We've all heard that “talk is cheap,” but philosopher John Dewey's comment that, “democracy begins in conversation,” speaks to its true value.
Here in Denver, some friends and I have been able to provide dozens of taped lectures by people like Angela Davis and Howard Zinn to the main library, and they're checked out constantly. We've also donated tape collections to libraries in Seattle, Minneapolis, South Africa, and Venezuela and are working on packages for Missoula, Vancouver, and London.
To support libraries that are facing “structural adjustment” budget cuts and/or privatization threats, we're providing tapes to any librarian who can get them shelved. Many have been actively seeking material on topics such as corporate globalization and civil liberties now that the WTO and the FBI are skulking around for potential market opportunities and “terrorists.”
We've also been able to share alternative perspectives through commercial AM radio by calling local and national radio talk shows for the past three years. Sometimes the hosts get irritated and quickly move to another caller or a commercial break, but most of the time we've been able to have respectful debates.
Similarly, instead of assuming the corporate media are hopeless, we write and call and email journalists who are often open to doing some muckraking work. The corporate media have plenty of institutional problems, but there are human beings in those institutions who are actively supporting a broader discussion.
Readers can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org for tapes for their libraries.
High Noon for Sprawl
Armed not with six shooters but with ballpoint pens, voter application forms and three long-winded, letter-perfect ballots, the Voters Choice on Mountain Springs gang hit the streets of Tuolumne County, to face a good old-fashioned show-down. Utopian promises of prosperity made by silver-tongued corporate cowboys had corralled our city planners into approving 1,500 new homes, convention center, hotel, condominiums, and a brand spankin' new shopping center, around our existing golf course.
This high-stakes project would double the size of Sonora, California (current population 4,500). The project was approved even though developers danced around particulars of water availability, waste management, road construction, and so on, claiming they couldn't possibly pin down a darn thing ‘til full build-out.
News about the development spread like wildfire. As realtors, bankers, and investors waited, licking their chops, other folks were gettin' as nervous as chickens on a choppin' block. A no-nonsense gal of good stock named Hope Silfert got up enough gumption to call a town meeting, where we formed Voters Choice on Mountain Springs.
Across town another bunch was gettin' together to take on Home Depot and Lowe's, calling themselves Citizens for Responsible Growth. What was once the gold rush that brought fortune seekers here to the foothills of the Sierra was now a corporate development rush. But instead of cluckin' and scratchin' we got out of the hen house and crowed out loud our heartfelt and well researched concerns, right there in front of the board of supervisors.
After days and nights of deliberation, we had a gut feeling that the deal was in the bag, or in the pocket, as some said with a wink and a nod. Sure enough, on that fateful day of September 11, 2001, the project was approved 3-2.
As I was sayin', that's when we hit the streets, offering folks a chance to vote for themselves. Maybe it was the fear of being tarred and feathered by investors that prompted developers to launch a “Don't sign the petition” campaign, using local radio ads and settin' up booths next ours. It didn't take long before we were asked to leave key locations as suspicious allegations of harassment were made to store owners. At times the law even showed up to insure peaceable behavior. Not fooled and pretty ticked off by all the shenanigans, folks lined up to sign.
Tails between their legs, those big dogs went back to the drawing board, and Lowe's and Home Depot were cut off at the pass. Make no mistake, we know those cowboys will come ridin' into town again, 'cause they know what they want. The challenge is to know what we want. So the gang is attending meetings to keep a tight rope on our representatives, not for hanging but for proper decision making. Secretly I think they're enjoying all the fussin' and fightin', 'cause it just ain't natural for a politician to speak to an empty room.
Twain Harte, CA