- PICK SOMETHING YOU WANT TO CHANGE
- ENVISION THE END RESULT
- RESEARCH THE HISTORY AND STRUCTURE OF THE THING YOU WANT TO CHANGE
- IDENTIFY WHAT ACTIONS COULD POTENTIALLY CREATE THE CHANGES YOU SEEK
- FIGURE OUT EVERYTHING YOU CAN DO ON YOUR OWN AND DO IT
- STAY PASSIONATE, BUT DON'T LET IT MESS WITH YOUR HEAD
- YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY MAY NOT BE INTERESTED
- BELIEVE IN YOURSELF
PICK SOMETHING YOU WANT TO CHANGE: METRO
ENVISION THE END RESULT: METRO provides services based on ridership and riders needs. Facilities that are deemed important and necessary to riders are integrated into the overall development plans. Executives have the public's interests at heart, and the agency is not run by or dictated to by businessmen. The agency is totally transparent to the public, and the information about the agency's operations is made accessible and easily disseminated by the public.
RESEARCH THE HISTORY AND STRUCTURE OF THE THING YOU WANT TO CHANGE: METRO has a lot of reasons why it can't provide better services, and why the current structure is the best. First and foremost in your mind whenever you encounter a "problem" or "obstacle" to your vision is to realize that within every problem is the solution to that problem.
Metro says it is not in the business of providing toilets: Not true. Metro is about "business development" and doing whatever is deemed necessary to make the city more attractive to "business development." Metro is run Bi-State Development Agency. Initially Bi-State started out in 1950 as the Metropolitan Sewer District. They didn't get into public transit until they bought some private bus lines in the late 1960's.
The addition of Public Transit to Bi-State is what began to bring in the large government monies to subsidize the bus lines (business developers need cheap labor, and cheap labor doesn't generally own cars).
Bi-State dba Metro is actually about any business it chooses to be in. Bi-State dba Metro also owns and operates the Arch trams and Riverboat attractions, and the St. Louis Downtown Airport in Cahokia Illinois. The trams are the only part of their endeavors that makes a profit. Metro bus and metrolink, the airport, and the riverboat attractions all operate at a loss.
However, their other enterprises are in the amount of a 2 million or less a year. METRO bus and trains are worth 225 million a year.
Moreover, ALL of the money from Metro bus and trains comes from the public: government money (income tax), sales tax (city and country), and state money (property taxes). And then that 22% that comes from rider revenues.
A businessman like Metro's CEO John Nations is not going to get elected to a senate seat from running Bi-State, or get a $250,000 a year salary from the airport, trams and riverboat attractions. it is the 225 million a year from Metro that gives him the platform. In his current position, he gets to hob-knob with the local rich boys and politicians, and begin creating the network he will need if he gets to office.
No one at Metro is looking to make the transit system self-sustaining because that would remove the government monies. They would have to really work with the public to make transit feasible for people of all income levels, and to make public transit the first choice of people that owned cars. That is a lot for an agency that is set up exclusively for the manipulation of private interests and does not have to do any "real" work.
It would also create a situation where the transit agency would have to work AGAINST the interests of private business developers and local government officials in many instances. (For example, challenging the city and county towns to let Metro decide where bus stops were placed and where trains would run, etc.) It would mean wresting Metro's checkbook away from the County Executive and a separation of "transportation" and "transit" bonds.
The current situation does not work in the transit riding public's interest. That is fairly easy to demonstrate.
If the agency were run by someone with urban planning at heart, the buses and train would be the first and foremost priority, instead of developing personal relationship with future campaign contributors.
The riding public would be consulted first on future train extensions and bus lines, with the thought of attracting passengers with cars by making public transit more convenient than driving.
IDENTIFY WHAT ACTIONS COULD POTENTIALLY CREATE THE CHANGES YOU SEEK: This is the part that calls for flexibility. If you don't need the cooperation of anyone else to make the changes, you can do the work yourself, but if you need the public you will have to "try and try again."
Don't be afraid to fail. For instance, if the "Jam the Phone Lines" doesn't work- either enough people don't call, or the calls don't generate any changes- I will have to devise another strategy.
However, it may be that a lawsuit challenging Bi-State's ability to run Metro, and the contention that Metro transit is owned wholly by the people (all of their income comes from public money, as outlined above), and that public transit is a necessity for approximately 75,000 people in the city and 25,000 people in the surrounding counties. (Roughly 5% of the entire metro area, and 20% of the city.)
That is a strong enough reason for a lawsuit. However, I am not a lawyer, so I still need to engage some other people-- that are lawyers.
FIGURE OUT EVERYTHING YOU CAN DO ON YOUR OWN AND DO IT: This is fairly obvious. But the most important thing is-- PACE YOURSELF. I leaflet when ever I can. I talk to people when I can.
I call everytime I ride, about something-- questions about how they operate, demands for changes, and any problems I see. (A bus stop without a bus line number. problems with routes, etc. Suggestions for immediate improvement. The only thing I DON'T call about is the drivers. They get enough calls about that and the bus drivers take enough crap about Metro's awful service. I DO call about the fact that Metro has refused to reach a new bargaining agreement with the driver's union for 6 years.)
STAY PASSIONATE, BUT DON'T LET IT MESS WITH YOUR HEAD: You are in this for the long haul. Don't let them upset you. The agency is going to say stupid things to you, insult you, insist that nothing that can be done. You have to hang in there. Don't work on it everyday. Take a break. Allot a certain amount of time each day or week or month and focus.
Live your life, but incorporate your activism into it. I find out stuff about Metro all the time now, even when I am not talking to people about it. I've started to look and listen.
Also, determine how much of troublemaker you want to be. I don't believe in violence, and I don't want to take on so much that I have to worry about being arrested. Most changes can be done legally.
There is always a risk, when challenging the current power structure, that draconian measures will be taken if you really become a threat. The police and the military are controlled and used by private wealth to maintain private wealth and to create "order"-- meaning "business as usual." However, in those circumstances, your actions will uncover any lurking fascism.
And in that case, they will have to come right out in the open. And generally, the public will respond in your favor. It is worth it to challenge the power structure in any society, because that is what keeps fascism at bay.
This is one of the reasons that "Occupying" needs to become a hobby of every single person in this country. By "occupying"-- learning about and monitoring-- all levels of government and public structures, we can exert our power and demand accountability. We can keep fascism and violent upheaval at bay. The more people that "Occupy" the less work there will be for any one of us.
YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY MAY NOT BE INTERESTED: The people closest you will be interested because they are interested in you, but they may not have the same passion or vision. After a while they may get bored with your cause. This is normal.
Seek out the people that do, and form your alliances there. Even when I am handing out leaflets, I ask people if they are interested in changing Metro to make it better for the people that ride it. Not everyone is. Save your leaflets and your energy. Move on to the next person. Identify the people most interested first. The less motivated will become more interested as you continue to get results.
BELIEVE IN YOURSELF: In our society we are taught to believe that money is the only source of power. But the wealthy are actually the least powerful among us. ALL THEY HAVE IS MONEY.
When I was a radical political activist in my teens and early twenties (I am almost 50 now) we used to say "Money is the lowest form of participation." TIME and IDEAS are the strongest.
Every person has something to offer. The wealthy are the smallest part of the population. There are far more of us than of them. And without us doing the work or consuming to generate their wealth, they would have nothing.
Most social change has been generated by 3.5% of the population. African-Americans are less than 20% of the population, and during the Civil Rights era, not all African-American's participated in the struggle. Don't discount what a small but empowered group of people can do. The powers that be cannot handle any disruption of "business as usual". They are all about profits. They count on the majority of the people being too downtrodden, or too unmotivated, or too divided, to work for change.
Prove them wrong. Believe in yourself, your power, and your vision.
If you pace yourself and seek like-minded others, you will succeed.