Some of you out there may have noticed that I have said nothing at all about the Blogisattva awards. For those of you who don't know about them, these awards were started in 2006 as a way of highlighting quality Buddhist blogging, writing, and unique voices in the Buddhoblogosphere. Tom Armstrong, the driving force behind the original awards, and blogger over at Sacramento Homeless Blog, is, himself a unique writer deserving of more attention.
Anyway, I'm not one to be terribly concerned about awards. They are certainly nice to receive, but the drive behind this blog is to write about spiritual practice, social justice, and community building. So, I was a sidelines sitter on the Blogosattvas until yesterday, when I took a closer look at the guidelines and felt something was off.
Here is the last major paragraph in the guidelines:
Nominations will be taken until November 1st. Upon receiving the nominations, the panel will convene and pick 5 deserving bloggers from each category and will have a run-off vote. This run-off vote will be done by the public, the blogosphere. Our nomination process uses forms built through Excel spreadsheets, which is how the end voting will be put together as well. We believe this is the way to keep things fair and square.
The Run Off vote is what concerns me. Say you have 5 blogs, and two of those blogs are people with several hundred followers, a wildly active Twitter account, and connections to Facebook, MySpace, and whatever other social media outlet you care to name. And the other three blogs are people with few or none of those connections, but whose writing and voice are either just as good or even more worthy of awarding than the former two blogs. What do you think happens with the vote?
Consider it this way. Derek Jeter is the shortstop for the New York Yankees. He's been a great player, and will certainly go to the Hall of Fame when he's finished with his career. But let's face it: the guy could hit .200 and still be elected to the annual MLB All-Star game. Why? Because he plays for the most popular, and most wealthy, baseball team in the world. After a certain point in his career, it really ceased to matter if he was actually THE BEST shortstop in baseball that year. It only mattered that he was Derek Jeter of the NY Yankees.
Now, maybe that analogy is a little ridiculous, but it does point to the potential pitfalls of public votes like the one being proposed for the Blogisattva awards.
So, here's the thing. I'm 34 years old. I've received academic awards. I've even received a few awards in my community for service work. It's an enjoyable, but mostly very fleeting and not even all that tangible experience. However, what I have noticed is how awards can help bring together or divide communities. Even nations and the world. Consider the Nobel Prize, which has really been as much a political commentary tool as it has been about elevating great peace work and bringing together peace-minded people.
So, I guess what I'm interested in how awards like the Blogisattvas might support the broader Buddhist blogging community. How they might foster interest in new voices, unique writing, and authentically expressed practice life. Maybe that's not what all this is about - I guess I don't really know what these awards are really about - but I do know I've seen them written up on enough blogs to understand that people are interested, maybe even excited about them.
But what if all the winners end up being the most followed, most popular blogs? Maybe it won't matter much and like I said, for me, awards aren't a big concern. However, helping to start a non-profit, being an organizational leader for my Zen community, working in immigrant communities - all of this has changed me. I see the ways small things can trigger larger issues in communities, no matter what there makeup, and so when I feel I can say or do something to support said communities, I will. (I've also been learning to shut up and sit (thanks Brad!) when that's called for.)
Anyway, I'd really be interested in what people think about awards and community because it seems like a discussion that isn't happening.