Jach's personal blog

(Largely containing a mind-dump to myselves: past, present, and future)
Current favorite quote: "Supposedly smart people are weirdly ignorant of Bayes' Rule." William B Vogt, 2010

Some grounding for protests

I happened to catch a radio interview several days ago with the 84-year-old lady who got maced by the police in Seattle. Her responses were alright, surprisingly lucid for her age, but she fumbled on one issue and eventually hung up. The question was along the lines of "What gives you the right to block these main roads and cause people sometimes really emotional inconveniences?" The example was a caller who called in earlier complaining that he missed his daughter's piano recital because he couldn't go anywhere in his car.

The woman first responded "Well what else are we supposed to do? How else are we going to get attention but by blocking a main street or two or three?" This is close to the right answer, but she didn't carry it through, and under pressure later went on to say that anyone with a car or a job is implicitly backing Capitalism and is part of the problem and deserves any inconveniences. Well that's great, you just disassociated yourself from 90% of the 99% assuming 10% of them are unemployed. Capitalism isn't the problem here.

A few days earlier I heard a prediction that the Right Wing Media will paint the old woman as a Commie from older times. Remember that was a geek-chic trend back in the day she's from, and the Right Wing won't publicly distinguish between Communism and Socialism as economic policies (or as distinct from government systems for that matter). Well when she makes statements like she did, the media won't be that far off. However, I'd be surprised if most of the protesters thought the same, but I wouldn't be surprised if most of them can't come up with a philosophical or moral grounding for their protests to exist.

The first argument against a protest is: "What do you accomplish?"

And, clearly, nothing. Well, nothing in the sense that voting does something slightly more. Unlike what's theoretically possible with voting, protesting doesn't directly change anything. It does do something that can indirectly change things, and that's drawing attention and creating reactions.

The purpose of any protest should be to get a reaction, any reaction, and the first step involved is getting attention. The protest should last until the reactions have caused changes that are favorable. There have been a lot of "Progressive" protests over the last few years, but none got much mention even though some were much larger than Tea Party protests that were plastered all over the news. The Occupy X protests have at last succeeded in getting enough attention. They've also moved quickly to the next step of reaction, with police brutality reports coming in all the time.

What are the next steps? Continue getting reactions until something changes for the better. Protesting in this manner is a very brute-force strategy to effect change, and may as likely bring about harmful change, but it's still much better than violent revolution. The protesters need to understand it, though. Civil Disobedience in the spirit of Thoreau and others isn't often taught, so the ignorance isn't surprising. (At best it may be given a brief overview.)

If you want a law to change, a quick enough way to get a reaction is to break it, and accept the consequences if you're caught, until enough people break it that it changes. Interestingly this seems to be happening unintentionally with pot-possession. Our prisons are so overrun with non-violent offenders sentenced for pot-possession that the costs are finally starting to be noticeable. Pot becoming legalized seems to me only a matter of time, not if; of course, the Obama administration seems more interested in doubling down first and increasing their anti-pot enforcement. If the jails continue to be filled, though, it's not going to work.

Posted on 2011-12-02 by Jach

Tags: government, morality, philosophy


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