Wednesday, January 12, 2011
I get a little turned-around and spun-about.
Because of my fervent belief that civic involvement is the only way to a better state of affairs in local governance, I feel really uncomfortable saying anything negative about people getting involved, about online discourse, about anything having to do with someone passionately wanting to make things better in their city.
But this comment over at Raise The Hammer speaks volumes. Not just insofar as what the person is saying...but the fact that they've been compelled to say it at all, and what this implies about the entire process. (Yes, I'm 'taking-the-piss' with the downvoting. Sue me.)
Raise the Hammer plays an increasingly important role in the general public discourse in Hamilton. They are a non-MSM source for information, they provide a forum for discussion, endless opportunities to exchange ideas, to gain insight and understanding. (However, I do have to point out that it cannot effectively be both a 'source for news' as well as taking on the form of a 'cause', replete with guiding editorials and strident, earnest Comments exchanges...no matter how it might maintain that it's remained true to its mandate. A mandate that I have enormous respect for.)
But there are times when I can't help but believe that the people who frequent it a) develop an exaggerated sense of self, or importance simply by dint of the fact that they've performed a self-validation gesture, ie: commenting, b) feel that they know better than others because of this fact, and c) believe even if only subconsciously that the calumny they consistently create reflects a proportional viewpoint in the rest of the city.
(And the prevalence of those 'times' inclines me to say 'almost always' instead.)
The truth is that except for the 'contrarians' -most often conveniently termed 'trolls' by The Faithful (some of whom form the ranks of the previously-mentioned 'The Willful')- much of what unfolds is a pseudo-intellectual version of 'preaching to the converted'. Or, 'yelling in an echo-chamber'. (And taking such delight in the sounds of the voices as to bring to mind a Judy Garland/Mickey Rooney 'Let's put on a show!' moment.)
Possibly the most salient point to me, one over which I felt the urge to comment on right there at RTH recently, is the fact that while I am unreservedly supportive of civic involvement, undeniably passionate about 'increasing the relationship of engagement between residents and their Councillors', commenting on a board does not change the world. (The suspicion that I am disparately-poised from my younger commenters because I do not see 'social media' as a miracle-cure but simply as another -admittedly powerful- means to connect, unquestionably informs my view.)
So while I applaud the effort (up to a certain number of self-involved iterations), I feel the need to remind someone so inclined as to pull their rotator cuff from patting themselves on the back so enthusiastically that our Councillors are elected and paid to do what's required of them, not to take a handful, or fifty or a hundred posts about a topic -or even the same number of emails- and accept those materials as surefire indicators of the views of the other 50,000 residents in their ward. 'T'aint necessarily so, Joe.'
And I'll close with this: late in December, I issued an open letter to Stoney Creek Councillors. I advised- Well, no; I'm no 'advisor'. I beseeched them to hold 'town hall' meetings with their constituents in an effort to generate some much-needed perspective. As our performance meanders so embarrassingly into the final portions of Act Three of this tragedy, I can only reiterate my exhortations: Please, please, please; when all of this is said and done, please do not cross yourself, breathe a sigh of relief and simply carry on with the next item on the agenda without addressing this fiasco. No matter how suspect the end result in this PanAm Games Stadium Site Selection Process turns out to be, nothing could be more deleterious to the psyche of Hamilton, the city's well-being than to ignore your responsibilities as leaders (and servants) of the citizenry and simply assume 'everything will be fine'.
Because unless you actually generate a concerted dialogue with your constituents, unless you acknowledge the impact of this perceived fiasco and seek to provide understanding and context, everything most assuredly not be 'fine'.