February 15 Student Anti-War Strike Is a Movement in the Wrong
It’s deceptively easy to take a stand on Facebook. Just point
and click, and you’re instantly an antiwar, pro-environment,
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.”
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
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
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.