Fixing Con Ed takes getting involved: ‘The power that needs to be turned on is ours’

To the editor:

The Con Ed outages are awful, frustrating, damaging, dangerous, and if not preventable, certainly far worse than necessary. Blaming Con Ed, or local politicians, as many people are loudly doing, is understandable. There is blame to spare, but I have not heard anyone direct the blame where it could do the most good:

At us.

That probably includes you. Because how we get our power is—like virtually every other societal system—politics in action. And if you are like most people, you don’t actively participate in politics. You vote, maybe, sometimes—very few people vote in all their elections; a shocking number never vote at all. You read the news, maybe, sometimes—very few people read specifics about the policies decided in our names. You probably treat our government as if it is supposed to function well and fairly, to your benefit, with little or no input from you.

And that’s not how good government works. That’s not how it’s even supposed to work. Our government was designed to require active, informed participation by the governed. Only that check, against the balance of power, can protect us. If we governed expect government to happen on its own; if we “aren’t political” or “it’s too depressing” or “somebody should have told us” when something we care about is addressed, we give away our power to determine for ourselves what benefits us, versus the interests of profit or self-promotion.

The interests of profit and self-promotion never give away their power.

We are fortunate in Pelham; our elected officials—of all parties—do a decent-to-great job on our behalf. But their efforts typically require cooperation with other, bigger forces. And the further we get from the immediacy of local politics, where many elected officials work for essentially nothing, the more of a battle Doing Good becomes. It is a battle, and the good guys need armies of supporters willing to fight, if they’re going to win.

The armies rarely materialize.

Many people insist it’s hopeless; the system is corrupt; there’s nothing they can do. That’s a myth promoted by corporations, and it’s untrue. Change is actually straightforward and achievable; it’s just a ton of work. Do you really want to fix Con Ed? It could be done pretty quickly, if we all got involved and demanded it. Not only right after a storm outage, but until things are set right. And after that, too. It doesn’t end.

Here’s one action anyone can take: Demand that our governor include a consumer advocate on the Public Service Commission, as other states do. Follow up until he does it. Here’s another: join Spend five minutes researching and you’ll find other options.

Con Ed is one of a zillion issues; nobody can keep track of them all. But at a minimum, we are all responsible for finding resources in line with our beliefs, and following their guidance on issues we care most about. We who are lucky enough to have the bandwidth for more have a responsibility to do more. Even those struggling for basics have a responsibility to cast an informed vote, if voting is available to them. Those votes are the route to making things better.

Being mad at a big company, or our politicians, when there’s a crisis works out great for them if getting mad is all we do.

If anything is going to change, we have to start with ourselves. The power that needs to be turned on is ours.

Marin Zielinski

60 1st Street