How Do I Protest Protesting?

zombie protester

I’m against picketing, but I don’t know how to show it.

A few months ago, I had a long and heated argument with one my favorite people to argue with about protesting. I’ve been flatly against methods of protest that involve picketing, marches, or petitions since I was in high school. Having suffered through a teacher’s strike and nearly a year under work-to-rule, I’ve soured to the idea that these methods are even remotely effective in affecting change. In that scenario, very little was accomplished by the ‘protesters’, and the only people that really suffered through that work-to-rule action was the students. Again a few years later in University, I was subjected to a far more disruptive full strike action by CUPE workers. As someone who was living on campus at the time, I was basically isolated on campus into a dreary purgatory guarded by hostiles at every border, with little to do (Most of my classes were on hiatus) but drink.

Up until this year’s perfunctory debate, I was never really forced to examine my distaste for the action of protesting, or civil disobedience for that matter – I tend to avoid getting involved in protest beyond loudly and obtusely spouting my opinion from the safety of a comfortable chair. Which is a safely ineffectual, as long as it’s consciously done that way. I’m currently of the mind that there are many issues in life I recognize that I can do (and therefore will do) little about.

I’ve always been told that life isn’t fair, and there have been plenty of issues I’d become angry with that I was told there was little I could do about. I’ve tried to hold on to that anger, but it’s impotent. It does little more than raise my blood pressure, something my doctor has begun warning me about. So more often than not, I’d have to let those fire sputter out and move on with my little life.

In the past though, I would’ve stated that from observation though, that as a general rule, protesting is largely ineffective.

However, events of this year have forced me to re-examine my beliefs on this; In doing so, I have refined my theory of protesting. The G20 protests reinforce my prior opinions. The Arab Spring, and more recently Occupy Wall Street though, have helped me to recognize the elements of where civil disobedience might be effective.

My working theory is: Protesting is only potent when a unified body of people come together to form and hold a position of power on a unified front indefinitely.

I’m going to break down how I’ve come to this conclusion by comparing different protesting groups – the largely ineffectual protesters at the various G20 (or G8, or G10) meetings that happen globally, labour strikes that are by far the only consistently groups effective with protesting, and the Middle East protests which have been affecting some change so far, in a series of posts about it.

I’ll be breaking it down into several comparison points, as follows:

  • Mob vs. Mass
  • Disruption vs. Position
  • Opportunity vs. Duration
  • Victimization vs. Entitlement
  • Resistance vs. Aggression
  • Rights vs. Civil Disobedience

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