Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Opinion: Ineffective Protests

As of late I have become more and more irritated with the ineffective protests which occur in this city. I've said before that Ottawa is the city of major issues and, apathetic action. Perhaps due to living in a political city most people simply tune out dealing with politics, or maybe it is due to the system that we live in which discourages action or at least marginalizes it. There seems this concern to not offend people, to not cause too much trouble, but feel some form of satisfaction from simply making some noise and then going home.

I find it interesting that for instance Canadians' opposition to our forces being in Afghanistan is comparable to that of Americans' opposition to the Vietnam War in the early 1970s. Yet at that point there was a consciousness of action throughout the United States from the multitude of movements building into it the Civil Rights Movement, the 2nd Wave Feminist Movement, the Prisoners Rights movement and, the First Nations Right movement. These were movements who were willing to take risks, risks that result in multitudes of people loosing their lives, but provided for better quality of life as well as preventing the silent deaths of others. The silent deaths of Blacks by lynching and other violence, the silent deaths of abused wives or womyn with illegal abortions, the deaths of prisoners by guards, the continuing genocide of the First Nations, the deaths of countless soldiers, Vietnamese and Laotians. Sadly many silent deaths still occur, but now there is an outlet for them not to happen.

For a protest to be effective there needs to be some sort of risk involved, whether that be individual or collective. Most of the protests these days in Ottawa have no real risk factor involved, they march down the street usually to parliament with their nice police escort and then everyone goes home. This type of protest for the most part is one thing that diverts people genuine rage at unequal systems whether economic, violent, racist, sexist, homophobic or otherwise and in turn keeps in place the existing system of power.

First Nations seem to be one of the few alive movements left in this country that are willing to take risks. They are willing to risk going to jail blocking mining companies from destroying the land, to cut of trains and roads to make an economic impact and, to defend the broken morsels of Mother Earth that are left in their care. I think the reason for this is because, the First Nations have less to lose. Physical then cultural genocide have been committed against them, the land they were stewards of for the Creator have been taken and destroyed and, on the whole most First Nations live in extreme poverty man of which not even given some necessities of life such as clean water. So, they risk because, what else can they do.

What of the rest of us however, those of us with certain amounts of privilege. Most of us sit in our warm homes or ivory academic towers saying things like "oh how horrid" instead of taking real political action and risking that privilege. But, what of poor urban communities one might ask. Instead of exploding in social action, communities turn on themselves thinking if only I could best the person next door I can get some of that privilege. Believing the words of corporate made rappers or rockers that some day I will have that too.

What we need is liberation. What we need is action. What we need is real risk.

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Blogger betmo said...

i have posted on this subject a few times myself. i won't go into detail here with all of the posts- but i think here in america- it isn't convenient. you have to get a form signed for permission and then you have to not even be at the scene of the protest or you get tricked (ala san fran with olympic torch) or you get arrested. folks here- can't and won't deal with that. there isn't the capacity to think outside the box- and gasp!- just go en masse as the latinos did a couple of years ago. we are too comfy, too programmed, and too dumbed down to not do as we are told. here in america.

9:02 a.m.  
Blogger Jade said...

Yeah here in Ottawa your supposed to get a permit too. Except for certain situations such as like the Ottawa Dyke March, which is more a celebration then protest, I always suggest not getting a permit. The anti-war student protests usually go that way, but they are the exception.

9:08 a.m.  

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