Thursday, April 10, 2008

How to Protest

I've been thinking about Daniel Wolf's challenge to boycott the Olympics, and what my response should be. The Dalai Lama encourages peaceful engagement, focused on communication between all parts. I agree with this, and feel that a boycott hampers communication too much. A boycotter gives the impression that s/he will not listen to the boycotted entity until X is achieved. But what if 2-way communication is needed to achieve X? I've read some fascinating arguments on Crooked Timber about the specifics of the China-Tibet-Olympics issue. One in particular, made by a Chinese activist, reminds us that the Chinese government is not oppressing only the Tibetans, but also the majority ethnic group and other minority ethnic groups. By chanting "Free Tibet" we send a signal that we care only about the Tibetans and not about the rest of the Chinese populace. This essentially strengthens the Chinese government's position. Read the comment to see how.

So protests need to be done carefully. Success requires speaking truth, especially topower. But success also requires knowing who all of the players are, and doing everything possible (while still speaking truth) to keep them all engaged. I will not boycott the Olympics, but I will talk about human rights issues every time I mention the Olympics. I won't avoid Chinese products, but I will write letters to Congress and to newspapers reminding people about all of the human rights issues. And when I speak of the human rights issues, I will NOT dehumanize the people in the Chinese government. The administration is doing awful things, but the people in the government are still human beings, not monsters.

In other protest news, and related more to music, I got this email yesterday:
The U.S. Campaign for Burma and have partnered together with Hollywood celebrities to raise awareness around the atrocities occurring in Burma. The Burma Project consists of celebrity spokespeople filming video spots in the Los Angeles area to inform U.S. citizens about the imprisonment of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, and Burma's struggle for democracy.

Musician Brett Dennen will be taping his US Campaign for Burma video tomorrow morning, April 10 in Santa Monica. The first shot will be at 9 AM. You will be able take your own videos and photos during the shoot. After the shoot you'll have the opportunity to interview Brett, as well as speak with the creative team who is putting this campaign together and the folks at the US Campaign for Burma. Please let me know if you are interested in receiving a media pass for this video shoot, and I can connect you with the appropriate person who will be on location.

Raising awareness is awesome, especially given the censorship that oppressive governments use to keep awareness down. I hope the videos manage to raise the issue without making monsters.


Peter (the other) said...

It is always fun, to be fashionably involved, it helps one to feel close to others. But for a citizen of the USA, in whose name and with his tax dollars and IOUs, his very government is clearly and undeniably killing tens of thousands around the globe, this Tibet episode is only proof how a population can easily be diverted. It is worth the time to study the CIA's long time involvement with Tibet and the Dalai Lama.

We should be marching on Washington, for human rights start at home.

Scott said...

I don't think it is a zero-sum game. I can be concerned about the rights of Chinese, Tibetans, Burmese, Sudanese, Nigerians, Americans, homosexuals, women, children, dogs, cats, the environment, and all minorities and underprotected groups. I have been in protests of the US administration's human rights abuses, protests of war, etc. My heart is big. And I think almost all people's hearts are big.