Barely Passing: Some Thoughts on Election Day

I’m glad you voted. Yay. Go democracy and all that. Maybe I’m feeling bitchy because I’m fighting off a cold and am tired from too little sleep or maybe my stress at facing my comprehensive exams in 12 days is getting to me, but what I’m not glad about is this constant stream of people in my Twitter and Facebook feeds being self-righteous about having voted as if that act makes them a full participant in our civic management of this country. Again, you voted. Good for you. I’ll vote too, but you know what? As nice as it is that we are voting in a national election, if we don’t know who is on our school boards; if we have, through inaction and passivity, allowed our country to begin the cold-blooded assassination of people through a drone warfare that we are continuing, as a nation, to ignore; if we have not written, called, or showed up at our congressional representatives offices and told them what we want them do to about a myriad of issues; if we have simply gone about our lives, signed a few online petitions, shared a few links, and then walk into the polls today, we get, at best a barely passing grade on the whole democracy thing.

Look, I know we are all busy. I know we are not living lives of leisure and that taking care of self and family and friends takes up most of our time when we are not working and I know that, for many and for many reasons, we don’t have the time or energy or inclination to participate more in our participatory democracy. I am not exempting myself from this critique*. What I am saying is that I will vote today. And that I get, just maybe, a barely passing grade at civic engagement. But that does not make me either especially proud or a better person. Voting ought to be the final act of a politically and civically engaged life, not the one and only such act.

Perhaps, instead of peacocking around with the “I voted bit” we could use this day to pick one or two ways that we might be more politically and civically engaged in the coming year. Perhaps, instead if making ourselves out to be moral paragons for voting, we could pledge ourselves to volunteering more, to engaging in the battle for the future a bit more, or to actively working for more political enfranchisement for the economically disadvantaged, the protection of civil rights, or the safety of women’s reproductive rights. 1

Maybe, like I said, I’m just being bitchy. Probably I’m simply projecting a self-critique outwards to all those who are crowing about voting when all they mean to do is encourage others to do so. Still, I can’t help but wonder how much this one act of voting stands in for what ought to be a daily engagement.

  1. Or whatever is most important to you, of course. []

The Artists of Dionysus

Did you know that the first international guild/trade union in the western world was a theatrical one? The Artists of Dionysus operated to ensure that traveling actors were granted “freedom of travel, freedom from taxation, and freedom from arrest, should the local authorities seek security for the debt of a fellow countryman of the actor.”1 Also, during the 2nd century B.C., there was a guild of pantomimes and mimes called the Parasites. Labor history in the ancient world!

However, the coolest fact is that the final title of the organization at its end—circa 274/5—was best title of a guild/union ever:

The Sacred Musical Traveling Aurelian World Great Guild of the Artisans of Dionysus, Sacred Crowned Victors, and their Fellow Competitors.2

  1. Eric Csapo & William J. Slater, The Context of Ancient Drama, (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1995), 240. []
  2. Ibid., 242 []


I continually struggle with organization issues, task lists, project lists etc. For a long time I was using Things for my project organization but there were some usability issues that annoyed me so I switched to OmniFocus and have been using that on all my devices (computer, iPad, iPhone) for slightly over a year. I like a lot of the GTD philosophy behind the program but have never really gotten myself into the mindset/habit of using either program as consistently as I probably out to. Because I haven’t been using OmniFocus much lately, even while trying to organize my studying for comprehensive exams, I had a moment of thinking that I would download and try Things again, but then I paused for a moment and realized that with the new Reminders program I can simply make a list for each project that I’m currently working on. I already use it for general tasks and a shopping list, so why not simply use the iCloud connected and built in program . . . especially if I’m not using either Things or OmniFocus to their full abilities.

So with that thought, I’ve set up several different reminder lists and have opened them up in separate windows:

Screen Shot 2012 10 28 at 11 35 31 AM

I’m not sure I’ll do any better with this system, but I don’t think I’ll do any worse. Currently I don’t have any projects that are too complex for this basic system, but is has the advantage of using the simplest tools possible to accomplish what I need, and these are tools that are built into and automatically sync between all my devices. Perhaps I will someday need a more powerful task/project management system, but until then I think I’ll try to stay with as basic a set of programs as I can.