Protesting against politics

This article (Global protest grows as citizens lose faith in politics and the state – The Guardian) came out a couple of days ago, and not really having time, I archived it. The article talks about a very peculiar thing about the twenty first century. Protests.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I know that protests are hardly new to this world. Protests have ranged from being irritants to toppling the Bourbon regime in pre-revolution France. However, one thing is for sure. Today’s protests are different from the ones seen earlier. The video below should be a good indicator of the breadth and scale of these protests.

A change in what people are protesting for

Earlier, when people would protest against something, it would be:

  • Against harsh economic conditions
  • Against a ruler waging too much war

Now do remember, I’m talking about common people revolting against the state, not nobles plotting intrigue and planning to overthrow kings. This means that in the days gone by, people generally protested when things got too tough for them. Compare that to today’s protests.

The Storming of the Bastille, by Jean-Pierre Houël
The Storming of the Bastille, by Jean-Pierre Houël

The occupy movement wasn’t exactly a movement against harsh economic conditions. For those of you who will argue with me on this, I will agree that the movement would not have happened without the crash of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. However, the crowd wasn’t protesting against the harsh economic conditions of the day, rather, it was protesting the actions of the government in solving the crisis. Note the distinction. In other words, the people were protesting against government policies and were doing so knowingly. Their aim was not to change the government or its leader, all they wanted to do was to ensure the government changes its policies.

A poster of the Occupy Wall Street Movement - creator: Lalo Alcaraz
A poster of the Occupy Wall Street Movement – creator: Lalo Alcaraz

Another form of protest, albeit a much more controversial form, is the type done by the group Anonymous. Hidden in the shadows and striking out against targets they believe have committed great wrong to a particular community is their modus operandi. In a way, they may be likened to Robin Hood, who would only prey upon the rich to give tot he weak. Anonymous claims to do the same thing, but instead of dealing in money, they deal in control. Anonymous is a group which tries to prove that the control their targets believe they exercise over a particular set of data is not as absolute as they like to think. While condemned by governments and gaining a mixed response from the online community, they nonetheless have managed to enter the collective psyche and have become something akin to a symbol.

Knowledge is free. We are Anonymous. We are Legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us.

And finally, another form of protest we can talk about are the protests against rape in Delhi. These protests aren’t against widespread problems (in the same sense of the word as economic problems are). While chronic rapes in the Indian capital are a cause for worry, they are hardly a cause of fear for the majority. In older days, people would have looked away and not bothered, knowing that it wasn’t their own problem. However, the situation has been turned on its head today, what with widespread education, mass media and the Internet having created a collective conscience and the ability to draw upon it.

Delhi Rape protests
Delhi Rape protests


But against whom are we protesting?

In older days, rulers would govern in the absence of fast and free-flowing information. Information would travel as fast as a horse, which, admittedly, is hardly quick. However, to use an old cliche, today, information travels at the speed of light. In older days, rulers would change and bend slowly, knowing that the effects of these new laws would spread slowly and unevenly. However, with both the rapid spread of information and fast-changing markets, governments have sadly become bottlenecks instead of enablers.

Government procedures are designed to be foolproof and safe in order to make sure that ineffective policies do not get drafted. People specialized in lawmaking sit down and make laws based on existing policies. For years, it was thought that public involvement in lawmaking should be limited to choosing their representatives and nothing else. For an interval, this approach was absolutely correct, seeing that very few people had basic education and the knowledge to make a difference at that level.

However, fast forward to the present. Education is slowly, but surely becoming the norm. With the advent of mobile phones and fast wireless internet, a large number of people can be kept in the know in real-time. People debate and discuss things on online forums, numerous polls are conducted daily for random questions, information is disseminated rapidly and feedback is collected even more quickly. People propose change in isolated forums and get petitions signed in order to see their proposals reach the light of the day.

And the government? Let’s just say it’s stuck in the stone age.

People are protesting this lack of malleability. They are protesting current governments’ lack of ability in adapting to new situations. They are protesting against the glacial speed of lawmaking. And most of all, they are protesting against not being included in the proceedings.

Governments of the world, wake up. We’ve let you know what we want. The ball is in your court now.


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