It was a long first, full week of the semester. Some highlights included seeing Deval Patrick at a press conference in Springfield, going to the mat at ADTC for declining to provide feel-good services for a committee, and being compared with Dick Cheney.
It was really cool to see Deval Patrick give a stump speech. There was a huge crowd at his office in Springfield -- a couple of hundred at least -- including Ellen Story, Peter Kocot, Peter Vickery, Claire Higgins, and other notables. It was an extremely diverse crowd -- something you don't see in Amherst everyday (outside of my children's elementary school classses). And it was a very impassioned speech that called on people to reclaim their civic duty of being engaged with politics, a topic that is near-and-dear to my heart. I really hope he wins the Democratic primary; I think he has a good shot at becoming governor of Massachusetts.
The Republican, Kerry Healey, has been advertising that she supports education which, if you look at the last 4 years while she's been lieutenant governor, just seems patently false. I don't see how she's going to make that case at all.
The ADTC thing is stupid: a subcommittee wanted to send email to other Democratic committees using the ADTC SMTP server so that it would be more convenient for the people on the subcommittee to set the From: header, because that's inconvenient with the mail software they're using now. Yes, I'm the secretary. Yes, I set up the web site. But I don't want to build POP accounts and try to support people making SMTP work. If someone actually needed it -- if they didn't have SMTP service -- I would be a lot more persuaded. But when the answer is "I think you should do extra work because don't want to learn how to use different mail software," I'm unpersuaded. And it's the sort of thing that could easily become a *lot* of work if there are problems with the SMTP service or the hosting service ends up in the RBL (which has happened). I don't want to get in the middle of that. As I have explained, to various people, at length, repeatedly. But, as I knew they would, the subcommittee brought it up as a motion in the general committee meeting to force me to do it. I spoke against it. No one actually understood the issues at all, as far as I could tell; they didn't understand why this guy wanted it, and they didn't understand why I was saying no. So, eventually (over both of our objections) they tabled the discussion. I was actually ready to resign: I was going to finish the Minutes and then immediately submit my resignation. Oh, well. There's always October. Did I mention the fellow proceeded to come up and ask me again, after the meeting adjourned?
Then there's the Esperantist who compares me with Cheney, claiming that I'm wedded to a particular idea and won't consider changing it. It's the same argument I would use again him (although I'd like to think I wouldn't stoop to ad hominem attacks to try to make the point.) It's an interesting problem. He wants to advertise to try to increase the membership of ELNA. I agree that there's no question but that we need to increase the membership. I think its a mistake, however, to try to recruit members from among non-Esperanto-speakers. I think the goal should be to convince people to learn Esperanto and then try to get Esperanto-speakers to join ELNA to support Esperanto activity.
Partly this is just a "clarity of message" issue. If we always say "learn Esperanto" in English and "Membrigxu je ELNA" in Esperanto, I think it's absolutely clear what our goals are. If we try to convince non-Esperanto-speakers to join ELNA, we will have to make a case that (I think) is unconvincing.
I think we can make a better case to convince someone to learn Esperanto than we can to convince them they should join an Esperanto organization when they don't know the language. ELNA membership confers little or no benefit to someone who's just thinking about learning Esperanto. OK, there's a discount on books, but most people who are still thinking about learning Esperanto are probably going to try out learning online, without books and stuff anyway. Personally, I think most people join ELNA for no reason other than that they want to support Esperanto activity. I think that can be persuasive to Esperanto-speakers, but I think it will fall on its face when trying to attract non-Esperanto-speakers.
At the root, however, is the fact that ELNA still hasn't addressed what its mission is in the age of the internet. I don't think the services we offer provide enough value to persuade people to join. If ELNA can become successful at a new mission of, say, "growing the Esperanto community," I think ELNA will pick up more members, both because Esperanto-speakers do want the services ELNA offers, and because Esperantists will support the mission of growing the Esperanto community. As long as we continue to pretend that people join ELNA only because of the services we offer to members, I think we're doomed.
But, it's Friday... Tomorrow is a Lucky Day, when I will get to stay home with my wonderful children and try to recover my sanity because there's another week looming on the horizon. And it promises to be a doozy.