Barry Crimmins

words to live near



An Activist's Lament Thursday, July 20, 2000

Copyright 2000 Barry Crimmins, all rights reserved

The so-called progressive political movement is too often paralyzed by process and petty turf wars, fought by people who have more time, and less other things to do, than anyone else.

How many times have you attended the first meeting of many people concerned about an issue only to spend the entire evening watching a few people debate how that and future meetings should be conducted? The next meeting is less well attended, but the original adversaries are back, armed with even more verbose arguments. Eventually, almost no one attends. The people who didn't return to later meetings were not lacking in social conscience, they simply didn't have time for what was, in essence, group therapy dominated by a few blowhards.

Happily this doesn't describe every group and every cause. Sadly, it describes far too many of them. Under the guise of democracy, progressives spend too much time hearing out emotionally-challenged political allies as they discuss how much they distrust everyone who is on their side of an issue. If you tire of hearing about mistrust and unbelievably petty grievances and say so, then your commitment to the cause is questioned. But really you only spoke up because while these people were acting out their petty indifferences; bombs were still falling; workers were still getting screwed over; innocent people were still living under tyrants and the environment was still being destroyed.

In over thirty years of political activism I have never seen a war stopped, a river saved or dictator deposed because someone at a meeting of progressives prefaced remarks with "I have some personal issues that I think are really important to share with you before we get too far along" (or words to that effect).

I say this with no ill feeling toward anyone but because I believe it's time progressives understood that if we can't get out of our own way, we're never going to change the world.