Skip to main content

One of the essential maxims of politics is that we must pick our battles.

Yes, we have ideals and passions, but we all live and work in the world that we walk out into when we leave our front doors every day, and that world has rules and realities and history.

No matter our ideals or our end goals, then, we have to be effective when the rubber hits the road, when the ink hits the paper or the pixels hit the screen. To do so is to be reality-based; we in the netroots take pride in that.

Like many of you, I believe that we are at a turning point in world history, a kind of "ready or not" opportunity to make a lasting difference in the structures, laws and ideals of human society in ways that will affect both our planet and our descendants long after we have left the stage.

In that light, I'd like to take a second tonight and start an ongoing conversation here on dailykos about the levers and fulcrum points involved in picking our battles, starting with my 50,000 foot answer to that age old activist question, "What is to be done?"

Taking the 50,000 foot view, the most critical issue facing humankind is the issue of sustainability.

Sustainability includes, front and center, the global warming crisis and our human impact on the Earth's climate through the burning of fossil fuels. Sustainability is, however, a much larger issue in scope and dynamic. Sustainability involves population, agriculture, disease, environmental toxicity, access to water, energy supply, access to renewable and non-renewable resources, and issues dealt with under long-term planning and economic and political philosophies. Ultimately, sustainability encompasses issues of war and peace, economic justice, migration and refugees, the massive power of the state in the nuclear age and the possibilities of international cooperation and law. It encompasses the ultimate "long term" view.

At its core, there is one reality that anyone dealing with issues of sustainability comes back to: we are in this together.

That is the first fulcrum point. We need to leverage the self-interest of the majority of citizens on this planet, our fellow human beings, around a simple and fundamental understanding: when it comes to sustainability, eg., human sustainability on Earth, we are in this together. We, the people on this globe, are irretrievably inter-connected in ways and networks of inter-dependence that grow deeper and more profound every day. Those who would pretend otherwise are ostriches and fools.

Given our inter-connectedness facing the deepest and most profound issues of the day, the current practice of domestic politics within present day nation states (case in point, the current state of our United States Congress) or, alternatively, the world of multi-national corporations as they are currently governed and regulated, are not particularly effective vehicles for addressing the reality and shared challenges we humans face. Given the war in Iraq, international neglect of Darfur and the DRC, the AIDS epidemic and rampant inequalities in health and wealth worldwide there is much to be cynical about. However, it need not be so.

We are living at a tremendously hopeful moment.


I am hopeful because I see, in ever more decisive ways, that the logic of progressive human ideals: social justice, economic and environmental development and human rights have become, essentially, pragmatically charged. Given the realities that we face together, idealism meets pragmatism every day. We are connected and we know it, and, more than that, we must do something about it. What people do with regards to fossil fuels in India and China is extremely important to everyone on the planet. (The largest source of the particulate matter in Los Angeles air is from China.) Disease control and rainforest retention in the Congo is enormously important, not just in Africa, but to all of us. That is a powerful fulcrum. In an inter-connected world where globalism is more than a catch-word, we must take action together or suffer the consequences.

Where Thomas Jefferson wrote, in 1776, that "all Men are Created Equal"...we now see that reality in pictures every day. We also see, clearly, that we humans are living in an ever-more-connected yet distinctly inequal world. An understanding of this reality forces pragmatism to temper our ideals as we work to chage the status quo. The internet allows us to see every day the inequality of outcome visited up the world's children simply by chance of birth. We can also see that when the ocean rises, it rises equally for humankind. When the Earth's temperature rises two degrees, it does so with out regard to social class or background. Those two realities are interconnected; the one plays off the other. No one can persuade India or China to burn less coal without taking account of basic facts like the quality of life of their poorest citizens.

Globalism and rampant multi-national corporations in tandem with the free flow of information and ideas on the internet mean that, every day, more and more, we humans are one. We can see each other. We can see each other's poverty and wealth. And even though we in the U.S. have long had our heads buried in the sand..."lead-painted toy" by "lead-painted toy"..."tainted bag of pet food" by "tainted bag of pet food"...we are also learning in concrete ways that we are one in our regulatory environments, too. In fact, we are one in ways that most people never anticipated or expected.

And it's happening now. Not tomorrow.

When I work on ad campaigns for global corporations here in San Francisco, we will sometimes shoot ads with three separate casts of models. One for East Asia, one for South Asia and one for the rest of the world including Africa, Latin America, Europe and the United States. I would invite readers here to think about that fact and mull it over a bit. The world's largest middle class resides not in the United States but in India. Few know this in the nation at large.

Extremes of inequality in wealth and the increasing prospect of the effects of climate change have created a head-on collision between the purported national ideals of the world's democracies and the international outcomes of our economic policies. The question is what we will do about it.

We need to account for this new reality in our political and economic philosophies; we need to get out of our tired mindsets and create powerful fulcrums for change. We need to work in the realms of international law and regulation to revitalize our democratically-elected bodies with a wave of progressive legislation that governs the world's corporations to go beyond mere profit and take account of the true global bottom line. We need leaders who understand how to negotiate solutions in this new global climate. We progressives need to leverage every ounce of our newfound powers of communication on the internet to build bridges with our fellow Beijing and Cape Town and Buenos Aries and Mumbai.

We are in this together. That is the very first, and the most critical, of fulcrum points. Whether we rise to the challenge by changing our household practices, or through influencing municipal legislation, or changing our State regulatory environment, or lobbying to change federal energy policy or through influencing international treaties or, internationally, through local actors working with not-for-profits or NGOs...the essential fulcrum point stays the same. This will take effort on all of our parts.

At the time of our nation's founding, Thomas Jefferson wrote that all men are created equal not to express something unique about American citizenship but to express something essential and global about our founding ideals.

We are, indeed created equal, though billions live in squalor and subject to the capricious whim of disease and poverty. We are also in 2007, where sustainability is concerned, now deeply and pragmatically inter-connected...every last one of us...from the hunter/gatherer in the rainforests of the Amazon to the advertising writer in a loft in SoHo. That is the first and basic fulcrum point for progressive activism in the 21st Century: we are one. There is no getting around that fact. The more we let that inform and deepen our politics the more we will leverage a profound reality that we all know inherently: when it comes to sustainability, we humans are in this together. That overriding reality will be the story of the 21st Century. That is no less true in Mumbai or Cape Town or Buenos Aries or Beijing than it is in Los Angeles or Baghdad. The longer we ignore this reality and delay taking it into account, the more we stick to our silos, the more we are simply kidding ourselves.

The choice is ours. The fulcrum exists. It's actually quite simple when we get down to paraphrase Auden...we must cooperate with one another or die.

Originally posted to kid oakland on Fri Aug 31, 2007 at 08:35 PM PDT.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  It's the same argument that I use when pushing (15+ / 0-)

    universal health care. Those with the ability to help have the absolute responsibility to do so.
    It's a moral imperative.


    by shayera on Fri Aug 31, 2007 at 08:46:42 PM PDT

  •  Vote your values (13+ / 0-)

    Love or hate?
    Altruism or greed?
    Hope or fear?
    The future or the past?

    The Republican scam of being the "values" party is one of the most outrageous lies they've sold.  They appeal to the worst in us, and then have the gall to claim to represent "moral values"?  Give us all a break.

    Focusing on sustainability is a wonderful idea, but behind that idea is a way of looking at the world progressives champion and Republicans abhor.  We need to take them on in the arena of their choosing, and urge voters, with televangelist Rick Scarborough, to "vote your values."

    Don't expect to live in a democracy if you're not prepared to be an active citizen.

    by Dallasdoc on Fri Aug 31, 2007 at 08:59:12 PM PDT

  •  Another wonderful post, k/o... (11+ / 0-)

    ...another joy to read.

    To ignore the fact that we are indeed one is to bury one's head in the sand. Many of the challenges faced by humanity are much bigger than any one nation, and as such we must welcome and encourage a multipolar world as the best way to share the burden of addressing them. The world quite simply needs a common vision - helping people everywhere live richer, freer, and longer lives. But such a vision can only come when the entirety of humanity finally acknowledge its interconnectedness.

    Being aghast is not enough.

    by StrangeAnimals on Fri Aug 31, 2007 at 09:07:34 PM PDT

  •  Wow, what a beautiful diary, KO (9+ / 0-)

    I savored every word.

    Still uncommitted, undecided...enjoying the dates; not ready for the ring or uhaul.

    by kck on Fri Aug 31, 2007 at 09:41:01 PM PDT

  •  I was heartened tonight to be not the only one at (4+ / 0-)

    Safeway eschewing ten plastic bags for each separate kind of fruit, but then got home and read this moronic lack of understanding that we are all in this together, and couldn't be bothered to argue...maybe someone here can.

    Even though these morons will be hurt as much as me and mine, I'm (we're) stuck in it with them too.

  •  Sustainability gives meaning to life (6+ / 0-)

    in my way of thinking -
    What good is living in a manner that
    is bound for obsoleteness, in other words,
    it has nothing to offer the future, our children.
    It means we are living stupidly, selfishly and

    How so? By wasting natural resources on luxuries
    that our children will need for necessities in
    the future, luxuries that give little pleasure
    from resources that could end the suffering of

    What luxuries - energy wasting "stuff" like
    huge homes, huge cars,long commutes, endless
    consumer goods shipped from around the globe,
    and on and on. We use so much energy, so quickly,
    it's like the world is on fire.

    In the right wing way of thinking - this is
    all fine - resources are endless - everyone
    is able to have all they need and our
    abundance is a blessing for our virtue.
    People get pretty much what they deserve
    for the choices they make.

    If the right wing is really beginning to accept
    that global warming or oil depletion is a problem -
    It may be just starting to seep into their minds -
    but it hasn't occurred to them that any action
    might be necessary.  They seem to think that global
    warming is thousands of years away and that
    a lot of nuclear energy will solve everything.  

    Many won't act until the price of everything
    forces them to and that will happen not long
    from now. I'm looking forward to it because
    life will finally be real and meaningful. The
    grown ups will finally be in charge. When the
    party is over, we get to go home.

  •  Advertising Survival (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kid oakland, shayera, RiaD

    Great post and point.

    I've been thinking about a solar PSA campaign and have done various iterations of it over the last thirty years, none with any success.  One attempt was a series of spots that said "A south-facing window is already a solar collector" or "A south-facing porch can become a greenhouse or sunspace" and directed people to the local solar energy association to learn how to maximize the use of sunlight.  Another attempt can be seen on my youtube page.

    I think people are so divorced from reality that we have to advertise survival techniques.  I think it is one way to build the "we're all in this together" solutions.

    Solar is civil defense. Video of my small scale solar experiments at

    by gmoke on Fri Aug 31, 2007 at 10:22:13 PM PDT

  •  Progressive geopolitics (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kid oakland, shayera, govib, brentmack

    Since global warming is, well, global, that means that in order to address it, we need to think globally.

    Thinking globally, and strategically, is called geopolitics.

    All political/economic strategies, at whatever scale, focus on two things: seeking advantage, and avoiding harm.

    To avoid harm, we must recognize the most likely sources of the greatest harm. In the past, this has usually been human enemies who might try to kill us or otherwise put us at a disadvantage. In this century, however, the greatest potential harm is the sustainability crisis.

    Since the sustainability crisis is global in nature, it cannot be solved unilaterally. It can only be solved through cooperation of the great powers, nations, and peoples of the world.

    Cooperation depends on trust. Trust cannot occur in an atmosphere where some seek advantage at the expense of others.

    Therefore, seeking advantage in this century means seeking mutual advantage. Advantage at the expense of others (the kind conservatives prefer) is no longer any advantage at all, in fact it is positively detrimental.

    This is why we can no longer allow the conservatives to be in charge of anything. We used to let them do their geopolitical thing while we concentrated on domestic matters. No more. Today, there is no dividing line between the domestic and the global.

    In the 70s, we learned that the personal is political, In this century, we must realize that the geopolitical is personal.

  •  Excellent diary KO. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kid oakland, koNko

    I've taken the liberty of sharing it with some groups.

    <div style="color: #a00000;"> Our... constitutional heritage rebels at the thought of giving government the power to control men's minds. Thurgood Marshal

    by bronte17 on Sat Sep 01, 2007 at 12:44:04 PM PDT

  •  Capitalism must END (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kid oakland, koNko

    if the world is to have a global, ecologically sustainable, social form.  It's as simple as that -- capitalist growth must have resources to extract and capital to accumulate, and the process can't go on forever because the zones of resource extraction will be depleted.  Please read the arguments of Paul Prew carefully toward this consideration, especially where it says:

    The question to be asked, really, is whether we proceed with capitalism until we reach an ecological bifurcation point that leaves the habitability of the earth in question for the vast majority of the population, or we reach a social bifurcation point that leads us to a social system of production that is dissipative, nonetheless, but does not threaten the flowing balance of nature.

    In my own diaries, I've hoped to cover some of the most important thinkers in this vein:

    Saral Sarkar for a post-consumer society

    Joel Kovel for ecosocialism

    Maria Mies and Veronika Bennholdt-Thomsen for the subsistence perspective

    Teresa Brennan for slowing down global society

    It's as simple as that -- we need a new system of political economy.

    "It's the same old dream -- world domination." James Bond, in Ian Fleming's Doctor No (1958)

    by Cassiodorus on Sat Sep 01, 2007 at 09:31:03 PM PDT

  •  excellent (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kid oakland, koNko, spiraltn

    I read this when you posted it

    now you have been RESCUED

    nice work as always

  •  glad this got rescued (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kid oakland, koNko

    it's a gem! Now who's got that lever...

    Political Will: the ultimate renewable resource. Now follow the leader.

    by spiraltn on Sat Sep 01, 2007 at 10:37:02 PM PDT

  •  Sorry I Missd This First Time (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kid oakland

    You raise an excellent question and I will return to reply (sorry, gotta go now).

    Imaginary Rec Button Pressed, post a Tip Jar so this thing gets mojo and noticed.

    "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results" - Albert Einstein

    by koNko on Sat Sep 01, 2007 at 11:05:58 PM PDT

  •  We could start by (0+ / 0-)

    Supporting the champions of inter-connectivety such as Professor Irwin Yalom. It has come to my attention that the person that has led the way to countless solution and interpersonal base groups has all but lost hope.

    Read the Salon Magazine Link

    At his web site there is a link to an article written not too long ago about how he has little hope for the survival of group therapy.

    The conservative agenda has been to crush the spirit of those that would promote human developement. The theocracy of the neo-conservative is dependent upon chaos bellow.

    The most recent attack on the poorest comes from the pages of the Washington Post Sat. Sept. 1. The Feds try to strip Medicaid. This will result in the poorest communities to do away with all forms of therapy for children.

    Side note: Looks like Kid Oakland has been influenced by one of my favorite non-profits. It is one the most efficient and effective non-profits out there. Major respect to Mike Brune the Exec. Director.

    After 28 years of Conservative Presidents, it's time to give someone else a chance. So, have a seat Hillary!

    by imtimmaaay on Sat Sep 01, 2007 at 11:19:16 PM PDT

  •  Great stuff! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kid oakland, imtimmaaay

    My greatest disappointment with current Democratic candidates for president is how small and limited their ideas are. A policy tweak here, a small trivial program there. Where the hell are the big ideas? We are at a tipping point for the entire planet, where big ideas and huge changes in the way we see ourselves are quite literally critical to the future of civilization.

    I want the Democratic candidates to stand up and consciously embrace the language and idealism of JFK, because nothing less will answer the challenges we face.

  •  One Piece Of Talking About Sustainability (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kid oakland

    is talking about true costs.

    I just finished writing a story for Random Lengths News about the new "green growth" rhetoric at the Port of Los Angeles in contrast with, how shall I put it... reality?

    Reality is represented in part by British economist Arthur Cecil Pigou’s concept of "externalized costs" (first articulated in book form in 1912) and the need to internalize them in order for markets to work properly.

    In my story, I make this mention of the big picture and how it relates to my specific subject:

    While widely accepted in the abstract, other theoretical perspectives have long combined with special interest political power to sideline Pigou’s impact. Yet, since the early 1990s, the sheer magnitude in externalized costs, combined with stalled progress in dealing with environmental damage has contributed to renewed interest in Pigou’s approach.  His approach is now routinely used by regulatory agencies, such as the Califonia Air Resources Board (CARB) and the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) for their high-level analyses, though it has yet to trickle down to the level of individual EIRs.

    In 1995, Ralph Estes, an emeritus proefessor of busniess at American University in Washington, DC, wrote a paper, "The Public Cost Of Private Corporations," which conservatively estimated total external costs in the U.S. economy at $3.051 trillion, enough to turn a reported $714 billion net profit into a $2.337 trillion net loss. He estimated costs of $329.7 billion for stationary-source air pollution and $10.7 billion for mobile-source air pollution.  

    The later, at least, seems extremely low in light of current knowledge.  Last year, CARB estimated total externalized statewide air pollution costs at around $70 billion, with goods movement accounting for $19 billion, half of which is in AQMD’s jurisdiction.  The port-related share of that—anywhere from $3.5 to $5 billion or more—clearly dwarfs port revenues, much less expenditures to reduce pollution.

    This is but one example of a more general principle:  We have the tools to start fixing things. What we need is the political will.

  •  Good read (0+ / 0-)

    This is like the Jerry Maguire mission statement for activists.  I understand where you're coming from being in marketing.  We need to understand where to bring everyone together rather than try to break apart the corruption within the unfortunate successes of our foes.  

    I've been searching for these fulcrums, and I concur on the ones you've mentioned.  Other big fulcrums is working conditions and health care reform.  We Americans are in need of work benefits and I think this transcends across the globe.  

    Question is:  Are you talking about trying to start a movement across the globe or in the US.  Right now, I think that there is enough to be fixed in US domestic policy on these issues to deal with for now.  I have a hard enough time convincing Americans that they are getting duped...  Do you think that we need to find connectedness around the globe right now when we cannot even achieve it here.

    I feel that we need to come together here first, then move into mobilizing the surge of freedom around the world.

    Life is short, make it shorter.

    by Fight or Die on Mon Sep 03, 2007 at 09:45:06 PM PDT

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site