“The first step to slaying a dragon is for one person to say, probably drunk in a bar, “It can be done.”—Alexandra Rowland
It’s important to remember there are ALWAYS different ways to look at things. And if ever there was a subject that could use some humor and playfulness, it’s — dare I say it — politics.
Yesterday, I was introduced to a politician who used art and creativity to make massive changes. And since you gotta first hear about a possibility (remember the four-minute mile?) before you can embrace it, I decided to share a potential new way of governing.
Antanas Mockus, a Columbian philosopher, first made international headlines in 1993 when he was president of the National University of Colombia. To quiet a loud, unrelenting group of protestors, he ceremoniously dropped his pants. As he said, “innovative behavior can be effective when you run out of words.”
Public mooning didn’t go over well with the Board of Regents (or whatever they call university bureaucracy in the South American country), so he was asked to resign.
But within the year, he was back in the public spotlight running for mayor of Bogota. He was able to make massive change in the South American city using what he called a politician’s most powerful tool: imagination.
For example, when he was threatened by a leftist guerilla group, as many Colombian mayors were at the time, he donned the suggested bulletproof vest, but, as a symbol of confidence and even defiance, he cut a hole in the shape of a heart over his chest.
Another time, he walked the streets in spandex and a cape as Super Citizen, demonstrating the power of everyday average citizens.
When Bogota faced a water shortage, instead of the traditional rationing, he introduced voluntary conservation efforts, even running commercials of himself taking shorter showers. Instead of a busy signal on their phones, Bogotans got either his voice or Colombian pop star Shakira’s voice saying, “Thank you for saving water.” And it worked, decreasing water consumption by 10 to 15 percent.
He replaced corrupt traffic police officers with 420 mimes who “policed” driving behavior by pretending to be hurt or offended. Drivers began obeying traffic signals for the first time and within months, Bogota was able to dissolve the old, corrupt transit police force of 1800 officers. Dare I suggest a solution to police brutality?
Antanas was elected twice on a, get this, platform to increase taxes. During his second term, the City Council refused to approve the increase, so he invited citizens to pony up voluntary taxes and 63,000 households willingly paid an extra 10 percent.
Change IS possible, but we first have to be willing to surrender old, crusty policies and entrenched ways of doing things. We have to start looking for new solutions, to ask “What if?”
Antanas admits that some of his crazy schemes did not work. But he was able to deliver many promises because, as he pointed out, people began to cooperate. They had skin in the game. They began to have hope. They became astonished at their own power.
As he said, “Show me a city with a thousand problems, and I’ll show you 10,000 people who can solve them.”
So, while I normally eschew talking politics here on the blog, I thought this radical possibility of governance was worth pointing out.
I’ll end with this quote from filmmaker Adam Curtis, “Yes, change can be risky, but it’s also thrilling and might just lead to something extraordinary.” #222 Forever
Pam Grout is the author of 20 books including E-Squared, E-Cubed, Thank & Grow Rich and her latest book, The Course in Miracles Experiment: A Starter Kit for Rewiring Your Mind (And Therefore Your World) that has just been turned into an app. Badass ACIM (badass-acim.com)