With Great Power

With great power
comes great responsibility.
Spiderman’s Uncle Ben

I’ve written about Seth Godin before in these pages, and Saturday’s post — The Spiderman Paradox — was vintage Philosopher Seth (as opposed to Marketer Seth or Management Guru Seth). He riffs on our great power to effect change, and laments that so many walk away from that power and the accompanying great responsibility . . .

  • We have the power to vote, but decide to stay home and whine.
  • The power to publish, but click instead.
  • The power to lead, but follow meekly.
  • The power to innovate, but ask for rules of thumb instead.
  • The power to lend a hand, but walk away.

It’s a rant, not an argument — he offers no facts or data to support his contentions — but it’s memorable. John Robson, another thoughtful commentator, also had a memorable rant this week, slamming what he saw as a blather-filled year-end press release from the Prime Minister’s Office . . .

The “concludes successful” press release also spoon-fed we hapless journalists a pre-chewed Prime Ministerial “quote,” less to save us the tiresome effort of phoning Trudeau than for fear of what, unscripted, he might babble. But could he spontaneously do worse than “From ridding our oceans of plastic, to giving vulnerable women and girls the education they need, G7 leaders and partners have shown once again what happens when we work together, and take ambitious action for people and our planet”?

Words, words everywhere and not a brain cell in sight. Does anyone, including Trudeau, think we rid our oceans of plastic last year or gave vulnerable women and girls the education they need in 12 short months, because he chaired the G7 or for any other reason? Then why allow him to claim we did, except because we no longer expect political verbiage to be plausible let alone true? (Ed’s note – emphasis added)

Robson went on to slam Andrew Scheer (Leader of the Official Opposition) for a similarly silly press release.

Here’s Seth again . . .

In a democracy, we each have more power to speak up and to connect than we imagine.
But most people don’t publish their best work or seek to organize people who care.
Most of the time, it’s far easier to avert our eyes or blame the system or the tech or the dominant power structure.

And John . . .

So here’s the deal.
Canada’s G7 presidency wasn’t successful or important,
the carbon tax is too small to matter
and both of them are lying without shame or reflection.
If we stand for such guff, 2019 will be the year of mendacious blather “¦ again.

And Seth . . .

Most people watch videos, they don’t make them.
Most people read tweets, they don’t write them.
Most people walk away from the chance to lead online and off,
in our virtual communities and with the people down the street.

It doesn’t take a great leap of intuition to connect these dots.

I don’t often write about politics because disagreement about serious matters distresses me, but then there’s that “great responsibility” thing to consider. Having a blog and a Twitter account hardly amounts to “great power,” does it? Well, the inter-connectedness of all things suggests that it does. Who knows what widespread and long-term effects will arise from each ripple?

So here’s my New Year’s resolution, courtesy of Seth and John:

I will not tolerate blather from Canadian politicians.

What will that look like? It will mean using my Twitter account more deliberately to call out blather when I think I smell it. It will mean sending emails to my Member of Parliament to complain when the Liberals do it, and to the other leaders when their Members of Parliament or party organizations do it.

And here’s John again, from another piece . . .

Why not vote for people who admit you can’t balance the budget without cutting popular programs?
Or say my opponent seems confused but thoroughly decent and I don’t have all the answers either.
Or discard the slick 20-something-authored focus-grouped speech they don’t believe or understand
and instead say life is hard?

I invite you to join me. Because although we may not have an actual right to true political verbiage, together we do have the power to get it.


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15 Responses to With Great Power

  1. George Fleming says:

    An excellent call to action!
    Thank you.

  2. John Whitman says:

    Isabel – If it weren’t for blather, most politicians wouldn’t have much to say at all —- and wouldn’t that be great.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      John – Less is more? We could try it for a while, at any rate, and see how we like it.

      • John Whitman says:

        Isabel – Maybe it is just a case of blather and talking-points being one and the same thing.

        • Isabel Gibson says:

          John – Yes, that’s likely so. And time for it to stop, dagnab it. Who pays whose salary, after all? 🙂

  3. Wade says:

    Thank you Isabel, I’ve had a Post-it note here since before the New Year. It is a reminder to write to my MP regarding the failures in the assisted death legislation and on the way that the present government has butchered the pipeline business. I will now commit to pen both.

  4. Tom Watson says:

    I’m wondering whether or not using Twitter to call out blather is effective. Given the proliferation of meaningless tweets, will a serious one get any attention?

    Personally, I don’t use either Facebook of Twitter, so have to resort to an oldfashioned letter.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Tom – Well, there is that. Flagging blather in a medium prone to it might not be the most effective way. On the other hand, a letter doesn’t even have a chance at a broader audience. What to do? Something, I guess. 🙂

  5. Jim Taylor says:

    There’s a quote from Mahatma Gandhi running through my mind. Something like, “What you can do is insignificant. But it is still important to do it.”
    Jim T

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim – Ah. Great minds think alike, at least sometimes. Mom was fond of the Talmud bit: “You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it (Mishna, Ethics, 2:21).

  6. Eric Hrycyk says:

    Simply spectacular piece….thank you

  7. Pingback: Blather — Cabinet Shuffle – Traditional Iconoclast

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