Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Are public demonstrations an affective agent of positive change?

I've been composing this post for a few months now.  In the beginning I had titled it "Do protests really accomplish anything?" but, as I continued writing, I realised this was not a good question for a couple of reasons: A) While it would seem to me that most people in the Western World tend to picture public demonstrations and rallies when they hear the word "protest" (I'm sure due in no small part to the fact that the MSM usually refers to public demonstrations as "protests" and anyone in the vicinity of a march or rally as a "protester"), protests truly come in many forms, such as petitions, pickets, strikes, acts of non-compliance, artistic expression, acts of destruction, and even acts of violence; I believe that some of these methods are more effective than others and so I didn't want to speak to "protests" as if they were all the same. B.) History has shown us that positive social change has followed protests of various sorts around the world, so to simply ask whether protests are an agent of positive change didn't seem right. Yet, conversely, as time goes on and I read more and more historical accounts from sources outside of what is fed to us in public-school history classes, I'm beginning to question everything, even socio-political changes that have seemingly been made in the name of morals, ethics and human progress.  (More on that later.)

So, although I have been wrestling with the question for quite some time now, it has definitely been on my mind a lot more lately since the events at the Toronto G20:  Do a bunch of people marching, holding signs and chanting slogans really change anything?

While I'm starting to question how much of an impact public demonstrations have really had on socio-political change in the world,  I do believe that public demonstrations have served, and continue to serve, to highlight issues and bring them to the attention of people who would not have otherwise heard about them via the MSM.  I also think that the work of such grassroots groups as We Are Change, Press for Truth, and The Love Police, and the propagation of videos of their interactions with various government/corporate/law enforcement agents on video sharing sites such as YouTube, is actually reaching people and causing some to question things about the "realities" presented to us by the government and the MSM.

However, while history tells us that public demonstrations have been responsible for positive social change, I think that the effectiveness of demonstrating en masse with picket signs etc... has unfortunately jumped the shark.

I think there was a time when images of peaceful demonstrators, especially images of them being abused and mistreated by military/law enforcement officers, brought a human face to civil rights issues, resulting in changes in popular opinion and causing larger portions of the populace to pressure their governments into action, but I think the PTB have long since learned from this; they have decided that the way to better control populations and to quell dissent is to demonize the people who take part in public demonstrations. The MSM also do their part by devoting a disproportional amount of airtime to acts of violence and vandalism -- as well as images of people carrying misspelled, offensive or down-right crazy signs -- far more than the issues being presented by the much larger group of peaceful, reasonable and well-meaning demonstrators.

Western governmental bodies have come to the realisation that they can't just ban demonstrations without being (rightfully) accused of trying to infringe upon the people's freedom of speech.  They realise that even people who don't believe in the demonstrators' cause might still stand up for their fellow citizens' rights to express their ideas and opinions.  The PTB have learned over time that the trick is to get the general public to not just ignore the issues of the protesters, but to feel outright hostility and antipathy towards them.  They've realised that whenever a demonstration happens, all they have to do is plant a few agents provocateurs in the crowd in order to cast the first stone (sometimes literally), then eventually group psychology takes over causing many of the angry, disaffected people attending the demonstration to get whipped up in the frenzy and join in.  As a result, when the police react violently towards "protesters", much of the public is left to comment: "Well, they got what they deserved," and "the police have a tough job to do, so I don't blame them for being forceful with these anarchists"

And this does not happen just to the mainly left-leaning individuals and groups  (keep in mind, as I use this labels, my opinions on this left/right CONstruct) who attend G20-type rallies. The tea-party movement in the States is an example of this subversion game: Whenever a grassroots organisation or cause starts gaining momentum, private/governmental interests jump on the bandwagon, subvert the cause to their own agenda, a few extremists join in and get all of the press, then soon every crazy lunatic and their uncle shows up with a Hitler mustache slapped on to a blown-up picture of whomever is the "enemy-du-jour". These situations are made even worse when the MSM -- who no longer ask important or pertinent questions -- lap up the footage of the crazies and the violence, playing it over an over again causing it to far overshadow the coverage of the legitimate issues being raised by the demonstrators.  As a result, much of the public is left to comment: "What a bunch of dumb hick hatemongers."  Meanwhile networks like Fox will actually bring some of the more extreme crazies and disingenuous GOP politicians on board to put the focus on the more sensational issues and viewpoints, almost totally ignoring the valid constitutional arguments being put forth by the people who started the tea-party movement and those faithful to that original vision.

This game has been referred to as the Hegelian Dialectic, or in a phrase coined by David Icke: "Problem-Reaction-Solution".  So if the problem is that there are a bunch of demonstrators out there bringing up valid socio-political issues that the State would rather keep hush-hush (I'll use the various issues being raised by demonstrators at the Toronto G20 as an example) and the State would like to quell their descent by force, but don't want the general populace to decry the State's infringements on the individual's right to protest, then what the State does is fabricate a violent reaction by the supposed Black Bloc so that they can provide their solution in the form of quelling the descent of demonstrators -- including those simply bringing up valid socio-political issues -- by force. Et voil√†, the police use violence and force to prevent people from exercising their right to protest and much of the public not only barely pays any notice to the actions of their government and their enforcement agents, but actually defends and praises their violent actions.

So what about passive resistance?  Again, I am starting to question my beliefs on this matter, which brings me back to my point about questioning history:  I used to think that as humans evolved, became more worldly and better educated that, eventually and inevitably society at large was no longer be able to justify the irrational theories which formed the bases for racial and sexual discrimination; I believed that brave pioneers such as Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Susan B. Anthony, Betty Friedan et al, were able to articulate the injustices of inequality in such a way and with such unwavering conviction that paradigms were shattered so that eventually the general populace could no longer deny the absurdity and illogicality of inequality.  Conversely, I've always been surprised that governments, or any other power structure, would relinquish any power they seemingly hold over others, (as I went into in  my post about absolute power), regardless of how upset it makes some of their populace.  It really makes me wonder if some of the socio-political pioneers I just mentioned really did change the government's mind, or whether the government really only agreed to go along for their own personal gain somehow.

For example, it has been argued that the feminist idea of the getting more women in the workplace and empowering women to see themselves as more than just homemakers was not so much a movement against the establishment, but was actually pushed by the establishment because they realised that putting women to work meant that many more consumers/tax-payers would be plugging their money back into the system which was hemorrhaging debt.  The same has also been said about the abolition of slavery in the West: Turning slave labourers into "equal members of society" meant that they too could be taxed and turned into mindless consumers of goods and services.

The progress in civil rights around the world seems to make for some very noble and proud moments in human history, but the cynical, suspicious side of me questions whether the power structures around the world are really such softies at heart.  I mean, if they can tax us while wasting our money at the same time, if they collude with corporate interests and tend to put the rights of corporations ahead of the rights of their citizens, and if they still sanction and profit from slavery in other parts of the world, then why would they be so "kind" as to look out for the rights of any of its own citizens?  Why would they relinquish any of their power if there wasn't something in it for them?

I've also held quite an interest in Gandhi and how he his followers who were able to gain independence for the peoples of India from British rule without the use of violent force.  I have even gone so far as to praise Gandhi's accomplishments in the comments sections of various articles and blogs in response to comments such as "what can you do, the system sucks but we're stuck with it" or those sanctioning some sort of violent revolution claiming that it is the only option. But I have also heard it argued that the British Empire was long on its way out and that Gandhi just provided the straw the broke the camel's back.  I have also heard it claimed that Gandhi was just the lesser-of-other-evils and that the Empire saw working with him to be less distasteful than others vying for power in the region as the Brits left.

So, I suppose it is of no coincidence that I recently came across this video, which features Derrick Jensen and other speakers who argue against passive resistance and its effectiveness; the video also deconstructs the legend of Gandhi as it is most often presented to us in the West.  This video clip is from the upcoming documentary END:CIV.  I'm still trying to decide what I think about Mr. Jensen and his theories.  I have not read any of his books, and so far I have only seen a some clips of him in interviews, but I have already seen more than a couple of clips where he makes statements that sound like they make sense, but then I also find some of his logic supporting those statements to be a bit flawed and some of his analogies to be a little heavy-handed and simplistic.  But again, I am beginning to question EVERYTHING these days -- including what any "official history book" tells me about events past.  And I don't discount the possibility that story of Gandhi and India's independence has been slanted and twisted with time; in fact, (like most of the West's interpretations of history), I almost expect that it has.

Nevertheless, even though I question Gandhi's true involvement in India's independence from British rule, I do not discount Gandhi's philosophies.  Far from it.  Part of me thinks that the answer to positive social change truly is for one to "be the change you want to see in the world."  I think living by example is the key, or must at least go hand-in-hand with demonstrations and other forms of protest.  I think you can go and protest en mass, chant slogans and pass out pamphlets all you want; you can spread the word about volunteerism, living off-grid, having community bartering to get away from using fiat currency, ridding oneself of the SIN/SSN/NINO and the farce of statute law, and so on, and so on, until you are blue in the face; you can attend a million protests with billions of others, you can write a billion blog posts, you can start a facebook group and share it will billions of people, and spread your ideas to as wide an audience as possible; and even if every last one of the people who receive your message were to wholeheartedly agree with your principals and theories, the fact is the vast majority will still never actually do anything about it themselves unless they can see someone they know succeeding at it; most people do not like to step out of their perceived idea of reality unless one can physically prove their alternate reality to them. I include myself in that category, I'm afraid, but I am working towards changing that.

I also have difficulty with the idea of forceful, violent revolution.  I think that violent action can lead to the serious injury or death of innocent people and could very well turn those who could have been allies against your cause.  I also believe that law enforcement and intelligence agencies can easily hijack violent actions and worsen them to their own advantage, let alone provoke them themselves.  We also must remember that, although we-the-people may vastly outnumber the PTB, even if every person on the earth had their own personal weapons arsenal, the PTB have sound cannons, nuclear armaments, satellites watching the globe, CCTV on the ground, tanks, submarines, fighter jets, missiles -- and that's just the stuff we know about. Violence is their game and we are not even playing in the same league.

Does this mean I believe in just being enslaved? Not at all, but you can most certainly resist something, even physically, without having to resort to physical violence. Personally, I believe non-compliance/civil disobedience is the key: If we all walked into our banks tomorrow and said “I want my money” they would be screwed. If we all refused to pay our taxes, they would be screwed. If we all said “fuck your fiat currency, me and my neighbours are going to barter and swap to support and feed one another”, they would be screwed. If we all grew our own food, produced our own energy, made our own clothes, furniture, you name it, they would be screwed.  Now does that mean that governments and other power structures around the world are just going to throw up their hands and say "okay, you win; I guess the jig is up"?  Of course not, and I suspect that before this CONstruct is dismantled there will be false arrests, illegal seizure of property,  intimidation, incarcerations, and there may even be some bloodshed and loss of life -- all of which are definitely unfortunate and avoidable, to say the least.  Unfortunately upheaval does not come easily nor gently, at least not on the part of those who are in the position to lose great power.

So I guess in the end, while I support those who take to the streets to demonstrate/protest against policies and agendas which they feel to be unjust and unfair, I hope that in addition to doing so they actually work towards an alternative solution, live it, and manifest it.  I also hope that those who have found or do find a better way to live also make sure to share that information with others, even if that means bringing possible endangerment/harassment/marginalisation from government agents or fellow citizens upon themselves.

In the meantime, I hope to live these ideals myself.  Wish me luck!


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