Blogging: The New Face Of Governance?

Someone asked this very important question:  should governments use blogging as a tool for public service? I answered yes so here goes…telling an all-too-familiar story another way.

The all-too-familiar story told another way...tingim.

After 30 years in public sector work, I present to you the ruminations of a dinosaur with one eye open. Close your eyes…now, aherrm both eyes please…and come with me on this journey…

Just imagine receiving a blog from your local MP…

Can’t help it…got to say it! I can just see the title of my next tune beckoning in the distance: Blogging Me! Blogging You! Uhuhhhhhh’. For now, try singing/humming (whatever), these words with that famous ABBA tune ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You, uhuhhhhhh…’ See…not difficult is it?

Where are we? Oh yes the MP’s blog. Yes the blog is in your face and you seeing his/her face on your computer – for the first time! Wow! Some of these MPs don’t visit their electorates as often as they should once elected. So we need to think creatively to keep on reminding them about who gave them their mandate.

Unfortunately for most, they are all over you like a rash and in your face just before elections. Sometimes that is not so bad as someone’s got to put their best foot forward and declare their intention to lead. For some it’s more like willingly offering themselves for a life in a fishbowl, or go down in some quarters like the season’s pickings to be chewed up and spat out! Quite unceremonious goings on but that as we know comes with the territory.

Anyway, wouldn’t it be great for your MP to tell you what his/her vision is for your electorate for the next 5 years, and tell you about his/her hopes, concerns, issues, hobbies, interests, good causes, family, challenges and hardships they themselves or you put them through etc. MPs are human too. Yes, but human or not human is a small part of the commitment they made when they stood on top of trucks with loud hailers bleating out promise after promise for a better life that is only possible through them, disrupting traffic, disturbing the peace with loud noise, littering the sidewalks with their posters…etc.

Back to Le Blog, I could imagine a couple of engaging MP blog titles such as:
‘Getting to Know You’ (is this a line in a musical or what?)
‘Meet and Greet’ (hmmm…too wishy washy)
‘Coming to You Live from…(name of electorate/village)
‘Today With You’ (too suggestive perhaps)
‘Spanning Our Tribal Bridges’ (oooh…that’s heavy)
‘With Love From Me to You’ (maybe not…) and so on and so forth.

Gradually, election fever is no longer life-threatening, the warmth of the ballot paper becomes cold and the loud hailers are silenced and tossed aside in some dark damp corner for another 5 years or so. Promises become challenges and a 4-5-year uphill battle, more like every year, to meet election commitments prevail. The mandate to govern becomes blurred with self-indulgence and extreme liberties.

The electorate once more fades into yet another 4-5 years of the same old same old…as the loyal voter cries out over and over again: where is the road, the school, the aidpost, the airstrip, the drugs for all manner of illnesses etc etc? Why are we suffering when our country sits on gold and oil deposits, our rich forests and oceans teeming with bountiful harvets of tuna etc. That’s right! the promises that were coming over the loud hailers not so long ago. Why?, where?, how? — on it goes day in day out like a broken record.

Now I got to thinking as an avid blogger: Could blogging change this ever so familiar negative scenario? Most may answer maybe or yes, followed by how soon! And from the zealous ones: how about yesterday?

So this ‘new face’ (dispela ‘niupela pes’) that I’m talking about or rather agonising over – what about it?

Just think of yourself, the blogging honest voter let alone a citizen in your MP’s electorate telling him/her or rather blogging him/her about your successes, hardships, challenges, your family, taxes, your community and the beat goes on – day in, day out.  This goes on for what seems like an eternity.

Then one day, voila! you get a response! A response from your MP! Oh my gosh, your lips form these immortal words, slowly and with great emotion and no sound emanating from your mouth. Your heart is beating faster than usual, you are not sure whether to laugh or to cry! As you reach for the Kleenex your heart is full of wonder and love…yeah love…imagine that too. The blogger and bloggee in contact with eachother in perfect harmony…hmmm.

As you log off you wondered...

The hours pass by and you go back to your usual routine of checking your emails and Facebook and anything fun or witty. Then you log off your computer and wonder about your MP blogging back…well what a humongous surprise…you feel the lump of emotion in your throat again. You stand up from your desk and in the silence of your office you wonder….

What would future elections look like and what would elected leaders be like? If you were all blogging for 5 years after he/she got elected. Yes, what kind of church, community and youth leaders, public servants, newspaper editors, office managers, donor agencies, technical advisers, volunteers, project managers, departmental heads, CEOs, and politicians – the elected representatives etc, would a blogging community produce. It could go the other way too…we could create monsters. Yeah that too, but let’s just focus on our hopefully benevolent and caring MP, please.

That’s all very well. But what if the MP doesn’t have a computer? Is there another way? Do we need to give every new MP a crash course, say, Blogging 101? Do we need legislation to introduce blogging as a form of government communication? Prepare a Cabinet submission on this? Allocate a fraction of the budget for blogging resources? Or should we as law-abiding citizens exercise our human and civil right and just do it, that’s right! Go ahead and blog with our MPs to our hearts’ content every minute, everyday, every week, every month and so  on. Well, it would all makes sense if we were receiving our MPs’ responses, right?

It all boils down to this: MPs are duty bound to communicate with those who are and may be potentially affected by their actions and they are morally bound to be accountable for their actions, right? Yes, it’s all good…but MPs are just one aspect of governance. And mine just one perspective.

So the more than a million quid question is: Could blogging be the ‘new face’ of governance? Could blogging empower us to create cultures of good governance?

My mind journeys on, long after the flames of my gas heater burn low and another night to create in slumber my world of happiness, wealth and prosperity. A title of another blog perhaps?

Verbal Bloggers At Speakers’ Corner?

Marble Arch

A visit to Central London is not complete without a Sunday afternoon stroll at Hyde Park’s Speakers’ Corner. At first I thought it was shaped like an open air auditorium where people sat down on chairs or sat on the grass and the speakers queued up for their turn on the box. But that is not the case. It is a free for all type of thing so there must be some muscling in to get onto the box. One thing for sure, standing on the soap box is certainly not for the faint-hearted. There isn’t just one box. There are several boxes situated strategically along and on either side of the path.  So you can pick your speaker or topic and join in.  The speakers come from many walks of life and are free to talk about anything under the sun and what floats their boats.  There’s even a cafe named after the Speakers’ Corner so one can have a cuppa or whatever and listen to other speakers or walk around the Park.

Watering hole for speakers and audiences
Watering hole for speakers and audiences

First the speakers. They are like ‘verbal bloggers’ – they are free to express themselves and have a ‘corner’ and a soap box to do it from and on. There is really nothing formal about this, just a good old rant and rave about whatever floats your boat. You can choose to listen, scream abuses at the speaker or just simply smile and walk around the park and enjoy the sights and sounds of the Park. I did just that. Listened to a few of the orators then walking on then returning to hear some more. I was more curious than anything else. It was an interesting experience though. At least I’ve been there and done that as a tourist in London and an expat in the UK.

He said Obama too thin for his own good and the world's! huh?
He said Obama too thin for his own good and the world's too! huh?

This was the first guy I saw. He was screaming and gestulating. From afar it looked epileptic and disjointed but he was still standing and speaking. I couldn’t follow everything he was saying but he was my first glympse of a ‘verbal blogger’ in action! Yah man. In fact on my way out I passed by him again and this time I heard him say the whole world should try their darndest not to emulate Obama because he is too thin! People need to eat more veggies! Huh? I just laughed.  Yes, he had the right to express himself. Good for him.

Trying to explain the similarities between Christianity and Islam
Trying to explain the similarities between Christianity and Islam

This guy had the most interactive audience. He was trying to explain the similarities between Christianity and Islam and was having a hard time answering the barrage of questions thrown at him. I couldn’t make head or tail of his argument. Questions were coming at him hard and fast but hey, I give him 10 out of 10 for standing his ground.

Still trying to explain similarities between Christianity and Islam...
Still trying to explain similarities between Christianity and Islam...

I couldn’t remember  any of the questions and was kind of afraid that someone might rush him if he provoked some unstable heckler. But after returning from a 15-minute walk in one part of the Park our man was still there as ardent and enthusiastic as ever. He was still trying to make himself heard! What a man!

Trying to keep up with a very vocal audience...
Trying to keep up with a very vocal audience...

I am not sure which Book he was holding during his passionate verbal blog.  I liked him. He never gave in to the cynical audience nor did he flinch. So that was someone with a religious theme. I left after a few minutes.

Didn't stay for this one. I felt all politik-ed out. Too much of this stuff around!
Didn't stay for this one. I felt all politik-ed out. Too much of this stuff around!

This is another verbal blogger talking about his political beliefs. I am not sure whether this is Danny Lambert himself (champion of the Socialist Party of the Great Britain) or not. He was not so loud but passionate. I don’t know about eloquent but he’d decided this is the way he was going to spend his Sunday morning. Well I decided he was not going to spend Sunday for me so I walked on but not before I took this shot of him. I don’t know where the Socialist Party is on the political totem pole but like the first two guys, good for the opportunity to present his views – whether they made sense or not.

This next speaker had the most interactive audience. I joined in the ‘heckling’ from the audience with a wee small voice though. There were others also putting forward their points of view and it was getting very exciting and interactive. He was proposing one world. I said to myself, now wait a minute, where could his brain be located? Call me a cynic but hey, when you’ve seen and experienced certain attitudes I’ve been through you could easily become a cynic. My only line would be if you can fully embrace diversity in all its shapes, forms and manifestations maybe there is hope…but right now…hmmm

Where the hell was he going with this?
Where the hell was he going with this?

Anyway, I only followed part of the rant which I think was espousing that we can all live happily ever after if we all became one big brother/sisterhood in the whole world.  He kept on waving the UN flag. What have they got to do with it?

What has the UN got to do with it!
What has the UN got to do with it!

People in the audience were talking as if their lives depended on every word he or they said. Most passionate and I think I got the hang of what it could be like on Speakers’ Corner. He even got these two guys arguing between themselves.  Some of the audience were smiling and whispering to eachother. I enjoyed this speaker too. He was calm but determined with his dream. Dream on old timer…dream on.

He got these two guys arguing with each other...that's the spirit
He got these two guys arguing with each other...that's the spirit

After listening and almost drawn into the verbal sparring I made my way towards Marble Arch. As I looked back towards Speakers’ Corner, I could see more and more people gravitating towards the speakers and I quietly wondered how much the Speakers’ Corner influences public debate as well as policy changes and whether the quality of speakers is something to worry about or whether I could return to experience this again when next in Central London on a Sunday. With this new London experience I went away thinking to myself…not a bad Sunday morning but, could I really call these speakers verbal bloggers?

Verbal blogging...a mile a minute...
Verbal blogging...a mile a minute...

As I left the Park through Marble Arch, I wondered about the history of  Speakers’ Corner. Why here and not elsewhere? This is a video recording showing the true colourful and exciting character of the Speakers’ Corner. The video is from LondonGirl’s blog – I think this is pretty cool!

For these similarities I call them verbal bloggers:

  • Pick their own topic to speak on
  • Express their own views
  • Don’t need a degree to be a verbal blogger at Speakers’ Corner
  • Have own soap box
  • Have own space and ‘corner’ within the Corner
  • Engage and interact with an audience
  • Cultivate a following with their ideas and convictions
  • Speaker could be male or female
  • Be of any nationality
  • Don’t have to be an elected public office holder to speak
  • Anyone and everyone who feels so inclined to speak can do so

So there it is, the verbal bloggers of Speakers’ Corner, Hyde Park, London. Visit Speakers’ Corner any Sunday and you are certain to see passionate and energetic orators from locals to tourists, from the famous to the infamous. They all made it here one way or another and no doubt more will come.