The following is a series of answers to questions put to CSAR by a journalist researching an article about the usefulness of the internet as a tool for empowerment of individuals and causes.
The final article can be found at http://www.youthactionnetwork.org/forum/Feb00/index.html
Due by Nov 10/99
Subject: Re: interview
Date: Thu, 28 Oct 1999 15:52:43 -0700 (PDT)
Hello, all at True Growth,
Thanks for your patience. Here are the questions I have prepared for
you. Thank you in advance for your thought and time. Please let me know
if there's anything else you have to say. If you agree, some of your answers
might inspire other questions.
2. Why did you do it? Motivation? table of contents <><> help the children
3. What made you choose the web as a forum? table of contents <><> help the children
Some of them do this kind of work as their full-time life work. One of the most active and visible networks is run by an exhomeless person. Many active in the arena are professionals based in Education/research and Charities. Others are part-timers and amateurs like us.
People in this arena don't seem to reference their own personal “stuff” unless there is some legitimate reason e.g.. “when this happened to me, I did this and it worked”
Curiously, CSAR volunteers seem to be mostly students.
The backgrounds of our contacts ranges from University Professors and other professionals, to the near homeless and ex-homeless. They provide invaluable perspective for defining issues and deciding strategy.
In the consulting environment, I went into corporations with the full backing of the highest ranking executives. People listened and implemented simply because we told them to (nicely of course) whether they understood the big picture or not. It was a very expensive service we provided and people tended to hang on our every word - treating us like demi-gods - with a mixture of enthusiasm, respect, hope, curiosity and fear.
In the web-based environment itself, the conventional aspects of power cited above are notably absent. The web seems to function on pure rationale, emotion, ease of involvement. You can't tell anyone to do anything through the web. People do things because they have a passion/frustration or because we can offer them a situation where they have nothing to lose. We expect that CSAR's success will grow as we sufficiently tap their sense of fairness for the children of the world and their children's children.
The curious thing about the web; however, is that, while in it's own realm, it effectively circumvents the conventional power structures; but, it can easily target those who can influence the conventional power structures. For example, two of the recipients of our letters are related to University education. As we send them more and more letters, we pray that they will experience the motivation and the justification to influence University attitudes/research/course content, to accommodate the needs of the people “as the people perceive them”- in a global context. CSAR believes that the world would be better off if everyone had at least a basic exposure to notions of Sustainable Development. Ultimately this should be very good/stabilizing/progressive for the Educational system and the world at large.
Another very curious thing about the web is that the net can make unparalleled use of a basic Human idiosyncrasy: people act differently when they know/think someone is watching. The web affords the opportunity for the people - jointly and severally - to turn the notion of “big brother watching” inside out. Reference: http://www3.sympatico.ca/truegrowth/genpro.htm We expect that this will mean that any organization which genuinely supports the best for society will most likely be supported while those who survive because they are good at keeping secrets from society will have a harder time and will either have to get better at keeping secrets (leading to corporate paranoia making them less profitable and easier to identify?) or change their corporate paradigm.
On the web the power balance is totally different. Participants/volunteers don't have to do anything they don't want to. Individuals tend to enjoy a cyber anonymity - except in cases of illegal behaviour.
Previous articles tended to focus on Richard Gurbin the creator/initiator of the site. We look forward to your emphasis on the power of the net to empower people and effect “organic” change.
At the time of this writing, more money, if attracted, would be used
to establish better technical resources and some strategic internet marketing.
Although the costs for these things are relatively small, they would necessarily
require an ongoing, annual commitment.
“I don't live in Toronto, why should I send the letters?”
It is what we do when we don't have to that determines what we will be when we can no longer help it.
At some level, we would like to convey the notion that we (all of us) are ALWAYS voting - for everything. We vote for problems or we vote for solutions - all the time. We vote with our thoughts, words, actions, feelings etc.. To do nothing is to vote for the problems. CSAR has made it easy to cast a vote in support of the homeless.
Free will to us means that, although we can not always control what is happening to us and around us, we can always choose how we react. We at CSAR choose, to the best of our abilities, for solutions instead of problems.
Even though you don't live in Toronto I hope you write the letters and support the homeless.
If you support the homeless in one place, you automatically support the homeless everywhere. When we can encourage our decision makers to do something at the "grass roots" level to assist with a comprehensive long term plan, the world benefits. Find a solution and the world can use it as a model. Put another way, for thousands of years, runners tried to break the 4 minute mile barrier. The year after the first runner did it, 17 other runners did it - once they were convinced it was possible. Now it is taken as normal.
It seems to us that Homelessness is everybody's responsibility and everybody's opportunity.
If you get to the Mission Statement section of the CSAR site we describe why we focused on Toronto first. Essentially CSAR wants to concentrate support for the homeless as much as possible to improve our chances of success. We have a better understanding of who some of the influential people are and how to contact (influence) them. And we have wonderful opportunity to gain world wide attention if we can get the decision makers and the media to connect the homeless issue with the Olympics issue.
Toronto is spending tens of millions of dollars to send an elite few of our smooth talking, politically oriented representatives, by private jet, around the world to spend more millions impressing members of the Olympic Selection Committee in the hope that Toronto will be chosen for the 2008 Olympics. It seems that this selection process is highly political. Politicians react to public pressure if they see that we are speaking with a widespread, common theme and when they realize that we aren't likely to go away. Please send the letters.
Hopefully you and I, through CSAR, can raise the awareness of both the Toronto players (ex Mayor Crombie, Mayor Lastman et al) and the Olympic selection committee (Juan Antonio Samaranch, President) to understand that people (voters) find it unacceptable that they are feasting and spending excessively while others are starving; then, there is a chance that the same decision makers will consider the plight of the homeless in a much different (more constructive?) light. Amnesty International has been using public awareness for many years to free unjustly imprisoned people - quite successfully!!
In general, it seems that the Olympics committee should recognize their profound obligation/opportunity to consider long term social issues when making their selection. The Olympic Committee has some very precise political and financial standards they apply to their selection. The more the Olympic committee redefines their standards in sincere support of proper (long term) treatment of the homeless, the more the bidding countries will attempt "genuinely" to comply. At this time, they may still be pretending that poverty and homelessness are not seriously threatening the global social fabric and/or are not their responsibility/opportunity. Our (many) letters can help them rethink this very public issue. Once the Olympic Committee starts giving the homeless sincere consideration then cities bidding as hosts will do what they have to do to comply - just as they have always done - but with a cleaner social conscience and in a way that benefits everyone - not just those interested in political and financial gain. CSAR believes that the result will be more in keeping with the essence, the spirit, of the Olympic games.
Please print and send the letters. Please encourage everyone you
know to do the same.
A compassionate member of CSAR:
Consolidation for Social Awareness and Responsibility
“We are aware. We do care.”
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