October 10, 1997


The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

Shakespeare: Hamlet, c.1601

Organized protest is a time-honored institution. It has been around for a long time. Now, particularly in California, it has been developed into an art form. Regardless of the "evil" that is being protested, there seems always to be a number of people who are willing to take a chunk of time out of their lives to form a large mass of protestors.

A large group of bicycle riders managed to tie up San Francisco's heavy rush-hour traffic. For every cyclist who was gratified to be able to do what he did, there were many more motorists who were furious because of the traffic jams. Did the cyclists accomplish anything? I have no idea. Nor do I know if their aim was to really accomplish something or to simply enjoy that wonderful feeling of POWER: "For a change, we cyclists get to push the motorists around."

On one side of the political spectrum are those who protest against abortions, the people who have them and the doctors who perform them.

On the other side of the political spectrum are those who are dedicated to "Saving the Earth." They protest the logging of ancient forests and a variety of issues related to it.

There are the anti-vivisectionists, who have been around for as far back as I can remember, who object to the use of animals for experiments and testing. They have been successful in crippling medical research in Great Britain, and would like to do the same thing in the U.S. Closely allied to this group are those who object, sometimes violently, to the use of fur for clothing.

The strong feelings of those who protest are emotionally based; as are ALL strong feelings. While reason may tell a person that the development of atomic weapons are a clear and present danger to everyone, it is emotion that drives people to mass into groups that picket various installations. It is the extreme emotions of the fanatic that lead people to risk death for their beliefs, and in some cases, to kill others.

While the causes may be radically different, it is a similar process that drives some people to band together to get rid of the Jews and Niggers, and others to save the trees and the animals.It is a similar process that leads some to worship celebrities, alive and dead. Some of my readers will be shocked to the point of anger by what they perceive as my equating a brutal and destructive movement like the Ku Klux Klan with a movement to save the Earth or prevent abortion. I am not equating them. What I am saying is that it is intense emotion that drives them. The Elvis lover, the political assassin, the terrorist bomber, are similar in the intensity of the feelings and the need to act in some way, either violently or in a non-violent manner. The difference between murder and suicide is the direction in which the gun is pointed. The word "fan" is derived from the word "fanatic." It connotes a commitment that goes beyond simply liking or disliking something.

Much of the motivation is a deep desire to change an imperfect world or to make a difference. This motivation leads some people to write (even when they don't get paid for it), others to community service, and a wide variety of enterprises; including raising a family.

Recently, several people were able to persuade the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors that the space agency (NASA), was putting the whole human population in mortal danger if it launched the Cassini probe, which is designed to study the planet Saturn. As a consequence, the supes unanimously passed a resolution urging NASA to use solar power instead of 72 pounds of plutonium-238 as a source of electrical power.

I follow the activities of NASA pretty closely and have read just about everything that is available from NASA and those who are opposed to the launch.

This column is the first of two on the subject of the Cassini project. More next week.

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