Civic Diary: The Lack Of Planning

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I’ve been thinking about why politics sucks.  When the world is burning up, and people blame Millennials for problems the previous generations created, and we put migrant kids in jail, you kind of wonder “what the hell happened.”

Now is where I get very weird and discuss the ability to plan and organize.  Also, yes, this is going to involve Agile and Project Management, and no it’s not bullshit.  I’m serious.

One of the things I noticed over the years is that people are often terrible at planning – when you’re a planning professional, it gets noticeable.  You’re hired to help people get their act together, which tells you that they can’t do it themselves or don’t have the time.

As you help people plan – and watch plans fall apart – you realize many people can’t plan for crap.  This is nothing against them – we’re not taught to plan or organize very well. However, they still fail, and why don’t we do anything about it?

A thing we get taught in any form of planning or management, from typical Waterfall to Scrum, is that you need a goal.  If you have a goal, you can direct your actions and make things work, and if you fail, you know why so you can adjust and try again.

So how many people are good at setting goals and measuring them?  I’m guessing a lot of us aren’t as good at it as we’d like to be – myself included (one thing you get taught in management practices is to keep learning).

Apply this to politics.  How many of us have a vision for the world, our lives, our countries, and the future?  How many of us have an idea of steps like A to B?  How many of us have at least a vision to work towards that makes sense, and we can evaluate?

Yeah, I know the answer.  I didn’t for a lot of my life, only the last decade or so did I think about these things.

Now apply this to politicians and big money donors and the like.  Sure they think they have a plan, but also have a lot of money and power, so they don’t have to think about results (beyond “hey I got more money and power.”).  The world burns and things fall apart, but they’re shielded by money and power so they can avoid consequences of bad choices for a long time – while we get to pay for them.

No vision, no plan, no goals, just flailing around.  If you have enough money or power, you can try to grab more, but it won’t solve the problems bearing down on us (hell, it makes them worse).

Right now if you look at the good things in the world, think how many people who helped make them happen did plan, did focus, did think.  Feel like we’ve got enough people like that?  Probably not.

We’ve left a lot of the world in the hands of surprisingly few people who have their shit together.  It’s not fair to them.

So yeah, if you want to change the world, start learning productivity techniques and such and use it to get your personal and political life in order.  Think about goals and plans and visions – because by and large, we’re kinda bad at them.

Also, it’s going to kill us if we’re not careful.

Steven Savage

Civic Geek: The Enemy Problem

One of the major problems, perhaps the problem, of American politics is the need for enemies.

This pretty much defines popular “conservative” thought, soaked and saturated in media methods and conspiracy theories.  It’s all about how things would be better except for “those people” – which of course means people who promise to fight “those people” can clean up with legislation, nepotism, favors, and contracts.

But when your whole life is about fighting “those people” with the assumption everything will be magically fixed when they’re defeated (and they’re never defeated because you’ll find new enemies) then you build nothing.  The “fight those people” mentality strip-mines the soul and the culture, until only the battle is left – and the people making bank off of it.  It’s a terribly meaningless attitude.

Way back when Bush Junior was president, I was concerned that he’d too easily become the Hated Enemy, and that dealing with his bad policies (and seeking good policies) would be obscured by people just hating the man.  This did not happen, fortunately, though part of it was probably how fast his previous allies tried to forget him.  I am concerned Trump may end up the bogeyman, even if he is, honestly, an incredibly shitty president and human being.

The key thing in this country – in any civilization – is building, strengthening, and connecting social institutions and people’s connections.  From education to social behaviors, building is what makes us who we are.

Building also provides us real satisfaction.  You can’t be satisfied endlessly looking for someone to fight in the vague hope some day life is better.  This gives us meaning.

A challenge – a true challenge – in America is to get to a building mentality first.  We have to balance that with dealing with a truly terrible administration and its enablers.

A further challenge is to propagate this “builder mentality” so it spreads.  Without it, even the most enlightened and forward-thinking society is endlessly fighting manipulated, angry people all the time.

  • Steve


Civic Diary: Everyday Stuff

First up, my monthly civic geek roundup. Where am I?

  • First, still doing the local political group. Trying to do more, frankly, but we’ve had trouble coordinating. I do have my posting down to a system.
  • My usual calling and annoying my elected officials of course. Been a bit off on that, but overall keeping at it.
  • I’ve vaguely scheduled a plan to get more into doing Op-Eds and writing newspapers/news sites. There’s a class I can take and a book I found.

Now this month’s thought is on the fact that one big contribution you can make beyond your activism is keeping Shit Running.

This is a massive, MASSIVE, missed part of politics and society in general. Society requires the actions of so many of us, every day, to keep going. It requires driving your kid to school, helping a friend with a resume, cleaning up at your apartment complex, giving a friend a ride. A huge amount of a functional society is Everyday Stuff.

Do not shit on everyday stuff. Everyday stuff keeps things running. Everyday stuff creates ties between people. Everyday stuff is the foundation of so much that we can forget it. Doing it can remind us as well as keeping the whole shebang of society running.

One of the greatest failures in America, of our current crazy, conspiracy-theory-soaked, hating-our-fellow-Americans politics is people forget everday stuff. People are disconnected from action and reaction, from their neighbors, from real human concerns – and their politics are often a mixture of paranoia and abstraction and unawareness. There’s no visceral element except, perhaps, anger.

Ever have one of those friends or family members that seems spun off into their own world? You get the idea. They’re not only lost, they’re often not Getting Stuff Done (or as a much Stuff). They’re abstracted, disconnected – and easily manipulated.

One of my recent experiences – among many – has been having a friend in Puerto Rico. Trying to figure how to help them. Trying to keep in touch. You want hard reality, it’s right there.

So it’s up to all of us to Get Shit Done and keep society going. On top of all our other involvements.

  • Steve