“Community 3.0” … The People Have the Power, Part 3

In my last two posts, I’ve lamented on the current and very possible future state of America, and that of many other developed nations.

I’ve deplored the role of narcissistic special interest groups in our government and ultimately our livelihood. I’ve bemoaned the effect of the religious right’s self-righteous social campaigns have had on the rights of women and children. I’ve been appalled by the actions of our government in turning back the basic tenants of our constitution – to the time when there was no constitution. And I’ve become sincerely embarrassed to be part of a country that would so bluntly disregard a portion of its population by refusing to give a it hand-up in their time of greatest need.

But today I’m going to take a step out from the dark, out from the gloom. Enough’s been said about what’s wrong and how much further we can fall into the abyss void of compassion, empathy and sensibilities. Now it’s time to turn the tables and visualize hope. For today, let us be immune from the abuses of the 1% and immune from the dysfunction of our government. Today let us envision solutions.

The strength, the salvation of a society lies not with their governmental leaders. It lies not with their institutions. It lies in the hearts, the souls, the minds and the fortitude of its people … the people of its streets, your neighbors and your friends. And it lies with you. And from your neighbors, your friends and you will lie the solutions.

Our governments have let the safety nets so many depend on, here and abroad – fall to ruin and deteriorate to tatters. And they have shown no willingness to repair them. It is us, it is you – and your friends and your neighbors who must step in and be the ones to catch less fortunate as they plummet to the ground.

It is us that must be there for the elderly in our neighborhoods, those that have no family. We must make sure they are fed, housed and looked after – even it’s just a simple visit to have a cup of coffee, to say hello.

It is us that must not look the other way when see that veteran on the street, the one who risked his life for our freedom in a war he neither condoned nor volunteered for. We must show him respect, and with the help of our friends and our neighbors provide those services, the services the government who sent him to war – no longer feels necessary.

It is us that must not let our children, everyone’s children – the future of our society, fall through the cracks because of bureaucratic insensitivity and outright neglect. We must look at each child for the talent they are and the contribution they can make to our community. We must listen, even if they say nothing. We must foresee their needs, even before they actually need them. And when they require that extra guidance or assistance school cannot provide – we must step in and provide that guidance and assistance … that tutoring and mentoring that will transition them to life after school. And we must not discount their views, their opinions and their abilities purely because of discrimination due to their age. For their views are the views of the future, both theirs … and ours.

It is us that must patronize the businesses of our friends and of our neighbors. For without us they would have none – and we will continue to be beholden to the whims and conceit of the corporate elite in their ivory towers of “ill-gotten gains.” It is us that must give the hand-up to Main Street and level the playing for our friends and neighbors that provide the life blood of our community. We can do that with our wallets and our purses, even if means spending an extra dollar or driving an extra mile.

We may wish that with a simple pull of lever in a voting booth, things will be all right. But they won’t be. No matter what their promises or their intentions, no politician will truly have our best interests in mind when it conflicts with the money that put them and keeps them in office. Only we, with help of our friends and neighbors, can be assured that our best interests are protected. I look at this community empowerment as a new generation of societal operandi … an operandi of empowerment we must embrace to survive.

In decades past, neighbors looked after each other, took care of each and their own. But with the proliferation of suburbia, neighborhood relationships waned under the strain geographic stretch. Then came the internet and social networking. Facebook and Twitter became the new defacto neighborhoods. Old friends were reconnected and new ones made, but these friends were not next door, and not available for that cup of coffee or that cup of sugar.

Imagine if we could the combine the neighborhoods of the past and the connectivity and expanse of today to create a new generation of societal support. This new generation, this new lifestyle, I call Community 3.0 – the re-establishment of our neighborhoods, the re-establishment of Main Street. With technology and social media, we, the 99% – can identify and provide the needed support and responsibility our governments have so blatantly chosen to absolve themselves of.

Imagine having a community infrastructure which revolves around social support from its residents and local businesses. Government indifference, whether federal, state or local – will be rendered irrelevant. Those in need would be automatically connected with those who can provide assistance. And with this “cause infused” neighborhood connectivity we can can give our local businesses the marketing and loyalty retention tools to compete favorably with any out-of-town, bloated “ivory tower” corporate goliath.

No time soon will the “powers that be” relinquish the power they’ve tried so hard to acquire. That doesn’t mean all is gloom though. Fighting these adversaries head-on, on a field that they built, will prove to be futile though. But we must still demonstrate in the streets and keep our message front and center in the minds of our converts, present and future. And we must still fight using our social media superiority to re-establish the world on our terms, not there’s.

But ultimately in the end, they are no match for us on our true field … in our neighborhoods, on our Main Streets and most of all – at the tables of our kitchens.

“For … The People have the Power!”

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I can be found on Twitter at @clayforsberg and on Google+

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“I never thought it could happen”

“Damn, is it already 5:00 am? I’ll never get used to that train. That reminds me though, I have to get that logistics report for our joint venture with Halliburton done today. I can’t believe I’d ever be working with a company that partners with Halliburton. But I guess there’s the upside. I get to go back up to the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota  … my old stomping grounds when I was a kid. God, I still can’t believe Dick Cheney’s still alive, especially after his second heart transplant last year. Doesn’t say much for the integrity of our transplant system.

“What’s the temperature out there today? Where’s my iPhone? Maybe if it’s not raining I can get out there for walk before the “Gestapo” hits the streets. I can’t believe that one post “The People Have the Power,” stirred up so much crap. And that was six years ago and I’m still on the radar. Thank God Alex “jail-broke” my phone so my real number is hidden when I use it. At least I can get my stuff out. I just hope it just keeps working, it’s seven years old.  I just hope.

It was six years ago during the summer of 2012, when it happened … when everything changed. The Trayvon Martin shooting and the resulting acquittal of his murderer, George Zimmerman, sparked an uprising not seen in this country since the Civil War. Violent clashes in virtually every metro area pitted the black community and the Occupy Movement against local police forces and the National Guard. After three weeks of bloodshed, the rebellion was beaten down. And then martial law was imposed. The United States had become a police state, with racism, bigotry and homophobia reigning front and center. There was no middle ground. Either you were with the government – or against it, and a target.

The 2012 presidential race was turned upside down. Mitt Romney, the assumed Republican nominee was depicted as being not conservative or strong enough and turned on. Through the unprecedented conservative financial support of the Koch Brothers and Carl Rove Super PACs, previously committed delegates flipped at the convention and nominated Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the author of the “Hunger Games budget.” Then it was “Game On!” In a close election, Ryan defeated Barak Obama and became the 45th president of the United States.

Over the next four years, Draconian civil and social policies were put in place. First it was privacy, or should I say the abolishment of it. Next was full-on censorship.  Twitter and Facebook no longer exist. In the name Homeland Security, anything you did or said was fair game for the government to act on. You thought SOPA or CISPA were bad … you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Even the smart phone manufacturers, Apple and the Android group were put under wrap. Starting in 2014, as a condition of their corporate existence, surveillance firmware was added to each phone manufactured. Fortunately a group of hackers and ex-Apple employees, my daughter Alex included, squirreled away a bunch of old iPhone 4s that still had the open architecture. These phones were smuggled to the “resistance,” as we so like to call ourselves. Most had their numbers altered, like mine – so we could operate in stealth. Getting caught plotting, or even vocalizing government discontent, didn’t work out well for you – especially with dramatic rise and influence of the “prison for hire” industry financed by Wells Fargo. Fortunately a group of American techno-nerds, along with Jack Dorsey (former founder of Twitter) moved to Sweden to assist in putting together an underground Twitter-like network. RISE was our social media outlet and the means to spread our message.

“It may be 40 degrees, but with this wind it feels like North Dakota in December, but it’s worth it. I had to get out and get the blood going. It’s my only day off this week and I have to get my next piece out. I remember when Steve and I used to go for these morning walks. For Steve it was his hangover cure. Oh, and he definitely needed something most days. I haven’t seen him in six months, though. I hope he made to the “generation camp” up north in the Sierras. Steve’s tough … I’m sure he made it.”

“Generation camps” first came into existence during the summer in 2016. I believe the first one was outside of Bend, Oregon. As a result of the Ryan “Hunger Games budget,” the social safety net was ripped to shreds, and nobody was there to sew it up. Unemployment insurance was reduced nationally to four weeks. Welfare benefits were limited to one year and Social Security and Medicare were privatized resulting in drastic reductions. 2015 welcomed in the era of “Social Darwinism!”

By 2018 the United States had formally become a two class society. The “haves” lived in gentrified suburbs not unlike the neighborhoods depicted in the Tim Burton, Johnny Depp movie “Edward Scissorshands.” Everything, everywhere was the same … and perfect. The “have-nots” were banished to the urban cores which were left to decay as a reminder of them being the preference of the young, the creative – or the in the minds of the of the “haves,” the impedance to their lives of opulence. Creativity and entrepreneurship had been replaced by mega-corporate supremacy and control.

In 2016, communicating with hacked iPhones, a group of young people decided to escape the ruins of the inner city to set up communal encampments in the American outback. And with the ascendancy of Monsanto as largest corporation in the world, commercially purchased food was virtually guaranteed to be genetically altered. And with these GMOs came unexplained diseases. Staying in the inner core was the equivalent to a fall into “Dante’s Seven Levels of Hell.” Which level you had fallen to – determined your likelihood of making it out. The sooner you get out the better.

The young brought with them the “old-timers,” the down and out elderly who had the same limited opportunity and distaste for the status quo as they did. Thus came the name “generation camps.” By 2018 there were some 150 of these encampments scattered though out the country, randomly set up in the hills, the mountains, the forests and the deserts. Holdovers from the National Forest Service, now part of Homeland Security, fortunately turned a blind eye to these nomads and let them exist. Some say these “generation camps” are the seedlings of a country reborn. Maybe they will be.

“Finally, a text from Alex. I’ve been trying to get hold of her for two days. |I’m all right Dad. I’ve been over at Natalie’s. She threatened to kill herself because of the baby. I’ll call you tomorrow. Stay safe. Love you.|

My daughter lives in Los Angeles, one of the last strongholds of somewhat liberal thought. The police, not far-removed from decades of bad publicity and scrutinizing reform, have been sympathetic. Alex living down there puts me  somewhat at ease, because she is a renegade and doesn’t put up with anything, from anyone. Other areas of the country wouldn’t work out so well for her. Her old Twitter name used to be “Katana Girl.” It kind of says it all.

Her friend Natalie is twenty-three, and pregnant. The father of the baby is abusive and she’s been trying get away from him for a year, but to no avail. The last thing she wants is to have a baby with him, forever enjoining their futures. In 2012 this wouldn’t be that big of a deal. She could have had an abortion. Not the case in 2018. Abortion is the equivalent of a capital crime.

The conservatives’ War on Women peaked in 2014 with Roe vs. Wade being overturned in return for the support of the Catholic church and other evangelicals. Performing an abortion was escalated to a charge of 1st degree murder. Natalie feels her only option is to put an end to her life. Fortunately she has Alex there with her. But what her next step is … they don’t know. Maybe they can find a “generation camp” that has a doctor who can help.

 ~

What you just read was fiction. Or was it reality, not yet realized.

If we don’t act – it could very well be the latter. If we continue to shop at Wal-Mart rather than our neighbor’s grocery store, hardware store, or pet store … it will. If we continue to harbor our money at Bank of America rather than take the hour or two it’ll take to move it to a community-friendy local back … it will. If we decide to skip that local election, because; “what difference does a school board member or county commissioner make anyway” … it will. And if we assume “that everyone knows what could happen and we need not worry because someone will step up” and we don’t get out there spread the word … it will!

If we think there’s no way it could happen here, after all it’s the United States of America – and we’re free … it will.

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You find me on Twitter at @clayforsberg and on Google+

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Before you give … “Walk a mile in their shoes!”

Well Christmas is over. We’ve braved Black Friday, Internet Monday, and Fed Ex Friday on the parade of consumption. We’ve opened our presents. We’ve had our kids get us up before dawn even thought about getting up. We’ve had the food, the basketball (at least some of it) … and now it’s back to malls for the deals, for the exchanges and for the movies.

Next in line is New Years Eve with the parties and the resolutions. “What can I do this year that I said I’d do last year, but didn’t?” But if your resolution wasn’t about quitting smoking? What if it wasn’t about shedding those stubborn last ten pounds? And what if wasn’t about saving for that vacation you haven’t taken in years.

What if your New Year’s resolution was just to make through the day … and then only to do all over again the next day?

For a lot of people, Christmas and New Years are just other days. There’s no presents and there’s no Christmas dinner, unless you count MacDonald’s. For these people, the holiday season is not a time to remember, it’s more a time forget – a time of memories, long past – of a time and place that often appears to belong to someone else.

For those that have, the holidays are time to give. We all have our lists. We shop neurotically for our husbands, our wives, our kids, and whoever else we feel obligated to buy that fireplace trinket for. Donations go up and you can’t even find a homeless shelter to volunteer at. The ringing of the Salvation Army bell and the clinking of the quarters are as ubiquitous as the “mall rage” that accompany’s it.

After the holidays though … not so much. The bells are gone, packed up like the midway – Monday morning after a county fair. There’s still the lines, but they’re not filled with the volunteers, only those hungry and trying to stay warm.

They say “don’t judge a person until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.” This goes for charity too. Don’t assume you know what they need until you’ve seen life through their eyes. What it means to help these people and even who these people are may not be as apparent as it appears.

“Not all take a night’s sleep for granted”

Need depends on individual situations. It goes without saying, food, clothing and shelter are on the list. But the requirements of someone living on the streets are different from those living in their car. Where do you park, especially at night, without running the risk of getting roused by the cops or “God forbid” robbed or assaulted?

But the homeless struggle goes beyond day-to-day survival. How do you register your kids for school when you don’t have an address? How do you get ahead when you’re paying twice as much having to live in motel because you don’t have an apartment deposit. Much of the attention is paid to those in the most dire straits (rightfully so), but there’s many others – others not so desperate, but still fighting an uphill battle. This battle needs reinforcements … it needs you!

I pose you a challenge!

Take that giving spirit you’ve had in the weeks up to Christmas, and set yourself a new “standard of giving.” But before you give … think! How can I really make a difference in someone’s life this year? What can I do that extends past just the quarters, the bells and the Christmas dinner? “Walk that mile in someone’s shoes.” Talk to people outside your element, people you’d never associate with. Take a bus. Take a bus anywhere – especially to an area you’d never think about going to, and talk to people you’d never think about talking to. What would make their life a little more tolerable? Find out what would make their “Perfect World” a little closer. “Grow some empathy!”

What if you could be instrumental in setting up a parking lot for “car based people” to sleep safely at night … without being harassed by the police. The prospect of good night’s sleep could be invaluable. It might just be that spark to get them up with that little extra – that little extra that gets them out the door taking that first step. And what about bus passes for those that don’t have a car. It’s kind of hard applying for job or going to the doctor if you can’t get there. And how about cell phone minutes. Without communication the status quo is all but inevitable.

You don’t have to go solo on your goodwill mission either. While it’s fine to give to established causes, maybe you and a few motivated friends can band together and solve the problems right in your community. All it takes is a catalyst … being the one that starts the momentum. Imagine a career and lifestyle resource center manned by volunteers located in vacant office space using technology only one version replaced. Often just one person with an idea and drive is all that’s needed.

Make this holiday season the one that puts new meaning to your definition of “give.” Make it more than that tie for dad, or a video game for your kids.

Give someone a future.

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I can be found on Twitter at @clayforsberg and on Google+
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Raising Homelessness Awareness via Foursquare … Good or Bad?

Urban Ministries of Durham has undertaken a thought provoking approach to homelessness advocacy. Will knowing that the homeless are everwhere even in your backyard create positive action. Or will it backfire and create a NIMBY backlash. We can only hope for the former.

Amplify’d from mashable.com

Non-Profit Creates Foursquare Venues for Homelessness Awareness

Urban Ministries of Durham (UMD), a North Carolina non-profit organization providing food, shelter and clothing to the city’s homeless, is launching a Foursquare initiative designed to unsettle application users and raise awareness around homelessness in Durham.

UMD is spotlighting unusual venues such as abandoned warehouses, dumpsters and old construction sites by seeding them, along with corresponding informational tips on UMD, as Foursquare (foursquare) places in the downtown area. Application users in neighboring areas will discover the strange venues in the “nearby places” portion of the app.

The idea behind the campaign, engineered by the McKinney ad agency, is to inspire Foursquare users to check in to these locations to spread awareness about UMD and its mission of homelessness prevention. The hope is to create a chain reaction, where a user checks in to a UMD-created venue and thereby exposes the venue and UMD’s cause to friends and social media contacts who also pay it forward with their checkins.

The campaign is specifically designed to make Foursquare users in the Durham area uncomfortable with the reality of the homelessness around them. By exposing these realities, McKinney and UMD aim to spread awareness and motivate younger audiences to volunteer and help the organization prevent homelessness.

It remains to be seen how Foursquare users in the area will respond to their social experience being overtaken by the addition of these sobering venues, but the idea is certainly unique and bound to raise at least a few eyebrows.

Read more at mashable.com

“Motel kids” … an overlooked American tragedy

Even though I’ve moved to Montana, I still listen to Bill Handel on KFIAM radio on Internet from Los Angeles.  On Friday, Handel broadcasted his show from a restaurant in Orange County that every night provides free dinners for kids that live in motels in the area.  In less than three days, over $70,000 has been raised to assist this unfortunate sub-culture.

This topic hits home with me … big time.  A few years ago, while starting my starting my company, the bleedingEDGE – I was raising my teenage daughter, Alex … in a motel.  Finances were tight, and I wanted to make sure she finished high school around her friends in Manhattan Beach in the Los Angeles.  I had taken over full parenting duties after Alex had spent a year and a half with mother who lived in the area.

Getting into an apartment in Manhattan Beach meant a downstroke of $4000 to $5000 – money I didn’t have.  But what I could do is pay for a motel room.  So that’s what we did.  In fact, we spent nights in a campground when money was even tighter.  I felt the money was better spent on buying Alex a MacBook Pro computer.  She may not have a house, but she had the best technology in the school.

During this time we met several families a lot worse off than we were, all living in motels.  These weren’t families that were unemployed deadbeats.  They were working people who just couldn’t afford to get into permanent housing, especially in an area like Los Angeles.  And most of these people did not have the resources we had.  Their dinner consisted of a trip to MacDonald’s or Taco Bell.  Hardly a diet prone to promote synaptic development, let alone the physical wellbeing.

Motel kids of Orange County

We hear a lot about the homeless, those that live in shelters, in their cars, or even on the streets.  But we don’t hear about those caught in the middle, the “motel families.”  And with the current mortgage crisis, it will get even worse.  It’s a lot like the difference between the unemployed and the underemployed.  The former get the press, but the later latter might really be the true indicator of out economy.  Check out this link: The Real Underemployment is 22.5%.

Now Alex is twenty-one now and out of high school was hired by Apple.  The bleedingEDGE is in beta stage and moving along nicely, so things turned and it worked out for us.  But not everybody will be so lucky.  In fact most won’t.

Alexandra Pelosi, Nancy Pelosi’s daughter, did a document called, ‘Motel Kids of Orange County’ which aired on HBO this last summer.  Find it, and watch it.  It’s riveting.  While our situation was not as dramatic, we were still there.

Now here’s the call to action!

Now of course you can contribute to Bill Handel’s cause.  But better yet … make something happen in your own city.  If Handel can make people aware of this travesty, then why can’t a media personality in your area do the same.  Get on the phone, Tweet, email … use your connections to get the awareness out there.  These kids are on the edge.  They can either go the way of my daughter and get through it successfully, or they won’t.  And for a lot of them – it won’t take much to give them that little bit of help that will make the difference.

We can’t expect the government to step in.  Heck they don’t even acknowledge there’s an issue here.  Private solutions for social problems is THE SOLUTION!

Be part of it.

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If you like this … please Tweet it and follow me on Twitter @clayforsberg

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“I may be homeless, but I don’t have to look like I’m homeless …”

This afternoon I was thinking about how people react to adversity.  It amazes me that some people can maintain a positive frame of mind in the most adverse predicaments.  I’ve been in some situations that most people would have nothing to do with … but it’s nothing compared to the people I met a couple of months ago on Skid Row in Los Angeles. A few months ago I met a woman through a mutual friend.  Special K as she called herself, was an advocate for the homeless in Los Angeles.  In June she called me and asked if I wanted to join her at a clean-up on Skid Row.  I accepted.

The next Saturday I took a bus to Skid Row.  Now I lived in the Los Angeles area for twenty years, and I’ve spent a lot of time in downtown … but I’ve never been to ground zero Skid Row.  I took the bus from my daughter’s place in Century City to the clean-up.  It was Saturday morning at about 11:00 am, so this was about as good as it gets down there. It was eye-opening – as I expected.  There were people literally laying everywhere, again kinda what I expected.  But one thing I noticed … there were no stores, nowhere to buy anything.  But what there was, was literally soup lines.  There were several of them, pretty much all put together by local churches.  I felt like I was transported to an area that had just been hit by a natural disaster – a hurricane or tornado or something.  But there wasn’t anything natural about this … just disaster.

Skid Row
Skid Row Los Angeles

After about a half an hour, I found Special K and we joined a crew of about fifteen others and began cleaning the sidewalks, the streets and anything that needed it. There was thing that surprised me though.  There was hope.  Not everybody acted down and out.  For example, there was Richard.  Richard had just moved to Skid Row – not that he had to be there.  He had just moved from Laguna Beach (high rent district for those of you not familiar with Southern California).  He moved here to help, it’s where he said he belonged. 

Richard and I spearheaded the clean-up. One of our most energetic workers was an attractive young woman named Veronica.  I thought she was just another of the volunteers like me … she wasn’t.  She’d been living on the streets in Skid Row for the last two and half years.  I commented that she didn’t look like she was in the situation she was. This was her response: 

“I may be homeless, but I don’t have to look like I’m homeless.  If I look like I’m homeless, I’ll always be homeless.”

It kind of takes, “faking it till you make it” to a new level – doesn’t it. 

You think she’ll make it out?  I’m not betting against her.

Next time you’re stressing over credit card bills or whatever else you stress about, think of Veronica … I’m sure she’d trade places.

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