By Michael Albert at Apr 15, 2011
I am surprised my last blog about the poll which is now online on ZNet, has received no comments.
None of the now nearly 1,000 people who have taken the poll have commented.
No one who actively decided not to take the poll, after reading the description and questions, has commented.
And no one who simply ignored the poll, despite seeing it as the alternative top page of the site, has commented.
So far, our guess is that between 75,000 and 300,000 people have encountered the alternative top page, in place of the usual top page, once, or even a few times - having to click through to see the usual site. You are very likely one such person.
However many it actually is who are in that group, out of that total, a bit under 1,000 have already answered the poll. Here are their results, so far:
Supposing such an organization did exist, would you... (Total Answering: 930)
Expect the organization to have a positive impact. (percent choosing: 55%)
Hope, with doubts, for a positive impact. (percent choosing: 43%)
Fear the organization might do more harm than good. (percent choosing: 2%)
Expect the organization to do more harm than good. (percent choosing: 0%)
Given your feelings noted above, would you: (Total Answering: 931)
Promptly join. (percent choosing: 62%)
Consider joining but hold back pending future results. (percent choosing: 36%)
Definitely not join. (percent choosing: 2%)
Finally, if you were to join, how would you most likely relate to the organization? (Total Answering: 925)
Pay dues and also participate in programs, try to recruit, etc. (percent choosing: 52%)
Pay dues, but barely participate beyond that. (percent choosing: 16%)
Participate, but not be able or willing to pay dues. (percent choosing: 13%)
Hope it would warrant your time and dues, but wait for evidence. (percent choosing: 19%)
For these folks, once it gets to 1,000, that is, if this organization came into existence with the features noted - 620 would immediately join, 360 would would consider joining but wait to see additional practice to decide for sure, and 20, or 2%, would definitely not join. Over half say they would pay dues, participate in programs, try to recruit others, etc. That breakdown of inclinations is incredibly positive.
But what about those who have not yet taken the poll (which most likely includes you)?
How many who haven't taken the poll have actually read the description on the alternate top page and then consciously decided not to answer despite knowing what their answers would be?
Our guess is that it is only a handful. And for those few, okay, fine. That is a conscious choice, and so be it.
But we believe that over 90% and perhaps over 99% of those seeing the alternative top page with the poll description and questions, have so far clicked through to the usual top page without even looking at it.
To me, so far, and I hope I am missing some mitigating factor, or that the situation will change soon because it is really just a matter of time, that fact is an even larger, and more worrisome indicator, than the incredibly high percentage of support for the organization idea from those who are actually taking the poll is a hopeful indicator. Why? Well, what does the abstention rate mean?
I have often written that I think perhaps the biggest problem facing the left, the biggest obstacle or hurdle that needs to be overcome, isn't that the public is disinclined to agree with left views. And it isn't repression, etc. Instead, it seems to me that despite the fact that a large proportion of the public would agree with much that typically characterizes the left, and in startling numbers perhaps even with all central views of the left if they assessed those views, the problem is that they don't assess them.
Why not? Well, partly it is certainly that the left doesn't have good means for reaching out to people, so they never get the chance. But partly it is also because even among those who would likely agree with most left positions if they heard and thought about them, and who do in fact come into contact with them, they are cynical.
To hold left views makes one angry and different. It even involves some risk - not so much legal as personal, as in not being able to enjoy alienated options, not getting along with friends or workmates, not being able to abide bosses, and so on. And folks see no offsetting positive benefit - as in they don't think holding left views leads anywhere positive. They doubt that change can be won. They doubt that changes that are won will persist. So if holding the views has a downside, being a bit of an angry outcast and perhaps even not being able to get along well at work, etc. - and has no upside, why even listen?
There is another powerful factor too, which is that folks find the left that they would join quite off putting, supposing they get near enough to make such a judgement. However, while critically important, that's another matter, since overwhelmingly most folks don't get that near, due to their cynicism stopping them short.
In light of that observation, I often urge that the left ought to ask, among its other tasks, okay, what can we do to explicitly address this very critical and perhaps paramount obstacle to our growth - wide spread cynicism - other than the usual things we do, since clearly those things are insufficient.
Many doubt this view, I assume, or at any rate give little time to this question. I don't know quite why because it seems almost self evidently central to me. But whatever one thinks about all that, here is the punchline bringing us back to the poll. It seems to me that the same picture applies not only to the huge pool of people that the left tries to address - but also to the left itself. We too are obstructed from further gains by our cynicism.
By left here, I mean people who are already anti capitalist, anti racist, and anti sexist, in a reasonably informed way, let's say, roughly as much as the average user of ZNet.
A person who is leftist - who has read lots of left content on ZNet, and no doubt elsewhere as well, who opposes interventionism and imperialism, who opposes exploitation and repression, who opposes sexism and racism and homophobia - who wishes for and feels solidarity with efforts to reduce these ills now, and who hopes as well that we can win a new world in which these ills are absent in due time - comes to one of their favorite venues for reading material in their areas of concern, ZNet, and the top page is gone. Literally not there. There is, in its place, instead an alternative top page with the entreaty to take a poll to discover potential audience for, or against, an organizational process. Despite their having considerable faith in this site - otherwise why access it - virtually everyone seeing this alternative top page skips right over the entreaty to the usual top page. IThe next day they see it again, they skip again. They get an email and another, and another...they skip again.
What does this say? Well, maybe nothing much. I hope so. Maybe they are cogitating carefully, or very busy, and will get to the poll soon. But, even with that hope, how many things that one can read on the site are more important than assessing ideas for new organization, much less contributing to determining prospects for undertaking efforts at new organization? So why wouldn't it make more sense to read the description on the alternative top page, rather than clicking through - even if only to get the main item of the day? And once one had done that, why not spend another two minutes, maybe five minutes, doing the poll?
If you explicitly, or implicitly, or even unconsciously believe that any such effort is doomed, then I agree, there is no point reading it, answering it, etc. But why would people think that? So much so? And of course, with enough people thinking it, it is self fulfilling - which is the point of this blog.
Okay, maybe it hasn't been long enough to make any judgements. That's why I say, above, the results are worrisome. And maybe it is even premature to be worried. Great.
But I want to go on record as saying that I think the number of people taking the poll should be, on Z, upwards of 100,000, honestly. And certainly tens of thousands, over the course of the next few weeks. Years back we put up a statement called We Stand. It got 120,000 signatures. The difficulty of signing - reading, deciding, filling out the form - was about the same as the difficulty of taking this poll. And the content was quite consistent with this content.
So what is the difference, I wonder? Why sign a petition with politics that implies a desire for change, but not take a poll that might engender far more dramatic activity than that petition. I don't know the answer to that. I post this blog looking to find out, or, more so, hoping the poll taking numbers are about to jump upward.
Finally, consider even the folks who took the poll and said they would join such an organization and would pay dues and would participate in activities and recruit people. Well, okay, that is very hopeful. But why not start now, then? Why not, if you would like to do that later, put some time into getting more people to take the poll, now? Why not write your friends, use your Facebook account if you have one, and other social networking account if you have any? Why not blog, comment, to get it to happen? If you would like to join this type new organization, later, doesn't that imply you would like to know how others feel, now, in hopes that assembling those results will spur your future hopes into reality?
Call me confused but I don't see why not.