Friday, May 12, 2006

Concluding thoughts on protests

This quote from Blaise Pascal nicely sums up my feelings on the immigration protests (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3), and other types of unthinking political agitation:

"The sole cause of man's unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room."
--Pensées (1670)


Marx thought that revolutionary fervor changed people--and, to a degree, he is right. Get a bunch of people together that hold the same idea strongly and the idea will gain a strength greater than the sum of individuals holding it. The dark gravitational pull of this supra-individual idea will warp the individuals under its sway, suck away their usual civilized inhibitions. And then, violence.

This is the story of revolution. It has been told many times; once by the the guillotine, once by the gulag, once by the leering grimace of Death's Head. Rationality is a quiet thing, but a whisper against the raging tempest of human passion. If ideas are impelled by the latter, by our deaf, screaming passions, then rationality, sitting quiet and cross-legged in its room, will be ignored as a recluse.


Anonymous Tim Robbins said...

This is one thing where you are completely wrong. Nothing in this post reflects your usual opinions of equality of opportunity or your usual love of the way America was built.
Firstly, you're wrong in the impression that revolutionary fervor is a bad thing. We should always be trying to achieve equality (of opportunity) and the freedom to do anything that doesn't infringe on the freedoms of others. I don't think you disagree with either of these statements. Any time that any group of people, especially a government, tries to take away equality or freedom we should do anything in our power to stop them. And protesting is a perfectly reasonable way to do that. What really suprises me is that you have a problem with protesting in the first place. Not only is protesting hugely American, you are wrong in your assertion that protests lead to some darker side of human nature, and I can prove this to you with examples from history. Firstly, there is the example of our country itself. We made a number of civilized, intelligent protests in the birth of our nation. It was only after we realized that England would not listen to these protests that we chose to fight for our freedom, and even at that point we fought a civilized war. The Boston Tea Party could not have possibly been a more civilized protest. We broke in, threw out the tea, cleaned up after ourselves, sent a man the next day to repair the lock that we broke, and Benjamin Franklin offered to pay for the Tea that was dumped. And this was overseen by Samuel Adams. To argue that this protest lacked intelligence or congeniality is either ignorance or stupidity. Other great examples include Martin Luther King Jr.'s Black Civil Rights Protests, Rosa Parks, various sit-ins for black rights. Outside of our country you can look to Nelson Mandella or Ghandi for great examples of protests that were done intelligently and civily and that looked to violence as a last resort. And most importantly were able to suceed with a minimum of violence and a minimum of innocent casualties. If you look at how the immigrant protests were conducted they were done in the same calm, collected manner. Compared to protests like those going on in France right now the immigrants should be commended for their actions, not criticized. You can't even fall back on the conservative argument that things that exist do so for a reason, because they have suceeded. Because our country is based on protests, and based on a revolution. Protests and a revolution are our the things that have existed, they are the things that have done the best and shown themselves to be superior. Any situation in which people are given equality and freedom will naturally be better and more efficient that a system that denies these things and calm, collected, intelligent protests have a history of increasing equality and freedom, not decreasing it. Our founding fathers expected regular protests and revolutions. Thomas Jefferson said, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants; it is its natural manure.” And to say that violence is always a bad thing? That is completely out of your usual train of thought. Of course we should restrain ourselves and try to do things peacefully, but it is sometimes necessary. And more importantly, they haven't been violent yet, how can you criticize them for something that some, not even all, other protestors have done? Rationality can only remain a quiet thing when it exists in a society that is free and fair. In that society rationality rules, and it has the convenience to casually debate. I have a number of immigrant friends who have worked twice as hard as any American I know just to survive and I have never heard them complain about it. Nothing about being born in this country makes us deserve to have more opportunity, there should be equality of opportunity for everyone. Not only is this morally right, but it will be economically better for everyone in the long run.

6:08 PM  
Blogger Grant said...

interesting comment. I'm preparing a post in response.

Until then, picture a monkey doing the Lindy hop. Isn't that amusing?

7:29 PM  
Blogger Grant said...

and if you say its not amusing, you're banned. fair warning.

7:30 PM  
Anonymous Tim Robbins said...

No, its amusing.

8:58 PM  

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