BroadSnark

Thoughts on politics, religion, violence, inequality, social control, change, and random other things from an autonomous, analytical, adopted, anarchist, atheist who likes the letter A
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Things You Might Not Have Heard About

October 02, 2009 By: Mel Category: Misc

Today is the anniversary of Ghandi’s birth and it is also the kickoff to the World March for Peace.  Let’s hope it snowballs into something unstoppable.

Vietnamese monks affiliated with Thich Nhat Hanh are being persecuted by the vietnamese government.

The FCC is going to re-investigate the Janet Jackson titty exposure incident, but not the Obama exposure.

A woman in Indiana was arrested for buying cold medicine for her grandchildren.

Marginalized people are always expected to blow off the daily ignorance.  Tami takes issue.

Oh Great, Another Protest

December 24, 2008 By: Mel Category: Change

Tis the season of protests here in DC.

In the last week I have seen a Code Pink shoe display at the Whitehouse gate, a dancing man wearing a paper mache George Bush head, and a pathetically small gathering of women marching for sex workers rights. In addition to which, at least two groups of drum wielding protesters have marched by my office building.

So what the hell do these people think they are accomplishing? I hate to be the one to break it to them, but protests don’t do a thing. Millions of people around the world streamed out into the streets before the Iraq war and it didn’t do a damn bit of good. Seattle protesters got themselves in the news and even managed to shut down a meeting, but the WTO is still here, the World Bank and IMF are still doing the same crap, and we all just mortgaged the rest of our lives to pay off a bunch of international bankers.

Much of this protest delusion comes from the notion that it was protesters that ended the war in Vietnam. United States participation in Vietnam went on for more than a decade, despite all the protesters. And it wasn’t a bunch of marginalized kids marching that made your average Joe fed up with the war. It was seeing body bags come in by the thousands. It was learning about the lies the government was telling. It was seeing My Lai photos plastered all over the paper. In short, it was journalists who risked their lives telling the truth about what was going on, not a bunch of burnt hippies in moccasin boots.

I’m not saying that it is impossible for a large movement of people to force powerful interests to change their tune, but it is rare and requires strategy. The other day I received an email about arranging a general strike across the whole country. Nowhere in the email does it mention what we would be striking for. Where is the focus? Where is the strategy? How are you going to accomplish something if you don’t even know what you are trying to accomplish?

The email I received says that Gandhi showed us how it could be done. Gandhi did show us how it could be done. Gandhi did not dress up in paper mache heads or turtle costumes. He didn’t gather together disparate small groups all asking for different things. He didn’t conduct protests just to pat himself on the back or meet and greet with like-minded people. Gandhi had a plan.

Gandhi’s most famous protest was marching to the ocean to make salt. Gandhi wanted India out from under British colonial rule and knew he needed to show the world the injustice of British rule. The British imposed a salt tax, which gave them a monopoly on salt. Gandhi’s march to make salt fulfilled a real need, highlighted the injustice of British laws, and showed the strength of his movement.

Gandhi was thrown in jail for starting these protests. His treatment by authorities, and the support for his cause, started a domino effect and protests broke out in other areas of the country. That was all part of his plan, as was the media coverage that he cultivated beforehand. He did not just throw something together at the last minute. Today, people just show up at the National Mall on a Sunday afternoon for protests that resemble support groups.

Your average person sees someone dressed as a stuffed animal or with F&#$ the Gap painted on their bare ass and just discounts everything the group is trying to say. Worse, some of my fellow anarchists seem to think that if you destroy everything now, something better will miraculously spring up in its place. Violence is a sure way to turn people off from what you are trying to say.

So please, don’t send me any more calls to protest. Send me a plan. Invite me to a strategy meeting. Let’s pick a realizable goal, identify the obstacles, figure out whose support is needed, and devise a cleverly effective way of pounding away at it until we get somewhere. And if you try to make me wear some ridiculous costume, we’re through.

Obama, The Military, and the Dreaded P Word

September 15, 2008 By: Mel Category: Violence

During the recent community service forum at Columbia University, Obama said the ROTC should be invited back to Columbia and other college campuses who don’t currently allow them. He said that he recognized the “differences in terms of military policy,” but felt it was a mistake that “young people here at Columbia or anywhere at any university aren’t offered the choice, the option, of participating in military service.”

Now it so happens that I agree with Obama, if only because I don’t feel I have the right to impose my morals on others. But by copping out with a weak statement about “differences in terms of military policy” he avoided talking about some issues that we really need to be talking about.

First of all there is the dreaded P word. No, I’m not talking about Palin…or Pig…or Pussy. I’m talking about Pacifist. Now I don’t expect any politician to be one (god forbid), but it’s like they can’t even say the word. We revere Gandhi and Martin Luther King, and yet being a pacifist is seen as naive and weak. If a presidential candidate uttered the word, would their candidacy immediately go down in flames?

Perhaps even more importantly, military service is not just about sacrificing and laying yourself on the line for others. It is about taking other peoples lives. It involves joining an institution that expects its members to follow orders, even when those orders turn out to be disastrous. Willingness to serve in the military isn’t just about willingness to sacrifice, it is about trust in the people who are going to be asking for your sacrifice.

In my father’s generation (he was born in 1929), military service was far more common. World War II was heinous, as all wars are, but soldiers felt honored and honorable when they returned. They felt they were fighting the good fight. People trusted that their government was sending them where they needed to go.

Many Vietnam-era conservatives will tell you that it was lack of support by traitorous hippies that made Vietnam different. (Ironically, the same conservatives who scoff at distrust of the military will swear that government is incapable of doing anything right when it comes to anything else.) But the truth is that any lack of support from the American people was well deserved by a government that lied to us repeatedly (and continues to do so).

Obama speaks often about taking us past the old battles of the baby boomer generation. He talks about revitalizing a culture of service (military and otherwise). He talks about restoring faith in government. If he really wants to do those things, he can’t avoid discussing the issues at the root of our distrust, and apathy, and unresolved anger.