Sunday, March 04, 2012

This is not a ROBOCALL

I’m amazed sometimes at how much I’m asked to put up with.
Or, put more grammatically: How much I am asked to put up with amazes me sometimes.
               For instance: I picked up my mail yesterday and took home about 5 pieces addressed to me and left another 5 or so in the recycling bin at the post office. Of the 5 I took home, only a couple were actually business that I needed to attend to; the others were appeals for donations.
               As I was opening my mail, my phone rang and since I haven’t chosen a musical ring tone, the jangling raked across my nerves. I picked it up and answered, but the delay in the response told me it was another robocall (call placed by a dialing robot) and I slammed the receiver down. In the evening, I decided to watch The Fugitive, a classic action movie starring Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones. It took nearly three hours to watch a two-hour movie because a variety of corporations had paid for the broadcast on my behalf in exchange for the “right” to bombard me with commercial sales propaganda every few minutes.
               (I have to wonder how many Canadians realize what a prize we’ve managed to retain in CBC Radio: informative and commercial-free broadcasting. It ranks with libraries as a last bastion of choices as yet unbastardized by the intrusion of commercial propaganda.)
               And now we have had our attention drawn to the robocall in politics, probably the most cynical intrusion ever into the heart of democracy. It’s message is clear: voters are not the sovereign, informed citizens we used to think they had to be to vote; they are manipulatable consumers, equally fair game to the manufacturers of Tide, or to the Conservative (or NDP, or Liberal) Party of Canada. The debate on Parliament Hill as to who did it properly or who did it fraudulently should cause citizens to throw up in pure disgust. All parties have apparently succumbed to the use of a model pioneered by commercial advertising, a model that tramples on personal autonomy, demeans the human spirit by making of it a commodity.
               Shame on all of you!
               But how do these things ever change? How is bad practice reversed in a democracy? Parties that win elections are unlikely to change the practices that got them into office. Parties seeking election are bound to copy the methods leading to success for the winners. Corporations that have won a profitable niche in the marketplace are unlikely to give up the pressure tactics that got them there in favour of common decency and sensitivity.
               And here’s the real rub; it happens because we allow it. And we allow it because consumerism is eminently easier and more tempting than informed citizenship. What I as a single citizen need to do to help change happen is obvious: boycott what is manipulative and crass and promote in whatever way I can that which has integrity, honesty, dignity. Lean toward media that aren’t driven by advertising; shop where customers are treated with respect and dignity, even if it costs a bit more; take exception to pressure tactics by politicians, even if they represent “my party;” recycle junk mail unread.
               And maybe, hire a robocall company to target every MP and MLA with the following message . . . repeatedly: “We’re all watching you; either shape up or resign.”          

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