Eye on the prize
Date: Mon Dec 9, 2002 10:15 am
Subject: Fwd: FW: Election procs
From: bob newton
I'm a 'BAI listener ... for a very long time now. I began listening when I was about 12 years old, and I thought the avant garde radio theater on the station was "cool". I listen every day, either at home on from work, online. 'BAI is my main source of political and international news.
We've met, in passing, on picket lines and meetings last year. My wife and I were there just about every week. We give hundreds of dollars each year (more, now that the station is digging out from under the destruction of the hacks who hijacked it last year), even though between us we work 3 fulltime jobs to support our kids in college.
We're active in our town, and on our jobs. But I've never been to the station. I don't go to LAB meetings. I'm not on the bylaws committee, or the elections committee. I think I'm the kind of person you wanted to talk to a couple of days ago, when you asked listeners who have not been part of the bylaws debate to call into the morning show. I tried, but couldn't get through. So I'm writing you this note, hoping it gets to you, and that you'll take a minute to take in my thoughts.
I've seen the debate go by over the last several months, on my e-mail subscriptions. And I've watched it escalate, with one group calling the other racist; and the other group calling the first group divisive. I've got opinions about the various choices; I could go into my own "ideal" "if-i-were-king" version of democracy. But that's not the point, is it. The point is to get the network operating, and moving forward, and supporting the various struggles that are so critical right now. And in truth, I trust you and the leadership at WBAI and Leslie and the board and the hundreds of people working in the network to work your way towards decent governance over time. But I am frightened that the divisive, doctrinaire, nasty nature of the current debates will delay, or even defeat, the network's struggle to organize itself.
In the current debate, it seems that the protagonists have lost sight of the Network's place and role, and have recast it as the American Government in miniature. They have elevated our internal debates to the level of the struggle for democracy, or social equity itself. They've lost track of our profound unity of purpose and how much we need to cooperate with each other, for the Network to be useful to each of us in our many different kinds of cultural and political works. They've mistaken disagreements with partners and allies for battles with true enemies.
This kind of fratricide is typical of failed, implosive leftist movements. But it is totally out of synch with our actual situation here. In the face of an unprecedented international crisis, there is growing up a militant, hopeful, vibrant, multicultural resistance movement. It is finding new forms and original ideas and is evolving with equally unprecedented pace. I don't really care that much whether we pre-define the exact number of board members from each constituency, or have more traditional forms of proportional voting; whether or have fixed board sizes or boards that grow over time.
I don't really care whether we ask people who are broke to volunteer time at the station. I trust that the group process will allow us to evolve to reasonable solutions regarding these details. But I care, very deeply, that we hang together as a station and a network and a community. If we keep tearing each other apart, we will fail at that. Then this fantastic new phase of radical politics and art will pass us by. Like so many other progressive institutions that grew so brittle that they simply fractured and were discarded as useless to the activists and artists doing the "heavy lifting" of day- to-day work, we will rightfully be swept aside. After all the arduous, heartfelt work that went into building WBAI into the beacon that Samori left behind, and after the successful struggle to win it back from the reactionaries that nearly scuttled it, ... what a sad loss that would be.
That's my $.02.
Geochemistry 63 bnewton@l...
Education "is the task of those who know that they know very little (for this very reason they know that they know something, and can thus succeed in knowing more)."
(Paulo Freire, 1968)
(This is an amended version of my earlier response to Bob Newton's email forwarded by Janice. Upon re-reading my first response I realized that I used terms that could be considered pejoratives. I think the following language is more appropriate and more accurate. My apologies)
Thanks for posting Bob's email. Fortunately, the process has eliminated one of the two contending proposals from consideration, so there is a good opportunity for people who were in opposition to find common ground and come together as we were before.
As one who took a partisan position in this debate, I will account for my actions in this way: If you are committed to a progressive institution and a group within that institution organizes an effort to create an ideological structure for that organization which you believe is antithetical to the values and purposes of the organization, it is incumbent upon you to struggle against what you believe will harm the organization.
The WBAI Committee for a Unified Membership has attempted at all turns to act and speak in terms of issues and principles. That is how we conducted ourselves, and that is how we will continue to conduct ourselves, as we seek to restore the unity in our movement that, as Bob points out, is sorely needed.
Unfortunately, this is the first time I've read Bob Newton's posting. I wish I had read it earlier. Bob says precisely (and much more powerfully) that which I have been trying to articulate for the past month or so of my own intense involvement with the by-laws process. I think all of us need to take Bob's words to heart and realize that while the struggle over the by-laws was important, it wasn't important enough to divide us against ourselves; it wasn't important enough for folks who were not that long ago all pulling in the same direction to suddenly stop doing that and to look at the person sitting across from them as an enemy of democracy and inclusion. Since the beginning, I thought of the disagreements as honest disagreements amongst like-minded people, who were all committed to social, economic and political justice in ways I truly admire and respect. I second Bob Newton's call for us all to remember that, strive to recover that and move forward with unity toward keeping WBAI true to its mission.
Thanks again, Bob.
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