Quixotic Protests

A few months ago I watched the film Man of La Mancha with Peter O’ Toole.  This musical glorifies Don Quixote’s madness in a way that seemed typical of the 60s and 70s.  It felt a little too modern so I read the end of Cervantes’ book to see how it would compare.

In Cervantes’ book, a crazy Quixote goes on adventures with noble motives but disastrous results.  At the end of his life he reacquires his sanity, exchanges his delusion for reality, and then he dies.  In the musical he does all of that, but just before he dies, he recovers his glorious insanity and then dies in the midst of a happy delusion.

I’m open to correction, but here are the two mutually opposed ideas I perceive.

The book seems to say that heroic delusion must ultimately give way to reality.

The musical seems to conclude that reality must ultimately give way to heroic delusion.

These opposing beliefs seem to me to explain the distinctions between the Tea-Party protests and the Occupy Wall Street protests.  The Tea Party protesters gathered together and asserted a common grievance: Reality won’t let us get away with unsustainable government spending.  For the Tea Partier, infinite desires must bow before the reality of finite means.

The OWS Protests are like a protest buffet.  A little anarchy.  A little union activism.  A little “I have to pay this money back?” student load disgruntlement.  Add a dash of drum circle, a pinch of self-worship, and a handful of class envy and dig in.  Sure, it might be a little unfocused and it might taste a little marijuana-ey, but doesn’t it bring back memories of the 60’s and isn’t that the important thing?  To the cynically minded the OWS protests are marred by the protesters’ desire for other people’s stuff.  Their refrain is less “Hands off” more “Hand out.”  But maybe that’s uncharitable.  Maybe these aren’t spoiled attention-starved college kids angry at how poorly a degree in Performance Art prepared them for the workforce.  These are heroic warriors tilting at the horrors of capitalism.  Don’t think of it as protesting math.  Think of it as dreaming the impossible dream.

Coda:

Awesome video of a greedy anti-greed protester who wants college for free.

Share

Published by Zach

I'm a writer and illustrator living in Creedmoor NC.

Join the Conversation

2 Comments

  1. “Corporate greed” is such a curious thing to protest. It’s so vague and nebulous that it seems to be able to really stand for anything, even “pay my college tuition”.

    I remember eight years ago how the protest crowd was out in arms over war in the middle-east. Last I checked Americans were still dying in Afghanistan, Iraq and we’ve spent the last six months bombing Lybia. But the protesters seem to have moved onto bigger and better things. Give it eight more years and they’ll probably be protesting rainy days. Or maybe windmills?

  2. FYI I stole your line about greedy, anti-greed protesters when I shared the video… Thought it put it perfectly.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *