I admit I would have reacted more or less in the same way as your co-workers. However, it is not because I don't care. It's because I don't care about the protesters or what they say, after I spent X amount of resources trying to figure them out I got the impression they were just whining about imaginary sufferings of people they don't know anything about. If I don't consider their particular position a worthy contribution to the debate I will dismiss THEM, not the discussion itself.
Whenever you deal with political advocacy based on idealism rather than logic or pragmatism, we can either judge them according to the same moral table they use, or not. If our moral framework is different from theirs, we are forced to dismiss them, simply because they offer no logic to compel our reason and their sentimentality does not cause any moral outrage.
Not all of us are fond of the "protest" solution unless the seriousness of the situation justifies it and it is helpful to find a solution. There are a lot of issues where this does not seem to be the case. If the protest seems little more than an emotional catharsis for those involved, thinking in terms of "those punks" causing inconvenience just to feel better about themselves is a valid reaction. The sense of urgency for most people, concerning globalization, is not there to justify it.
- I agree with the protection of animals from undue treatment, but PETA's position simply alienates me. Therefore, if I hear about a PETA protest I will think about "those punks" because I don't care about their position, not because I don't care about animals.
- I believe reckless destruction of the environment is dangerous for the human race. However, most environmentalists seem to think of their position in idealistic terms about "saving the environment", which leads to unrealistic goals, a decrease in the quality of life, and seems illogical to me because I find it hard to believe that the environment needs any saving (clue: evolution works through extinction of species that cannot adapt to changes in the environment, including changes imposed by other species, and preserving the environment is as much engineering as a modern farm).
I will pay attention to the issue, and support certain organizations, but if Greenpeace organizes a protest against the use of modern farming techniques near my home I will think about "those punks".
- I am pro-globalization, but not necessarily in favor of the current methods or activities that carry that name. I try to keep myself informed of the issues, and the political debate about cultural, economical and political globalization. I value insights from both sides, and if I saw something I considered worth protesting for or against, I probably would.
But the anti-globalization protests so far have failed to convince me that they have any rationale behind them. They have failed to convince me the organizations they protest against are exactly what they claim they are (much in the same way David Icke has failed to convince me the world is ruled by reptilians and others haven't convinced me the Rockefellers prepared everything when they ruled over the Illuminati). They have failed to convince me they have a better alternative.
I value the individual insights and opinions of some of the supporters of that movement, but the movement as a whole just seems "a bunch of punks" to me. I will probably dismiss them as such when they act in that way, and resent the fact that they make the globalization debate seem like an ideological war of good vs evil, which makes finding a rational way of dealing with this all the more difficult.
Freedom is the freedom to say 2+2=4, everything else follows...