Monday, September 20, 2004

Why I'm not on the Street

A post of Beth's, about some research purporting to demonstrate that street protests are effective, spurred me to think about my reasons for not (usually) protesting. I don't say these are good reasons -- except maybe for the third, they're not. But here they are.

1. I'm enough of a Marxist still to look first at the material conditions when I'm trying to explain anything. I hate the physical activity of protesting. I hate standing on pavement, and I hate walking slowly. Much more than I dislike, say, painting fences or digging ditches. I don't go to museums -- which you would think, given my proclivities, I would adore -- because that's what you have to do in them. Stand, or shuffle slowly along. It makes me want to scream.

2. I hate having words put in my mouth. I'm pathologically averse to it. I have a bone to pick with virtually every chanted slogan and every protest banner, and the fact that someone could take a video of me and legitimately impute those sentiments to me makes me feel ill. There may be no ego-territory I clutch harder than "I'm a man who chooses his words carefully, and stands by them."

3. I hate it when the members of a group get together and tell each other how right they are, and how wrong some other group is. It's precisely this habit that has produced most of the evils I might want to protest. Why would I want to participate in yet more of it? It's like trying to put out a fire by throwing gasoline on it.

There are other reasons, or excuses. I find it very difficult to believe that standing around in a crowd is really an efficient use of my time for any purpose. I dislike crowds at all times. I have always considered that the real purpose of protests is to encourage the protesters, and since protests profoundly discourage and disgust me, I've thought it counter-productive for me to attend them.

It distresses me to earn a poor opinion from Beth and the rest who have commented on how apathetic and unmotivated and generally dim those of us who don't protest are. I'm sorry that you read it as a lack of support and conviction. But I don't think you're going to see me on the streets.

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