Hi Everyone! please give me your honest input.
Discuss how an event, novel or experience has significantly influenced you or has changed your life.
"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" this quote has always inspired me to reach for the impossible. I am naturally not a very outgoing person, but over the past few years, I have worked very hard to change that aspect of my personality which has lead to many opportunities for personal achievement.
My first step was recognizing my problem and realizing I needed to change. I wasn't taking any risks and my comfortable familiar routine was getting boring, and depressing. I had to take a risk and try something completely new; and after much thought, I decided that meant getting a job.
My sister worked at an indoor play cafe for kids called the TreeHouse. I had always planned on getting a job there, but never had the courage to actually send in my resume. One day in May she told me they were hiring, and if I wanted to apply, I had to do so that week. Although it seemed scary, I knew I needed to if I wanted to step outside my comfort zone. So I sent in my resume and was called in soon after for an interview. I ended up getting the job! Even though I was excited and proud that I had made an important step toward my goal, I was a bit scared about the challenges this job would bring.
During the first few weeks of my new job, I was very shy and quiet. Everyone who worked there besides me went to school together, and had known each other for years. I had nothing in common with them other then my job, and I wasn't the type of person to join in on a conversation! Again I pushed myself to expand my comfort zone because I didn't want to be like that. After awhile, I became more confident and actually enjoyed working with other people and interacting with the customers. I started hosting birthday parties; a privilege only the top employees get.
Becoming more outgoing has drastically changed my perspective on life. I view new experiences as opportunities instead of frightening situations. I am much more comfortable talking to strangers then before, and while I know I will never become the most outgoing person around, I have come a long way from that first step!
My last post, arguing that the left needed to offer a transformative vision as an alternative to rightwing tribalism has drawn lots of interesting responses, and generated some great comments threads, both here and elsewhere (Some of them: Matt Yglesias,DougJ at Balloon Juice, Democracy in America at the Economist,Aziz Poonawalla at BeliefNet,Geoffrey Kruse-Safford |, and Randy McDonald).
Since my idea was to open things up for discussion, I don’t plan to comment on particular responses. I do want to respond to one theme that came up repeatedly, a combination of discomfort with words like ‘transformation’ and ‘vision’, and a feeling that a politics in which such words are employed is inconsistent with the pursuit of incremental reforms. Even though I stressed the need to learn from such critics as Burke, Hayek and Popper about the need for reform to arise from organic developments in society and to avoid presumptions of omniscience, the mere use of words like ‘vision’ set off lots of alarm bells.
To me, the difficulty of getting this right reflects my opening point in the previous post. After decades of defensive struggle, we on the left no longer know how to talk about anything bigger than the local fights in which we may hope to defend the gains of the past and occasionally make a little progress. But the time is now ripe to look ahead.
My main point in this new post is to reject the idea that there is a necessary inconsistency between incremental progress and the vision of a better society and a better world. (I’ll link back here to my earlier post on Hope, which might be worth reading at this point, for those who have time and interest.)
The liberal and social democratic reforms of the New Deal and its counterparts in other developed countries were incremental changes. But they weren’t presented as mere technocratic adjustments to social and economic mechanisms. FDR’s New Deal and Four Freedoms, the Beveridge Report, the Swedish Folkhemmet, Ben Chifley’s “light on the hill”, Michael Savage in New Zealand, all presented their reforms in the context of a broader vision that could inspire mass support.
Combining day-to-day advocacy of immediately feasible reforms with mobilization for a broader vision of a better world implies some constraints. Most obviously, the kind of vision I’m talking about needs to be realistic rather than utopian. As I said in my post on Hope, the goals
ought to be feasible in the sense that they are technically achievable and don’t require radical changes in existing social structures, even if they may set the scene for such changes in the future. On the other hand, they ought not to be constrained by consideration of what is electorally saleable right now.
On the other hand, the kinds of incremental change we should be looking for must be informed by these goals.
An example, one of the few topics where Obama has maintained the rhetoric of hope that inspired support in his campaign is his advocacy of the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons. Obviously, this can’t be achieved at a stroke, and it may never be fully achievable. Nevertheless, (as I plan to argue in more detail soon) we seem more likely to make incremental steps away from the precipice on which we are standing if we have such an ultimate goal in mind than if we think in terms of adjustments to a balance that depends, in the end, on mutually assured destruction.
Conversely, articulating a goal like this (as compared, say, to non-proliferation) implies the need for much sharper questioning of the positions of the long-established nuclear powers. Are essentially frivolous considerations of national pride sufficient to justify Britain and France in maintaining a capacity for genocidal war? Assuming the perceived need for a strategic deterrent is going to persist for some time, can the US and Russia justify keeping tactical nuclear weapons. And so on.
Similar points can be made about the other goals I suggested in my ‘Hope’ post as well as those put forward by commenters and other bloggers. A moral imperative to end extreme poverty in the world seems more likely to overcome parochial tightfistedness than a desire to promote economic growth in less developed countries. But it also implies different policies, with more focus on action that will directly meet human needs for better health, education and nutrition, and less on large-scale development projects, which might be better left to the market sector.
I’ll repeat the endings of my previous posts. Writing this kind of thing, I can sense the feeling that it’s naive/utopian/pointless. But I think it’s precisely this kind of feeling, hammered into us by years of retreat that we need to overcome. And I’m keen for better ideas and analyses than what I’ve offered. So, comments please.