It was last Wednesday when I saw my Facebook friend, Nadine posting a message that she will be leafleting this Saturday in my local town centre to promote the 26 March mass event in London against the cuts. I decided to join and contacted her because my colleagues and I are also planning preparatory events for 26 March at our union branch where we work.
As with many cases on these social networkings, this was the first time that I ever met Nadine. She picked-up a few more folks on Facebook for today and together with her colleagues from the local trade unions council, we handed-out a large number of our flyers to the public.
It has been a long time since I have done this! There were odd cases where we stood in front of multinational firms in London to publicly condemn their behavior against trade unions and distribute our literature. But the last serious leafleting for 120 minutes dates back far in my memories and back in Japan.
As I handed out the flyers, I tried to compare the response from the recipients. I learnt a long time ago that you do not stand in a sea of people to distribute your papers. Rather, locate yourself along a stream of people. If the first one of a group that is approaching you picks-up your leaflet, the likelihood is that the others will also take it. For the same reason, if you are unsuccessful with your first try, then that whole bunch may just ignore your effort. It must be something to do with the human psychology. This, I felt, was the same in Japan or London.
In Japan, I think we’ve done leafleting to death; not just unions but in general. People are quite fed-up with all the papers that end-up in your hands as you walk a high street. So, in many cases, we distribute pocket-size tissue papers (or other goodies) where our message is included in the package. Compared to that, the passers-bys today made some good response to papers that they can’t blow their nose with! Incidentally the best reaction I ever had was at World Social Forum in Nairobi where our appeal ”sold like a hot cake” but that is so obvious, isn’t it?
There are always those who completely ignore you but I think more people here say something like “no thanks” and are polite. Equally, you need to approach them by saying something unlike in Japan. Direct communication is more important here, I felt. It is difficult to generalise who takes your leaflet. I see no specific groups linked to age, gender or race. And there are those with empty-hands that never respond. On the contrary, people with their hands in the pockets or shoppers with bags in their hands take leaflets (By the way, I was stunned to see so many people walking and smoking).
The best response came from a middle-aged woman who said to me; “No thanks, I’ve already got your leaflet and I am coming on 26 March!”
See you all in three weeks’ time!