Sunday, February 10, 2008

What I Do On My Sunday Off

This afternoon, a bunch of us self-important attention hounds will be standing in the Historic Friends Meeting House on Spring Street in New Bedford to read aloud the words of Frederick Douglass, a giant on whose shoulders we dwarves totter.
There is very little about "activism" today that equates to the the kind of activism that Abolitionism was. Or Women's Suffrage. Or even the Civil Rights movement of forty years ago. And that's not because the Green Movement, or LGBT Equality, or Animal Ethics are not worthy causes, worthy of every bit of blood, sweat, tears, and breath.
Impassioned speeches, deeply and honestly delivered. I don't think Douglass ever used flowcharts, PowerPoint, or other visual aids. Oratory didn't rely upon snide expressions or snarky wordplay or scare quotes or eye-rolling or cutesy good-ol-boy soundbites or any of the other cheap contemporary tricks.
We've tech-ed ourselves out of the game. If paragraphs (or words) are too big and they don't fit on an iPhone screen, they get deleted without a thought. If the music isn't an immediate wall of deafeningness, there's no point in paying cover. If the images don't come at 1/1,000,000,000th of-a-second MyFaceTubeBook-approvable flashes, it's all too slow to keep anybody's attention or interest. And there has to be a laugh or a disemboweling every 1/1000th of a second or face the wrath of the bored and disappointed livebloggers.
Douglass stood up in front of people, faced down institutionalized and traditional hatred and ignorance and violence and murder.
With words.
Do Douglass' words have any impact today?
We'll see.

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