Friday, March 14, 2003

Look Ma, Reader Mail!

I recently had a brief email conversation regarding a reader's reaction to something I'd mentioned in this post. I found it was an interesting exchange of ideas I thought worth sharing.

Or, I'm just excited I actually got reader mail!



I'm writing in response to your comment about annoying and useless
people in the peace movement. And I agree that if I never see another
guy swinging a white haired ponytail behind him or have to listen to
Sufi drumming in a peace demo that would be just fine. (For that matter,
I wouldn't mind some occasional music at peace rallies written *after*

But I actually think the giant puppets add visual interest to marches.
After all, you are going to the Mardi Gras; now maybe you intend to miss
all the parades and just take part in the giant street party. But all
the parades include floats, many which have mounted on them, that is
right, giant puppets. (Much fancier than the ones in peace demos. Some
people put their lives into making those floats.) I think giant puppets,
and colorful costumes, and any harmless thing that adds a bit of fun to
marches should be encouraged.

Similarly sex is used to sell just about everything. Spelling out
messages in naked bodies in one of the few ways left for ordinary people
to get into mainstream media.

Peace is one of the most serious subjects on earth. It is always good to
deal frivolously with serious things; there is enough solemnity in the
matter - no need to be pompous in style as well. Anything that can add a
bit of lightheartedness to opposing a war is OK in my book.



To which I responded...


I think you make a good point about lightheartedness and using creativity.
(BTW, I when I went to Mardi Gras, I went to the parades with the cool
floats, and totally avoided the "Girls Gone Wild" excesses of the French
Quarter. We went to the Quarter the day after, when all the drunken
tourists and frat boys had gone home.) I thought about it, and I didn't
really want to make it seem that I didn't think that kind of stuff should be
happening at all. The definitely allow people to express themselves, and
can make people think, and probably make the world a nicer and more
interesting place to live in over all.

However, their effectiveness in actually stopping or preventing anything I
must call into question. A friend of mine was speaking to me of her
frustration with the student's peace movement she's involved in at her
university. Most of the membership was more interested in doing things like
painting their faces white and lying on the ground in the middle of campus
pretending they're dead Palestinian children. I don't believe such
activities would actually help a single Palestinian. They only preach to
the converted, and do not offer any help to anyone in need. Also, they
provide fuel to the portions of our society that would like to dismiss
movements for peace as a "bunch of wackos" etc.

I don't know, I'm of two minds on the situation. Is creativity for peace a
waste? Should our energies be focused on things that work more within the
system, like boycotts, etc? Probably a lot of the people drumming and
dancing naked for peace are also doing local work, such as volunteering at
homeless shelters or something along those lines.


To which my reader friend replied....


Hmm. I'm not going to comment on that particular tactic. (...regarding the student protest of the Palestinian situation I mentioned above...) But here is the
thing. Politicians don't do anything out of the goodness of their
hearts. They do stuff because pressure is put upon them. And one of the
ways they get pressured is if a lot people get involved in pressuring
them. So anything that attracts people to join in large numbers helps.
Also, anything that is a lot of trouble to do shows that people are
willing to put some effort on these issues. If nothing is done except
publicity stunts, of course they will be useless. But publicity stunts
in combination with other tactics can be very effective. So doing wild
and crazy things can actually help, as long as they are not the only thing.

You need a lot of people willing to boycott to make a boycott work. So
you need something to get attention so that people will hear about your
boycott. If you don't like a particular wild and crazy thing, then you
need to find another wild and crazy thing to substitute. Because they
accomplish too things - publicity ,and making activism less deadly so
people can stick to it instead of burning out. But I agree, I'd like
something less sixties hippie. The two points behind this kind of stuff
should be to attract publicity, and to make activist more fun. I think
that nudity, especially if done separately , as it has been, and not
mixed in with larger demonstrations, does get publicity. I think the
puppets help a little in terms of publicity. (I notice that most
newspapers when they cover a demo include at least one shot of a puppet.
Puppets makes good photos, and good video for TV coverage.) And I think
they help a lot in terms of keeping a demo interesting. The drumming , I
have to admit, a little goes a long way. Ditto the 60s folk songs. I'd
like to see at least half the music in a demo newer than six years old.

My feeling - in general this is a loud and raucous culture. Quiet,
civilized dialogue is not the way the to reach us. Loud, colorful, a
little bawdy - that is what I think will reach the most Americans.


I can see both of our points. However, I still maintain that most of these naked, etc., publicity stunt/protests can do more harm than good to "the movement".

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