By Rev. Stella Quinn
High Priest of Zymurgy
A friend of mine recently asked me on Twitter why I wasn’t along with his other socially conscious amigos, speaking up online about the Occupy Wall Street Movement. I had a good think about this and realized that sometimes there can be a disconnect between people with different methods of changing the world. I think there’s a lot of inequity in the world and that more should be done to repair that. But I don’t feel motivated to make a sign and head to downtown Oakland. Why not, and should I feel bad about that?
The Dude did his share of rabble-rousing, listing protesting as among his activities of bygone college days. He doesn’t say it dismissively or with remorse; clearly this is something he accepts as an important part of his youth. But it’s not something he does now. Protesting hasn’t ever really been my personal bag, and my friend’s query gave me the motivation to examine why some people don’t feel the need to participate in visible protests.
In reflecting, I realized that there are many ways to shape the world, and that Abiding Activism is something everyone can do without making a sign. I’ll use the Occupy movement as a case study, since it’s topical or-what-have-you, but really this applies to any sort of activist movement. Nobody should feel bad because they don’t want to protest in public. It doesn’t mean they don’t care; it just means they might have different methods of changing the world. Every sincere act of positive change is valid, even if some are less visible than others.
I’ve been to two protests. One was in Downtown Los Angeles and rapidly degenerated into a frightening, noisy crowd that freaked me out. I went home in a really terrible, fearful mood after being groped by invisible perverts and nearly falling over from the chaos of the march. After that I mostly stuck to e-petitions and retweeting links to raise awareness of issues I felt were important. I had a better experience when I participated in a celebration march in San Francisco the day Proposition 8 was overturned in court. That event was a lot less scary as it was well organized and full of committed couples and families with kids, holding hands with dreams of domestic bliss radiating from their faces. It was happy rather than angry, and the family nature of the event meant people were very conscientious about their actions, speech, and movements.
That’s the total sum of my protest experience. I’ve never had much interest in public activism, to be honest. A lot of this stems from being female. A lot of human paraquat out there still thinks that if women go out in public, then they "deserve" any negative attention they get. Being female means that I have to be much more vigilant when I’m out in public. I have to plan my wardrobe and movements so as to minimize the negative attention I am guaranteed to get. The way our culture still casually accepts that women should be blamed for their own harassment makes it hard for half of our society to feel comfortable getting out there. For example, the moment I heard that various Occupy Wall Street movements are refusing to properly report sexual assaults on their watch, I knew there wasn’t a chance in Simi Valley that I’d go near one of them.
Like The Dude, I’ve mentally moved on from sitting in front of City Hall with a sign that says "I’m Pissed Off." It’s not that I’m not pissed off — I am. It’s not that high-visibility activism doesn’t serve a purpose — it does. But public protests tend to attract an overly idealistic set that I am not uncomfortable with — like the sort of people who discourage rape victims from contacting the police because Occupy organizers want their communities to be "self-contained." Rapists need to be arrested and removed from society, not given "societal reintegration counseling" in a crowded public park teeming with more potential victims. Unless protest organizers have a realistic approach, stuff like violence, theft, garbage, human waste, drugs, intoxication, and the real reactionaries that drift in are going to keep a certain number of people away. In the case of women, the barrier to participation is much higher.
We also can’t forget that lots of people don’t participate in protests because they are just too damn busy. I’ve heard people get dismissive of this viewpoint, saying things like "then clearly those people don’t understand how much this cause matters." It’s easy for an affluent childless hipster to wonder why everybody doesn’t march their ass down to their local Occupy protest. But imagine that you are a single mom with three kids and two part-time jobs. Between diapers, homework help, and trying to pay the bills, the last thing this poor tired out mom is going to have time for is protesting, even if she would benefit most from the sort of help the Occupy movement is asking for. If you’ve got the time and resources to participate in public activism, good on you. Just don’t get the idea that those who don’t join you should be looked down on as people who don’t care. Instead, cultivate an attitude that many people don’t have the ability to speak up, and so you can communicate on their behalf.
Another reason lots of people don’t feel like protesting in public is that protests, are like, angry, man. Lots of people thrive on the buzz of energy that comes off of a crowd of people motivated by a single purpose. It’s an awesome feeling to stand together that way. But a lot of people don’t dig it. They’ve got agoraphobia, claustrophobia, or maybe they’re just plain introverted. Maybe they suffer from anxiety and hearing lots of people shouting will set off a panic attack. Life can be stressful enough. For some people, venting their frustrations in the public square might be cathartic. But it just makes me feel tired and cranky. When I’m pissed off I don’t want to go on and on about it. I’d rather defuse the stress in the short term with video games and a beer while working on a long-term solution.
For some people, shouting about what makes them angry gives them the motivation they need to start making changes in the world. For others, it just feels like throwing a tantrum and they’d rather not waste energy. The Dude seems to fall in the latter category. When Walter throws a fit in the diner, loudly protesting his right to finish his coffee, The Dude gets up and walks away. When Walter pulls out a gun at the bowling alley, his answer is to end the game and leave. His method of protest seems to be opting out rather than forcing others to hear him. In this way, he moves around problems rather than trying to crash against them.
This brings me to what I’d like to call Abiding Activism. Though a bit hackneyed after overexposure on car bumpers, "Be the change you wish to see in the world” is just as meaningful today as when Gandhi originally said it. Without action to achieve goals, all the sign waving in the world won’t accomplish anything. This all should not be taken to mean that public protesting doesn’t have an important role to play. Marches, occupations, and protests create strong visual imagery and raise public awareness of the problems we face as a culture. That’s a good thing. But the point is that making your cause visible is just one piece of the puzzle. After raising your voice, you’ve got to abide with the message and follow through with quiet day-to-day action. Public activism is needed, but protestors need to remember that individuals will all have their own way of communicating and varying ability and commitment levels when it comes to the cause.
There’s a time to march under the banner, but mostly changing the world is about quiet contemplation and conscientious action. I’m sick of the corporate fatcat culture like everyone else. So I’ve started my own business as a way to protest exploitative traditional employment. I can vote with my dollar by trying to avoid supporting businesses whose actions are shameful. In the same way, The Dude has abode with a lifestyle that opts out of corporate culture and debt-inducing materialism. He doesn’t talk about it — he just does it. The Dude protested in his youth, occupying various administration buildings as the Occupy Wall Street movement is doing now. And that’s important. But don’t forget to abide with the causes you hold dear, and to abide by those who have different methods of seeking a common goal. To denigrate those who “protest” in more low-key ways would be very undude indeed.
Alex Freund says
Class warfare is up and front in the BL. The critical scene is the first confrontation between the Dude and the BL. Even though the BL claims that our “revolution” is over and that the bums will always lose, in the end, the Dude wins out through subversive action that we need to replicate if we want to create a more just and equal world, a world in which more people can live a Dude lifestyle. We have to find diverse ways of claiming that the “old man told me to take any rug in the house.” What and where are the rugs and how do we get them? You know, it’s just like Lenin said.
Rev Pachucojuan says
A well written and interesting take on the Occupy movement. I will have to respectfully say, “that’s like your opinion, man” simply because I have had a much different experience. My experience with the one I walk through everyday to get downtown has been nothing but pleasant and chill. In other words, very Dude-like. I’m not endorsing it but I certainly don’t think it’s a rape-fest full of trust-fund babies. (well, a few trust fund kids, no one can have dreads that perfect…)
I like your ideas of different types of protest. Like you, I feel my everyday actions have a greater overall impact and I will continue to protest with my spending and choices of what companies I use. Heck, I even use locally grown smoke and oat soda! Keep up the good work fellow Dude!
I think at this stage, going out and standing with a sign IS doing some good. But that’s just, like, my opinion, man.
Rev. Tommy says
Mind if I do a J?
Mother Duderior says
Great article but…. The first photo is being used out of context. That pic was taken on 8th August on The Mound in Edinburgh during the Comedy Fringe Festival where The Dudely Lama performed a Dudeist Wedding (I was one of the “brides”), we chilled out and “protested” against stress. It was a good day, and thurrah!
Still, a good piece of writing and I am now protesting against Corporate Captitalism by occupying my sofa, takin’ ‘er easy for all the stressed out folks out there.
Abiding as always
Rev Matti Sim
Here’s a very dude-like way to protest from the comfort of your own rug – involving those postage-guaranteed return envelopes from bank offers:
The D says
Man, I prefer to resist the oppression of effort, take it easy for the sinners of the square community and maybe if “the man” did too,…a trophy life for all, jus’ sayin’.
The Dudespaper says
@matti – yes, i admit i put that photo of us in there because i liked it, not because it was appropriate! that was a lot of fun. wait until you see the footage – hilarious.
thanks Stella, as a woman who does go out and protest I really appreciated reading your perspective in your article. Its nice to know that although we might not see everyone out on the street with us, that doesn’t mean they don’t support us. Sorry to hear of the pervyness you did experience at protests. The part about not reporting a rape in the occupy movement is really angering. Did this actually happen somewhere?
Rev. A Da Fino says
Very interesting article Rev. Stella, and balanced. It’s a difficult thing to understand when it’s time to enter the arena and when it’s time to keep a low profile, so to speak.
Both have their own disadvantage, if you go public you could get hurt or thrown into something that’s not your style, if you stay at home sooner or later the arena could be thrown upon you. The fact that you remain cool and out of things doesn’t prevent nihilists and reactionaries from knoking at your door.
As for rapist I think the best way to go is catching them and letting the raped one kick their balls at full speed for around ten times, this could help those things from happening again. Fucking rapists.
Nice viking hat dude. :)
His Dudeship Phil says
I watched the occupy movement from the other side of the lake, and here in Berlin, pretty much every protest I´ve been to (I´m one of the extraverts, who get energy outta those kinda things) have been pretty dudeish (even though it was mostly electro music we were dancing to during the protests, the good-mood-garantors were ever present).
Where was I?
Oh yeah, it is really not dude of our culture to say that women should just dress “properly” to avoid sexual assault. Sure, those sickos go after what arouses them most, but theres where it is, the word most. If they were in a community center with seniors they would go after the “properly” dressed, slightly overweight post-menopausal head nurse (who is imdo the least sluttish person I can currently think of, next to her senior carees [is that even a word?]). I can look at arousingly dressed young females without loosing restraint over my inner perv, and restraint is also a core element of being a dude (don´t fuck a stranger in the ass, unless he´s done it to you)
Rev. A Da Fino says
Dudeship, you said it right, women should be able to go around dressed in their viking suits without problems and Dudes surely are able to maintain their cool temper. And this would mean that having more Dudes around more ladies would feel comfortable going around in viking suits, which would benefit all of us. :)
As for the don’t fuck a stranger in the ass unless he’s done it to you it’s a good rule to follow, the one I usually use actually.
Glad there is a Dudeship in Berlin, some kind of European compeer. 8)
Doctor Joe says
Very insightful article. Here in DC we have had the police arrest several of the protestors for drug charges. We need to clean up the streets ofthese pushers, especially when the protests are carrying so much visibility with the media. Set a good example.
I checked out the website listed by Bruce. Far out man. I took his advise and started sending the envelopes back, not with a shingle, but am working my way up there. Good idea man! Let’s get more Dudeist involved.
The Holy Bowler says
I would like to start off by saying that I really liked this article and that I strongly agree with your take on activism. It forced me to sit down and really think about how ‘we the people’ go about protesting. I really like your idea of Abiding Activism and that just because I don’t hold a sign and occupy doesn’t mean I don’t care. Protesting should create an attitude that says “We’ll stand for those that can’t.” not screaming and yelling at me on my way to work because I don’t join them. You stop your cause from connecting with ‘the people’ and deny your cause public support. We all have a part to play, no matter how small. Let The Dude Abide.