Friday, April 22, 2005

Give me your apathetic...

...your disaffected, disenfranchised, suburban middle class yearning to make a difference!

Thomas criticizes a group of World Bank protestors over at Mile Zero. They probably deserve a great deal of his criticism, if not the vitriol. Nonetheless, I see a problem with his exhortation to go through legitimate channels in order to create change.

After all, I've seen the legitimate channels. What would we have these protestors do instead of protesting? Gather together a team of experts and interested parties for a conference? A nice dinner party with iced tea, cocktails, and some sort of free-range chicken dish with a vegan option for the animal rights conscious or simply finicky? Light entertainment afterward followed by workshops with self-important development gurus?

Those are your so-called legitimate channels - and not only can these folks not afford the price of admission (although with such nice signs I have to wonder if they do have the money...) but you have to wonder if our "convenings" are any more effective than their protests. They're certainly more boring. When you think of all the resources that are pumped in to putting together one of those development conferences and getting the attendees to the site, you can't help but ponder the irony of hundreds of people attending a five-star resort and conference center to talk about how they deplore world poverty. Telling these people to go through these channels assumes that these channels are going to create the kind of change that they wish to see. The nature of these somehow more privileged channels is, to these protestors, part of the problem, and they're partly right.

I understand that there will always be nuts out there who won't be happy with anything any authority does. I understand that being an anarchist for a day is a whole lot easier than being an activist for life. That being said, the political means available to the disenfranchised masses are always going to look less than sophisticated and be less than effective... but that's why we call them disenfranchised.

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