Monday, 13 August 2007

Protesting Protesting

I started another Japan Top 5, but then I saw this article and felt apoplexy come rushing over me and had to stop to say something about it.

I find it difficult to articulate exactly what it is I hate about left-wing demonstrators, because I'm convinced that if I say what I really think I'll come across as, frankly, a judgemental twat. It's not even as if I'm against the idea of demonstrating. Civil disobedience brought down brutal dictatorships in Poland and The Philippines, and did for authoritarianism in Georgia, Kyrgyzstan and the Ukraine. It ended racially discriminatory laws in the US. It's partly responsible for bringing about suffrage for women. It was the main tool of the Indian independence movement. It is a great thing when used to achieve an honest goal for an entire populace.

But modern day left-ish protestors in the West are a different breed to Ghandi, Martin Luther King, and Lech Walesa. Protesting as civil disobedience works when it starts as a grass-roots swelling of public opinion that rises up against a single injustice - like racial discrimination, or repression. Something that is obviously, palpably wrong and which the removal of will give benefit to a whole society. A spontaneous throwing-off of repression, with one or two leaders as figureheads for the masses.

Protesting about climate change, or Israel, or Stop the War!, isn't like that. It's much more selfish and arrogant. Nobody is quite sure what climate change will mean, or even what is driving it. Nobody can disentangle the Arab-Israeli conflict and apportion the blame to one side. Nobody can judge whether the invasion of Iraq was a good or bad thing without many years of hindsight. And yet some people on the left are so sure that they have the answers, are so sure of their own opinions and judgements, and are so strident in their righteous indignation, that they absolutely can't resist shouting out to the world about how angry they are and how they want everybody to know about it.

It's like exhibitionism, really: "We're so wonderful and morally courageous and interested in justice and goodness and peace, and we want everybody else to look at us and how fantastic we are."

And the worst thing about it is that it only serves to muddy the waters about what we should, sensibly be doing. I would like to live in a society where people were educated about the implications of climate change and could listen to reasoned and rational debate by knowledgeable people about its causes and future. I would like to live in a society where otherwise intelligent people are not driven to supporting fascistic, hateful, anti-woman, anti-homosexual, repressive gangsters like Hizbollah and Hamas just because they disagree with Israeli strategy. I would like to live in a society where people aren't so easily swayed by what they read in the papers and watch on TV that they stop thinking about issues like Iraq for themselves. But I can't, because the loud shrieking from the moral high-ground to the left has drowned out all other sound.

And to think, I used to call myself a Socialist. I can't be the only one who has been alienated from a political philosophy by the idiocy of its other members, can I?

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