Jim Tortolano has the week off from writing his “Retorts” column. Here’s a classic from 2017.
One of the reasons that the Germans failed on the western front during World War II, and the Americans advanced, was as simple as getting up off your duff.
By 1941-45, war had become a mechanized affair, for those nations could afford it. The Germans made some excellent combat vehicles, in some cases better even than what Detroit could manufacture. But when things broke down – as they always do – the typical German soldier sat down and waited for the repair guys (think IT today) to come out and fix the tank/truck/etc.
But on the other side of the line, when an American vehicle chugged to a stop, the troops would pile out and fix the darned thing, and move ahead. Since the U.S. had many automobiles in their daily lives and the Germans few, a typical American soldier knew more about auto service and repair than his counterpart.
So, a key to victory for the good guys was a) knowledge and b) a willingness to step up and work and not wait for someone else.
This applies to the way we live in our lives, and how our attitudes are revealed in social media and elsewhere. Here are typical complaints or underwhelming suggestions one hears or reads:
- “They ought to do something about this problem.”
- “They don’t care about people like us.”
- “What’s the point?”
- “They ought to put a [store/stop sign/bus shelter/police car] over there.”
Hmmm. Who exactly is they? Government? Business? Or … here’s a crazy idea … how about …. You? Or me.
We live in a world in which half of those eligible to vote, simply don’t. We live in a world in which most people don’t have the faintest clue about their government, especially local government. They wouldn’t attend a city council or school board meeting unless you were giving them a brand new Tesla with a pony in the front seat.
If you don’t care – except to gripe on Facebook – then why should “they” listen to you? If you walk past the litter dumped in the street or set off illegal fireworks because it’s fun and you deserve some fun, maybe you are part of the problem.
The patriots who founded this country, and those who freed it from the stain of slavery did lots of complaining, of course. But they also picked up the musket or the rifle and went out and acted.
The women and minorities denied full participation in American democracy griped, but they also protested and marched and aroused the conscience of the nation. All advances in the improvement of daily life came from people who – to use another automotive metaphor – out were willing to turn a wrench.
Living in America in 2017 – just as it was in 1917 and 1817 – is not a spectator sport, or shouldn’t be. As the saying goes, if you want change, you must become the change you seek.
First, you need to prepare. This means educating yourself about the realities of the world. Why Trader Joe’s won’t come to certain cities. How the Electoral College works. Find out what an RFP or ENA is.
Then act. Write a letter. Send an e-mail. Make a phone call. Get a trash bag and pick up the food wrappers blowing down your street. Tell the store or restaurant (politely) why you aren’t coming back unless he/she fixes X, Y or Z. Learn CPR. Attend a meeting. Attend the next meeting. And the next one.
And vote. Not just against someone you don’t like, or because you vaguely recalled seeing their name on a poster or a TV commercial. Reject appeals to emotion. Find out what so-and-so really stands for.
But remember; the action without the knowledge or the knowledge without the action are equally ineffective.
We live in a world where information is more available now than ever, but too many people seem more interested in videos of cats playing piano than the realities of a better life for themselves and others.
You want a great gift idea for your family and friends? Try improving everyone’s life by getting back in the game of being a citizen. Climbing out and pushing worked against the Nazis; it can work wonders here in the OC.
Jim Tortolano has the week off from writing his “Retorts” column.