gvdub: (politics)
[personal profile] gvdub
Recently, a number of friends have sent me links to online petitions for one thing or another. When I realized I was getting unreasonably annoyed at this, I had to give it some thought because these are, after all, friends for whom I care. Here are the conclusions I've come to.

1. Online petitions are worth exactly as much as the paper they're printed on – in other words, nothing. They cannot offer proof of anything. Anybody could collect hundreds of thousands of email addresses (znc I can point you at a number of places that will sell you exactly that) and paste them on a petition. 'Signing' an online petition might make you feel good, or as if you've taken action, but it doesn't really accomplish anything.

2. That list of email addresses can be harvested and sold to spammers. I wouldn't be surprised if a number of circulating petitions are being used for exactly that. What do we really know about the people who are behind any given online petition, anyway?

3. Signing a petition makes many people feel as if they've been let off the hook. They've done their bit now, and don't have to worry about it anymore. This leads to complacency and a sense of powerlessness and frustration when the outcome of that particular issue isn't what the signee desires.

There's a lot more that I could extrapolate, but those are my initial thoughts.

I'm a big believer in social activism, individual initiative, and community involvement. But I think that you need to get your hands dirty. Care about an issue? Do some research to make sure that you've got all the facts and that particular rock is someplace you're comfortable standing on, then get out there and work for it. That's how stuff gets done. Knock on doors. Talk to people. Try to help them see things from the same angle you're looking from. Show up at that council meeting/school board/senate hearing/environmental impact study/what have you yourself, get up, and be a goad. Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable, whatever they're afflicted with or comfortable about. Question your own motives. Make doubly sure that you really mean what you think you mean. Listen to the other approaches to the problem. I mean, really listen. Try to put yourself in their shoes, the same way you would hope they put themselves in yours. If somebody gets stuck somewhere in the process, offer them a hand to pull them out, no matter where they sit in relation to you. Life's too short to not bear our common humanity in mind at all times. Everybody wants the same stuff, and if we play our cards right, we can all come out of this okay, although 'okay' may not necessarily be what we thought it was going to be.

Or at least, that's what I believe.


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May 2009

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