It’s all terribly self-indulgent navel-gazing, but I suspect that a lot of us may be able to relate to this article explaining to Tom Friedman why young folks these days don’t go out and protest and change the world, like they all did in the good old days:
My generation tries to create lives that seem to match our values, but beyond that it’s hard to locate a place to put our outrage. We aren’t satisfied with point-and-click activism, as Friedman suggests, but we don’t see other options. Many of us have protested, but we — by and large — felt like we were imitating an earlier generation, playing dress-up in our parents’ old hippie clothes. I marched against the war and my president called it a focus group. The worst part was that I did feel inert while doing it. In the 21st century, a bunch of people marching down the street, complimenting one another on their original slogans and pretty protest signs, feels like self-flagellation, not real and true social change.
Well, speaking personally, that very sense of helplessness was particularly acute after the Kerry loss, and has continued with every day that I get more horrific news from Iraq and more warning signs on global warming. That’s why I write, which is not quite the same as “point-and-click activism”, but neither is it taking the streets and threatening domestic chaos until my demands are met. I’m not hunger-striking, I’m not doing a salt-march to the sea.
Lord knows we want to know what works. As Ms. Martin points out, the protest march has really been done to death, and it’s not a surprise anymore. (If I hear another hey-hey-ho-ho chant I’m gonna do something rash.)
What we need is a method of protest that 1.) really gets attention, that is completely novel, creative, and inventive; and 2.) in which the method of protest embodies and clarifies the ethics of the movement itself, and 3.) invites people into the movement, which allows them to become members of a coalition without sacrificing their own identities or personal ethical codes. It should invite discussion, not demand conformity.
Now, all that being said, I have no idea what that would look like. But when we figure it out, it’s gonna be good.