I’m writing this blog on Memorial Day – the day we celebrate the sacrifices made by those who fought for our ideals and the way of life we say we want and deserve. It’s kind of ironic, though, because as I look at our society and our country I see us giving our rights away and it seems kind of rude to celebrate those who fought for us on one hand and disrespect their work on the other.
At this point you might be thinking to yourself – “Self, what is she talking about? We’re at war for our freedom now and everyone on TV but Keith Olbermann is saying we’re winning, so seriously, WTF?”
It’s not the enemy without that’s devouring us, though, it’s the enemy within. I started noticing it when the Patriot Act was passed after 9/11.
This act was sold to us as the government’s way of going above and beyond in the fight against terrorism. In a culture that is always being sold something it’s important for us to learn to look beyond the advertising. They say the act protects us but it does so by stripping us of our right to privacy and some of the liberties our forefathers fought for and are being celebrated for on this Memorial Day.
The Patriot Act was supposed to be temporary and we all (some of grudgingly) accepted it that way. In 2006 it became permanent and I don’t recall that making the news. I don’t recall any voices being raised in concern. I’ve long wondered where the Woodward and Bernstein of our times are. For that matter, I wonder where the actual Woodward and Bernstein are. Where are all the idealistic journalists eager to report the actual news, not just relate stories fed to them by publicists and political machines? Are those reporters unable to get jobs? With the world wide web at our fingertips, why aren’t more of us demanding the maintenance of our rights? Why aren’t those the viral videos we pass around via email? Have we become so apathetic that we no longer care enough to protest the loss of our rights?
That brings me to the problem that’s irking me today: corporate greed, Hollywood style.
You may have heard that a union I belong to, the Screen Actors Guild (or SAG) has been in the midst of contentious negotiations with the Producers (AMPTP) over a contract to define how, what and when we actors get paid for our work and what we have to do to earn the paycheck. The contract has been agreed to by the union and the producers and is now before us for a vote. Unfortunately, our union has sold our rights and protections for the sake of getting this deal over with because the producers want to be able to show maximum profits to their share holders.
They hold the threat of work stoppage over us. They think we will have no choice but to strike if we don’t accept the deal and that means millions of working men and women being sidelined during a recession. It’s true – no one wants that. But we do have an alternative: we can band together and boycott their product. If advertisers aren’t getting eyeballs they won’t pay the networks for their product and the producers will eventually have to cave. This is easy and convenient for us, the consumers and performers – all we have to do is not tune in. That means we’ll have to find fun the old fashioned way – facebooking, reading blogs or even books!, going outside and playing with our friends.
They’re so sure they have such a strong stranglehold on our tiny little attention spans that we won’t leave our couches or comfy movie theater chairs, that we won’t peel our eyeballs from our screens to stand up for something we supposedly believe in, like fair pay and safe working conditions. Are they right? Well, are they? If they are right then, truly, we deserve what we will get. And so do they. While they make a dollar standing on our broken backs today they will fall down as we collapse tomorrow.
In order to bring change to this type of behavior we have to stop rewarding it. And we can do that, quite easily. Imagine organizing a boycott of national magnitude via facebook and twitter. We tech savvy users of these media are the target audiences for all of the corporations out there trying to make a buck. We can turn the country on it’s ear, take back our rights, freedoms and restore fairness. That is absolute power. We deserve to have some of it too.
That’s a tea party that will get some attention.
Much as I have respect and admiration for the producers and production companies that make the films and TV shows that I love to watch and be a part of, I hate that they are trying to screw the creative people who provide them with the content that makes them hugely wealthy.
We actors now have a contract in front of us that takes far more from us than it gives. Without the creative people there would be no art but the corporations that bring it to the audiences have bottom lines and to them those are more important than the art that’s being created. It’s capitalism in a nutshell but its not something you can sustain long term.
Our country has spent the last few years believing that we can indefinitely satisfy our short term wants and needs and ignore the future. We are now seeing the consequences of that kind of action in our deepening recession and disappearing future security – the loss of medicaid, social security and the American Dream. Corporations and our government are continuing on this path of living for the moment and it’s going to continue costing us exponentially more as time goes on. All of these bail outs have consequences, not letting natural selection take place in the corporate world has consequences and if you think that Obama is going to take care of everything and you can sit back and relax you are going to be pretty surprised when the life the Joads led in The Grapes of Wrath is looking pretty cushy to you in a few years.
Rather, we should all stand up and use these voices we have been given by the internet and our social networks to spread the word about what’s really going on in our world. We should organize protests – even armchair protests and boycotts and we should start standing up for our rights. It may be okay with you if your job lays you off so that they can show a quarterly profit while you struggle to put food on the table but that’s not what I want for my family.
If Woodward and Bernstein aren’t coming to open our eyes and minds to what’s going on and spur the country into taking action that makes life better for us then let’s do it ourselves. We all have the tools and the opportunity, we just have to quit waiting to be saved and use them.
Here’s something the actors are doing to get the word out on the unfair issues in our proposed union contract and why we should vote no on it.
What if we spend as much time making videos and twitter posts that enlighten and inspire our fellow Americans and humans as we do making videos about cute kitten tricks and fat kids reenacting Star Wars battles? Then you’ll have something great to post in your status update.
Here are some brave people who stood up for what they believe in:
American Civil Rights:
If you let history happen to you and you never stand up for what you think is right you will never make your mark on history and you will certainly not be remembered.