The Good Fight--Disappointing but Unsurprising


I started Ralph Nader's book with the hope that we would get some really new insights and some new thinking. And I suppose that was just blind hope because I know where books like this always end up. While there was a refreshing element of the necessity of civic duty that goes beyond mere voting, and while there was some interesting information, Mr. Nader falls back on long-held beliefs and cherished anodynes.

I stopped reading the book when I slammed up against the tired and unconvincing old canard that access to abortion is the thin thread and sole shield against a decline in women's access to equal employment. I have no problem with the fact that there does still appear to be a glass ceiling in place in many corporations. I don't contest that there may be many places in which women are paid less than men for the same work. (People being people, they will do what they can get away with.) However, to tie the overall improvement in the condition of women to this one imagined "right" (or more properly--real right wrongly manifested) is to buy into the same tired old thinking--something Mr. Nader is asking us to stop doing even as he dishes it out.

The book is one long tirade against every republican after Eisenhower, with an occasional jab at some democrats as well. Given Mr. Nader's views, hardly surprising. But given his desire to have a critical thinking public involved in the issues, he sets a remarkably poor example. Time and time again, he falls back on the false or fallacious assumptions and conspiracy theories of adherents to far-left thought.

It's a shame, because there is a great mind here with important things to say. If he had stuck to his point--why citizen action is needed and where it has been effective, without wandering into the realm of who's right and who's wrong in political terms, he would have had a substantial book supporting the central thesis--the United States does need to have people who care as much about what happens in their communities as they do about what commercials will be shown during half-time at the Superbowl. I know such people exist, we just need to have a great many more of them trying to pay attention to what is happening in their own back yards.

For example, here in Florida community association routinely write in deed restrictions that force homeowners to support and grown the pernicious vine called St. Augustine Grass. This is despite the fact that it is a monoculture that requires an extraordinary amount of water to support. Given dwindling water tables and a drought situation (not as bad as Georgia's, but certain bad enough), this kind of restriction is simply out of order. This is one place where local citizens can get together and request a universal change to such deed restrictions. It isn't earth shaking or world changing in the large sense, and yet it is something we can do regardless of political affiliation.

What I would have desired more of is more of the inside story. For example, Mr. Nader details the actual events surrounding the famous McDonald's Coffee episode and the actual final award in the case. (Of course, given the other false things supported by a lack of critical thinking, I also wonder about the validity of the information supplied in this case). In my experience his caution about Corporate influence in American family life is salutary--but his own vision may be more paranoid than my own. And so on.

Mr. Nader's book, The 17 Traditions did a magnificent job of detailing important possible changes in American life in a way that this book manifestly fails to do. I would like to hear someone sound the clarion call for personal responsibility in American Civic life without turning it into the beating of the ancient drum of cherished causes.

Each of us has a worldview that corresponds to a greater or lesser extent to the reality that is out there. For an example, see the post below on poverty and the comment received. Obviously the two parties disagree based on the experience they have had with the question. Mr. Perry works out of his own knowledge and experience as do I, and working from these viewpoints, separate from a political affiliation, each can work to better the situation as he sees it. This is the important of personal involvement. See an issue and address it. Address it both through personal action and through involvement in politics to help change the underlying situation.

It is my personal belief that the interest in politics is exactly the reverse of what it should be. It seems that many people are intensely interested in politics at a national level (which are manifestly important as they set the base from which all other laws work); however, the greatest good is often accomplished in small local races where your concerns and interests can be better channeled into local changes that make small improvements in the local situation. Too often, the sheer magnitude of the national concerns and elections trumps these small individual issues. And I am speaking for myself. I don't know how my local commissioner is or even who the Mayor of the nearby city is. I don't know who represents me in the local government, and it is high time that I found out because I've waited too long for changes to come from the top down.

But this was about Mr. Nader's book. Despite some premises that i can find myself in agreement with, it is entirely agenda-driven and not really interested in inculcating a thing political body so much as it is a stirring example of unfocused and relatively unthinking demagoguery. I can only be thankful that Mr. Nader has made of himself such a nuisance that few people pay him any attention.

Definitely not recommended for any other than the die-hard Nader fan. Read The Seventeen Traditions instead and derive from it some interesting and helpful insights into how we can make lives better for our families.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on November 14, 2007 8:12 AM.

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