Sunday, November 8, 2009

letters to a young activist

I am currently reading a book called "letters to a young activist" by Todd Gitlin. It is one of many books in a series called The Art of Mentoring. Todd Gitlin is one of the founding fathers of "the New Left," and was the President of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). It is fascinating to read for a variety of reasons. One reason is my interest in learning about the philosophies behind ideologies I oppose, like collectivism. Another reason is that I am searching for tips. This man was part of quite a few successful movements and I believe I can learn from him.

Two ideas stand out to me thus far.

The first is his effort to inspire young activists to stay strong in the face of adversity, and to remain hopeful and committed. I think this kind of motivation could apply to anyone pursuing any goal, but it is especially relevant to those of us that seek to affect the direction of public policy, and ultimately the direction of society, i.e. the future. He reminds the young activist to find joy in their work.
In other words, when you act politically, act playfully too - not out of sheer contrariness but out of free delight. Duty requires reason - because you don't want your action to interfere with your goals - but duty is not condemned to bleakness. Duty leaves room for joyful initiative. Just because you let the dark side of the world into your nervous system doesn't mean that you have to surrender to gloom, which in any case is never as justified as it thinks. Let the poseurs sneer at the activists, calling them humorless while wearing humorless smirks - they don't know what they're missing.

I cannot think of a better bit of advice to give to Tea Partiers around the nation. Let people call you a tea bagger. Who cares? I certainly don't. Let the detractors roll around in their pig pens of overtly biased analysis and cynical, childish commentary. Gitlin is right, you do not need to surrender to gloom, ever. Take pride in your efforts to have an effect on society, and dammit, have fun while you are doing it.

Strength and joy can combat sneers and ignorant derisiveness any day of the week.

Well done to everyone who has fought so hard against the 2,000+ page monster of a bill, knowing that the bill does not contain "reform," but instead contains payoffs and paybacks and transformational policies that only very few desire.

There is still hope, so don't worry.

I'll discuss the second main idea tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. Just think what a disaster this would be if we had not all stood up and pushed back. I was not politically active outside of voting. I have never been overly afraid of our country moving to socialism or communism like I am now. So I am pushing back for the first time. I think there are many people like me and we are not going to take it. The Republicans can think this going to benefit them but they are wrong too. We want America. We want opportunity for everybody. To work, to be safe, to succeed and fail. We are traditonal, peaceful Americans and we want our country back. And we will get it back. We have only begun to fight. Within the law and within the electoral process.


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