Like most busy people, I am choosy with my reading material. I simply don’t have time to read every glossy magazine that comes within my field of vision.
The Yale Alumni Magazine gets the same treatment as any other glossy, with one exception: without fail I will pick up the magazine and flip to the Alumni Notes to see what my classmates are up to. I’ll even quickly scan the nearby classes to see if I recognize any names.
Something struck me as I read last month’s issue. Virtually every Note from one of my fellow alumni/ae in nearby classes was penned by someone who was an activist, advocate or organizer of some sort. There were environmental activists, community organizers, women’s advocates, and numerous other designations of people who do nothing other than think or communicate about a cause.
It further struck me how extraordinary this was: that a non-trivial percentage of highly educated, highly paid people might be engaged in nothing but advocacy.
I travel quite a lot in the third world for my job. At MidMark, we own a number of manufacturing companies which have facilities in places like China, India and Mexico. I can say with some confidence that there are not a lot of people in such places who are highly paid advocates. In fact, the kinds of concerns which occupy people in the third world are things such as feeding themselves, clothing themselves, and making sure they have reasonable living quarters. Most people have jobs which are either directly related to manufacturing or are somehow related to those very basic concerns of food, clothing and housing. Who has time for women’s issues when one is concerned about where your next meal is coming from?
Last month’s Alumni Notes could only have been written in a country with a tremendous amount of wealth. At the risk of shocking people with irony, I must say it would behoove all those American advocates to consider, from time to time, how we got here. As we consider our future and the policies we craft in pursuit of it, we need to make sure that we do not kill the goose which lays the golden eggs (or the golden advocacy jobs, as the case may be). From my perspective, the goose’s head is right now on the chopping block. Obama’s holding the axe. I’m hoping someone stops him before he brings it fatally down.
For brevity, I’ve skipped several logical steps in this last paragraph. Those who know me will know what I’m talking about. If these steps were too fast for you, please leave a comment here, and I’ll be happy to elaborate.
NOTE: I see so many examples of the irony of living in a wealthy country that I will make the topic a regular series. Therefore, this is #1 in the You Know You Live in a Rich Country When series.