What to say when people say… I don’t go on protests because they don’t work

Facts: You are right that marching from A to B in an orderly fashion has rarely caused politicians to come out in a stress rash. The civil rights movement in the US marched, yes, but people also used other tactics that probably scared politicians a lot more than marching. And yet from time to time, when people have had enough of being abused by those in power, they take to the streets in large numbers to try to take back control of their lives. This has worked repeatedly, but it works when people are really pissed off and they don’t much care whether Mr Policeman or Mr Murdoch like what they’re doing. And when they don’t all go home at 5pm. And when there are large enough numbers to cause serious economic disruption and disruption to the messages the politicians are putting out.

Thoughts: It may be that what you really meant was ‘I can’t be bothered to protest’, or ‘I can’t be bothered to think about what would work’. If so, move along, don’t spare it another thought. But if what you really meant was ‘I don’t think we’re pissed off enough yet to cause the serious disruption that would force the hands of politicians or force them out of office’, then why the hell aren’t you pissed off enough yet? Do you think they’re going to start providing a good quality of life for everyone when they wake up one morning full of a new-found benevolent joy that turns them into cuddly teddy bears? They’re not acting for you. They’re acting for the money people. If they are taking things away from you, it’s because you’re letting them. They won’t give you nice pressies freely. You have to take them, by acting together with other people. And if you don’t have the numbers or the organisation to do that, at the very least you can disrupt the illusion that there is any kind of consensus about their activities.

Opinion: We have a government in the UK that, even if you accept our system as ‘democratic’, has very little democratic legitimacy, and they are dismantling public services people fought very hard for, including the NHS – I don’t know anyone who voted to dismantle that. Protests don’t work in the UK partly because people aren’t pissed off enough yet. I recommend getting pissed off. They really will take everything away from you if you let them. You might as well pre-empt the shitty America-lite no-safety-nets, low-quality-of-life state they want and get pissed off now. And when you’re pissed off enough, you might just believe that protests will work. You might take the actions necessary to make them work.

Note: This is a series of posts called ‘What to say when people say…’ Obviously they do not provide the definitive answers to most questions (except the ones marked with an asterisk, like so*). They simply provide ideas, helpfully broken down into Facts about Things People Say, Thoughts about Things People Say, and Opinions about Things People Say.

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