Thursday, November 22, 2012

The New Revolutionaries

A few weeks ago, I was asked a life-changing question: What are you tolerating? What are you putting up with you don’t want to, don’t have to, shouldn’t have to put up with? Where do you draw the line between what you’ll accept and what you won’t – and what has strayed to the wrong side of your personal line? The most important questions of all were these: Why are you tolerating sh*t in your life, and what are you going to do about it?

For me, the obvious answer related to a situation I’ve been tolerating at work. With a little inspiration from the Destroy The Joint movement, I’ve escalated the issue and I expect a result before Christmas.

The less obvious answer is also the bigger answer. It seems that right now, this decade, many of us have decided that this is the time when we won’t just put-up-and-shut-up any longer. It not about bringing anyone down or destroying anyone’s joint; it’s about living in a world that is smaller and more connected than it has ever been. It’s about accepting that you won’t agree with everyone and being secure enough to let others have their opinions too. It’s about respect for people who aren’t like you are, and being truthful and acting with integrity and holding each other to account.

Perhaps I’m just feeling more confident after President Obama’s re-election, Cardinal Pell’s ruinous press conference, or the resignation of Bruce Flegg from Queensland’s ministry, but I feel something happening. Perhaps it’s the English-speaking world’s equivalent of an Arab Spring. Perhaps its astrology, or maturity or simple old coincidence. I think it’s more: the passage of time combined with incremental social change over several generations, social media and connectivity, and the understanding that people have power.

It’s complicated.

Look at the events of last year or so, which have challenged the behaviours and institutions that make up the basic societal structure of the past decade or so.

News Limited and the phone hacking scandal
  • The Occupy movement
  • President Obama’s re-election and the rejection of Tea Party values
  • Destroy The Joint & Alan Jones and advertisers
  • The international response to the shooting of Malala Yousafszai
  • Julia Gillard calling Tony Abbott a misogynist
  • The Royal Commission into institutionalised abuse
  • What’s driving these campaigns? It’s not government, and often tackles issues which are entirely removed from Government. Equally, sometimes the campaigns are targeting potential legislation. Organisations like GetUp! now operate alongside industry lobbyists, trade unions, and churches. Social Media platforms like Facebook and Twitter now connect users to online petitions where they can show their support for or against a cause.

    The diverse list of headline grabbers above has one thing in common: there’s an energy coming out of a collective challenge to “the way we were”, particularly when “the way we were” allowed the more powerful in our society to do whatever they want without thought for those who have less power, less money, less influence.

    But before the ‘establishment’ cries foul, those who are driving change are not all gay Muslim hippy-dippy feminist socialist global-warming advocates, dragging the world towards single planetary governance and a carob-coated Soylent Green existence. They – those people who destroy the joint and start petitions (and sign them) and choose to become whistleblowers and speak out? They are us.

    The Royal Commission into the institutionalised abuse of children is the most recent example of what is happening. Despite Cardinal Pell’s denialist perspective, it’s correct to say that the sexual abuse of children, particularly boys, has been an open secret for decades. It may well have been going on for centuries – we don’t know. What we do know is that there was no support for victims, who rarely spoke out in any case. Paedophile priests concealed each other’s crimes, and the Church’s own customs and dogmata allowed these men to find absolution.

    So secretive is the church that even now, they choose the sanctity of the Confessional over their responsibilities as humans, as adults, and as moral leaders of their community. Any attempt to impose a secular law to over-rule the rule of their church would probably fail; the collective will of "the church" - those who have perpetrated crimes against our most innocent, those who have concealed it, and those who turned a blind eye - will defy en masse
    It’s handy to have no legal status whatsoever.
    And so something is starting. Something to do with intolerance, but as a positive movement rather than a negative descriptor. We’re challenging the way things are now, and sending strong messages out into the world.

    No, Mr Murdoch, it is not acceptable for your organisation to source its scoops by illegally hacking phones and email accounts, by bribing officials and by lying about it.

    No, Mr Romney, we are not going to vote for a President who will legislate to control women’s’ bodies, gay rights and immigrant’s rights, while making it easier to get guns. Nor will we watch you talk about reducing the deficit will simultaneously reducing taxes on the rich and services for the poor.

    No, Alan Jones, it is not okay for you to continue your abuse of our Prime Minister…or your abuse of anyone, for that matter.

    No, Mr Abbott, you may not continue to mutter derogatory and sexist comments across the despatch boxes in Parliament, and to base an entire party leadership on the absence of policy.

    Hell No! Your Holiness, we are no longer willing to accept the way your church has treated young boys and girls in our communities for generations; neither will we accept your church’s intricate attempts to cover its tracks, evade responsibility and use your Holy rituals as an excuse for inaction.

    And to my employer, thank you for noticing.

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