Posted by The Happy Tutor
On "The Hard Way" by Peter Karoff
Many of us in Bloggerville have been writing about "community," "smart mobs," and "emergent democracy." A subset of us have felt isolated, confused, almost despairing as we see the course our society is taking at home and abroad. A generation ago we worried about civil rights for black people. Now we worry about civil liberties for all citizens in a time of terror. We know the golden rule: Them what has the gold makes the rules. We know we do not have access ourselves to great wealth, nor to the influence it buys in Washington, nor the positions of power that come with major gifts and seats on the board of civic institutions. We are riders on the bus. It doesn't hit our stop, nor does the driver hear our plea.
Peter Karoff has lived many lives, as a low-end salesperson selling pots and pans door to door, as a successful insurance salesman, a real estate developer, an activist, poet, social venture entrepreneur, a now a teacher of philanthropy at Tufts. He is an optimist who speaks in the American vernacular of Emerson and Whitman. In "The Hard Way," Peter talks about his work in Boston in '68 as a social organizer, among ordinary citizens who went on to change America for the better, and to hold our country accountable for her high ideals. I read the "Hard Way" as a piece about the future.
"Who are we," asks Peter, "who am I, to come to a place that is not my own and presume to do good works?" The activist, the prophet, and the philanthropist are mixed blessings, as were Christ, Diogenes, and Socrates. Change-agents, carpet-baggers, and trouble-makers. "No good deed goes unpunished." Who are we to push ourselves forward? Seems that we all look to the other to make the first move. As each hesitates, each has the opportunity to be the tipping point, the catalyst, the one who -- whether wealthy, or a genius, or a nobody -- steps forward so others follow. Rosa Parks was no one at all, invisible, and yet history turned on that stubborn woman. Read The Hard Way and look for the money. Do you see it? The foundations in those days funded the grass roots orgs, but Rosa and her kind of trouble maker had to get it started. Then, people of goodwill like Peter had to say, "I'm in for $1,000 a year and a day a week, how about you?"
More now than ever, we are many communities, middle class and the poor are worlds apart. And, buddy with your pathetic Yuppie million or two, you don't don't even know what money is. You have never met it; you never will. If you did, you wouldn't recognize it. Money doesn't stop here. It's walled up in "safe places" where community is a gift exchange among those at the pinnacle of society, trading chits for the good of mankind.While we are waiting for "self-organizing systems," or "Smart Mobs," while we are waiting for democracy to "emerge," we might ask with Peter - What can I do? What gifts can I bring to bear? Anyway, at this perilous moment in American history, that is what I get out of "The Hard Way." How about you?