So I've gone and put all original 7 posts of Citizen Week into one big compendium in the hopes of making it a tad easier to share.
With any luck I hope to inspire other proud citizens -- who, like myself, felt frustrated and powerless in the face of a Government that does not have our best interests at heart -- to discover a host of abilities that will help to empower them as they move to hold their elected officials accountable for their words and (mis)deeds.
I'm also adding a living 'Epilogue' section which I'll be updating from time to time, mostly with links to other important bits of helpful information.
So, without further ado:
Please enjoy Citizen Week.
Citizen Week Day #1: Okay, So What?
So seeing how #DenounceHarper happened to, uh, cause a bit of a commotion on Canada Day
(Short version: We trended all day long and landed at #1 for about 4 hours and change above #HappyCanadaDay, apparently - if I believe the folks telling me this, and if the Twitter numbers don't, in fact, turn out to be bunk - the longest top trend in Canadian Twitter history. Oh, and we hit #8 on the World Rankings. So, yeah, there's that.)
I figured I'd try and use some of that energy to get some citizen action together.
Born out of my frustration with the seemingly endless stream of secrets, lies and corruption coming out of our Government, #DenounceHarper was my frustrated rallying cry that something must be done.
And if I learned one thing on this July 1st it's this:
I am not alone.
There are a great deal of us who are angry and frustrated and want to hold Stephen Harper and his Harper Government accountable.
And so that's what #DenounceHarper, thanks to you and your inspiration, has evolved into.
The hashtag itself will become a living chronicle of our Government's corruption, used to help educate and share with one another stories that help us stay on top of what our Government is up to.
And I will be doing my best to take my anger, my frustration and channel it into citizen activism.
(As Neil Gaiman so wisely said: Make Good Art - though I'm not entirely sure that it qualifies).
This first event was also inspired by my conversation with Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page - who asked that we take the time to learn how our Government is supposed to work so that when something's not working properly we'll know what's broken instead of just assuming the whole thing is scrap.
Furthermore, as I pointed out in The (Necessary) Rise Of The Digital Protest, I think the future of Digital protesting is going to be less about protesting someone/something directly as much as it will be about educating ourselves to become better protesters.
The more we know the facts, the better we understand our powers (and limitations) as citizens, the more effective we'll be and the more power we'll wield when it does come time for us to hit the streets or engage our elected representatives.
Thus the first step on a new course of citizen empowerment:
And, today, we're going to start right at the basics:
"Yeah, I'm a citizen, so what?"
The first thing any citizen should do is get to know The Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Because, as it turns out, these whole 'Rights and Freedoms' things are surprisingly useful (so it's kind of good to know what they are - and what their limitations are).
Clocking in at around 8 pages or so, it's worth the time to get to know it (it's not that complex).
Even more interesting, if you'd like to get a nice (free), fancy version of the charter to hang up on your wall, all you have to do is email firstname.lastname@example.org with your snail mail address and ask for a copy. They'll send you one in a few days.
By right, you're allowed to get one... so why not get one?
Okay, moving on and breaking it down:
SOS Canada has a great breakdown of what's expected of you as a citizen and what powers you hold -- and it's pretty easy to understand, so that's a bonus. Do yourself a favour and bookmark this one and read it in its entirety. Some of it will apply to you, some of it won't, but it's all good information.
From the website:
All Canadians enjoy the following rights:
- Equality rights: equal treatment before and under the low, and equal protection and benefit of the law without discrimination
- Democratic rights: such as the right to participate in political activities, to vote and to be elected to political office
- Legal rights: such as the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, the right to retain a lawyer and to be informed of that right, and the right to an interpreter in court proceedings
- Mobility rights: such as the right to enter and leave Canada, and to move to and take up residence in any province
- Language rights: generally, the right to use either the English or French language in communications with Canada's federal government and some of Canada's provincial governments
- Minority language education rights: in general, French and English minorities in every province and territory have the right to be educated in their own language
All Canadians also enjoy fundamental freedoms of religion, thought, expression, peaceful assembly, and association.
What are the responsibilities of a citizen?
Canadians also share common responsibilities. Canadians should:
- understand and obey Canadian laws
- participate in Canada's democratic political system
- vote in elections
- allow other Canadians to enjoy their rights and freedoms
- appreciate and help to preserve Canada's multicultural heritage
All Canadians are encouraged to become informed about political activities, and to help better their communities and the country.
Canadian citizenship also implies the following responsibilities:
- to obey Canada's laws;
- to vote in the federal, provincial and municipal elections;
- to discourage discrimination and injustice;
- to respect the rights of others;
- to respect public and private property; and
- to support Canada's ideals in building the country we all share.
Of course, all of this is great on paper - and we'll be getting into the nuts and bolts of 'obeying the law' later in the week - but it's good to be fully aware of what's expected of us if we're going to interact with our Government, especially if we're going to hold elected officials accountable to us.
Lastly here's a great bit of reading material that helps to explain our system of Government and your place within it, written by The Honourable Eugene A. Forsey
How Canadians Govern Themselves
Takes great pains to explain our system of Government and how best we can take part in it. It speaks to us not in a haughty 'this is how you should act' tone, but explains our nation, it's beginnings and it's underpinnings briskly and well.
Please take the time to read it in full, it's one of the most approachable and easily-digested writings on Canadian Democracy that I've ever read.
And that's Day #1 of Citizen Week. Please follow the Hashtag on Twitter for more articles and posts as we find them and share them - or, if you've found some great stories on citizen empowerment that you'd like to share, please, by all means, join in.
Citizen Week Day #2: Sharpening Your Quill
One of the greatest powers you have at your disposal as a Canadian citizen is your ability to ask questions of your elected officials.
If you read yesterday's How Canadians Govern Themselves you would've learned a thing or two about what an MP is.
Here's a breakdown via CPC, LPC and NDP (candidates chosen randomly) of what they can do for you.
But, for our purposes, we've got questions and concerns - so how do we contact them?
Believe it or not, one of the best ways is one of the oldest: writing a letter.
In Pen (and in cursive, if you know how).
Yes, I know, if you're anything like me, you probably scoffed rather hard at that idea.
And I don't blame you.
On the surface - especially these days - it seems like a silly, futile effort. (At best.)
But it's actually one of the most brilliant things you can do.
See, by themselves, 'letters' aren't exactly known for giving us 'change' -- and they certainly don't give us anything near the kind of instant gratification that we get when calling up or confronting a politician in person (or complaining about them on the internet).
But that's the point:
Writing a letter is actually a very, very important part of the process if you'd ultimately like to help keep your Government accountable.
Important not for them, but for you.
One of the great things I discovered about the letter writing process is that at a base level it's an expression of your commitment to the issue at hand. Not only does it show the intended party that you're serious but it also makes YOU think about why you're writing in the first place.
Do you really care enough to write a letter about it?
Writing it down not only makes you think about the issue but makes you articulate why you're upset about it and what you'd like to see done about it.
Why does it matter to you, personally?
Where all these internet form letters fall down is that they're simple, thoughtless actions.
All you have to do is have a momentary blip of 'oh, I agree' and you click a button and you move on - if you even remember what it was you just signed up for.
That is 'push-button' Democracy and, as such, it cheapens not only your voice but the voices of all who take part.
Want a perfect example of this?
Look at what happened with the Robocalls complaint - the media went wild because 31,000 'complaints' were filed with Elections Canada. But when it was revealed that they were all pretty much 'form letters' from an activist site, what happened?
Your voice was brushed aside.
It didn't matter that 31,000 Canadians expressed their outrage over the Robocall issue, all that the media saw was that 31,000 people pushed a button and swarmed Elections Canada with spam emails.
In the end those form letters were forgotten and they didn't matter to anyone because it wasn't your voice.
But imagine if it was.
Imagine if 31,000 people took the time to take a single, lined sheet of paper and write a letter to Elections Canada.
Imagine being in that mail room when 31,000 pieces of mail show up from Canadians all across the country.
Brush THAT away with a sneer.
See, the other benefit of writing a letter is that simply by taking part you become, even if just a little bit, emotionally invested in the outcome.
Imagine if you were one of those 31,000 Canadians who invested their own personal time to write a letter and then watched the media collectively brush your voice away.
To sneer at you.
You'd be, rightly, outraged. You'd kick up a proper fuss.
Along with about 30,999 other people.
That is what gets people's attention.
Writing a letter is never a waste of time - it doesn't matter if it's a 'great' letter, it's your voice.
It's your approval or disapproval - and it has value.
When I first started my letter-writing campaign to the Governor General - asking for a Royal Commission into the Robofraud scandal - I was really excited by the idea that the Governor General (or, more realistically, someone affiliated with him) would sit down, open my envelope and read my hand-written words.
Every day, seven days a week, from March 26th, 2012 to May 3rd, 2012, I wrote the Governor General a letter, by hand, in cursive.
I was polite, I was respectful and I followed every respectful standard to a T. In each and every letter I asked for the same thing: for A Royal Commission into the Robofraud scandal.
I wrote my last letter to the GG on May 3rd after a combination of work, life and utter disillusionment finally pushed the pen from my hand.
I couldn't write any more letters to this man who seemed to jet-set around the world on our behalf but couldn't be bothered to even send a form letter in response.
Was I pissed? You know it. But that's a good thing.
That's what letter writing does: It makes you give a damn.
And 'Giving A Damn', my friends, is the gateway drug to Democracy.
Imagine if the Governor General got 31,000 handwritten letters, by mail, every day for 40 days?
You think someone would notice?
Do you think you'd let them tell you that they all went into the garbage because 'oh, it was just a bunch of "radicals"'?
Democracy requires personal investment - and that's what's missing from our culture right now.
The thirst for Democracy, for debate, has been, largely, bred out of us. We don't get angry at the utterly insane scandals that are happening all around us, daily, because how could we?
Most of us don't know, or care how our Government works because it's a thread that's been largely unwound from the tapestry of our daily lives. We have more important things to do.
And if we weren't invested in the Democratic process in the first place, how can we even have the chance to give a damn when it's being taken away from us?
By taking the time to write a letter you're planting a seed within yourself - one which may grow and even spread seeds into others around you.
You giving a damn about the maintenance of your Democracy will cause others to as well.
So, on that note, here's a small primer on how to get started:
- Find out who your MP is here. (if you want to write to the Governor General, look here)
- Decide on an issue that's important to you - perhaps something you'd like an answer to.
- Write a first draft on your PC - this way you won't get frustrated at making mistakes on paper (like I did).
- Re-read and edit (now's an excellent time to research any points if you want to make them stronger)
- Grab a sheet of lined paper, take a pen and write it down - keep it a) personal and b) to one page if possible, no more than two.
Name of MP - (use full title, find proper style of address here)
Address of their Constituency
Polite greeting/Brief introduction.
Pointedly state the issue and your stance for or against
Evidence for or against, if you have it.
What resolution you'd like to see.
(If you wish to ask for a chance to meet, this is a great time.)
Thank them for their time
Sign off with a Signature.
Nothing too complicated, lots of room to move and make the message your own.
You can read a couple of sample letters here: 1 2
So... give it a shot. Try writing it down, see how it feels, say what only you can say - you can be angry, but be respectful.
I know it doesn't seem like much but in building that foundation, in learning to stand strong, learning how powerful you are as a citizen, it opens a whole swath of other doors.
Which we'll be getting into as the week moves on.
Thanks for taking the time to get involved!
Citizen Week Day #3: Know Your Role
There's a reason people get involved in politics: Because they want to change things themselves.
They want more power than what's been given to them by simply being a 'citizen'.
It's a noble effort - and there have been some amazing parliamentarians over the years who've done great work on our behalf (You can thank Tommy Douglas for the Universal Healthcare that Canada is famous for).
Our elected representatives have important work to do and we've entrusted them to be our voice - it's called a Representative Democracy and it goes hand in hand with our Westminster System of Parliament.
I don't bring these up to debate the benefits or limitations of each, but to help show where you, as a Canadian citizen, fit into the picture.
As the crow flies it would appear that a single Canadian citizen, barring an extraordinary action or situation, is considered the 'lowest' of the recognized power structure.
And, by ourselves, we are.
But, together, united?
We are the fundamental force responsible for the maintenance of our Democracy.
Not just once every 4 years when we're called upon to vote, but every day.
Yes, I know it seems like an insane task to lay at our feet but one of the reasons that it seems so insane is because of the division of labour has become so out of whack - essentially, the more people we get involved the easier the task becomes.
It seems like heavy lifting because there are so few trying to keep up with a myriad of issues and conflicts.
That said, the reality is that we're not going to turn into a politically aware and politically motivated nation any time soon - so that's why knowing how to maximize your abilities as a citizen, knowing which levers to push, how best to support those who are working on your behalf will certainly help you down the line.
One of the first, easiest things you can do to help maximize your power as a citizen is:
Be a voracious reader of Journalism.
Great Journalism, if you can find it.
You may or may not realize this but a Journalist's entire existence is designed to present you with issues and stories that matter to you.
They're literally paid to find stories (hopefully, important stories) for you.
So seek out great Journalism and Journalists - not just the stories and viewpoints you agree with but a myriad of views, dissenting or otherwise.
The more well-rounded you are, the more sides of an issue you can see, the better chance you'll be able understand where you fall on it and how best to make your case when you need to.
By supporting great Journalism, you create a market for it, which, in turn, creates the opportunity for more great Journalism to exist.
If Citizens are the front-line forces of Democracy, think of Journalists as your scouts, sent out into the wilderness, digging deep into the facts and reporting back issues that matter to you.
Helping you focus your efforts in the right areas.
Or, to put it another way: By empowering great Journalists, you in turn empower yourself.
So how does one support great Journalism?
Well, the simplest way is to pay for it.
But if money's tight there are lots of other ways:
You can talk about it, you can engage it - you can cite it in your arguments and spread it amongst others who will then read it and share it.
You can support great Journalism by ACTING on the information you've been given.
For instance, if a Journalist comes forward with information showing that your Government has been keeping two sets of accounting books - one for internal accounting and one for lying to the public - then you can support that Journalist by buying the paper that it came in, by taking that story and sharing it with others, or you can take your elected officials to task and demand answers.
Or, hell, why not do all three?
Citizens and strong, empowered Journalists are the chocolate and peanut-butter of Democracy.
(Corruption is allergic to peanuts).
As far as 'taking your elected officials to task' goes, you need to ask yourself what your own personal solution is.
Not everyone is comfortable with - or able to - march in the streets for hours or maintain a presence there for days and weeks on end.
So if writing letters is as far as you want to take your outreach, that's more than fine, in fact it's something to be encouraged.
Know your own comfort and engagement levels.
That said, if letter writing just isn't doing it for you - or you want to take things to the next level, let me suggest that you hit the internet before you take to the streets.
As I mentioned in The (Necessary) Rise Of The Digital Protest your first goal should be to educate yourself as much as humanly possible about the issues you care about.
Your second goal should be to engage people online - engage people who actively disagree with you.
Because every single one of the people you're protesting against - their friends, their agents, and more - are looking for any excuse to write you off. To call you a 'kook' or a 'crazy' or a 'lefty' or a 'righty' or whatever.
Don't let them.
Know your facts inside and out.
If you're going to hold your Government (or anyone) accountable, you better have your facts straight as an arrow.
Read, read, read - talk to as many others as you can, get into heated arguments.
When you get beaten, and you will get beaten, don't take it as a loss - look at what you have learned or can learn from the situation.
Then use that knowledge to make yourself better and stronger.
Because when they say that it's a marathon, they are not kidding.
Also, if you ever hope to go toe-to-toe in real life protests, you better grow some thick skin - you're going to need it.
And what better place than the internet to help you out?
If you find yourself getting riled up, getting angry, yelling and screaming over what someone says to you over the internet, you're going to have real problems out on the street where tensions are much, much higher.
Especially if someone corners you with a camera and asks 'why are you here?'.
What would you say?
Would you whoop and shout slurs or random lines of pre-packaged thoughts?
Or would you be like Jesse?
Simply put: your ultimate goal as a powerful citizen is to, at all times, remain as calm, cool, collected and articulate as possible.
To be able to express yourself like this:
So that when they come at you, looking to denigrate you and what you stand for, you'll be ready and, more importantly, you'll have something to say.
That the way I'd chosen to protest would only piss people off and that the points I'd raised weren't good enough.
And that was from people who'd claimed they were supporting me.
I hold no ill will against them, in fact, it inspired me to make sure that if I was going to stand up, I'd know what the hell I was talking about.
But, as I'm learning, I'm not everyone.
It's hard enough to get the guts to stand up and say that something's wrong. It's harder still to continue to stand as so many forces conspire to make you feel alone and powerless; like some sort of 'ungrateful whiner'.
It doesn't help that one of those forces allied against you is exactly that:
A force - a room full of people or swath of single users literally paid money to shut you up or shout you down.
They don't care about you or your arguments - you can make the most reasoned approach in the world, you can offer point after point but you cannot sway them. Why?
Because they don't care.
They're not paid to care.
As literally as it can be put, these folks are cogs in the machine - a machine designed to spread a message, often disinformation, and/or quell dissent.
It's called 'Astroturfing' and it's a tactic that has become employed across the web for a myriad of uses. Sometimes it's used to sell videogames. Sometimes it's to spread misinformation about cigarettes.
But, lately, it's being used to quell political dissent.
And when it's used against citizens, against good people with valid concerns, it becomes the thresher of Democracy - tearing at the hearts and minds of any 'tall poppies' who would dare rise above the field.
So how do you fight that? How do you even know when you're up against that sort of a force?
It's a good question - and there aren't a whole lot of answers.
But here's a fun one about an astroturfer being found out... and fired.
You can find more astroturfing examples here [pdf] thanks to the University of Oregon's Journalism program.
And, finally, while this sounds like tin-foil hat territory, check out the 'Persona management' Astroturfing software/technology created by HBGary (of Anonymous fame) for the US Federal Government. (Source 2) (Source 3) (Patent here) (Anonymous' writeup/take on the software)
Any chance that the Canadian Government (or other private institutions) managed to get their hands on a copy or two?
Anyways, I digress.
Let me share a strategy that I've found works for me:
The 3 'Informed Rebuttal' rule.
Whenever I come up against someone (or a group of someones) who disagrees with me or my postings I do my best to make 3 well-informed rebuttals that include linked sources that support my reasoning.
I keep it polite and I don't allow myself to get angry - this is the internet after all, 90% of the crap leveled at you can't hurt you and the other 10% only hurts if you let it.
So, if after 3 Informed rebuttals I can't foster some sort of a positive - or at least interesting - discussion or debate, then that's the end of the line.
If I'm not getting anything out of the conversation, why waste my time? Because I'll 'lose'? Whatever.
Let them holler at the wind.
See, one thing I've learned is that people who can't be swayed by 3 solid attempts to engage in discussion simply will not be swayed at all.
Now, is that because they're paid not to?
You're not here for them so why allow yourself to be sucked into someone else's idea of what 'winning' and 'losing' is?
Set your own goals and judge yourself fairly by that metric.
I find that this approach also works quite well for dealing with Trolls.
Trolls are like Astroturfers but, usually, more aggressive and, usually, acting of their own volition. (Though herds of Trolls do exist, as well as Trollherds - a la 'Shepherd' - who guide them).
If the first comment you receive from a stranger is a disparaging remark, an insult or any other form of ad hominem, chances are you're dealing with a Troll.
This evidence is further supported if they also, in continually insulting, forceful language talk about how they are right and you are wrong. Moreso if they do not, will not, or cannot be 'bothered' to back up their statements with citations.
On Twitter, or any place that allows you to look at someone's comment history (like Reddit), Trolls are very easy to spot. Spend a couple minutes and read through a few day's worth of their comments and you'll get a pretty fantastic measure of who you're dealing with.
Use that knowledge to decide whether or not you want to engage in a bit of Troll-fencing or not.
Troll-fencing is when you knowingly engage a Troll but instead of getting sucked-up into their emotional rhetoric, you counter it with calmly-stated reason, logic and facts.
Think of it like standing up to a bully.
Once you show you that a) you're not intimidated and b) you know your stuff, and you know it well, most often you'll be left alone (with the exception of any time you show weakness through bad facts or poorly-researched/cited material).
You have a remarkable amount of control while online, so take advantage of it. Use it to help you grow as an engaged citizen; use it to help pump and flex that fantastic political muscle between your ears so that when you're ready to head out into the real world (which has a whole other list of quirks and challenges) you'll be much more than just another 'angry protester':
You'll be an angry, 'informed citizen'.
PS: Come back tomorrow as we delve into the process of taking your informed, empowered self out into the real world.
The easiest to arrange, of course, is the MP in your riding so go ahead and find out which riding you're in (and their contact information) here.
Give them a call, find out when they're free and schedule a meeting.
Depending on who they are -- and what your issues are -- they may or may not be entirely helpful but if you do manage to get a meeting, take full advantage of it.
This is a wonderful opportunity for you to get the perspective of someone who actually works on the hill on a day-to-day basis.
Will they be as brutally candid as David Wilks was here?
I don't know.
But they may be able to help point you in the way of legislation or other MPs who're already working toward your ends.
#DenounceHarper has been growing into a movement asking for the 'Transparent, Accountable, Good, Honest government' that our Prime Minister promised us (he felled the corrupt Liberal Government with that promise).
As it turns out, I recently learned about MP Bruce Hyer - an Independant MP who left the NDP over issues with the long gun registry and a disagreement with how the NDP (and Parliament in general) has become 'lock-step' politics only with little room for MPs to fulfill the wishes of their constituents.
Now I'm still learning about the man himself, but he's got two ideas that I find I like right off the bat:
For one, he wants to introduce a motion that would take away the signing of nomination papers from party leaders.
This may not seem like much, but it's actually quite huge - because a party leader has to sign the nomination papers for you to run in an election, they can hold that over your head if you 'disobey'.
The saying "you'll never work in this town again" is quite true because all the leader has to do is refuse to sign your papers and run someone else in your riding.
Now, yes, there does need to be some sort of safety mechanism (one commenter today made a case that somehow Neo-Nazis might end up getting elected/that the Party Leader's signature keeps undesirables away) but I'm open to having that debate.
The other idea is that of having randomized seating in the House of Commons. Right now everyone sits together with one another in their defined sections.
Check out his reasoning behind it here (from above article):
"When you vote your consituents wishes or your conscience, it will be less obvious that you have voted differently than the other members of your party,” he told HuffPost. “Right now, we are all lined up like a hockey team, if one of us stands up contrary to the wishes of the leader or the party, everybody notices instantly."
Personally, I find it refreshing (and a tad exciting) to find an MP who so blatantly says "You are my employer, and I work for you!", who talks openly about enacting the will of his constituents.
I mean, that's what 'Representative Democracy' is all about - you elect someone to go to Ottawa on your behalf to be your voice as you go about your work and life.
They're supposed to go and 'Represent' you and your wishes, not 'toe the party line' because their leader says 'you must vote this way or else'.
It's the kind of attitude that makes you sit up and go 'oh, yeah!'
That makes you remember that Stephen Harper is supposed to work for you.
More and more folks have been asking where 'Parliamentary Debate' has disappeared to and I'll bet dollars to donuts that it faded more and more as people fell in lock-step with their leaders' wishes.
Why bother debating the merits or flaws of any legislation if you already know which way you're voting?
My point here is that despite what some would have you believe, not every politician is 'corrupt' - there are a lot of great, hardworking people who are being coloured by some bad apples.
The trick is that, by knowing your facts, by knowing why you're sitting down for that meeting, why you care enough to set it up in the first place, you're going to be able to know when you're getting off track.
And if someone is BSing you.
If you have a moment, this website does a great job of summing up the process of contacting and building a relationship with your MP (and some of what I've previously covered in the other Citizen Week posts).
If you can't get a meeting in person, try and get an interview by phone.
When I had my conversation with PBO Kevin Page, I put down 3 questions that I really wanted answers to, I got in touch with his office and asked for 5 minutes of his time.
It was that simple.
And that conversation ended up being one of the most inspiring conversations I've ever had.
Now, yes, your mileage may vary, but my point is this:
As a powerful citizen you have many venues that you can and should take advantage of before things get to the point where you're taking to the streets.
I don't say this to delay you or censor you but to ensure that if you're going to take to the streets that you are sure that you've done everything in your power to get a fair resolution first.
The more effort you put into it, the more it will matter to you and if it truly gets to the point where you've tried every option and still can't get satisfaction then you will have deserved your righteous anger.
What do I mean?
250,000 people marched in Montreal in protest over LOI 78.
It got a bunch of news coverage for a short while and then faded. Why?
People get frustrated and have other tasks and duties to distract them.
Righteous Anger -- informed, righteous anger thrives and empowers. You get there by knowing your stuff, by investing yourself, by trying every possible venue first.
When you do hit the street you know you've tried all your options first.
Imagine if those 250,000 people wrote letters to their government and then scheduled appointments with their MPs and wrote letters to newspapers and wrote blogs and gave TV interviews.
These are voters, Democratic voters, expressing their outrage - and 250,000 people gets a hell of a lot of mileage when properly organized.
Now, yes, obviously this is a utopian ideal - a best-case scenario.
But as an empowered citizen it behooves you to try every possible, legal, non-violent angle at your disposal.
Not only will you learn an utter ton of valuable information, you'll meet others - others who will challenge your arguments, who will make you think and who will support you.
(or who will call you names and insult your mother...)
In closing: No one becomes a powerhouse overnight - there's lots to learn so, please, take your time and learn it.
You're only helping yourself.
And your country.
Citizen Week Day #6: To The Streets!
No matter how hard we try to remain civil, it always seems like there are points where rational, intelligent discussion breaks down.
Where governments or institutions overstep their bounds or ignore their constituents in such a way that a physical manifestation of our displeasure is required.
Where it's no longer enough to complain on the internet.
Or write letters and follow-up letters that may or may not see responses.
When we must protest.
And that's where you, as an empowered, informed Citizen get to shine.
Where all your hard work pays off.
You know your rights, you know your issues, you know you've tried every possible other venue to reach satisfaction.
You're not just out there being angry, you know you're in the right.
And now you're going to know what to do about it.
So let's be blunt:
Out in the streets you're at a severe disadvantage.
You get hungry, you get tired, you have to pee, you can be hurt and/or arrested.
Emotions run hot all the time and you're going to be surrounded by a swarm of loud, angry people.
And, depending on who you are as a person, you still have to figure out where you fit in to it all - are you a faceless number? are you a documentarian? are you a medic or a front-line fist-pumper?
Or are you a leader?
The great thing about righteous anger - the kind of righteous anger that you've earned by going through these steps, by empowering yourself to get involved, to care and know the facts - is that it instills confidence.
And you will wear that confidence.
And people will recognize that confidence.
And when someone hands you a microphone, or asks you what you think you'll have something to say.
And a reason to say it.
You won't have to rely on rhetoric, or chants and slogans that are easy to repeat but are ultimately harmless.
You have knowledge.
You have facts.
You know your stuff.
Imagine if, just for example, 250,000 people marched through the streets saying we want our 'Transparent, Accountable, Good, Honest Government'.
Or we want our "New Era of Accountability".
When not only the facts but the very words used by those you protest are on your side, that's all you need.
You don't need to break windows and torch cars or fight or even swear.
When the facts are damning enough, that's all you need.
That said, with great power comes a great responsibility:
As a level-headed, empowered citizen you will be working not only to keep others calm and focused, you will be looking out for those who cross the line - be they Black Bloc or agents provocateur or simply overzealous.
When you see others destroying property or behaving like animals, call attention to it.
Get the crowd to shout them down.
Be ready to non-violently photograph and document such behaviours in detail.
Watch this first:
Rebecca mentions 'Montebello 2007' and to hear the video play out, it sounds like 'conspiracy theory' crap, right?
But watch this video of what happened at Montebello in 2007 and judge for yourself here:
Now, to be clear, I don't intend to vilify the entirety of the police force -- many are fantastic, hardworking folks who just want to put in their time, go home and relax.
They're Canadians too.
They have families to feed and mortgages to pay and loved ones to look out for.
But you must be aware of one of the most dangerous parts of protesting in real life:
That someone could try to turn things violent.
So one of the most powerful things you can do to help everyone involved is to keep it peaceful.
No one wants to see Canadian blood spilled - and those that do need to separated from the group, just as you saw above.
No one was hurt and by catching these folks and preventing them from causing damage, they prevented many other Canadians from being hurt in the process.
And that is why what happened in the video above is the truest, highest expression of the power that you, as an empowered citizen, wield.
When you can state your case calmly but with passion.
When you can inspire others to:
And stay on message.
That is why you've done all of this work.
That is how you bring your issues to national attention.
That is how you make your voice matter.
That is how you win.
It's not hard.
All you have to do is: do the work.
Engage yourself in the process.
It is within your grasp.
So, good luck out there.
Citizen Week Day #7: Vigilance
Endings are hard.
I've burned through a few page-one rewrites trying to figure out how to wrap this up, make it make sense.
My first draft was called 'Be The Change' and it was so over-the-top positive that, well... you deserved better.
My second draft was called 'Change The System' and it was... darker. But still not right.
So here we are at the third try and it ends up with me doing pretty much what I've done since June 6:
Trying just to be as honest as I can.
And so with Day #7 I end back where I began:
Talking to those who've yet to step forward.
To the citizens who do care... and to those who've already come so far.
"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing"
I've heard this quotation, and variations of it, over and over during the course of my life - so much so that I'd never even bothered to question its veracity.
It was just a spoken truth.
As it turns out, it's not even a quote.
Someone made it up.
Edmund Burke, whom the quote is attributed to, never actually said it.
The easiest lies to swallow are those that we want to believe.
The comforting lies.
The lies that tell us "all is right with the world".
The lies that tell us "it's okay, someone else will fix it"
The lies that tell us that "if we just keep our heads down it'll all blow over".
The lies that tell us "there's nothing that you can do"
"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing"
This is a comforting lie.
It lets us believe that 'all we have to do is have the Good rise up and, magically, everything will be fixed'.
But it is a lie.
It's sayings like this that allow us to tune out.
To wait for the 'Good men', the Good people, to do something.
But the Good people are doing something.
And they're getting their asses kicked.
It's not even close to a fair fight.
In our Western culture we like to romanticize the '300'-style final stand, how that one small band of Good Guys 'stood strong' against the oncoming tide of Evil.
They fought and fought valiantly until the bitter end.
Those men are dead.
And what use is a dead Good man?
On the news I see Buddhists lighting themselves on fire, sacrificing their lives for their cause while the world yawns and goes 'been there, done that'.
It was shocking the first time it happened. It was horrifying.
Now we see that and worse every night on TV. It's pretty much a case of the week on CSI.
But I'm not blaming TV. No, TV's as tired a scapegoat as I've ever seen.
But see how easy it was for me to almost shift the blame there?
Hell, I could've substituted 'Internet' just to make it current.
Make a half-handed argument about how we're all 'desensitized' and boom, end of story.
Or blame the Media.
Blame the Liberal Media, blame the Conservative media, wipe my hands and we're golden, right?
This is about choices.
The comforting lies we choose to believe despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
The Good are already fighting back.
They tried in Wisconsin but we let them down.
They tried with Occupy Wall Street but we let them down.
And that's just what's happened in the last year or so.
Don't get me started on Environmentalism or the fight against Big Oil or the many other cases of unchecked Corporate greed and/or Government Corruption.
"Yeah, but I didn't like the clothes they were wearing."
That's a hard truth to swallow but there it is.
The Good people are fighting hard everywhere around us.
And we deign to look down our noses at them.
Reporters, Journalists - people who have devoted their lives to try and look out for us, to protect us - they are doing their jobs, they're risking their lives to tell you about greed and corruption happening right under your nose.
And they're being run out of business for it.
A multinational Corporation can look at a newspaper or a TV station and say 'None of our subsidiaries will ever advertise with you again'.
Good people have to eat too. They have families to feed and lives to live.
So, they make choices.
Stories die so that they can live to keep telling other stories.
All the while we keep choosing to wait for this magical saviour who will stand up and lead us, who will right all the wrongs and reset the balance for us.
And if they could do it at 3am on a Saturday, that'd be just fine too, please.
The Good of the world are out there, right now, fighting.
And if there is any part of you that gives a damn about that fact, then you cannot stand by on the sidelines any longer.
Because You are the saviour that you've been waiting for.
And we need you.
We need you to take 5 minutes out of your already swamped day to write a letter.
Or learn to write a letter.
We need you to get involved, to learn the facts, to read the news.
And not just the biased stuff that tells you everything you agree with.
Read the news that makes you uncomfortable.
That makes you ask questions.
Because you should be uncomfortable with what you're seeing around you.
Find a cause and get started - there's lots of work to do and, whether you believe it or not, they're all connected anyway.
Everything returns to back to one source: Our Government.
You may start off fighting to protect animal rights or for environmental protections but you'll end up fighting Government corruption.
You may start off fighting for Veterans' rights or the rights of the homeless or the sick but you'll end up fighting Government corruption.
You may start off fighting for safe food for our children, safer roads for us or clean water for all but you'll end up fighting Government corruption.
A long time ago we entrusted our leaders to look out for us, to work the levers and switches for us while we were off busy doing other things with our lives.
We got used to leaving it up to them.
But we chose to allow them more power over us.
We chose to look the other way as corruption ran rampant.
As our leaders, our voices were bought and co-opted.
And now we're witnessing the fruit of our leisure.
So, if you don't know what to do, if it all seems too big, start here.
Read parts 1-6.
I don't have all of the answers but I have a few - and not all of them are right.
But I'm learning, just as you are.
And I'm fighting.
So stand with me and we'll figure it out together.
Also Note: Canada does not have a '5th Amendment' as per the US, but we do have Section 11c and Section 13 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms
Section 11(c) Quoted:
"11. Any person charged with an offence has the right ...
(c) not to be compelled to be a witness in proceedings against that person in respect of the offence;"
Section 13 Quoted:
"13. A witness who testifies in any proceedings has the right not to have any incriminating evidence so given used to incriminate that witness in any other proceedings, except in a prosecution for perjury or for the giving of contradictory evidence."
Reddit user 'mpierre' pointed out this interesting factoid to keep in mind:
"Another little-known fact not mentioned in the PDF. A fire department inspector can inspect any property at any time simply by ringing the doorbell. The Fire "marshall" (not sure the proper title), can inspect the whole house but cannot seize anything inside as he is not a police officer. However, if permission is refused for the inspector to inspect the building, he can legally request police backup to enter the premise. The police officers are then allowed to enter the building as if they received consent from the owners in order to guarantee the safety of the fire marshall.
However, once inside, if he see any evidence of a crime, they are allowed to investigate and search the premise. This obscured law allowed the Sureté du Québec a few years ago to raid a Hells Angel bunker without a search warrant or an urgent reason. As far I as know ( I am not a lawyer), it is unclear if the Fire Marshall can request police assistance if entry was approved into the building and he later discovers drugs or weapons."
Read a great blog post about your rights and when you should talk to the police (hint: never). - Note this is not an advertisement for the law firm who wrote the blog.
Protecting yourself and your Data while online
Bookmark EncryptEverything.ca and get to know it well.
Self-defence: What's acceptable under Canadian law?