From cannon fodder to “ego fodder”

According to Wikipedia the first person to use exact phrase “cannon fodder” was a French writer, François-René de Chateaubriand in his 1814 anti-Napoleonic pamphlet “De Buonaparte et des Bourbons” – “the contempt for the lives of men and for France herself has come to the point of calling the conscripts ‘the raw material’ and ‘the cannon fodder.”
The phrase came to be associated with World War 1 and its ‘human waves’ attacks. Millions of human beings, with their hopes and their talents, their families and their friends, were fed into the cannons as food. As the slogan used to go “a bayonet is a weapon with a worker at both ends”.
Leaving behind the fields of Flanders, what’s “ego-fodder”?

Ego-fodder is what I call the audience at any public event (big or small) which has not been structured by the organisers to provoke the highest possible amount of participation, engagement and mingling.
“Passivity” can of course be okay. Sometimes there is a “contractual” relationship that is about being entertained – by a singer, a comedian, whatever.
What is an unforgivable fraud is the organisers and the speakers claiming that they are trying to engage and/or inspire the public, (to tackle an issue or grow a movement) when they have designed and executed a meeting that is something akin to death by powerpoint.
The organisers may say they want engaged citizens, but if through idleness, ignorance or – most seriously – control-freakery, they organise another static drone-on-and-drone-on talkfest by this or that Expert, followed by ritualistic questions, then they have used all the audience, with their hopes and their ideas and their talents, their connections to families and friends and other organisations, as ego-fodder.

And it’s way past the time we can afford that.

Of course, people go to these things expecting to be ego-fodder. Sad to say, some of them seem happy enough with that. “Ooh, I didn’t come here to be asked what I think. I came to (be seen to) hear the Great Oracle. Anyone who isn’t obedient to old white men has ideas above their station…”
But I wonder – how many people go hoping they’ll meet like-minded folks, get a chance to give their ideas, and hear others’, and maybe get together with others and DO something?

See also
The falseness of flipcharts
Meetings from above


About dwighttowers

Below the surface...
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6 Responses to From cannon fodder to “ego fodder”

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  2. dwighttowers says:

    This comment is not by me, obviously. It absolutely sums up what is wrong with the attitudes and behaviors of event organisers….

    Good job you didn’t sit through the Soil Association conference then…. on a whole new level it was. The most amusing bit (kind of) was when the audience (of 300 sitting in rows in the great hall of Manchester town hall) clapped when a frustrated (but patient) soul stood up and said to the session chair ‘can we participate in this conversation? You are paying no attention to people’s body language, we have been sitting here for over an hour listening to the panel talking amongst themselves..’

    At which point the chair – Rose Prince proceeded to argue with the delegate about her remit! Then once people in the audience were permitted to participate said Chair felt the need to contribute on every point AND directed people who had their hands up to ask a question or make a comment to address what the last person (on the panel) had said rather than something else they’d patiently been waiting to say!

    A ‘fringe event’ at the conference which was an open meeting for people who couldn’t afford to attend the main conference was described by one attendee as the worst such meeting she’d ever been to… It followed the same format as the main conference – a panel speaking (and speaking and speaking) with 15 minutes for questions. Such a wasted opportunity.

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