The government isn’t going to help you … so get over it!

Note: I originally wrote this post two years ago but with the recent shenanigans in Congress, it is might be even more relevant now than ever. This last Thursday, the Republican led Congress voted to cut $40 billion out of the food stamp program (SNAP) over a period of ten years. And if that wasn’t enough, one day later they voted to defund the Affordable Health Act, forcing the Democrat led Senate to follow suit or they’ll shut down the government.

It would be hard to write a fictional account that would be anymore farcical. Needless to say, Congress continues to ratchet up their level of uselessness and outright disdain for the American people.

For literally thirty years, I voted in every election. It didn’t make any difference what was on the ballot. It could have been a presidential election – or even just a local bond initiative. Regardless,  I voted.  I even spent three years as my precinct head when I lived in Orange County, California.

There were two things that were mandatory television viewing in our house when my daughter Alex was growing up – both days of the NFL Draft and every election. I even took Alex’s 6th grade teacher to task when she assigned math homework on the night of the Clinton / Gore election. Election day is to learn about elections, government and all things related – not math.

Election day is a big deal for me and it started early. I cried when I was a fourth grader in 1968 because Humphrey lost to Nixon. “If only the blacks in the south side of Chicago would have come out and voted, then Illinois would gone Democrat and the election would have been thrown into the House of Representatives which would have voted in Humphrey.” Needless to say, I was into elections.

The last two (now four) years have saddened me. And I’m sure I’m not the only one. I don’t need to go in detail the reasons why. Let’s just say government has become a “useless abyss of self-centered attention grabbing clowns.” They have completely lost their way and I see no hope in sight.

But probably more than government itself, I’m saddened by the people, the people who have come to rely on government – and those people who have championed their causes. The safety net so many have depended on, is rife with holes and the seamstress in charge has been laid off. But yet I hear the same chorus sung to the same audience. “Please fix the net.”

Money posterize

I read an article in Harvard Business Review (read the article here) last week about the plight of inner city youth and the success the program, YouthBuilders, is having. But as with so many of these government assisted programs – funds are being cut and their survival are in question. The author made the comparison of the benefit of funding YouthBuilders rather than incarceration (the likely other alternative). His solution is to further inform the voting public of the benefits of the former over the latter, in hopes they will vote for candidates that favor the preemptive assistance strategy.

In theory all this makes sense. If you give the people the information, then of course they will make the right decision. This theory assumes government works, though. This is a big assumption and most likely a wrong one. Below is the comment I submitted on what it’s going to take to fix the things that need fixing that government used to fix but isn’t interested in fixing anymore (wow, that was a big breath).

Charles, I feel for you and the others who have obviously spent much time and energy pondering our county’s urban dilemma – the state of urban youth. Unfortunately I disagree with your approach.

In your closing, you posed the question – “Would more information help sell the public on the benefits of the programs you described?” I believe it’s your hope that by providing detailed analysis, the light will be turned on in the pubic’s head and we will be on the road to “making the right decision.” The problem is – people seldom make decision based on rational and analysis. They make decisions on emotion. Just take a look at the insanity we’re witnessing with our political bodies throughout the country. If anyone actually looked at the implication of these “half-backed” scorched earth ideas, there would be revolution in every state and locality, in addition to D.C.

The public assistance pendulum has swung past the reach of those who truly need it. And it doesn’t look like it’s going to change anytime soon. There needs to be a different approach – a different plan of attack.

neighbors posterize

The power to solve our urban woes does not lie in Washington nor even in a state capital. It lies in the streets – in the streets of the neighborhoods you’re trying to change. For any meaningful change to take hold and have staying power, it has to come from within the community. And no matter where the community is, it has resources. The solution lies in maximizing these resources.

When all we do is obsess over why the government isn’t there to help prop us up, we lose the focus to help ourselves. And by ourselves, I mean the community as a whole – not just us as individuals. Everyone has resources to offer … and I don’t mean money. Around every corner there are mentors, there are tutors – there are role models. They may not be as easy to find as in the suburbs – but they’re still there. You just have to look a little harder, and be a little more creative.

Rather than fight and obsess over what probably won’t be there – find the answers in your neighborhood. Take the components of successful projects such as YouthBuild and figure out to implement them yourself as much as you can. They may start out abbreviated – but with time they will end up larger and stronger than ever. The strength is there. The resources are there. But it will take resolve and focus to solve decades of old problems.

But maybe this is the time – the time when it looks as if the light is dimmest. Maybe the solution is just around the corner … with our friends and neighbors.

As Tip O’Neal said: “All politics are local.” So lie the solutions to our problems. The solutions lie in our neighborhoods. It’s where we live and it’s where help is … at least where it should be. The future I want will lie in the neighborhoods, not in the capitols, not in the boardrooms. The problems we have, as well as the opportunities, will be addressed by us on the ground floor. Nobody in the silos of conceit and self-indulgence has any interest in anything but themselves. (They demonstrated that two years ago, and it’s even more evident today.)

Some may think protests or demonstration may be effective in changing the status quo. I don’t. Direct action is though! We are going to have to band together, as stakeholders in our future, and fix things ourselves.

The faster we admit it … the faster can get going and do something about it.

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You can find me on Twitter at @clayforsberg or on Google+.

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Why Ted Turner might be the worst thing that’s happened to America in the last 50 years!

In 1876 Alfred Nobel, Swedish chemist and innovator, invented dynamite. At the time he was attempting to invent a substance to replace nitroglycerin, an unstable compound that killed his younger brother in a factory incident. While his intentions were good – or should I say noble, the unintended consequences were far-reaching, and not so good. To his credit, he attempted to redeem himself by creating and funding the Nobel Peace prizes.

While Ted Turner didn’t invent dynamite, nor cause the carnage that results from it … his actions may be every bit as detrimental to the American (and in some ways the world’s) societal and political landscape.

On Monday, April 15 – in the hours following what will forever be known as the  Marathon Bombing, the New York Post reported casualties from the terrorism to be at least fifteen and a Saudi nationalist was being held at a Boston hospital suspected of the crime. CNN also reported an arrest had been made. It turned out only three died and no suspect was being held anywhere.

On Wednesday, April 17 – the small town of West, Texas, twenty miles north of Waco, witnessed the devastation of a massive fertilizer plant explosion. Later in the day, CNN reported the death toll to be fifty, with possibilities of more as the rumble is removed. Five days later and the majority of recovery efforts completed; the actual number of fatalities stands at fourteen … not fifty.

In the weeks leading up to the Marathon Bombing, every major media outlet covered the impending doom to come from a nuclear attack by North Korea. Anyone, and everyone who had even a remote knowledge of the situation was trotted out in front of the cameras to pontificate. Then came Boston … and it was as if the North Korean threat had vanished in a puff of smoke, a non-nuclear one at that.

Ted Turner

Since the creation of CNN in Atlanta in 1980 by Ted Turner, twenty-four hour coverage has become ubiquitous, it’s everywhere … all the time. When Turner shared his idea of a twenty-four hour a day news network, he was scoffed by his peers; “What are you going fill twenty-fours a day with! There isn’t enough news.” Turner believed there was, and of course around the world there is. There’s things of importance, things that we should all be informed of happening all the time. In theory, the benefits of a network like CNN are enormous. The more the public is informed, the better off we all will be – especially concerning situations oversees in countries we know little if nothing about. In practice however, it turns out this is not the case.

In 1996, as a political counter balance to what was seen as the liberal leaning views of CNN, Rupert Murdoch launched the conservative Fox News with Roger Ailes at the helm – former media consultant for Republican presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W. Bush. The same year NBC upped the anty with MSNBC. As conservative as Fox was, MSNBC was liberal and progressive.

While CNN lays claim to be “The Most Trusted Name In News,” the siblings it spawned claim only to ignite their bases with their endless rhetoric backing up their philosophical views. While this unbiased reporting is bad enough, it’s the endless repetition of the same stories “over and over and over” again that really does the damage. As the advertising icon David Ogilvy used say; “It doesn’t matter what you say … if you say enough times, they’ll believe it.” This repetition sets the agenda of we, the viewing public, is to deem important and a priority, no matter what the slant. It leaves little time or attention to be allocated to other worthy subjects and issues.

And this repetitive over simplification of our world does stop with CNN, Fox and MSNBC. Being no longer the only game in town; the traditional network news departments followed suit. It’s hard to believe that the only thing of importance in the world during the course of the last week is the Marathon Bombing. If you were an alien from Mars and just landed … you’d think so. And on top of it, facts seems to have little use in reporting anymore, as the above examples demonstrate. As long as there is a source, any source – the story is worthy of being published. After after, isn’t the first one out with “scoop” what matters, no matter the validity.

The networks’ rationalization of this policy is; “This is what our viewing public wants.” Well how can they want anything else if they don’t even know about it! Walter Cronkite is probably rolling over in his grave, digging at the roof of his coffin in attempt to get out and knock some sense into this current generation of so-called journalists.

So began the dumbing down and polarizing of America. And we have Ted Turner to thank for it.

Never in modern times has America been so polarized, with each side (but especially the conservatives) appearing incapable of achieving middle ground or compromising. The right reinforce their ideologies by falling in “lock step” with Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and Ann Coulter of Fox. While the left won’t miss an episode of Rachel Maddow or Ed Schultz.

We see the result of this in Congress. Nothing gets accomplished. Nothing! The good of the country be damned. The only thing that matters is to further the ideology. I feel like we all jumped into a time machine a drifted back seven hundred years ago to the fifteenth century, the time before the advent of logical thought.

Not in decades have we had such an uninformed public. The majority fall for the unabated lies being spewed endlessly by Super Pacs and special interest groups. The media, both cable and network report what’s being said, with complete disregard on whether it’s the truth or not. This is especially the case when politicians are allowed airtime.

A few of the citizenry ignore this Tower of Babel babble and search the internet and beyond for news and opinions existing on both sides of the ideological fence to make up their own minds. But these people are few. And unfortunately, decisions in government are made for the benefit the special interests as they manipulate the “great uninformed” to follow the tune of their Pied Piper flute.

I’m not saying I endorse one ideological stance over another, even though I do. That’s not the purpose of this piece. Normally I try to propose a solution, a call to action. But today … I don’t have one. I believe I’m probably preaching to the choir. If you’re reading this than you’re probably one of the few I described in the previous paragraph. You’re already there.

All I can say is too keep striving for knowledge. The more informed we are, the better our defenses are to keep the agenda of myopic simplistic mass media at bay. 

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

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Personal Responsibility and De-Evolution of the Human Brain

What if one day we were all on our own. We’d still have our family and friends, but the institutions we normally depend on just vanished. The government, the schools, the insurance companies, the institutional safety nets … all gone. How would you live your life? Would you take less risks? Would you take more? Would you look towards the future, or bury yourself in what was left of the past?

If there is one central thread throughout most of my writings, it’s been the need for us to take “personal responsibility.” Whether it’s our dependence on schools to educate our children, our government to feed and house us when we lose our jobs or even for it to prop up our mortgages when our house values plunge … we expect help. It seems like we’re always looking for someone to “fix things” when they go south. It’s always someone’s fault … someone except us. It’s not our fault that the greedy company we worked for laid us off. We trained for that job and put in our time. “They owe us!” It’s not our fault our children aren’t getting the education they should to prepare them for the future. “After all we pay our taxes!” And it’s not our fault that the value of our home dropped forty percent in two years. “It’s our dream house and isn’t that’s part of the American Dream.”

We didn’t think that just maybe the job we trained for twenty or even ten years ago would become obsolete. Or did we recognize change should be part of life. We didn’t think that education is also the job of us, the parents – not just the school. Sure school is important, but ultimately how our children are prepared for the future is our responsibility. And we didn’t think that putting our life savings into an investment that’s value is dependent on factors completely outside our control, might not be the most prudent strategy.brain-detox2

The problem is “we didn’t think” … and most of us still aren’t. But we’ll be the first ones to complain about our schools, the government and everything else that hasn’t delivered. Hell, we’ll even complain that our neighbor’s teenage son and the parties he throws are dragging down the neighborhood and the value of our house.

Maybe my tone sounds a bit harsh. Maybe it is. But softening the message, won’t make reality any less severe. We can all sit around and hope that our storied institutions will shore-up and provide that hand up, the hand up that will rescue us from the inevitable. But it’s not going happen. And it’s probably going to get worse before it get better.

I’m sure I’ll hear comments saying that not everyone can fend for themselves. And I accept this. For any one of a variety a reasons, there are people who need help. And in the past this assistance has come primarily from the government. But that doesn’t change the situation today and probably in the future. Charity and its role in the government is drifting further and further apart. Talk of austerity and cost-cutting (mainly social services) is front and center in public discussion. Even with Hurricane Sandy, the biggest economic disaster in America’s history, took three months of “child-like sandbox bickering” before significant government assistance was approved.

But here’s what I believe. Regardless whether someone should receive government or any other aid, that doesn’t excuse them, or you, from using your mind – from thinking. Don’t just assume you’ll be bailed out if something goes other than planned in your “perfect world.” Whether or not you consider your plight in life your doing, you can still act with personal responsibility and use your mind. Maybe, just maybe, if you would have in the first place … you wouldn’t be in this position. Get past the mass media and its preoccupation of classifying everyone as victimized. The boat’s full of real victims and there ain’t no more room.

Turn off the “auto-pilot!” Get the synapses firing. Rather than resting on your laurels, assume your job will be phased out and develop a habit of learning a new one. Before you push your child to become a lawyer (or other profession that makes YOU feel good) and strapping them with a six figure student loan debt, do some research. Maybe then you’ll learn their job prospects in that field may not be what they were twenty years ago. And before you shackle your future to that “dream house,” well … just don’t do it!

Change is happening, whether you like it or not. And it’s happening at a rate faster than anytime in history. How you react to its impending chaos, will dictate where you end up in the future. But it all depends on taking responsibility, and thinking before you automatically act as you always have.

Evolution doesn’t happen on its own … you have to help it along.

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You can find me on Twitter at @clayforsberg

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“Happy Birthday Occupy Wall Street … thoughts on Year One”

Fifteen years ago, I ran across a book, “100 Most Influential People in History,” during one of my dalliances to my local Marin County bookstore. “Influential People” was one man’s assessment on exactly that. But how he determined his rankings was the interesting part. They weren’t always the reasons you would think. But after thinking about it, they made complete sense. For example:

George Washington was ranked in the top 40 of all time. Understandable. But the reason why … not so much. You would think George Washington would be ranked high for being the first president of the United States, or possibly for leading the colonists to victory in the Revolutionary War. But those weren’t the reasons. The author’s reasoning: Washington stepped down after just two terms. This set a precedent that was not broken until Franklin Roosevelt 160 later. Washington did not want to replicate the situation they had just broken from in England and the monarchy of King George III.

Things are not always what they seem. And this bring us to today.

On Monday, Occupy Walls Street celebrated (if you call 180 arrests celebrating) their first anniversary. Various publications and web sites have pontificated: “What had it accomplished?” The grades weren’t high. A typical headline was similar to this in the Washington Post: The”Rise and Fall of Occupy Wall Street.”

Even with all the demonstrations and all the Occupying, what has really changed. We still have Wall Street “using and abusing” the common folk. We still have the 99% , and yes – we still have the 1%. We still have “Too Big to Fail” bankers, no matter what their indiscretion – free as birds. And we still black kids in New York City needing identification to even get back in their homes after running an errand across the street to the local market.

Occupy Wall Street is a failure … at least that’s what the experts and pundits want us to believe.

Back on May 22, I penned a blog post called “Impatience … the definition of America’s investment strategy,” chronicling America’s preoccupation with the short-term. Whether it’s the investment community’s near-sighted “lack of vision” or our obsession with personal instant gratification. It has to happen now!

The public’s view of Occupy Wall Street has fallen victim to this thinking. It makes no difference that it took decades for the civil rights movement to show results. Nor there was there any mention that it took ten years of demonstrations before Richard Nixon declared victory in Vietnam and pulled our troops out.

Both these two movements had one thing in common. They both had defined goals, goals with an endpoint. The civil rights movement wanted legislation passed outlawing discrimination, which it got in 1964. And the war protests wanted the end of American involvement in the Vietnam War, which happened with the withdrawals in 1973. But what is the defined goal of the Occupy Movement. You can’t get rid of Wall Street and you can’t mandate economic equality. Capitalism, and the pursuit of more than your neighbor, is and always has been the foundation of the American Dream.

So what is Occupy actually all about? In my opinion, Occupy Wall Street and all its Occupy offspring are about injustice. But more than that, it’s about the lack of our governmental action rectifying these injustices.

Using this criteria, Occupy doesn’t appear to have fared too well. As I mentioned above, no bankers are in jail, income disparity flourishes and corporate America is marching like Sherman, unimpeded, in pursuit of a full-blown plutocracy. But let’s go back to patience, or should I say, lack of.

The war against injustice will continue indefinitely, well past the time we’re all dead and gone. There will be battles that are won, and battles that will be lost. And there will always be skirmishes on the margins. All we can do is keep fighting the fight, because the forces driving the injustices won’t let up in their drive to domination. But positive results will only happen incrementally. We have to have the patience and the resolve to recognize this.

So where does the Occupy Movement fit into this discussion. Occupy has defined the fight!

They coined the term the 99%, aside from the ubiquitous activist rallying call “Occupy!” It’s here where the Movement matters. They have pushed the dialogue of corporate and economic disparity to the front of the world’s attention. And Occupy didn’t stop in Manhattan on Wall Street. It has spread worldwide, uniting people around a plethora of causes. Whether it be protesting banks, Wal-Mart or even Monsanto and their global modification initiative, you can’t get away from a Twitter hashtag with “#occupy” in front. Don’t take my word for it. Check out this map of global proliferation of the Occupy Movement.

This is why Occupy Wall Street and all its children matter … and this is why Occupy has succeeded. It is the spark that lit the proverbial fire, a fire that will only spread. There may be temporary breaks put in place by the establishment “firefighters,” but in the end – they will be overrun!  What form Occupy takes is anyone’s guess? Will it even exist as a separate entity? Does it even matter?

Only years down the road will we truly come appreciate the effect the Occupy Movement has had on our lives. Because  then it and its agenda will have become imbedded in our societal fabric.

Let us just have patience.

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You can find me on Twitter at @clayforsberg

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High unemployment is here to stay … so what are you going to do about it?

I had a discussion yesterday with Sandy Maxey on Twitter about the unemployment issue here in the United States. Up till now, I’ve just had cursory thoughts about it. Everybody seems to have a solution. On one end we have full-scale government job creation intervention. And on the other, some profess in the unabashed free market. Of course the solution probably lies somewhere in between. Here’s my take on it.

First, not all short-term issues need to be “fixed.” Economies, just as the seasons, cycle and repeat. Just as you can’t expect your tulips to bloom year round – the economy isn’t always going to be bullish. There is a limit to prosperity. We don’t live in utopia. And very often our short-term interference does more harm than good.

We have evolved into a pampered society. We expect things to always be rosy. I don’t mean say that there are not people who are hurting … because there is. But for most of us – our plight is greatly overstated. Our individual wellbeing will ultimately be dependent on us ourselves. How we each deal with our up and downs is the determining factor, because our ups and downs will happen.

Second, we are witnessing a profound shift in the employment needs of the marketplace. In years past, we made things and we, along with world bought these things. Today, such is not necessarily the case. Manufacturing jobs, jobs which defined middle class are gone – and probably won’t be back. There is nothing government intervention or lower taxes can do about it. Efforts to nurture declining industries and their corresponding jobs will do more harm than good. It may not seem like that when you’re trying to pay the mortgage – but it is what it is.

Middle management job fair

This doesn’t mean there aren’t employment opportunities out there though. Unfortunately, our education system and most of all our attitudes towards jobs and security haven’t kept pace with reality and the changes in the marketplace. Our education system keeps churning out college graduates with middle management skills – yet the prospects for these jobs are bleak. We educate more and more want to be lawyers, yet technology is making much of the legal field obsolete.

The biggest culprit in this chasm between labor supply and demand are the parents of our youth. “I want my son and daughter to go college.” It doesn’t make any difference whether there’s a job at the end of ten of thousand of dollars of debt – they’re still going to college. It doesn’t even matter what the degree is in – “they’re still getting one.”

Now to my third point. The jobs that will fuel our labor recovery don’t exist … at least not right now. And I can’t tell you what they’re going to be. They’re just going to happen. What we as a country has to do is create a workforce that excels at being able to change … to adapt. We have to get back to being a country of entrepreneurial spirit. This is where the job and the opportunities will be – not with the Fortune 500. Our biggest problem is our reluctance to give up old perseptions and norms. We have a middle-aged unemployed workforce that is searching for jobs that aren’t there. We have college graduates searching for a secured career like their grandparents had.

Who would have guessed that the internet would have become what it has and spawn the opportunities it has. Nobody. Even five years ago, who would have predicted there would be ten of thousands of people creating cell phone applications – from their home. Nobody. There will opportunities that will surface that entrepreneur will take advantage of. But these entrepreneurs may or may not be in this country.

In fact, our insistence in holding on to outdated institutions has actually put us a disadvantage in creative thinking. We want things like they were. Even from a personal standpoint – we whine about gas prices, yet few of us make changes to our lifestyles. “Take a bus a day a week to work – not me.” Rather than take advantage of opportunities that higher gas prices have created – we bitch about it. Inactivity will do nothing but drop you further behind.

Well, things have to change. There’s no going back to the good old days of the past (even though they might not even have been so good). The crucial skill we have to learn and embrace is the ability, and even the mastery of being able to change and adapt. We have to learn to see what’s not there and take the risk to make it there. We may stumble, or even fall down. But if we know how get back up – who cares! We need to nurture our own personal Phoenix (see the post about my daughter’s tattoo and you’ll get my drift).

This new adaptable attitude has to encompass our entire lives including what we put value in. If you’re a parent, quit pushing your kids into a career and lifestyle that makes you feel good and impresses your neighbors. You won’t feel so good when you’re the paying off their college debt while your son or daughter lives in your basement looking for a job – unsuccessfully. And get over the “white picket fence” syndrome. While owning your own home might have been the American Dream for generations past … it’s no longer. In most cases, all it is is a ball and chain mortgage strapped to you that limits your geographic flexibility. You have to be able to go to where the jobs are. And owning a house certainly puts a crimp in that, especially in this market.

We can all sit and listen to politicians talk about what they’re going to do to jump-start the economy and lower the unemployment to pre-recession levels.  But they have no better idea than you do or I do. Only you know what your own personal answer is.  You have to take matters into your own hands. But please, loosen up your criteria. Whatever security you had in the past is probably gone – so deal with it. When you think things are bad … they could be a lot worse. I know. For two years I rotated between living in motels and a tent (with my teenage daughter). And in hindsight, neither one of us is any worse for wear. If anything we’re both a lot stronger and more empathetic.

I know I’ll get comments bagging on my lack of sympathy. And they’ll be right. Sympathy is not my strong suit. But what I do have is empathy. I’ve been there and know what it takes to completely change my frame of reference and really come to grips with what’s important to me.

All I ask from you is develop the skills to adapt and see the opportunities that out there – not the ones you wish were out there. And please help your children do the same. Don’t cement their view of value and the world with yours.

“The mind can make heaven of hell … and hell of heaven.” So get out there create your own heaven.

Please comment. Your views and insight, pro or con, are valuable and make the post.

Also follow me on Twitter at @clayforsberg. There’s always good stuff happening there.

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The government isn’t going to help you … so get over it!

I originally wrote this post two years ago but with recent developments in Congress recently, it is might be even more relevant now than then. This last Thursday, the Republican led voted to cut $40 million out of the food stamp (SNAP) over a period of five years.

For literally thirty years, I voted in every election. It didn’t make any difference what was on the ballot. It could have been a presidential election – or even just a local bond initiative. It didn’t make any difference,  I voted.  I even spent three years as my precinct head when I lived in Orange County, California.

There were two things that were mandatory viewing in our house when my daughter Alex was growing up – both days of the NFL Draft and every election. I even took Alex’s 6th grade teacher to task when she assigned math homework on the night of the Clinton / Gore election. Election day is to learn about elections, government and all things related – not math.

Election day is a big deal for me and it started early. I cried when I was a fourth grader in 1968 because Humphrey lost to Nixon. “If only the blacks in the south side of Chicago would have come out and voted, then Illinois would gone Democrat and the election would have been thrown into the House of Representatives which would have voted in Humphrey.” Needless to say, I was into elections.

The last two years have saddened me. And I’m sure I’m not the only one. I don’t need to go in detail the reasons why. Let’s just say government has become a “useless abyss of self-centered attention grabbing clowns.” They have completely lost their way and I see no hope in sight.

But probably more than government itself, I’m saddened by the people, the people who have come to rely on government – and those people who have championed their causes. The safety net so many have depended on, is rife with holes and the seamstress in charge has been laid off. But yet I hear the same chorus sung to the same audience. “Please fix the net.”

Government assistance is not what it used to be

I read an article in Harvard Business Review (read the article here) last week about the plight of inner city youth and the success the program, YouthBuilders, is having. But as with so many of these government assisted programs – funds are being cut and their survival are in question. The author made the comparison of the benefit of funding YouthBuilders rather than incarceration (the likely other alternative). His solution is to further inform the voting public of the benefits of the former over the latter, in hopes they will vote for candidates that favor the preemptive assistance strategy.

In theory all this makes sense. If you give the people the information, then of course they will make the right decision. This theory assumes government works, though. This a big assumption and most likely a wrong one. Below is the comment I submitted on what it’s going to take to fix the things that need fixing that government used to fix but isn’t interested in fixing anymore (wow, that was a big breath).

Charles, I feel for you and the others who have obviously spent much time and energy pondering our county’s urban dilemma – the state of urban youth. Unfortunately I disagree with your approach.

In your closing, you posed the question – “Would more information help sell the public on the benefits of the programs you described?” I believe it’s your hope that by providing detailed analysis, the light will be turned on in the pubic’s head and we will be on the road to “making the right decision.” The problem is – people seldom make decision based on rational and analysis. They make decisions on emotion. Just take a look at the insanity we’re witnessing with our political bodies throughout the country. If anyone actually looked at the implication of these “half-backed” scorched earth ideas, there would be revolution in every state and locality, in addition to D.C.

The public assistance pendulum has swung past the reach of those who truly need it. And it doesn’t look like it’s going to change anytime soon. There needs to be a different approach – a different plan of attack.

The power to solve our urban woes does not lie in Washington nor even in a state capital. It lies in the streets – in the streets of the neighborhoods you’re trying to change. For any meaningful change to take hold and have staying power, it has to come from within the community. And no matter where the community is, it has resources. The solution lies in maximizing these resources.

When all we do is obsess over why the government isn’t there to help prop us up, we lose the focus to help ourselves. And by ourselves, I mean the community as a whole – not just us as individuals. Everyone has resources to offer … and I don’t mean money. Around every corner there are mentors, there are tutors – there are role models. They may not be as easy to find as in the suburbs – but they’re still there. You just have to look a little harder, and be a little more creative.

Rather than fight and obsess over what probably won’t be there – find the answers in your neighborhood. Take the components of successful projects such as YouthBuild and figure out to implement them yourself as much as you can. They may start out abbreviated – but with time they will end up larger and stronger than ever. The strength is there. The resources are there. But it will take resolve and focus to solve decades of old problems.

But maybe this is the time – the time when it looks as if the light is dimmest. Maybe the solution is just around the corner … with our friends and neighbors.

That kind of sums up where my head’s at. Everything is local. And the solutions lie in our neighborhoods. It’s where we live and it’s where help is … at least where it should be. The future I want will lie in the neighborhoods, not in the capitols, not in the boardrooms. The problems we have, as well as the opportunities, will be addresses by us on the ground floor. Nobody in the silos of conceit and self-indulgence has any interest in anything but themselves.

Some may think protests or demonstration may be effective in changing the status quo. I don’t. Direct implementation is though. We are going to have to band together, as stakeholders in our future, and fix things ourselves.

The faster we admit it … the faster can get going and do something about it.

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You can find me on Twitter at @clayforsberg or on Google+.

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