Monday, October 8, 2012

"Change as a joint project between leader and led"

The other day Xpostfactoid wrote an article that I'd recommend you take a look at titled: The credo of a community organizer. Here is his conclusion:
It didn't take a four-year crawl back from a financial industry meltdown to make Obama warn that change is slow and frustrating and unromantic. Understanding change as a joint project of leader and led is a concept that Obama has held, and expressed, since he was a 24 year-old neophyte organizer.
Amidst all the wailing and gnashing of teeth about what President Obama should/shouldn't have done in the debate, I appreciate this reminder more than I can say. Certainly the President has his job to do. But when that's ALL we can see or talk about, we forget something critical he's been trying to tell us for a very long time.
We can do this. It will not be easy. It will require struggle and sacrifice. There will setbacks and we will make mistakes. And that is why we need all the help we can get. So tonight I want to speak directly to all those Americans who have yet to join this movement but still hunger for change - we need you. We need you to stand with us, and work with us, and help us prove that together, ordinary people can still do extraordinary things.

I am blessed to be standing in the city where my own extraordinary journey began. A few miles from here, in the shadow of a shuttered steel plant, is where I learned what it takes to make change happen.

I was a young organizer then, intent on fighting joblessness and poverty on the South Side, and I still remember one of the very first meetings I put together. We had worked on it for days, but no one showed up. Our volunteers felt so defeated, they wanted to quit. And to be honest, so did I.

But at that moment, I looked outside and saw some young boys tossing stones at a boarded-up apartment building across the street. They were like boys in so many cities across the country - boys without prospects, without guidance, without hope. And I turned to the volunteers, and I asked them, "Before you quit, I want you to answer one question. What will happen to those boys?" And the volunteers looked out that window, and they decided that night to keep going - to keep organizing, keep fighting for better schools, and better jobs, and better health care. And so did I. And slowly, but surely, in the weeks and months to come, the community began to change.

You see, the challenges we face will not be solved with one meeting in one night. Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time.

We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek. We are the hope of those boys who have little; who've been told that they cannot have what they dream; that they cannot be what they imagine.

Yes they can.

We are the hope of the father who goes to work before dawn and lies awake with doubts that tell him he cannot give his children the same opportunities that someone gave him.

Yes he can.

We are the hope of the woman who hears that her city will not be rebuilt; that she cannot reclaim the life that was swept away in a terrible storm.

Yes she can.

We are the hope of the future; the answer to the cynics who tell us our house must stand divided; that we cannot come together; that we cannot remake this world as it should be.
The pundits don't understand this and likely never will. They want to put all the focus on the leader and pretend like his performance is all that matters.

President Obama has been saying all along that that's NOT how change happens. Its actually how we strip ourselves of our own power and give it away.

So perhaps next time you're feeling down about something going on in this election and become tempted by the demon of cynicism, its time to take a look at that face in the mirror.

If not now...when?


  1. There's a lot to chew on here. One thing this raises is a thought I've been having, about S Palin's dismissive talk about "community organizer" during the 2008 campaign and the continued use of that talk at times on the right. It seems to me that that type of work, which involves getting all stakeholders in a community to effectively articulate (not only verbally but organizationally) their positions on concrete matters to negotiate (in the broadest sense) solutions, is much better training for the presidency than working in hierarchical organizations, even as the decision-maker. The Federal Government, where decision making is involved, is not a hierarchical organization. Community organization, which is all about power bumping up against power, is more like it.

    On another note, I think there's a huge problem with the way we are trained to think about historical change. Much is made, not only with media talking heads but on the History Channel, or whatever, about "watershed moments" where everything changed. Worse still, the notion of "great man" or even "great person" history. These ideas don't describe things as they are. Watershed moments are not when the changes happen, but when it becomes clear that they have occured. Likewise, "great people" are not great in themselves--witness their mixed personal qualities--but rather because they serve as a focal point for all kinds of other actions and developments.

    Obama's problem is that he actually wants change, he understands how it works, and he refuses to pretend otherwise.

    1. Watershed moments are not when the changes happen, but when it becomes clear that they have occured.

      LOVE that line!

  2. 'Afternoon, Ms. Pants

    LOVE this.

    And, you miiiight take a peep at brotha Boo's earlier piece: "Costly Loss of Momentum". He lays out, BEAUTIFULLY, what you, including in this one, attempt to tell us over and over again. He says: "But even if Romney hasn't saved himself from defeat, he seems to have saved himself from "humiliating" defeat. And, I am not happy about that".

    THAT is what "we" want. "Humiliating" defeat. BLOOD on the KILLING FLOOR. ENTRAILS!! comPLETE devastation!!!! And, the "beige" guy merely WINS (but "we" didn't get SINGLE PAYOR!!!). And, it's enTIREly on him. (LOTS of heavy sighs)

    This is why I've said - over and over - you're needed. We HAVE to hear how this works because, at any point, even some of the more progressive - and respected - run all into the weeds. And, by the bye....

    gallup. GALLUP.. released earlier today...Obama 50% Rmoney 45%. Obama approval...51% THINK this is where we were pre "debate".

    I will acknowledge that it is often UGly (and we will see change in #2 - particularly since Rmoney has, now, done his "Foreign Policy" speech. bet you didn't know that foreign policy only involved the Middle East and Russia did you?) But, when the dust SETTLES he, aGAIN, has done very well. And, this has happened over and over for the last four years. Were I he, I'd just want to lovingly SLAP my "friends".

    You are NOT beating a dead horse. "We" STILL do not get it and have to be continually brought along.

    Fortunately, Ms. Pants, you're pretty good at doing this.

    1. Humiliating defeat, yes I read that piece. I don't disagree with Booman's general analysis. What I think is tough for me is that humilation is precisely what you don't want to do to someone you defeat. I understand his feeling. It would be good if we could erase the craziness from the GOP in this election. Unfortunately, those of us not in the GOP will never be able to erase GOP crazy. They have to themselves.

      Unless you're up for real genocide, you're going to have to live with the people you defeat, and how you do that will have effects.

  3. Hey, Bill.

    VERY cogent stuff you bring to the party. Thank you.

    I think Boo, who wants obliteration, was over reacting. It was like, based on this one debate, what he had been saying, which was LOTS of trash talk, was pretty much gone.

    I didn't go for all the trash talk, but I think PBO's record is really now being considered. And, it's pretty impressive. A non showy performance wouldn't wipe that out. And, it appears it didn't. Having said that...

    As a counter puncher, indeed....he's gonna have to hit back. I believe he will. One has to be able to take the punishment ("I'm skinny, but I'm TOUGH"), AND one does have to hit back. So...

    And, the "Foreign Policy" speech, as you've probably seen, is gettin' PANNED.

    Rmoney is STILL Rmoney and the openings are there.

    1. To tell you the truth - the writer who really set this all off for me was Michael Tomasky. In response to the debate, he actually had to gaul to question whether or not Obama wants to win the election.

      I got so angry yesterday when I read that - I had to take a break and was barely able to contain myself while I wrote this today.

      Talk about wanting to slap your so-called "friends!"

      I know that - just like with BooMan - there is a very strong element of projection going on with this kind of thing. Its MUCH more about them than it is about Obama.

      But it pisses me off when "professionals" are this lazy and stupid.

    2. Right back at you Blackman. Thanks!

      You're right, Rmoney is still Rmoney. I am confident Obama will do this, because the numbers are there. The issue is downticket races. I have never expected that we will retake the House, but that possibility opened a little with the widespread GOP demoralization before the debate. We'll see, but I do not expect it.

      What may happen if Obama takes it is that some in the GOP look to go back to legislating.

      I read in a comment elsewhere that the GOP controls 2/3 of the governorships and 2/3 of state legislatures. That's got to change. Locally for me in San Diego, we have a nasty GOP local political culture, racially coded, with non-white participation disproportionately low. This needs to change, and then a lot of good will filter up.

  4. I hear you SP. I kept saying to myself, is this the same debate I watched after listening to the shit being said? Still today it is going on. Hugs to my President.

  5. thanks sp!cannot type well on this laptop from hosp bed!!!! wonderful conversation especially pbo explanation of how change happens!