Policy and a Pint
I hate to start off with a rant, but I just escaped to the Onion from the Citizens League/MPR event, Policy and a Pint, at the Varsity, and I'm pissed. The topic was supposedly "Strapped: Why America's 20- and 30-Somethings Can't Get Ahead". I was excited when I arrived to find out the event was sold out and to see such a diverse crowd. Well, maybe not so much diverse, but people I hadn't met before, ages twenty to sixty. With the influence of my organizing classes this semester, I naively expected that they were going to hand us each a beer and we'd sit down and start talking to each other about our thoughts and experiences, exchange some info, and start dreaming about and planning how to empower 20- and 30-somethings. Maybe this expectation wasn't so naive, given that the stated mission of the Citizens League is to "promote the public interest in Minnesota by involving citizens in identifying and framing critical public policy choices, forging recommendations, and advocating their adoption". This event did nothing to involve citizens in political life... unless there was a spectacular shift at the end, as I left early. It was the typical scenario of experts on stage, citizens listening politely and asking questions. What upsets me the most is the lost opportunity, given how many people were there. I am involved with numerous groups who are trying desperately to get people to come out to a public forum and engage each other on political issues. This is not an easy task, and people were at this event and had an interest in politics, but they just listened and went home. I firmly believe in the IAF's rule, "Never do for people what they can do for themselves", and we can't expect people to care about politics if we let experts sit on stage and tell us what our experiences are and what to think. Ms. Draut, who was speaking on her book, Strapped, did say that the best way for 20- and 30-somethings to get control of their lives economically is for them to wake up politically, but this type of event does not assist us in doing this. I am impressed, however, that the Citizens League has the ability to turn out 200 mostly young people for a supposed political discussion, and I hope they will apply this skill towards events that are more productive. There was a letter in the Daily today suggesting that the Oak Street might become such a forum.