Saturday, October 21, 2006

Nowhere Closer

To thinking about civil disobedience. Except that I just finished reading a law journal article written by a professor at Boston College Law School who writes extensively about corporate citizenship. There aren't many who are as progressive, which could explain why he frequently cited to himself. The article doesn't have much to do with dissent except that, towards the end of the article, he also cited to John Rawls, A Theory of Justice, which we just discussed in Civil Disobedience. But I read it going on three weeks ago now and I can't remember much except that Rawls pretty much thinks there's never a good rationale for dissent. Or rather, there are very limited circumstances in which dissent can be justified and even then, it's only justifiable if it remains within certain constraints. Rawls' theories only hold weight if you, a priori, buy into the validity of the revolution and "democratic" process that created America. I don't think much of Rawls, except that he argues for the status quo and a form of dissent that won't bring much change.

But then, I'm weird. I think most dissent as it's currently conceived is ineffectual - including the extremist, pro-revolutionary versions. I feel that dissent gets its message across and is more readily heard by those holding the opposing opinion if it's creative and inclusionary. Go ahead and break the law, but do it with a smile. Like the pranksters who hung a yo-yo off Portlandia's finger* over a decade ago. Though they weren't protesting anything, locals and Portland's tourism mill still talk about the incident, and it's risen to the level of an urban legend, with people claiming that it has happened more than once, which it hasn't. Or the artists who painted abandoned buildings Tiggerific Orange in protest against Detroit's urban decay. Or the Billionaires for Bush, who've gotten much more publicity than any of the anti-war protest marches over the past six years. What protest marches you ask? Exactly!

Professor Ghandi keeps reiterating that dialogue is necessary for a society to adequately (attempt to) meet the needs of all its members. I get the feeling he's trying to incubate the idea that protest is necessary when dialogue stops, regardless of the external circumstances that all these other scholars write about - legal injustice, laws made for the minority that don't apply to the majority, laws that diverge from divine law, etc. It doesn't matter. So long as dialogue stops, dissent is necessary, but only dissent that reopens dialogue - hence Ghandi's and Martin Luther King, Jr.'s adherence to non-violence. Violence is a shutting down of dialogue. Just as much as anger and sourpusses and rigidity to a politically correct dogma shuts down dialogue.

Hmmm, maybe I should write about that?


* A search has failed to discover any photos of the infamous incident.

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