A Useful Idea: FITA-KEY

This webpage explains FITA-KEY. First, we’ll explain ‘FITA’ then ‘FITA-KEY.’ Then we’ll explains how doing the rest of this course can increase the quality of your FITAs.

 

What’s does FITA mean?

“FITA” is a concept invented at Proof Through the Night. It’s pronounced Fi-ta (with a long i, like fighting for your country.)

If you don’t know a lot about politics or don’t enjoy it much, you might be intimidated by people who really get into politics and who read or blog a lot. The truth is that a lot of people know a lot about politics, but they don’t use their knowledge, or they do so only at election time. “FITA” is a concept for the majority of people who don’t love politics, but who accept that they should be acting on a regular basis. FITA means Feel-Inform-Think and Act. It means going from a feeling that something needs to be done, to completing some political action. When you get good at it, one FITA or “one unit of FITA” can be done in about an 60-90 minutes.

For example, imagine that you heard that the NSA spied on the heads of friendly governments. Let’s say that really troubles you because “friends shouldn’t spy on friends,” and you realize that it just tarnishes the image and reputation of the United States internationally. You also want people with such poor judgment held accountable. Otherwise, who knows what they’ll do next?

So (using FITA) you feel it’s really wrong. Your feelings might be anger that our reputation is being ruined; or fear that the NSA may become uncontrollable. The next step is to gather information. You do a web search, and come up with a few articles. Maybe it takes you 25 minutes to read three articles. If you have critical thinking skills well-learned, you are thinking and judging the pros and cons to see if there is a legitimate reason. If not, you act. You could also search for the contact information for the head of the NSA, the President, or the Head of the Intelligence committee in the Senate. Or you could also search for organizations that are working on this issue. Perhaps you write a couple letters, maybe one to your representative in the House. You also email a copy of your letter to certain friends and family, and ask them to take action. In any case, you’ve gone all the way to action in 60-90 minutes! You’re done. Others may be getting angry or anxious about the issue for days, and not really do anything but agonize, but you’re done. It’s off your plate. The more PTTN grows, the more you can be confident that many other people will be doing FITAs. The more efficient you become at doing FITAs the more optimism it will give you, and the more it will inspire others when they see you efficiently take action.

If the issue is complex, or if you don’t know anything about it, or if you come to believe that it’s an extremely important issue, it will take you longer than 90 minutes. But the point of FITA is focused, streamlined action, so that you avoid feelings of powerlessness and enjoy feeling good that you’re done your share!

 

Let’s improve FITA by making it “FITA-KEY”

Because we are aiming at a chain reaction of nonpartisan political empowerment, we’d like everyone who becomes part of PTTN to make the best use of their time doing politics. So before you get deeply involved with researching a pressing issue, ask yourself if it’s key, if it’s a priority and “the best, most loving use of your time.” There’s no simple formula for determining which issues are key, but here are some things to consider:

  • The number of people affected. The more people affected, the more it’s a priority.
  • The severity, duration or cost of the problem. If the problem would do great harm or cost a huge amount to control or fix, then it’s more of a priority.
  • The “winnability.”  An issue might be very important, but politically unfeasible. In other words, it might be too late to have an impact; the battle might be as good as lost. So why waste time and energy on it?  On the other hand, some piece of legislation may be popular and have plenty of support, so again, why spend time and energy that’s not needed?
  • “Skin in the game.”  If it directly affects you or people you care about, it becomes a priority. It’s even more a priority if it will affect your future ability to cause political change, for instance if it a certain issue causes you to spend a lot more time and money.
  • Whether or not it’s a structural issue. Structural issues are discussed here. These issues often don’t seem to be the emotional priority, but because they affect many issues they do great damage. (If you don’t know the importance of structural issues, please visit the link.]

Just like with personal life, it’s hard for most people to stick to priorities. Our belief is that if you look at how most people spend their time on politics, they are NOT in line with their true priorities. For instance, a nuclear war would be horrific, but most people know far less about it and what can be done than they know about some local issue that is bothering them. Another example: the lack of regulation in the financial sector brought the world to the brink of economic collapse, but how sure are people that the root causes have been addressed? How much attention do you give the issue?

What seems to happen is that well-meaning people with some charisma and persuasive ability get passionate about certain problems. They usually sensibly analyze the particular problem and present sensible solutions — but without looking at the problem’s urgency relative to other problems. In many cases, their passion becomes their job. At this point, one thing you will probably never see is someone who is the head of an organization aiming to protect the rainforests who will say publicly, “Please give money to this other organization that promotes childhood immunizations because the urgency and suffering are so much greater!” If someone did do this, their board of directors would probably fire them.

A bigger reason many priorities aren’t addressed is that a politician’s priority is to get re-elected, and that means helping those businesses and wealthy people who will fund their campaigns attain their priorities.

So you yourself need to step back and assess priorities. You don’t have to be an expert; a little thought can go a long way. As an analogy, you don’t have to go to medical school to realize that your child’s high fever is a more urgent problem than some poison ivy on his arm. 

In politics, there are other reasons why people don’t address the priorities. One is that certain subjects turn people off. Economics and budgets are somewhat boring and unexciting to many people. Another reason is that many people have a sense of overwhelm about certain problems, a belief that the problem is insolvable or too big. Our belief is that some strategizing or creative thinking can go a long way to making many problems manageable. Not everyone has these creative skills, but those that do are usually putting these ideas somewhere on the Internet.

Besides assessing priorities, it’s important to try to gently communicate the priorities to others. Obviously some people are too emotionally connected to an issue to be open to assessing priorities. But in most cases, it might be good to ask people to reflect on priorities. For instance, if someone sends you an email alert about an increase in local burglaries, you might thank them and acknowledge that it’s a problem, but tactfully educate them about a more urgent issue that you know about and are trying to address.

 

How does the rest of the course improve your FITAs?

Two sections focus on the information step. They are Choosing Good Information Sources and Choosing Good Candidates. One section focuses on the final action step, Advocacy and Strategic Action. The remainder deal with various aspects of critically thinking about issues and the news you get.

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