Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Carnival of the Liberals

BogsBlog , an excellent source for political commentary, and host of this Carnival of the Liberals included a post from this very blog. Its a diverse and well chosen edition of the Carnival, so be sure and check it out.

Host Pete Bogs suggests I might have a response for Spitfire by Lill Hawkins . Her contribution to the Carnival describes her frustration with those who, like her son, feel uninspired and unable to change the world.

She responds with the plain facts that explicitly changing the world is possible. Once there were no spittoons, until people decided they'd had enough of spit everywhere. We could add many, many cases of a few dedicated individuals who were able to convince and cajole an apathetic populace to change their ways. It'd be worth collecting a compilation of such stories, if it weren't that there are so many.

The myth is not that one person can change the world - the myth is that she can't.

But as Lill points out, the perception remains that one against the world is old-fashioned and too difficult to be worthwhile. How can social activists deal with that perception?

I think this is a question important enough that it deserves not an answer, but a conversation. I have a couple ideas to get the ball rolling. One I'm stealing from Alexis de Tocqueville. He says that people need to have particular skills and habits to participate in civic life. And these skills and habits must be learned and taught. And futhermore, they are often learned through other kinds of associations. A person used to working with others in one kind of association, like a sports team, a club, or something else, will be ready to bring those tools to the table when confronted with problems that require civic participation and association. Soccer on saturday mornings may be better for our democracy than we realize.

Second, I think people can be drawn to or pushed away from civic participation by the culture of civic participation. If its appealing, fun, entertaining, and sociable to participate in the civic life of a community, maybe people will be more likely to do so. We found at college that the best way to get students to our political discussion was to make them fun. And sometimes, they liked us enough to come back to the boring ones!

There are many sides to these issues, so I hope you'll read the sources: the Carnival of Liberals and Lill Hawkins, and continue the discussion.

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