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Dream as if you'll live forever and live as if you'll die today
by Jozef Imrich
The month of July seemed to be peppered with special birthdays. The Australian based Webdiary (Webdiary) celebrated a berry (sic) colourful birthday and in Amerika (sic) Radical Reference (RR) Librarians were also raising a toast to a different kind of altruistic movement.
Walt Disney and his pioneering spirit would be proud of these movements which honor his visions and not just his initials: If you can DREAM it, you can DO it. Abbie Hoffman summed up the dreams along the following lines:
Six years ago Webdiary and RR were just dreams, however, slowly at first, and now in growing numbers from kitchen tables to non-profit organizations to corporate boards, citizens are turning away from the politics of bickering and division and working out a new politics - a politics of creative problem-solving. A politics of providing various public interest inspired choices and options to a multitude of complex issues.
Webdiary tends to come up with solutions to public issues that are thoughtful enough, clever enough, and inclusive enough, to bring people and factions together. The real solutions to problems like the recent policy on detention centres were brewing on Webdiary for many months.
The strength of phenomena like Webdiary is in the ways they encourage us to be as many-sided as we really are -- practical and visionary, mature and imaginative, sensible and creative, all at once. Some describe this sort of activities as radical middle politics. It is an attitude, an impulse, a mood shaped and re-shaped by characters like Vaclav Havel, who was among the first to tear down the wall and breathe new life into Prague’s Second Spring.
Mother Teresa, who encouraged people to open their hands if they wanted to be held, created a radical vision for the new middle:
Our vision, then, is like a map that shows our destination. Once we know we want to go, we can work backwards, figuring out what roads to take to get us safely to our destination. After we know which way we wish to go, things start to happen. Without a map, or vision, we cannot predict our future, but with a map, we become seers. We can see into the future because we knowingly create it. However, as the Slavic saying goes, Vision without action is a daydream and action with without vision is a nightmare.
After all, action without vision is action for action's sake. It is misdirected, for it doesn't take us where we wish to go.
Often we define ideas or concepts by what they are yet rarely we define them by what they are not. So if you see politicians blaring half-truths at each other in the mainstream media - or demonstrators marching with simplistic slogans - then you know you are very far from the radical middle.
The Velvet Revolution gave birth to a grace known as forgiveness. Peaceful movements show that ideas and actions do not need to end up in the ‘mushy middle’ where there's no direction or principle.
When a political playwright or a community activist addresses a problem in our community - and instead of scapegoating government or business proposes a solution to the problem that might involve working with Mayors such as Clover Moore or the business community - then you’re seeing radical middle politics first hand. Because the radical middle is not about kicking government or business or union for the sake of cheap political football. It is about learning to listen to everyone, learning to work with everyone, and learning to build on everyone’s best insights.
Show me any reasonable citizen who would let Jim Hightower's one-size-fits-all corporate greed have a final say on any Industrial Relations legislation?
To succeed, though, Webdiary needs efforts of all caring citizens. As Edward Abbey rightly pointed out, “Society is like a stew. If you don't keep it stirred up, you get a lot of scum on top.”
Most people at Webdiary are bold as well as reasonable enough to want idealism without illusions - a fresh and hopeful vision that doesn’t fall into the trap, as many right wing heartless beasts do. On the other hand, Havel has also issued a warning to the leftists who tend to be fond of looking back to chestnuts from the counter-culture of the Sixties and Seventies, such as soviet economics or neo-anarchist democracy or a wildly optimistic view of human nature.
We need a politics that’s ‘radical’ in the sense that it addresses fundamental public policy issues in ways that are honest and creative - but ‘middle’ in the sense that it doesn’t aspire to overthrow entrepreneurial spirit or representative democracy.
Webdiary to me is all about maximising choices for every Australian. Webdiary is about peace, grace, joy, and love. No wonder so many posts mention Iraq and Detention Centres.
Thoughtful pioneers like the Austrian-Amerikan Peter Drucker tell us that in this world capital isn't scarce, but vision is.
Many individuals are living complicated lives now - few of us have moved through life in a straight line. I think many of us would benefit from trying to gather and synthesise the difficult political lessons we’ve learned over the courses of our lives. Let’s hope that the rise of knowledge workers and the creative class represents more than a change in lifestyle - a change in communicating and thinking.
The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of earnest struggle. If there is no struggle there is no progress.
Those who profess to favour freedom, and yet deprecate agitation, are people who want crops without ploughing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning and they want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters: