Tilting At Windmills: How To Turn Just About Anything Into A Civil Rights Issue

 

defiance-386x500In my opinion, and especially with Donald Trump in the Oval Office, we all just don’t do enough public protesting, and I suspect it’s because we tend to think that we are just too busy working to pay our bills and to keep food on the table. But this is too bad because the two goals need not conflict, and can in fact be pursued simultaneously and with little extra effort, simply by making a conscious decision to re-purpose into spontaneous mini-protests all our mistakes, bad habits, shortcomings, etc. — basically, all of the ways we might frustrate, annoy, or cause discomfort to another person in some way — and this simply as we go about the ordinary humdrum business of our daily lives.

A few examples will make the general point. Imagine you or others saying any of the following under suitable conditions:

“Defend free speech by farting — often, loudly, odorously!”

“I’m chronically tardy in protest of the Trump Administration!”

“Their armpits stink in defiance of the way animals are systematically abused.”

“What do you mean you forgot to invite me to the party as a gesture of good will toward all sentient beings????”

“Your willingness to just accept that I’m a terrible kisser in the name of Nuclear Arms Reduction is a noble sacrifice for a worthy cause.”

“I have not shaved yet today because I’m hoping it will help raise awareness for diabetes.”

“Let’s all show our disapproval for Trump’s sexist behavior by talking too loudly on our cell phones in public!”

Now, you may find this technique a bit odd, but that’s probably just because it’s such a great idea. Great ideas always seem a bit odd at first, until they catch on and then everybody’s like “wow, that’s a great idea!”

Or maybe you think it’s comical? I agree! Which is partly why I think it can be so effective too. Nothing starts a conversation like a good joke — especially a good fart joke! Jokes always set everyone at ease — especially fart jokes! — and make it easier to keep the conversation on a friendly, collaborative track, rather than letting it veer off into mayhem, murder, or negative attitudes.

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The link between a symbol (green light) and it’s meaning (go/move forward) can be completely arbitrary. Image Credit: Pixabay

One thing to notice with all this is that the link between a given act of protest and the thing being protested can be completely arbitrary. It can be based on nothing more than the occasional need for a good excuse for some random gaffe or foible that might otherwise make you look ignorant, incompetent, or insensitive.

Looking through the examples above, although farting may plausibly be a form of free speech (especially for anyone who talks out of his ass — badump bump!), what’s really the link between animal abuse and stinky armpits? Or between beard stubble and diabetes? None, really, but that’s OK, because the protest is a symbolic gesture, and symbols are often quite arbitrarily linked to what they symbolize.

Consider, for example, that a green traffic light symbolizes that it’s time to move forward through an intersection, but it does so purely by convention and not for any obvious connection between green and forward movement.

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Why does this circle with lines in it symbolize peace? Image Credit: Pixabay

Or notice that only rarely do words have any clear connection to the meaning they symbolize. For example, the word snow itself isn’t cold or white or fluffy, but we have no problem using this word in English sentences as a linguistic symbol for the actual cold, white, fluffy stuff. And consider that the famous peace symbol is just a circle with some lines in it (flowery lines in the one shown here). What does that have to do with peace? Again, the connection between the symbol and its meaning is arbitrary and conventional. So why not take advantage of that basic semiotic principle in order to be more politically active?

In summary, political activism need not be limited to voting or riding 15 hours on a bus to attend a rally in Washington, DC. Virtually anything that someone else finds unpleasant in some way can be re-purposed and politicized into a Civil Rights issue of your choosing.

One caveat: the people that you annoy, frustrate, etc. in this way are probably not going to like that you’re doing it and will likely try to fight back and do their own counter protesting. They may try to trivialize your protest or characterize it as “silly” or “childish” or both. They may try to convince you that you are “insane”, or being “utterly ridiculous” or “infantile” or “irrelevant” or “acting like a complete fool” or making “mountains from mole hills”, a “tempest in a tea cup”, or “tilting at windmills”.

But don’t listen to them. Of course they will say these kinds of things. When they do so it likely means that you’re protesting effectively. Especially if they play the “tilting at windmills” card — that’s when you know you’re doing it right!

What about you? Can you think of any more examples to add to those shown above? If so, please let me know in a comment!

 

 

 

 

2 Comments

  1. While I *do* enjoy a good fart joke, I’m not sure if that’s the way to start a serious discussion. 😝
    I agree that symbols don’t always have any relation to what they’re used for, so any symbol could theoretically be used for any cause. You make a good point about starting the discussion however you can. Even if all you get is “Okay, weirdo…go away” you will have given the person something to think about and they’ll more than likely discuss it with someone else. Telling a friend/spouse/etc about the weirdo protesting ABC by doing XYZ.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

    1. Agreed. It’s all about the conversation, as I see it. As long as folks aren’t sealing themselves off in some Social Media echo chamber.

      Now, although I’d agree that starting a serious discussion off of a fart joke is definitely a learned skill, it’s really just a question of practice, as I see it. The more hours and hours of practice you put in, the easier it will eventually get one day, provided you practice enough — preferably every chance you can get. Practice with everyone you encounter during the day — the postman, your neighbors, your family members, cashiers, bus drivers, etc. If people don’t find it funny, just keep pushing and pushing those fart jokes until you get it right. You’ll know you’ve mastered the technique once they stop avoiding you and filing restraining orders. Here, as with so much in life, the key is stalwart persistence!

      LOL

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

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