While living in London in 2003, I witnessed the large-scale protests against the looming invasion of Iraq. Several friends and members of my family took part, despite my telling them it was pointless. Estimates have placed the number assembled at over a million, and from what I saw that day, I can certainly agree.
This million-strong mass yelled, boiled and – in some cases – vandalized around the City of Westminster for several hours, all of them ostensibly feeling that this was a worthy use of their time.
A day later, and all that remained was the litter and the debris. Having taken part in ‘coordinated’ protests, and ‘done their bit’, having loudly proclaimed to whoever was watching that the war – should it happen – was ‘not in their name’, they went home and perhaps carried on moaning in private, but for the most part went back to whatever they were doing before – throwing darts at a picture of Tony Blair, or licking envelopes for some crypto-communist propaganda organisation, whatever…
Since that day, I’ve spoken to hundreds of people that took part in that ‘protest’ and told them that the spectacle was worse than a complete waste of their time: it inflicted a huge clean-up bill on the tax-paying public; it created a precedent that indicated it was ‘OK’ to merely stand up and say “Not in my name”, but do nothing else to stop the war one was allegedly so opposed to; most of all, it was a colossal wasted opportunity.
As I told those that took part in the protest, if they really wanted to make a difference, if they wanted to make sure they stopped the war, they needed only to make a short walk down The Mall, and into Buckingham Palace, occupy it, and refuse to leave until their demands were met. That would be a proper protest, worthy of the word. A million people, remember. The government would surely not have deployed live rounds onto the protesters? Rubber bullets and truncheons, maybe. So what if a few hundred people wind up with broken elbows and missing teeth – if they really wanted to make a difference, they had the biggest opportunity I’ve ever known to initiate the revolution that most of them endlessly harp on about.
My feeling is that this never occurred to them, and what I generally heard from the individuals I suggested this to was that what was most important was to communicate to the TV audiences that the war, if it were fought, was not being fought in their name. Except it was. If there is to be a United Kingdom government, and the people upon whom it predates do nothing other than clamour against its abuses, then what does this say about the hosts – that they are willing to allow the parasites to live, they just want anyone watching to know they don’t approve? In what way does this constitute meaningful disapproval?
Imagine a family where domestic violence is rife. The children invite TV cameras to their front lawn where they proudly, self-righteously tell the world that when, later that afternoon, their father travels upstairs to beat their mother senseless, it will be ‘not in their name’. If you doubt the validity of my metaphor, then let me make another point: mindless acquiescence and acceptance of the very existence of ‘governments’ is not only as morally repugnant as the situation of my metaphor, it is worse. For in the world of ‘government and civil society’, the ‘children’ are FUNDING the ‘father’, paying for his knuckles to be maintained in ‘good working order’, picking up his alcohol bill, and working like any proverbial animal you care to name to make sure this appalling tragedy can continue ad infinitum.
To say that imminent horrors are not in one’s name is geusively and practically insufficient. And it is not just commies and soap-dodgers that are complicit: so too are elite Washington commentators. On Antiwar.com there are no less than ten articles penned by the infamous Pat Buchanan, stating (in an admittedly more academic fashion than the London protesters) that should there be ‘wars’ in Syria and Iran, that they will not carry his support, will be ‘not in his name’.
I suspect that Buchanan probably cares even less than the protesters whether or not these wars actually come to fruition or not. He ‘served’ in the ‘administration’ of Ronald Reagan, who wasn’t exactly averse to violence or war-mongering, and he has, throughout his long career as someone with a perhaps unparalleled opportunity to say things and be heard, singularly failed to articulate why it is that this kind of violence continues, or – more importantly – what ought to be done to stop it.
Perhaps this is because he, like the protesters, does not understand the true value and potential of voluntarism and widespread adherence to the Non-Aggression Principle. Perhaps all these ‘Not In My Name’ characters are so lost in the sea of drivel and demagogic rhetoric they have been fed, that they are completely missing the point. Perhaps, like the ‘freedom movement’ and ‘the truth movement’, the ‘anti-war movement’ needs to extract its cranium from its rectal cavity and have a good, hard think about the outrageous idea that they should identify the root causes of the problems they face, and listen to those of us who are convinced that it is the sanctioning of government and violence in the minds of ‘the masses’ that they need to confront.
Anything less is half-hearted and defeatist, isn’t it?