Thursday, November 04, 2004

The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

Not to be overly dramatic or anything, but nobody alive today remembers how the Romans watched the Senate become ineffectual, and the Emperor become a dictator...certainly I don't, but I read about it somewhere. Seems to me there may have been many, many regular Romans who were uncomfortable with the way the Emperor's military campaigns depleted the treasury and left problems unattended to at home, and with the way the Emperor went on and on about Family Values.
I also bet there were many regular Germans who were puzzled and uncomfortable with the Nazi Party's rise to power, and didn't participate in it, but had to live with the consequences. I bet they wondered, at the beginning of it, what the next few years would bring.

A friend of a friend of a friend, named Paul, sent out the following email which was forwarded to me and I offer it for no reason other than I can't come up with anything near as good, in my present state of shock and hurt. (not awe). It's his advice about how to go forward in this time. Even with the San Francisco Bay Area-specific stuff, I think it's relevant enough to post. Here goes:

1. Everybody gets money. Every payday (if you're lucky enough to still have paydays), write a check, even just a small one. Today I started off the next four years by giving money to a local strike fund (hotel workers are striking here in SF). Next payday, I renew my ACLU membership. After that, it's NRDC, Planned Parenthood, NARAL, etc. The great thing is that once you send that first check, you'll get all kinds of convenient postage-paid return envelopes for next payday's check. Do it; you'll feel like you're doing something and that alone will help.

2. If you haven't already, shift your phone service to Working Assets. It's easy, it costs about the same, and they give part of your money to good progressive causes. Better that extra little bit go to the Sierra Club, for instance, than to SBC profits.

3. Nourish the bubble. For those of us fortunate/determined enough to live in the Bay Area bubble, remember how lucky we are. True, it is a bubble, a veritable echo chamber of progressive viewpoints. True, it is cut off from a lot of the country. But it isn't cut off from all of the country (see below), and there are things we get to do in the bubble, things that make life worth living, worth treasuring, things that point the way to a better tomorrow. You have to have laboratories in order to figure out what will work. We live in a left-wing laboratory. Keep the lab clean, make sure the apparatus are in good working order, check to make sure the supply room is well-stocked, and remember that publishing the results is an important part of the process.

4. Remember that we are not alone. There are at least 56 million people here who roughly agree with you. That's a lot. It's a whole lot. It was almost enough. We Are Not Alone. And because we are not alone, despair, cynicism, defeatism, hopelessness, and withdrawal are Not Allowed. You don't abandon the team just because we lost the game. Show up for practice with your cleats on; there are more games on the schedule.

5. Remember that we are, despite everything, fortunate. We were born and/or live in a very rich country, one with an enormous amount of power in all senses of the word. We have a responsibility to each other and to those around the world to do whatever we can to try to ensure that that power is exercized for the good whenever possible. We couldn't quite make it this time; that doesn't relieve us of the responsibility to keep trying. One of the other side's Big Lies is that they have a monopoly on morality; giving up the game lets them continue to believe that.

6. We haven't lost everything, and it isn't all hopeless. 5 isn't 9. 55 isn't 60. If you don't know what those mean, find out; it's important.

7. Take care of yourself, your friends, your family, and your communities. This is closely associated with Nourishing the Bubble, but even closer to home. Keep volunteering with your theater company, your BDSM social organization, your domestic violence hotline, your gay rights organization. Keep doing pro bono work. Keep holding social events. All of this makes a difference, and usually a bigger difference than most things coming out of Washington.

8. Finally, keep thinking of other ways to survive in the darkness and let people know what you come up with.

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