Dream as if you'll Live Forever; and Live as if you'll Die Today
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How many people in this room made $100,000 last year? Less than five percent of the American people make that much money. But one who did, Mikey Eisner, the head mouseketeer of Disney. In 1995 he made $100,000. Not for the year, not for the month, he didn't make $100,000 a week; he didn't make $100,000 a day; he made $100,000 an hour. Plus a car. Meanwhile he was knocking down the health care benefits of the minimum wage workers who were at Disney Land and Disney World.
These executives, like Michael Eisner, they get so rich that they could afford to air-condition hell. And the way they're acting, they better be setting money aside for that projec
-Jim Hightower (21 October 1997 Democracy NOW!)
The month of July seemed to be peppered with special birthdays. The Australian based Webdiary (WD) celebrated a berry (sic) colourful birthday and in Amerika (sic) Radical Reference (RR) Librarians were also raising a toast to a different kind of altruistic movement.
Walt Disney and his pioneering spirit would be proud of these movements which honor his visions and not just his initials: If you can DREAM it, you can DO it.
Abbie Hoffman summed up the dreams along the following lines: 'Democracy is not something you believe in or a place to hang your hat, but it's something you do.You participate. If you stop doing it, democracy crumbles.'
Six years ago WD and RR were just dreams, however, slowly at first, and now in growing numbers, from kitchen tables to nonprofit organizations to corporate boards, citizens are turning away from the politics of bickering and division and working out a new politics - a politics of creative problem-solving. A politics of providing various public interest inspired choices and options to multitude of complex issues.
WD tends to come up with solutions to public issues that are thoughtful enough, clever enough, and inclusive enough, to bring people and factions together. The real solutions to problems like the recent policy on detention centers was brewing on WD for many months.
The strength of phenomena like WD is in the ways they encourage us to be as many-sided as we really are -- practical and visionary, mature and imaginative, sensible and creative, all at once. Some describe this sort of activities as radical middle politics. It is an attitude, an impulse, a mood shaped and re-shaped by characters like Vaclav Havel who was among the first to tear down the wall and breathe new life into Prague's Second Spring
Mother Teresa, who encouraged people to open their hands, if they wanted to be held, created a radical vision for the new middle: 'If you judge people, you have no time to love them. Our vision, then, is like a map that shows our destination. Once we know where we want to go, we can work backwards, figuring out what roads to take to get us safely to our destination. After we know which way we wish to go, things start to happen. Without a map, or vision, we cannot predict our future, but with a map, we become seers. We can see into the future because we knowingly create it. However, as the Slavic saying goes, Vision without action is a daydream and action with without vision is a nightmare. After all, action without vision is action for action's sake. It is misdirected, for it doesn't take us where we wish to go.
Often we define ideas or concepts by what they are yet rarely we define them by what they are not. So if you see politicians blairing half-truths at each other in the mainstream media - or demonstrators marching with simplistic slogans - then you know you are very far from the radical middle. The Velvet Revolution gave birth to a grace known as forgiveness. Peaceful movements show that ideas and actions do not need to end up at the "mushy middle, where there's no direction or principle.
When a political playwright or a community activist addresses a problem in our community -- and instead of scapegoating government or business, proposes a solution to the problem that might involve working with Mayor cuch as Clover Moore or the business community - then you're seeing radical middle politics first hand. Because the radical middle is not about kicking government or business or union for the sake of cheap political football. It is about learning to listen to everyone, learning to work with everyone, and learning to build on everyone's best insights. Show me any reasonable citizen who would let Jim Hightower, one-size-fits-all corporate greed, to have a final say on any Industrial Relations legislation?
To succeed, though, WD needs efforts of all caring citizens. As Edward Abbey rightly pointed out 'Society is like a stew. If you don't keep it stirred up, you get a lot of scum on top.'
Most people at WD are bold as well as reasonable enough to want idealism without illusions - a fresh and hopeful vision that doesn't fall into the trap, as many right wing heartless beasts do. On the other hand, Havel has also issued a warning to the leftists who tend to be fond of looking back to chestnuts from the counter-culture of the Sixties and Seventies, such as soviet economics or neo-anarchist democracy or a wildly optimistic view of human nature.
We need a politics that's "radical in the sense that it addresses fundamental public policy issues in ways that are honest and creative - but "middle in the sense that it doesn't aspire to overthrow entrepreneural spirit or representative democracy.
WD to me is all about maximising choices for every Sydneysider and beyond. WD is about peace, grace, joy, and love. No wonder so many posts mention Iraq and Detention Centers.
Thoughtful pioneers like the Austrian-Amerikan Peter Drucker tell us that in this world capital isn't scarce, but vision is.
Many individuals are living complicated lives now -- few of us have moved through life in a straight line. I think many of us would benefit from trying to gather and synthesize the difficult political lessons we've learned over the course of our lives. Lets hope that the rise of knowledge workers and the creative class represents more than a change in lifestyle, but change in communicating and thinking.
The whole history of progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of earnest struggle. If there is no struggle there is no progress.
Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning, they want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.
This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted.
-Frederick Douglass (1857
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