Work from the inside out, AKA Everything is local. – Free Range Oyster

Work from the inside out, AKA Everything is local. – Free Range Oyster

The first thing to note is that no one is without influence, and those who have very little have either never tried to extend it or have never been taught how. Consider this a crash course for the front line grunt in the culture war. Please note, you’ll never get any of these perfectly, and you shouldn’t try to polish all the edges before moving outward, just make sure you have a solid foothold. Metaphors may blend during shipment.

Start with yourself. Know what your principles are, and why. Be able to express them, in written or verbal form (preferably both). You don’t have to be a great rhetorician, but being able to explain yourself clearly and concisely is invaluable. As a side bonus, it’s handy for everything else. Get familiar with history, with basic political philosophy, with common issues and general facts. You don’t have to be a wonk, just be conversant with the basics. If you’re religiously inclined (or even if you’re not), be sure to spend some time with holy writ, both reading and pondering. Above all, work on living your principles. Don’t make a show of it, just do it.

Now reach out a little. This can be a challenge for introverts and the socially unskilled, but not as much as you might think. Strengthen the connections you have first. Do you have family you’re on good terms with? Close friends? When was the last time you talked to them or spent time with them? There’s a great deal that has been said and written on interpersonal relations, so I won’t reproduce it all here. Just build trust and camaraderie with people as you’re able. Discretely and politely share your values with those around you. Set an example, encourage them, help them in ways that will make them more independent. For fundamentals I’d recommend How to Win Friends and Influence People and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People; they’re both excellent, and my efforts in life have been much more successful as I’ve followed them. They may come across as cliched, but it’s the same way Casablanca is cliched.

Then the trickier part: how about neighbors? How many do you know, and how well do you know them? Get to know the people in your area. Online communities are wonderful – this one in particular has gotten me through some brutally difficult times – but they have their limits. As much as I love Hoyt’s Huns, when I need to strip a roof or haul a truckload of rubbish or build a fence, it’s my neighbors I turn to. Not every person is worth building a relationship with, but you never know until you meet them. The good ones you can move into that first circle around you, and share with and influence them. The others do your best to be on polite terms with; you never know when or how simple politeness will pay off.

If you’re a creative type, make things that reflect your values. Our Beloved Hostess has written a great deal on this over the years, so I’ll just summarize: Put quality first. Don’t preach. Don’t give in to what someone else tells you to create. Keep making. Keep improving.

There are other opportunities in the creative sphere besides making things yourself. Patronize creators whose art you appreciate (this applies to craftsmen and other skilled workers too) and spread the word to others you know. Don’t be afraid to share things you’re excited about. Request good books at your local library, or donate them there if you can. If you are an attendee at conventions, consider getting involved or at least offering suggestions for material to cover or guests to invite. Do you go to museums or concerts? Find out if there’s a way to give input on what they’re showing. Heck, put together a concert or dinner or art show: it’s not easy, but it’s not as hard as you might imagine. One of my brothers planned, prepared, rehearsed, advertised, and directed a performance of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue while still in high school. A church group I knew in California put together a show of local visual artists together with a concert of fabulous classical instrumentalists and vocalists on a shoestring budget.

Whatever your profession, trade, calling, or job, do it well. If you’re not employed and want to be, then finding a job is your full time job. Whatever you have to do, work hard at it. I cannot say enough of how important example is. People you work for will see it, people you work with will see it, people who work for you will see it, people you want to work for will see it, and you may plant a seed there. Again, this will serve you well regardless of culture wars.

Organizations are next. There are various opportunities online – open source projects, special interest forums – but most have a geographical component. At the local level is where everything starts. Professional and networking groups, religious organizations, conventions, HOAs, town councils, school boards, fraternal orders, band boosters, writers’ groups, sewing circles, guilds and trade groups, makerspaces, clubs of all kinds… get involved in what interests or affects you. Some of those get into politics, which I’ve largely tried to avoid here, but the same processes and principles apply there. Know who your local political and governmental people are, your mayor, city councilcritter, state legislator, party rep, precinct captain, etc. Get to know them; make sure they know you. Bring those people and those organizations into your circle of influence. Look for opportunities to advance those principles you identified at the beginning, even if just a little. Maybe especially if it’s just a little.

It took the progressives, communists, fascists, social justice whiners, and other authoritarians generations of this kind of effort to put us where we are today. It will take a long time – years at least – to put it right, but every step we move forward, every haven we build makes our lives a little easier. Don’t give up. Keep pushing.

28 thoughts on “Work from the inside out, AKA Everything is local. – Free Range Oyster

  1. The first thing to note is that no one is without influence …

    Oh dear – I read that initially as “The first thing to note is that no one is without flatulence …”

  2. Knowing you neighbors, knowing your local government . . . at least know their names. If it’s an elected position and they’ve been doing a good job, kick in twenty bucks for their reelection.

    I’ve always thought about how supporting the local institutions and keeping them going during the bad times would be good. I had never thought about how getting involved_also_ gets your name out there where it will be recognized, or even searched for on line.

    1. It can be surprising how much influence you can develop by attending local school board meetings and (after taking time to acclimate to the local mores) quietly expressing opinions that are thoughtful and relevant.

      Do keep in mind that few strive for election to such boards for the power and prestige of being awakened at 4:30 AM to listen to views on decision of whether they ought or ought not declare a snow day.

      In influence, as with many human interactions, slow and steady wins.

      1. That’s exactly true. I’ve contacted my state assemblyman a couple of times and urged him to look into various bills pending in the general assembly, with my thoughts on those bills and recommendations on how to proceed on them. Each time I got a thoughtful reply and (oddly enough) both bills went the way I recommended. I don’t take credit for that, but it seemed pretty clear to me that he was gratified that one of his constituents was paying attention and had thought about the pending legislation enough to have rational opinions about them. That’s how you begin to build influence, I think.

        1. Also, one person can have a lot more influence on your state assemblyman than on your senator or congressman, precisely because so few people pay attention to the state assembly.

          It’s kind of like how if you’re a baseball fan, it’s a lot more effective to be a fan of a minor-league team rather than a major-league team. From what I’ve heard (I have no personal experience), minor-league teams’ fandoms feel a lot more like a family, with the players and the fans actually getting to know each other a little. There’s no way a major-league player could ever get to know more than a tiny fraction of his fans, but it’s different in the minor leagues. And the level of baseball is still high enough that it’s just as much of a blast to watch as the major leagues, but you pay way less and your fellow fans are friendlier.

          Politics and “friendly” don’t often seem to go together, but that same friendliness is the hallmark of the Tea Party movement — at least, the parts of it I got to see personally. And while the media may have successfully blackened the Tea Party name, there’s no WAY we should let them discourage us. The Tea Party principles — get involved in local government, and change things from the ground up — still apply. Go change things near you, do your part, and trust that others are doing the same thing near them.

          1. Sometimes state assembly members become members of the US House or Senate, too — and they will generally remember the people who “knew them when.”

            If nothing else, it might mean a Representative or Senator who tells the staff that your letters don’t get handled by staff, they go straight to his desk.

            State assembly members are not usually as much taken up by the demands of reelection or paying fealty to a party. Just think what an early intervention might have done for Schmuck Chumer! (Harry Reid was probably a lost cause from the first election.)

            1. If you have ever seen “Casino”, note that the slimey state senator character was based on Harry Reid.

  3. Kids’ organizations. Yeah, you don’t have kids. Or you do, but you really want an hour break. But you know what, this is where you can really spread your principles. They’re always paying attention. That’s why the progs went after the schools in the first place.
    There’s Sunday School; Scouts, Campfire, and a host of similar groups; 4-H and FFA; every single youth branch of adult organizations such as Jr. Rotary; the Masonic youth organizations (DeMolay, Job’s Daughters, Rainbow), sports groups; chess clubs; Awanas and the like. With so many two-working-parent and one-parent families, they need places to send their kids, and if you can pass a background check, most of them ask little more than some familiarity with their program.

  4. Totally true that everyone and anyone can have influence. Even on major things. And your trajectory should you decide to start local can never be predicted. When Sarah Palin ran for town council in Wasilla, nobody saw her as the future governor of Alaska. And I’ve sent a few letters to congresscritters at the right time to have some influence on things that happened, or more accurately, didn’t happen.

    As for working with youth groups to make a difference, absolutely. May or may not be an easy thing to do. Boy Scouting is all volunteer at the local level. And the local troop has to accept you as a volunteer. Quite honestly, if I don’t know you, and the other 2 key members of the troop don’t know you, and you don’t have a son in Scouts, and no previous association with Scouting, you’re not going to be part of our local troop. Precautionary principle at work. I suspect a lot of other youth organizations will look at a sudden volunteer with no previous interest or contact in the group with a jaundiced eye.

    1. I think that depends. If someone called you up and said ‘I want to get involved’ would you really have nothing for them to do? Or would you say, well, we’re having a whatever event and here’s something the boys can’t do that needs done, and has no involvement with the boys? I’m not that familiar with scouts, but in 4-H I wouldn’t hesitate to, after the person passed a background check, send someone like that donation hunting or on post-fair barn clean-up, or over night barn watch (aren’t always kids and folks available) and they’d have a chance to build trust.

      1. Always remember: Sequence is critical:

        Ready, aim, fire.
        Point and shoot.
        And alwats, always burn last.

        Fire and Ice
        Some say the world will end in fire,
        Some say in ice.
        From what I’ve tasted of desire
        I hold with those who favor fire.
        But if it had to perish twice,
        I think I know enough of hate
        To say that for destruction ice
        Is also great
        And would suffice.

  5. One nit, I would highly recommend NOT getting involved with an HOA.

    Most of the rest of what you said is spot on.

    1. Unless it is for self defense. As in “Hmm, Bertha Better-than-you has been talking about getting on the HOA board next time a space opens so that she can ‘do something about those horrible people who plant flowers in their front yards.’ Maybe a few of us should get together and see about applying for the seat and start planning to run so at least we can neutralize her.”

      1. If the HOA is responsible for common facilities (private roads, pool, clubhouse, basketball and tennis courts, etc.) one may want to be involved to make sure enough (but not too much) money is spent, and that it is spent wisely. Any deals they should benefit the members of the HOA as a whole.

    1. …..Also a good book, but admittedly not quite so instructive for the purpose specified.

  6. A lot of good advice, but Id caution about the part where you suggest donating books to the library. be careful donating books to your local library if you dont know the librarian… Unless you are ok with seeing your carefully selected group of hardcover classic sci-fi novels sold for $0.50 ea. to book resellers so the socialist librarian can buy another grey goo puppy saddening pile of crap or the library’s 8th copy of Obama’s third autobiography.

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