Here are a few links today that have to do with the general area of “giving back” when you are privileged, or perhaps the “Pay It Forward” idea (like the 2000 movie).
The first is a blog post from the “Mental Health Wellness Blog” of the Trinity Presbyterian Church in Arlington VA. Yes, this congregation certainly has more than its share of high performers, in high school and college students, and grownups. It’s generally mainstream liberal (more or less Obama and Clinton). Maybe some (like the Steve Bannon crowd) would see some elitism, but in the past the pastor has introduced ideas like “radical hospitality” (right before Hurricane Sandy, which did little damage here), which might arguably matter today in the immigration (refugee and asylum seeker) issue. In fact, the congregation has sponsored one refugee family (which is thoroughly pre-vetted and housed in a regular commercially rented townhouse or apartment in northern Virginia). Some of the congregation participates in community activities like “Lotsa Helping Hands”, which do build social capital.
The blog posting title is titled “Talking Politics”. The tone of the post presumes that most people with “real lives” (families to raise) need to focus narrowly on things and have limited interest in the abstraction of political issues that you see all the time on CNN (most of all in the age of Donald Trump). A couple of points stood out. One idea is to be focused on one or two issues. I started out that way two decades ago with “gays in the military” (in the early days of “don’t ask, don’t tell”) but, partly because of background and my own approach to “retirement”, I spread out into most policy issues, concentrically, over the years, in my books and blogs. So I’ve been breaking that rule for a long time. The other point is in item 3, to “volunteer” and to make sure some our your work is “offline” and uses your “body” as well as your mind. That could get dicey. Yes, it can start with the practical issue of service, being efficient in meeting the real needs of other people as, (in the polarity speak of the Paul Rosenfels Community – formerly Ninth Street Center — demands on “feminine subjectives” – unbalanced personalities like me., which I wound up doing dishes for their Saturday Night potlucks back in the 1970s). But it could extend to allowing your own body and its external trappings to become fungible – like the “Be Brave and Shave” fundraisers at the Westover Market in Arlington a few years ago (for cancer).
The next point is an edgy piece on the Foundation for Economic Education, by African-American columnist TJ Brown, “Fight for a More Civilized Bigotry”. Maybe this sounds like an oxymoron. Brown talks about the development of his own attitude toward transgender (or non-binary gender) people. But he correctly (and with writing far gentler than from people like Milo Yiannopoulos) notes that the “radical Left” demands obedience to its demands from those who have been in some privileged class. His column fits well into the discussion of campus speech codes, as well as violent protests. Note the recent statement from the James Madison Program at Princeton after the unrest at the appearance of libertarian Charles Murray (“The Bell Curve”, “Coming Apart”) at a campus event in New Hampshire – let alone Milo.
Then I note a Facebook posting by Jack Andraka (Stanford University sophomore, known for inventing a simple blood test for pancreatic cancer, as chronicled in his 2015 book “Breakthrough“) today, He writes “Development is complicated and these issues don’t lend themselves to ‘silver bullets’ If you’re thinking of going into development or really any non-profit/social entrepreneurship venture read this”. That is, an article by Courtney Martin, “The Reductive Seduction of Other People’s Problems”, here. Now the word “development” in this context usually means “fund raising”, or it may mean going to a hardship area to serve. The writer asks young adults particularly to think twice about the idea that going overseas is the best way to serve. It certainly may be riskier (like Doctors Without Borders and Ebola recently – or the 2003 film “Beyond Borders” by Martin Campbell.
.The last reference for the day concerns “resistance”. I think that the boundaries between service, activism, and resistance are getting blurred these days, which may be disorienting to many people contemplating their own actions (me, for one). The Invisible Team has published a handbook on Google Docs, “Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda”. First, the word “agenda” catches my attention. For a few months in 2009-2010, the Washington Blade newspaper called itself the “DC Agenda” when its parent company folded, until it got the right to use its trademarked name as an independent paper. Anyway, the Guide refers, of course, to community organizing (in the style of Barack Obama, maybe). There is the appropriate focus on local issues, but one point stood out, to act defensively, rather than make your own policy proposals (which I do). It sounds like saying its OK to pimp the victimhood of members of your own marginalized group. Say how much you’re oppressed! That never sits well, with me at least.
I do think it is very hard to make a difference with service — beyond the political value of “paying your dues” as an answer to inequality — without belonging to a group and sharing your life in some substantial, interpersonal way with others in the group, with some sense of proprietary loyalty to those persons.
(Posted: Wednesday, March 15, 2017 at 9:45 PM EDT)