THE VALUE OF PROTEST

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by Cheryl Miller

February 20, 2017

Three weeks ago, in a Guardian article, Francine Prose called for a European-style general strike. Prose (like many) believes that protests, demonstrations, and marches don’t accomplish much.

She writes, “The trouble is that these  protests are too easily ignored and forgotten by those who wish to ignore and forget them. The barriers go up, the march takes place, the barriers come down. Everyone goes home happier.”

I sympathize with her frustration. When viewed through the lens of traditional or social media, street protests can appear to be random, unrelated, and short-lived actions. It can be difficult to understand the through line between a street protest and societal change.

People take to the streets to make visible a problem they perceive in the accepted social order. This is vital because that which is not acknowledged, cannot be addressed.

This is true for planned demonstrations, spontaneous protests, picket lines, guerrilla street theater, marches.

Protests are inherently disruptive because they call attention to the fact that people are being mistreated in some way. This is controversial because our economic system and social structure is based upon the fallacy that some  people are less human than other people, and thus are commodities to be used for the benefit of the few.  Underlying all gender isssues is the embedded belief that men are more human than women. Throughout history, economies have been developed around the notion of service of to royal families. Slavery economies  are justified by the idea that only the owners are fully human. American chattel slavery practiced an extremely aggressive in promulgation of this belief which has led to our current form of American apartheid.

We are accustomed to accepting as natural unjust laws, economic system and cultural norms that  not only but expands this fallacy.

Social justice movements seek to rebuild society based upon acknowledging the full personhood of all people.

Embracing this simple idea that everyone is fully human is truly anarchistic. But it’s a magical kind of anarchy that rebuilds as it dismantled.

Street protests are like an anti-distortion mirror that reveals the actual world to us thereby opening our eyes and showing us what needs to be changed.

Are protests enough to change societal structures?

No.

But they start the conversation. And without a conversation, nothing changes.

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