Monday, January 25, 2010

TWEAK: Citizen's Brigade

"Tweak" is going to be a series of articles where I archive my ideas. These can be original or augmentations of existing things. This tweak was instigated by the Haitian earthquake; the idea I have is called "The Citizen's Brigade."

Our Day Will Come: The Citizen’s Brigade

A vision for how unemployed Americans can do great things

One of the greatest tragedies of our species is the untapped energy of human potential. Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus cites this when he speaks glowingly about the effects of microfinance, how it unleashes the entrepreneurial spirit, the energy that was ALWAYS there but never before had a vehicle to express itself.

To drive this point home, and in the words of the late, great Stephen Jay Gould:

I am somehow less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein's brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops.

Right now, we have millions of Americans out of work while so-called "stimulus packages" are winding their supposed ways through "the system." And so, we tap our collective feet and wait….

But what if there were a way for ordinary citizens to pick up and go, get some training in specific skills, then deploy to Haiti and directly pitch in and help? Everyone I know that is out of work has said upon hearing this idea that they'd go without hesitation.

Look at the enormous costs expended to train, transport and house troops for our current two wars. What if we could take a fraction of that and deploy our unemployed in Haiti for a good cause?

Why is it that we can have a similar structure - the National Guard - when it comes to militaristic/martial operations, but not in the service of helping our fellow brothers and sisters? Why is it this way?

Think of the benefits a Citizens Brigade could bring:

1. Discouraged, unemployed citizens could gain valuable skills, earn a wage, travel, and most importantly, help.

2. Enormous good will would be spread.

3. Ordinary Americans would be exposed to "the bigger picture" firsthand, and their "war stories" for their children will not involve killing but helping.

4. Citizens Brigade members become much more valuable citizens in the event an emergency happens at home.

5. People in other countries will learn about America in an entirely different manner than before.

6. New bridges will be built not based upon politics and economics, but human need and help.

7. Specific but not restricted to Haiti, CLEAN WATER is paramount, even before food! Citizens Brigade members can be trained in how to dig wells, how to purify water and basic plumbing. There must be thousands of out of work carpenters - think about what a valuable skill that is at a time like this for Haiti. General laborers to do set up and then clean up. Food service members to prepare and serve food. First aid workers! In fact, all CB members will have basic first aid training.

8. Jobs are created domestically; plumbers, carpenters, medics... all can find work helping train up CB members. That's stimulus money I'd like to see spent.

9. More contracts are given to transportation, housing/barracks, communications, oversight, evaluation....

These are only some of the benefits that will come as we unleash our human potential, but it requires a vehicle. For all of our talk about “innovation,” let’s just stop that now, because innovation is standing right in front of us.

And besides, Haiti isn’t interested in our talk.