Some other things I’ve been thinking about

Protests don’t work anymore. Not rallies, not marches, not shouting and singing and sign waving. Why? It’s too easy to stop listening. We’re immune. It’s too ordinary and expected and commonplace. We can always change the channel.

Protests fail because there’s no dialogue. No conversation. No opening. Even people who were against war avoided the war protests we had in 2002, because it was self-indulgent and irrelevant and a rehash of something that worked in another era. Not now, when we can all move along elsewhere, because we’ve already heard the message and made up our minds.

I think the only thing that can work now is real conversation. About what I want and what you want and why we aren’t getting it. Partisan blathering is poisonous, it closes the ears of anyone who doesn’t already agree with that side. We don’t suffer from a lack of opinions, and I think the problem for anyone who doesn’t like the way things are going is trickier than just learning to yell louder. Personal politics are identities, and thus entrenched against the shouts of outsiders.

The news media fails here, fails to offer another kind of discussion. So much journalism is “Mr. X says this and Mr. Y says he’s wrong”, and it’s often the most critical issues that are handled this way. What we need is not only claim A and claim B, but each side’s rationale, who funds them, and what biases they may have from other personal and financial connections. Any external data is helpful, too, if it can provide context or a larger picture or specific details and outcomes. And we need real, concrete, human stories. Not exaggerated ones, no schmaltz. Writing that represents what’s happening to different people, in our country and around the world, and attempts to understand why. Because I think ultimately what we need to address can be stated as an inversion of the feminist phrase: The political is personal.

2 responses to “Some other things I’ve been thinking about

  1. I keep thinking about the construction of argument, particularly the construction of enthymemes. An enthymeme is an argument that’s built on major premise, minor premise, and conclusion, but the speaker/writer leaves out one of the premises because it’s assumed that everyone understands and agrees with that premise.

    As rhetoricians have argued since rhetoric began (so I’m hardly saying anything new here), if you assume that your audience agrees with one of your premises or will supply the premise you’re looking for, you’re assuming a whole hell of a lot. For if your audience doesn’t agree with your assumed premise, or if they are supplying a completely different premise, you are never going to persuade them.

    And I keep seeing that enthymemic problem happening over and over again when people talk about political or social issues. I don’t know how to get to the dialogue you describe.

  2. I don’t think protests have ever worked, and they most certainly don’t now. I’ve always said so quite loudly.