California is a curious place - full of dreamers, boosters, garrulous grifters and raconteurs. Many are madly striving, in search of Wallace Stegner’s infamous “Big Rock Candy Mountain.” Many more are lost in the shuffle and grind, ebb and flow at the Western edge of the Western World. Among these earnest seekers and sinners are the various members of the Left Body Politic. They range from conservative Blue Dog corporate enablers to the end of the world Socialist, Communist and Anarchist monkey wrench gang. Somewhere, lost in the mix, are the Democratic Party regulars and pusillanimous Progressives. As the sun rises in the east, over the majestic Sierras, they find themselves in the same boat, drifting down the river of no return, in the midst of a thick San Francisco fog. Sideways is the new direction for this bundle of believers, these frustrated yet sunny souls. Status quo has wrapped its stony fingers around the electoral apparatus of each ardent constituency. We are in a stall, a dead calm sea. And the natives are restless, very restless. But before we muster up the courage for a new direction, let us take a deeper look at the state of the State.
The California Democratic Party, the Progressive Caucus of the CDP as well as Labor, Environmental and other factions within the broader California Left have divided along regional lines, North and South. This was the inevitable stepchild of success in the 2006 and 2008 electoral cycles plus the simmering disputes from the last decades, like Water policy. All of this internal strife, such as the Union’s ongoing Civil War, has degenerated into turf battles and been exacerbated by the disconnect from the National Democratic Party - DNC, the various National Progressive Movement Organizations with their East Coast orientations and our general malaise brought on by little progress on Big Ideas across the board. Let’s face it folks - we’re in a funk.
The past is very persuasive; it is comfortable in expectation and in outcome. Better to wrestle the demons we know than to venture out to meet new demons, putative leaders of the factions sing in tremulous chorus. That is the conventional wisdom, which is the refuge of the rear-view mirror crowd. But that tired cant is insufficient to buoy this coterie, to bring us out of these doldrums. The future, as frightening as it has become, like true democracy, beckons. And the future requires a new organizing principle - since the mechanisms of the past are stuck in the mud of ladder climbing and feather fluffing, while the cities crumble. I put forward to all concerned that the current Marshall McLuhan predicted globalization, stealthily achieved by the virus of the Internet infecting every form of communication, has wrought a new possibility; change the world without leaving home.
Now, take a deep breath and consider this; there is a simple and bold way to go further. Remember - the future must never concede to the past what it knows to be true; and that begins with the cure for what ails us - Action & Change! We must act in a manner that will realize tangible results not bogged down by endless procedure and committee examination or the overreaching control from larger aggregations. Ergo, we must discover the scope or range of manageable expectations and coalesce around them to create progress that is achievable. The most direct route to that outcome is to act locally. The pawns must wake up and realize that old street saying - We Got The Power! - right in our own back yards, right down to your very own purchasing power. Don’t let the man get you down has morphed into don’t let the struggle get you down; act in a brand new and curiously old-fashioned way - act for change in your neighborhood.
Here in Southern California, we have come to know each other through the last decade of organizing; that includes, elected officials, their staffs, Democratic Party leaders from every level, grassroots activists, clubs, chapters of national Progressive organizations, Labor leaders and members, writers, artists, environmentalists, entrepreneurs and a cross section of citizens from every demographic description. It is time to form a coalition, here in SoCal, among ourselves, to work on the local issues that most vex us and that we can directly influence and change - energy policy, conservation, water policy, transportation etc. Change begins here, with each other, in our daily lives that are inextricably connected. Let us come together, as John Lennon proclaimed, and demonstrate to the world what local action can achieve. Then we can hook up with like-minded individuals, groups and regions, through the Internet, and across the state, nation and planet to create a vibrant grid of citizens in action.
Although this essay blooms from the California scene its solution can be applied around the world. The globalization of the Internet gives us all access to tools locally that were unattainable heretofore. The Democratization of Information broadens each individual’s reach. We can now affect our local politics, development, economics and environmental interests in concert with our statewide, national and global interests. And more importantly, the process can and should begin at home - locally first.
So, embrace your frustration, and do something about it. Imagine a new local, sustainable, renewable and humane life. Then, join with your neighborhood and create it. Don’t go Loco - go Local!