Sunday, January 13, 2019

Why Protest?

This will be the shortest post ever! Here's my argument delineated in premises and a conclusion (P=premise, SC=sub-conclusion, C=conclusion):

P1. Human beings are wired for immediate, or short-term, survival, not long term survival. (Or, as Plato said, we are weak at the skill of measurement.) That's why we do many stupid (aka short-sighted) things.
P2 (SC1) - So, we need restrictions on our behaviour if we hope to survive (e.g. DUI laws. There's an unstated premise here that the government has the power to restrict our behaviour).
P3. The government is made up of people who are also human, so they are also wired only for immediate survival.
P4 (SC2) - So, they also need to be forced to behave in ways that work better longterm.
P5. Part of surviving in government, short term, is being re-elected by the people.
P6 (SC3) - So, politicians can be influenced by their perception of what the people want. (little side argument: They're also affected by cash-rich lobbyists, but they don't get any of that lobby money if they don't have a seat in office. They only have a seat if they follow the will of the people.)
P7. Non-violent protests with enough people affect the politicians in a real democratic country ('enough' being the tipping point that suggests to politicians that the tides have changed and they have to alter their message if they hope to be re-elected).
P8. (SC4) - So, if enough people protest against climate change, politicians will alter legislation to restrict our actions, to affect corporate practices, and to alter the governmental direction of spending in favour of longer-term survival.
P9. Boots-on-the-ground protesting is more effective than clicktivism as it adds the dimension of clarifying to politicians that the protesters are politically engaged and willing to act, thus more likely to vote. (And rallies have worked in the past.)
P10. When protesting doesn't have an effect, it's because it wasn't sustained and determined enough. (Okay, this one is circular, and there are places where protesters were ignored for years, like the protests against Coke drying up aquifers in India, so this also rides on the unstated premise that, in Canada, democracy works).
P11 Doing something in the face of our grim reality feels better and helps us cope in the face of trauma more than doing nothing.

C. We have to rally outside the offices of parliament if we have any hope of turning this corner!

Am I wrong? If so, which premise is in question? If not, then join the fight! This is our last chance. Thinking that we have until 2030 to change things allows for a bit more denial that slows us down from changing things NOW. Every day counts in those mere 4,000 days until we run out of options. (Yes, 2030 is just a little over 4,000 sleeps!)


Lorne said...

Very interesting, Marie, but Premise One, that we are hardwired for only short-term survival, would seem to militate against the suggested solutions, don't you think? People have a remarkable capacity for keeping their heads firmly buried in the sand, and even though our very survival is indeed threatened by climate change, we somehow continue on in the same old ways. It is all very, very discouraging.

The Mound of Sound said...

The neoliberal era has degraded the place of "vision" in modern politics. Since it came to shape our politics we have not seen leaders of the stature of St. Laurent, Pearson, Trudeau or even Diefenbaker. They've been displaced by technocrats, petit fonctionairres, grey suits stuffed with wet cardboard, intent on administrating rather than leading. I had hoped that Trudeau Mk.2 might break that mould but no such luck.

Marie Snyder said...

@Lorne - Yes, as I found trying to get people to come with me to the first Fridays for Future protest, people just don't care about it. They need all the trees outside to fall dead before they'll think about acting. And then I came home to get support from my kids, and my son, in Environmental Sciences, said his prof told them that pipelines are the best way to transport oil, implying that we shouldn't be protesting them.

@Mound - I was so hopeful with Trudeau. First time I ever voted Liberal. What a disappointment he's been for the environment and for the Indigenous peoples.

David said...


P7 is mostly true if a government cares to listen to enough people. It works in France but it has no bearing in the USA, and there never seems to be enough people in Canada.

However, since I work in government, I know that letters seem to do something. If there are enough letters sent to MPs/MLAs, things do change. The letters should be personal though. I've glossed over so many form letters that they just become a statistic rather than a requirement to respond. A form letter will elicit a copy and paste response because we don't have time to respond to everything.

If each letter was personalized, we'd have to consider a response. It takes up a lot of time in our day to do it so if this happens, we need to come up with a new strategy to handle the influx. We do keep track of all the letters but since there are so few, we can handle it. It will break our systems to be flooded with letters.

Be like Andy DuFresne and get that prison library.

Marie Snyder said...

David - that's great to know that letters make a difference. I've recently given up trying to get replies for a letter-assignment written by my students, but maybe I'll try again.