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.