Friday, November 04, 2005

My Involvement

I have had to think about this. One is to do with career vacillation. But it is all for good. When I take a detour to taking another serious look at the business world, and then come back to taking another serious look at the political world, I feel like I have connected with what I call the progressive entrepreneurs, the people who create the jobs of tomorrow. I don't subscribe to the notion that the Democratic Party is the party of the poor and the Republican Party is the party of the rich. There are a lot of poor, white folks in the South who are Republicans for social reasons. All cutting edge entrepreneurs I know of, have read about fall in the progressive camp. There is a lot of grey.

For me it is about being progressive and getting into power. You need the tools of power to do good. So, yes, there is ideology. But it is also about winning. I was for Dean in 2004 because he was going to win. I never was for Nader in 2000. I am for Dean today because I hope he will run in 2008, and if he does, he will win.

And the social progressive issues are fundamental to me. The rest basically follows from there. Partly it is about identity. When I mingle with the Nepali groups in town, I generate a lot of hostility. My political contribution is grudgingly noted, but I am real vocal on the Madhesi issue, and that really brushes a lot of people the wrong way, and so be it. I am the third angle in the triangle also in the Nepali context. (50% Women Friends, 50% Women Colleagues) It is fun. When with Indian groups, I am from Nepal. You are more exotic that way. When I meet Pakistanis and Bangladeshis, I am quick to point out I am from Nepal and I am Buddhist. They talk more openly that way, although South Asians in general seem to get along just fine in America. People are too busy chasing the dollar to dig up ethnic grudges.

I am the third angle in the triangle also in the American context.

On Wednesday I came very close to saying, okay, enough, the heck with DFNYC events. (Dean And Ferrer At City College) I mean, I am among the most active members. I am probably as active as Heather, in terms of event attendance (not overall though, she is way more active, she is always posting at the DFNYC website, processing a ton of paper on behalf of DFNYC, and just taking care of a ton of grunt work, being the resource of last resort even when she delegates). I show up for most events. Many other top folks have this one event a month they choose to show up for.

I did unsubscribe from the DFNYC mailing list in a fit, but I think I am going to go ahead and subscribe again. I mean, I was just going to disappear like fog.

Probably the wiser thing is to stay engaged. Maybe less so than in the past, but stay engaged. Attend fewer events, but do attend events of choice. Like the Mixers, they are so much fun. And get one on one with people. If you are going to decide to be a vexation to my spirit, please pass on the Tobasco sauce. The group is different from the component individuals. And by my own admission, I am dealing with the 5-10 segment of the spectrum even among progressives. If I am a 9 on race, and I meet a 5 or a 6, they are still personally offensive, but as long as they keep voting Democratic, they are doing fine for now.

The Blog. This blog is out of bounds. As in, it is going to keep chugging along. I have not yet had anyone ask me if they can become a member of this blog. But I have had many editor wanna-bes. Editors need not apply. Start your own. Critique as many of my blog entries as you want at your blog. I would like that. Or write in my comments sections. I mean, it is not like I think, then I blog. Blogging itself helps me think, sort out thoughts. If a blog entry reads like a rough draft, no harm done. So be it. And I have promised Abhi I will profile him for this blog.

The Ideas. I am busy creating a mathematical model for a national Democratic resurgence. The broad framework is already laid out. And it is open source. As in people modify it as they wish before they put it to use for their particular circumstances. I am not trying to impose myself.

White guys can get predictable. They routinely invite you to the sexist soup of male bonding. It is a flux.

Attending DFNYC events, and interacting with DFNYC people help me think, bounce around ideas, come up with new ideas, and think through the details of Dean 2008. I function primarily at that ideas level. That will continue to be true.

I admire Dean greatly. He is like a political messiah. I admire DFNYC. I see it as the crown jewel of DFA. And there are many DFNYC members I individually admire.

Okay, so I am going to go subscribe to the DFNYC newsletter again.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Dean And Ferrer At City College

91 photos.
Video clip.

I woke up today composing a small piece on Men Against Sexism. I did not put it down right away. I am going to do that now before I comment on the happenings of the day. Yesterday, since it is past midnight.

Men Against Sexism. There is sexism. It is also in the best interests of men to struggle against that sexism. Sexism is sickness. It hurts primarily women, but it also hurts men. The metaphor I would like to draw is to do with ecology. If humans are the most powerful of all the species, should it go ahead and wipe out all the other species? There is scientific evidence to suggest if the humans were to approach such a uniformity, they will end up annihilating their own species. Existence would become unbearable. Ecological diversity is a necessity also for Homo Sapiens. That metaphor can be taken over to gender relations. In participating in the political struggle against sexism, men get to reach out to a part of themselves that they otherwise might not. You become more complete in the process. By extension, the ecology metaphor also applies to racial and ethnic diversity. I have personally experienced it. During the heyday of the dot com boom, I realized the added bonus of out of the box thinking. Suddenly cultural diversity made huge money sense.

But then there is soup, emotional in structure. There is the male soup, there is the white racial soup, and there is the white male soup. If a group of people feel an emotionally intense sense of belonging when one member of the group makes a sexist or a racist comment, they are participating in the soup. It is campfire time.

At this blog, I have been drawing mathematical models for the progressive camp. I don't know of any place online or offline where exists such a complete largely mathematical model for a genuine Democratic resurgence. For the longest time the Democratic Party was out of power and Bill Clinton came along, reinvented that party and took it to the White House. In Britain it was the Labor Party and Tony Blair. What I am suggesting is along those lines. Only they can not be photocopied. Times have changed. New thoughts are needed. The Democratic Party is so totally, absolutely out of power, the starting point is to acknowledge it needs a fundamentally new direction.

There are racial overtones to that too. Sure there are light moments at this blog, but this is no Onion, contrary to sugggestions from some quarters. This is serious political work. In the immediate circles that message is hard getting across. I have had better luck in outer circles, and really so in distant circles.

But then I do make comments especially when I describe events, and I hope they are funny. These are blog entries, not journal articles. So I hope there is a healthy blend. A blog is a blog.

And all I say is within the one voice concept. As in there is still room for the one person, one vote mechanism, and the consensus mechanism. But both require that the ideas be discussed and not be brushed away.

It is harder for the progressives to stay in power for long, and it is easier for conservatives because progressives constantly have to dig new ground, whereas conservatives just have to fall back into the past grooves, and most of that is on social issues. Again, my spectrum and dialogue concepts are the best. If anyone knows of a better way of handling this tough segment of the progressive blanket, leave a comment. But the spectrum also means progressives also have to fight their own demons. They also have to confront their own racism and sexism. And that really seems to create problems. The progressive tent is almost supposed to be a refugee camp. If I am inside the tent, I am okay, I can not be a racist or a sexist, don't bother discussing race and gender with me in a way that I am a character in the story. People with those attitudes are a 5 or a 6 at the most on a scale of 1 to 10, if that.

I will be the first to admit that among the political, economic and social issues, the social issues are the hardest because everyone feels like they have the truth and the rest of the world just needs to catch up with them. But a genuine progressive is going to face the fact that it is hard and will have to be dealt with. Curiously I also have offered the least disruptive way to deal with the challenge. The traditional ways have been to forcefully dissolve the old bonds to make room for and create new bonds. There have been armed revolutions and civil rights movements and marches. But maybe there are better, productive ways. We don't use sundials to find out time anymore. And acceptace of those better ways come from the realization that when you end black, white segregation, both blacks and whites benefit. Social progress is good for all groups involved, and not just the oppressed ones. And the progress has to be relentless. What might be cutting edge today will look primitive 50 years from now. In the year 2050, people will look back bewildered and ask, you mean those people back in the 2000s really struggled with the gay marriage issue?

I am for pragmatism. That is why my total emphasis is on forging a winning coalition, and creating a progressive party of near permanent power. Because when out of power, the rate of progress slows down, in some cases it reverses. It is not enough to fight the good fight, fights have to be won. And you do that by putting the winning coalition as your central organizing principle. Victory is the platform you create to make progress possible. I do believe in the necessity of protests once in a while, but I am not a big fan of protest politics. I am more interested in power politics. Attain power, retain power and better utilize power.

My approach is pragmatic and scientific, or at least attempts in those directions.

And before I describe the day, let me briefly touch upon the second mayoral debate.

Two groups co-hosted it, DFNYC and DL21C. It was a large crowd, really large. Two Columbia Journalism School students interviewed a bunch of us. I was the first and the last person they interviewed. I am flattered. Basically you react to the debate. I tried to spin on behalf of Ferrer as if they were TV reporters. "Oh, yes. It is obvious Ferrer won. Bloomberg was on the defensive." "Bloomberg's large lead in the polls means a lot of his supporters are going to stay back home. A lot of Ferrer supporters don't get phone calls from pollsters. Ferrer does have a chance." "A week is a long time in politics."

Abhi did show. He was looking real relaxed. He said he got done with a major presentation.

I met one guy who told me Bill Clinton had attended a DL21C event in 1991. He totally got my interest. Then I asked him about 2008. He said the separation of church and state issue was about "us," as in him and me. I guess I don't "look" Christian. And he implied Russ Feingold is Jewish - I keep having these revelations - and was his candidate of choice. So I gathered he himself was Jewish and he rightly thought I was non-Christian. I appreciated the bluntness with which he said "us." I faced that issue in Kentucky. And there are elements of Kentucky in New York City also, though to a lesser extent. NYC is more a mosaic than a soup, and quite a complex mosaic. There are racial tiles and there are dollar tiles. Only NYC is so large, if you find somone you don't like or don't click with, you move on. You might never see them again. And there is a lot of fluidity. Much flux.

Like this racial comment I heard today. So the LinkUp host white guy tells an Asian woman member something about "long nails." Every white guy who makes a racist comment is at the receiving end of some ISM or another. Either he is white and bald, or white and old, or white and dumb, or white and ethnic, or white and Jewish, or white and Protestant, or white and Catholic, or white and poor, or white and rich, or white and gay, or white and weird. So when you make a racist comment, you are throwing a stone out of a glass house, literally, especially in New York City. Racism is only one of a dozen ISMs.

And the difference between offline America and the online world is the difference between Nepal and America. The fluidity is much greater in cyberspace. Like this email I received two days back from a venture capitalist in California. Hi, saw your resume online, am impressed. I sent a feeler of my own. I might forget politics and go into business full time. I feel a sense of completion through this blog. I have drawn a full circle, and as for the execution, if you recognize the existence of the human mind, word is action. As for the political process, my model puts forth the suggestion for a new process. Let the adopters adopt it. My work might be done. And I might have grown out of DFNYC. It is a great group, for the most part, with a great potential. But you say "long nails" and as far as I am concerned the force of gravity just stopped working on you, and you just shot into outer space. Your face is not part of my social reality no more. And I don't feel too comfortable with the group that does not seem to discuss race, gender and ideas. There is a set structure. And you lose me on race, you just lose me.

When you talk race and gender, you necessarily end up talking body parts. The racial boundaries are sexual. That is the big picture of it. The macro of it.

The micro of it is a relationship is, by definition, a private thing. It is between two individuals. And once in a while emerges some white guy who likes to dispute that fact, especially when the two individuals are from divergent backgrounds, especially if the woman is white. Just like on the abortion issue the woman is supposed to be the keeper of the child, a vessel, on the race issue the white woman is supposed to be the keeper of the race. And usually it is some dumb, loser white guy who will take the initiative in a social setting to remind the audience of the fact. The pig just invited you to a fight. How would you like to get dirty?

I have seen it in Kentucky. I have seen it in New York City.

So I took the train to City College. While we waited, I found myself with two young, sharp, black students. They were both for Bloomberg. So I honed in on them. I really was curious as to why they were for Bloomberg. They were both smart, articulate people. There were various layers to their reasoning. One, they knew Bloomberg, they did not know Ferrer, they said. Two, they were fatalistic on things like rent. Not Bloomberg, not Ferrer can bring them down, they said. There are larger economic forces at play. I was mesmerized as they talked. It was like listening to the Ralph Nader crowd during the Al Gore election. They kept arguing Gore and Bush are the same. But Bush won, and his first attack was on the environment and the Nader crowd cried foul. Bloomberg cuts financial aid on college students and gives $1.6 billion to Goldman Sachs, and these college students can't tell the difference. A billion and a half is no pocket change.

The City College student president Carlos Sierra spoke. I met him after the event, and he gave me his card and invited me to drop by his office later on, after I told him about my own little stint as student president at my college. He is from the Dominican Republic, came to the States when he was 13.

Bill Perkins spoke.

Howard Dean spoke. While he spoke, I remember thinking, of all American presidents, Dean is more like Truman.

He also mentioned "keeping American jobs in America." And in my own mind I went back to the education, health, free trade theme. You have to walk and chew gum at the same time. World trade generates a lot of controversy in all countries. That is curious. On the other hand, maybe on free trade I am more a Clinton Democrat than a Dean Democrat. But then on democracy, I am surely a Dean Democrat.

Ferrer spoke. He was impressive like in his debates. No matter what the outcome of this election, Ferrer has a bright political future ahead of him. I will put him in the same league as Bill Richardson. He is an up and coming Hispanic political talent.

He drew a distinction between himself and Bloomberg. Ferrer is the first from his family to go to college. When Bloomberg showed up in town in 1976, he had a MBA from Harvard. I was touched to note that comparison. When you are Ferrer, you work hard at excelling, and then you end up working harder to gain a sense of belonging in the new reality you have created for yourself.

I have come to like this guy. He is an aggressive progressive.

After the event I went on a long walk of a few hours. It concluded at the East Village LinkUp site. At the After LinkUp there was a conference call from the Dean brothers. More than 500 groups had called in, including one from Holland and another from Japan. The Houston crowd was the roudiest. They claimed to be in Tom Delay's frontyard.

After the call an elderly DFNYC member approached me and pointed at me. I thought he might say, "I think you are sitting on my jacket."

Instead he said, "You have an interesting face. Where you from?"

"I was born in India. I grew up in Nepal next door."

"I have always wanted to go to Hrishikesh."

That is a place Hindu pilgrims go to.

The walk, I first went up north, and then headed south. This time I got to locate the building that houses Bill Clinton's office. I walked to the three receptionists - black - and asked if that was the building for Clinton's office.

"Do you have a right to redress?" one asked. He felt like he was in a movie. I laughed him off. Then he pointed me to the other guy who politely told me it is a private office and tours are not organized.