Make Like Steve Jobs and Narrow Your Focus

Washington State’s Faith Action Network “advocates for social justice in the halls of power”. Here’s their current agenda:

2015 Legislative Agenda

Reducing Wealth Inequality (Our Lead Issue): We will advocate for policies that address the disproportionate accumulation of wealth by a small percentage of individuals and families while others struggle to survive, with particular attention to the negative impacts on women and communities of color.

  • Wage Theft bills (Payroll Fraud/Employee Misclassification, Wage Recovery, Treble Damages, and Anti-Retaliation)
  • State Minimum Wage increase
  • Equal Pay Opportunity Act
  • Increased jobs & contracts for the African American community/businesses

Forging a Sustainable Biennial Budget: We will advocate for a sustainable budget with sufficient revenue to meet the needs of our state while protecting the safety net for those who are low-income and vulnerable.

  • Creating revenue to meet the needs of all of our state (repeal tax exemptions, enact capital gains tax, and enact carbon pollution accountability act)
  • Protect hunger, poverty, and mental health programs (WIC/Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP), State Food Assistance (SFA), Emergency Feeding Assistance Program (EFAP), Breakfast After the Bell Bill, Housing & Essential Needs/Aged, Blind, & Disabled (HEN/ABD), and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) grant)
  • Fully fund K-12 education (McCleary decision) while not putting at risk our state’s safety net

Dismantling the Culture of Violence: FAN will promote policies to reduce multiple forms of violence across our state that disproportionately affect communities of color and to provide opportunities for economic stability.

  • Human trafficking prevention bills
  • Criminal justice reforms (Inmate Post-Secondary Education, Legal Financial Obligations (LFO) reforms, replace the death penalty statute with life without the possibility of parole, enact “Ban the Box” legislation)
  • Reduce deportations by enacting the Family Unity bill
  • Gun violence reduction bills

Protect Housing and Prevent Homelessness: Supporting the basic human right to have safe and secure shelter by working with partners to secure more funding for and equitable access to affordable housing, helping reduce the rising numbers of those who are homeless in our state.

  • Expand Housing Trust Fund
  • Medicaid benefit for Tenancy Support Services in Permanent Supportive Housing
  • Enact Fair Tenant Screening bill

Sustaining Washington’s Environment: Addressing this vital and critical part of who we are as the Evergreen State, FAN will work with our faith partner Earth Ministry to continue the important work of restoring and preserving Washington’s fragile ecosystem.

  • Support Governor’s climate change package
  • Enact Toxic-Free Kids bill
  • Support more stringent regulations for oil and coal train

These are pressing, inter-related issues, but for FAN to create a more socially just Washington State it needs a Steve Jobs, meaning someone to help them narrow their focus. FAN should seek to answer this question: Progress on which one of these issues would in all likelihood make the others easier to resolve?

Most of us are FAN-like, accomplishing less than we might because we’re trying to do too much. We’re unclear about our purpose in life. At work, our collective purpose is murky. Consequently, we casually commit to random activities, the sum of which rarely equals more than the individual parts.

Problem Solving

In response to last week’s social science/wealth inequality posts, a comment averse reader sent me the exact kind of response I had hoped to generate when I started blogging. Let’s call her Private.

Private wrote:

Duh? Were you surprised by ANY of those stats? I was not. For me, the far, far, far bigger question concerns my personal responsibility, your responsibility and our corporate responsibility to address those numbers.

She continued:

My Tuesday Lunch Club is superb at identifying social trends and issues therein. It’s solution we struggle with. My Friday dinner friends frequently discuss the week’s news. Again, no useful, doable answers. Based on your variety of sources quoted, you, too, spend a fair amount of time gleaning news stories. It’s my hope that thinking people, such as yourself, spend equal time pondering and yes, even working on and discussing with others, solutions to the problems you identify so clearly. Let’s see some posts about that!!!

Three exclamation points demand a response.

I’m an educator; consequently, I believe consciousness raising is important in and of itself. Ideas matter because they shape our behaviors. But Private would most likely reply what good is awareness of social problems absent concrete actions to solve them? Put differently, quit intellectualizing, roll up your sleeves, and do something to create more equal opportunity.

I don’t have any special insights on problem solving probably because I’m too content with the ambiguity engendered by good questions.

Nonetheless, here is an overarching belief: social problem solving takes many forms all of which should be encouraged equally. Among the forms, 1) practicing selfless, socially conscious, caring forms of parenting; 2) modeling socially redeeming principles such as humility, kindness, and empathy in one’s day-to-day interactions; 3) practicing socially redeeming principles in one’s purchases and lifestyle choices; 4) choosing work that explicitly improves others’ qualities of life; and 5) giving money and time to causes and groups that have proven track records of helping people locally, nationally, and/or internationally.

What would you add?

The GalPal is way more inspiring on this topic than I’ll ever be. While I’m reading, thinking, questioning, debating, and writing, she’s often organizing a team of friends to make dinner for a hundred homeless men and women at the Salvation Army.

Resilience

I’ve been thinking about how different my daughters’ lives are and the seventeen year old central character’s in Winter’s Bone.

Winter’s Bone has the feel of a documentary/commercial hybrid. It’s the story of a seventeen year old woman taking complete care of her mentally out of it mother, 12 year old brother, and six year old sister in a desperately poor, rural, Appalachia-like environ.

Her dad is elsewhere cooking meth and he’s put the house up as collateral on a bond and then missed his court date. As a result, the house will be repossessed if he’s not located within a week. The bulk of the film is the daughter trying to locate the father. In the hands of these particular filmmakers, it’s a brutal, powerful, mesmerizing story.

Despite the increasing prominence of national chain stores in this country, this film was a reminder that substantive regional and subcultural differences still exist.

My daughters have a legion of educated, financially secure parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and older cousins. They’re entering adulthood with a nine-person offensive line to run behind. The central character in Winter’s Bone had an extended family wracked by poverty, substance abuse, and violence. When the ball was hiked to her, she had no one to block for her.

Despite all the countervailing evidence, many Americans believe every young adult has an equal opportunity to flourish. Did the drug users in Winter’s Bone choose separately to take drugs or did they succumb to pervasive environmental influences? Were they immoral, undisciplined psychological weaklings or rather was their demise practically inevitable and entirely predictable from a socio-psychological point of view?

Even though the central character turns out okay because of her uncommon resilience, we need social, economic, political, and education reforms to expand the life opportunities of poor young people. The challenge is implementing those reforms without forcefully capping other young people’s life opportunities. Exceedingly difficult to pull off, especially in a recessionary era.

Sometimes I wonder if my daughters might be too privileged to develop the type of resilience they’ll have to draw upon to be successful adults. They don’t project a sense of entitlement, and they are socially aware, but they could be even more so.

Eighteen’s fancy pants college should show the class of 2014 Winter’s Bone so that they more fully appreciate the amazing opportunities their college experience will provide them.

[first Pad post, harder to edit sans mouse, so DKB cut me some slack]