Wednesday, September 06, 2006

I'm gonna need some help...

You know those people who walk up to you on the street, wanting you to donate money to a cause, or join something, or just listen to them talk for half an hour? Usually you see them approach the person in front of you and you're able to dodge them. Other times you don't see them until it's too late and you act all rude and just walk past. Or you stop. Sometimes.

As soon as they look at you, you know you don't want anything to do with them.

The thing is.. I've joined Amnesty International's U. of Bergen group. On Wednesday we're going to have a stand at the Uni, getting people to sign letters to be sent to someone in Iran. Basically the case is a woman in her late 30s is accused of having cheated on her husband with her neighbour. She wanted to divorce the husband but was not allowed to because they had children. The husband died and naturally she must have killed him.

For the 'murder' she will get 15 years in prison. For the cheating she's going to be stoned to death (the fact that she has children no longer matters). She's going to be burried up until her breasts and people will be throwing stones at her - not so small they don't hurt her, not so big she dies or is knocked unconcious right away. She was supposed to serve the 15 years before being stoned, that's how it usually works, but someone decided to change that, and it was supposed to happen in July, then got delayed, but it won't be long until they put it on the schedule again. I'm not going to go further into the details of the case, you can read about that here.

Basically... Amnesty International doesn't like those kinds of things. And now they (we) are going to have a stand, giving people cake and asking them to sign their name on a letter to be sent to Iran, basically saying "nonono you can't do this!!" (in a rather more polite way).

Now my problem is this... I'm not a protesting kind of person. I don't walk in parades and demonstrate and shout slogans and bother people until they do what I want. That's not me. So I need to know how not to talk, act, dress.. so as not to seem like someone who just wants you to donate money or join something or basically just bug you.

The way I see it, the problem will get people to actually just... stop. That's where the more 'experienced' protesters said we'll be having cake. That usually gets people to stop. But even so... You're hurrying through the hallway, going to a lecture, leaving a seminar, whatever. Then someone comes up to you and want to start talking to you. You'd just want to tell them to bugger off, wouldn't you?

I imagine it wouldn't be hard if people would just sign their names but usually they want to know what they're signing... And for them to want to know, they have to be interested, and for them to be interested I have to get them interested.

What do I wear so as not to seem like the protester I'll never be? What do I say so they'll think I'm not just trying to bug them with all the problems in the world?

How do you get them interested during the two seconds it takes them to decide if they want to talk to you?

And more importantly... who's gonna try my chocolate chip cookies and tell me when they're delicious enough?!


  1. Tjalve4:20 PM

    I wouldn't mind trying your chocolate cookies. As for the rest, I guess I'm as hopeless as you are in talking to people. I guess the message you need to get across in that first second, is that it's a signature campaign for Amnesty. Then people will know that all they have to do is to sign something, and not have to donate money, or listing to a heartbreaking story for 30 minutes.

    Apart from that, I can't help you.

  2. life is full of things you dont want to do. The thing is, do YOU personally believe in the cause...
    If you show interest so will your target group. Its all really a show, and during a show, people dont want to bored or lectured, they want to be entertained or intrigued. If you are passionate about what you are telling them, they will have more of a tendancy to stay and listen. If you dont really have an interest in the topic, you are better off dressing in rags and begging for money. If you want to make a difference, you need to show others that they matter and they can really help.

  3. Tjalve - I would have asked you if it weren't for all those allergies of yours :P

    Bigzellbo - I know from experience it doesn't matter how passionate a person is when all I want to do is get away from them. I need to get them interested before they know they want to run away - being passionate will only reinforce their expectations of me as someone who only wants to bug them.

    Which is kinda exactly what I'll want to do...

  4. You might say:
    Have you ever been stoned? well, try my cookies

  5. The truth is that most people don't want to be bothered, and if you stop someone in the hall, their first reaction will be like a cat being threatened with a bath.

    Just keep talking. Give them the option to leave if they want. Talk about who it is that you're working to save. Learn about past cases like hers where the victim couldn't be saved. Learn about Iran. Basically, get enough information that you could tell anyone anything they could ever want to know about what you're trying to do, and then go and find the people that are most interested.

    I know a lot of people believe in a greater good and the right to protest. I'm sure many of them would be happy to sign the petition, once you describe to them what it's all about. The trick is to to not get discouraged that you will be "frightening" people away.

    Just don't tell them you're a journalist and you'll be fine.


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