Sunday, 22 January 2012

I Can Has Democracy?

Power is a really interesting phenomenon to learn about.  They say that excessive power tends to breed corruption.  One of the most interesting studies on power relations was done in the 1960's by Stanley Milgram, a Yale psychologist.  You can watch a short documentary about the famous Milgram experiments on youtube, below.  Stanley Milgram discovered that people will perform violent acts in obedience to a believable authority figure.  The results are stunning and worrying. 

Also fascinating is the famous Stanford Prison experiment.   The experiment was done by psychologist Philip Zimbardo in 1971.  It was meant to explore power relations between pretend prison guards and their prisoners.  Unexpectedly, the prisoners and guards adopted their roles to such an extent that the experiment had to be stopped after six days.  This experiment has some very interesting and revealing implications regarding power and influence.  Youtube also has a good documentary on the Stanford Prison experiments with some original footage, below.

What about when people use their authority to abuse power and influence?  Do you think that your government, or some governments around the world or throughout history have done this?  I was merrily going about my business this weekend, when I bumped into a friend at the Espresso Junction, at the Forks.  We began chatting and she alerted me of a new piece of legislation that is currently being processed within the Canadian government as well as within various governments worldwide.  She heard about it on the news and it is called ACTA (the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.)  Apparently it’s been in the works for some time.  I’m a critically thinking kind of gal, so did a little research of my own, and discovered that ACTA appears to be a piece of legislation designed to control the flow of information, particularly on the Internet.  Sound familiar?  It’s pretty easy to feel helpless when your own government seems to want to limit your personal freedoms. 

If you disagree with something your government is doing, whether it is ACTA, or something else, please let them know, and let those around you know as well.   I didn't know how to go about this either, so I looked it up.  I learnt that you should write a handwritten letter to your Member of Parliament, and ask them what their stance on the issue that you are concerned about. Alternatively, you can start an official petition or participate in a peaceful protest.  The following link is a list of the current members of parlament.  You should write to the one who represents your riding.

According to my research, the most effective way to have an effect on a member of parlament, is to make sure your letter is brief and to the point.  Also, you will stand out by handwriting the letter instead of typing it.  If you are really passionate about the issue you are writing about, you should make a follow up phone call to the person you wrote to. 

For extra reading regarding the dynamics of power, I recommend the works of Michel Focault.

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