Ben Mack Is an Extremist Idealist

Yes, Ben Mack is an extremist idealist, and that’s a good thing. Frankly, I’ve known that about Ben Mack as long as I’ve known him.

Why is Ben Mack an extremist idealist?

Well, for one thing, Ben believes that every person on Earth deserves clean drinkable water.


So do I.

So do the supporters of WaterAid America, who contributed just over $2.6 million last year to “programs and services that benefit people in need of safe water, sanitation, and hygiene education.”

So do the supporters of charity:water, who last year contributed just over $1 million directly to “hand-dug wells, deep wells (boreholes), rehabilitations, spring protections, rainwater harvesting schemes, and biosand filters” around the globe.

So do the hundreds of people who are talking about clean drinkable water on Twitter.

So does Michelle Greer, who helped raise $8,868 for charity:water through Austin Twestival. By the way, that effort helped Michelle become the overall winner of the Texas Social Media Awards this year.

That’s a whole lot of extremist idealists.


As Margaret Meade once said:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

Last week, Ben Mack moved from Boise to Austin (rumors are that the average IQ in Boise dropped by a point in the process). Anyway, Ben went with his sister to a rally for Austin mayoral candidate Lee Leffingwell. Leffingwell styles himself as a populist progressive, running on an ecological platform.

But when Ben Mack confronted Leffingwell on the issues, Leffingwell said there is no room in politics for idealism. One of Leffingwell’s staffers said that Ben Mack sounded like an extremist, and Leffingwell nodded in agreement. You can have a listen to Ben’s version of the story if you like.

Unfortunately, Leffingwell got under Ben Mack’s skin. Ben was bothered by being labeled an extremist. And Ben’s right, it is dangerous that a progressive candidate who says he’s for the people would do anything to marginalize and alienate a potential supporter – in this case, probably hundreds, if not thousands, of potential supporters.

But I had a talk with Ben about this yesterday, and I reminded him of the power of these words: “extremist” and “idealist”.

When we say that something is “extremely good”, that means it’s better than good. “Extreme sports” athletes are those who push the envelope. Greatness isn’t achieved through mediocrity. Innovation doesn’t flourish in the middle of the road.

And an idealist is someone who has ideals. Principles. A sense of higher purpose that motivates their actions. There’s a word for people who don’t have ideals, whose attitudes follow the winds of change and the tides of public opinion: “politicians”.

I told Ben he needs to reclaim those words – to own them. Not to let some politician use them as propaganda to marginalize him for believing in a great cause.

Ben Mack is an extremist idealist.

Michelle Greer is an extremist idealist.

Margaret Meade was an extremist idealist.

I am an extremist idealist.

And I hope the next mayor of Austin will be an extremist idealist too.

How you can become an extremist idealist too:

  1. Get informed at charity:water and WaterAid.
  2. Spread the word. Blog about it. Twitter about it (use #cdw hashtag).
  3. Donate at WaterAid or charity:water.
  4. Get involved at WaterAid or charity:water.
  5. Think really big about how internet marketing can save the planet.


  1. Pingback: Joe Satriani Is an Extremist | Scott "Social Media" Allen

  2. Michelle Greer

    No room for idealism? How about John Locke’s theories of life, liberty and the pursuit of property? How about Marx’s ideas of the rights of the proletariat? Very influential ideas that toppled entire governments.

    I am tired of working for companies with the idea that the more you exploit a customer (=profit), the more worthy you are. I’m all for profit, don’t get me wrong, but companies that treat their customers with respect will end up winning in this age. Being respected is worth a little extra money.

    All I have to say is, right on, Scott!

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