Squeaky Wheel

I have always been a fan of the saying , “The squeaky wheel gets the oil.” From writing to Congressperson, Senators, or political leaders to advocate for a cause, to having demonstrations, I have always believe that if you get enough people involved, you will be heard. My last job working at the National Parent Teacher Association involved gathering the masses and giving them the ‘know how’ to be an effective squeaky wheel. We had parents, teachers, and sometimes students gather around an issue, and approach decision makers about the changes they wanted to happen in their schools.

My favorite part of the job was giving these people the ammunition they needed to make a difference. These people were not coerced in any way; they wanted to do it. They didn’t have to be a part of any movement, but they chose to be.

When I worked with The Summit Group Communications, I was taught a very valuable lesson: If you are going to whine about something, you better have a solution to back you. There is nothing like a whiner to turn decision makers off. I have a lot of teacher friends who talk and sometimes whine to me about issues in schools, and I know that they are talking with each other about these issues too. While I agree with a lot of what they are saying, there is little movement to do anything about it. I have often told the teachers to start speaking up about the issues they are having in a smart and tactful way, come up with solutions that are viable and realistic, and present them to the people who make decisions.

Creating a solution that isn’t realistic shouldn’t be the fear; ideas that are unrealized due to silence should be the fear.

I have been keeping up with the Occupy Wall Street protest. I have had many thoughts in regards to this approach including

  • How is this protest going to bring money/jobs to the economy?
  • What solutions do the protesters want to see?
  • Did they try contacting their representatives before taking to the streets?

I get the protest. I understand its intention. I was unemployed and sustaining myself for close to two years with no steady income. After seven months living in DC searching for a job, I was tempted to write a sign that said, “Masters degree student. Hard worker. Economically laid off. Searching for a job for 7 months. Will work for steady income.”

In the beginning, I was having a hard time understanding how this protest was going to help with solutions, if anything. From what I read, it seemed like people didn’t know how to channel their anger. In a CNN article posted by Brian Flynn earlier this month, Channel protest anger into progress, he states: “…much of the anger has been channeled into pointless and destructive behavior…rather than trying to suppress or manage anger, we need to figure out how to unleash and channel it….As Aristotle taught us: Anyone can be angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person at the right time, and for the right purpose and in the right way – that is not within everyone’s power and that is not easy….I happily admit that it looks like the protest movement has had a good start, but without a specific ideal behind it, the occupation will either fad or flare, depending on how focused the anger ultimately is.”

The protest is nearing its second month, and what was once seen as something that was “counterproductive, jumbled and misguided,” it is starting to be listened to. I have hope that maybe just maybe, decisions makers will start to perk up; if not to create solutions, then at making them to the vote.

The CNN article, Wall Street demonstrations start second month, states: “Others, though, have lent their support and said the protesters are voicing legitimate, widespread frustrations regarding the current economic and political situation….While the broader movement’s future is hazy, it can already claim one key success: raising the salience of issues of economic inequality. Liberal and conservative politicians are likely to start paying “a lot more attention to these issues than they otherwise would have,” Heaney said.”

I would like to believe that this movement could promote change that needs to happen. As I discussed in earlier posts, change is hard for a lot of politicos who are used to things being a certain way. The last thing people in general want to do is change. I am tired of hearing politicos say, “It is time we have a conversation about….” Stop having conversations and start acting. Don’t let the fear of the ‘wrong’ decision prevent us from finding the ‘right’ one. Perhaps we need to start voting for people who are willing to take risks.

As an American people, we also need to be a little more forgiving. We need to realize that solutions to change can come in a variety of different ways, and can deliver results that we didn’t expect. If we want change, we need to be patient with change. One principal of change that exists not only in this circumstance, but in life, is that the good and the right change does not happen overnight. Change requires patience and a willingness to accept failure. The best innovations didn’t happen overnight or without glitches. Case and point: we tried the stimulus thinking it could help. It did briefly, but now we are in more trouble. Let’s move on, stop blaming, and find something else that could work. And if it doesn’t, then we try the next solution.

I am sure you are thinking, “Yeah, but what about these people who don’t have jobs or time to wait for us to come up with the right solution?” In response to this concern, I say, some of us have been blessed with prosperity. It is time we start taking care of our neighbor. And how should we do it? There are far too many answers to list them here. But it starts in our families and in our communities.

At the end of the day, the squeaky wheel does get the oil. But in order for the oil to be effective, the mechanics need to know where to put it. I guess in the meantime, the squeaky wheel needs to get louder in order for the mechanic to know where the noise is coming from, but it might be beneficial if the wheel helped the mechanic along.