With so many people advocating various political agendas these days, it isn’t particularly surprising that an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 protesters attended a rally held three weeks ago in Central Park to condemn the atrocities in Darfur. What is surprising, however, is the fact that so many people could gather in one place and not see the futility of their rally. Aside from producing a lot of extra garbage in Central Park, the protesters hardly did anything truly productive, much less anything actually to help the victims of war in Darfur.
Protesters always delude themselves into believing that they operate within the realm of political and social change. In reality, flamboyancy is the only thing that matters to them — who yells the loudest, who refuses to eat for the longest time, who prints their flyers on the most obnoxiously colored neon paper. All motivation to obtain an actual result is completely absent within a protester’s mind; he is more apt to find himself attempting to solicit guilt from the Frappucino-holding, iPod-clutching, non-partaking passerby while forgetting he has the same Frappucino in his non-pamphlet-holding hand and the same Green Day-playing iPod in his own pocket. Real results and real change never matter to the protester. He cares more about his empty jeers and the naive propositions scrawled on the sign he’s waving amongst the horde of similarly minded sheep than he does about the issue he’s protesting.
When reading about the 20,000 to 30,000 attendants at Central Park in New York City specifically, I wondered about a different alternative that didn’t seem to cross the mind of a single person. What would have happened if every one of the 25,000 or so people in attendance had decided to work a job for $10 an hour instead of uselessly standing at the rally? For the sake of argument, I will assume the average total time commitment of every Darfur protest attendant was five hours. This assumption would mean that every participant could have grossed a total of $50, and thus the total sum amassed would have been $1.25 million. What would have happened if UNICEF, the Red Cross or any other humanitarian organization had been given an extra $1.25 million to aid the people of Sudan? Certainly it would have been more than the nothing that came out of a giant crowd of loiterers.
According to UNICEF, roughly $3.6 million would finance a “therapeutic feeding” and nutrition program in Darfur. $1.25 million would be roughly 35 percent of the money needed to do so. That 35 percent could have been reached in five paltry hours by just 25,000 people, had they cared enough about the issue to do something about it.
With real intentions to make a difference, those 25,000 people could have worked for $50 each one weekend, and they could do the same thing the next weekend and the weekend after, grossing a total of $3.75 million for the people of Sudan. Instead, their passion and care died with the dissipating crowds. The protesters went home to hot dinners and warm beds, while the Sudanese are no closer to getting help than they were before. UNICEF is still short its necessary $3.6 million.
This is my protest. These “passivists” need to do something useful if they want to be thought of as real activists. They could start with giving UNICEF the money from their Frappucinos; $3.65 is only one one-millionth of the way there.
That may not be much, but at least it’s more than the nothing they did give.
Elizabeth Moore is a sophomore in Jonathan Edwards College.