i've had a couple of posts up at the hand mirror, one about the practice of inducing cows which seems to be the result of profit-driven economic model; and another about two french women protesting the burqa-ban in their country, in a manner that i'm not quite comfortable with.
i also find myself in disagreement with this post by yusuf islam, though it is characteristically well written. actually i agree with the basic point that he's trying to make ie that we no longer have that strong sense of "movements" that there used to be in times past, and the need to mobilise people to fight for the many causes that need our support. i guess i was trying to say something similar here.
but i have two basic areas of disagreement. the first is the implied criticism of new technology. now i'm the first to admit that i'm technologically challenged & can only manage the basics of my blog & my facebook account. but even so, i can see the wonderful potential with this technology: the ability to instantly reach out to a wide range of people across the world, the ability to be my own publisher & have a public voice, the ability to organise & raise consciousness. all of these make activism so much easier today than it was many years ago.
and maybe it's just me, but i value my e-connections just as much as the face-to-face ones. i love the sharing of thoughts and ideas, i love the debates (though not the trolls!). i don't think a connection is less valuable just because it happens only on-line. because of an electronic conversation i had today with someone i've not personally met, i'm now more closely connected to the unite union and happy to be supporting their work.
the internets mean that i can actually be connected to a wider range of people, and be exposed to a wider range of issues and perspectives. i love all of that, and would hate to have it taken away.
even in terms of music, i think the internet provides the potential for artists to bypass the big recording companies, and get their music directly to an audience. that would make non-conformity so much easier, and i guess it's why internet copyright issues are being so keenly fought across the world.
the second thing i disagree with is the nostalgic look back at the 60s. i've said many times before on this blog how much i hate the idea that the past was so much more wonderful than today, because very often that notion ignores the reality for so many people. the 60s weren't a nice time for people of colour, they certainly weren't a nice time for women.
an example of this is one of maia's many wonderful posts reflecting on food, in which she looks through a cookbook from 1968:
So 40 years ago the New Zealand diet included red meat 2-3 times a day, and most cooking was done in animal fat.
My first thought was that either people are lying to us about what a healthy diet is, or our diet has improved considerably since the 1960s.
the notion that we were all healthier so many years ago just isn't supported by the facts. if we were, then why is life-expectancy so much higher now? isn't it better that we don't have to deal with polio, tuberculosis, and so many other nasties on a wide-scale? it's much more likely that our diet is a lot more varied than it used to be, and yes there are a lot of chains selling foods high in saturated fats, but as maia points out, even that option is better than starving.
another example is the notion that there was some wonderful age when women didn't "work" but stayed at home & spent their time raising children. which nicely ignores the fact that poor women have always had to take up paid employment, whether it was working as domestic servants or planting rice with their babies slung over their backs. they have had to work inside the home and outside the home, and nothing much has changed for them. and it ignores the fact that upper class women have always had servants doing the bulk of child-rearing work, including the fact that wet-nurses used to be a very common thing in this supposedly golden past. the lack of labour-saving devices meant that most women were having to spend a lot more time on household work, so that this notion that they were leisurely giving their time to their children could only possibly apply to a very narrow band of women.
i was born in 1966, so didn't experience this age of non-conformism that yusuf talks about on his blog. i do agree that we need to be thankful for those movements like the civil rights movement and the women's movement that worked hard throughout the last century to ensure that we've moved past some of the nasty things people were doing to each other in that time - it's just that i think we need to acknowledge those nasty things as well.
so where are we at today? are our young people so much worse than young people of the 60s, and lost in their electronic worlds, uncaring about the suffering of humanity? i guess it depends where we look. i see many wonderful young people striving for change, politically aware and active. for many of them, access to technology has been the means to awareness. and there are also another group who aren't interested in anything that doesn't affect them personally. wasn't it always thus, and is it really any different for the adults i know?
still, i can understand how exciting it would have been to be part of that movement in the 60s, and yusuf's contribution to it certainly had impact. i can imagine looking back at something like that wistfully, and wanting to recreate it again. i think all the tools to recreate it exist now, and if the 40,000 strong march in auckland against mining on conservation land is anything to go by, those tools can be extremely successful.
maybe what we're lacking are the motivators. who is the martin luther king of our time? where are those stunning individuals who will move us and inspire us to create that movement? actually i see yusuf himself as being such a person. he's such a wonderful bridge between east and west, and has a wonderful way with words. we had hoped president obama would be such a person, but that hasn't worked out so well. bob geldof has certainly been effective, as have nelson mandela & bishop tutu.
as well as the big names, there are so many ordinary, every day people working quietly in their spheres of influence to make this world a little better. perhaps the revolution of our times will be quieter one, stealthy but steady. or maybe not. but as long as there are people who are willing to take up the fight - and it appears there are plenty who are - there is always hope.