Sunday, January 10, 2010

Activism in Portland

We caught up with the protest march having swung by Muddy's just to check on the haps, and finding the pancake breakfast chugging along. Lots of great business opportunities materialized this weekend, with Flipside chief among them.

Running late, we strode onward towards downtown, over the Morrison Bridge.

I recommended to Lindsey she might want to contact the Legion of Tech, as Ignite-like events (with longer musical numbers interspersed) could be an ongoing worth-something-to-be-there Flipside experience. Minimum $5 maybe?

The idea would be to keep funneling events into that queue (by whatever "air traffic control" process), to keep the wheels turning, the revenue streaming. Muddy's is likely having this same idea. The puzzle is not unlike the one faced by Multnomah Community Access, the cable TV station. One hopes to keep filling the pipeline with fresh programming.

Riot Cop just phoned about tomorrow... (now later today...).

Sometimes an event might need to be antiseptic, cordoned off, like when museum quality art makes its debut. We've got advertising dollars in this picture, sponsors for said events, if and when the time seems appropriate.

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The protest march was tightly organized, staging around Pioneer Place and then stopping in front of cell phone company store fronts, starting with Verizon, then T-Mobile, then Sprint, then Cricket. The message at each was the same: divest of your Motorola brand cell phones -- also a message to consumers who happened to be watching.

I remarked to fellow marchers on the rarefied, somewhat esoteric nature of this message, "almost Kabbalistic" I said. "Now that's maybe going too far" tsk-tsked one of our clique.

The sidewalk protestors then promptly converged to a PSU lecture hall for some lightning talks, other conferencing. I'd hung back at the Heathman awaiting my Jordanian friend. We decided to move her car to the faculty garage, get a day pass.

Then our little party had to eject early owing to time constraints: Lindsey had a meeting with Multnomah Friend Elizabeth Fischer at Laughing Horse while I needed to catch up with Ambassadora Tag re matters Pythonic (yes, I need a haircut, am too much the long hair these days, some weird professor).

Although I took part in the procession, I was not shy about whipping out my cell phone and pointing out the Verizon logo. Does its being a Samsung get me off the hook? Lindsey mentioned a website called Credo that advises on cell brands based on various ethical criteria.

The protest march, ostensibly having something to do with nation states and the deathly serious plight we're in, reminded me of like actions at Princeton back in the 1970s, wherein shareholders got scrutiny for having invested in inequity.

The message was one of more socially responsible investors, looking after the Princeton brand, wanting to keep it untarnished and divested of dead albatross companies. We call that school spirit. Students planning to wear the Princeton name on their sleeves, or otherwise identify with their alma mater, wanted to be on the right side of history in the eyes of posterity. Who could blame them? This was in relation to South Africa's impending transformation.

At our 25th reunion, our class gave itself some pats on the back for Princeton's historic performance. Student pressure to divest had made a difference. Sally Frank also got special mention during the ceremonies, for her diversity work: just because Princeton had started admitting women, doesn't mean there wasn't still work to be done, and Sally had taken it on.

These were my "2D friends" I might as well brag about it.

My own deeper ties to South Africa would develop later, with my family's move to that area.

On a related front, the imprisonment of a hip hop artist Marc Hall for singing out against stop loss has hit a nerve with some musicians. Speaking out against slavery is what a lot of music has been about and that's not likely to change all of a sudden. Hip hop and folk music have a lot of historical continuity.

Commercialized music may not have a message (other than "numb me out"), but artists have been known to sing for free in favor of a cause. That's how it worked at Liberty Hall. At those kinds of occasions, you'll get more substantive content. Like at those fundraisers at the Laughing Horse venue: musicians spoke their minds, both in lyrics and between songs. All the funds went to buy sleeping bags for the homeless.

Tag and I had some Roots Red and split a slice at American Dream Pizza, then she had to flit back downtown. She keeps track of who practices what religion, noting when a student is Jewish, a cousin is Christian, another is Muslim and so on. She's respectful of world religions, reserving her sharpest criticism for her own orthodoxy (the mark of a true scholar: be most critical of what you know the most about).

I'm not so good at keeping track of what religion everyone claims to profess, get their signs mixed up too. I like to get into dialog with someone and make my own determinations. Maybe she claims to be this or that but I'm seeing something else? I discover some new Quakers in this way. Plus I like psychological and philosophical taxonomies, with their more secular (religion-neutral) flavor.

Portlanders push themselves to be socially conscious, even though that's not always easy. We have a lot of good book stores and Internet cafes. Case in point: this Goldstone Report I'd not heard about, though condemned by a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives (HR 867), was defended by both Kucinich and Blumenauer, with Wu and DeFazio voting present. That's what a lot of our zip codes are like around here: at least two standard deviations from the center of the bell curve.

When it comes to orthodoxies, I think it's pretty obvious the entire planet Earth may be viewed as our promised land, in the sense that here is what God has provided to humanity for a home. There's this sense of a sacred covenant and a need to protect her and save her, to pass her on to coming generations. Or is this a heresy instead of an orthodoxy? Either way, I think we're existentially called to greater global awareness, and both religion and science have a role to play in answering this call.

Asian Heritage