Sunday, June 24, 2007

Give me a real cause

The times are a changing, or so said Bob Dylan. Since Dylan sang these words times certainly have changed. How much of it has been good and how much it has been bad is up for debate, but change has certainly happened. Politics have of course naturally changed with the times, some overt, and others seemingly underhandedly. Strangely however what has not changed is the political activism. By this I don’t mean that political activism should have vanished, quite the opposite, but political activism still appears, at least at face value to be stuck in an odd 60s hangover. I recently attended a talk on sustainable development in Vancouver and I was somewhat awestruck by what happened during the question and answer period: instead of asking the speakers questions – one of the speakers was ex-premier Mike Harcourt – many of the audience members simply offered up harsh critiques of current political issues. To this Harcourt, who seemed to know the perturbed by name calmly politicked he way around their rants and little actually discussion seemed to happen.

This experience left me with a very odd feeling as I travelled home on the bus that night and it still lingers with me today. I wonder if all of these political rallies and outcries do any good? Does storming the steps of parliament with 20 000 people make any difference? Do by standers even care about the droves of people waving signs and yelling out for change during rush hour? It certainly does manage to annoy a good number of people

The news, for its part, loves to cover these events, especially when five people get a little unruly and knock over a garbage can, but the image portrayed doesn’t help “the cause”. Protesters complain that we are engaged in a meme war and that the people, or “sheeple”, are being manipulated and brainwashed into not caring… I’m not so sure I agree anymore.

I think most people are good people. I think most people want to do the right thing and actually care about the planet. I am also starting to think that protesting as we know it is dead, or at least needs a serious overhaul. I wasn’t alive in the 60s, or even the 70s for that matter, so my knowledge of what actually happened during that era is based purely on what I’ve read and seen, but the impression that I get from protests back then is that people were protesting to make the sheeple aware of what was actually happening in the world. The government was lying to them, this was wrong, and they had to be shown the light. It seems that the idea of a government lying to its people was a new concept. This was shocking, jarring, and having these facts exposed was enough to stir up the general populous and shake the system.

This simply isn’t the case anymore. Politicians have gotten smoother, slicker, and more importantly most people except to be lied to. No one expects the new prime minister to keep his election promises, so it is no surprise when he doesn’t. People have grown apathetic because all they hear and read is the bad. Voting in an election is simply choosing the better of two evils. Yes we can blame the media for only showing us the bad things, and for underscoring it with non-diegetic music to manipulate our emotions, but that doesn’t change things. Pointing out what is wrong isn’t enough anymore. Simply shouting “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore” won’t work. We know that the flaws exist, everyone does, so now is the time for action. This action isn’t taking to the streets however; we don’t need to setup anonymous e-mail accounts and plan a rally at the art gallery. We can’t be the activists that wear granola and smoke pot. This isn’t about peace love and harmony.

Instead we need to each do our part and enlist others to do the same. We need to recycle and talk to our neighbours. We need to eat organic and support local where we can while getting out and exercising. We need go to school and learn not just that sustainable develop is needed but how it is possible and how to make it happen. Our mantra can’t be “challenge everything”, it isn’t important that we have been lied to; we need to get past this. Now is a time for solutions.

We need to find ways to help the problems. We need to find ways to help each other. This isn’t easy or simple, this isn’t an angered knee jerk reaction, but is the only way to make things change. If you are mad great. I’m mad too, but let’s do something productive about it. Let’s run in the next municipal election, or if we can’t, then let’s find someone who thinks like us and see if they will. Then we can vote for them and change can begin to happen.

I’m not saying that we don’t need watchdog groups. It’s important that we hold our government accountable, but let’s hold them accountable by showing them someone who is going to do what needs to be done if they don’t. That’s a cause I can get behind.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A moment to remember

It’s been a while since I’ve taken up my keyboard soapbox to ponder the ways of the world, but it’s been a long grueling last couple of months. It becomes ever so easy to get buried under your own troubles that you can almost forget the world exists outside of your personal bubble. To some extent this can be forgiven, after all if your basic needs aren’t met then it becomes next to impossible to think of others; but where does that line get drawn? Where does your ability to pay the rent or finish that assignment on time take priority over someone eating? It’s a difficult question, and one I am certain I don’t have the answer to, but I’d like to reflect on it for a little while because I think in some small way that might help do it justice.

I just finished watching Spike Lee’s “Do the right thing” and while the trip back to the 80s was amusing it still is somewhat shocking how little things have progressed. Actually, that’s not a fair statement, many important steps have been made to make the world better, and it is far far far to easy to get caught up in the negative things, but the problems still haven’t been solved.

I wonder if the problems would get solved faster if we focused more on the positive. If people saw every day the steps that were being taken to make this world better. I wonder what sort of shift in the overall mass perception of society would occur if we head more stories about the good. Would we be able to walk around in the dark without fear? Now here is a point of contention, because I can already hear people saying “If you walk around alone at night you are asking for trouble”. I’m not suggesting that we walk around with naive blinders on. Bad things clearly do happen to good people, and if you place yourself in situation where something bad happens you can’t be that surprised when it does, but at the same time, when does it become a self fulfilling prophesy? How much will the fact that a 65 year old women got brutally beaten and mugged today at 6am when walking to the skytrain make someone think twice about taking public transit tomorrow? People need to be safe, but we need to believe that the person walking down the street beside us isn’t going to mug us as well.

I think the internet is an amazing medium, and I know that most people can’t even begin to comprehend its potential. It’s incredible that people can just type to someone they have never met and become friends. You don’t know how attractive that person is, you don’t know what race they are, sometimes you don’t even know where they live, or even their real name and yet its possible to open up your secrets to them. Maybe it’s because you will never meet them face to face that it’s easier, it seems less judgmental, but what if that person you are talking to was your neighbor? What if that person was the person standing next to you on the bus? As wonderful as it is to have an amazing intellectual connection via words, wouldn’t it be that much better when you could touch them? Look deep into their eyes and feel a connection that reminds you what it’s like to be alive. We have so very few moments of pure happiness, so very few times that we watch the sunrise after having been up all night. And yet these are the moments that we will remember till we die. When we are sad it’s the memory of our first kiss, the smell of a spring rain on concrete, and knowing what it’s like to be held and wishing that you could live in that split second forever that warm our hearts.

We can’t forget these things. We can’t allow ourselves to forget the wonders of the world simply because we are being bombarded we images and sounds of destruction and hate.

I’m writing this because of the 65 year old women who was beaten this morning, and because of the shooting at Virginia Tech. I’m writing this I don’t know how to process these events any other way. I don’t know any of the people involved, I mean I’m sure we could play 6 degrees of separation and I’d be connected, but that’s beside the point, I wasn’t there and there is no possible way I can comprehend what happened. The scope of these events can’t even register in my head because I don’t know how to process the information. It’s wrong and horrible, and a tragedy, and things like it happen around the world in thousands of places every day and there is probably nothing I can do to stop it. The worst part is everything begins to blur together. The images and meanings jumble together to create a giant media scramble and I’ll have already made a joke about it tomorrow. And you know what, others will laugh at that joke because they can’t possibly comprehend it either, and it’s not wrong, it’s not bad, it’s not cold hearted, it simply is.

So in honour of those who I don’t know and never got the chance to meet, other people who like myself spent summer nights stargazing and talking about what they wanted to be when they grow up, I write this: I will remember all of the good things in life because it is only by doing this that anything worthwhile will change.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Stepping out of the crowd

We all are Time Magazines people of the year! Yes, I realize this is a little dated news now but allow me my observations, I’ve been busy. I am all for united we stand divided we fall. In fact I know nothing would be accomplished without it. In fact, I am certain the reason that the positive change that is happening in the world isn’t happening as fast as it should is because we are not as united as we should be. That there are actual forces holding us back and trying their best to keep us apart.

Still, “our” movement doesn’t have a face… I’m not saying we need a martyr here, but lacking someone to hold ourselves up to aspire to seems detrimental as well. There are those dark nights where we question our beliefs, where we think that we are truly alone in the world, or at the very least that we are the last sane person, and it is moments like that a figure head would be handy. We could say, no, THIS person feels the same way, and if they do others must as well.

The reason this popped into my head was a conversation I was having in regards to generational theory. The current generation (I want to shoot anyone who calls it generation “next” or generation Y), it seems now called the millennial generation seems to be a double edged sword. In theory it is the generation that is supposed to change everything, the one with all of the ideas and all of the potential, and on the other side it’s a generation that has had every minute of every day scheduled to the point where they will go out of their way to purposefully fail just to see what it feels like.

I understand this feeling, I’ve been their before. It often reminds me of a line from the Goo Goo Dolls Song Iris “you bleed just to know you’re alive”. The idea of failure seems comforting because it’s a decision you’ve made for yourself. It’s one you can own, and at the same time it creates a sensation that actually feels real. In our current age of over stimulation a real feeling seems a rare commodity.

This is what makes me wonder about the need for a leader. I know the idea that as long as we fight within the system we will never truly be free, but some things seem more basic than that. Where I’d like to believe that one day 5 million people will show up on the steps of parliament and demand a change, it just doesn’t seem plausible that it will happen. Like communism, on paper it seems wonderful; in practice the human spirit proves something quite different.

The problem is the leader needs to come from within the generation. S/he needs to understand the technology in front of us, AND why teenagers like emo rock. They need to speak from their heart but across blackberries, ipods, myspace, and in person. It needs to be someone who has downloaded music via torrents. They also need to be literate, read actual books, play sports, and understand art. They need to be worldly but grounded in their community, and not be afraid to knock on their neighbour’s door and ask them to come out and play a pickup game of street hockey. Most importantly they have to be willing to stand up on their own against all of the adversity and temptations of the world. They will be alone for a good while, and their ideas will fall on deaf ears.

This person almost seems a mythical as the unicorn, and yet sits inside each and everyone of us. We can feel it in our hearts. What is wrong with the world needs to be fixed; there is no doubt in our mind. The hard part is just taking that first step in trying to do something about it. Saying your name and what you think knowing there will be a disagreement. Are you willing to be that person? The world is waiting…