Blogging the AGM 2008 #8 (Sam Roddick)
2:25pm Sam Roddick is our keynote speaker for the weekend. Her mother Anita was a big friend of Amnesty and offered her ideas, her connections and her money to advance the cause of human rights worldwide.
Sam is an activist in her own right, but what is immediately apparent is that she has inherited much from her mother – her looks, her flair for retailing and her passion for justice. What she didn't inherit from her mother was money. She tells us with a laugh that Anita gave that to Amnesty and other causes instead – she says she's forgiven us now! Sam herself is a supporter of the Helen Bamber Foundation, which works to help the survivors of cruelty.
She attacks mainstream corporate values that put profit before people, focus on cheap labour and churn out disposable products which end up in landfill.
So, how to undermine and subvert corporations for the greater good of humanity, she asks. Seduce consumers into making making positive choices by making them feel good about those choices, she reckons. Where the consumer goes, persuaded in that direction by activists like us, the corporations will follow. She says that if corporate heads want a quiet life, we better make them understand that such quiet will only come from changing their values and practices, because we activists will make plenty of noise for them otherwise.
What sort of great world do we want to live in, she asks. Let's imagine it, create that vision and then sell it to people, to consumers. Don't just talk to people about the bad things in the world, she advises. Talk about the unbelievably good world we could create.
She had a warning for Amnesty: don't buy into celebrity culture (I guess she's seen our Protect the Human photo exhibition! Well, I like it, anyway) to front campaigns – use real heroes, human rights defenders, she advises. Otherwise, it only serves the celebrities, not the cause.
Instead, use intelligent, activist celebrities behind the scenes to seduce (in a non-physical way – I think!) political figures into making positive choices. Imagine Angelina Jolie inviting Gordon Brown to lunch (do I have to?) … he's not going to refuse, is he?
2:55pm Sam's slideshow. Naked protestors on the big screen. It's gotta be a first for Amnesty. Who expected that? And so soon after lunch too. Now we have pictures of some women in police / bondage type get-up. Not sure what they're protesting about (actually, on second thoughts, it's about sex workers' I think), but it would definitely stop you in your tracks.
Another picture shows a funeral cortege-style protest about 'sex slavery', complete with East End horse and carriage hearse and wreaths spelling out 'sex slave'.
Another pic shows a placard protest down Oxford Street, highlighting how women are sold like a priced commodity. Powerful imagery – she seeks expert advice from cutting edge marketing folk. She also gets – and deserves – a round of applause for the images of protest.
3:05pm When she finally sits down, she does so to sustained further applause. She's had some good stuff to say – I've only captured the half of it. Fair play to Sam – she did a good job. Interesting person and one to watch in the future.
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.