Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Stop the violent protests and my tips for demonstrating

As a result of protests surrounding the G20, a man has died, though police does not know exactly why. This simply goes to show that violent protests are not the answer.

I am not one who opposes protesting. Rather, I'm all for it and it is an important tool for communicating to those we have put in power the will of the people. But when protesting gets out of hand and develops into acts of hooliganism, something has gone wrong.

Violence is not a necessary component for successful protesting, instead acting as a deterrent to whoever is your audience. Upon seeing acts of hooliganism masquerading as protest, the person you want to receive your message will have received one, but I doubt it will be the one that you want. Can you imagine the leaders at the G-20 changing their minds about policy, or even taking into consideration the frustration worldwide with regards to the economic crisis, if this is all the protesting they get.

An interesting note here. Protesting implies an opposition to an action, idea or person. However, what is often described as protesting is, in fact, demonstrating. The connotation of the two words is quite distinct. Demonstrating simply means making an outward display of opinion so that others can observe it. Protesting, at least in my mind, contains a certain amount of violence to it.

So if you want change, I suggest you demonstrate because hooliganism has hardly ever convinced anyone, especially if they are surrounded by most of the London police.

Violent protest often shows irrationality as well. Protesters in London were chanting "No more money" as they walked around the location of the G-20 summit. Is that really a reasonable demand? Firstly, how would some of them find themselves in London, able to deliver that message, if it hadn't been for money to buy train or airplane tickets, or even the gasoline in the car that they drove there. Heck, how about the car?

Here are my tips for demonstrating. It may sound odd coming from a teenager, I know, who's only been to one demonstration (in Paris before the Second Gulf War), but I believe they would be useful nonetheless. And what's more, yes they were followed at the demonstration I've been to so I've seen them in practice.

1. Do not shout out stupid slogans such as "No more money"
2. Do not engage in acts of violence.

Simple, but effective.
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  1. While I sympathize with the gist of your post, I think it overlooks the most fundamental part of most protest; viz., it is driven by passion.' It is not very meaningful to say, for example, that the people who stormed the Bastille should all just have calmed down and been more orderly. And just like the events of the French Revolution two centuries ago, these protests are inspired by terrible injustices and such passion has its own 'will to protest.' (To steal a phrase from Nietzshe.) I think we just have to see such protests as the inevitable passionate end of political dissent and hope that A- Government provocateurs will not spin things out of control and B- When the right moment comes such passion will be directed in a productive direction.

  2. I completely agree that the protesters have every right to be angry, however that does not mean that they should act thus, and thereby reduce the impact that their protest has.

    The storming of the Bastille was a mass event, there were only a few thousand that were protesting in a violent manner at the G20 summit, so the cases are slightly different.

    The productive direction of their demonstrating is, as I said in the post, best achieved through non-violent demonstrating.


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