Saturday, October 13, 2007

Symbolic Outrage

I have long thought that poeple who said things like "I stood up for what I believed. I wrote a letter to somebody" or "I fought for gay rights by disagreeing with a homophobe on the internet!" or "I spoke truth to power by signing a petition to..." were morons.

To me, any form of protest that involves either sign-waving or strongly-worded-emails is nearly a laughable waste of time.

Now Bill Maher has gone and written an awesome column about this phenomenon as applied to the Obama-doesn't-wear-an-American-flag-pin controversy, a controversy, I should note, that I have never actually heard of but that I can easily imagine.

Before people ask, here are a few examples of non-pointless ways to change the world.

1. Vote, and research your local candidates carefully before doing so.
2. Read, become informed about both sides. If you can't answer the question "why might a reasonable person disagree with me on this?" Then you have not done your homework sufficiently to be talking about a controversial issue. Don't make me have the Head Start converstion with you.
3. Talk to actual people about actual issues, listen to people who disagree with you.
4. Quit asking the government to be the change you want to be.
5. Set an example of how you want other people to behave. Don't want people to be jerks? Then don't be a jerk. I am constantly amazed at how often people miss this, to me obvious, point. When you see someone treating others badly and treat them badly in return, you do not teach them the lesson that treating other people beadly has negative consequences. If anything, you teach them that treating people badly is acceptable behavior. After all, everybody's doing it. Two wrongs don't make a right. Duh.
6. Don't come up with a pretentious name for what you're doing. Please don't fight for freedom, speak truth to power or kick ass. Just think about things, talk to people and try to figure out solutions to problems.
7. People are watching you. Set a good example. Behave the way you want your opponents to behave.
8. Don't sacrifice the good in a quest for the perfect.
9. Don't alienate people from your cause unnecessarily. I do not vote for people like me, I want people who are smarter than me running the country. But lots of people do like to vote for people like themselves and support causes supported by people like themselves.

OK, back to my homework...



Robin Edgar said...

People are watching U*U Tube.

Here`s a good example. . . ;-)

PG said...

I didn't realize it reached full-blown controversy stage, but when I saw the AP wire last week, I immediately went...

... to post an item on Facebook.

at 3:49pm Oct 4
Area Man Not Exactly Sure When To Take Down American Flags | The Onion - America's Finest News So...
UTICA, NY—After more than four months of proudly displaying American flags on his car, home, and body, 47-year-old computer consultant Jerry Wenger is uncertain when the appropriate time will be to take them down.

"Obama is Area Man! Except more decisive, 'cause he knew when to take off his lapel pin."

As for Head Start, unless the person opposing it is saying, "Let's funnel the money into K-12 education or other ways to improve the prospects of disadvantaged children" -- for example, if that person wants to kick the money into highly speculative defense projects instead -- I still feel OK calling that person a heartless bastard. No, Head Start doesn't permanently "fix" the life of a kid who is starting out with a lot of disadvantages, but it's doing more than education; it also works with parents to help them understand what will contribute to their child's well-being, especially in areas like health and diet.

Rick Hoyt-McDaniels said...

Great list of suggestions. I like to think I do most of those things AND I'm one of those people who show up at rally's. They aren't exclusive of each other. Two weeks ago I attended a rally urgning Governor Schwarzenegger to sign a marriage equality bill KNOWING that he had already siad he would veto it. But I went to the rally because I knew it would make me feel good. It would make me feel stronger and more commited to the cause. It would make me feel I had actually participated not just watched and waited. Am I a moron? Well maybe. But I did feel better, and it certainly didn't hurt anything to be there.

Chalicechick said...

To be clear, I did not say that people who protest were morons. I said that people who protest and believe that by doing so they are saving the world in some capacity were morons.

And Robin, the Chaliceblog gets 200 views on a good day, so your video getting viewed that many times in two weeks doesn't seem like many people are watchng to me.

Bill Baar said...

I think Obama's pin issue a pretty calculated event to recover a bit on a HRC who seems to be overwhelming the opposition.

I don't know if I'd read much more into it than that...

If your interested in the politics of the flag, I'd suggest this review of Todd Gitlin's Intellectuals and the Flag.

The flag's been contentious for liberals and the left ever since I was a kid.. I remember refusing to stand at football games in HS, raising clenched fist instead, etc, etc...

I think Obama playing on those old issues in the party more than anything else.

Robin Edgar said...

"To be clear, I did not say that people who protest were morons. I said that people who protest and believe that by doing so they are saving the world in some capacity were morons."

Well that really clears things up CC. . .


PG said...

Certainly there is a difference between protesting in order to recommit oneself to a cause, connect with others who support it, etc., and protesting because you think that in itself will create a major social/legal change. At least in the U.S., it won't.

I am inclined to see a more direct usefulness for protesting in countries where it's actually dangerous to do so; if you can't have a real democracy at the polls, a huge number of people in the streets might be the best that can be done to signify displeasure with the current government.

However, I think showing bodies can be useful even in the U.S. on very small issues. For example, I once participated in a vigil to get an accused murderer (no one political, just an average guy) extradited. The State Department had the ability to do it, and it fit with existing law; they simply hadn't prioritized the matter. By showing that there were people who cared and would be willing to raise a stink if inaction continued, I think we helped to get that tiny bit of diplomacy done.

epilonious said...

I love this list so much I crossposted it two places.

I think it is the path to get to my sweet-cum-witty psyton-years now that I have somehow devolved into this epilonious bitchbishop.

Comrade Kevin said...

I've linked to this post on my blog, Chalice Chick.

What you're said is much in line with something I blogged about around a month ago.

Critical thinking and common sense is what you're imploring in this post.

Robin Edgar said...

Critical thinking and common sense are a good part of what I have been imploring in my protests against U*U injustices, abuses and hypocrisy for over a decade now but, so far. . . U*Us have either abjectly failed, or quite obstinately refused, to engage in genuine critical thinking or make good use of common sense.

Will said...

Well deserving of a UU blog award, CC. Good job.

Lyndit said...

Congrats on the UU blog award. Great post. Very interesting. "Be the change you wish to see in the world..." - Gandhi My favorite quote