Civic Idea of the Day: Trade Tribalism for Actual Civic Work

Most of us experience politics as political tribalism, by which I mean, we post and share the latest outrage from the opposing tribe. For example, those in the tribe I often find myself in will post something Ann Coulter wrote or Rush Limbaugh said and we shake our heads and get angry. But, in the end, all we are doing is helping that figure get more eyeballs looking at them and brain space thinking about them. Other times, we are sending out posts about how some trend is disappointing or some event is indicative of some disappointing trend. This usually just piles on a bit more cynicism and pessimism. I’m not holier-than-thouing here… I do it all the time.tribalism

But, I have this thought: what if we took all the time we spent on tribalism (posting outrage, posting disappointing trends, getting angry) and each just became experts in some public topic. If 100 of the people reading this today did it, we would pretty much cover all important political topics of the day. And then, what if we used that new-found expertise to actually participate in bending the arc of history on that topic in real forums? So, instead of having a wide-ranging, inch-deep, mile-wide flurrying opinions about everything that we got from the Atlantic or BuzzFeed or Upworthy that we throw out into the ether and let fade into the pile of tribal bitterness, we actually could start having inch-wide, mile-deep, empowering expertise in some civic topic that we can wield as a weapon.

Here’s the step by step:

(1) Pick some civic topic you are passionate about;

(2) Find something specific inside of that topic;

(3) Do a deep dive of becoming a Citizen Expert on it. Read some book on it. Read some Congressional Research Service Report on it. Read some Think Tank report on it and rent a documentary or find the applicable Frontline episode or expert interview or podcast on it;

(4) Set a Google Alert for the topic in the news so you get an email to read the three articles in the news about it each day;

(5) Inform your friends about what you’ve learned. Perhaps throw a dinner where you present the information to your friends and neighbors;

(6) Be an advocate with your new-found tool… help your Congresswoman become more informed or send an op-ed to a local paper on it or publish some cool infographic about it or write to some rich person about why it’s important.

I think this is the more empowering way to consume and share information with each other. It makes you have real Citizen Expertise instead of passing, fading snowflake opinions. It gets you into the concrete world and out of the abstract tribal ideology fights. It empowers you to participate with your new-found knowledge.

Try it out. We can call it the Anti-Upworthy Pledge for Deep Informational Empowerment: Pick a public policy topic. Read up. Keep updated on new news. Inform your friends in a deep way. Wield it as a tool.

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