Thursday, April 17, 2008

Let's hear from the real workers

I posted below about a bricklayer who was asked to place the first brick in the new U of Minn football stadium. It is so seldom that workers are listened to, much less held up as someone to honor. This unwillingness to focus on the worker or to listen to what workers say about their own lives, is rampant in the U.S. We're constantly talked to by so-called experts who have theories about what workers think, do, want and don't want. Which is just silly. Why not allow the workers to speak for themselves? Why not learn what their lives are like by listening to them and encouraging them to speak?

One worker who I've had the opportunity to listen to online in the last couple of years is Renegade Evolution (RE) a sex-worker and pornography actress. Now there's a point of view we don't hear very often. I've learned a lot from her. And I was pleased to find she had been invited to speak in a debate at William and Mary College. Two anti-porn speakers, two sex-worker advocate speakers in a public debate at a University. Cool, huh?

But wait! One of the invited debaters is trying to prevent RE from speaking as Ren talks about here. Apparently when Sam Berg heard that Ren had been invited, she contacted the organizers and asked to have Ren uninvited to the debate.

I've never understood this tactic. I have organized debates and discussions by people who disagree with each other for over 20 years. I am never impressed when one of the speakers tries to control who is allowed to speak for the opposing viewpoint.

This tactic makes Berg look stupid and weak. Is her point of view so easily destroyed if there are one or two sex workers in the room? This tactic makes Berg look arrogant. Does she expect event organizers to meet a series of her personal demands? This tactic makes Berg look less committed to her cause. Can she only fight for her political point of view in an environment that sees to her comfort? Should anyone rely on Berg as an ally if she can't even attend a public debate with someone she dislikes?

Mostly, This shows an incredible amount of disrespect for the organizers of the event. These people are usually not paid, have opened themselves up to risk and conflict by suggesting a controversial issue be addressed, and have neither the time nor the energy to deal with the personal problems of an invited speaker.

My sympathies go out to the college student who is trying to put this together. She does not deserve this carp.

My sympathies go out to Ren who doesn't deserve to have someone trying to undermine her before she gets a chance to make her point.

My sympathies go out to the people who saw Berg as a political ally, but cannot rely on her to fight for their point of view in an open, public debate.

If Berg cannot stand being in a public forum with Ren, then she should step aside and put forward someone else who can stand the heat and state her point of view.