lovehate podcast 223: Pieces of a Man

I haven't really done a music podcast in a while, and this is kind of a hybrid. A couple of weeks ago I'd heard a rumour that Gil-Scott Heron had passed, which I later found not to be true. The thought did cause me to re-listen to much of his work, and since he is generally unknown to many people of my generation and younger, I thought it would be a good time to share. Pieces of a Man was the title of one of his most popular albums, and co-opting it for a piecemeal appoach to his early career, seemed appropriate for this post.

Unlike most podcasts I do, I certainly cannot claim that this is Creative Commons, however I hope it is educational to many of you and enjoyable as well.

thinglets: There Is Power In A Union

I realize that many of you probably don't share my political views and many of you that were raised to hate unions as socialist or communist. Maybe you just got stuck in a bad situation within a union - after all, union leaders aren't infallible.

When I was younger, I could think of little reason to join a union or care about one. As I got older, however, I pondered some thoughtful considerations over the fact that a whole bunch of people doing pretty well is better than one person achieving on the backs of others.

I get that you may still not like it, but even if you just get moved by a good protest song now and then, here's a Billy Bragg classic version of "There is Power in a Union" to remind you all of us "commie bastards" are about to overthrow the world and make your kids listen to rock and roll.

Happy Labour Day everyone!

Impromptu Podcast 41: What Are You Willing To Do?

Continuing a past topic from lovehatethings concerning the impact of social media on activism. What would it take these days for you to get off your ass and hit the streets over an issue or cause. Is clicking a mouse to join a Facebook page enough? Would friends, family, religion, or country move you to action? Lovehatethings wonders, ponders, blunders and flounders.

Tamil Toronto

lovehate: The Online Petition

The online petition has become perhaps the most redundant form of social activism. Much like the Facebook group that can be set up for something meaningful or to talk about types of guacamole, the ease at which the online petition can be started has rendered the former effort that such an enterprise usually entailed monumental by comparison.

For the same reason that emails don't mean as much to politicians as a written letter, the online petition has become next to meaningless. It serves one purpose: education, although the same purpose could be achieved by a simple information page. The redundant act of pressing a "Join" button takes the same effort as eliminating one defunct square in a game of Minesweeper.

At least the paper petition took the time of having to listen to someone's pitch, ask one's questions and put pen to paper. There was, the sense that a commitment was in process due to the signing act that we normally attribute to contracts and marriage licenses. Traditionally our signature has been our word, our bond, our guarantee. Does any of feel the same way about clicking a "Join" button?

I'd never claim that the web hasn't been a great tool for social activism. If knowledge is power, the scope of independent media that is afforded to the average user far outranges anything that one could find in a local or national newspaper. Admittedly, the craftwork in telling the stories is mostly lacking, but the bare bones of issues and attrocities are often evident for all to see. And I certainly don't mind the Facebook Event feature that allows one to call attention to a real life rally, protest, or strike, although I'll admit the "Maybe Attending" has become my best friend in conveying the best of intentions while harboring no real commitment.

I admire those who spark interest in social issues and think the web is a great venue for fostering followers and growing a base, but if the end result is an online petition, there is a serious flaw in the effectiveness of one's political action. If over 1.7 million people made the work-intensive decision to join the uberactivist tour de force "Petition Against the New Facebook", how seriously can we really take online petitions. If a mouseclick is the end result of web activism, social justice is doomed.

But I'm really not that jaded. The social communities on the web can inspire. Those that would never have had the tools to inspire thought and critical thought now have a venue. Those that would have been doomed to a narrow view of humanity and the world, now have the ability to absorb the grand parade of lifeless packaging that is world society. Just don't let it begin and end with a click. Surely we could make it more difficult to commit to a petition than just a click. Maybe we could add audio and make people record their assent for all to hear. Perhaps we could add some calesthenics to the equation or a brain teaser or two.

I'm not sure that 1.7 million users against a new Facebook layout is any more impressive than 100 people who petition to get a new stop sign or 50 people who get a pothole filled. I do know that the work that went into getting the 100 or 50 people to commit, smacks of a greater effort and dedication than the mouseclick ever will. Here's a final thought: before you click "Join" next time, think about whether you'd put your name to paper or show up for a rally on the same cause.

Yeah, I know the above logic is all muddled. If you don't like it, go start a petition.