Monday, April 20, 2009

Putting Tigers In Their Tanks

I know very little about the Tamil protests currently taking place in Toronto beyond the headlines and single paragraph summaries on news sites. I don't understand the issues or the situation in Sri Lanka, and have no particular intention of getting informed on the matters. The world is too big, and life too complex, to understand everything, and figuring out who the bad guys are in that mess just isn't going to make anywhere near the top of my priorities anytime soon.

That cheerfully admitted, the protests give me a good segue to talk about protests and demonstrations in general.

First up, I'm all for the right of people to freely assemble and engage in nonviolent demonstrations and protests. However, that doesn't always mean it's a good idea. Sometimes groups of which I'm a member hold public events like "Walk for Life" or other such parades. I agree with their goals, and sometimes even participate, but I'm often unsure that it does any good.

Do people change their minds on issues based on seeing a parade go by? I'm far likelier to be annoyed by any traffic interruption that may result and lose sympathy for the marching group. Maybe it's just a matter of letting people see that there's an organized movement on an issue, which may get them thinking about it, or even inspire them to join in if they already agree but weren't actively involved.

From the little I've bothered to read about the Tamil situation in Toronto, it seems well past "inconvenient" for anybody who's just trying to go about their business in the affected areas. I'd lose sympathy for the cause fast if I had to make my way through throngs of protesters to get to work, and even more so if they were aggressive or deliberately obstructive when I tried to pass.

Second, although I'm not sure who the bad guys are in Sri Lanka, the Tamil Tigers are considered a terrorist organization by the Canadian Government. That doesn't necessarily mean that they are. Just ask Maher Arar. (Although recent developments make me wonder whether the CIA knows things about him that the rest of us don't yet...)

However, the Canadian government's designation of the Tigers as a terrorist group may be a wisp of smoke that implies an underlying fire. I'll give CSIS the benefit of the doubt. So, here's a thought. There are probably a lot of people at these protests who are in Canada illegally, or on a temporary basis, or with credentials on which the ink is still wet. And here they are, taking part in a disruptive protest, largely in support of an identified terrorist organization. Apparently some Tiger fundraising has gone on, which is explicitly illegal. Is it just me, or is this an absolutely perfect opportunity for the guys at Customs and Immigration to practice their deportation skills? There must be cargo ships heading to Sri Lanka (or whatever other countries these protesters were born in). Load 'em up.

That, of course, assumes that the Tigers are the bad guys, that the protesters support the Tigers, etc. It may not apply in this specific situation. However, the principle holds. Where were INS personnel during all the illegal alien rallies in the States last year? There's no shame in shooting fish in a barrel if your problem is that the barrels are too full of fish.

Finally, some of the protesters have taken to hunger strikes.

I really don't get hunger strikes. Although you might not think so if you only know me from reading this blog (and maybe not even if you know me in real life), I actually have some compassion. I don't like people being victimized (really victimized, not made uncomfortable). If A is hurting B without a really good reason, and I can intervene to make them stop, I will. However, if B is deliberately hurting themselves, and they seem to be of sound mind otherwise, then I see no reason to be sympathetic.

I don't understand how "Do what I want or I'll hurt myself" is supposed to be persuasive. My answer is pretty much always going to be, "Ummm... go ahead." Not only does it not persuade, it hurts your cause by making you look childish. There's a very fine line between a protester on a hunger strike and a toddler threatening to hold their breath until they turn blue if they don't get a cookie right now. Threatening a hunger strike lets me file you under "Silly person, safe to ignore." Threatening others is reprehensible, but at least it gets you taken seriously. Holding yourself hostage just implies that you've seen Blazing Saddles.

As a punchline, the article I linked to above says that one of the hunger strikers was hospitalized after complaining of - wait for it - "stomach pains." What exactly did this genius think would happen after a few days without eating? I don't know who the good guys are in the Sri Lanka situation (assuming there are any), but I'm getting an idea who the smart guys are.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of Hostage Bunny in an undisclosed location.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You have to remember that power rests with the masses. Even dictators like Stalin and Pelosi rely on everybody cowering, or at least following orders. A public protest is just a way to express yourself to your employees to whom you have hired to deal with the administration of your affairs. A hunger strike serves two purposes. First, it is an attempt to rouse support for your cause by inciting others to exercise their own power over elected officials. "Look what Bill is doing, and here I am watching TV. Let's act!" Free speech in Canada isn't quite dead yet, but we are giving it a serious beating. I think of it as being draped over John Cleese's shoulder saying it doesn't want to go on the cart. The best thing that could ever happen to the Church is to be forced to work together to overturn that corpse cart and go back to what we should be doing- building bridges out of witches.