Flash Mob Ghandi

At RIT, and I’m sure many other colleges, there is a group of socialists. They are good people, modern hippies. They stand out in front of the library from time to time exercising their right to free speech. They try to hand out their proletariat promoting papers (alliteration ho!) and get into discussions with people walking to class. Maybe even freak some squares. But these people will never make a difference. It is rumored that Winston Churchill once said “If you’re 20 years old and not a socialist you have no heart. If you’re 40 years and you’re a socialist you have no brain.” But despite the fact that socialism isn’t going to work and is not a valid path for the US to take in the near future, these guys are still not going to recruit anyone who isn’t already a socialist or is leaning towards it. The reason is their presentation.

Who is going to listen to a bunch of punk hippy kids standing around with newspapers printed with red and black ink? It reeks of weed, communism and waste. Not very persuasive if you ask me. It’s the same as all the crazy lefty protesters. You know, the Green Peace / PETA types. They always have really clever signs, clever chants/songs, clever costumes and more. In fact, I congratulate them for providing great amusement for the rest of the world while having a fun time themselves. Protesting is always fun. But these people wont make a difference just like the socialists wont. Nobody is going to take you seriously. Maybe a few passers-by who are like minded will join you. But nobody who is opposed to your point of view, especially not the people you are protesting at, will take you seriously. The methods are simply not effective for bringing change to the world, good or bad.

There was a man name Ghandi, maybe you heard of him? He liked to do this thing called civil disobedience. Martin Luther King Jr. borrowed his idea and it worked for him to. Basically you break the law, on purpose, because the law is unjust. Then you gladly accept the consequences while simultaneously fighting the injustice. It’s a very effective method for obvious reasons. What happens is you begin suffering. You go to jail, you starve, you become poor. But if you stay strong through the troubled times people can’t feel badly about you, its something in human nature. This is what the terrorists do wrong. They use violence as their method for trying to convince people to go their way. But its easy to hate violent people, so even if you agree about the idea of an Islamic state you can’t really join up with them because they are so violent. Nobody likes killers. Everyone loves sufferers. Even those Evangelicals love to give money to starving children in African and South America. So willingly suffering in a dignified and public manner is an effective tool for instigating social change.

Why does it seem this method has been lost to us? Everyone is so afraid of suffering these days. Everyone is too much of a wuss to take any personal suffering. Even the hardest core anti-DMCA nerds will settle with the RIAA if a lawsuit comes their way. It’s quite pathetic. As I’ve said in the past, both Israel and Palestine are too cowardly to use these methods. But if either one of them decided to go for it, they would win almost instantly. If one of the two sides laid down their arms, and the other side did not, then the rest of the world opinion would turn in favor of the non-violent side creating clear victory for them. At worst BOTH sides would lay down their arms. Oh nos, PEACE, we can’t have that! The protesting method of civil disobedience has been lost due to the overwhelming cowardice in our society, especially in the USA. It is often said that Americans are excellent at dealing with big problems like wars and bombs, but terrible at dealing with light inconveniences. That’s why our soldiers get coca-cola before they get Kevlar.

Of course, I am in favor of reviving the methods of Ghandi in order to change the world for the better. What to change is a separate issue not to discuss here, but how to use the methods in a modern society is very interesting. Neither Ghandi nor MLK Jr. had the Internet. What if they did? What would they do? First off, they would use the Internet effectively to publicize their suffering. The more people who heard and felt sad for their plight the more effective their work is. Secondly, they would use the Internet to research and get ideas for new things to do. Research is infinitely helpful prior to action. For example they could check out the full text of all the laws they planned on or might be incidentally breaking during their civil disobedience. That way they can avoid any likely false charges and avoid breaking just laws, like laws regulating permits for organized protests and such.

Most obviously they would use the Internet to recruit. Civil disobedience works much better when more people do it. One man in jail is a nut, a thousand people are a cult of crazies, a hundred thousand are a revolution. Combine this with the flash mob. If you didn’t know about flash mobs, they are these awesome things where large groups of people gather in one location very spontaneously and create an instant mob. Like a flash flood, but with people. If you combine the idea of a flash mob with the idea of civil disobedience you can get some very interesting effects. Imagine if instead of one Rosa Parks sitting on a bus and refusing to get up you have thousands of Rosa Parks’ all around the city filling up every seat on every bus and not moving. It will be the great bus sit. Instead of three guys in a Walgreen’s counter you have every Walgreen’s in the state. Instead of a Boston Tea Party you have a tea party in every port coast to coast. Imagine if a thousand laptop bearing nerds congregate outside record company and movie industry buildings, create ad-hoc networks, share and enjoy copyrighted digital video and audio files together. That’s a powerful and convincing message, and its the way we can pave a path to a better tomorrow.

EDIT: I just found out about this. Let me be clear this is not what I mean at all. After murder, suicide is just about the worst thing there is. And it definitely doesn’t work well as a protesting technique because you are passed of as a nut. The worst part is that unlike with other forms of protest, the more people you have join in your suicide the nuttier you are, and therefore the less effective you are. Not to mention the loss of people to aid your cause because you are fucking dead. I’ve heard more than one older member of society say that its not the end of the world. They felt the same way when Nixon got re-elected and things turned out OK. Don’t kill yourself over stupidity like this. Go watch The Power of Nightmares and get over it.

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