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Tue Oct 21, 2014, 05:42 PM

1984

Get up, stand up, stand up for your right
Get up, stand up, don't give up the fight
Get up, stand up. Life is your right
So we can't give up the fight
-- Peter Tosh


In the 1980s, there was a general depression among members of the Democratic Left. Despite the advances that appeared to have been achieved in the late 1960s and ‘70s -- which included Richard Nixon’s being forced to resign the presidency -- the election of Ronald Reagan marked a low point in American society. Image became more influential than substance. And so while the Reagan administration was as corrupt as any in our nation’s history, the public -- hypnotized by fireworks, flags, and red, white and blue balloons -- would re-elect the Gipper in 1984.

I was one of those “Mourning in America” ….working to prevent the tides of reaganomics and the immoral majority. There were, not surprisingly, a large number of people who had become convinced that their votes were meaningless. Indeed, they had concluded that participating in electoral politics was worse than simply wasting the time taken by entering the voting booth: it was investing in a scam that created the image of democracy, while robbing it of substance.

I respectfully disagreed then, just as I do today.

I’ve always believed the old saying that “all politics are local.” Grass roots activism is the surest place to find democracy. Real change can only be instituted from the bottom up. More, “democracy” isn’t a goal to be achieved, and then enjoyed. Rather, it is constant struggle, a mind-set that translates into on-going action.

My friends and I started with school board elections. A couple of local women, both registered democrats, were running for seats on a board in an overwhelmingly republican town. At the time, people did not have to be registered voters to cast a ballot in a school board election. They merely had to be at least 18, and a resident of the town for at least ninety days. This meant that there was a reservoir of potential voters that normally did not partyicipate in the school board elections.

We focused on getting two general groups to vote: the town’s young adults, and the inhabitants of low-income neighborhoods. To be sure people actually voted, we set up car pools. By the third time we brought a large group into the school to vote, the powers-that-be began to panic. They knew that our two candidates would win. And even though they would maintain a 5 to 2 majority to control the board, the following year could very well mean we would take a 4 to 3 lead.

When people get anxious that way, they often do stupid things. So it was in this case. School officials began “campaigning” in front of the desk, near the voting booth. Then, they attempted -- without success -- to prevent our people from voting. A few days later, the Center for Constitutional Rights put them on notice that they had violated the law. But, because both of our candidates won, we did not need to take it further.

When any group, especially a “minority,” decides an election, others take notice. This was the case when our group began registering both young adults and those from low-income neighborhoods. In one of the three area counties, the board of elections attempted to discourage our efforts. We did not become discouraged -- quite the opposite. As Minister Malcolm X often said, when you make your opposition squeal, you know that you are doing the right thing. Soon, they began to ignore the completed forms we were mailing in. A letter from the ACLU proved useful in encouraging them to do their jobs correctly.

The effort to discourage people from participating in election contests has a long history in our country. Neither of these cases that I spoke of were big, in terms of state or national influence. Yet they were important in the context of the struggle to vote. They are part of the program, currently headed by republicans at state levels, to deny basic rights to those they believe should not have a say in government. And it’s not just non-white people, or females. It’s young people, especially college students, and poor people, no matter what color or sex they happen to be.

These two cases also illustrate a few very important factors when it comes to elections. First, it is essential that changes begin at that grass roots level. That’s the only foundation upon which to build a real movement. And real movements produce real leadership from within their ranks -- something that the state and national committees cannot currently do, even if they wanted to.

Second, a real movement to bring about change -- to institute social justice -- has to include both young adults and the poor. These are human resources that corporate partiers purposefully marginalize. It’s not a coincidence that, in general, it has been only the black community that has invested in organizing and registering the young and the poor. The Hispanic community appears to be prepared to do much the same. This dynamic alone makes the Washington elite take notice of them.

In closing, I’ll advocate that everyone vote in this election. I’m not concerned if you vote for only democratic candidates, or if you vote what some might consider a protest ballot. Just vote as your conscience dictates. Vote knowing that there are forces at play that would deny you the right to vote, if they can. Vote as a citizen who takes the responsibilities of citizenship seriously.

And then, in 2015, let’s work together, to organize and register those on society’s margins. It’s taken a long time for our country to become as dysfunctional as it currently is; it will take a long time, and a lot of hard work, to turn things around. But we can, and must, do so. Voting in November is just a first step.

Thank you,
H2O Man

49 replies, 3077 views

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Arrow 49 replies Author Time Post
Reply 1984 (Original post)
H2O Man Oct 2014 OP
malthaussen Oct 2014 #1
H2O Man Oct 2014 #14
malthaussen Oct 2014 #23
rhett o rick Oct 2014 #2
H2O Man Oct 2014 #15
Martin Eden Oct 2014 #3
H2O Man Oct 2014 #18
malthaussen Oct 2014 #24
Bluenorthwest Oct 2014 #4
H2O Man Oct 2014 #19
malthaussen Oct 2014 #25
Octafish Oct 2014 #5
H2O Man Oct 2014 #20
pscot Oct 2014 #6
H2O Man Oct 2014 #21
JEB Oct 2014 #7
H2O Man Oct 2014 #26
herding cats Oct 2014 #8
H2O Man Oct 2014 #27
cry baby Oct 2014 #9
H2O Man Oct 2014 #28
Spitfire of ATJ Oct 2014 #10
H2O Man Oct 2014 #30
Spitfire of ATJ Oct 2014 #42
FairWinds Oct 2014 #11
H2O Man Oct 2014 #31
Solly Mack Oct 2014 #12
H2O Man Oct 2014 #32
Scuba Oct 2014 #13
H2O Man Oct 2014 #33
G_j Oct 2014 #16
H2O Man Oct 2014 #34
G_j Oct 2014 #41
CanSocDem Oct 2014 #17
H2O Man Oct 2014 #35
Enthusiast Oct 2014 #22
H2O Man Oct 2014 #36
sabrina 1 Oct 2014 #29
H2O Man Oct 2014 #37
sabrina 1 Oct 2014 #39
H2O Man Oct 2014 #46
sabrina 1 Oct 2014 #47
Chathamization Oct 2014 #48
malaise Oct 2014 #38
H2O Man Oct 2014 #43
malaise Oct 2014 #44
hunter Oct 2014 #40
H2O Man Oct 2014 #45
Chathamization Oct 2014 #49

Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Tue Oct 21, 2014, 05:48 PM

1. A random thought

I wonder how much 60 hour weeks and two-paycheck families contribute to the lack of enthusiasm and ability to dedicate the necessary effort to grass roots politics? To some extent, political advocacy might seem a luxury item, however vital it is in fact to the welfare of the community. I know a lot of people who get five hours of sleep a night and spend the rest of the day running to keep in the same place. Interesting how that works.

-- Mal

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Response to malthaussen (Reply #1)

Wed Oct 22, 2014, 08:17 AM

14. I agree.

Back in the 1980s, it was rare for me to work at one full-time job. I usual did 1.5, and often 2 full-time jobs. But I did not have job stress, or anxiety about making ends meet. That stress is likely the factor that keeps people exhausted, and hence disconnected from politics.

Of course, I was a young man back then. No doubt the physical toll it takes on older people is also a big factor. Back then, I could finish an 18-hour work day, and go to the gym and spar 12 rounds with top boxers. The chances of me being able to work two jobs now is less than my chances of competing in the ring. (grin)

Thank you for raising a valid and important point.

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Response to H2O Man (Reply #14)

Wed Oct 22, 2014, 11:13 AM

23. Of course, my pugilistic friend

(if I may so presume)... I think the possibility exists that you have even more toughness and stamina than the average, which may have helped out in those salad days.

Another contributor to stress now that didn't exist then, is the continual bombardment of "we're all gonna die" messages from our leadership, our ministers, and our media. The treadmill has been cranked up several notches from 40-50 years ago.

-- Mal

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Tue Oct 21, 2014, 06:30 PM

2. k&r. Thanks for posting. nm

 

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Response to rhett o rick (Reply #2)

Wed Oct 22, 2014, 08:18 AM

15. Thank you.

Much appreciated.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Tue Oct 21, 2014, 06:47 PM

3. K&R for an excellent, and very relevant post!

You have articulated the best means for implementing much-needed change.

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Response to Martin Eden (Reply #3)

Wed Oct 22, 2014, 10:02 AM

18. Thank you.

There was a time when this type of conversation was a big part of the Democratic Underground. Although it is not that way in recent times, that could change. We do have the option of using this forum as a vehicle for helping people organize in their local area.

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Response to H2O Man (Reply #18)

Wed Oct 22, 2014, 11:14 AM

24. Speaking of which...

... I guess the local Party machinery declined your generous offer to run as the opposition candidate to the GOP incumbent?

-- Mal

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Tue Oct 21, 2014, 07:18 PM

4. Harvey Milk:

 

“Let's make no mistake about this: The American Dream starts with the neighborhoods. If we wish to rebuild our cities, we must first rebuild our neighborhoods. And to do that, we must understand that the quality of life is more important than the standard of living. To sit on the front steps--whether it's a veranda in a small town or a concrete stoop in a big city--and to talk to our neighborhoods is infinitely more important than to huddle on the living-room lounger and watch a make-believe world in not-quite living color."

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Response to Bluenorthwest (Reply #4)

Wed Oct 22, 2014, 10:03 AM

19. Perfect.

Great quote. Thank you.

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Response to Bluenorthwest (Reply #4)

Wed Oct 22, 2014, 11:17 AM

25. Yeah, and look what happened to Harvey.

A good and progressive politician (we have so few!), gunned down with justice denied by Twinkies. It is a perfect parable of our times.

-- Mal

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Tue Oct 21, 2014, 07:25 PM

5. Some people t'ink: Great God will come from the sky.

Take away everything. And make everybody feel high.
But if you know what life is worth
You would look for yours on earth
And now you see the light
You stand up for your right, yeah!



You are so correct, H20 Man. We the People are masters of our destiny -- like peace breaking out, if We want it. The thing many don't see, but feel is: There's an Invisible Hand tilting the playing field for the benefit of the wealthy like no time since before the Weimar Republic. Like Lysol and bacteria, We've tried voting the poltroons out, yet they remain entrenched and multiply. Only by organizing and mobilizing can we beat the disease -- what older DUers know as the Good Fight. Thank you for standing up and being a leader in that war.

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Response to Octafish (Reply #5)

Wed Oct 22, 2014, 10:42 AM

20. There's a great quote

from Senator Eugene McCarthy, from about 1965, in which he compares republicans to bacteria: there's not a lot of life to be found in them, yet they are very difficult to kill.

The republicans have mutated over the years since, of course, and pose an even greater threat to the health and well-being of our country. In order to combat that threat, we need to change the tactics that we have been using in recent years.

(On a personal note, while I appreciate you kindness, I am fully aware that I'm not a "leader." Not a follower, either. I try to think for myself, which is what everyone should do.)

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Tue Oct 21, 2014, 07:31 PM

6. This is the best thing I've read today.

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Response to pscot (Reply #6)

Wed Oct 22, 2014, 10:43 AM

21. Well, thank you!

Much appreciated!

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Tue Oct 21, 2014, 07:40 PM

7. K&R

 

I'm voting and I'm talking to my neighbors.

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Response to JEB (Reply #7)

Wed Oct 22, 2014, 06:07 PM

26. Great!

Thank you for that. It's exactly what is needed.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Tue Oct 21, 2014, 07:44 PM

8. An excellent essay

Even at times when I don't agree with your words (this is not one of those times) one hundred percent, they always make me stop and reflect on them. I appreciate what you do.

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Response to herding cats (Reply #8)

Wed Oct 22, 2014, 06:10 PM

27. Very good!

I always liked a saying of Malcolm X's: any time two people think just alike, it means only one of them is thinking.

I can't imagine anyone agreeing with me on everything -- heck, I disagree with myself fairly often. (My first wife said that I could start an argument in an empty room. I disagreed with her, of course.)

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Tue Oct 21, 2014, 08:07 PM

9. I am always glad to see posts of yours. They are positive and empowering.

And I thank you, sir, for being a strong and positive influence.

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Response to cry baby (Reply #9)

Wed Oct 22, 2014, 06:13 PM

28. Thank you very much!

That's nice of you to say. And, I'll admit, I do try hard to get things accomplished. Although I do not have any special talents, I believe that we need more reliable work horses today, than race horses that we can't depend upon. There's a great deal of hard work that needs our immediate attention.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Tue Oct 21, 2014, 08:09 PM

10. Michael Moore pointed out the shift when he said talking about politics is now "cool".

 

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Response to Spitfire of ATJ (Reply #10)

Wed Oct 22, 2014, 08:35 PM

30. Right.

I'm hugely impressed by the youth today. They have a healthy interest in the social-political world around them, and a far more insightful and mature understanding of our culture than previous generations had. I think that the 1960s were a premonition, and this generation will bring us much closer to the mountain top. (I do wish they made more of an effort to vote in mid-term elections!)

Yeah, politics is cool again!

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Response to H2O Man (Reply #30)

Thu Oct 23, 2014, 12:08 AM

42. The new crop of voters know the Republicans as the guys who lied is into a war for fun and profit.

 

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Tue Oct 21, 2014, 08:44 PM

11. If our votes did not matter . .

 

the right would not work so hard to prevent them.

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Response to FairWinds (Reply #11)

Wed Oct 22, 2014, 08:36 PM

31. Key point.

In one sentence, you made the point I was trying to make! Talk about hitting the nail on the head!

Thank you.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Tue Oct 21, 2014, 08:50 PM

12. K&R

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Response to Solly Mack (Reply #12)

Wed Oct 22, 2014, 08:36 PM

32. Thanks!

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Wed Oct 22, 2014, 06:30 AM

13. "... changes begin at that grass roots level." Yeppers. Great essay H2O Man, thanks.

 

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Response to Scuba (Reply #13)

Wed Oct 22, 2014, 08:37 PM

33. Thank you.

I'm glad that you enjoyed my essay.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Wed Oct 22, 2014, 08:28 AM

16. thank you

terrific post!

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Response to G_j (Reply #16)

Wed Oct 22, 2014, 08:39 PM

34. Thanks!

I wrote it, then debated posting it -- one never knows what will get attention, versus what will be ignored, these days. I'm glad that people like you read and enjoyed what I wrote!

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Response to H2O Man (Reply #34)

Wed Oct 22, 2014, 10:26 PM

41. I'd frame this one

it's perfect for this time.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Wed Oct 22, 2014, 09:06 AM

17. Well said.

 



This is a great primer on re-taking the government. As in the old adage: Think Globally, Act locally.

k&r



.

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Response to CanSocDem (Reply #17)

Wed Oct 22, 2014, 08:41 PM

35. "Think globally, act locallly."

That's so accurate. Thank you!

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Wed Oct 22, 2014, 10:49 AM

22. Kicked and recommended a whole bunch!

Right on, H2O Man.

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Response to Enthusiast (Reply #22)

Wed Oct 22, 2014, 08:41 PM

36. Thank you!

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Wed Oct 22, 2014, 06:29 PM

29. I am far more interested in our local elections now, than I used to be. I used to focus on the

national elections. The 'us' v 'them' 'our team' v 'their team' stuff. But now we've seen it all play out at that national level, I realize finally that it is our fault for not BUILDING the blocks that might have made a difference at that national level.

So this election season, I am way, way more interested for the first time, I hate to admit, in what happens right here in our county/state and hoping we can begin the process of producing candidates who, IF, they eventually get to DC, will never become tools of Corporate America.

It's going to be a long, long process, and we've started a bit late, but better late than never. One thing I know, the lack of faith in the system voters now have is REAL. And those who try to dismiss it, are not to be trusted imho.

Thanks for the OP. It has become clear that we have been wrong to think that just voting in national elections was enough. Which we have now learned.

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Response to sabrina 1 (Reply #29)

Wed Oct 22, 2014, 08:48 PM

37. Right.

I think that voting in the national elections is the minimum that citizens have as a responsibility. It's those local elections that create a pool from which we can best select candidates for the next higher level of office. And on and on.

That is, I believe, distinct from the republicans. Although they chose from a pool at local levels, to move people up the ladder, they look for the exact opposite "qualifications" that we value. Can a person lie with a straight face? Do harm to others without conscience? If so, they have a future with the republican party.

Even as democrats, we have to take these decisions out of the hands of party bosses (and corporate sponsors). We can start the process today.

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Response to H2O Man (Reply #37)

Wed Oct 22, 2014, 09:40 PM

39. 'We can take these decisions out of the hands of the party bosses'

Yes, we can!

The Republicans did realize the importance of local elections, including school boards etc decades ago. It took them a while, and as you said, their motives were anything but 'good for the country', but that realization led to their control of the House during the Clinton years and eventually to the disaster of the Bush/Cheney years and to where we are today. The Dems, rather than fight them on Corporate money, decided to join them and compete for that money, and we are where we are. So in the end, it is now up to the people.

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Response to sabrina 1 (Reply #39)

Thu Oct 23, 2014, 11:35 AM

46. Right.

The Goldwater republicans began rebuilding from the base after the 1964 election. The "moral majority" types took it a step further, in the late 1970s and early '80s, by targeting school boards.

I remember, about a decades ago on this forum, debating a fellow who sincerely believed that there was no connection between school board contests and other elections for office. His ignorance -- and I say that without malice -- was an accurate measure of how little many people understand about the world of politics. The tension between the right wing republicans and public education (including teachers unions) shows just how important having ethical people on school boards really is.

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Response to H2O Man (Reply #46)

Thu Oct 23, 2014, 01:22 PM

47. We are distracted by the coverage of the 'big elections'. So many of us did overlook

the importance of, as you said before, 'building a pool' of future candidates and a solid base of good candidates in every position. I admit to being one of those who was so frantic to get rid of the Bush gang of criminals, all my efforts were directed towards that.

Now, I see how important it is to start building from the ground up, our Party is badly in need of a new foundation imho.

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Response to sabrina 1 (Reply #29)

Thu Oct 23, 2014, 02:09 PM

48. Yes, exactly. Taking back the party at the local level is extremely important. We do not have to sit

back and accept bad candidates and a bad leadership. The problem is, most people ignore local politics entirely, and of the few who pay attention to local races, many do so for the wrong reasons. For example, the upcoming election is here is going to be pretty important, but just about no one I talk to (outside of local activists) is paying attention. We saw the same thing with the primary in April. People have to start to understand that politics isn’t just something you watch, it’s something you’re actively involved with the results reflecting your choices (the choice for many being don’t pay attention and don’t vote).

There’s a ton of stuff that can be done at the local level – higher minimum wages, universal healthcare, infrastructure, free college education, fighting climate change, etc.(and these things are being done in some jurisdictions). And like you said, a strong local structure is what is needed for national change.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Wed Oct 22, 2014, 08:53 PM

38. Another great post from Waterman

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Response to malaise (Reply #38)

Thu Oct 23, 2014, 07:21 AM

43. Thank you!

I'm pleased with the response my OP is getting. I think it's an important discussion.

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Response to H2O Man (Reply #43)

Thu Oct 23, 2014, 07:38 AM

44. It is a very important discussion

I agree - have a nice day

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Wed Oct 22, 2014, 10:22 PM

40. Our 21st century world turned out to be much more *Brazil* than *1984*



Chaos and Mother Nature always win.

Orwell's 1984 is an excellent warning, but not a sustainable society.

From this *Brazil* place we can follow our best dreams. Or our society can simply collapse into a darkness worse than George Orwell ever imagined, just plain old ordinary stinking bodily fluids, maggots and flies animal extinction, our human civilization becoming a peculiar layer of trash in the geologic record.

Maybe earth's next dominant intelligent species won't screw up.

Or maybe, just maybe, we can keep the lights on.




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Response to hunter (Reply #40)

Thu Oct 23, 2014, 11:28 AM

45. You're right.

While I was writing the OP, I was thinking about the years these events took place in. Hence the obvious title.

"Brazil" might have been a superior option, at least in terms of predicted outcomes. Still, so few people read my nonsense these days, that it might not have gotten as many forum members to bother to read it. One can only speculate.

In a very real sense, our culture will become compost in the future. The only question is what, if anything, might grow from it.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Thu Oct 23, 2014, 02:19 PM

49. Thanks for this post. I agree 100%. It’s also an important point about reach out to the marginalized

in society. I understand the purpose of a lot of the data driven election work, but too much of it comes down to “you don’t vote, so we don’t care about you.” A lot of political work is also disconnected from people’s lives in general, especially with the belief that one should avoid talking about politics in most situations. The churches and the unions were able to get a strong turnout because they were an important and visible part of people’s lives, and they pushed for specific political goals. One of the things that I think Occupy has done well is spending time working on particular actions that personally help people. Other political movements could benefit from doing more of this.

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