Armchair activism: one click at a time!

Posted on September 09, 2011 by Priya Tuli

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Nobody ever changed anything by just sitting there and fretting about it. Activists know this better than anyone else; that's why they're called activists. They're actually out there shaking up the status quo, by whatever means attract the most attention, getting people to sit up and take notice of whatever the cause of the day might be. As opposed to most of us, who are merely lumps of amorphous glop sitting around and being inactive, and often not even having much of an opinion on anything. Inert and disengaged.

Activists don't sit around thinking, "Oh, but I'm just one person, how can I change the status quo." They just go out there and soon a tribe gathers, and they start to make a noise, and the media hears about it and arrives to cover it, so more people hear about it, and it gets bigger and bigger and then finally, things start to change. Slowly and imperceptibly maybe, but change they will. Because the intent has been seeded in the ethers by all those people who want change and believe in it.

People don't usually go around wanting to change things that are fine as they are; they want change because something is wrong with whatever it is they're protesting. All it needs is enough people to think that way, and you have the makings of a small revolution. More people, bigger revolution. And lately, it seems, people are finally beginning to realize that every voice does count. Even theirs.

Nowhere is this more apparent than online. The internet has changed the way we do revolutions. If you're not quite into joining a march or rally in your city, or are located a couple of continents away from where the big action is happening, no problem. You can sign online petitions, send emails and text messages, send your signature to added to petitions that are miles long, send your mug-shot to be added to a wall of human faces... the possibilities are endless. If you feel strongly enough about it, you CAN do something about it. Right from where you're sitting.

The social media have made this even easier. Okay I'm talking only Facebook here, because I don't use twitter or Google+, but still. There are organizations like Avaaz.org, Greenpeace, PETA, One, 350.org, Petition Site... among many, many others, that tackle everything from human rights abuse in China to the famine in Somalia and dog pound atrocities in India to abuse of circus elephants in the USA, to whale and dolphin slaughter in Japan, to child abuse and human trafficking globally. The sort of depressing, ugly stuff people don't want to have to deal with. But somebody has to, so they're doing it. Unsung heroes. They get my vote every time.

Activism has changed a lot since my day; I remember going on peace marches and protest rallies through University days, but I have no recollection now what they were about. Just that they were nothing like the student demos that have toppled heads of state, disrupted international WTO conferences and brought on the teargas and pressure hoses one sees these days.

Well the good news is, as an 'armchair activist' you won't actually be out there courting arrest, with the possibility of being teargassed, bludgeoned and being stuck without toilet facilities for who knows how long. You'll be in your comfort zone sipping your coffee/tea, signing online petitions and making a difference to whatever you feel strongly about, from wherever you are.

Some call this 'slactivism', because to hardcore activists, armchair activism involves no hardship or danger to life and limb. To which I say, I get my adrenaline rush in other ways, none of which I could possibly mention here. So I'm happy to be labeled a slactivist, no problem.

Do these online petitions really work? Yes, I believe they do, in two ways. One: they create exponential awareness for the cause; if people don't know about something, they're hardly going to want to do anything about it. And two: they deliver bunches of signatures, which add up and count when they are presented by on-ground activists as support. I sign loads of petitions, because I believe they do make a difference. Nobody can afford to ignore the signatures and the numbers any more, not even corporates or governments. Online activism may not quite be mainstream in many countries yet, but it is gathering strength. And getting bigger, better and easier to do.

So go on, throw off the inertia. If you care about something, do something about it. Sign an online petition. The worst thing to do is to say "I've been signing for years but nothing happens." Well, how much longer than that has the child trafficking/seal cull/flesh trading been going on? Decades? Double-decades? Of course it won't stop overnight because you signed a petition for 3 years straight! But if we stop trying, it will NEVER change! Be sure you add your voice because if you don't, that's one signature less on the petition. And guess what, if we all felt "What's the point?"... well, there would be no signatures at all. And then, really, nothing would change. Not even things you feel strongly about. And what's the point of that?

This IS our world. We're all here right now. And it doesn't matter where in the world change is needed, we can help make it happen. You are a citizen of your country, but also of the world. Petitions can be local, or global. You have the option to make a difference... or not. To be a slactivist... or a lump of amorphous glop. SO, which is it going to be for you?

You could check out these sites for a start:
http://www.avaaz.org
http://www.greenpeace.org
http://www.thepetitionsite.com
http://www.one.org
http://www.peta.org
http://www.350.org/

Or you could start your own petition, if there's something you feel strongly about and think is really worthy of change. Here's where you can do that: http://www.thepetitionsite.com

aaaaaargh!

Posted on August 15, 2011 by Priya Tuli

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I HATE when WISYWIG blog editors mess with the line breaks in a post!!! Somebody tell me how to fix this please, because I am NOT going to make like a loser and manually fix it!*&^%$#@#$%^&*

Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle?

Posted on August 15, 2011 by Priya Tuli

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Quantum
mechanics has always fascinated me; I don’t
understand it at all. I love reading the stuff because it makes me
laugh, it’s just so much gobbledygook. As long as I read it casually,
like a spy thriller, it’s fun. The moment I try to figure out what it’s
saying, it causes my eyes to glaze over and gives me ‘Hammer of
Thor’-type headaches that won’t go away for weeks. Physics was not one
of my preferred subjects at school, as you may have surmised by now.


Why
I like something I don’t understand is simple: something
in there triggers off something else in my headspace, and I get my
jollies messing around with it. Not in a bad way, you understand. Here’s
an example.


Very simply stated, the Heisenberg principle posits that both position and momentum
(of a particle, electron, wave etc.) cannot be accurately determined.
In other words, you can accurately determine one, or the other, but not
both.


Why anyone would even want to spend that much time on the
movements (or not) of an electron, I have no idea. But somebody had to do it, I guess. A
nd I’m quoting directly from a scientific website, so you know this is accurate:

“The more precisely the position is determined, the less precisely the momentum is known in this instant, and vice versa." ~ Heisenberg, Uncertainty Paper, 1927

Okay, now my premise.

I
think Heisenberg was actually talking about politicians,
government leaders and corporate heads. Because that’s exactly how it
works out there. As long as they’re GETTING there, they have the
momentum. Once they’ve achieved the position they’re after, the momentum
tails off and the inertia sets in. So maybe
Heisenberg was on to something, after all. What he may have overlooked
is the WHY. You can only accurately determine either position or
momentum, because they’re mutually exclusive. It’s like flipping a coin;
you can get either heads, or tails. Not both. And so it is with
position and momentum. Once you’re in position, you lose momentum, and
become a ‘body at rest’. You have achieved the position you were after;
the need for momentum is now over. QED.


Of the 39,598 websites I checked for background information,
this one was actually a great browse: http://www.aip.org/history/heisenberg/p08.htm


I
was particularly tickled at the bit about electrons jumping at random
from one energy state to another, much like some people I know. These
jumpy electrons are actually used to safely scan the brain. So now you
know, make sure you say hello to the friendly little electrons in the
CAT scan machine.


Special
thanks to Mario Boccucci, currently out in the wilds of Africa, with
whom I had many random and jumpy conversations on Heisenberg and other
such esoterica; I miss you. And Akul
Chopra, who unwittingly kicked off this train of thought tonight by
spelling it 'Hisenberg’, which my beady editorial eye instantly fixed
upon. I love when that happens!

Here comes the sun!

Posted on August 11, 2011 by Priya Tuli

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Are we on a new turn of the upward spiral? Is the earth round? Will the sun rise tomorrow?

Yes. And yes, and yes.
Here's why. Apple, the sleekest, sexiest and most progressive tech company with the most loyal following globally, has overtaken fossil fuels (Exxon) as the most valuable company in the USA. Why should anyone care? Here's why. Crude could finally be on the way to obsolete, as more of us turn our faces towards the sun, that freely available source of clean, sustainable power.

Why has political will, the corporate sector and big investment money shunned heavy investment in this viable and infinite power source? Because the sun shines down on all the world, and it would upset the existing balance too much, equalizing things between those that have the power, and those that don't. Literally, metaphorically and financially.

All it needs is for the world's top 10 billionaires to put some money into the pot, and throw open a global challenge to the world's best Tech students, and award a big, fat prize to the ones who come up with a way to harness solar energy, then store it and distribute it via grids in a way that can be mainstreamed globally within 24 months. The technology exists; in every area of our lives, from IT and space tech to the Genome study. If they could reduce computing from a mainframe computer the size of a city block to something you can slip into your pocket, that technology ought to be adaptable to reducing solar panels to the size of a wristwatch, and capable of providing the power requirements of a city block.

Impossible? Well, I can dream. And if enough of us do that, we would have seeded the idea and it will be out there. And if it's out there, pretty soon somebody will come up with a breakthrough that will be exactly what that previous paragraph talked about. That's the nature of thoughts, you see. They do, like you and me, have a life. They're made of the same stuff... energy. And solar energy is so much an idea whose time has come.

So move over, fossil fuels. Here comes the sun. If it happens in the next two years, remember you read it here first. If not, well, I'll just have to recalibrate my space-time continuum scale. Damn thing always gives me trouble.

Enough is enough!!!

Posted on June 03, 2011 by Priya Tuli

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I’m convinced this is going to be the battle cry of the next couple of years.

How do I know this? I know it like I know the sun will rise tomorrow. I know it like I know the stars will shine, even if obscured by city smog and cloud cover. I know it like I know my right ankle still pisses me off 3 years after I tore a ligament. How long does it take to heal a ligament, fer Chrissakes?

I remember a song from way back when you probably weren’t even born. I forget the singer (Donna Summer, maybe? Go google it, I’m feeling lazy.) But I still remember some of the lyrics:

It's raining, it's pouring
my love life is boring me to tears,
after all these yearrrrrrrrrrrrs

No sunshine, no moonlight,
no stardust, no sign of romance
we don't stand a channnnnnnnce

I've always dreamed I'd find the perfect lover
but he turned out to be like every other man

Enough is enough is enough
I can't go on, I can't go on, no more no
enough is enough is enough
I want him out, I want him out that door now

Sure, that was a ‘woman’-type song. But remember, those were the days of a nascent Women’s Lib movement. We all wanted to burn our bras, and some of us did. I miss those times, because back then we didn’t even technically need bras. Sigh.

Anyway, back to the battle cry. In the last few years, it has been used by the lesbian and gay movement; the campaign to stem societal violence; anti-consumerism movements… and now by pretty much every 3rd person I know. Maybe I know a bunch of weird people, but I swear I saw it on 3 different websites this week. And when something knocks on my head 3 times within a compressed timeframe, I sit up and take notice. That is definitely a message coming through from my Higher Power. I HEAR YOU!!!

So of course, I’ve been riffling through my days, looking to see where I can apply this powerful ‘now’ battle cry. Well you guessed right, my entire life is due for a major overhaul. Everything from the toothbrush to my raw food lunch to the computer to Facebook, are under fire. I’m going out tomorrow to get a bunch of customized post-its printed. I suggest you do the same. The line is ‘enough is enough’, in case you forgot. We’ll exchange notes (post-its?) next week, same time, same place. To see who had more ‘enough’ than anybody else. Bet I’ll have more neon-green post-its than you will. :-P

Seriously though, what in your life are you not going to put up with any more? What are you going to do to change it? Are you going to talk about it, or just go and make the changes you need to? (Thanks Sherrie, for your Reflection Question format; I like it so much I ‘borrowed’ it!)

Jug Ears?

Posted on May 09, 2011 by Priya Tuli

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Ever struck you what a strange part of the anatomy the ears are? I find them endlessly fascinating, particularly the terminology. External auditory meatus. Ossicle. Cochlea. Fossa. Tragus. Ear wax. Seriously alien stuff.

And then the way they look. Of all our various bodyparts, the ears seem like an afterthought. Somehow, they just don’t seem to fit the rest of the anatomy. All the whorls and ridges and bumps and lumps and lobes look more gremlin or troll.

Believe me, there’s nothing that exposes the ears like a nekkid head does. I was in a queue behind a skinhead the other day. His ears looked like they’d been stuck on in a hurry, at the last minute, and someone had given them a quick tweak just to check if they were glued on firmly. They were probably not quite done yet, so they remained sharply angled away from his head, at 90 degrees, sticking out like two windflaps. The image was surreal, with the overhead lighting filtering through his pinnae, rendering them translucent and very Shrek.

I have this theory. Maybe they actually belong to some other species on some other planet, and we’ve been selected to beta-test them? Maybe they’ll revoke this accessory one of these days, after the final trials are over? And then maybe we’ll need to start listening through our bellybuttons, or toenails, because earsRnotUs?

Hair on my chest

Posted on January 10, 2011 by Priya Tuli

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I had the most surreal Sunday morning today. I resurrected my beloved Bialetti Moka Express, which had been lying neglected in some forgotten corner of the kitchen cabinet for months, maybe years.

Being prone to taking the path of least resistance, I gave up the elaborate ritual of preparing my own Moka Express brew every morning in favour of the Indonesian way of doing coffee...boil the water, dump the coffee (fine-ground) in a mug, pour in water, drink. I add: sugar and creamer, inhaaaale, light cigarette, sigh, grab newspaper. That's only on Sundays, mind you. Maid's day off.

So today I thought I'd give myself a treat. Dug out the Bialetti. Got really upset at the grungy state of it. Why do they look so leprous after they've been used? The only sexy Bialetti is a brand new one. You use them, they go to hell. The aluminium loses its shine, the insides look like something that will surely give you at least three types of poisoning, and my Italian friend made me swear never to use detergent to wash it. It ruins the build-up, she said (of what? 50,000 cups of coffee and water scale and millions of colonies of caffeine-starved micro-organisms?!?), and then your coffee will forever taste of soap. So I have never washed my Bialetti with washing-up liquid, but I have tried to shine the outside with a scouring pad...to no avail. Still leprous; enough to make me weep.

But ahhhhhh, the coffee it makes! So today I rinsed it out, tested the rubber washer for signs of life (rigid; could crack if I screwed on the top too tight). Filled the bottom to the valve mark. Put in my freshly ground coffee. Screwed on the top loosely (big mistake; NEVER be kind to the washer). Plunked it on the stovetop and waited.

The water first started to trickle out as it heated, from where I should have screwed on the top much tighter. Not much was getting to the top. I waited, as half the water spitted and hissed its way onto the stovetop, dousing the flame several times. I finally figured half a mug was all I'd be getting, the rest had escaped in the process. Damned rubber washer. Poured it out, added sugar and creamer, inhaaaled, lit a cigarette and grabbed the newspaper. The first unsuspecting sip of my devil's brew jerked me straight up in my chair. My heart stopped for a few beats. About 2000 volts of double-espresso -x-500-strength coffee raced through my barely-awake system, which began ringing loud alarm bells in my ear...the good one. Talk about a power-chug; this was one-mug worth of coffee in half the water it needed. And then I felt hair growing on my chest, just like that.

The good thing is I've never been this wide awake in decades. What's not so great is I'm too wired to attack the mountain of work staring me in the chest. Concentration is down to 0.3 seconds. Ah well, it is Sunday. Work can wait until manyana. But oh dear, I'll need to get a chest wax first...