For those committed to making the world a better place and believe that government structures and civic action play a key role — here are five ways to make change happen.
It starts with each of us as individuals making conscious decisions in our daily lives. Voting, buying local, supporting those businesses that care about people and the planet while boycotting the corporate thugs, polluters and purveyors of indentured servitude (disguised as low wage employers) are just a few examples. Random acts of kindness and paying it forward are other key actions of power and intention.
“El pueblo unido jamás será vencido” — a people united will never be defeated, says it all. While the singular act of individuals can move mountains, the combined actions of a group create movements which can change history.
Showing up, and being involved in the legislative process of changing public policy is essential. Both as individuals and as part of a united collaborative group — it is vital that our collective voices be heard. The moneyed interests can afford to buy the ever-present lobbyist, paid to walk the halls of Congress, the State Legislature and the County.
But the power of individual calls, emails and letters can win against the money if done thoughtfully and with the force of large numbers.
The government structure we have, well… is pretty much the government structure we have. My theory of why it too often seems either dysfunctional or a tool of the 1%, is that it was basically designed to be that way.
The framers of the U.S. constitution wanted government to move slowly. And in the beginning, it was white male property owners who controlled the vote and thus controlled the government.
Cynics will of course say not much has changed. Government continues to move at a glacial pace, and those who own property continue to drive the political forces that control government. I suppose we can take some small element of perverse pride, that the property owners in Hawaii who control power and politics, are at least somewhat ethnically diverse.
So what to do?
We have the government we have, changing public policy is an integral path to making things better, individual actions matter and el pueblo unido jamás será vencido.
The short, here and now answer is to find, support and elect new people to public office. And not any old new people, but people who share our values, our commitment to putting people and the planet first, and who share the burning urgency that change must happen sooner rather than later.
And if all else fails (and/or in addition to the above) — we take the polluters and the corporate thugs to court and we sue. We sue to protect our water and air, we sue to force our government to do its job and we sue the bad guys to force them to pay as high a price as possible for the damage they cause on so many levels.
2020 will be upon us very soon. Our focus, in my humble opinion (and for those that forget… this is an opinion column) should be on “throwing the bums out” and electing new bums that share our values.)
I use the word “bums” with love in my heart and with the intent to bring a smile to your face.
While many are prone to accuse incumbent legislators as “corrupt” or “in the pocket” of this or that special interest, I prefer to believe that most “bad” politicians simply view the world through a different lens. For some the lens is one of ideology, for others it’s a lens of convenience and political expediency.
Of course, there are many good people serving in public office who when given the choice will do the right thing. We just need more of them. A single strong legislator can make a difference, a handful of them can of course make a bigger difference, but what we really need is a majority.
Thus it is essential for us to find, support and elect those individuals who share our world view.
The push and pull of politics and policy, is in fact a push and pull of values. Trust me on this one, if you are not pushing or pulling — you and your values will lose.
So let’s not lose. Instead of rolling over and accepting the status quo, as individuals let’s work with our friends and neighbors and engage the system. And not engage in a tip toe timid, afraid of breaking eggs kind of way, but in a full throated, charging up the hill, rip and shred (without malice of course) and I know I’m going to break some eggs and it’s really unavoidable kind of way, way.
Let’s show up at council meetings and legislative hearings. Let’s email in more testimony, make more calls, and write even more letters to the editor. And yes, let’s keep the bad guys in court until they learn to behave as true good neighbors, or until they go out of business or leave our shores entirely.
But most of all, let’s focus on the elections of 2020, at all levels. The all important primary election is in August of 2020. Absentee ballots will be mailed just 13 months from now.
Serious candidates must start acting like serious candidates very soon. For those of us seeking to support a political revolution of sorts, it is critical now that we reach out, identify solid candidates who share our values, and offer them our enthusiastic help and support, and yes money too.
We do not have to accept the status quo. History tells us great and significant change comes when people get involved.
The five pathways for action are clear. Each separately has the power to make our world a better place. Working with all of them in unison, the potential is limitless:
Individual: The power of one vote, consumer choice and the power of the pocketbook.
Community: Organizing, collaboration — “El pueblo unido jamás será vencido”
Legislative: Testifying, lobbying, writing letters, emails, telephone calls
Electoral: Running for office, supporting and/or opposing candidates.
Judicial: Fight them in the courts.
Let’s do this. All five. At once. Seriously. Let’s do it.
Gary Hooser formerly served in the state Senate, where he was majority leader. He also served for eight years on the Kauai County Council and was former director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control. He serves presently in a volunteer capacity as board president of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA) and is executive director of the Pono Hawaii Initiative.