In today’s Commercial Appeal, Emmanuel A. Tom writes a reasoned if naive editorial admonishing Memphians to embrace the power of positive thinking through the power of their word. While this is certainly an aspect of the problem, word alone is not enough, action is the key to making a better Memphis.
Certainly the power of word reflects the general attitude of the citizens, and I agree that thinking and speaking positively about our city is an important aspect of the changes that are necessary to lift our city out of the doldrums of economic, social, and ethical despair that we currently find ourselves in. However, the power of positive thinking is only one part of the equation. Positive thinking doesn’t, in the long run, get anything done. Positive thinking may eventually inspire action, but it is action itself that, to my way of thinking, inspires positive thought. Thought without action amounts to nothing but intellectual masturbation.
Human beings are equipped with an amazing ability to solve problems. It is this ability that has brought us every single technological advance since the wheel. It is this advanced problem solving ability that distinguishes us from every other species on the planet. I would argue that it is this problem solving ability that must be utilized on both an individual and organized level, to positively affect the future of our city.
There is nothing in this world that inspires me more than picking myself up when I am down, dusting myself off, and thrusting myself headlong into a problem. This positive action is more empowering than any thought I could have. This positive action dramatically changes my demeanor, almost instantly. This action, inspires even more action, and is contagious to those close to me.
Action is not necessarily easy, particularly with a population that has been continuously derided for their perceived ineptitude or apathy. Imploring someone to “not be apathetic” is like telling a bulimic not to puke. It doesn’t get at the real problem, which is that of a distorted community self image. The only way to address this is to get out in the community and help the strong lead the weak. I would argue that there are plenty of people in this city who are frustrated by the problems, but do not feel empowered, or have never experienced the liberation nor the feeling of self worth that action strengthens. Additionally, these potential leaders are hampered by a political system that, in many ways, requires a passive, if not docile citizenry making any action seem like an impossible goal.
We have the tools, right here in Memphis to make a positive effect on our city. The question is, do we have to courage to step outside common perceptions and prejudices and affect some real change? Are we willing to work together with traditional friends and adversaries to lift up, not only ourselves, but all of our fellow citizens? If we really want positive change in this city, we have to be ready to do this and more. Talk is cheap, action makes it happen.