If the key to survival planning is about awareness, then start with becoming aware of the government of your own community.
I don’t know about your town. But in my town, being a team player in local government means ignoring and promoting incompetence and tolerating abusive toxic behavior. If you’re a moron, then this is an easy task. If you are a moron who hates working and just wants to fill a seat and get paid for it and be told how wonderful you are for doing nothing, then this is the place for you. If you cry and complain when told you’re not doing your job and you find sympathy with colleagues and your boss, well then you’ve found the dream job in my county. If your health insurance is furnished through a council member’s company and your health savings account is with another council member’s bank, then it matters not that it’s not a beneficial health plan for you but more about whether these elected officials can benefit from their positions. But you don’t mind, then you get paid for not working and get to enjoy being told how great you are at it. This is the nature of modern local government in many towns, large and small. Replicate this at the national level and it all makes sense. Is this a brutal assessment? You bet it is. But nonetheless, it is pretty accurate.
The Local Club (or Show) is not about competence but rather more about whether or not someone gave a friend or family member a job. If you don’t think the government is rife with nepotism, then you are naïve. Are they capable of doing a good job? That’s not as important as you might think or hope. Are there good people? Of course, just like in every other occupation. Are there too many government positions now? Of course, families grow you know. And they will protect themselves at your expense if you have the audacity to point out any of these things. Maybe they made their money because at some point their parents were intelligent, but as time went on their offspring did not have to work so hard for it and learned to retain the wealth by any means necessary and to the point of obvious stupidity. Maybe some of the local leaders really wanted to make a difference but they were outnumbered. This is where we are now, in America: Suppression of common sense and the promotion of incompetence to protect their own. Like comedian George Carlin said: “It’s a big club and you’re not in it.” And the club is growing.
Why do we allow this? Why isn’t it called out? It’s an old club, even in small towns. You literally must have nothing to lose to be able to call it out, if you’re going to do so, alone. Understand that you could be harassed by law enforcement — a group that is often married to The Club. You may have to move far away and start a new life. Does this sound far-fetched? You can test it by yourself and find out. Or, you can go in numbers to their statutorily required monthly meetings and call them out on it. Bring all your friends. Tell them what you think of their behavior and actions. Do your research. Know the facts before you take the podium. You may still face ostracism but it is harder for them to go after large numbers, i.e. groups of constituents of the Council or Board, rather than just a lone individual, whom they can label as “crazy”. Make it count. Public scrutiny or shining a light on it is their worst fear.
Maybe I am a little crazy because I worked in local government for almost 30 years. You have to be a little crazy to survive these days, in that environment! Granted, there are good people and there are bad people, just as in any other occupation or organization. Did I become disillusioned? Clearly. Does that make any of these observations any less valid? Not at all. If anything, it should give it more validity. I’m now retired from government service and very happy about that. Watching grandbabies, gardening, and canning are certainly more rewarding.
When an organization is particularly rotten, the good people often leave or are forced out. It’s unfortunate but true. Change doesn’t happen until enough people get fed up and complain and shine a light on it. Politicians hate “flashlights”. Do you wonder why intelligence and hard work don’t pay off, like they used to? In the organization or department I worked in, there were only 17 people. But among those were aunts, nieces, and siblings. Common sense does not thrive in this environment. This is local. Just imagine national. [JWR Adds: Just see the recent national headines.]
Most people don’t even pay attention to these things because they are so busy trying to put food on the table, raise kids, raise animals, or whatever, and that’s just how they like it. Don’t look over there.
Know your community and how it’s run and by whom. Do their values align with yours? Are their actions beneficial or detrimental to your well-being in your community? Just like planning a date night, plan to go that night. See how it works. Call the auditor or clerk to get a place on the agenda for the next meeting, if you have an issue with what they are doing. [Their meetings must be public and they must allow public comment, per Sunshine Laws.] They publish their agendas for meetings every month in the local news outlets. They are required to do so, by statute in every jurisdiction. It’s really that simple.
Go to City Council and County Board of Supervisors meetings. Listen attentively. Speak if your heart/mind moves you. Take some friends with you. There is “power in numbers”, as they say.
As with any disease, you have to start at the source and work your way from there. Know who’s running The Show, and more importantly, how they are running The Show/Club because your hard-earned tax dollars are paying for it. You’ve already paid for the ticket to participate.