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From: Keith (d137-186-220-114.abhsia.telus.net -137.186.220.114)
Subject: The central assumption of protest
Date: November 19, 2004 at 8:39 am PST

In Reply to: anything going on?? posted by ellen on November 17, 2004 at 4:07 am:

To answer your question, I don't know if there is still an anti-war movement. Your question, though, raises for me the central assumption of protest, which got my mind rambling...

Any protest is based on the assumption that someone in power will react. All protests are based on, "If we protest often enough / loudly enough / persistently enough / in big enough numbers (etc), THEY will listen and respond."

So what happens to protest then "they" demonstrate that they will not respond, regardless of any protest? Protest then becomes futile and protesters burn out. I think that that is where the "movement" is right now: no one now will respond to protest for another four years (if even then), so it is pointless.

If a big protest with lots of supporters fails, where do you go from there when the bulk of the supporters burn out and leave? Do you try to make a stronger protest with less people? That requires an escalation of tactics. So how far do you escalate? What will provoke a favourable response from an intransigent power? A small group with violent tactics may provoke a response, but it won't be favourable. It's a game of diminishing returns, and at a certain point you become your own enemy.

I think the solution is to take on the assumption at its weakest point: its reliance on someone else to make the change. If the "someone else" won't move, you paint them out of the picture and work around them to make the desired change yourself. To quote a couple of slogans, "Think globally; act locally" and "Be the change you want to see."

Without defending their actions, I think that there is an element of truth in the charges of Islamic militants: our society is decadent and corrupt. If we are to prevent the next war, we need to change society. We need a system of values where getting sustainability is a real core value, not just a cynical political buzzword. A society where tolerance is valued, taught and practised, and where compassion is a prime motivator.

I think that that is where you will find the activists of today: in local neighbourhoods, doing unglamorous work that may sometimes make it onto the local news on a slow day, but will never be seen on network news. Antiwar activists may not be able to stop this war, but the work of preventing the next one is vitally important, and it happens locally, person-to-person, rather than movement-to-government.

Keith



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