© 2008, The Institute for Applied Common Sense
The following article was originally posted as No. 18 on this blog, and entitled, "How Radical Action Could be a Good Thing Right Now." Now that Sen. Obama has selected Sen. Joseph Biden as his Democratic running mate, we felt re-visiting some of the thoughts that we had prior to the selection might be generate further food for thought.
There are two primary purposes for this blog. The first is to stimulate thought, in general. Not only has our society evolved to a point where visual and audio sound bites are the norm, but also where “think bites” are far too prevalent. I, in conjunction with the other members of the It’s Your Turn™ Team, the Laughingman and the Optimizer, feel that getting people to think through issues, particularly college students, can only yield better decisions about how to address issues. If you do not recognize the underlying root causes of a problem, and only respond to emotional stimuli and superficial symptoms, you will not effectively, if at all, address the problem. We also feel that our society needs to be far more receptive to new, fresh, and creative ideas to solve our ills, and not just rely on the status quo.
Every day, the members of the It’s Your Turn™ Team collaborate to determine alternate, more effective, ways to address issues in society, through the application of our version of common sense. Common sense is always bigger than one’s personal, short-term, emotional or selfish interests. Sometimes our collaboration generates a short “write bite” of our own. In other instances, we escort you through a much longer, perhaps wandering, thought-process, occasionally traversing a complex environment, where we are not quite sure where we are going ourselves. But at least we’re thinking, and not just reacting.
The second purpose for this blog is also to stimulate thought. However, the focus is more on how our thinking about issues bears on personal responsibility. The fewer your perceived options, the less likely you will craft an appropriate, effective course of action. Less information and less consideration rarely produce a good result.
Due diligence is always preferable. The more one knows about the various competing factors, and his or her options, the less likely one is to shift blame to others. Due diligence is part of personal responsibility, and responsibility is never just personal. The decisions we make ultimately affect many others in many different ways. With respect to the election of our representatives and leaders in government, we have a responsibility to ensure that they continue to serve our interests, and not just the interests of a select few, or the most powerful. When we let our leaders get out of control, get sidetracked, or abuse power that we have bestowed upon them, we, as a people, have abdicated our responsibility.
This is the teaser e-mail that I sent out earlier concerning this article:
“Let’s assume that instead of Sen. Obama meeting in private with Sen. Clinton during the week, he had met with Sen. McCain. What course of action, although “radical” and “unconventional,” upon which the two of them could have agreed, would have sent a positive message to our country and the world, that “things are about to change?” Hint: They still can do it now – it’s not too late.”
Typically, when we think of something “radical” in our society, we have a tendency to also think of something negative. When the Jewish War Veterans tried to stamp out the American Nazi Movement, they used violence to do so. In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, when Mark Rudd and the Weather Underground sought changes in American society, for the benefit of the common man, and an end to the War in Vietnam, they engaged in criminal activity. There are also animal rights groups which break into laboratories and research facilities to free animals used in experiments. In each instance, the negative public reaction associated with the conduct compromises the message or cause of the group, and thus we have a tendency to reject the message and the group.
For years, I have complained that because of structural factors in our governmental systems, we only produce band-aid solutions to problems, and that the band-aids are typically applied too slowly. I have often argued that we need some radical solutions to problems which are also viewed as good for society. Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal programs are often cited as an example, although many might argue that they resulted in an expansion of governmental intrusion in our lives. My colleague, the Laughingman, has proposed a radical move on the part of our two presidential candidates, which could send a very powerful message. According to the Laughingman:
“For the first time in my memory, we have two non-institutional candidates for President of The United States. It would be hard to see how we as a country could lose electing either of these mavericks. Should they name each other as their vice presidential preferences, the political machines would go crazy, but getting things done would all of a sudden take preference to getting the best public relations. And then maybe, just maybe, we would create a collaborative force, and stop making such far-reaching mistakes. It would be the ‘new shot heard around the world.’ It also wouldn’t hurt that Hunter Thompson and Kurt Vonnegut would be delighted.”
Although they are not exactly Beltway Boys, I am concerned about both candidates once one of them takes office. I was a big fan of Sen. McCain at earlier stages in his career. He truly struck me as an independent thinker, interested in the long term, and not beholden to any special interests. Unfortunately, here recently, he has begun to look more like a clone of our current President. My hope, gut, and optimism about life tell me that he has only morphed himself temporarily, pursuant to the instructions of his handlers, to get elected, and that he will return to the old John McCain should he succeed. My sense is that he’s not going to blow this chance to bring about some real change, particularly because it is late in his life. Remember, this guy dealt with personal torture for years. That required some mental toughness.
As for Senator Obama, I do not have as good a sense as to who he really is, due to his short time in office. However, my sense is that he is sincere and actually interested in the long term health of this Nation. I have a different concern about how he will govern should he be elected. One radio commentator said that during his first week in office, some senior advisors will sit him down and effectively say, “Now that you’ve gotten here, let us explain to you how it is really done.” Furthermore, George Will, in speaking with Charlie Rose last week, indicated that the machine, that is Washington, D.C., is huge, entrenched, and has its own inertia. However, as is the case with Sen. McCain, my hope, gut, and optimism about life tell me that he is all about something other than doing business as usual. His mere presence on the stage epitomizes change. He will not blow the opportunity. This guy was the President of Harvard Law School’s Law Review, and then worked for a public interest research group and with community organizations, when he could have gone for the big bucks.
Getting back to the Laughingman’s “radical” suggestion that both McCain and Obama name the other as their vice-presidential preferences, I can actually envision some “good,” that would flow from the move. It would tell their respective parties that they have become too rigid and inflexible, like dinosaurs. It would tell their respective parties that there are many different views in the world, and that we are not ready for “group think” just yet. It would tell their respective parties that purpose, getting things done, and vision trump inertia and the bureaucracy that is institutionalization, every time. It would tell the world that the United States is really a force to be reckoned with, and that the “smoke and mirrors show” is over.
And that’s how radical action could be a “good” thing right now. As the Laughingman has often said, “Doing the right [or good] thing is not rocket science.” Just think about it, for your sake and mine.
© 2008, The Institute for Applied Common Sense