Sunday, 28 February 2010
The Art of Protest
Thanks to @WarrenPearce for sending this my way, a mini-documentary about how protest and demonstration has been brought under the auspices of the state, to amount to little more than sanctioned and manipulated cathartic spectacles. That protesters in the UK must give seven days notice of any intended demonstration or risk imprisonment for failing to do so is entirely bizarre.
This disillusion is something I've been feeling myself for some time, piquing in the aftermath of Copenhagen. Previous demonstrations I've attended, chiefly processions along a predetermined route, have lacked any kind of sense of power, in so much as nine times out of ten those who have power will simply ignore us.*
At Copenhagen I questioned the point of some of the demonstrations, failing to see how they fit into any coherent process of enacting change. Now I question the point of attending these global summits as an activist. I firmly believe that you must be the change that you want to see; so in terms of moving towards a more equal society, this means taking things down to a community/grass roots level and applying those changes from the bottom up for the society we want.
Beyond that, summit chasing still has a role I feel, though I'm not entirely sure what role that is, beyond maybe seizing the publicity and letting leaders and the rest of the world know that we are unhappy, whilst also using the moment as an opportunity to make connections with other activists. (Not that this is a necessary space for these connections to be made)
Likewise, there are many other issues that can't be addressed in a bottom-up manner, like the anti-war movement for example, which requires immediate action against injustice. Hundreds of thousands, even millions of people in the streets can simply be ignored by a government who sit there safe in the knowledge that the boys in blue will police the demonstration and ensure it abides by health and safety regulations.
What is needed then is a different approach, one encompassing a myriad different facets that wrestles back control, that is spontaneous and enraging and that upsets the dominant spectacle.
* I think too many people confuse power with pressure. Power is the ability to make somebody do something that they otherwise wouldn't do. Pressure is trying to convince people to do that, but is only successful if the person on the receiving end is weak in their beliefs.