media

Swadeshi

Around the holiday season more and more people are thinking about trying some swadeshi. It sounds like a crazy-ass office party dance or maybe something spicy to eat. (“I’ll have the swadeshi and a mango lassi.”)

Swadeshi isn’t either of those things, though it might inspire a crazy-ass dance or two. Swadeshi means self-sufficiency. It was a key part of Gandhi’s strategy to free India from British rule. Today, there’s a new kind of swadeshi with online social activism.

London-based Vinay Gupta is hitting the nail on the head with his social action social networking site Global Swadeshi. He has a great proposal for saving the developing world. Cost: Only $60 million. That’s “only” because, as he points out, that’s just half what it cost to make the movie “Batman and Robin.”

Which would you rather do, make a forgettable comic book movie with California’s Governator as Mr. Freeze or would you rather save the developing world twice over?

While you’re thinking about that, let me tell you Mr. Gupta’s $60 million idea. He wants to make television programs for farmers and people who live in slums – 200 hours of “science telly” as he calls it. What topics does he have in mind? Not misbehaving housewives or Tiger Woods’ habit of texting about his carnal conquests or crashing White House parties. No, Mr. Gupta wants to do programs on how to grow more food and how to stay alive with better water, basic sanitation and basic medicine. I’m not a television programmer, but if your viewers are at risk of starving to death, a show about how to grow more food might rate pretty well, ya think?

While I’m mulling over how Vinay Gupta might raise 60 mil, and how he might figure out how to give away laptops on which to play his science telly programs, I’d like to note some other forms of e-swadeshi. At changemakers.com you can learn about inspiring people who are re-imagining activism on the web. act.ly is an application that allows you to inspire people to get out the word out about your cause on Twitter. ForwardTrack is an online tool that lets you promote and track your message as it makes its way from person to person. You get cool interactive maps to see how far your message is spreading.

Charity Focus is an online forum for you to volunteer your skills to help non-profits (and if you run a non-profit, it’s a great way to find volunteers.) Be The Change, Inc. wants to inspire and promote the idea of social service. GOOD magazine has an online presence that is dedicated to social action. And get this, the guy who founded Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, has launched a wiki site to provide user-driven information for homeless services in Tampa.

There are lots more, including the now-venerable MoveOn.org, but those few examples make it clear that e-activism is growing fast and relatively cheap to implement. Try some.

And if you must do a crazy-ass dance at your office party, at least you’ll know not to call it a swadeshi.

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