Not an Odalisque

Ethical Procrastination

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Good procrastination skills are essential for wannabe writers. Productivity may be decreased, but bemoaning low word counts is a bonding activity, almost a ritual, initiating one into the brotherhood.

That is why I dedicated a significant portion of my day to expanding my procrastination base. If, like me, you feel bad about not saving the world, but not bad enough to go to hot places where you could build orphanages or stand in front of tanks, online activism is worth exploring. Amnesty International has been kind enough to take all of the difficulties out of campaigning, by drafting your email, addressing it, and creating a neat online form so that all you have to do is click send. You can do your part for women in Iran, human rights activists in China and victims of domestic violence in the UK, all within ten minutes without going out into the cold for so much as a stamp. It would make you feel all warm and glowy if only there weren’t another 79 causes to get through.

When you tire of Amnesty Actions, which I am sure you will, because there’s only so much human suffering you can read about in one sitting, you ought to go back to work. You may, however, be tempted by 10 Downing Street’s Petition page. This should surely be a campaigner’s dream, as anyone can propose a petition, the Prime Minister will surely come to know of it and anyone browsing his page can add their support. Spread the word through Facebook and Twitter, and very soon your good idea is becoming law.

My purpose on the site was to express my opposition to the proposed Digital Economy Bill, the demerits of which are the subject of many more engaging rants than mine. The petition is worded thus:

“We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to abolish the proposed law that will see alleged illegal filesharers disconnected from their broadband connections, without a fair trial.”

I can understand how the comma ended up there, my commas creep around in the night, too. Sometimes I wonder if they are distant cousins of socks, given their similar behaviour. It was the phrase “abolish the proposed law” which defeated me. How is the Prime Minister to abolish something which does not yet exist? Should he do his best to make sure the bill passes so that he can abolish it as soon as it becomes law? 6,048 people have signed the petition, five hundred of them while I was typing this paragraph. If anyone can solve the abolishment conundrum for me, I’ll sign it, too.

There are some other petitions with interesting wording. I’m not sure whether the 12,739 people who signed beneath “We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to use funds from the NHS budget to undergo trials for Low Dose Naltroxene” think that Gordon Brown has multiple sclerosis, but I suspect that some of them think he would make a better guinea pig than leader. My favourite is the petition asking the Prime Minister to “recognise in some form the town of Wootton Bassett.” I have images of him with a line up of different towns, eyeing their church steeples and duck ponds, eventually letting out a whoop of delight as he says “yes, I know this one, Wootton Bassett! So good to see it again.”

There are some scarey ones. Matthew Banner wants a compulsory National Youth Movement for people aged 9 to 18. Adam Kent thinks the government should sell the motorway network. I would, support Michael Westgarth’s suggestion that roll over internet adverts be banned, and Stephen Murray’s that we should open mental homes for non-smokers. Even if non-smokers aren’t utterly mad, being locked up would prevent them from chittering about cancer and waving imaginary smoke out of their faces. Those only have one signature each, however, which doesn’t indicate great popular support.

On the whole, even the most popular petitions cause me a little unease about the range of our concerns. Rather too many ask for a St. George’s day holiday, or the flying of more English flags. Britain cares about post offices, road names, phonebooks, horse taxes, dog quarantine and the Union Jack, but the only mention of Human Rights among the most popular petitions is in the context of defending Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

The only conclusion I can come to is that the internet is populated by the same people who call radio phone-ins. People who just can’t help but tell you their opinions, no matter how absurd they are. We just never knew they couldn’t spell until the internet was invented. Since I’m coming to the end of a blog post, all I can do is conclude that they are people like me. I’d better go, for fear of becoming an illiterate fascist

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Written by Not an Odalisque

November 22, 2009 at 6:01 pm

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