Mobilized has challenged its writers to come up with some Top Ten lists that are actually useful, not just silly listicles of funny stuff. There is a time and place for that stuff, but this site aims a bit higher. So, here’s my first attempt.
Top Ten Ways To Be More Responsible In Your Own Community
Wow, that is a mouthful. It’s not even a good acronym, like SPECTRE, COBRA, or CREEP. That last one was real, by the way. It was Pres. Nixon’s Committee to Re-Elect the President. In hindsight, it was one of the greatest acronym’s in history, really… So, right off we’re gonna ditch the heading, and just go with this instead: Top Ten Ways To Not Be A Dick!
Because you see, being responsible in our community is no more or less than just being a good neighbor. Like our momma’s taught us, if we help others then we are really helping ourselves. Truly. Here goes:
10. Get to know your neighbors. I once lived in an apartment building. After 4 years there I knew all of 3 people. And we had muggings in broad daylight, weird trash-fires, etc. Contrast that to a different place; the one I lived in next. Like the first it was not in a great neighborhood, some would say it was worse. But we had the old lady who sat by her window all day, watching goings-on; we had the racist dude who none-the-less went out in every storm to check on every dwelling and person in the ‘hood and even saved a guys life once, tons of folks like that. And the difference was night and day. When a lazy and incompetent Super tried to evict the old lady because she dared to call him out on his lazy incompetence, the entire ‘hood rose up and put the fear of God into him. Once he knew his own job was on the line, he immediately rescinded her eviction notice. That’s the power of knowing your neighbors.
9. Strength in numbers. Like point #10, I cannot stress enough the value of finding allies. The racist old guy who lived next door to me turned out to be quite the ally when it came time to defend my other neighbor. Had we just ignored him, we would have lacked his loud clear voice when it was most needed. He also brought the moral authority, (since he had lived there the longest), when it came time to shame the bad Super. Turns out that despite the crummy words that he used all too often, his morals were actually pretty strong and his deeds were honorable. Surprise, surprise. So: spend your time, preferably before things get rough, getting to know folks. They may be diamonds in the rough.
8. Food is a common good. It can be hard to get to know people. Probably the best way to get to know them is slowly, over time, maybe over some meals. In the second neighborhood I lived in, we turned our place into an ongoing open kitchen, and I do think that was the key to building up that community. Breaking bread with strangers builds strong friendships. And all good communities begin with friendships.
7. Support your local businesses. Yes, I know, Amazon is cheaper and you can have a drone fly over your house and drop packages down your chimney. Or something like that. Does not matter. Amazon does not live in your community. The local mom and pop store owner does. Their kids go to school with yours, probably. They are the ones who need your money, not Mr. Bezos and his massive cadre of heartless executives. They are not going to sponsor your local little league team, nor help rebuild the town square clock tower after some crazy scientist and his teenage assistant blow it up in a time-travel experiment. You will do that, and Mr. and Mrs. Mom and Pop Grocer will do that, together. So make your first choice the local one, whenever possible. You are voting with every dollar you spend, so vote wisely.
6. Support your local governments. Yeah yeah, I know, ‘down with the Police!’ and ‘down with the man!’. I get it. But here’s the reality – the folks who get into local government, be they cops on the beat or maybe a planning commissioner; they are actually trying help their fellow citizens. Sure, a few of them are nakedly ambitious cretins. But almost all of them have no real expectation of going on to a higher office, they just want to fix a problem in their community. And it’s because of folks like them, in every town in America, that we have such a nation today. We pass boring bond measures, and set tepid speed limits so that our kiddies won’t get run down by speeding racecars. We have very livable cities, compared to most other nations. That’s not an accident, it’s because people from all stripes are willing to do the dull jobs.
5. Call out Corruption whenever possible. Boy howdy though, we do have some crooks in our cities. My own, Oakland CA, just created a Public Ethics Commission. Its’ first official act was to get arrested a Zoning Dept. official who they were able to prove took 47 bribes. Mind you, they were legally only able to look backwards in time to the date the PEC was founded, so those 47 bribes were generated in about 24 months!! So, the crook Esposito was busted but then the regular PD had to go and look into his decades of probable other previous crimes. Ay ay ay… Your local papers generally do a good job of finding crooks, support them. But also, see if you can get a PEC for your town. It can’t hurt.
4. Do good deeds. Do favors with no thought of repayment. When the time comes, people will step up on your behalf because you will be known as a person who gives a crap about your neighborhood. Doing good and helping others isn’t just something for the Boy Scouts, and it does not need praise or publicity. Think of them as paying your rent for being alive on this planet. We are all of us pretty darn lucky in so many ways, and the least we can do is try to help someone else who isn’t as lucky.
3. Vote. In this election, the next election, always. Because each one really is the most important one of all time. Not because of what the Politicians tell you; they can be ignored. Because our democratic experiment is still in its infancy. We are nearing 250 years old but compared to a regime such as China, (6000 years and counting), we are still children. And as such we need to blaze a trail for others to follow. That has been our special purpose since 1776 and we dare not fail now. We are the light against tyranny, even if that light today is taking the form of choosing between two lackluster candidates for dog-catcher. And for those who avoid voting so that they won’t get called for jury duty… well if you really can’t stomach that obligation then get your city to do as Washington DC did. They switched to DMV records, a much more fair and wide pool of jurors to choose from, IMHO. So, your exercise of your voting rights will not get punished later, by loss of work and extra hassle.
2. Support your libraries and schools. Yes, that means voting for the next tax increase that comes down the pike, and the one after that. Because educating all kids, not just your own, and long after your own graduate, is proven to be best for society. America became great by investing in education, and we have slipped as a direct result of our ceasing to do so. It’s that simple. Smarter kids equals a stronger society, not just for you but for the next generation. Since they are the ones who’ll care for you in your dotage, do you really want them to be dumb? I didn’t think so.
1. Show up. That’s it, really, the key to all of these. Just show up. At your local city council meetings. At the lower-level departmental meetings where city bureaucrats routinely make horrible decisions in plain sight, because the public is not there to challenge them, or to point our their faulty logic. Show up at rallies, especially for causes that you will not personally benefit from – – those folks will remember you and show up when YOU need them to.
What I want to say is this: if you wake up and find yourself having a good day, then you now have a goal. That goal is to do good deeds and build community. On the other hand, if you wake up and find the world is against you, well then again you must know that (because the world is against you) you have a goal – – do good deeds and build community.
There is no difference, you see?