By Yezdyar S. Kaoosji
“Optimism is a strategy for making a better future. Because unless you believe that the future can be better, it’s unlikely you will step up and take responsibility for making it so. If you assume that there’s no hope, you guarantee that there will be no hope. If you assume that there is an instinct for freedom, there are opportunities to change things, there’s a chance you may contribute to making a better world. The choice is yours.”—Noam Chomsky
When Jim Hightower, radio commentator, writer, editor and progressive thought leader came to Fresno, he energized and melded the many progressive organizations in the Central Valley. His motivating presentation on the state of the country, down-to-earth ability to explain mega issues with his chatty and often humorous colloquial simplicity left a lasting impact on all of us who were there.
Similar speaker events usually conclude with a Q&A session and a book signing, and then everyone rushes to their cars to go back to their weekend recreation and fun activities. But that Saturday in October 2011, the audience sat down to business and continued the dialogue Hightower had so eloquently initiated. They did not leave until the walls of the Universal Unitarian Church were plastered with yellow post-it notes identifying their wide range of passions, concerns and interests. From the global to the local; from a national call for action like the Occupy Movement, to the local battle to save Jesse Morrow Mountain; from concerns about the destruction of our air quality, and the gaping holes in our social safety net, to the anger about the repeal of protections under the Glass Steagall Act, and the undoing of a century of social and economic progress in the United States.
We simultaneously recorded our frustration with the regressive sabotage of affordable healthcare for all, while we took pride in our diversity, inclusiveness and faith in fundamental human rights, knowing that that is how we can solve problems. We knew we needed to stop all wars and violence, and to promote peace while we combated corporate meddling with the nation’s decision-making processes—and the list like the energy radiating in that sanctuary has kept growing!
Since that beautiful fall day in 2011 progressives have convened in action and helped each other to promote their missions. A steering committee of dedicated volunteers has coordinated “calls for action” by sending invitations to interested groups and individuals. The response has been overwhelming. People have readily responded and strengthened each other while working collaboratively on various actions.
No longer do only Peace Fresno or Save Jesse Morrow volunteers work in isolation on their issues. When the call goes out all progressives gather, as evidenced with the present petition drive to reverse the Fresno City Council’s vote to privatize residential waste removal and abdicate from its municipal responsibility to provide these services to the citizens. Such informal collaboration has become a force to reckon with and is the megaphone with which the people of the Central Valley are regaining their voice.
Last month, he Community Alliance published a list of 69 organizations that could collaborate and support each other on progressive issues to combat regressive (sometimes, called conservative!) action.
An important outcome of this convention was the realization that there indeed are so many viable and effective progressive organizations in the Central Valley. Traditionally, this part of California has been labeled a “conservative stronghold.” However, a small fact might set the record straight: In 2008 and 2012, Fresno County citizens elected and reelected President Barack Obama! Shall we say we have shattered that myth?
That brings me to the second part of this column. I want to share with you a short bibliography of quality progressive resources: Twisted facts and oft-repeated lies are brainwashing the masses who are unable to sift through the deluge. Moreover, being stuck in the groove of a single source of information, whether it be Fox or MSNBC alone, is not helpful. We need to distill information from a variety of resources, and I share here a short first installment of a bibliography. Future columns will contain feedback from readers.
In modern society, we are constantly bombarded with zillions of overt and subliminal messages through multiple media. Noam Chomsky summed it up well when he said, “How it is that we have so much information, but know so little?”
There are several excellent sources for progressive ideas. However, in both print and broadcast formats as media expand to nontraditional sources via the World Wide Web, the access to information and knowledge is limitless.
Among printed periodicals, I like Mother Jones, The Progressive, The Hightower Lowdown, The Nation and, of course, the Community Alliance, to know what’s going on in the community. I gave up on the corporate weekly newsmagazines some time ago and switched to The Week because it scans the globe and presents summaries of news and comments from the previous week, giving both sides of the story. It is interesting to read the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal on the same subject in the same short summary.
In broadcast journalism, I hope that all of us in the Central Valley have KFCF 88.1 FM set on our car radio dial and when possible streaming on our computers. It is a local as well as a gateway to national and international progressive news and information, through programs such as Free Speech Radio, Democracy Now and Alternative Radio, which provide high-end program content. Incidentally, AR has just published a catalog of its vast archives that can be obtained by contacting them.
I now have a request. Please recommend your favorite Internet-based sources for progressive ideas and news to be featured next month. To start off the list: Huffington Post. E-mail me at email@example.com. You will help me meet my copy deadline for the March issue by sending your ideas by February 10.
Editor’s note. The Community Alliance is pleased to unveil this new feature column to promote and report on the Progressive Network of Central California. Our columnist, Yezdyar Kaoosji, is a member of the network steering committee. He recently retired from his work as a management consultant and trainer, following a long career in the nonprofit field. He is a board member of the California Association of Nonprofits and the Fresno Free College Foundation, and is enjoying his new role as a community activist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 559-903-0404.