d encourage you to read on, and at least consider what follows.
Change in any long term habit is difficult.
I doubt there would be much disagreement with that statement.
People who appear to succeed in being change-agents have managed to get themselves in a position of sufficient power to move their followers (i.e. employees, subjects, etc) along. This can happen at any level, from the tiniest group to the largest. But, as they all come to learn, temporary power does not have permanence. Sooner or later they become irrelevant, hopefully not doing too much damage in the process of controlling outcomes.
Remembering August 28, 1963, and looking back at that awe-inspiring (or terrifying) event 50 years later, gives an opportunity to dust off a failed proposal I made in September, 2008. My proposal was met with yawns, then – at least I saw no perceptible results amongst the several hundred who I shared the proposal with, and they were mostly “birds of a feather”.
My “campaign” began in the Spring of 2007. I was President of an umbrella Peace and Justice organization which had about 70 member organizations even then. The organization still exists, and I’m still a member of it.
In April of 2007, I convened an ad hoc group of people I knew to meet and simply converse about the possibility of changing the way we promoted change (demonstrations, etc.) to something potentially more productive. Both energy and effectiveness were, in my judgement, flagging.
Ultimately, perhaps 15 folks showed up to talk, and we had a good conversation.
But when we left the room, it ended: a typical kind of scenario. As I say, change is difficult.
A year later, the spring of 2008, out of office, but still concerned about our drift towards irrelevancy, I thought up an experiment, which proposed to change how we might achieve a different result by using different means. Once again, I had sufficient folks to try the experiment, which, again, failed. I called it “each one, reach two”.
In September, 2008, about the time the Republican National Convention ended, I published the “failed proposal” I describe above. It remains permanently on the web, and you can find it by putting the words “Uncomfortable Essays” in the Search Box at my blogsite, Outside the Walls.org/blog. There, you’ll be re-directed to March 8, 2011. Click the link in the 3rd line, and read pages 3-7 about my failed idea. (There are two other references there. I also wrote about the idea on March 26, 2013.)
Succinctly, if you’re not interested in going to the links: what used to work, what we used to call “organizing”, doesn’t work as well as it used to for all sorts of reasons most every reader could recite. People and technology are different. What worked in my day, doesn’t work as well today.
But, because the old rules are what we understand, that is our first default position: to do things as we always did them. Power people are as susceptible as the rest, perhaps even more susceptible to ‘staying the course’. After all, what they did, used to work. …they “used to work”.
“Each one, reach two” was my attempt to move a little bit towards what I would call the strategy (or is it “tactic”?) of networking: “each one, reach two”.
It has awesome potential.
But it seems too slow, and (perhaps worst) it can careen out of control, for the initiator, who often wants to control the final outcome.
Why not give it a try at the beginning of these next 50 years?