Steve, K9ZW wrote an interesting post on his blog: Where are the Positive Hams? And How to Tell? – Part I « With Varying Frequency – Amateur Radio Ponderings. I understand what he's saying, and while I don't think it's wrong per se, I think my own opinions are somewhat at right angles to the ideas he expresses.
It is important to realize that there is no single activity which characterizes "real" ham radio. It's a whole bunch of diverse activities linked by the need to be licensed to use amateur frequencies. Ham radio is public safety and contesting. Homebrewing and antennas. Repeaters and EME. Digital modes and morse. Voice and SSTV. And so on. No one mode or activity is any more "real" than any others. It's up to us as individuals to become licensed and explore the areas which interest us. We seek out others with similar interests and perhaps greater expertise to help us enhance our own enjoyment of our hobby.
We should remember: it is a hobby. It's not an obligation, a calling or a job.
Seems that some of us in the hobby have become forgetful of the debt we owe our Elmers (Mentors) and our fellow hams who helped us learn more about this hobby.
And here's the thing: I don't believe that any such debt exists. The mentoring that we do in ham radio isn't a burden, it's just another facet of the diverse hobby. If someone doesn't wish to be a mentor, there is no reason for them to be one, and that's okay. If someone is a mentor, it can only be because they gain pleasure from doing it, and therefore no "debt" from student to mentor is "owed". As a mentor, I gain pleasure from helping others learn, and more often than not, find my own understanding increasing as I explain stuff that I already "know". I think it makes as much sense to talk about the debt that mentors owe to students, for taking the time to perpetuate the activities that we have found interesting and engaging, and providing a rich, growing community for greater exploration and enjoyment.
I also find this idea of "debt" to be a bit self-serving: the ham radio "elite" tell us that Elmers are important, so important that anyone it seems that anyone who doesn't apprentice themselves to an Elmer can't experience the "real" ham radio that they should. It's nice to think so, because it places the newly licensed in a position where they need Elmers (and by Elmers, we mean "people like us") and that perpetuates our own sense of importance. But it's an unnatural distinction: mentors are students, and students can be mentors. There is no magic transition that occurs where the student becomes the master. Once we begin to think of ourselves as masters, it can become easy to think that we've arrived, and to stop challenging ourselves to learn and to achieve. Rather than finding mentors, we need to find people who are doing and sharing.
So, I think the question isn't really finding "positive" hams, it's finding hams who are doing interesting things, and who are willing to share their experiences with you to inspire you. Whether you can find those in your local area is a bit of a hit and miss prospect: some clubs are engaged, fun, vibrant communities. Others are stodgy, old boy networks that talk a lot but do little. Luckily, even if your local clubs are more the latter, the Internet provides a great resource to find these people. Through YouTube, websites and mailing lists, we can find the people who are both doing, and taking the time to share those experiences with you, even if they don't know you personally.
I don't worry about finding "positive hams". I just ignore the negative ones, life is too short. Do what you like. Look around for people doing the things you like. Share what you like. The rest will work itself out.
We also have to recognize that ham radio (or the parts of ham radio we happen to love) isn't for everyone. Steve wrote:
Look at the number of amateurs who somehow can’t even interest their own family in the hobby – what sad things is that saying?
This isn't sad at all. People get to pick the hobbies which make them happy. Get some perspective!
What do you all think?