Down With This Sort of Thing

protestWorld Car Free Day. Wheee. Sorry, I just don’t buy these faux events. It’s right up there with Bike To School Day — all very nice, but really too much of a production/spectacle to carry much weight. I’d much rather see a “Park Your Butt in Front of the Bureaucrat in Charge of Traaffic Calming and Sidewalks Until he Hears You Out” Day, which clearly doesn’t have the same ring to it, but dammit, it’d be so more effective to get in the face of the powers that be than to posture wildly at some random intersection, reinforcing the stereotype of green freaks as largely ineffective people who can’t work a clutch to save their life. An argument could be made that these kinds of “days” are largely opium for the masses: a chance to vent a little, show of your courage, and let the creative juices flow as you craft your latest poignant protest sign. Then you go stomp your feet with fellow campers, embarrass your children a bit, and go home to fume about how much better society could be “if only…”

A few weeks back, I stated in a thread over at tbogg’s that boycotting Whole Foods was largely pointless, in part because any progressive who shopped there had already sold out for the well-packaged illusion that is a commercialized “progressive” supermarket chain. If you’re sincerely about something-other-than-profit, you can’t seriously believe that Whole Foods is the place to shop. I pointed out that their retarded wingnut of a CEO likely wouldn’t get the message that we disagreed with his offensive stance on health care (voiced in an op ed in the WSJ) simply because a couple of “activists” (okay, 37,000 of them have boosted their protest cred by joining the  Facebook group) stopped buying Whole Food’s overpriced organic granola for a little while. I argued that it would be much more meaningful to change shopping habits for long term change: buy local produce, support local, independent stores, etc. etc. I got lots of shit for that stance from people who felt strongly that a boycott of WF would get the message across — provided enough people did so. Maybe I was wrong, but I still feel it would be pretentious posturing to switch from shopping at WF unless the alternative was demonstrably better. Karl Burkart makes a really good argument in favor of the boycott and argues that, while Whole Foods had something to offer a while back (pioneering organic foods and genuine quality), almost all chains now offer the same categories of products.

And while the Car Free Day oragnizers are clearly aware of the fact that only long-term change really will make a difference, I’m hard pressed to fully appreciate the value of this kind of street theater. I’m not sure the more militant Critical Mass approach really does much to further the cause of bikers, but if you’re gonna organize a one-shot “Car Free Day”, then do some real theater: have hundreds of people stand in the middle of an intersection with a steering wheel in their hands, bring toy cars to a big sandbox in front of town hall — something, anything other than just “showing up” and feigning discontent.

Also. WTF is Michael Pollan doing as a guest blogger over at David Frum’s little house of wingnut horrors? Seriously? Pollan thought that was an appropriate place to drop his $0.02s worth on the Whole Foods debacle?