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Chip Ahlswede
Meredith Weisel

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

We're Not Gonna Protest - We're Gonna Get Involved

One of the most defining moments in the epic film PCU starring Jeremy Piven is whe he stands up in front of a team of students and faculty members starting a chant that "We're Not Gonna Protest!"

Protest from Lindsey Breeden on Vimeo.

The point of the scene is to illustrate how far a campus society has gone in protesting everything.  Today however we see this happening far beyond just college campuses.

Sure there are the University of Missouri protests going on.  We've heard about the issues where the Oklahoma Weslyan University has pushed back on student protest. And Media professors trying to ban reporters from protests.

Then there are the academic circles trying to boycott involvement with Israel through divestment.  And now apparently Donald Trump is threatening to boycott (again) the next CNN debate (12/15) if they don't give him $5 million that he will then give to pro-veterans charities.  And Macy's, and Starbucks, and Univision, and countless other random things (Seriously? Glenfiddich?)... oooh just found some more here.

Outside of the fact that this isn't how debates work, how charitable contributions work, or how candidates conduct themselves, this is an example of how things get taken too far.  There are perfectly legitimate reasons to protest.  There are perfectly legitimate reasons to boycott.  More than reasons, there are more legitimate ways to protest things, and better ways to spend your efforts:

- Can you find a way to address an issue that doesn't throw the problem in people's faces?  I live in a community where there is a private college that has expanded greatly in the last 10 years.  More than that they have impacted the neighborhoods.  Despite having a very open door policy, most people have chosen to throw fits online and at city council meetings.  Most of these issues could have been handled with a few sit down discussions rather than riling up anger in people.

- Can you engage community members before the media?  Most groups come out and the first thing they do is hold a press conference.  It's annoying if there really isn't anyone behind this effort. It also dampens your credibility when it appears that you are the only one working on an issue.

- Can you drop the problem after the issue is done?  The second worse thing to deal with is the person who just jumps issue to issue seeking relevance.  That's no to say you can't have a role, or more than one issue you want to work on, but have a real reason.  Don't just be that person looking for a cause to protest, be that person who stands for something.

- Can you not take offense to every little thing that happens?  So many people are involved in so many things that they focus only on the thing that they take offense to rather than working on the core issue.  Socrates said "When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser."  It appears in most discussions these days that before the debate is even had, offense becomes the tool of the weaker side.

- Can you find a solution that works for both sides? The other problem with the weaker sides is that they become so staunch in their position that they fail to find middle ground, commonality, or points of concession.  The share economy is proving that repeatedly.  In the case of Uber, the Taxi companies are calling for all out opposition.  In the case of AirBnB its neighborhood control vs. property rights.  Both instances bring opportunities for discussion.  But in each case some people are not working to find that middle spot.

Negotiations and compromise are the realities of our form of government.  Working together to find solutions is much more important than fighting losing causes from a stringent standpoint.