Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Ownership of Change: Part A

(warning: this is another example of what happens when I "participate" in forums and discussions; I go, I watch, I listen, I say maybe one thing and then I go write my arse off)

I attended the Go Local Or Die event/form this evening. Attendance was great... a core of Tacoma bloggers, business owners, artists and other concerned citizens. A lot was said by Jim Diers about what it takes to build a neighborhood and a community (and I do mean a LOT... he really could have talked for a third as long and gotten all his points across). We then got a rundown of the general opinions and positions and panelists, which, quite frankly, can be found by reading the blogs or going and getting a haircut at Embellish, it seems.

I'm sure, considering the attendance, that others will do a better job of pure reportage on events. I want to talk about a single point which made a remarkable number of appearances in the discussion. The question was put to the panelists and to the attendees: what one action or mindset change would you like to see everyone in this room take up? One gentleman spoke up on the litter and general garbage problem, and pointed out that the city is good about handling things when told. His point being that rather than walking by and going "the city should do something about that", it is perfectly reasonable, and indeed our responsibility to call the relevant authorities and give them a chance to do their jobs.

Sue (thanks for the assist, RR) from the 100th Monkey parties then spoke to the lack of racial diversity at the event, something she had noticed at the Monkey events as well, and made the very valid suggestion that the best way to combat this is for the people who notice it to go out of their way to invite people from other groups, be they religious, ethnic, or whatever.

There is a common theme here, wrapped up in a comment from our own Urbanist, panelist Erik Bjornson. In a nutshell, he challenged the room, a room full of people full of ideas for change, full of enlightenment and energy, to make their own change. Gandhi said it best: "Be the change you wish to see in the world." When you see a gap in your community, it becomes your responsibility to fill it. And if you don't take action to fill it, you lose the right to complain about it. You can look at graffiti, or drug dealers, or even something as simple as lack of greenery in your neighborhood, and you can go a couple of roads. You can sit with your friends and neighbors and complain about the uselessness of your government: "Oh, they really need to do something about this/that/the other thing." Or you can take a long hard look and ask the much more important and much more useful question: "What can I do about this?" Any time there is a failing in a society or community, it boils down to one thing: nobody stepped up to fix it. And if we cast our gaze around and see the government or the established community failing to move forward, the only responsible thing to do is step up ourselves.

There are some people who are doing this already, of course. Erik and Morgan believe in the streetcar movement, and are pushing to the forefront on that issue. Kevin saw a need for aggregation and information exchange, and thence came feed tacoma. And obviously the organizers of this event are making strides toward a larger scale of change.

Diers's presentation was chock full of examples of this. A man in Seattle concerned about youth crime and graffiti devising an alternative to criminal sentencing: putting the perpetrators under the supervision of professional artists painting murals on the very warehouse walls that were being tagged. A group of grandmothers who set up a card table on the street corner and played bridge in the middle of the night to keep the drug dealers away. Whole neighborhoods taking advantage of city fund matching programs to build parks, playgrounds, community centers.

Here's what I think: I think everyone has a crusade in them. Everyone has a cause, however large or small. Some people think that their neighborhood needs better streetlights. Some people complain that there is no good coffee in walking distance. Hell, some people just wish there were other folk out there who love to watch Project Runway.

And you know what? Some people call Tacoma Public Utilities. Some people open their own damn coffeeshop. Some people find a few other bloggers and organize a weekly girl's night in. But there are so many other people who would even think of doing these things. They'd stay in their well-lit house at night, drive to Starbucks every morning, and spend their evenings pining for a community of friends that they don't have.

So you all have a bit of change you want to see in your world, on some level. And here's the thing that people need to come to grips with: never think that your cause is too small to be worthwhile. And never believe that your crusade is too vast to be accomplished. And above all: never assume that someone else will pick up where your thoughts leave off. Take ownership of your vision, and then make it reality. Want change? Make change. Cause change. Be change.

If you get the impression that I'm being fairly non-specific and staying away from my own vision for change, well... I am. It's late and I have work tomorrow, and anyway, I doubt people want to read too much of my rant all in one sitting. But stay tuned for slot B. I'll get there soon enough.


ensie said...

Goddamn, man. You're a terrific writer. You should add that to your list of talents. I can't wait to read Part B. Especially since I already know some of what it is.

From the girl who started inviting people over to watch Project Runway...

NineInchNachos said...

Sue Pivetta - 100th monkey lady

Erik said...

Nice post and analysis.

In a nutshell, he challenged the room, a room full of people full of ideas for change, full of enlightenment and energy, to make their own change.

I have heard it stated simply as "leaders lead."

tacomachickadee said...

Nice post izenmaNia! Very well said.

silly punk said...

you make me want to figure out whats going on in my own neck of the woods...i really should join the Leytonstone historical society for one...

Voronoff the GhostCritic said...

great to hear you talking about bringing the change on. I feel the same way; if someone really wants to see something different there is only one thing to do; do that different thing and do it well. keep it up!

Steph said...

Your passion is admirable.

izenmania said...

yeah, well... hopefully I take my own advice and that passion translates into actually doin' stuff.

Voronoff the GhostCritic said...

better to write about than just talk about it,
take it to the streets!!!

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