The Power of Contact
It was made cliché in an old airline commercial, I know, but there really is something to be said for sitting amongst a group of other humans – or across the table from just one – and getting ideas out in the open, in person.
No keyboards, no webcams, no e-mail, no newsgroups, no facebook… you get the idea.
A reminder of the power of contact came when I sat down recently with about 15 other people in a real living room for actual conversation about local issues and how to attack some of the most pressing.
Though many of us had never met and affiliations were never mentioned, we were all DFHs, and (by the end of the discussion at least), we all knew it. Some of us worked within the local Democratic Party, some did not. But something else we all knew is that our city and its quality of life is being screwed by a combination of ol’ boy networking and complicity and/or cluelessness and/or non-caring of certain city staff, depending on the individuals involved.
The electricity in that room was something you just can’t get without breathing-the-same-air contact, and it generated projects – actual work to be done, with actual objectives to connote when the work had been successful. In a word: Activism.
The value of that is – well, it’s invaluable.
There are certain things I turn to again and again to keep what my spouse calls my “little activist self” charged up. One is this place, certainly, and I’m eternally grateful to Jane and everyone at FDL for all they do. Another is the first 11 minutes of the George Carlin CD, “What Am I Doing In New Jersey,” perhaps the most succinct methodical, surgical, exacting discussion of What’s Ailing America ever conceived. Yet another is pretty much any song on a collection called “Phil Ochs In Concert.”
But this thing – real contact with peers who give a shit – trumps them all.
Hang out on the Internet (or the lunchroom at work, or in front of the TV, or listening to the radio) long enough, and it’s easy to get the notion that because our national political process is as useless as a turd in a swimming pool, so are the efforts we might make to change it. Or that those people who once identified with the Democratic Party because of the stands it once took and have continued to stand by it despite the national organization’s cluelessness are themselves clueless. Neither is the case, and Jane has done a great job of keeping that perspective at times when it has been elusive to me.
We all want the national leadership to get a fucking clue, even as they prove day by day that they are disinclined to do so. But we do a great disservice to our own efforts in building whatever will eventually usurp this useless apparatus if, rather than simply cutting the grass, we burn the grassroots.
Yeah, I’m a malcontent, but I’m not a pessimist; my natural skepticism doesn’t mean I lack faith that things can get better. If you can understand that, consider taking one day each week to get out from behind (or maybe from under!) your keyboard and visit the outside. Figure out what’s making your world – not The World, just yours – tick. Pull it apart and put it back together. Look for people in your neighborhood or city or town or township or county who are doing the same thing. You’ll find them in service organizations, neighborhood associations, on college campuses and countless other places, like – believe it or not – your local Democratic party committee, or down at the municipal building, in one capacity or another.
But know this: There are a bunch of them, many more than you think, and they are just as frustrated as you are.
Making contact with them can change your world.
And that, over time, is how we’ll change The World.