We’ve had the Age of Aquarius, now we’re into the Age of Petitions.
Although I haven’t done a study of the history of petitions, I can say with some confidence that petitions have been around for some time. In pre-internet days, petitions had to be circulated by mail or by person to person. Now, it’s a cinch to circulate petitions.
There are quite a few petition organizations these days. LeadNow is one of those. It’s a ‘professional’ petition generator with, it claims, has 500,000 adherents. It runs petitions on a number of issues that come from people who have a problem with what governments, corporations, their neighbours, their dogs, and many other ‘targets’ are doing. They circulate petitions exclusively online via websites and email. Easy peasy.
Petitions seem to be democratic. They give people a say on an issue, an outlet for their outrage. They help people support other people, some they know, others they don’t. Petitions now span a huge spectrum of issues. My favourite ones have markers like this: Help Mr. Jones keep his cats! His landlord is a dick! Then, of course, there is the usual and ubiquitous request for a donation: Help us help people like Mr. Jones! Your small donation makes all the difference in the world.
I’m sure it does.
It helps lots of people working for petition organizations to keep their jobs. I’m not saying that’s their main goal, but I get a little suspicious when I get an email asking me: Is there a petition you’d like to start? It’s like fishing for issues. Find something to protest, will you, we’re getting bored down here at ABC Petitions!
So what can we make of this trend?
Well, it allows us to throw a bit of money at an issue and convince ourselves that we’ve actually done something for a cause we really believe in. But maybe I shouldn’t be so cynical. After all, I’ve signed a few petitions myself. It IS a way to do SOMETHING in a world where we seem to have so few ways that we can control our lives and make a difference in the world. Actually, I’m a sucker for petitions about animal abuse and animal rights. AND it seems that petitions make a difference. At least that what petition organizations often claim. It’s hard to know where the truth lies. I suspect that sometimes petition organizations take a little too much credit for political and social change. But it’s hard to say. It’s so difficult to measure these things.
I’m certain the petition ‘industry’ is here to stay. It’s become institutionalized. As long as people are being jerks somewhere, there’s always someone willing to call them on it, and maybe sign a petition. Canada is selling arms to Saudi Arabia. Enough of that! Sign our petition demanding the Canadian government immediately halt all sales of arms to the Saudis. Now who wouldn’t sign that petition? Well, I’m sure there’s a few of you out there.
Maybe I should start a petition against people who won’t sign a petition telling the Canada (arms manufacturers, actually) to stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia.
On second thought, maybe I’ll just eat my strawberries and ice cream.