Friday, July 22, 2005

How CC came to stop protesting

She protested a ton as a kid and teenager, but her "giant puppet" epiphany came when she attended a public meeting for the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. She was 23 and covering it for the local paper. The department of energy was there taking comment on a proposal to build new nuclear weapon parts. A flyer went around my church encouraging people to show up and protest.

The meeting was at 8. The protest was at 7:30. It was an all-out goofy protest with a guy dressed as Uncle Sam, various people dressed as dead people, etc. A few people going to the meeting stopped, shrugged and walked on. Mostly for the entertainment of their friends, the pageant continued. They acted out skits, they threatened doom, they packed up to leave.

The meeting was just starting and I asked why they were going. "Well, it's sort of late," one (admittedly old) lady said.

I swear, it was a protest a satirist would have invented. It just really happened and I was there.

"Um... Don't you want to actually SPEAK at the meeting?" CC asked.

"What's the point?" Someone else said.

It was then that CC decided that she had just witnesses an act of masturbation, yet somehow she was the one who felt dirty.

But she went in an watched the meeting where about half of the speakers spoke against the proposal, mostly justifying their objections by Jesus' calls for peace (It WAS South Carolina.) As private citizens speaking to public meetings go, they did well.

And not one of them was dressed as Uncle Sam.

who did twice march against the war in Iraq afterwards, but dressed in jeans and a tank top both times.


jfield said...

CC and CSO present kind of a Catch-22 for activists. On the one hand, you can't use effective if less grandiose tactics (generally called "corporate campaigns" by organizers or organized blackmail in CSO terms) but on the other hand as CC says, grandiose showboating is ridiculous (described best my Rosemary Bray McNatt as political idolatry).

I don't really disagree with either criticism. Where I live, the meaningless symbolic gesture is the bigger problem. On corporate campaigns, I feel like they are generally not as effective in buidling movements for social change as they are for getting a group funded.

Historically, most social movements that are effective tend to have elements of both of these tendencies. If only it were possible to change things by standing around demonstrating your profound morality. The sad truth is that almost all social change occurs because of divisions between elites about the relative cost of change versus resistance.

The only sanction of a governed populace is indeed the threat of becoming ungovernable. And most movements succeed because they demonstrate that the cost of change is less than the cost of resistance.

Anonymous said...

Would you give an example of what you mean by "demonstrate that the cost of change is less than the cost of resistance."?
thank you.

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LaReinaCobre said...

I believe in protests and protests. I think that in our society there are three powers: corporate, government and the people. Demonstrations are a seriously crucial way for the people to raise their voices, hear one another and see themselves (when they garner news coverage, that is).

I agree with jfield about the cost of change vs. resistance.