A few years ago I became so wearied of the avalanche of sites that land on my email every day urging support for their causes, and asking for money, that I decided to declare a pox on all their houses except for one--- Doctors Without Borders, to which I decided to make a monthly contribution, which I have done ever since.
It is not that I don’t agree with the casuses these people support, it is just that one cannot but begin to question the motives of people who address me in the most offensively intimate way, as if they have grown up next door to me, yet not even taking the care to conceal that they know next to nothing about me, for example, that I am a resident and citizen of Canada, not of the United States, and that therefore I cannot be expected to support an organization whose purpose is to clear out the corruption that has crept into the American electoral system. Probably such outfits could save themselves a bit of money by not bothering to send me letters urging me to contact my Congressman with such and such a message.
Yesterday I decided to make a list of these outfits, taken from the first page of my inbox. There are more than twenty of them, just at this first scanning, and they have in common, most of them, that although they are no doubt performing work of national and even international importance, they do not receive any money from governments, refuse donations from corporations, and depend on funding from people like me who haven’t really got enough to contribute much to keeping them going.
There has been a recent expression here and there against the rise of what people have dubbed “clicktivism”, to distinguish it from real activism. Here, here, just sign my petition, and we will get it to the right legislator before the big vote on Tuesday, sort of thing. And then, a week of two later, after I have signed their damned petition, they come back addressing me with the usual sickening familiarity: “Boyce, You have moved mountains, thanks for your support. But there is one thing we still need you for. Can you, in addition to signing our petition, chip in to ensure that we can take a full-page ad in the New York Times….” You must know the sort of thing.
I have, in fact, given small sums of money from time to time to various outfits, for example to the admirable journalistic endeavour truthout.org, although I did take the trouble on another occasion on which their appeal sounded as if they were approaching their last hurrah --- that is a regular occurrence with them, incidentally, and it is something I have had to harden my heart against --- warning them that I feel obliged to support similar enterprises in Canada, leaving the United States with its vast agglomerations of wealth, to scratch up enough to keep truthout.org in business for a few months more, at least without depending on my help.
The Canadian version to which I also send a monthly donation is rabble.com although I have to confess I am not an unalloyed admirer. They do from time to time have decent articles that would not have ever been printed in the mainstream media --- and they are almost alone in Canada in supporting labour in he great labour and capitalist confrontation --- but they are extremely coy about giving an address through which their contributors may be addressed directly, something I think every journal should do as a matter of course. There's something about rabble.com that I find it hard to warm to.
Another outfit I support regularly is one the excellence of whose work, against the grain of mainstream acceptance, is Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East. Although I have never been closer to the Middle East than having once passed through the Suez Canal, nevertheless it seems to me the plight of the Palestinian people merits as much support and publicity as possible. This organization has developed from its original intention to provide neutral information on all aspects of the region and its politics to one that is now frankly behind the Palestinians who have been so unjustly robbed of their homeland by the British-inspired imposition of a Jewish state on top of them, the newcomers taking over by main force not only the governance of the country, but also the very homes of Arabs who have been forcibly driven out by the hundreds of thousands. The real owners have been replaced by New Yorkers, Russians, East Europeans and others who ludicrously claim to have a right to ownership of the land they are moving into. This is a people who are capable of backing the settlers with huge publicity campaigns, immense monetary backing, and (with the unquestionable and unquestioning support of the United States at all times, and under no matter what leadership) a military might so out of kilter with the state’s small size that it has become one of the four or five strongest armed forces in existence today. This status quo, as I heard the Secretary-General of the United Nations say on TV only this morning, is unsustainable, and (this is my opinion) it holds within it the seeds for a monstrous conflagration unless the international community can finally get its act together to pull up the Israeli government before it formally introduces another apartheid state in which one race rules unashamedly, and by the use of force, over another. As Gideon Levy (see my Link of the Day immediately preceding his item) has warned, the state of Israel is already far along the path to creating exactly such a racist monstrosity.
But back to my inbox. “Boyce,” asks the team at Change.org, “will we be the generation that lets elephants become extinct?....Change.org is proudly funded by people like you.” (Not to the best of my knowledge: I may have signed the odd petition, but I have never given them money.)
“It is an incredible honour that so many people believe in our work enough to fund it. Thank you,” writes Logan and Lindsay for the entire Leadnow team. Don’t thank me, kids, I am innocent.
“We can’t do any of this work without generous members like you donating to power campaigns that put people over profit,” writes Hannah and the team at Sum of Us. Once again, don’t thank me, I have done nothing. Literally.
“Sea Otters of the resistance,” proclaims Oil change International, “will you chip in today to support our cutting edge, critically important team?” Sorry fellas.
“Together Amnesty supporters like you have said No at every turn to bans, walls and bigotry.” It may be true that I have supported Amnesty International off and on since 1961 when I remember Peter Benenson, a London lawyer, founding this agency designed to support political prisoners around the world. But I am pretty sure I have never supported them in Canada. More wasted effort.
“With only 24 hours of the year left, we ask you to consider making a tax deductible donation….” writes the Freedom of the Press Foundation. Sorry, fellas, one genre of outfit that doesn't appeal to me is composed of journalists and their proprietors on their high horses, protesting their importance, and their unrelenting honesty. Not for me this one.
I find that Doctors Without Borders (more commonly known as Medécins Sans Frontieres) has an excellent information service with which they keep their subscribers aware of exactly what they are doing, where, and why. …They seldom ask for money, and when they do it is usually to cover some emergency, such as one of their hospitals being bombed to smithereens by American or Israeli bombs in Syria or Gaza.
But there are other outfits that really deserve anyone’s support: for example, I am very high on Medea Benjamin and her Codepink. This woman is an indefatigable activist who is not content to sit in her New York or Washington office, but is always going off to trouble spots to see for herself what she might best lend her efforts to. She usually returns with excellent and little-known information. No money given to her would be wasted, I feel sure.
The Big Daddy of protest activism is Avaaz, a United States-founded outfit that claims to have 30 million members working in 30 countries. Their petitions delivered to the site of international meetings surely must have some effect on participants, since they are usually signed by millions of people. Avaaz seems to have eased up on its messages to me: maybe they are one of the few sites that actually check whether the people they have on their lists are actually contributing to their actions. Maybe they have cut me off, something I wish a few other of the American organizations (People’s Action, .Stand.Earth, Leadnow, and Campaign America’s Future spring to mind) would also do.
I know our side of the argument never has enough money. But it is really going too far when a news organization like rabble.com appears to have monetary appeals as a regular part of almost every article. Are they really such desperate money-grubbers? I thought the money-grubbers were the guys we were trying to beat.