Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I Support this Cause

There have been plenty of blogs and other internet sites debating the meaning of the recent Iranian protests. The Washington political establishment seems somewhat divided between Obama's hypocritical "we are bearing witness" approach, and right-wing interventionism. But as individuals, what does it really mean to support something ?

A blog posting announcing ones support of the recent Iranian protests - or ones interpretation of them - offers the potential to change minds and create public awareness. And international public support might raise the morale of the people on the streets, to an extent. But it is unlikely to deter the tactics of the Basij. More facile are the green avatars that have been floating around. They seem to be more about personal absolution than supporting a cause. Better, are attempts to protect the identity of twitter posters by having everyone change their time zone to Tehran time - thus swamping posts in a blanket of anonymity.

The Left has, at times, made claims about the power of their public support that was unsupported by the situation on the ground . This was notable during the Troubles in Northern Ireland - which was a radical nationalist movement principally motivated by the desire for self-protection. Working class Catholics in the North were fighting for survival and that was the reason for the Provisional IRA. Speeches and debates from Left groups in the rest of the West didn't matter all that much. What sustained the Provos was money from the Irish-American community and the loyalty of their constituency.

Money matters a lot, and ultimately, if one can't put a body on the line - that's the best way to support a cause.

Tangentially, it's similar in the arts. Most musicians would much rather have a somewhat taciturn audience that is willing to pay - than play for free for a similarly moneyed and more outwardly enthusiastic audience. The bottom line is, people have to eat and pay bills. The less time they have to worry about survival is the more time that can be spent on being artistic or fomenting social change.

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