This fine spring day, the twelfth of April 2015, Hillary Rodham Clinton declared her candidacy for the presidency of the United States, to the delight of almost nobody. Efforts were ongoing to clean up toxic tanker oil spilled in English Bay, Vancouver, and federal politicians jockeyed for advantage on the issue. A man was arrested for making a threat to “blow up Parliament Hill” as part of a planned “revolution”. North Charleston, South Carolina had an unofficial day of public mourning for Walter Scott, who was shot last week by a police officer who has since been charged with murder. 143 foreign nationals were evacuated from Yemen, while citizens of the country had to endure yet another day of bombing by Saudi Arabia and its allies. The Harper government sided with industry over law and order, targeting the Steelworkers Union charity with an audit in response to the charity’s efforts to hold Canadian mining companies accountable for their well-documented crimes. The Toronto Maple Leafs fired their general manager after a disastrous season (cw: Toronto Sun) and firefighters in Nova Scotia rescued a two hundred pound potbellied pig named Pourquoi from drowning.
In short, it was a pretty normal news day.
I mean, it’s a little bit of all the systemic problems and crises I’ve come to expect when I wake up, roll over, and cruise the news. You’ve got dynastic out of touch politicians, crumbling infrastructure, oil-related horror stories, disenchanted “lone wolf” types, police brutality, institutional racism, senseless imperial wars, corruption, corporatism, and some distractions from all of the above in the form of sports and cute animals.
That this is normal is a problem. This is a terrible news day.
Most days these days are terrible news days.
I’ve been reading the news too much for years. It’s often the first and last thing I do in a day. I have a sort of morbid fascination with it, a rubberneckingesque horrified awe of the constant stream of awful pouring into my smartphone. And yeah, I think after a while it becomes a kind of detached sense of entertainment, too, a guilty pleasure at the latest plot twists in the unfortunately all-too-real soap opera which is Current Events.
But the thing that really gets me is that nobody acknowledges it. In my day to day interactions with people – friends, acquaintances, family, strangers – I never get the sense that anybody else feels like things are terribly amiss. Am I alone in this? Or are other folks masking their sense of panic and impending doom for the sake of politeness and sociability, much like I’m doing?
Here’s the thing. Our society is facing a lot of big problems, and we’re not really that good at talking about them. Whether it’s climate change, or the historical legacy of colonialism and imperialism, or capitalism and class issues, or misogyny, or any number of other issues, we seem incapable of holding a mature, adult conversation about our situation and its implications. Like, that’s literally the first step to resolving any of these issues. That is, in itself, an issue that needs resolving.
That’s what’s motivated me to start this blog. I feel – and I know that many other people feel – that we urgently need to do something about so many things that it’s hard to keep track of them all, that the world is trending towards disasters and decay, and that we have the power to do something about it, and that something will not inevitably be done, that it will take effort for something to be done, and that it therefore falls to everybody to do whatever they can think of to do to try to make things better, in whatever way they can. And this is what I thought of to do. I thought of a blog to talk about these things in the hope that that will, somehow, be helpful. Because good god we need to talk about these things.
I’m hoping to do a few things with this project. One is to look at efforts here in Canada and internationally to address systemic issues, to resist and rebel and make a ruckus and make some change, and how these efforts succeed or fail, and why. I feel that these movements are often overlooked and undercovered, and it’s easy for even well-informed activist-type people to not know much about them. Another is to try to bring a strength of mine to the table. Whether through years of experience or from my debate club experience or, who knows, genetics maybe, I’m pretty good at seeing through messaging and spin and other bullshitting tactics that politicians and mainstream reporters like to use to subtly draw us into their way of thinking and seeing. I’d like to see more counterspin in this world, more awareness of fallacies and frames and dog-whistles. So that’s something I’m gonna make a regular feature here at The Alfalfafield. I think these two goals are more similar than they initially seem, as efforts to create change are ultimately efforts to change minds, and so the science and art of managing perceptions is an important field of study for any activist.
Also maybe occasionally I’m gonna post a haiku or something!
Paradigms can shift
But they don’t shift by themselves
They need a good push
I’m committing myself to at least two longish posts per week to start, plus maybe more little postlets. Please, if you’re interested, check back in this space regularly, leave any feedback you may have, make suggestions about news sources I could curate, share with your friends, do whatever you’re inspired to do to make days like today seem more like the terrible news days they really are.