Saturday, September 22, 2007

Ideas, change and patience

Years ago a wise person impressed upon me the truth that funding follows people and ideas. Relationships and clear thinking often combine to create the resources necessary for change and renewal.

Still, this wisdom lacks one other element that, when present, usually seals any deal designed to make things better. Simply put that element is time.

Good ideas and strong friendships or working relationships mature over time. Neither is automatic.

U. S. Navy Admiral Hyman Rickover, father of the "nuclear navy," put it this way:

"Good ideas are not adopted automatically. They must be driven into practice with courageous patience."

Change usually occurs when people are determined to "stay at it."


Karen Shafer said...

This post is helpful.

I wonder, is the converse equally true? ...that bad ideas take root quickly and linger for a very long time before they're replaced with better ones?

I'm thinking of the ongoing and very, very frustrating practice of criminalizing the homeless in Dallas: handcuffing people -- then offering them rehab while they're cuffed (a friend of mine saw this in the past couple of weeks in downtown Dallas during 'Operation Rescue')...bulldozing their few possessions -- thinking that if we take their 'stuff,' the 'nuisance' that we consider them to be will disappear (people have to BE somewhere)...putting people in jail simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time (our jails are already overcrowded)...and on...and on...and on...

Tell me, honestly, Larry, do you think we'll ever get it? I really would like an answer. Because we have been using this 'policing the homeless' approach for a very long time, it doesn't work, and now we're using it AGAIN.

PS Guess what I learned last night from a young and caring Republican friend who has been attending various party conferences around the U.S.? That this practice of 'clearing the inner cities of the homeless by police action' is on the Republican Party platform. Wow.

Larry James said...

Will we ever "get it"? Great question. I'm not sure it matters and I believe that trying to help people "get it" is not the correct approach to take.

What we need are demonstration projects of new models that we know will work. Permanent supportive housing comes to mind as an obvious example. Let's put all of our energy into developing permanent places for our poorest friends to reside. Let's treat them like we would like to be treated--Golden Rule stuff! Then, let's see what happens.

Policing the homeless without offering a truly viable alternative to the action we find so objectionable is immoral and inhumane.

As to any political party that would put such a statement in their party platform, I say they aren't to be taken seriously by anyone who cares about the restoration of genuine community life in our nation.

Karen Shafer said...

Good points, and thank you.

However, re: “trying to help people ‘get it’ is not the correct approach to take.”...if one doesn’t try to influence public opinion and the views of public officials -- ie, encourage people to ‘get it’, at least from one’s point of view -- many important issues go unanswered. Because public opinion and officials influence public policy, which has an enormous impact on all our lives. In fact, it seems like this influence and understanding is part of what you aim for on your blog. And I’m pretty sure you succeed.

An article entitled “The Legacy of Loss” in the September issue of Street Zine, published by the Stewpot, addresses the federal initiative to end chronic homelessness by policing the inner city. The initiative is econically based. “As our nation achieves greater and greater levels of inequality, the wealthiest five percent have rediscovered the convenience of urban living...The federal government’s intense preoccupation with the visibly homeless aligns perfectly with the trend toward more aggressive policing of downtown enhance the ‘safety and attractiveness’ of urban centers.” The problem in Dallas, of course, is that the homeless currently have nowhere else to go.

The article continues, “After 20 years, HUD has finally come around to agreeing with Coalition for the Homeless founder Bob Hayes that the answer to homelessness is ‘housing, housing, housing.’ But only for the chronically homeless. And only if local government and private philanthropy pick up the check.” It goes on to document the federal government’s assault on housing -- drastic cuts in housing funding and public housing units lost -- alongside the relatively small $100 million added to homeless assistance, for which there is staggering competition.