Friday, November 18, 2005
A Piece On DFNYC
I held many leadership positions at both my high school and college, but both robbed me of my sense of belonging, in Nepal for being a Madhesi, in Kentucky for being non-white. My anger is not of some looney lefty. I have seen the system from inside out. And in both places there are people in powerful positions whose fantassy it is to have a cup of tea with me. They can not behave when they had a chance, they will not apologize when their moment has passed, but they want to just hang out, which is their idea of cementing the social structure that was what was offensive in the first place. And my goal is not of revenge. I stake out policy positions. The relationship between racism and me is the relationship between cancer and a doctor. My approach is scientific. I am a progressive. There are people I care about, like the dollar a day crowd. It is more a delight in ideas than any anger at anything that drives me.
I moved to NYC with great hopes. And I am not disappointed. This is the city to be in: the progressive capital of the world, the capital of the world, period. Every time I walk the streets, every time I ride the train, I fall in love with the city all over again.
I came into the city to cultivate my business ideas, and I even met a venture capitalist who claimed to have met Bill Gates in 1983, before he became Bill Gates. Recently I got another feeler out of the blue from another venture capitalist in California. But what has ended up taking almost all my time has been Nepal. When the Maoists declared their unilateral ceasefire, I showed up at the Public Advocate candidate Norman Siegel's campaign headquarters to volunteer: that was my idea of celebrating. It felt like I had my head under water for a long time, and finally I got to come up for air. I bumped into Heather and Leila there!
It is quite a lifestyle. You eat into your savings to do full time political work. But then it is not as reckless as it might look at first sight. Nepal is one of the top three hot spots on the planet. I am part of the peace conversation at the highest levels. If I can get myself more integrated, and if there is peace, I could end up a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize. I mean, if this is like 1776 in Nepal and if a document I have written ends up the constitution of the country and turns it into the number one democracy on the planet, then what are you looking at? (Proposed Constitution)
That is not why I have been working on it: I got into it for emotional reasons. But the Nobel thing dawned onto me somewhere along the way. That would be a million dollars to perhaps start a company, or put it away in a solid investment portfolio and draw a modest annual $100,000 and dedicate myself full time to Dean 2008 as the volunteer Campaign Chair.
I am very proud of the work I have been doing for Dean 2008, mostly at the level of ideas. And I am really proud of this spectrum I chalked out:
The Spectrum/Dialogue Concept Is Key To Power
I think this would be the least disruptive way of managing social change.
Getting involved with DFNYC has been central to my NYC move. I was beginning to feel a sense of belonging. But yesterday I broke off. I announced I was switching from DFNYC to hip hop.
Two nights back I went to this hip hop event. DFNYC Leila emailed me this free pass to the event. I have always loved dancing to this music. I just did not have a name for it. I mean I was aware of the term. But I had not put the two together. Too bad we did not bump into each other: the place was big. Like huge. I was so into it, some media types took my pictures.
By now DFNYC has become hard. There is this gap of communication. I have tremendous respect for the political knowledge and skill of the organization's two leaders, Heather and Tracey. But I believe there has come forth this communication meltdown.
For me it is all one continuum: face time, phone, email, blog entry. But even face time ease has evaporated. And I find the dichotomy between face time and the rest disconcerting. My land line number is on my homepage!
Race has to be discussed, gender has to be discussed. In detached ways. I think that throws a lot of my comrades off balance. And then my ideas at the blog can also get disconcerting. The organization appears reluctant to get out of the groove, its set patterns, the comfort zone.
And once in a while there are undertones of race and class. If this is the leading DFA group in the country, the leading progressive group, it better act like it. Every person should feel comfortable, regardless of race, gender and class. And if there are mistakes made, we talk about it, and move on. But for that honor system to work, you need ground rules. Like, no racist comments, real and uintended. When the unintended happens, it gets pointed out, apologies are made, and everyone moves on. The relationship moves to a whole new level. It deepens. Because none of us are sqeaky clean. We all have our weak moments. But as long as we intend to heal, those moments can be turned into strength. You engage in healing dialogue.
I mean, DFNYC could really grow. There would be no off season.
If Eliot Spitzer is destined to become Governor with over 70% of the vote, why did the black Democrat who lost the race for Governor against Pataki lose? Do white Dems abandon minority candidates like that? How do white Deaniacs feel about that? Is it happening? Is it not happening? I am new to town. I don't know many details. But you bet I will be asking these questions. That is the progressive thing to do. At this point dialogue is all I am asking for. I am not complaining, at least not yet. I don't have alternatives to offer, at least not in detailed forms. But race is a topic that has to be talked. People who ignore the topic ring alarm bells in my mind.
Bonding is a good to a great thing. But old racist, sexist social bonds - soup - have to be broken, and new, progressive bonds have to be established. If cutting edge progressives can not handle it, what luck do we have with the population at large?
For now, some time off. Hip hop.
Off to Webster Hall.
If You Want To
Posted by Paramendra Bhagat at 8:42 PM