I was on my way to Vancouver one day for an e-commerce seminar when I heard the Eagle Ridge Bluffs protesters state their case on the radio. I quickly switched the station in disgust. These people had resorted to protesting the expansion of the sea-to-sky highway to Whistler after many years and millions of dollars had been put into designing the highway, putting to together cost and environmental evaluations to make sure that this was the safest and most cost-effective way to get people to and from the resort in time for the 2010 Olympic games. And now it was all going to be cast aside thanks to the tireless sitting efforts of some quinquagenarians with too much time on their hands.
It’s been said that protest is dead because the language of resistance has been appropriated by the establishment to sell Nike and Coca-cola. I think that’s only part of the equation. Protest has lost its effectiveness because it is has started to become unnecessary as a communication tool. This is not India in the middle of the British Occupation. Rule of Law has progressed to a point where you can stage a protest without getting a riot baton in the face. The most these Eagle Ridge Protesters had to deal with was a terse letter and some harsh language. In our society, with all it’s modes and avenues at our disposal, these protestors have decided to go with the grown-up equivalent of a toddler holding his breath to avoid nap-time.
Now, I am under no delusion that society is perfect. We have poverty and ignorance just the same as any other era. However, when I hear that a group of people have blocked off a highway or marched on the Vancouver Art Gallery to prove their point, I find myself tuning out, whatever the issue may be.
There’s a piece of commercial real estate in the old town of Abbotsford. The shop is called Da kine, named after the marijuana cafe in vancouver shut down a few months ago. Over the windows are draped signs of with various slogans decrying the police, the city hall, and the local free newspaper. I wonder if Tim Felger realizes that he’s appealing to *People* to carry out his bizarre political designs.
No one seems to take the idea of political capital seriously. Have you ever heard of the Marijuana Party doing anything to help anyone else? Do they even care that they need to be a force in the community before they can garner any votes?
It’s not that demonstrations in and of themselves are bad. The trick is that they have to be used more sparingly than they have in the past, and they must be enacted with good faith. Take the Nation-wide marches of the immigrants in the United States. Many of these immigrants do not have the resources to put together a proper awareness campaign. Appearing in one might lead to arrest or deportation. So what do they do? They take a National walk-off the job to show how much the American economy depends on their work. 300 million dollars was lost in Los Angeles through one day of protest. This may not have gotten anyone citizenship, but it certainly took the idea of deporting millions of illegal immigrants off the table.
To be heard in the information age takes more than a shrill voice and placard. To confront the problems of today, we need use our heads as much as our hearts. We are all creatures of want and need; satisfying the needs and wants of others are the first steps to satisfying our own. With the freedom afforded to us as a Liberal Democracy, we can all find the way to our dreams.