Thursday, September 16, 2004

Today Beth at the Cassandra Pages shares her personal experiences attempting to get people involved in protest, and references some research about the efficacy of protest in the environmental movement. Good reading. I was going to respond in her comments, but it got too long, and I've already spoken out a lot on violent and non violent protest there. See.

I want to do something.
But I want to make a difference.
I want to make a difference.
But I don't want to violate my personal principles of non-violence.
I'm convinced there is a way.
But what is the way? What is MY way?

It appears that Michael Moore got frustrated enough with the conventional systems that he decided to break out of the previous molds with Fahrenheit. I was impressed. He got into a lot of people's "minds" using much of the same psychology and format that the "powers that be" are using on the right wing side of the equation. Of course, if you read interviews, he explains outright what he is up to, rather than manipulating people from the background. However, the potential there really interests me. What can I do that will, as Agnone refers to in Beth's reference, "Make a big enough disturbance"? Moore made a big disturbance.

So some other questions I'm dwelling on along these lines:
What is morally justifiable in defense of this planet, if you truly believe that Bush's environmental policies are dooming us?
For a while I feared that our administration would drive North Korea into a corner where they'd feel impelled to act against our "demands." I don't trust in the current administration's ability to navigate that situation. So what about the risk of nuclear threat? What is justified then?

I remember a theoretical question from a net discussion board about what one would do if a child was sitting on Bin Laden's lap, and to kill him, one would have to kill the child too. A didactic question, and in the end, not useful in forming my own path of action about what ends justify what means. I'm not going to face that scenario, but I am facing the scenario of an election which I believe puts my own children's future and the future of many lives at risk. Just exactly what am I willing to do? And if I am going to do anything, exactly what do I believe will make any difference? As Chris from Creek Running North points out, "Even if every avenue of expression was made freely available to every person in the US, each vote would be only 1 in 200 million or so. If you don't have a grasp of the math, that can feel pretty disempowering."

I'm pretty sure attending a concert sponsored by MoveOn will make me feel a part of something "good", but make very little actual difference. I dutifully sent off my check to the Kerry campaign, money buys elections right? But how many minutes of air time did that buy? Me against an oil company. Of course I will vote. But my Dad's vote will cancel mine out. And he's not changing his mind any more than I am. He hates Kerry. No argument, no amount of data, no rationale will shift his stance. Now we are net zero out of 200 million.

As Beth says, "I know that if every person in this country who really believed we're on the wrong course --whether on foreign policy, environmental policy, health care, you name it; voters and non-voters, establishment and dis-enfranchised alike - got out onto the streets one organized day and said "We have had it" - this government would fall." But we are so disorganized, so scattered. So little disturbance. And no one can tell me, tell us, what one thing I/we can do tomorrow that will make a difference. What ten things. Because if they did, I'd be out doing them. But the Kerry campaign office told me the only volunteering they needed were neighborhood and phone canvassers. I don't believe those two are on the list of ten. I think it's too late for that tactic to work, it's too much part of the system, and noone wants to get those phone calls during dinner and really think about the issues at stake. They talk about the undecided vote in this country, but I think the only indecisiveness is the willingness to wait for the next major media revelation. The next smear. Is it wrong to root for the smear?

On a very local scale, I keep thinking about all those political signs going up in the yards of my neighbors, and the deepening schism being driven right in my backyard, where we are pushed into "camps." My kids keep score by counting signs. I keep score of how many more neighbors I feel estranged from. I'm tempted to drive through and take ALL the signs down late some night. Think globally, act locally right? If I believe the heart of the matter is the division, what can I do to bring us back together in a radical way? Hold a neighborhood dialogue?

My co-worker commented today that the division reflected in the lawn signs would last long past the election, regardless of the outcome. A permanent structure on our cultural landscape, a widening gulf. But systems of instability swing back to some sort of center don't they? Is there some action I could instigate that would hasten a swing back towards our common ground, our tolerance, our mutual trust?

Will someone please tell me?

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