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COMMUNET Home

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COMMUNET  July 1995, Week 1

COMMUNET July 1995, Week 1

Subject:

Re: Telecom Post #7 comments

From:

Steve Snow <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Communet: Community and Civic Network Discussion List

Date:

Sat, 1 Jul 1995 06:39:52 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (99 lines)

Friends,
 
When I have trouble sleeping, I get up and clean out my mailbox. There
always is plenty to clean. Unfortunately, I also have time to comment on
the postings, which is not always good. Nonetheless, because I am in
Charlotte and most of you are not, there's not much you can do except hit
the "d" key, which I heartily recommend! ;-)
 
> Obviously, big corporations have been busy putting the pressure
> on any nay votes and we've all learned just how convincing that
> "pressure" can be.
 
The above comment was in Telecom Post #7, and it struck me as worth
replying to because it is emblematic of both a kind of cynicism and also
a kind of helplessness that I often see from political/civic activists
online.
 
Pressure, influence and money and politics *always* have gone
hand-in-hand. That is not an abberation of the political process; that *is*
the political process, even in despotic regimes. Do not feel shocked if
companies try to get their way; they do it so they can make more money
--- which is the *nature* of a company. That doesn't make their cause
right or just from another point of view; it really just clarifies what
you can expect to face with any company at any time. Do not naively think
that a company exists to do nice things in a community.
 
At the same time, companies are run by people, and people can be influenced.
 
There strikes me a kind of manic approach to some of the issues I see
discussed regarding politics. On COMMUNET, these are mostly liberal-type
positions, if you go by the volume of postings. My own politics are a
litter weirder than that (more like
communitari-libertar-rightwing-socialist or something like that ;-) ).
 
But here is my point: Be mindful of what you try to attempt online. It has
severe limits, this technology. Especially now, in its infancy. It is
easy to forget that most of the nation is not wired at all and cares
little about electronic communication. And elected officials who are
wired, by and large, are not sophisticated users. In addition, never
believe that one method of communication is enough to make your point.
 
I was chatting with one of our local US House reps a month or so ago, and
he made a very instructive point to me. Said he: "If these systems have
such a cross-section of people using them, why not use the power of your
*users*? That is far more effective than one or two people coming to me."
 
In our community, there are rich people and poor people using our system.
Far more effective, says he, to get *them* to lobby on behalf of a
network or piece of legislation than merely the director of a project.
 
And that doesn't mean just e-mail, either. My dear congressman, who has an
e-mail account, does not read it himself, and it is not clear who in his
office does. I expect this is true in other offices, as well.
 
Effective political action, it seems to me, has several ingredients:
 
        1. Understanding the issues clearly enough to be able to
articulate them simply and directly.
        2. Following them with regularity.
        3. Knowing where *your* representatives stand.
        4. When issues arise, mobilizing not only e-mail, but also letters,
phone calls, telegrams, post-cards -- every possible medium by as *broad*
a spectrum (different zipcodes) as possible.
        5. Not being shrill. It is almost common for there to be a sky-is-
falling quality to political postings. The Republic marches on.
        6. Staying in touch with your representatives on a regular basis
-- not just when you want to thump them on an issue. Let them know what
you are up to and how important it is to your/thier community. Then when
you drag an issue into the picture, it will have context. It seems trite,
I know, but *get to know* your representatives. Tell them good things
they do.
 
Interests of all kinds are coming at politicians. Of course, most people
do not have the money large corporate interests have. But many forms of
lobbying do not take lots of money. They do, however, take time and energy.
 
This being the weekend before the Fourth, it might be a good time to
reflect on the importance of seeing civic action and politics not as a
collection of individual events and pieces of legislation but instead as
a continuum; always moving, always changing, always growing and subject
to influence.
 
I'm not arguing for a particular viewpoint but rather maybe a little
more complete approach to whatever viewpoint you want to advance.
 
The world is built on relationships. This is as true in politics as it is
in community networking. to be effective politically over time, I
believe, you have to build relationships, not merely press opinions.
 
Perhaps someone would like to contribute to a fund so I could buy some
sleeping pills or something?
 
Steve Snow
Project Director
Charlotte's Web
[log in to unmask]
 
As always, flames to me; comments to the list. I wear asbestos.

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