Fixing the world

When I logged into Shplang on Thursday to post the latest edition of “A Thousand Things That Piss Me Off,” I was pleasantly surprised to discover that we’d gotten a link from a respected (but possibly not safe for work) blog called Electronic Cerebrectomy. The link referred to a post of mine in January, in which I said the following:

“Speaking of the world being awesome, Obama’s now officially in office – and in spite of the fact that he’s off to a solid start, there are people out there who think we should let him get to work and stop scrutinizing him. But the thing is, that’s what you’re supposed to do with elected officials. It’s the ‘let’s just give him the benefit of the doubt because he’s the president’ crowd that let the last guy get away with doing such an awful job.”

“Hear fucking hear,” blogger SamuraiFrog said. “Unfortunately, that seems to be the current liberal tone, and those people keep commenting at me whenever I say I’ve got a problem with Obama.”

I was glad to get that sort of endorsement – let alone any recognition for my lousy blog whatsoever – especially coming from an American who supports Obama. Even while celebrating Obama’s win on the morning after the election, SamuraiFrog said that his victory was “only the first,” and that there remained “a lot of work to do.”

Last night, Kate and I went to see a Hot Docs screening of The Yes Men Fix the World, which is a very funny and compelling look at some of the duo’s political prankersterism as seen through the sincere but self-deprecating eyes of the Yes Men themselves. If you get the chance to check it out, I totally recommend it – you can start with the trailer and excerpt available on the group’s website.

One of the actions highlighted in the film was the printing and distribution of a special edition of the New York Times late last year. Dated Saturday, 4 July 2009, the paper was full of stories like “Troops to Return Immediately,” “Maximum Wage Law Passes Congress,” and “Nationalized Oil To Fund Climate Change Efforts.” In the place of the paper’s usual motto, the Yes Men had written “All the News We Hope to Print.” The paper was tough to distinguish from the real thing at a glance, and so was the website that had been launched to back it up.

In the film, Yes Man Andy Bichlbaum explained that Obama’s victory was just one step in the right direction. The stories featured in the paper might be unlikely to happen in our lifetime, but the point was that they could happen, and many of the paper’s readers were surprised and overjoyed to think they actually had happened. In the end, a lot of people walked away with a much more concrete idea of the kind of change they’d like to see take place, and a few were even inspired to learn more about what they could do to help bring it into being.

It’s really nice to see this attitude alive and well – not just in America, but here at home and around the world. It’s easy to forget sometimes that democracy is more than voting for your favourite politician, and then going back to whatever you were doing until the next election rolls around. Real change takes real work by a whole lot of people, and once you’ve elected your representatives, it’s your job to make sure that they actually represent you.

Anyway, food for thought. In the meantime, as long as I’m talking about thousand-themed blogs, I should mention that a friend and former colleague named Neil Pasricha just won a Webby for his blog 1000 Awesome Things. According to this story in the Post, he’s now being pursued by a number of literary agents for a book proposal. Congratulations, Neil!

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