Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Ditching a Beloved Symbol (Rule #1 of Activism: Get With the Times)

The "Doomsday Clock" - a trademark of
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
We need some new memes.

In particular, I'm thinking today about the "Doomsday Clock" meme -- the one that suggests we're just minutes from disaster -- created by and updated yearly by The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

Now don't get me wrong: I've always loved the "Doomsday Clock" symbol, ever since I was a teenager spending hours and hours at the Chatham Public Library in New Jersey, where The Bulletin was prominently displayed in the periodical room. I have a lot of nostalgia for the "Doomsday Clock."  The "Doomsday Clock" penetrated my consciousness and probably played a role in inspiring me to study nuclear physics in high school.

And so, on a day like today when The Bulletin is holding a press conference to update "Doomsday Clock," I want the whole world to sit up and take notice.

My fear, however, is that the world is not sitting up and taking notice. Sure, as I write this "Doomsday Clock" is trending on Twitter . . . but it has to share space with #RealFansGetIt, #WordsThatDontDescribeHillary, Detective Pikachu, Senior Bowl and other examples of our society's preoccupations. An hour from now, the lineup will be new again, and "Doomsday Clock" will have fallen off the radar screen -- even though the threat it signifies will not have been one iota reduced.

Is it time for us to admit that the very fact that the "Doomsday Clock" has been around so long proves that the "Doomsday Clock" isn't getting the job done?

Watch Peace and Planet video by Alexandra Minos
Alexandra Minos, a student at Falmouth High School, won
 first prize in Mass Peace Action's student video contest for
a short video explaining the Peace and Planet mobilization
 to abolish nuclear weapons, April 26, 2015.
This is painful for me, because saying this forces me to confront the fact that much of my accumulated experience is rapidly becoming passé. The symbols that spoke to me and my generation may not speak to the young people we are counting on to carry the struggle forward.

Why not ask them? Why not use the social media tools at our disposal to crowd source the next generation of meme(s) to inspire the effort to bring us back from the brink?

I have no idea what millions of young people could come up with, if given the chance. But I'd sure like to see . . . .

Postscript 1/28/2016

A glimmer of what might be obtained by crowdsourcing came yesterday as a meme -- #MyLast4Words -- started to trend on Twitter. Thousands of people weighed in. The contributions ranged from religious to snarky to whimsical to X-rated. It was an explosion of creativity. Here's one that caught my attention:

#MyLast4Words: It might never happen

Naturally, I made a contribution of my own.

Related posts

What I'm feeling particularly energized about is the potential for the thousands of people who have already signed on as supporters of World Beyond War -- as well as millions more who are expected to do so soon -- to become active participants in spreading this good news.

(See News Worth Spreading: "There IS An Alternative to War!" )

This exchange has always stuck with me, because once you peel away the hopeless competitiveness and lack of compassion of these two characters, you are left with a grain of truth: if you want to succeed, you need to go where the conversation is taking place. The question for us: are we willing to check our egos at the door and get busy talking to people?

(See Antiwar Agitation in 2014: Less Mercutio, More Larry Levy )

I've discovered that there is a whole group of people who are actively passing along the latest news about Guantanamo (and a whole range of other civic affairs), and they can be found by searching on Twitter. That in turn leads you to certain "hubs" who distribute and redistribute ("retweet") the news on a particular topic. The interaction between the hubs and the "spokes" allows for incredibly rapid dissemination (and *digestion*) of the right information by the right people at the right speed.

(See The World Turned Upside Down - Huff Post, Wash Post, and Twitter )