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Boycott Not the Answer


February 15 Student Anti-War Strike Is a Movement in the Wrong Direction

It’s deceptively easy to take a stand on Facebook. Just point and click, and you’re instantly an antiwar, pro-environment, Barack Obama supporter who’s addicted to Whole Foods, can kick a zombie’s ass, and thinks Josh Bernstein from Digging for the Truth is smokin’ hot. And, those are just a few of the 80 groups I’m in.

The permutations for the average Facebook user are endless. From supporting the “dick in a box” sketch to supporting Dick Cheney, Facebook users can express themselves via hundreds of different groups. Plus, thanks to the invention of the minifeed, whether you like it or not, you’re instantly alerted to other people’s group-joining almost as soon as it happens — which entirely eliminates the need to search for groups to join. All you have to do to take a stand on Facebook is wait for your friends to find good groups and then join them too. It’s politicizing by proxy at this point.

Taking a stand in real life is much more difficult. Especially when you’re juggling getting a paycheck, getting good grades, going out, and not going insane. As the almighty Jon Stewart said when he spoke at UCSB last November, a few people might have time to actively express their political opinions, but “most of us have shit to do.” PICT0134.JPG

Despite our best intentions, backing up our beliefs with actions isn’t always as easy as it seems. Sometimes pointing and clicking a link on Facebook is all you can muster in the midst of a busy day, week, month or year.

Maybe that’s why the organizers of the February 15 Student Strike Against War are pushing so hard for us to abandon the bustle of our daily lives — calling for UCSB students to show their disapproval of the war in Iraq by engaging in “no school, no consumption, no business as usual. Help us stop this war by taking real action and not going to class,” according to their Facebook group. It’s a nice idea, and more information about the strike and the motives behind it is available by clicking here. But, is it a practical idea?

As much as I want to take a stand against the war — and trust me when I say that I am adamantly, incessantly, and obnoxiously against the war and the Bush regime; ask anyone who has had the privilege of debating it with me — I don’t know if this is the best way to do it. The strike happens to fall on a day when I’m working, and since my boss threatened us with termination if we don’t show up because of the strike, not working would be totally impractical.

Not to mention the fact that I doubt the good folks at Cingular, Citi Bank, and Cox would give me a break on my bills if I explained that I didn’t make the money I normally do because I was too busy being politically active. Plus, Thursdays happen to be the day I have a three-hour lecture on contemporary film theory to attend.

And since the entire point of my presence here in Santa Barbara is to get an education and receive a degree, it would seem counterintuitive to not show up for classes. Especially since I’ve already paid for my units this quarter — with money I earned from showing up to work at my job and not, believe it or not, from expressing my political opinions — so it would be silly to let that go to waste.

I understand why the organizers of the protest are calling for it to be coordinated around the ceasing of “business as usual,” as they call it. I also applaud them for having the time and energy to organize a means for students to take a stand in the non-Facebook-group-joining sense of the word.

And, it’s not like I’m not politically active — I was there at the protests in and around L.A. back when Bush first went to war; I was there at 6 a.m. going door to door with the rest of the pro-Kerry kids back in 2004; and I am already getting excited about getting involved with a 2008 presidential campaign as well. It’s just that I don’t know if refusing to go to work and school is the best way to accomplish anything.

I understand boycotting businesses whose practices you don’t agree with, and I wholly support strikes and protests as an effective way to express your beliefs. But, this specific event would largely affect our ability to receive an education and the financial well-being of the businesses in I.V.— most of which are owned by individuals or small companies who don’t financially support the war anymore than any other taxpaying citizen does, and who can’t afford to lose that revenue?

To me, it seems counterintuitive to impede our own intellectual growth and impinge upon the financial security of small businesses as a means of protesting the war. While I agree that the University of California is responsible for a lot of reprehensible financial and physical dealings with the military-industrial complex, I don’t see how the handful of people who will actually refuse to go to class skipping school will change anything.

There has to be a more effective means of taking a stand, and I think that the same folks that are organizing February 15 may have actually figured it out. On February 20-23, they’re hosting an event called Peace Out University, during which professors will teach their classes at Anisq’Oyo Park with a specific emphasis on how the subject of the class applies to the war. So, you can go to class and get in some serious social action too. It’s the perfect way to take action without taking out your anger about the war on the wrong people — or on your own grades.

So, you won’t see me boycotting business as usual on Thursday. You’ll see me at work in the morning and you’ll see me in Professor Sarkar’s Contemporary Film Theory class during the afternoon. That doesn’t mean I don’t support the strikers. It just means that, as Jon Stewart said, I have shit to do. But, you will see me supporting Peace Out University. I’ll be the Josh Bernstein fan communing with the environment, munching on a snack from Whole Foods (or the S.B. equivalents of Trader Joe’s and Lazy Acres), and wondering how I can use my zombie ass-kicking skills to stop the war.

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