Tuesday, March 28, 2006

For What It's Worth

"There's something happening here
What it is ain't exactly clear
There's a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware" - Stephen Stills, "For What It's Worth"

There was a strike in France today. Well, actually there was a whole lot of strikes in France today to protest a youth labor law. That law would allow employers to fire workers aged under 26 in their first two years of employment. Riot police used water cannons and tear gas to disperse several thousand youths who pelted them with stones and bottles after an otherwise peaceful march. More than 240 people were arrested.
Back here in the United States, tens of thousands of students walked out of school in California and other states Monday, waving flags and chanting slogans in a second week of protests against legislation to crack down on illegal immigrants. A few schools chose to bar their doors to prevent walkouts. Officials at Huntington Park High School locked the gates after classes started, but the students climbed over a chain-link fence and joined marchers in their heavily immigrant community. Students threw bottles and rocks in Riverside, and more than a dozen arrests were made in Escondito in San Diego County.
I have a dim memory of the pictures coming out of Chicago in 1968, and the chant those protesters shouted to the television cameras: "The whole world is watching! The whole world is watching!" In May, 1972 anti-Vietnam War protesters closed the University Hill area with a sit-in. Beat poet Allen Ginsberg calmed down the demonstration. I remember sitting on the roof of my house in Boulder and looking up the hill at the University of Colorado as it burned. On the campus there stands Norlin library, and above the west entrance of the building there is an inscription that reads, "Who Knows Only His Own Generation Remains Always a Child." "Youth is wasted on the young," wrote George Bernard Shaw. Somewhere in this mix is the wisdom that would make all this tumult into reason. I don't know what Allen Ginsberg would say, but I've seen the best minds of my generation distracted and confused by a world that has become more dangerous and more distant.

"There's battle lines being drawn
Nobody's right if everybody's wrong
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind
I think it's time we stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down" - Stephen Stills, "For What It's Worth"


mrs. id said...

I wonder what it would take to calm down a raging mob. I wonder what I'd say. What would you say?

Robin said...

Seems like the best way to deal with a raging individual person (myself included) is to listen hard enough to hear what they're really upset about. So maybe with a mob you have to listen for what the mob is trying to say, then try to say it back in such a way that the mob feels it's been heard. What think?

mrs. id said...

Oh, that's good. Get buy-in, then take it from there. Better than "Calm down! Don't panic! What, are you nuts?!" Mobs have feelings, too. Feelings need to be heard, before they can be controlled, subdued, channelled. A lesson learned from 3-year-olds.