Lack of Civil Society

Monday, May 01, 2006

Lack of Civil Society

Every Friday we hold a weekly vigil against the war in Riverside, near where I live. You can visit our website at This past Friday I was really struck by what a sad and fragmented society we live in. Millions and millions of people in this country are against this war in Iraq. None of us wants war with Iran. And yet our elected representatives–regardless of party–just ignore us. The media ignores us. We live in an age where freedom of speech is set aside into zones. Citizens protesting our president are kept as far away from him as possible. To prevent mass mobilizations against him at any one place, his itinerary is usually not made public until the last moment. The leaders within the Peace Movement do not appear on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart or any other programs on the mainstream media. We essentially don't exist.

Our public squares have been replaced with privately owned malls and Starbucks where political action can be eliminated, leaving many activists far away from fellow citizens on some public property. Keeping us out of private property town squares like malls has two effects. On the one hand it makes sure that the capitalist system will continue to operate smoothly. We couldn't dare handle a bunch of miscreants telling patrons about the brutal slave labor that is used to produce the products you sell. On the other hand it delegitimizes the peace movement. Successful people and businesses operate within the mall. There must be something wrong with you if they won't even let you in the mall.

So we are kept out on the public sidewalks where we hold signs for the cars that drive by at incredible speeds. If you support the peace movement you honk your horn, throw the peace sign from your car, or yell some positive encouragement from your speeding car. When stopped in front of us at the red light you repeatedly honk your horn to let us know you're with us, even though you're not.

If you're against us, you flip us off. Yell "Bush rules." Or you might even take to throwing something at us as was done tonight. And that's the political discussion we have since we can't discuss these things at work and we can't discuss them in the private institutions we frequent for entertainment and shopping. Honk or give me the finger; I'll muster a similarly imaginative reply. We should solve the problems of peak oil and global terrorism in no time.

Published in: on May 19, 2006 at 9:59 pm  Comments (2)  

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