After a weekend of rallies and protest, a weekend of riot gear and police presence, I’m trying to sort through what it all means. I have cognitive dissonance as I try to hold seemingly opposing beliefs and thoughts.
- I want there to be an end to war, to the military industrial complex and to the prison-industrial complex.
- I didn’t want out-of-town protesters with no respect for our property or our people to destroy Chicago or incite violence.
- The police are also part of the 99% and are not your enemy.
- “Just doing their jobs,” is never a good enough reason.
- It does look a lot like a police state, when will I think it’s too much.
- Don’t let the media portray you or your movement or your colleagues as fools.
- What are you going to do when NATO says, “fine, let them in. We’ll talk.”
- The people at Boeing didn’t go to work today either.
I believe in both the right to free speech and the right to be protected by police. I believe that protests sometimes have power and that my property should be respected. I believe some police have incited violence and that some protesters have incited violence. I believe some police have incited peace and some protesters have as well.
As I wrestled this weekend with so much related to the NATO protests, I could only watch the tweets and news. Finally Ramsin wrote a great essay about how protest must be backed up by action entitled Merging Means and Ends.
But protests as pure speech acts are ephemera–or, maybe better, phenomena–that should express organizational acumen and announce a program to the public, rather than being the program itself. In other words, an organization’s strength won’t come from protests; protests should be an expression of strength built as a result of direct action contending with the status quo.
Let me pull out that one bit, “Protests…should express organizational acument and announce a program to the public, rather than be the program itself.” I’m a marketer and that spoke to me. The commercials we create for our clients are not the product, commercials are the tool that announces the product. (Unless it is the SuperBowl, then the commercial is the product).
People keep saying, “the protesters don’t know why they are marching,” but what I think they mean is, “the protesters haven’t convinced me that they have something to tell me.”
It’s a problem with liberal and left-wing protests. Everyone comes with their own message. Legalize pot. End war. Gay rights. Boycott Israel. Ride a bike. But what is the protest announcing to the public? What do I, an observer, walk away thinking?
Ramsin continues, including a wonderful clip of a debate between Malcolm X and Bayard Rustin about tactics and integration/separation, to say
Protesting NATO (as opposed to the G8 in particular) could only be a symbolic act inasmuch as the protest manifests as a march and speeches and street theater. The machinery of NATO as a super-national war-making enterprise was not at risk of being burdened. The protests were intended, presumably, as a speech act to highlight the error of continued war in the Middle East and the misplaced priority of war spending when so many human needs go unmet. But these are in their essence abstractions; calling attention to them has little salutary effect on its own, without an attendant strategic plan to interfere with their expression in the real world.
And that made me think… what actions would cause burden on NATO or at least on the US Government enough that change might happen? These are actions that I thought up as I walked home tonight.
- Convince the class of 2012 not to register with Selective Service. Registering for the selective service is registering for the draft (should it be reinstated).
- Invite the same veterans who threw away their medals yesterday to table at high schools next to military recruiters.
- Do not allow military recruiters into your local high schools.
- Open small businesses in poor communities and hire those boys who have no choice other than to become a soldier.
- Take over the Democratic party like the Tea Party took over the Republican party. Win local offices in landslides this fall. Change the machine.
Okay, so four and five went off the rails and aren’t direct action. I don’t really know how to put pressure on NATO or end the war in Afghanistan, so I’ll stop this essay now.