In college, I majored in anthropology, the study of humankind and how it evolved genetically, culturally and socially — which m
The idea is that some crazy monkey stood upright and found he could run faster and see farther than his pals. Upright, he could wield a club so he survived longer, ate better, had more kids who as soon as they learned to walk, stood upright and turned out to be even faster and stronger than their father.
A lot of monkeys pooh-poohed what was going on, and accused the upright monkeys of betraying their heritage and warned that if they didn’t watch out, they’d be thrown out of the monkey world. But a few smart monkeys started imitating their upright brethren, and then a few more until one day there were 100 of them and at that moment a threshold was passed and all the monkeys started standing straight up…well almost all, some were so resistant they slinked off into the jungle and continued monkeying around forever.
Anyway, that’s a theory of how Homo Sapiens started to evolve from monkeys.
I apply that theory to the political evolution of L.A. We’ve come a long way from six families ruling the town and tolerating no dissent to the Committee of 25 and today’s insider culture of big shots, developers, contractors, unions and the politicians who front for them.
The roots of democracy have been growing. Neighborhood councils, resident groups, volunteer organizations and a host of others that are mostly preoccupied with their own agendas have steadily grown stronger and more vocal. It’s my view that the efforts to make L.A. a more democratic city is nearing the threshold where all these groups can look past their narrow interests and see the big picture.
It just takes that 100th monkey to trigger a movement that brings all those people who want the power to affect the decisions that affects their lives. That’s all democracy is about and I don’t see how anyone can object to the empowerment of all sections, all communities, all individuals in L.A..
I’ve believed in that for the nearly 30 years I’ve lived here. I believe in it now more than ever. I believe it’s possible for democracy to flourish here, and I believe that if it does, Los Angeles would become a truly great city, a city that shines like a beacon of hope to a world that so often seems on the brink of catastrophe.
Maybe I’m right, maybe I’m wrong. But it’s what I’ve worked to achieve and what I’m doing now that I’ve retired from the Daily News and expanded my horizons beyond journalism and am now just like everybody else an ordinary citizen exercising his rights to speak his mind and work for what he believes in.
I know there are a lot upright monkeys out there and I know we are near a threshhold where standing up for what you believe in and working with others to find common ground to make things better for all, inch by inch, day by day, is more possible today than ever.
The only questions are when will it happen and, of course, who will be that 100th monkey.