Historic Serious Protests (Part IV Of My OWS Analysis)

Unlike hobby protests, serious protests can be (and usually are) brutal. Hobbyists who marinate in 1960’s rose colored memories (often through second hand exposure) think protests are fun. Serious protests are not fun. Serious protests are something to avoid. Avoiding chaos is the whole purpose of society. Societies, organizations, governments, free citizens, and subjects alike all would rather avoid serious protests.

Not infrequently serious protests foment war. Damage can be widespread. Sometimes people are killed. Established orders (good or bad) can give way to absolutely unpredictable results. There’s no guarantee the aftermath will be better than what came before.

For all these reasons, serious protests are rare, frightening, and often fail. When hobbyists Occupied Wall Street they pretended they were a serious protest. It is fortunate for all of us, especially them, that they were just playing and didn’t unleash anything particularly deadly.

Here are five examples of serious protests. They were all dangerous. They all came only as a last resort. They all shook the firmament of their societies. Note that they span divergent societies. Note that they span centuries of history. Note that some succeeded and some failed. Note that none was without risk or the possibility of disaster. When you read about these you’ll know that Occupy Wall Street is just (so far) so much bullshit and posing.  There is no guarantee you can go home after a serious protest as if it was a spring break holiday:

  1. Tienanmen Square (1989) “Attention Communist rulers of our home nation of China. The Communist system is making us poor and pissed off and we’re not going to take it anymore. We know that it’s dangerous to oppose the Government but we’re occupying a public place to make sure you address our concerns.” (Aftermath: The Chinese government killed about 800 people in one day to utterly crush the Tienanmen Square movement.)
  2. Polish Shipyard Strikes (1980): “Attention Communist Party members here and their puppet masters in Soviet Russia. The Communist system is making us poor and pissed off and we’re not going to take it anymore. We want labor reform and some basic rights like freedom of speech and religion. If we don’t get what we want you’re never going to get a ship out of this harbor again!” (Aftermath: The Polish state became far freer with limited bloodshed. Lech Walesa is a hero.)
  3. French Rebellion (1792): “We like the freedoms that the American citizens have and wish the same thing for ourselves. The monarchy has to go.” (Aftermath: the French revolution might have superficial parallels to the American revolution but it spun wildly out of control.  It might have started as an “Arab Spring” and maybe guillotining King Louis XVI was standard protocol but it turned into an orgy of violence where some 1,400 people were imprisoned and guillotined.)
  4. American Rebellion (1776): “Hey King! You’re not the boss of us! Your taxes and governing style piss us off. We know you’re going to send an army to kill us and we’re prepared to kill you right back.” (Aftermath: The American revolution wasn’t all tri-cornered hats and fifes!  While we all remember the shot heard round the world at Concord, we all forget that a quarter of New York City was destroyed.  By comparison with a hobby protest; hippies in 2011 whining about student loans aren’t signing documents with a 10% chance of death and nobody is suggesting drums and patchouli will level Manhattan.  Luckily it turned out well.  America, with significant help from France, became a beacon of freedom and liberty.  Go team!)
  5. Martin Luther (1517): “Hey Pope! Despite the fact that the church is hugely powerful and you’re said to be the infallible liaison to God I’m calling bullshit on you and your organization. Here is a list of 95 specific reasons why I think the way you’ve managed the church is wrong. You can doom me to hell but you can’t shut me up.” (Aftermath: Schism. The church did not take well to Mr. Luther’s complaints and soon a hodgepodge of wars erupted sufficient to fill several history texts.  Notably the Thirty Years’ War which was a perfect demonstration of the term “cannon fodder”.  I’m insufficiently skilled in religion/history to summarize the mess that stomped all over Europe but I know a whole lot of peasants fought to death while the rest starved and cowered in fear.  The only outcome I can really quantify is that the debate over indulgences was over until Al Gore started marketing carbon credits.)

So there you have it. Serious protests are brutal and can light the fuse to epic changes; some good, some bad, but none painless. Occupy Wall Street yahoos whining about student loans have not fully considered the gates of hell that a serious protest can open. The right (and responsibility) of civic protest is a component of being a free American citizen, but it is not a toy. It is the last resort for a serious, legitimate, and unbearable series of grievances. Hobby protesters think protesting is fun; a way to kill a weekend. It is not. The OWS folks and their ilk are children fiddling with a loaded gun without comprehending the the tragedy they might inadvertently cause.

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About Adaptive Curmudgeon

I will neither confirm nor deny that I actually exist.
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10 Responses to Historic Serious Protests (Part IV Of My OWS Analysis)

  1. C. S. P. Schofield says:

    I have run into Dolts who talked about the race riots of the 1960’s as if they were the first instances of race based chaos in out history (!!!!????). I tell them to look up the Civil War Draft Riots and get back to me.

    Here I agree with you. Goal Protests, or as you would have it Serious Protests are serious threats to the status quo, and are likely to inspire panic and rage in the Ruling Class. While it is not true that if the Agents of the State didn’t crack SOMEBODY’s skull open, it can’t be a Serious Protest, it is a decent indicator.

    Which brings me to the case of the Tea Party Protests. Are they Serious of Hobby? Goal or Moral Superiority? I would suggest that they were, in large part, both Serious and Goal oriented. That that were not put down violently can, I think, be traced to a spark of genius in their organisation; they mimicked Hobby (or Moral Superiority) protests very closely, and were undertaken against those forces in the power structure than have benefited most from Hobby (or Moral Superiority) Protests.

    What do you think?

    • The TEA party’s story is not yet set in stone. Nobody knows what will happen. Luckily the wait will be short. The summer of 2012 will be when we find out if the TEA party is serious people with serious goals or just fiscal conservatives who couldn’t stomach an extra large dose of fiscal irresponsibility and protested more or less involuntarily and just to keep themselves sane.

      There’s significant overlap between the two of course, but 2012 is when we’ll see their mettle. They might fold like a house of cards and let establishment Republicans go back to electing Democrat-lite(s). If so they were no more serious than the “anti war” protesters that vanished the day Bush was out of office. (Obviously “anti-war” was really “anti-Republican” or “anti-Bush”. An analogy with the TEA party would be “fiscal responsibility” was really “dial the bailouts back down to the usual level”.)

      On the other hand, the TEA Party might show up in force again. Their particular brand of self-regulated protests and fiscally centered message will easily differentiate them from student loan weenies.

      If they do…it will be a beautiful thing to behold. Both parties (especially the Republicans) will know the spending game is about to has already changed dramatically.

      It’s possible. Not all upheaval is bad. Not all glasses are half full.

      • C. S. P. Schofield says:

        Actually the idea I was hoping you’d engage was my thought that the Tea Party Protests had spiked a lot of guns by savvy organisation. They took out permits and picked up after themselves, thus effectively silencing the “This is illegal and messy” reaction that has been one major objecting to OWS and related idiocies. At the same time they followed the general outline of the Hobby Protests that so many of the Liberal Establishment have applauded, making it awkward for those same Establishment Liberals to denounce them effectively.

        Not that the Establishment Liberals didn’t TRY, they just looked like jerks doing so, even to other Liberals.

  2. Judy says:

    “Hobby protesters think protesting is fun; a way to kill a weekend. It is not. The OWS folks and their ilk are children fiddling with a loaded gun without comprehending the the tragedy they might inadvertently cause.”

    Amen, brother, amen!

  3. Thanks for the great protests analysis much better than reading anything by the mainstream media.

    Just in case no one says it, keep up the great work 🙂

  4. acairfearann says:

    One might add that being a protester does not, historically, make one a good guy even if the cause is historically perceived as a good thing. Martin Luther was a particularly nasty individual who was quite happy to support the wholesale slaughter of those who happened to disagree. (Early Modern Europe in general is just plain ugly) Nor were all the members of the French and American Revolutions saintly.
    Another historical protest turned massacre: Bloody Sunday, St. Petersburg, Russia on Jan 22, 1905. A peaceful demonstration was ended by czarist police firing into the crowd killing at least 100; it set off a series of events that would lead to the 1917 Revolution.

    • C. S. P. Schofield says:

      “One might add that being a protester does not, historically, make one a good guy even if the cause is historically perceived as a good thing.”

      I’m looking at YOU John Brown!

      LORD, what a murderous old bastard!

  5. Secret Squirrel says:

    “For instance; of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence, 5 were tortured to death by the British.”

    While I agree with your overall thesis, the Snopes article you linked to explicitly says this isn’t true.

  6. Any protest where there are actual deaths caused by one side on the other can be considered a serious protest, especially if those deaths are in the furtherance or hinderance of “The Cause” or “the Cause Celebre”.

    I draw parallels in the tactics used by OWS with the tactics used by the Palestinians. Step 1: Yell and scream, use filthy language. Step 2:Throw stuff at those trying to keep order and protect property and innocents. Step 2A: Bring your women and children directly into the fray to use as human shields. Step 3: Blame the other side for “Provoking an attack” when they try and stop you from throwing stuff. Step 4: Use propaganda to blame the (police|Israelis) for any injuries sustained by your side, even if it was because of your direct action against them. Step 5: Lather, rinse, repeat. Don’t forget to feign outrage over whatever happened in Steps 2 and 3 to use in Step 1.

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