Opinion War & Peace

Don’t Be a Moral Pawn, Protest Protest

In 2002, I marched downtown Los Angeles, along with tens of thousands of protesters, in awe and love for the outpouring of support against the Iraq war. At the end of the march, we were entertained if not inspired by an all-star band including Jackson Brown, Slash, Ian Gillan, as well as Hollywood actors including Michael Douglas, and many more. It was hard to believe, in my 19-year old naivete that a volunteer army would march out against Saddam Hussein, in despite of widespread protest, not to mention the relatively transparent lies that justified the whole thing. So when the war got underway, I was disturbed. It hardened an aspect of my heart and instilled distrust in the political system. I started believing that protesting was a useless cornerstone of American democracy.

Protests can be backed and fuelled by the establishment. The most obvious in the world right now is Russia against Ukraine. It is actually pretty accepted that Russia backs the rebels. It is more difficult to prove that NATO, EU, or the US had personnel involved in the Kiev takeover last year, but there is a good case for it. In the same way that warfare evolved from traditional battlefields to guerilla tactics, I am suggesting that covert operations are the new face of war. It is a masked face.

The majority of Americans stand against all three branches of government. Even the Supreme Court is distrusted. This Gallup poll shows a cross over of both low approval and outright disapproval. President Obama has seen his approval rating remain flat if not rise, remaining steady at just 50%. But there are enough who adamantly oppose him to sink the Presidential Approval Index rating to -15.

The worst rating lies on Congress, as a whole, with a sad approval rating of only 9%. A two-thirds majority actually disapproves of Congress. Worth noting, citizens cannot lead an expulsion process, only Congress can do that.

One major reason people don’t trust Congress and the Supreme Court is for the same reason: campaign financing. People believe the Supreme Court sold out our system while Congress is distracted by fundraising at the least if not wholly corrupted in the legislative process—a belief that sunk in with the government shut down last year. Obama’s rating is more nuanced than that, but ultimately, it has a lot to do with being at the center of a shit storm.

Economic inequality has reached historic levels and it turns out the Democratic voting base is at both ends of that spectrum, less in between. American perception of inequality is awfully skewed. But that is beginning to change as some of the best-selling books of the year focus on this subject. People are increasingly concerned about corporations running the show and many are underpaid or not employed. The top issue is by far jobs and economic development.

The American citizenry is armed to the teeth with guns, distrusting all three branches of government, many are out of work and frustrated, they have instant access to massive communication via social media: these are the kind of conditions that lead to large-scale protests. But when Occupy stormed the nation, it was violently shut down with nearly 8,000 arrests by local police officers. Now more than the sixties, people tend to find themselves in harms way with militarized police. Protesters tend to oppose whole swaths of the population based in strict ideologies. There is no doubt that protest movements are inherently divisive, always relying on the “us versus them” mentality.

It would be necessary for partisanship to become so tense that it shatters our differences, causing reconciliation for the sake of survival. Or else the extremists on both ends find a middle ground to produce a bipartisan solution to shared woes. But it is hard to imagine Occupy protesters even sitting at the table with Tea Partiers. That is why I have considered a solution to the trouble, before there is any. I want to protest protests.

If we did not protest, if we were not so easily swayed in to adversarial, partisan thinking, we could not be taken advantage of by the establishment and could not become the pawns of covert operations.

All over the Middle East, militant groups are fighting one another, each of them vying for position in the government. Syria is in civil war, but it is known that non-Syrians are fighting the resistance against Assad. There are well-founded concerns about Turkey involved with the chemical attack that nearly pushed Obama across “the red line”. There are claims that CIA catalyzed the Arab Spring in 2011 and it is known that USAID invented a micro-blog site in Cuba for unclear reasons, most likely to stir unrest and promote western ideologies.

It is not to say that 100% of protesters getting swept in to revolution are contractors or covert operators. It is definitely to say that it takes a small group of covert operators to fuel a fire already burning in the hearts of a citizenry, especially the youth and the unemployed, who are less experienced. Therefore, if a protest movement props up in America, I won’t trust it. Occupy was no doubt an authentic movement, but the language I observed and the behavior I witnessed was really off-course to positive change. Besides, it was shut down.

Tea Party movement and protests have been proven as initiated by the establishment. That includes the original, historic Tea Party event, when England was still in control. They may not be as offensive as Occupy was, certainly they never tried to take buildings and public spaces, but it certainly did not die down or get shut down. Moreover, Occupy backers did not put billions of dollars in to the elections. In fact, their ideology is against such expenditures.

I am one of the discontents, an Occupy sympathizer. I really am troubled to the core with our political and economic system as a whole. I see that most people have a fairly sick consciousness and that reflects our flawed system from a material basis. I am convinced that our system cannot survive much longer and there is a natural, historical end in play now. You can see this as our economic structure is gasping for solutions to widespread problems without admitting that it has become the problem itself.  But I am not in favor of revolution. That’s like pushing an old man off the cliff, just because he is old. In fact, with our current constitution in place, I believe we can rampantly alter the economic structure and replace members of Congress, reform campaign financing, and more necessary changes, without violence or divisive behavior at all.

People who refuse to see a world of unity are shaking their heads, clicking off this article; the jaded are denying this possibility; the militants are bummed out because they have invested in revolution. So I ask everyone to humble their self and consider something different for a moment. And those who study or perform in the area of Art and Social Practice, I hereby request your participation in my public performance idea.

Based upon the moral foundation theory of Psychologist Jonathan Haidt, I want to organize a protest movement against protest movements. In fact, there is no movement. It simply borrows the format of the protest for public performance. Imagine a group holding placards in a public place, like Pioneer Square in Portland, or down the street in the plaza blocks where Occupy took place. But instead of the usual uniform chanting, mob like behavior, you see folks holding placards with no divisive language, casting no blame, making no claims. The words instead are rooted in Haidt’s moral foundation theory, words like “care” or “liberty”, things that all Americans, nay, all people of the world care about and feel strongly about in their own partisan way, once rationalized through social consciousness, which is conditioned from birth by the political-economy.

The purpose of this would be to get an authentic dialogue going that drops partisanship off, cuts it from the root of discussion, disabling the rationalizing psychic process. The purpose would be to first identify what our moral foundations are, collectively. This would confirm or counter Haidt’s theory, but most likely it would confirm that we care primarily about six moral foundations. The importance of that stage in the dialogue is key to understanding. Once that is agreed upon, the group can assess what is out of balance in society in the achievement of this comprehensive morality. The fascinating thing would be discovering whether or not everyone actually agreed on basic benchmarks of how a society ought to look. And if so, whether or not in the third stage of discussion, they could agree upon legislative solutions.

The standard protest movement assumes a moral position without considering it fully. It fails to strike a balance of morality shared among all people. Moreover, the standard conversation happening in media or in people’s homes also disregards this and focuses on controversies and disagreement. In other words, it starts with the rationalization forgets there is a foundation.

Haidt discovered that progressive people are shallower, lacking a sense of loyalty while touting irreverence for authority. This can make it very difficult to cooperate with people. Whereas conservatives, especially moderates, strike a balance of morals, enjoying advantages in the political system for that very fact. Yet, extreme conservatives lack empathy and favor loyalty, making it difficult to understand the progressive point of view. Both seem to be motivated by fairness, only their social conditioning gives each a different solution.

My opinion is that conversation is inherently educational. When a diverse group brings a range of expertise to the table—now easily confirmed right there in a meeting thanks to our mobile devices—the people become more tolerant and clear about what they actually know versus what they believe.

I am willing to work on this for years rather than expect change to occur materially by overtaking the government through revolution. If the people are not cooperating and educating one another, dropping the assumption that they are right, acting humbly, then each revolution will bring about further disorder. That, we don’t need.

Sean Ongley

By Sean Ongley

Co-Founder of THRU Media. A background in non-profit, music, and radio preceded my ambitions here. Now, I aspire to produce new media and publish independent journalism at this site and beyond.

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