I finally got the chance to watch Sundance award winning film The Internet's Own Boy last night. It was perhaps fitting that I got to see it as part of my Fulbright fellowship based at the Citizen Engagement Lab (CEL) in Berkeley.
The film screening and post show discussion was hosted by the Brower Center, where CEL is based, and there was a real community feeling among those in attendance for what was sure to be an emotional roller coaster.
Watch the movie on YouTube now or download via TakePart
For those of you that don't know, Aaron Swartz was an entrepreneur, a humanitarian, an internet wizard, a hacker, and a serious political activist. He could probably have become dot com billionaire but instead chose to dedicate his great mind to making the world a better place. Internet founder Sir Tim Berners-Lee called him 'an elder'. He was a genius beyond his years who, at the age of 26, died by suicide last year. At the time of his death he was under severe pressure due to a possible prison sentence hanging over him. I met Aaron four years ago at Harvard and did a short video interview with him about his life and motivations. The interview is on YouTube and features in parts throughout the film.
This is one of the most important films of recent years. It captures the zeitgeist of the internet, of the information age, and the battle for control for the future. To this end, it is compulsive viewing, as well as being an incredibly well made and moving film.
The film reminded me of a few important things in life.
These are that:
(1) Vision matters. That we need to keep imagining a better world. We can't just tolerate and accept things the way they are. We need to keep pushing on. This is how all great change happens.
(2) This takes courage. You need to step up to the plate. Take risks. Be bold. Visions don't get realized by themselves. We need to be the hero in our own story.
(3) We need to look out for each other, and especially for those who put themselves out there against the odds. They are often not as strong as they appear. Sometimes it is the most sensitive of souls who appear bravest, but they remain sensitive nonetheless.
(4) The age old struggle between light and dark continues and always will. Aaron knew this. He knew that what side won, was up to him, was up to all of us. As Aaron said, "you literally ought to be asking yourself all the time what is the most important thing in the world I could be working on right now, and if you are not working on that why aren't you?"
Watch the movie on YouTube now or download via TakePart
I knew Ralph Nader was coming to town but I had no idea I'd bump into him on my lunch break. While walking round Berkeley I stumbled across a 'don't privatize our post offices' protest, attended by mostly older campaigners who looked like they'd earned their stripes over the years.
I got chatting to a man who told me that former U.S presidential candidate Ralph Nader was due to address the crowd within minutes. Nader, an 80 year old author, activist and attorney, is best known for his consumer safety campaigning, particularly for the introduction of the seat belt, which has saved the lives of millions. He has inspired countless young activists over the years, and helped found numerous civil society organizations including Public Citizen. Read more about him here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ralph_Nader and www.nader.org
Nader showed that age is no barrier when it comes to passion and campaigning. In a real rabble rousing speech, he reminded the crowd that the proposed sale of the U.S postal service is a further part of the dismantling of U.S public infrastructure, that it is about the transfer of public wealth to private ownership. He told the crowd that the post office is a solid income generator for the government but is being prevented from realizing its full potential due to the restrictions that often favors private companies like FedEx and UPS. He said the post office is a “fundamental institution that binds the country together”
Nader spoke passionately about people power and stated that while the Occupy movement talks about the wealthy 1%, we need to understand that it is the other 1%, the people who are active for justice, that have always transformed things. He said that change is 'easier than we think' and we shouldn't give too much credit to the bullies. Both the issues around the sale of public assets, and the need for people power, are so relevant to what's going on back home in Ireland right now.
Below is a video I took of his speech using my phone. Feel free to share.
- More info on Ralph Nader's post office campaign
- Save Our Post Office Campaign
- National Save The Post Office Campaign
- Berkeley - Save The Berkeley Post Office Campaign
- Berkeley - Berkeley Post Office Defenders
Some of the amazing organizations expertly using the web to mobilize millions of people. Mainly U.S based. List under construction. I welcome your suggestions for this list. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
· 18 Million Rising - Asian and Pacific Islander voice
· Presente (Latino voice)
· Color of Change (Black voice)
· Ultraviolet (Women’s rights)
· Faithful America (church goers for justice)
· Demand Progress (civil liberties)
· 350.org (climate action)
· Culture Strike (artists for change)
· Progressive Change Campaign Committee (progressive election candidates)
· United We Dream (immigration reform)
· Moms Rising
· CoWorker.org (improving workplaces)
· Sum of Us (action on corporate abuses)
· CREDO Action (various progressive campaigns)
· Avaaz (global campaign group)
· Forecast The Facts
· Care2 Petitions
· Control Shift Labs
· New Organizing Institute
· Greenpeace Moblisation Lab
· Progress Now
· Code Pink
· Organizing For Action
· All Out
· Get Equal
· Food Democracy Now
Other country specific action groups
These include members of OPEN (Online Progressive Engagement Network) such as;
· 38 Degrees (UK)
· MoveOn (USA)
· LeadNow (Canada)
· ActNow! (Papua New Guinea)
· GetUp! (Australia!)
· Campact (Germany)
· Jhatkaa! (India)
· Amandla! (South Africa)
· Action Station (New Zealand)
· Uplift (Ireland)
Various bits of news, photos and updates from Ruairí. More on Twitter and Facebook.