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What Can I do?
Section 15 of 16

merica probably doesn't have a surplus of private organizations seeking to support individual rights and civil liberties for everybody, but we should already have enough organizations to do the job.

What they need is the support to get the job done.

The problem is the deficit of citizens willing to extend moral or active support to causes which don't directly, immediately and materially benefit themselves and their family or core living group.


For once, everybody agrees on that. The other part of the problem is open rifts on principles and methods which were once assumed to be common ground. To quote from my essay "Black Elk Speaks", we are fighting over the bail bucket while the boat sinks.

Of those of us willing to help out, financial donations are the most common, and often the best way, to actually begin doing something to support causes we believe in. The very churches which have been most active in trying to suppress human rights in this country have been very successful in this regard. It seems odd that so many who harbor so much contempt for false prophets and hatemongers do so little to combat it.

On a more personal scale, consider community service as a volunteer for any one of the many underfunded, understaffed local organizations which work to improve the human condition.

From personal experience, I would highly recommend picking a community organization in which you feel least comfortable or believe you have the least to offer. There you will find greater personal rewards.

For example, if your real interest is in second amendment gun rights or in tax breaks for investors, consider spending at least one evening a week volunteering for a service club for disadvantaged youth, or for an AIDS hospice.

If you are a gay person, yes, there is a rich cultural and ethnic diversity in gay service organizations, but if you have never served outside the gay community, consider volunteer service for a veterans hospital, halfway house, or seniors convalescent center.

The idea is to break you loose, whoever you are, of the odd notion that you are alone, that your needs and interests are unique.

The ancient Greek solons talked of working toward a society in which every man was a philosopher, every man his own educator. Theirs was a world in which the barbarians really were at the door, women had no particular place or standing in society outwide the home, and the Greek warrior-statesmen themselves were out subjugating the known world because they felt like it.

Today, the idea of an informed citizenry, using increased leisure time to explore the tandem worlds of physical exploration and intellectual discovery, is somewhat of a bad joke.

To talk of education and inquiry as a salvation tool for the liberation of mankind from tyrannical servitude and the bondage of subsistence survival, is to risk being branded a crackpot. We live in a predominantly Beavis and Butthead culture.

But that should not stop you from making informed, independent decisions. If you can demonstrate to yourself that persecution of others is not only wrong but self-destructive, do not practice tolerance for those who preach or act against the principle which supports your personal freedoms.

Of all of the things one can do to promote freedom in "an unfree world" (as author Harry Brown once put it), charity isn't the only or even the primary virtue that begins at home. Live a good life, set a good example for others, and do the best you can. For most of us, that is more than enough to gradually turn the tide of ignorance.

Don't sell out for hiring the government to do our thinking and regulate our social interchange for us, but do be considerate and supportive of others' quest for equal recognition before the law. Not only is this part of good citizenship, it's a sound preservation tactic -- not only for you and yours, but for the nation founded on those principles.


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