So, in case all this has quietly passed you by... I´m trying my hand at a bit of cyberactivism, kindly supported by ant1, the welfare state, as well as a bountiful number of friends and not least of all family. I´m also being encouraged by a growing community of cyberstrangers... and although at the moment I´m more aware of the communities than in touch with individuals, the feeling´s nice all the same.
What´s this activism all about? Well it started with controversial web movies: Surplus: Terrorized Into Being Consumers, zeitgeist and on to more bona fide documentaries... The Trap and The Century of the Self (both by Adam Curtis), the assassination of Martin Luther King, Gandhi´s life... But the crucial thing that moved my interest beyond ethical voyeurism was the book "The End of Poverty in our lifetime" by development economist Jeffrey Sachs. If you are an Apathist or a Cynic (and I´m prone to being both), I ask only one thing: read it! You´re lucky you´ve been given the gift of literacy by being born in the right place at the right time!
It´s all about the UN´s Millennium Development Goals and the request for all developed country governments to assign 0.7% of their GDP to development in order to eradicate extreme poverty. What does GDP stand for, Gross Domestic Profit? Are banks being given bailouts using taxpayers money that they would never dream of giving to bail out the poor from daily life or death situations? In the US there is one private bank that´s giving credit, The Federal Reserve. Last week the US government was borrowing a record $367.8 billion A DAY, (£208bn, €269bn). That will be with interest, paid for by who? Well, taxpayers of course! Somebody´s getting richer out of the crisis, there´s no doubt in my mind at all! The MDGs say that a total of $200 billion A YEAR from all developed countries would help put the eradication of extreme poverty on target.
This campaign to bring about the end of poverty isn´t about throwing money at a problem: this is about development, it isn´t about dealing with a catastrophe in the short term: it´s about stopping the everyday disaster of people dying unnecessarily. If you believe in equality, if you believe in humanity, if you believe in "liberty" (maybe I´d call this freedom from fear?) how can you stand by with your head buried in the dunes of capitalism when people are dying of diseases like Tuberculosis (which you could have died from 50 years ago) which has had a cure for 40 years!? Should we sleep well at night with the knowledge that people are dying from Malaria which could be prevented by something as simple as a treated Mosquito net (£2.30 3€ $4), which you could buy a couple of for the price of your pillowcase!?
I don´t know anything about poverty first hand. I´m on the verge of ignorance and I´m sure some of you could, and will shed more light on this for me. Some of you have travelled much further off the beaten path than me, some have worked within charities and within social, psychological and physical healthcare, some of you just do good stuff... volunteering, donating to NGOs and most of you I reckon care a bit about these things to a greater or lesser extent. It´s difficult to talk about death, dying & disease (and that´s the ugly bottom line of poverty).
So, what am I doing? Talking, blogging, emailing... and it seems that what started as a murmur is starting to take shape as a real conversation! (Phew! I was a little anxious for a while there.) So friends have been suggesting ideas for events for Stand Up Take Action 17-19 October 2008. The tricky (and most exciting) part is that to support this you have carte blanche, you can invent any kind of event (admittedly of a non-violent nature) to raise people´s awareness that we can end extreme poverty. (Who could have thought of the end of slavery in it´s day, or everyone getting the vote? Radical change is possible!).
Ideas to share and do! (so far)
give away books you´ll never read again with an MDG info bookmark
dress as Marie-Antoinette and give away cake (and leaflets)
(C18th dress made of newspaper!!!)
dress as Robin Hood and Merry Gang giving things away
dress as banker with placard saying you´re bust because your giving your money to the poor
do a performance for the cause: a gig, poetry, dance, debate
video events, stick it on the web
For blog action day 15 October 2008:
write, post photos, videos on blogs
read, look at photos, watch videos on blogs
if you don´t have a blog, send your stuff to someone who does
if you don´t have a blog, read and comment on other people´s blogs
write about what you know about poverty
write about how you feel about poverty
write about what you think about ending poverty
put yourself in other people´s shoes
if you don´t have time that day, prepare something before and send it to someone who does (me)
I´ve been a member of Amnesty International and found it really, really difficult to face another monthly leaflet thanking me for my donation, asking for a bit more, accompanied by pictures and stories of brutal violence. It´s a really, really important cause, but it´s not nice, it´s not nice at all - but somebody´s got to fight for it.
Now we´re in the information revolution and at the moment, here in the developed world we´re led to believe that we are free - I can set up my little blog, send emails, chat, do socio-cybernetworking and not be afraid of something bad happening as a result of expressing my opinion.
When I first joined Amnesty my dad told me how in the 60s being a member could mean being denied a visa to visit the USA, now that isn´t so.
While we have this freedom, let´s use it wisely!