Monday, March 31, 2008

To Protest or Masturabate in Public

Praying for Rain: Protest Culture's Gnarled Husk - David Forbes @ Coilhouse

It's comforting to read that there are others out there just as annoyed and bored with contemporary protests as I am. While I've long believed in the power of protests, I've also believed that protests are meant to do something versus merely represent something. Throughout my childhood the representations of protest I saw came from the 1960s in the Civil Rights movement, the fall of communism and that single man with a shopping bag staring down a column of tanks in Tianamen Square. That is protest to me. So when I watched the coverage of the 'protests' against the Iraq war in early 2003 my opinion of protest reached its breaking point. The protests of today do no accomplish anything because they are not meant to accomplish anything. It's all about representing something abstract or other.
For a modern protest to work it has to actually do something modern protest can't do--make people pay attention. If you aren't getting in someone's way then your protest isn't working. Civil disobedience is a phrase that means something to me that modern protests don't. It's that mix of non-violence with intentionally acting outside the norm that makes a protest work. More pointedly, if the police aren't afraid of you and your fellow protesters then you have failed in achieving anything. That means the fear exists on the side of the protesters: fear of being arrested, fear of being hurt, fear of violence. Non-violence doesn't mean being afraid of violence. It means that you don't use violence as your means of showing power and control. You have to make your opposition afraid of you and resort to violence. Tear gas, police dogs, riot squads, water cannons, rubber bullets and all the other means of crowd control should be thrown at protesters. Disobedience is about getting in peoples' way and not letting them shut you out. While they may consider it uncivil, the use of non-violent means to achieve real attention is the way of the true protester.
Last week I witnessed some real protests for the first time in my life as Tibetans took to the streets. Police crackdowns, media spin-control and all the tools of an authoritative government were thrown at these protesters and yet we still know about it. They made themselves something we couldn't ignore. Someone standing on a street corner with a sign I might hit with my car. Someone with a crowd standing in the street with sticks and bottles on fire will make me turn around quickly. But instead we get the guy on the corner.

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