Day 75: The way we protest
History determines our courses in the present often. But does an attempt to fix the present, need to be predicated on hacking inanimate artifacts of the past and count that as a victory or even to have proved a point? The supporters of such acts explain that it is symbolic and that symbolism has immense power. I do not disagree but this certainly is going for an easy pick and perhaps a pointless exercise. While this may provide a reprieve, it is in no measure any more productive than serving an immediate relief that the protestors brought down something that they could. It highlights a group’s need for visibility of their protest. But what does it do to register their protest against the very individuals who are responsible for the protestors’ pain, misery and oppression? Nothing. It also achieves very little in terms of changing the situation to any measure.
Yet, symbolic acts form an important method in the arsenal of protest in our times. To be visible is an important element of a protest. I am thinking of the Black Rights Matter movement that has sparked demonstrations across several cities in the US and other countries such as Belgium, France and the UK. Closer home, in India even before any voices could be heard, various interest groups had already drawn parallels to their own situation in India with the deep racism experienced in the US.
If in all these centuries of systemic discrimination and injustice we could not see the need to change the locus of action and protest in effective ways, then I see little hope of a desirable outcome from these protests. It is done. It is taken note of. Then, things roll back to as they were. Sometimes little victories come along after long. It is easy to rally people and march down an important avenue in a capital city and set up a picket line.
Fighting against injustice scars people. It need not wound then any further and exhaust them again in their struggle to seek justice. Those wounds do not heal, even though the situation may change. Moreover, the deep negativity, angst and polarities that we create in the process not just leaves the current generation in post-traumatic stress but also affects children.
Can we protest but not add to the negativity and toxicity that is already saturating us? If discrimination and anger could be countered with the same from the other side, then Gandhi, Mandela and believers of satyagraha and civil disobedience would have tried it or left some notes about it for us. I am thinking of what do we achieve beyond a truce and closeted practices of the same discrimination if we protest with similar anger, toxicity and deep hatred.
Surely there are possibilities. We don’t yet see them because that conversation isn’t happening yet.