Friday, November 28, 2008

It May Not Look Like You Succeeded

Since I'm not out there at the shops getting the freebie's for showing up before a decent hour - to shop for a couple of dollars off - I saw a really nice item. Having myself been at events that seemed sparsely attended, when it should have drawn a crowd, especially candidate meeting parties, sometimes a body gets discouraged.

Sometimes there's an effect you didn't expect, it seems.

Despite the possibilities created by the Web, calling people to action still depends on people putting their bodies -- not just their mouse-clicks -- on the line, says Hale, the Seton Hall professor.

"All of the stuff you can do online ultimately has to show up in the real world," Hale says. "I don't see the Internet as a substitute [for social activism] but as a complement to it."

Paul Loeb, author of "The Soul of a Citizen,'' a book that examines the psychology of social activism, also says online activism can be powerful but limited. He tells a story from his book to make his point.

He says a friend took her kids to a protest against nuclear testing in front of the White House during the early 1960s. But she became dejected because only a few people joined her demonstration and then it rained.

Years later, the same woman attended a major march against nuclear testing. Benjamin Spock, the best-selling author and pediatrician who opposed the Vietnam War, was a featured speaker. He told marchers that he was inspired to join the march after seeing a small group of women huddled with their kids in the rain while marching in front of the White House years earlier.

"I thought that if those women were out there," Spock said, "their cause must be really important.

I remember the embarrassment of having a long list of folks who said they'd show up, and trying to stall while waiting for them to get there. I remember finding out those loyal supporters who said they'd bring lots of friends along never invited anybody at all, and then they ducked out, themselves. I remember the hosts who asked for donations from the candidate to cover their measly refreshments.

Then there are the passersby at the demos who make the "Get a job" remarks. I even have a tape of The Kid demonstrating on Key Bridge when Reagan closed down the government, and car passengers yelling at him that he's a bum. A newsperson came out for the fun of it, which is why it's on tape.

Don't stay home, though. You'll be glad you did something, even when what you did may not show up when you'd like it to. That snoop on the other end of the tapped line might just get a kick from his/her own conscience.


A commenter at Eschaton this a.m. told me this is a message of hope everyone could use.

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