I mentioned Oprah's "No Phone Zone" Pledge the other day and it got me thinking about this whole business of signing pledges. I'm of the viewpoint that getting people to sign pledges is, at its most benign, utterly useless, and at its worst, a form of blackmail. And, as I'll demonstrate, it's even more insidious than that.
In the case of Oprah's pledge, she apparently started by having her staff all sign on. Signing was supposed to be voluntary, but, c'mon -- would you be comfortable being the one staffer who says, "Up yours, Oprah. I ain't signin' shit!" (Note: I can't say this with authority, but I'm pretty sure Oprah's Pledge has morphed a bit since she started it to acknowledge that some people might only be willing to go so far.)
Out of random curiosity, I Googled "Sign the Pledge" and came up with over six million results. Hmm? Just what the hell is everybody pledging out there? A quick and totally unscientific perusal (is there any other kind?) shows that Liberals browbeat people into pledging shit a lot more often than Conservatives. I guess there's nothing surprising about that since us Liberals are notoriously "touchy feeley" about this kind of stuff.
The Manhattan Borough President, Scott Stringer, wants me to sign a pledge to "...eat in a manner guided by the environmental, economic, and health consequences of my food consumption...". Actually, I'm not sure he gives a rat's ass what I eat, since I'm in Brooklyn.
Leonardo DiCaprio wants me to pledge not to use plastic bags.
Quite a few religious groups want you to pledge stuff about the environment. There's Jews, Catholics, Evangelicals, ... Hey, there's a whole big-ass Ecumenical group pledging to be Green.
You can pledge to go fur-free. You can sign up to do (or not do?) a lot of stuff at California's Courage Campaign. You can pledge to buy only "Cruelty-Free" products. You can pledge an anti-bullying pledge. You can even pledge to "Blog with Integrity". (I'm not entirely sure what that means, but there has to be something ironic about the fact that you can sign on anonymously.)
Lest you think this is all pansy-assed, pinko, liberal, "change the world" stuff, you'll find Conservative pledges if you look hard enough. You can Pledge Allegiance to the Christian Flag. (You guys have a flag? Who knew?). You can pledge to be a Born Again American (which seems to mostly be about being unemployed). The "Real Tea Party" has a pledge. (Is the Tea Party the going to be the next "Ray's Pizza - Famous Ray's Pizza - The Original Famous Ray's Pizza - Ray's Original Famous Pizza -- Famous Original Ray's Pizza" battleground. It would be such a shame if such a cohesive splinter group got all...uh...splintered.)
There's a non-denominational, non-partisan drive asking you to pledge not to use "the R-Word". I'm not sure how I feel about this one but I do know my own personal limitations. I can't, in good conscience, take this pledge as long as there are cats in my house and talk shows on Fox.
Anyway, the whole thing seems like a huge waste of time (other than getting yourself placed on a mailing list). Are there Pledge-Police out there enforcing these things? I mean, sure...if you get some celebrity to sign in a public forum, they'll be shamed into living up to their pledge, but I could run around signing all of those pledges willy-nilly and nobody would ever know or care if I lived up to my pledge.
And before any of you get all, "But Pledges raise AWARENESS!" on me, I'd just like to say, "We've all been AWARE of the common cold for-ever, but does that do you any good when you're leaking stuff out of every hole in your head? I'm AWARE of space travel, but what are my chances of taking a vacation on Mars? I'll bet you're AWARE of alchemy. Any of you have a secret golden room hidden in your secret golden house full of tons and tons of solid gold chocolate bars? Hmm?"
Pledging = Awareness = Hope = Disappointment.
Join me! Take the Pledge to avoid Pledges. (Except for that dusting spray. That stuff's pretty good.)