Barack Obama’s weekly addresses as president-elect of the United States have been putting emphasis on concrete action by the government to set the American economy back on track. Obama has always talked about acting to change the way things are, and it’s nice to see that, at least up to now, that is what he has been doing. His plan of action to bring about this change of fortune for the American economy (pun intended) seem solid to me. But don’t take my word for it, since I’m no economist!
I have always been told to write only about what I know. The one thing that I am is a citizen, and this call for action is very resounding. If the time is this urgent, then we cannot sit back and wait for the government to get things done. We have to work as hard, if not harder, from the bottom up, as the government is acting from the top down.
But what can we do?
This is where I draw a blank. I have some ideas, but haven’t had the opportunity either to test them or to research them. The only thing I know is this: that the efforts that are the more efficient and the most sustainable are the ones that start at the grassroots. I also know that starting at the grassroots means community mobilization; we need to get out and talk to our neighbours, colleagues, family members and friends. And not the usual “How do you do” or “Have you seen the new episode of Heroes/Ugly Betty/Supernatural/insert show of choice here”. We need to talk to each other about how we are going to bring it all back to the grassroots. How are we going to bring jobs back? By turning to the resources available in our own communities and using them in a sustainable when we can, rather than taking advantage of cheap, unethical labour in other countries less fortunate than ours. How are we going to make sure no child gets left behind? By organising study sessions, where older children mentor younger ones and adults mentor the older children. How are we going to increase awareness and promote action? By sharing information, discussing it, understanding it more and more each day, by laying the foundation for a community that learns through action, reflection and consultation.
The road might seem long, but it isn’t; if small actions like micro-credits at the grassroots have changed the lives of millions of people in Third World Countries, why shouldn’t we be able to change the fortunes in ours?
Just in case you haven’t seen them yet, here are the first four presidential addresses, starting from the last one. These are a great starting point to looking for more information on the current problems affecting us, and also to start consulting with those around us about what we are going to do. And for those of you who are inspired by Barack Obama, remember that he started as a community organiser at the level of the neighbourhood. We can start there too.