Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Enron Factor

I am pretty much exhausted. I work for an organization comprised of largely kick ass individuals that I respect and love. But, like many small non-profits still in the start-up phase, we have lots and lots and lots to figure out when it comes to organizational development and personal interactions. I am as guilty as the rest of falling into the personalities not policies trap.

One of the strengths of organizing in the political left is that we value not only the product but the process and the people. For many of us, if the product is stellar but the process to develop it is fucked up and the people involved in creating the product walk away from the process hurting (physically, mentally, spiritually) then, truthfully, the product is worthless. Our inherent difference from the Corporate Right is that the total value of an outcome is not solely based on the worth of the product but indeed the worth of the entire endeavor from start to finish. The belief that only outcomes matter continues to be at the core of mainstream society and at the heart of the underpinnings of our capitalist system and our democracy.

Liberty Tree works specifically around democracy issues. At our core, we reject winner take all systems because, frankly, those systems are the “democracy” equivalent of Enron. At Enron, the bottom line was dollars and profits and it didn't matter that the process to create the dollars was flawed, faulty, and false. It didn't matter that while some few would become mega rich that the people involved, particularly the workers, would eat the penalities at the cost of their pensions when the three Fs were un covered. In a winner take all democratic practice, it doesn't matter how the process to get elected happens, who pays for it, what promises are made and not kept or the margin by which victory is declared (ie plurality versus majority) the only thing that matters is victory and the people left without representation or voice be damned and the shredded and mortally wounded democratic process be buried alongside the people. At Enron it was the top executives that “won.” In the American Democracy, it is generally Senators, Representatives, Governors and Presidents that are the Ken Lays.

Unfortunately, at times, these same values to which all U.S. citizens to some degree are inculcated manage to sneak across the center aisle, weave through the liberals and sneak into the progressive community. In the last couple of weeks, both internal to my own organziation and to organizations with which I volunteer the depth of the infiltration of the “me first, me second, me last and always” mentality has been unveiled. But there is a difference, on the right the Me Mentality is often calculated and conscious. On the Left, particularly the revolutionary left, it is a subconscious act that the conscious radical rejects while actively acting it out. I am no exception. When I find my personal issues triggered, I find myself to be a masterful player of the Me game. To my credit, when I am confronted (or I confront myself, which also happens) I do what I can to seperate the Me from the what's right and try to make amends for any actions I took in defense of my self interest that crossed from self preservation into selfishness.

I once believed that all my comadres and copadres on the left had the same ability and desire to overcome, reject, and replace the Corporate Right instincts that have been ingrained into us by pop consumer captialist culture. I am still convinced that 98% of my friends and loved ones that are seeking to change the world for the better are still committed to fighting the three Fs both personally and in the political realm and excorcising them. But, I realized today, after thinking over some of the struggles of the last couple of weeks, that there are some people on the Left that even when lovingly given the grace to confront their own inner Ken Lay instead hire an internal Karl Rove to run a public image campaign to allow them to continue presenting one reality while living another. For the first time in a long time, my faith has been shaken. Or, perhaps better to say, that for the first time in my life I am considering walking away from particular people because I do not believe they want to be different than they are now. Even more sobering is that there have been times in my life when people in my life have felt the same way about me.


  1. Doesn't reality just plain suck? These are some of the sobering facts of the human experience. The question is... do we throw the baby out with the bathwater? Or Do we stay focused on ourselves, our motivations and hope that the rest will catch up? If people would just do what I tell them, the world would be just freaking perfect... and I would be queen!

    I struggle with these issues and have to constantly remind myself that whatever I do to hopefully make this world a better place is not for the here and now, it is for the future. I have to continually remind myself of what my true motivations are. Being an Atheist, this is where my faith resides. I MUST have faith that whatever I do will have an effect, even if I never get to see it. Seeing the results of my efforts is about me, not the change I'm trying to effect. It's kind of like my pool game. I love the game... I suck at the game... I aim, shoot and hope the little white ball hits the ball for which I was aiming, if it does great, if it actually sinks it into the pocket, it's orgasmic. Seeing results to my actions are gravy on my mashed potatoes... and being an immigrant gravy is an exotic treat :)~

    With that said, I believe it is part of the human condition to want to see results. Most of the time we want to be catalists for change, we want to make change happen, we want this world to be better. We want to know that our efforts mean something and we measure our successes because we want to know we are not wasting our time. Because it's too drepressing to think that we bust our culos for naught.

  2. ... and don't forget pretty...

  3. while reading i kept thinking of Marx's writings about Alienation... the human from the action... and then Freire's de-humanization of Subject to become object of oppression ... then of course there's mechanization of the body to lead the mind in the same direction... all such wonderful reading. thanks, PR. hugs. Ti Ti


Thank you for sharing your thoughts, feelings, and insights. And thank you for reading!