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What Michael Moore Really Teaches Us About Political and Social Change In America - Part 7

August 2nd, 2007 by Howard Ditkoff

A Formula for Fundamental, Sustainable Political and Social Change in America (Part 7 of 8)

Note: This is Part 7 of an eight-part series. You may want to start at Part 1 of the series, Summary and Table of Contents.

The Inseparable Roles of Moral Courage and Campaign, Election and Media Reforms in Fundamental Political and Social Change in America

In order to optimally make improvements on the major symptomatic problems in our society, we simply must focus on both of these two fundamental aspects in tandem – the development and promotion of moral courage in an overly fearful populace and key reform measures in the areas of campaign, election and media reform.

Many individuals and groups promote particular actions they feel should be taken to foster positive change without focusing on the skills and growth necessary to instill courage in their constituencies. But without courage, people are unable to speak and act to make a difference, regardless of how well-devised the strategic plan may be.

On the other hand, fostering moral courage without directing that courage toward the systemic levers and leverage points of change will be similarly ineffective. Attempting to separately fight against each current symptom - like treating the symptoms of a cancer one at a time rather than focusing on the cancer itself - is an effort in futility no matter how much passion and energy is directed at those symptoms. And continuing only to inspire on emotional, yet symptomatic, issues given the current state of our democracy is like taking the time to motivate and encourage people to drive, and then putting them in a car that is broken. Much of our energy goes wasted when we inspire and motivate people, only to send them out to attempt to make change in a system where the very mechanisms of democracy are fundamentally broken.

These key areas simply cannot be separated in our attempts to reform our society because they are inextricably intertwined with each other. For instance, politicians lack moral courage precisely because they fear losing contributions from campaign donors and contributors. When Michael Moore appeared to discuss Sicko on Countdown with Keith Olbermann, they agreed that the reason the Democrats have not followed through in their mandate to extricate American troops from Iraq is due to fear. And what are they afraid of? In large part, losing some of their valuable contributors.

Our media lacks moral courage because of its fear of losing large sponsors. Many of us fear attempting change precisely because we know in our guts that the broken mechanisms of democracy are often not able to translate the will of the people into action. We therefore, often correctly, realize that should our efforts fail, we will be left in a still unreformed system where we are now seen as troublemakers and perhaps punished for our disobedience. This fear then allows the vicious cycle to continue.

In order to free our society from these debilitating catch-22’s, we must realize that moral courage and democracy reforms go hand in hand and must both be included in any potentially successful formula for positive change on any of the major social issues we all care about.

Step 1 to Successful Political and Social Change in America: Focus Current Resources of Courage at Leverage Points

It brings hope to realize that we already have resources of great moral courage in our society. There are individuals such as Michael Moore and Al Gore and countless other less famous, but equally brave, citizens working to improve our world. There are also strong organizations working for change in every sector ranging from political groups like MoveOn to environmental groups like the Sierra Club. These people and groups represent great sources of passion and energy. However, because they continue to focus primarily on symptoms, they are not applying their resources in the most effective fashion.

We need to find a way to bring these proponents of various symptomatic issues together to combine their power around the core agenda of moral courage development and campaign, election and media reform that underlies all of their interests. It is completely understandable and wise that these people and organizations focus on issues of particular emotional interest. Michael Moore, for instance, is a master at tapping these strong emotions in order to capture and maintain audience attention. Al Gore did much the same with his environmental film An Inconvenient Truth.

However, once the public is awakened and moved by their focus on any particular symptomatic topic, Moore, Gore and others could be far more effective by creating and directing them to specific tools for developing moral courage and to specific reform measures in the areas of campaign, election and media reform.

Step 2 to Successful Political and Social Change in America: Promote Those Already Applying Levers at Powerful Leverage Points

“There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.” – Henry David Thoreau

What is also hopeful is that there are already several fantastic organizations working on exactly the levers that need pressing at exactly the leverage points where it counts most. These completely under-recognized groups are, I believe, among the most important organizations in America. They include:

We, as well as the powerful individuals and groups mentioned in the previous section, must direct more of our energies toward supporting their crucial work.

Step 3 to Successful Political and Social Change in America: Develop and Promote Programs that Foster Moral Courage Through Skills and Role Modeling

Moral courage is not simply a choice, but an outgrowth of the meeting of needs, the formation of identity and personal development. As such, it is something that must be kept in mind as an end goal by parents, teachers and other community leaders that interact with children. I would like to see as much attention paid to the development of human beings who are strong enough to stand up for what they believe as we do to S.A.T. scores.

Furthermore, I would like to see more role models of moral courage – people like Michael Moore, Al Gore, Derrick Jensen, Dennis Kucinich, Ralph Nader, and others – begin to speak more specifically about the courage they exemplify so well, how they developed it and what sustains them when they face the fears that we all do when we begin to stand up for our beliefs. Let me make clear that while my own political and philosophical biases may color my choice of examples, moral courage can be found in people of all political and philosophical stripes and there are countless diverse examples of role models of this quality.

As we raise a new generation to be brave, and help others to develop that bravery that they may have failed to develop earlier in life, we will have more and more energy to then direct at those key leverage points for change.

  • Continue on to Part 8 of this series, Conclusion

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