Monday, March 31, 2008

Armchair Activist Challenge Wrap Up

Well, today is March 31st which means that this challenge is officially coming to a close. I say officially because I hope to continue writing letters and signing letters until my hands fall off!

This challenge was ... a lot harder than I thought it would be. It turns out finding petitions and such to sign for fifteen minutes a day is hard. It also turns out that I (get ready for this) don't know everything about every single issue out there! I know, I know, you're shocked and appalled.

But the point is, while I went in assuming that I would be well-informed enough that I would never just mindlessly click and sign, I found that much of the time I didn't have anything to add to the conversation. I don't know anything about grey wolves except that they were until very recently endangered and under federal protection.

This challenge also gave me a greater appreciation for lobbyists if you can believe that. I know, I know, lobbies are evil. And it is true that many lobbyists are corrupt and that lobbyist influence on Washington has been especially problematic in recent years. But the truth is, lobbyists are not inherently bad.

In fact, lobbyists are designed to help citizens because it's impossible for the average citizen, even the average informed citizen, to keep abreast of every political item going on that would be of interest to them. A "good" lobbyist represents the people's interests in government.

I'm glad I have Sierra Club, Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, Greenpeace, etc representing my interests. I'm glad that those lobbies exist because frankly, I needed their action updates desperately. I need them sitting on Congress' head, paying attention when a bill comes up that would be of interest to me. I need them telling me what's going on right now and when I need to be calling my Senator.

So I actually think that lobbyists have their place and value. I think the problem we run into today has less to do with lobbying in general and more to do with the fact that we treat corporations like individuals. But corporations aren't like people. Corporate lobbies represent the best interests of a corporation, not the best interests of people. Unfortunately, many times the best interests of corporations run completely counter to the interests of people. (There's a really boring movie about this called "The Corporation." I don't really recommend it because I thought it was dry and I fell asleep halfway through it, but it was certainly very educational.)

So I don't really know what the answer is, but certainly my realization as to the necessity of lobbyists further reinforced my belief that very little in life is truly black and white.

Anyway, this month was definitely a learning experience for me. There were a lot of failures. Many of my personal letters to small businesses never got answered. And I'm not going to lie, the sting of California's Air Resources Board gutting the ZEV program was bad. And no, I did not feel better because "at least I did something."

But activism is a life-long thing. You are always going to win some and lose some. And I do feel confident that the more people who get involved, the more we'll start to win.

Stay tuned tomorrow for my most difficult monthly challenge yet! I can't wait to tell you guys all about it.


Anonymous said...

dang girl, it's all challengicious over here. Congrats on getting involved this past month and I can't wait to here what new stuff you've got cooked up.

Mad Hatter said...

"Corporate lobbies represent the best interests of a corporation, not the best interests of people."

I completely agree. Milton Friedman even argued that the only responsibility of a corporation is to increase profits for its shareholders. Needless to say, increasing profits is often at odds with benefiting society.

Mad Hatter said...

Oops...I forgot to mention that I've tagged you for a meme!

Sam said...

Did you get responses where the recipient completely misunderstood your letter? I know senators probably don't have time to read every letter that comes to them, but I'd like a letter that at least addresses some of my original points.

Cath@VWXYNot? said...

Did you get any responses at all? I'd be interested to hear what happened with the packaging issue you mentioned (at an ice cream place I think).

ruchi said...

I did not get a response from the frozen yogurt place. The only responses I got were mostly form letters from Dianne Feinstein and a couple form letters from the Gubernator.

No responses from most of the businesses I wrote letters to. No response from the Los Angeles MTA about the proposed Metro plans (not even a form response which I thought was weird.)

Sometimes getting responses takes longer for small businesses though so I still have hope that I'll eventually get some more responses.