Saturday, July 22, 2006

Protesting against MAWO

Well, after a very hot day here in Vancouver, I’m finally getting a little mental focus and finding a few minutes, before I’m out for the night, to report on our Covenant Zone/No Dhimmitude demonstration against MAWO Vancouver (see our preceding posts: here; and here and here) for their support of terrorists, and against the District of West Vancouver for sponsoring MAWO’s hip hop festival.

It was a fairly successful day, with a number of people stopping to talk, often voicing support, especially for the sign that said “We support our troops”. A number of people could not understand why young people are questioning the need for our Canadian troops and for the west more generally to be present in the world’s troubled regions, and to push for greater social freedoms in places like Afghanistan - "aren't they taught any history?" Some were with us in condemning MAWO’s openly anti-Israel stance; others seemingly checked their tongues on this divide.

Upon arrival, we first met an argumentative woman who thought being politically stupid is what young people always are, they have a right to it, and so why are we demonstrating against it? why don’t we just let them do their thing? The fact that we were protesting the support of local government for a group that defends terrorists who tried to kill Canadians en masse did not move her greatly... since she was too wise to think ideas have much to do with wars. She proceeded to lecture us on the real cause of all wars, which are nothing but battles for resources. OH well…

Dag soon faced off with the MAWO organizer, Ivan, who approached him with an air of aggression; Dag stepped forward and got Ivan to back up, whereupon the latter professed that he didn’t want any violence, which was fine by Dag since he is twice Ivan’s age (one might guess…) Ivan is quite incredible to behold, a potent stew of handsome charm and aggression, perhaps a man born too late to be the romantic hero written all over him, or perhaps someone with a career ahead of him yet as a dangerously charismatic leader and manipulator of youthful passions. He looks like Che, has the manner, and could make a go of it in the jungles of Columbia, or somewhere. On the other hand, he is far too good looking to be a successful revolutionary in, say, the Middle East. He would continually attract the wrong kind of attention.

But at the beach in West Vancouver, the district home to the highest average income in Canada, the hip hop festival was out of place. It attracted a crowd of about forty, average age about seventeen, predominantly male. While everyone tried to strike an air of intifada chic, one couldn’t help but chuckle at the undisciplined and unsophisticated youthfulness of the performers.

The whole thing had an air of unreality about it, since we we demonstrating a rather pathetic scene. There was nothing much of intellectual interest in the MAWO speeches and requests for donations, just bland cries for peace and the withdrawal of our troops (no attempt, say, to argue that withdrawal and peace are not contradictory objectives from, say, the perspective of the average Afghani). Only two kids came over from the MAWO camp to talk with us. One was actually intellectually curious, wanting to make sense of Dag’s “No Dhimmitude/ Filibuster for Universal Modernity” sign (I needed help with it too.) They had a long chat. The other kid was sent over to try and distract us from passers by, by getting us to argue with him. He tried to play the “but isn’t everyone messing up the world” argument, “so why are you picking on the Muslims”. He had been told that our websites are racist hate sites. And he was shaking and all agitated so that it was impossible to speak seriously with him: he was confronting racists and the emotive force of the experience was overwhelming. Oh well, kids today are just not taught to choose or argue sides, and that often there is a better side to a conflict, that one should not just reject war but discriminate between lesser evils, or support the forces of freer societies over the less free. Without such basic starting points, kids read every conflict as recipe for some maternal therapy, all parties to be treated with compassion. Though for this kid, the two sides in the Middle East war are equally morally suspect. And if one is more powerful, i.e. the Jews as opposed to the Palestinians, then one should simply support the underdogs because more of them are getting killed. More sophisticated readings of the global Jihad and Israeli motives in fighting for their survival were not on order for this guy.

Meanwhile, MAWO was flying the Palestinian flag, and the Mohawk warrior flag, and it had a Che banner and its performers struck various poses of identification with the racial outsiders of some supposedly white and dominant society. But there was little substance to it all.

It was a hot day and no one was primed for intellectual gymnastics. But it struck me, as an observer who attempted some empathy for the kids caught up in silly white guilt politics, that not only is the “music” with which they are meant to identify simply pathetic, so is the rhetoric of their youthful opposition to the mainstream. Everything, from the Fidel caps to the anti-war speechifying was as if a mere mall-purchased sign of an earlier age when the youth culture was vibrant. With such a weak youth culture today, and when there is essentially no adult high culture anymore, where will our youth turn when they are seriously in need of some sophisticated human self-understanding? Will it be less to cultural performances and more to basic ethical and political arguments informed by anesthetic writing on questions of anthropology and history? I hope so, because that is what we can contribute in the blogosphere..

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