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03/15/05 | by [mail] | Categories: culture/news

What are People For?I've exchanged a few emails with a friend about protest and when it's appropriate. I thought I should share this passage from Wendell Berry's What Are People For?.

Much protest is naive; it expects quick, visible improvement and despairs and gives up when such improvement does not come. Protesters who hold out longer have perhaps understood that success is not the proper goal. If protest depended on success, there would be little protest of any durability or significance. History simply affords too little evidence that anyone's individual protest is of any use. Protest that endures, I think, is moved by a hope far more modest than that of public success: namely, the hope of preserving qualities in one's own heart and spirit that would be destroyed by acquiescence (Berry 62).

I'm more optimistic about the potential of protest to bring real change than Berry seems to be here. But, I thought his conclusion about the real value of protest was especially germane to our discussion about war protest.



I really want to read more of Wendell’s writings… and Zinn as well, esp. “A People’s History…” Darn, I want those books… badly.

gringo [Visitor]http://www.whoisgringo.brendoman.com03/15/05 @ 01:31

I think that one of the goals of protest is making people aware. I don’t expect protest to solve the world’s problems, end war, or even get the government to do something about Sudan. But I do think that protests can bring attention to matters.

We have also seen protests that work. Non-violent resistance has worked in many different ways - Ghandi and the Salt March, Matin Luther King, even protests against the Vietnam War.

I disagree with Berry in the purpose of protest - it is much greater than individual preservation. The goal of protest should be change - if not policy change, at least changing the minds/hearts of the people around you.

dave [Visitor]http://hippydave.brendoman.com03/15/05 @ 09:18

I’m with Dave. Nonviolent protests make a statement.

gringo [Visitor]http://www.whoisgringo.brendoman.com03/15/05 @ 10:38

One of our faults as a people is our failure to act in ways that address the roots of society’s problems. If that means that protest, direct action, or civil disobedience is necessary to cure injustice, then we all should get off our cans. Which issue(s) should we be focusing our attention on? Getting out of Iraq? Gay marriage? Clean water? Social Security? Education? The School of the Americas? Racism? Censorship of Student Newspapers?
Sometimes I feel like there are grass fires burning toward my household from every direction and I just go with my hose from one thing to the next, hoping not to fall asleep while one sneaks up on me.

Heath [Visitor]http://www.heath.brendoman.com03/15/05 @ 20:43

Dear Daniel,

From your last dozen emails, I understand the importance of destroying the satanic holy day of Halloween to you. I totally agree that distributing these tracks to trick or treaters will help wipe out this evil night. This evil, evil night.

Thanks for the great work you have done at the following protest demonstrations: Gay Pride Week, and the Jewish Antidefamation League. Don’t let the satanic Mr. Berry (Berrstein?) dissuade you.

Thanks for the ideas about the tracts targeting public schools (dens of iniquities?), Southern Baptists (real Christians?) and Kirk Cameron (anti-Christ?). I will do some initial sketches and see what you think.

Love (but not the gay kind),

Jack Chick

Jack [Visitor]http://www.chick.com/default.asp03/15/05 @ 22:25

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