Vantage point

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Candlemakers' Petition 2009 - Against Online Petitions

We, the undersigned candlemakers of the world, have formulated this petition, much like brave candlemakers from the 19th century did, with the hope of some rational redress. In these times of grave economic difficulty, we hope our petition will get a more favorable reception than our predecessors' did. In that old petition, the old candlemakers requested that the sun, the biggest threat to our livelihood be blocked out. It was not acted upon. To make matter worse, electricity intervened, and made our survival increasingly difficult. Demand for candles dropped manifold and our industry was threatened by extinction.

And yet we survived, by innovating. We survived, because we popularized the idea of candlelight vigils. Candlelight vigils were (and are) a brilliant concept. They massage the conscience and give the common man the false sense of having done something concrete, without the inconvenience of actually doing anything concrete. They don't really spur any action or bring about any real change in the world, but nevertheless allow a large number of people to live under the misconception of having made a difference. And last, but not the least, these vigils boost the demand for candles, and help us candlemakers put food on the table for our families.

But how are we expected to continue to operate as an industry while co-existing with online petitions? Millions of online petitions such as this one and this one threaten our very existence. Until online petitions came along, our candlelight vigils were the last word in futile and convenient empty gestures. But online petitions are even more futile, more inconsequential, and are a lot more convenient than candlelight vigils ever could be. It is the convenience part that hurts us the most. Now people can massage their consciences and feel self-important without as much as buying a candle, lighting it and marching. All they need to do is click, and their conscience is massaged and self-importance is boosted. As low as the price of conscience-massaging is in candlelight vigils, it is almost zero in online petitions.

How can we candlemakers be expected to compete in such an un-level playing field? before you know it, online petitions will have made candlelight vigils obsolete. The resulting blow to candle demand all over the world will all but devastate our industry, and the thousands who depend on it for their livelihood.

Do we need to remind everyone that we are in the middle of a historic recession? A shutdown of the candle industry will not help assuage the world's economic woes in any way. We are not asking for government largesse or taxpayer-funded bailouts. All we ask for is that online petitions be banned forever, and the livelihood of us candlemakers be secured.

Yours Sincerely,
Candlemakers of the World