March 24, 2000


American society has, in fact, institutionalized rebellion by making it popular. Once popularized, rebellions become fads and are so universalized that not to be rebellious is to be square, out of it, irrelevant.

Vine Deloria Jr.(1969)

Public protest is an old tradition. When people feel strongly that something is wrong that should be fixed or changed or stopped, they often get together with similarly minded people, go to some public place and carry signs and shout. The protest is supposed to attract the attention of people who might be able to do something about what they are protesting.

When the World Trade Organization(WTO) met in Seattle, there were thousands of protesters, with each group protesting something different. The vast majority of protesters were peacefully trying to catch the eyes of the delegates and the television cameras. There were also the thugs who caught the camera's eye when they destroyed anything that they could and fought with the police. They wanted to shut down the meeting and they almost succeeded. Other than get their pictures on the TV screen, I fail to see what they intended to accomplish. Some, I assume, hoped to become dead or injured martyrs to a cause; any cause. It's too bad that they didn't succeed.

Usually the people who protest are young, with a few older people in the crowd. Are the older people the leaders? Does it make them feel young? I don't know, but young people tend to follow other young people, and old people tend to follow the same people that they have been following for most of their lives.

If you look at the banners on television of protesters in countries where English is not the spoken language, they are often written in English, despite the fact that very few of the people speak the language. It is obvious that those banners are meant for the television cameras. Instead of simply voicing their protest to those people who might be there, they can now voice their protest to world. Ah, the wonders of the tube.

If you watch the TV news, you might get the impression that there is a protest happening every day and in every conceivable place and nation. If this were true, there would be nobody dealing with the everyday problems that almost everyone in the world faces.

Some of the protesters in Seattle seemed to be jubilant that they had sabotaged the meeting. What had they really accomplished? They had shut down a meeting, and that was all that they did. Did shutting down the meeting do any good for the over exploited people in the third world? No! Did it help American workers? No! Did it help the environment? No! Whom did it help? No one! So what was there to celebrate?

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