Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Protest for its Own Sake

People protesting the Iraq War are laying down in the middle of the intersection outside my building right now. While I admire their commitment, I have to wonder if they’re just protesting for the sake of protesting. I often wonder this, living in the nation’s hot bed of liberalism here in the Bay Area. People here will protest anything. Somehow the neo-hippies feel the need to validate themselves and prove that they are just as passionate and committed as their idols from the 60’s.

I don’t mean to say that the issues that face us today aren’t important; they just don’t seem to quite carry the same weight as the ones faced back then. If 60,000 soldiers had been killed to-date in Iraq (roughly the number killed in Vietnam), I’d be down on the street with them. As it is, I’m not sure how turning downtown San Francisco into a parking lot for a few hours today will really hasten the end of the war. Voting for Barak Obama feels like enough for me and is possibly more likely to actually effect the change I’m seeking here.

Protesting the Marine Recruiting Center in Berkeley or sitting in trees at Cal (trees the University planted in the first place) just feels to me more like a self aggrandizing plea for personal attention or a way to recapture some idealized bygone feeling of rebellion. Do these people really care about the trees or the Marines or are they just grasping at some way to validate their lifestyle? I’d like to think there was real feeling there, but when I watch video of a college kid getting arrested for tree sitting, I can’t help but think “he’s just doing that to get laid.”

By instilling in me such cynicism, the protestors do nothing to make me sympathize for their cause. Seems like everyday someone protests something in the Bay Area, or the country as a whole. When protesting becomes that prevalent, it becomes ordinary, mundane, and ineffective. It becomes the background noise that swallows up the real problems facing this country.

Yes, the war is one of those real problems, or is it? Isn’t it just symptomatic of our society’s over reliance on petroleum or big business’s control of our political system? Maybe if people weren’t so busy laying in streets or sitting in trees, maybe if people weren’t looking for the next issue or war to protest, this war wouldn’t have happened in the first place.

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In 1789, the governor of Australia granted land and some animals to James Ruse in an experiment to see how long it would take him to support himself. Within 15 months he had become self sufficient. The area is still known as Experiment Farm. This is my Experiment Farm to see how long it will take me to support myself by writing.