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What Do We Need Most: Information or Inspiration?

"Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph." --Haile Selassie


All through the Lille Skole years, questions nagged me about what I was really doing, what I was really contributing, and what I ought to be doing. I realized as soon as the school began that a new model for public education, what I was hoping to offer, was not going to be adequate for solving the great problems that were weighing down on us. The best schools in the world had no chance of stopping the war in Vietnam, for example.

I guess I rationalized that I couldn’t really do anything about the larger problems anyway, but that I did have an opportunity to do something about public education. Like most of my other life’s lessons, my wrong headedness had to be beaten out of me before I was ready for new thinking.

Maybe I Did Everything Wrong, But I Never Gave Up

What I’m proudest of in my life is that I didn’t quit. I may have been wrong. What the heck, I was wrong. I was wrong over and over and time after time. But, gentle jury persons, I’m not asking for forgiveness for being wrong. I’m asking for clemency on the basis that I didn’t give up!

As the school crashed to a close, I went through a major personal crisis involving my baby girl, a woman, her kids, her husband, a few other men, a few other women, and a considerable amount of liquor. But even in all that soupy drama, I was still looking for a way to contribute something to my chosen herd, the human race.

As I did less with Lille Skole, I started doing more with the University of Thought. The University of Thought had been started by a brilliant young Vista worker who later went off the deep end. Religion was his symptom, but I think the disease may have been dope.

Restarting the “university” was just a matter of lining up some classrooms, some teachers, and doing some publicity. People taught gardening, zen buddhism, revolutionary work, and whatever appealed to them. I extended its life by a couple of semesters before giving up on it because there was no clear ideology.

As I did less with Lille Skole, I started doing more with Mockingbird, one of three anti-war, pro-community “underground” newspapers in Houston at that time. Typing, I may have mentioned earlier, is my only real skill. So I became the typesetter for Mockingbird. As typesetter, I also did a lot of editing and proofreading. I picked up some photography skills, drew a few cartoons, and wrote some articles.

At first, naturally, I wrote about education, but movie reviews were always easy for me, so I added that. Then I began some straight reporting. Mockingbird was a shoestring operation and very much based on counter-cultural thinking.

I had little patience for counterculturalism and was especially discouraged because the newspaper staff could never hold its meetings on time. Another thing that bothered me was the way they always worried so much about dope. Dopers were, probably still are, a paranoid group that are scared to death of being found out, and scared to death that other people will report them to the police. So it was really hard for them to get together.

The guys running Mockingbird thought they could sell advertising, but they couldn’t. Think about it: are the people who have money going to help fund anything that proselytizes against them? The paper foundered over money. I paid the printing for one entire issue, $700, out of my own meager savings, just to try to keep them going, but it failed anyway.

I was operating on the notion that people needed information. If people had simple explanations, I reasoned, they’d insist on better treatment and, eventually, a better world. In my lifetime, I've written, sold or otherwise distributed tens of thousands of newspapers. That same reasoning applied when Elaine and I started “Hard Times News” (Later “The Dallas Advocate”)in Dallas in 1982. We wrote it, laid it out, had it printed, and distributed it for nearly 2 years. We also paid all the bills with the money we made working in a factory.

To this day, I still think that people need better information. I still write, I still do public speaking, I still take photos, I still do e-blasts, social media, and websites, and I still look for ways to disseminate the truth. It’s the ideological reason for writing this present exercise, for example.

Sad to Say, Information Isn't the Key to What People Need Today

The argument that people need more information made more sense in 1973 than it does in the internet world of today. But in neither world is the need for information a complete remedy for what ails us. People need information, but they need a lot more if change is to come. They also need leadership. They need inspiration. They need courage.

Providing leadership and inspiration is a heck of a lot harder than providing information. There are thousands of vacuous armchair socialists providing information everywhere, but are they really DOing anything? That's the key!

It’s very hard to convince anyone that we, ourselves, are the leadership we’ve desperately been waiting for! We are, of course, and social change will not happen until we accept it.


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