Mary Midgley (in Beast and Man) writes, "Like most people who have spent time and caught colds on plenty of leftwing demonstrations, I am unhappy when I see the comrades tearing off down a useless blind alley. There are real things in the world that require their attention." The same, of course, applies to demonstrators on the right, the center, and off in other dimensions entirely.

What good are mass demonstrations? They may focus attention on an issue, yes. They may reveal depth of feeling in an otherwise-ignored subpopulation. If massive and/or bizarre enough, demonstrations may scare other parts of the society ("Freak the Mundanes!") and provoke action --- though not always action in the direction toward which the marchers are pushing.

Most of the time, however, the net result of a demonstration is hard to discern. It's a lot like mass marketing. Advertising makes corporate executives feel good: they see the firm's name out there, and they fantasize that an ad campaign will be remembered, will increase mindshare, and will result in new customers and growth for the company. But generally, there's no measurable effect. The same holds for politicians and for demonstrations. As Midgley suggests, fundamental issues count far more in the long run. Big crowds and flashy spectacles are ripples on the tide. Ideas matter; good deeds matter; quality matters.

For other Mary Midgley comments see the ^zhurnal entries of 6 July 2000 (IrreducibilityAndPseudoscience), 1 June 2000 (EducationCultureAndBlame), and 10 May 2000 (WonderWhy).

Sunday, September 17, 2000 at 20:33:25 (EDT) = 2000-09-17

TopicMidgley - TopicSociety

(correlates: FreakingTheMundanes, FanFare, IrreducibilityAndPseudoscience, ...)