June 16, 2010

Rob should fight poverty?!

Periodically I receive challenges to my work of the last 10-20 years. The challenges usually go something like this: "Why are you doing this? Why aren't you doing something useful?" More specifically, "How does blogging/writing/criticizing help Indians or anybody? Why don't you fight poverty/disease/crime instead?"

On my Facebook page, Michael Cooke posted the latest challenge along these lines. Let's (try to) put this issue to bed once and for all.Rob, if you step outside yourself for a moment....If you believe you're making a difference, how do you measure your result?My response:

How does any educator measure results? Do schoolteachers judge themselves by test scores? By following their students' careers after they graduate? Maybe, but probably not.

I say education is self-evidently good and I don't need to defend it. If you disagree, go ahead and tell us why it's a waste of time. Post arguments explaining why educators should be dispensing food and medicine rather than words and ideas. If you come up with something better than your own anti-education opinion, I'll address it.

Measuring success

You want measures? Give me the measures used by teachers, librarians, and journalists and I'll apply them to my situation.

What about creative types such as writers and artists? Are you seriously arguing that their work is useless to society? That we should close bookstores, shutter theaters, and empty museums? And devote all those intellectual and artistic resources to fighting poverty instead?

Until you come up with measures for these people, here are the measures I use for myself:

  • Hits, pageviews, subscribers, fans, followers, etc. on my websites and blogs.

  • Google rankings for my webpages and blog postings.

  • Invitations to work for Native people--at PECHANGA.net, Indian Country Today, Native News Online, NativeCelebs, etc.

  • Invitations to speak at Native-themed conferences and events.

  • Requests for written, phone, radio, and video interviews.

  • Authors and publishers who want to cite or quote my work.

  • Students who say they've used my work or ask to use it.

    Sorry none of this has changed the world yet. But it's certainly doing more than my previous job as a corporate computer programmer did. And probably more than whatever you do for a living does.And what is the result you mean to produce?1) Make world a better place.

    2) Encourage people to see things from a multicultural perspective. To overcome their preconceptions and biases. To see things rationally and think about them critically.

    3) Address Native issues to help a) Native people in particular and b) all people in general with more of item 2.

    Has Rob changed history yet?Yes, there are forces of conservatism that mean to white wash the shame of racial bigotry in history. Are you producing a result in new Texas history books?No, nothing I've done is important enough appear in Texas's new textbooks. So what? Is that really your measure of success? Am I a failure unless I'm rich or famous?

    FYI, I'm one of millions of liberal activists working for a series of related causes. Our efforts are having a cumulative effect; witness the election of Barack Obama, for instance. If activists pressure Texas to revise its textbooks again, I'll be happy to take a millionth or whatever of the credit. No more and no less.Native American poverty, have you any results in this domain?To reiterate the obvious, most Americans don't know anything about Indians. Raising awareness is a first and necessary step before we can fully address issues such as poverty. Because few people will donate funds or support legislation if they don't realize Indians or their problems exist.

    You want results? Give me the money and I'll do a poll of people's awareness and knowledge of Indians. I'll do a study of how their awareness and knowledge increases after exposure to stereotype-free lessons, products, and entertainment. Once they learn Indians aren't dead, do pay taxes, aren't rich from casinos, etc., I'm guessing they'll be more willing to help.

    This is another way of saying education produces results. Indians understand this, which is why they form trade organizations and hire lobbyists. They make the same points I make here--Indians aren't dead, do pay taxes, aren't rich from casinos, etc.--to influence government, business, the media, and the public.Or is it more useful to you that the suffering is real so you can be more politically self righteous? It's a real question, because focused on that problem you could accomplish something real.These may be real questions, but they're also poor ones.

    As I've said many times, I'd be happy if people didn't argue with me when I point out problems. I'd be thrilled if racism and stereotyping dried up and I could go out of the criticism business. I'd be as overjoyed as I am whenever we eliminate a mascot or a stereotype. I'm not getting big rewards for any of this, believe me.

    You're beginning to sound like the apologists who claim racism isn't the problem but talking about it is. Is that your position? Then go to that posting and address the points there.

    Rob the poverty fighter?

    You want me to do something "real" such as fighting poverty? You understand that my background is in computers, not social work...right? If I were to "fight poverty," it probably would be in a back room somewhere managing an organization's website or database. I wouldn't be much more involved in the fight than I am now.

    Let's review my skill set. The things I'm not particularly adept include: 1) anything physical; 2) organizing and managing projects; 3) raising funds; 4) working with people. Given these limitations, what employment would you suggest?

    Actually, I'll give you the answer this time. I'm already doing what I do best: thinking, analyzing, and writing. Anything else would be a waste of my talents.Righteousness is well and good. But don't surrender your power to fighting stereotypes, stereotypes are the very stuff of cultural inertia. You might better fight stereotypes by producing other results. Your power can be used to produce measurable results, real differences in real lives. But to do that you need a bigger game to play than that of being righteous and being right.Let's review again. I spend something like a third of my time disseminating news at PECHANGA.net. I spend another third posting positive news about Natives in the popular culture. For example, at least four of the seven items I posted Tuesday (6/15/10) contained no criticism of anything.

    And I spend the final third of my time commenting on a wide range of issues: politics, race, economics, the environment, education, culture, religion, etc. I review movies, books, and other works of art to steer people to the best products. And occasionally I criticize things that deserve it.

    You want me to do more? Stop challenging what I'm already doing and forcing me to defend myself. I have plenty of ideas for comic books, novels, and screenplays if only anonymous cowards critics would stop wasting my time.

    You can argue whether my artistic efforts will help society any more than my educational efforts. But so far you don't have the shred of an argument against education as a worthwhile, effective, and noble calling. Address that first and then we'll go from there.


    Coincidentally, the same day Mike posted his queries, a teacher on Facebook said she was going to show a stereotype posting to her class. This isn't a posting I originated; it's something I merely shared. But I'm a world-class disseminator of news and information, so I did my part.

    So roughly 30 youngsters will be thinking about Native stereotypes in the next few days because of one of my postings. Who know...maybe it'll influence or change their thoughts on the subject. Maybe one of them will go from being a callow youth to a dedicated activist. I can think of worse legacies.

    Measure that if you can, buddy.

    For more cultural debates with Mike, see Stereotypes Disappear "Organically"? and Stereotypes Okay in "Cultural Commons"? For more on criticism, see Clarifying My Comments Policy and Why Does Rob Keep Criticizing?

    Below:  An insurmountable problem because of "cultural inertia"? Or the Stanford Indians mascot successfully eliminated in 1970?


    A Fellow Warrior said...

    The conservative and Christian movements that were revived and peaked during the Reagan and both Bush presidencies stopped America in its tracks and even took a few steps backwards with the political, social and economical progress the country was making in the early 1980’s.

    If we review the incidents of racial hatred in communities across America; police brutality; the rise of militias based on white supremacy and anti-government movements; the push for religious rights in government and schools; the lack of oversight and accountability in corporate America as well as government agencies with the aftermath of Katrina, the absence and apathy in pursuing Osama Bin Laden after 911 and the current incompetence of handling the Gulf oil spill, where in this do Americans stop and say, “what are we doing wrong?”

    I sincerely believe that this country has not yet been traumatized enough to the point of honestly asking themselves that question. Looking at the trends and popular entertainment of our times I see America trapped in a soap opera that is in constant rerun.

    Rob, you are ahead of your time. You have tapped into an area that is untouched and intentionally ignored for the obvious quick fixes and erratic behavior of the American and indeed, the world’s mental consumption of flamboyant and loud profanity it so greedily hungers for on a daily basis.

    The American Indian is poverty, but it is the non-Indian Americans that are in poverty spiritually. The whiteman has no edge on material wealth anymore as we see with many of our African American and Latino brothers whom buy into the American dreams illusion of money, cars and bling bling. Those riches are not real because they are not permanent.

    Yet in Indian country, there is a rich and vibrant culture that has yet to be seen or heard for the masses of Americans that truly to seek a heritage with the land they claim as a home that is sacred and aboriginal.

    I am optimistic that perhaps a hundred years from now, Americans will understand that the Indian was not an ancient relic of the past to be a toy and tool for entertainment, but rather a legitimate culture that lives and breathes for all to claim as human beings whom truly know, understand and respect the land they walk, eat, sleep and rest upon into eternity versus a land in which to rape, pillage and destroy for temporary profit.

    Rob, you are the last of your tribe. A tribe of non-Indians that stands for something nobody gives a darn about in a time when the ridiculous and mundane is popular, but the real issues and problems are shut down.

    Keep up the good work and know that there are many of us out there that have roots dating back thousands of years whom value and understand that you just might be the only human being left or beginning within the white race.

    Marlon Magdalena said...

    I agree with what was said above by A Fellow Warrior. We need more people like Rob.

    m. said...

    Just popping by to chime in with the above commenters. I also appreciate what Rob's doing. It makes me glad to know that there is a non-Native out there reading, blogging and thinking about the struggles that play out in Indian country, the issues which affect Indians today and the accomplishments in Native communities. So there ya go.

    Anonymous said...

    Reading Rob's special site here for almost 2 years now, I wouldn't exactly recommend Rob to work for the benifit of Native communities. That would be like asking Micheal Jackson to babysit your 12 and 13 year old sons. Long time readers will know that Rob is a somewhat of a psuedo-hypocrite. More than half of his articles in here admonishes Natives in general--very politely. Or in other words--"Microaggressive Racism" on Natives.
    Sure, he attacks other Whites who attack Native, but in his mind, its only okay for him to attack Natives.

    I would warn others of Rob's hypocrisy.


    AntiGENO said...

    Well GENO, that is why Rob has my support and you do not!

    You can babble on with your psychoanalytical theorys and secular terminology, but in the end, you do not have the insight, hindsight or the website, to bring the issues to us as Rob does.

    How can you know what is in the mans mind and align him with pedophilia?

    Fix your own hypocrisy.

    Anonymous said...

    You suck, Rob. You could be making more of a difference if you actually got outside and did something in the community rather than type random rants against some supposed stereotype sprung from your delusional mind.