Impacting change without protest


Last Wednesday, I received an email from a friend calling people to attend a version of Occupy Wall Street in Indianapolis. 

For those who have not followed the news, Occupy Wall Street is a series of protests in Zuccotti Park in New York City. The participants are mainly protesting against social and economic inequality, corporate greed and the influence of corporate money and lobbyists on government. 

Some critics complain about the goals of the protest. Though having a range of fancy goals, those goals—protesting inequality, greed, corporate money—seems like a balloon with nothing inside. Whether or not the protest would make any difference remains to be seen.  

One thing is for sure. The Occupy Wall Street protests show that American people stand up when they need to. Last week, a column published in The DePauw expressed the view that Americans are politically apathetic by comparing protests as a daily activity in Spain to a few numbers of protests at DePauw. I disagree.

First, protests are inefficient. Mathematically, for protest activity, the ratio of success—the number of protests that brought about change over the number of small failed protests—is relatively small. If protestors want to spark any interest in the government, it must be big enough so that voices can be heard.

Sometimes what people protest offends others. Take the Westboro Baptist Church as an example. They picket funerals and desecrate American Flag. While their action is lawfully right, as they won the Supreme Court case Snyder v. Phelps, many people find it difficult to accept such action. In Federalist No. 10, James Madison coined the word "faction" to refer to a group of people with interest contrary to the interest of others or the interest of the whole community.

Above all, protests are not the only way for activists to voice opinions. There are plenty of others protocols. Over this semester at DePauw, for instance, student government opened groups on Facebook for each class, and each group is a platform for issues needing concerns. student government itself served as common carrier between students and DePauw administration.

If you want to tackle issues outside of DePauw's campus, you have many opportunities. Last semester, a friend of mine went to Indianapolis to protest the SB500 bill. Earlier this semester, we were happy to learn that a DePauw staff member and professor were arrested while protesting in DC.

Public support for protest activity is low in the United States. Yet in fact, Americans are more likely to take part in other activities such as writing to their legislators or volunteering in political campaigns.

Thus, Americans and DePauw students are not politically apathetic. If we feel strong about any issues, we are more than ready to take action.  

—Nguyen is a sophomore from Hanoi, Vietnam majoring in computer science.