I’ve been toying with the idea of starting a regular feature on my blog, a weekly post about the facebook memes (maybe Meme-y Monday) that I end up seeing, going through and trying to discuss the ideas behind them in more detail like I did the picture of babies who don’t believe in mom. There is something incredibly troubling about the modern online equivalent to bumperstickers. I used to post quite a few on my facebook page but I slowed down when I realized, for the most part, they can’t convince anyone anything that the person doesn’t already agree with and instead they end up hurting those who disagree. A good text-in-a-box-with-picture shared on facebook can be a slap in the face of someone who has an alternative position that isn’t summed up so easily in 140 characters. Even if one does agree with the main idea there can be interesting implications and questions around it.
I don’t know if I’ll have time to make a weekly feature, but I would like to write about some of the memes I’ve seen recently. One of them showed a picture by Ansel Adams, a photographer worth looking up. Overtop the picture was the words “It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save our environment. – Ansel Adams.”
Ansel Adams used the word “fighting” just a way of saying, it is horrible that we have to be in opposition with our own government over protecting the environment, horrible that our governments would not already be on the side of the environment. Yet when I saw the picture I found myself wondering, what does it mean to fight our governments? Is political lobbying a form of fighting? What about petitions or protests?
The question of what fighting means seems relevant to me now as I read newspaper articles and comment sections about #IdleNoMore. People are complaining about the blocking of traffic. They are complaining that the protesters are inconveniencing the public. I find that fascinating. How are we supposed to fight the government if even blocking traffic is considered too inconvenient? Can it really be considered fighting if we are trying out best not to inconvenience anyone at all?
Does one fight the government through swaying public opinion? Peeking into the discussion of local #idlenomore organizers, I heard the debate between paying for a permit in order to protest legally and not. Applying for a permit is seen partly as a way of trying to deflect criticism about the inconvenience to traffic. Yet at the same time, there’s a question of whether one can truly be fighting against the government when one asks permission from a government before hand.
Derek Nepinak, Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, warned “The Idle No More movement has the people, it has the people and the numbers that can bring the Canadian economy to its knees… We have the warriors that are standing up now that are willing to go that far. So we’re not here to make requests. We’re here to demand attention and to demand an end to 140 years of colonial rule.” People respond by saying he’s threatening blackmail, that he’s not playing by the rules, that the election was won and he should respect that the government gets to do what it wants.
Is there a fair way to fight our government? Do we have to stop thinking in terms of fair? Do we have to fight the government even knowing that it will antagonize others? Is there a legitimacy to using any type of pressure on the government (for example, highway blockades) other than pressure related to elections? Is fighting back simply not letting government policy pass unnoticed?
(This post reminds me of an earlier post I wrote, about the page in the Senate who held up the Stop Harper sign. It was right after an election. How does one Stop Harper after he’s just been elected?)
Editing to add: The discussion of how to make one’s voice heard, and what lengths are okay to go to, is obviously being held in many places. The Sierra Club is changing its policy in supporting an act of civil disobedience.