“All our dreams can come true, if we have the power to pursue them.
-Walter Elias Disney
Ok, everyone, I’m going to start out with a story that seems completely unrelated, but I’m going to bring it back to abolitionism, I promise. So just stick with me.
Yesterday, I finally made it to the Walt Disney Family Museum. I’ve been wanting to visit this museum since I got to the Bay Area, but I’ve just been putting off for various reasons. But I finally made it yesterday, and it was so exciting. The museum tells the story of the life and work of Walt Disney, from his childhood to his death.
Walt Disney has always been a personal hero of mine, and not only because of his artistic and creative genius—though that’s definitely a large part of it. Walt’s films and theme parks are, in my opinion, such beautiful and dynamic works of art and innovation that I would naturally be drawn to the creative mind who conceived them. But beyond that, I have a tremendous amount of respect for his ability to think outside the box and take initiative to make these far-fetched dreams a reality.
Growing up in the rural Midwest, delivering papers and working at his father’s jelly factory, Walt had big dreams of moving to Hollywood and making movies. So rather than dreaming and scheming for years, he just did it. He packed up and moved to California with, as he himself has recounted, just one suitcase and $40 in his pocket. And he started doing what he loved. And sometimes he failed (how many of you know that before Mickey Mouse there was Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, whom Disney lost the rights to, because he lacked experience in negotiating contracts?). But he never allowed those failures to kill his dream. And because of his tenacity, he pioneered new and innovative techniques in animated film, technology, and themed environments. Walt had a tremendous artistic vision, but he also had the necessary initiative and diligence to match it.
A quick aside: before any of you start flaming me, yes, I am quite aware that the manufactures of Disney merchandise are not particularly known for their good labor standards. This is very sad, and I think that if Walt were alive today he would be very unhappy to know that the company charged with carrying on his legacy is engaged in some practices so contrary to his vision. But I am talking about the man here, not the company, and no matter how the company may operate, Walt himself will always be an inspiration to me for both his ability to dream and his ability to do.
In fact, he rather reminds me of our fearless leader, Dave Batstone (see, I told you I’d bring it back to abolitionistm).
Dave, like Walt, has a big dream—to end slavery in our lifetime. And though Dave champions the importance of strategic thinking (hence the emphasis on smart activism), he never lets over thinking lead to paralysis. Dreaming always leads to action. Like Walt, Dave Batstone doesn’t just settle for “what we’ve always done.” When he recognizes that there must be a better way to do something, he sets about finding that better way. And if one way doesn’t work, then he starts seeking another.
The same qualities that made Walt Disney such a fruitful creator are what make Dave Batstone an effective abolitionist.
What if we were all to take on that kind of attitude—a big imagination, strategic thinking combined with action, and the diligence to try again when we fail? How much more effective could we all be in making the world a richer, happier, more just, and more beautiful place? This is certainly something I need to work on. I am far to apt to let over-thinking things lead me to inaction. Even with something as small as visiting a museum I really wanted to see—I kept waiting for months to find the “perfect opportunity” to go to the museum. I took Hank telling me to just do it to shake me out of my over-analytic paralysis.
We must always think critically about what we are doing, but we must always be doing while we think. Acting without thinking is dumb-activism, but thinking without acting is ivory-tower intellectualism. Let us take inspiration from Walt and Dave and do both.
That’s all for this week. In the words of Tigger, “Tata for now!”