protest The media seem to be downplaying the significance of this weekend’s anti-war protests, and some appear almost disappointed that there weren’t any severe riots, public confrontations or terrorist events to film. Passive dissent and words don’t make for dramatic TV or headlines. The reports I’ve seen have estimated the numbers anywhere from “hundreds of thousands” to (with a bit of arithmetic) over ten million. Tony Blair petulantly pointed out that the number of protesters was less than the number of Iraqi people killed by Saddam. Hard to believe that this is the same guy who (although belatedly) lamented the West’s selfish indifference when nearly a million civilian Rwandans were slaughtered in less than a week in 1994.

When and if there is media squabbling over the numbers this week, I hope the anti-war spokespeople have the wisdom to say: It doesn’t matter how many protesters marched. The important thing is that there were vast numbers, unprecedented since the Vietnam War, and that such a public, global demonstration could not ever be orchestrated by narrow special interest groups, regardless of the availability of Internet coordination, and even if the “liberal media” were not a myth.

Since the protests were not orchestrated, they were, like the Vietnam War protests and some of the more recent anti-corporatism protests, visceral, essentially spontaneous expressions of public dissent. They represent a manifestation of common sense, in the true meaning of the term, not its more recent perverted anti-intellectual meaning. “Common” means shared and “sense” means intuitive knowledge. So it is common sense to instinctively abhor the very idea of waging an unprovoked, “pre-emptive” war on innocent civilians. The same common sense drove the War of Independence, the uprising of popular opinion that ended the Vietnam War, and the impeachment of Richard Nixon. All of these remarkable events followed rapid, broad-based, dramatic grass-roots shifts in public opinion that could not possibly have been coerced. Such common sense is so basic it even transcends our species: shared intuitive knowledge prompts migratory birds and butterflies to make organized treks covering thousands of miles, treks often lasting longer than the life of any individual trekker, so they cannot possibly be the result of learned behaviours. These are survival instincts, they are fundamental to our nature, and the laws of evolution dictate that they will always prevail.

We know in our hearts that this war is wrong. We don’t need speeches, preachers or rationalization to tell us this. Demagogues (definition: people who try to win political support by playing on citizens’ fears and prejudices ) who attempt to thwart public consensus and deny their citizens’ common sense, whether they be democratically elected presidents, third world despots or stateless moneyed terrorists, will ultimately be removed from power. They all ignore the message of this past weekend at their peril, and although another slaughter may be imminent and represent a tragic short-term defeat for common sense, common sense will win in the end. History will remember Saddam, Osama, Bush and Blair the way it now remembers Nixon and the Vietnam hawks: As insensible men.

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  1. Renna, J. says:

    such a public, global demonstration could not ever be orchestrated by narrow special interest group.Really! Do you suppose all those people woke up that day and decided to go protest?Give us a break! You sound like the people you hate. Go home and think of something original.

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