Let's face it. For all of the intense moralizing and half-baked political commentary that now passes for anthropological "theory," when it comes to political action anthropologists suck.
Why aren't we outraged? Why aren't we....? We see these questions online every bloody day. Have they made any difference? The evidence is thin, likely non-existent, and that's not surprising.
Outrage is an industry. There is so much of it online that another ranting voice is unlikely to be heard above all the other noise in the chorus of pain and anger that floods our email boxes, blogs and 24-hour news sources.
Outrage is not a solution. It may call attention to a problem, even a life or death problem. But so what? Day after day we are bombarded with calls to take action, which comes down at the end of the day to sign an online petition and expose yourself to another plea for a financial donation. When you're drowning in appeals to guilt and anger, the natural defense is to hit the delete key.
And let's take a look at ourselves. We anthropologists are a few thousand souls on a planet with a population of more than seven billion, and we can't even make up our minds, just talking to each other, what our priorities should be. Look at that through the lenses of Paul Wellstone's priorities (mobilize, energize, organize) or the models provided by Gandhi, Mao, Mandela or Martin Luther King. The idea that our outrage alone is going to change anything is ludicrous.
I speak as someone who has been here before with one big difference. Back in the sixties I was active in the anti-Vietnam War movement and I heard a lot of voices with the same outraged tone I hear so much of today.Did we drive LBJ out of office? Yes. Did we stop the war? Eventually. Did we overthrow "the system" and usher in paradise on earth? Just look around you. How did we achieve what we did? That big difference I mentioned: There were millions of young men and the parents, sisters and girlfriends who loved them afraid that we would be drafted and sent to Vietnam. Our outrage was a mask for fear, and the fear was shared by the millions who became a mass movement.
As Marx so pointedly put it, the serious question is "What must be done?" Outrage and "critique" alone are not serious answers.