Saturday, March 3, 2007

Radical Cluelessness

For the past few days I've been obsessing over writing a brief history of Real Change, the newspaper I started here in Seattle in 1994 and have clung to like a barnacle ever since. One of the great things about starting an organization is that it becomes a great adventure in on-the-job training that never really ends. One looks back, over the vast expanse of a dozen years or so and says, "shit, I really didn't have the first clue did I?"

The thing is, having a clue as to what one is doing is really a moving target. You get good at a few things, stuff evolves and becomes more complicated, you need to know new stuff, and before you know it, you are back to the essential cluelessness that is the human condition.

After 15 years of publishing street newspapers, I've literally written the book on the subject. This year, I've launched a technical assistance program to help other papers in the US and Canada develop. I even teach a class on Street Newspapers, Poverty and Homelessness every year at the University of Washington. Does this mean I know what I'm talking about? Not really. If what I know could fill a dixie cup, what I don't know is something on the order of Lake Washington.

Lots of people haven't figured this out yet, and it's sort of sad to watch them. Pretending to know everything, or even most things, takes way more energy than it's worth and really gets you nowhere. I say, embrace your cluelessness as you would an old friend. What you don't know won't hurt you.

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