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these meetings. Power does not automatically rest with those in positions of traditional authority. The fact that COPS members are always well-informed on the issue at hand, and often betterinformed than the official being questioned, is a key to their collective selfconfidence. This sometimes provokes a revealing reaction. “The real action is the enemy’s reaction,” said Saul Alinsky in Rules for Radicals. Then, of course, ‘there is also the power of large numbers of people as a countervailing force to the power of money or of office. Large numbers of activists translate into many times larger numbers of votes. For at least the space of a meeting, power is held in balance or is controlled by the people of COPS. COPS’ effectiveness is derived from the fact that it is able to retain some measure of that power once the meetings are over. Public officials know that COPS never forgets a promise, never lets an issue die. They know they are always potential candidates for COPS and public scrutiny. Above all, they know that COPS represents 90,000 families the largest community organization in the country.. . Geoffrey Rips January 14, 1983 New Democratic Models: COPS’ Tenth Anniversary “The students have taught the teachers a great deal. [COPS] has been a vehicle for accomplishing goals: winning victories on issues such as flooding, school finance, energy, water rates. . . . COPS has been all that and much more. It is one of the most precious models for real democracy in America. COPS is an illustration of the way in which people can grow to maturity as they begin to bargain, to negotiate, to learn the art of public discourse and political argument. “You have given hope to those of us who have grown cynical and skeptical of the possibility of renewal of our political, social, and economic institutions. “In order to understand COPS, one has to look at San Antonio in the year 1971 before COPS. Historically, San Antonio had been a colonial society, virtually controlled by a tight-knit oligarchy of a few powerful people, who allowed no room for meaningful participation by the majority minority. 53% of the city was and is Mexican American. But more than that, it was a city dominated by the rich and powerful, a city dominated by the Country Club, the Texas Cavaliers, and the Good Govern ment League; a city that prided itself on low wages and massive resignation and passivity of its working poor: black, white, and Mexican American. The powerful talked of initiative and of enterprise, but, like their heroes Ronald Reagan and John Connally, they believed in socialism for the rich and free enterprise for the poor. They made some very destructive decisions. You know Where they put the growth generators: the campus of the University of Texas, the San Antonio Ranch, the Bexar County Hospital [all near affluent northside suburbs]. You know about the STNP [South Texas Nuclear Project] and about the County Water Development Fund. I don’t need to bore you with the grotesque details of arrogant decision-making. Nor do I need to remind you of the flipside of those oppressive years, of poor school districts, flooding in the homes, the bad streets, no parks, no libraries or very few books, but worst of all, no access and no representation, no opportunity for meaningful participation in public life. All that has changed now. It has changed because you have made a difference. “With all due respect to those men and women who have run for public office, particularly those who have been more sensitive to the needs of your constituents, COPS created the climate, the environment. It’s because of COPS that we have a mayor in San Antonio who is mejicano. You taught people how to understand issues and how to participate in all the decisions of public life. COPS increased the participation rate by registering the voters and teaching them about the issues. You taught them how to lift the veil of secrecy that shrouded public decision-making. “Today San Antonio is one of the most open cities in America. It is a place where the values of pluralism, family, and freedom of speech and assembly have become a concrete reality. We still have our rigidity, our mediocre public officials and arrogant concentrations of power, but the process of decisionmaking has effectively curbed their excesses. . . . “But your work is not done. You will be great if and only if you are faithful to the vision upon which you were founded not to be content, to teach those who have no stake, no role, and no status how to participate responsibly and effectively in the promise of American life, to have self-respect, dignity, and self-worth. . . . “You reach out to those who are outcast. . . . You bring people who are outside democratic society into the life of the community, and you become an instrument whereby they can develop dignity and self-respect. . . . You have truly shown us the real meaning of the Burning Bush, of the fire that never goes out, of the passion for justice that can never be squelched.” December 9, 1983 Big Business Is Watching You Let’s not be misled by the warning of George Orwell’s “1984.” Government isn’t the danger. The danger comes from who controls the government. And in this country that has always meant the people who have lots of dough. Signs of “1984” have been around since 1776. As Charles Beard pointed out in his “An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States,” the men who wrote the constitution did not count among their members a single representative of the small farming or mechanic class. After that, everything was downhill. . . . Since the death of Wright Patman, the U.S. House of Representatives has not been occupied by a genuine Populist or anything remotely resembling one. Patman hated the big banks. For that, he was considered old-fashioned. Well, in a way he was old-fashioned. “The great monopoly in this country is the money monopoly. So long as that exists, our old variety and freedom and individual energy of development are out of the question. A great industrial nation is controlled by its system of credit. Our system of credit is concentrated. The growth of the nation, therefore, and all our activities are in the hands of a few men who, even if their actions be honest and intended for the public interest, are necessarily concentrated upon the great undertakings in which their own money is involved and who, necessarily, by every reason of their own limitations, chill and check and destroy genuine economic freedom.” Patman agreed with that, but that particular quote is not his. It is Woodrow Wilson’s. Unfortunately, the threat Wilson saw at the opening of this century, the threat that Patman continued to warn us about until his death a few years ago, is more pronounced today than it ever was. The Federal Reserve Board, ruler of money and credit, is controlled as always by big bankers, who have become notably arrogant in recent years about their willingness to destroy the underclasses in order to shore up the dollar. The best proof of who runs a country THE TEXAS OBSERVER 39