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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Activism should be constructive

By Aaron Zundel

Last week, leaders from around the world, including President Barack Obama, gathered in London to attend the G-20 summit8212;a high-powered get-together for world leaders and finance ministers to discuss the current international economic crisis. However, anyone who has been paying attention to the media surrounding the event must have noticed that there’s been more coverage on the protests surrounding G-20 than the actual economic discussions occurring therein.

And why not? It’s hard not to pay attention to anarchists, environmentalists, anti-capitalists and a handful of other left-wing radicals as they giddily smash in windows at the Royal Bank of Scotland and brawl with police.

The reason for the violence is clear: the protesters are angry. They don’t like the way the world works and they want us to know it. Interestingly, each protester seems to be angry about something different. Go turn on CNN, FOX News, the BBC or any other media outlet and listen as they tell their stories to the camera. Some say they’re demonstrating against Canada’s annual seal hunts. Others say they’re taking a stand against international greed. And others can’t seem to put into words what it is, exactly, they are taking a stand against, simply that bankers, politicians or whole governments are somehow “evil.” Upon closer inspection, one will notice that there’s really no ideological organization to the protests at all. They are simply a loose confederation of angry leftists, each with their own pet issue, who want to raise some hell and do some damage.

Even without a common cause, there are a few things these protesters do seem to have in common. For the most part, they’re young, hip and caught somewhere between adolescence and their first real job. They seem to be reasonably bright, too. Most are well-dressed and likely come from wealthy homes and neighborhoods. And they speak with the vocabulary of the enlightened middle- to upper-class, not the broken slang of the oppressed and downtrodden. In short, they’re a bunch of spoiled college kids who seem more interested in the theoretical idea of “radical change” than they are in actually facilitating it.

Not surprisingly, the G-20 protesters bear a striking resemblance to some of our own radical groups here at the U8212;groups such as the Animal Liberation Front, the Earth Liberation Front and Utah Primate Freedom. These are groups comprised of local affluent 20-something students who have made righteous indignation a way of life, groups who think raiding mink farms, torching SUVs or terrorizing researchers are means to an end, instead of simply destructive stupidity.

These similarities are not a coincidence. Indeed, be it in Berkeley or Salt Lake City, 2009 London or 1968 Chicago, radical, destructive activism, no matter the issues, has its roots in the highly intelligent, highly educated, highly spoiled and highly stimulated young populace of colleges and universities.

The reason for this is simple: With all their newly acquired intelligence and enlightenment, young activists on both the radical left and (less frequent, but no less obnoxious) radical right are, for the first time in their lives, able to see that the world might not be a perfect place, and that they have the power to instigate change. Yet, these same kids universally lack life experience8212;the experience to understand that being progressive is more about facilitating actual change than it is throwing bricks through the windows of international banks.

History has taught us that there is room for radical activism8212;so long as it is properly focused. And U students who pride themselves on their activism would do well to learn the difference between the right and wrong way to demonstrate their newfound (yet often misguided and overly simplistic) anger.

Take, for instance, the sort of peaceful demonstrations advocated by Martin Luther King Jr. during the Civil Rights Movement, where shows of force consisted of speeches and rallies. Or, closer to home, look at Jacob Whipple and the recent activism by Utah’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. Upset over The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ support of Proposition 88212;a recently passed piece of California legislation banning same-sex marriage8212;Whipple mobilized Utah’s gay community to protest this past weekend’s sessions of the LDS general conference. The protest took the form of service, where LGBT community members participated in service projects ranging from cleaning up city parks to providing social work to refugee families.

“We want to harness our energy for productive means,” Whipple told reporters.

Now that is truly radical. And progressive.

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