Posts Tagged ‘Protest’

Dissent Strongly — and Strategically

Posted on April 17, 2012 at 12.41 pm

Q. What is the most effective way to frame dissent? I hear often that ‘dissent is patriotic’ but I am no fan of the state…– oneeyesun, from tumblr.

A.  The best way to frame any dissent is, most basically, going to depend on the subject of your dissent — that said, I can provide some general guidelines.

First, since you mention it, let’s discuss patriotism and dissent.  You’re thinking of the quote from Howard Zinn about dissent being the “highest form of patriotism.”  Personally, I’m not really patriotic.  The more I know about the U.S. government, the food in other countries, and — frankly — God as revealed in Jesus, the less I can be loyal to any one country.  I don’t say the Pledge of Allegiance and I plan to spend significant time living and/or traveling overseas in the future.

Most people, however, do not share this sentiment, and in most conversations (and most instances of dissent) changing that mindset is not my goal — and it should not be yours.  In fact, it may even be advantageous to allow your dissent to be perceived as patriotic if it helps those doing the perceiving join your cause.  In most instances, that will be a matter of marketing more than principle.  In this regard, I think occasional use of this quote from G.K. Chesterton is never amiss:  “My country, right or wrong is a thing that no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying My mother, drunk or sober.”

I mentioned marketing, and that’s really the overall theme here.  When dissenting, consider what you’re trying to accomplish.  Consider your intended audience.  Consider how your opponents will respond.  Consider how you would respond if the same dissent was directed at something you support.  The answers to these and other questions you’ll consider will, as I’ve mentioned, differ for each issue.

My preference, however, is to go for broad-based support.  If you’re dissenting on Issue A, there is probably no need to mention Issue B.  There are probably a lot of people who can be persuaded to join your protest of Issue A, but if you mention Issue B, they’re out.  If Issues A and B are not vitally related, don’t connect them.  Make friends in weird places.  Be friendly and diplomatic.  Never compromise your principles, but be aware that you’ll be more persuasive with a smile than an attack.

This is what’s so great about health food stores, for instance, which are their own sort of dissent by virtue of existence.  In health food stores, you will find homeschooling mothers who are in church five days a week and vote straight ticket Republican.  You will also find, at the other extreme, vegan, communo-anarchist, animal rights activists.  But, in the health food store, they are delighted to see each other and share gluten-free cookie recipes.  It is a common ground.

Whenever possible, model your dissent with common ground in mind.  You don’t need to find 100 million people with the same opinion as you on every issue; you need to find 100 million people willing to join this specific project of dissent.  As a very experienced dissenter I know likes to say, build a movement, not an empire.

Chile Today, Full of Protests

Posted on September 10, 2011 at 1.43 pm

Q. What do you think about the student protests in Chile?– wollpulli, from tumblr.

Q. I recently read a research paper (policy analysis) on Private Scools/schools in Chile and it seems that private franchised schools are the route to go but then I recently read this article which is saying that people can’t afford these “free-market” privately owned schools.

I’m curious, is there a way to keep the free-market school systems without having most of the population in debt? — Mar, from the internet.

A. It doesn’t seem like the protests in Chile have gotten a huge amount of press here in the States, so let me start by quoting a short summary of the situation from one of the links Mar cited:

With the explosion of students in recent years, new graduates – especially those from lower-quality private universities – found themselves with debts of up to $40,000, and not able to pay back their student loans.

And since their parents had guaranteed their loans, their whole families were in a bind – which helps explain the wide support for the student movement among Chilean grown-ups.

So far, the government of conservative President Sebastian Pinera has offered to inject more government funds to higher education, lower interest rates on student loans, and offer full scholarships to the poorest students. But student leaders, emboldened by their popular support, are pushing for more.

The “more,” it seems, mainly includes the establishment of additional, well-funded public schools which students can attend for free.  That said, the protesters — who consist of just 5% of the student population in Chile — have rejected as “too vague” a deal which, among other provisions, included “two constitutional reforms that guarantee access to quality education as a right and prevent universities from making a profit off of education.”

If the next deal is more specific and heads in the same direction, whatever success Chile has had with its partially private education system to date will very possibly be undermined.

Nonetheless, even if the system is left as free as it currently is, we’re left with the question of whether the market can provide high quality, private education at a price affordable for the average Chilean.


Major Antiwar Rally in DC March 20!

Posted on February 1, 2010 at 3.07 pm

ANSWER is organizing a large antiwar march in Washington on March 20, 2010, the seventh anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.  As their site explains,

On Saturday, March 20, 2010, there will be a massive National March & Rally in D.C. A day of action and outreach in Washington, D.C., will take place on Friday, March 19, preceding the Saturday march….

We will march together to say “No Colonial-type Wars and Occupations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, Haiti!” We will march together to say “No War Against Iran!” We will march together to say “No War for Empire Anywhere!”

As I’ve noted before, this sort of thing is a great opportunity to join a broad coalition of people against aggressive war.  However, it’s important to include a major caveat:  ANSWER is strongly antiwar, but not strongly against the state.  Most of the people attending this protest would be happy to see the money saved on these wars be redirected to acts of aggression against the market.

So go to this event — I’ve already seen posters for it around DC and it looks very promising — but go with with signs which support freedom in both domestic and foreign policy…and be prepared for some (hopefully good-natured) arguments.

Originally posted here.