24 September 2008

As the world falls down and goes boom

This article in today's Post poses the question of whether or not Americans today (particularly the young folk) are apathetic, or just making use of new tactics to express discontent with the seemingly perpetually declining state of our Union. There are a few hypothoses here:
  1. Americans protested like all hell in the 1960s because the sick combination of a military draft for a pointless war and blatant, sickening racial discrimination brought things to a boiling point. Draft them, and they will protest.
  2. Anti-establishment rhetoric has been mainstreamed, and thus no longer motivates people.
  3. Burning down several cities in 1968 seemed only to usher in roughly 40 years or so of rule by people who almost wholly disagreed with those who carried torches, making violent protest seem pointless.
  4. Americans are increasingly politically active, it's just harder to get a real grip on the level of online and other, less traditional forms of expressing discontent.
Oddly, the first theory was raised in a conversation I had last week, and while there is merit to it, I think that given the unlikelihood of a draft coming anytime soon, we can't expect that motivator. The other three points seem basically true, but note that I added the word "violent" under proposition 3. No, violent protest didn't work. In fact, I (and others) would go so far as to posit that it was the turn to violence that killed the mass appeal of "bring 'em onto the streets" organizing.

Thus I have a few questions for viewers like you:
  • Is all this online/door-to-door activism a good representation of using different forms of non-violent strategy? If so, are organizers intentionally trying to act non-violently, or are they merely using convenient tools that happen to not be violent?
  • The year 1968 gets bounced around a lot for obvious reasons, but is it the wrong example? Isn't, say, 1963 a much better year to demonstrate non-violent protest?
  • Given the two questions above, if we are not seeing people try to intentionally be non-violent, and we are simultaneously holding up the wrong example of what protest looks like, how do we (the peace movement, educators, whatever you think you are) build cognizance around non-violent ways to challenge our exceptionally trying times?
Looks like this turned out more intellectual than I originally anticipated, but I welcome your feedback.

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