Sunday, 17 April 2022

Is there a point in protesting?

It is rather interesting, this grouping called Extinction Rebellion (XR). Doing some interesting things like protesting by glueing themselves to road surfaces or other interesting things like the top of buses or trains. The funny thing is by doing that they actually doing more damage to the infrastructure than ‘saving’ the planet. The argument stated that they want to protest against the government falls flat because the ‘inconvenience’ is actually directed at the general population. I have been listening to some of the inane expressions of some of the ‘protesters’ and pretty quickly you come to the conclusion that here we have yet another set of people who have found their reason for living. Meaning they have found what they think is their purpose in life. 

 I read an ‘New Yorker’ article from 2017 which asked quite simply ‘Is there any point in protesting’? By Nathan Heller and he (I am assuming he is a ‘he’ and not a non-binary exclamation mark) he pointed out some of the American protests, some violent - remember the Trump Capitol demonstration, the Iraq war protests, and so on and on. Equally similar protests in London and other cities. Similarly with BLM. As he said ‘For centuries, on the right and the left alike, it has been an article of faith that, in moments of sharp civic discontent, you and I and everyone we know can take to the streets, demanding change’. But he also asks ‘What has protest done for us lately? Smartphones and social media are supposed to have made organizing easier, and activists today speak more about numbers and reach than about lasting results. Is protest a productive use of our political attention? Or is it just a bit of social theatre we perform to make ourselves feel virtuous, useful, and in the right’? 

In a book written by Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams, ‘Inventing the Future: Post-capitalism and a World Without Work Paperback – 4 Oct. 2016’, they questioned the power of marches and other manifestations of protest, calling it ‘folk politics’. Furthermore these methods, they say, are more habit than solution. Protest is too fleeting. It ignores the structural nature of problems in a modern world. Even more, these protests such as BLM, XR and more, show a lot of reasoning through individual stories, something journalists do too. In other words we make our minds up through listening to just a few individual stories. We stop systematically thinking about change. The change that would be needed to accomplish the intended result. Politics as a pastime, as a drug-experience but no effect on transforming society. 

It is an interesting view and one I agree with. From where I am sitting all the arguments, protests, destruction of property have had very little effect if at all, on society. Take the Colston statue as an example, did this do anything for the crofters in Scotland? Or the farmers in Mid-Wales who are losing thousands of pounds? Or even for the lowly young women (ask Anneliese Dodds what a woman is) secretaries in London? No, I didn’t think so either. Is there an answer? Possibly but I’m sure it does not include glueing yourself to the road.

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