Fighting City Hall

May 26th, 2007 by bebersghost

On May 17th, Tommy from MAR said:

Though we are a youth-led movement, however, I’m not sure (and I guess this is a question), to what extent can we “change the rules”, as you say, to truly improve our Order?

I’ll do you the courtesy of not giving you the easy answer – the one you learn from school and mass media – either “in a Democracy everyone can have an impact” or maybe “you should respect authority, they have experience and know what’s best”. I think I’d choke on the words.

I’m going to give you the truth as I see it.

The simple answer to your question is – it depends.

Now lets cut the crap and talk about what that really mean.

First truth: The vast majority of the time, BBYO members fail to make changes because they don’t even try. That’s right – they whine about stuff and complain but don’t make any effort to change things. Or they just accept the reasoning of someone “in authority” (that includes youth leaders) who convinces them they are wrong to try to change things, or are going about it the wrong way. That is a common problem in society as well.

Second truth: Government is run by those who show up. The fact that most people aren’t involved in government means that those few who care enough to try, have a huge impact. For example: you’ve heard about D.C. lobbyists right? The people who talk to congressmen and their staff and influence what happens. Do you know what you have to do to lobby Congress? All you have to do is enter one of the congressional office buildings, take an elevator to an office and talk to people. I’ve done it several times.

In terms of BBYO, you’ve probably been around long enough to know that getting elected to an office doesn’t make one a leader, and you don’t have to hold an office to be a leader. It’s all about choosing to try to make a difference.

Third truth: “The rules” as you put them, are made and interpreted by human beings. And human beings vary. Some are rigid, some flexible. Some trustworthy, some corrupt. Some altruistic, some self centered. Most are a bit of each. All are human. This means that every rule is potentially infinitely flexible, because each one is dependent on human beings to interpret and enforce.

Fourth truth: Politics is not a dirty word – it is the tool human beings use to resolve disagreements and conflicts without killing each other. I know that the term has fallen into discredit recently (our media tends to make fun of politicians, many of whom are indeed a rather mangy lot), and our government at times seems to have lost site of the fact that politics can be more effective than threats and blowing things up. But while threats and blowing things up has its place, politics is usually a much better approach. And make no mistake, this observation applies directly to BBYO as well.

These truths did not, of course, answer your question directly, but I believe they can point you in a direction where you will be able to figure out the answer as it applies to your situation.

I also encourage you to consider your resources, particularly in terms of being able to explore ideas and recruit allies to your cause. Parents can prove surprisingly helpful. Look at the advisor roster for your region – the good ones will be glad to discuss these kinds of issues with you even if you aren’t in their chapter, and may be able to provide valuable insight. My Email address is on the site, and I’ll be glad to offer comments if there are issues you’d prefer not to post publicly.

There are a number of books you might find helpful as well:

So the answer to your question – to what extent can you “change the rules” is: it depends. It may be that you won’t succeed no matter what you do. It may be that you can change them dramatically. But I promise you this – if you don’t try, or if you give up easily, failure is pretty much certain. And if you do try – really put some thought and effort into it, even if you fail, you’ll win – because for the rest of your life you’ll see the world in a way that few ever do.

One Response to “Fighting City Hall”

  1. tommy Says:

    Wow, thank you very much. You gave me a terrific response. I have a little more faith in “the system”; I guess it’s at least worth a try. Thanks.

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