What’s the Point in a Protest?

What’s the Point in a Protest?

Do you remember several weeks ago when the whole Arab world was alive with political reform? Protesters took to the street in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya as well as other countries dotted around the region.  Though Libya is struggling with what looks like an all-out civil war, the results of the other aforementioned two saw democratic joy and ‘power for the people’.  But does protesting really work?  I mean do the governments or the dictators, whether corporate or power-hungry mad dogs like Gaddafi really pay any attention to them? We will all remember those two million or so people who were so enraged at the prospect of going to war with Iraq that they politely asked their boss for the morning off work to head down to central London and stomp up and down the streets waving banners and wittingly calling Tony Blair – Tony Bliar.

I get just as annoyed and dismayed as the next person on all sorts of social, political and constitutional issues, but would I do anything about it?  What’s the point?  Let’s take the Iraq war in 2003.  I think that it is super that so many people marched against the invasion.  To see so many people angry at something so important, where people’s lives would be lost, it was truly a wonderful democratic moment, but I didn’t head down because I had something else planned for that day.  I don’t remember what it was, but I probably thought that it was important.

I also would have thought that the government have an ‘agenda’ to adhere to and that despite so many people speaking out against it they would turn a blind eye and dive head first into Baghdad.  Low and behold that is exactly what they did.  If two million can’t make that much of a difference what good would two million and one make? If you compare the success of the protests in Tunisia and Egypt with that of the UK one could be swayed that Tony Blair was in fact even more of a brutal tyrant than that of Murbarak and Ben Ali for not heeding, but perhaps not as terrible as the rotten apple that is Gaddafi.

To find the time to protest is clearly another issue that a lot of people have.  A common cliché is that a thing for a student to do is to protest, whether it be because of tuition fees, G20 summit or because their favourite 24-hour bacon sandwich shop has closed down due to health and safety.  Of course they protest because they all have so much free time on their hands, and just because they have heard of Karl Marx they think they’re socialists with an upstanding moral agenda and that they fully understand everything that is wrong in the world.  And good luck to them, but the truth is most people work 9 to 5 with a 40-minute lunch break and this is certainly not enough time to get yourself into London, make a banner and stride up and down Marble Arch, especially when there’s trouble with parking.  Unfortunately, once you start working your social issues begin to change, you start picking up a regular pay check, you get married and have children, then suddenly when you do here there is a march on something you feel so passionately about you can’t find anyone to babysit your children.

Now though you don’t need to even leave the confines of your workstation to make your point.  There are dozens of campaigning websites where you can attach your name to all manner of worthwhile causes, such as Avaaz.com and its ‘Rupert Murdoch’s take-over of Sky‘ crusade.  This is more convenient and it gets millions of more signatures on its books.   But I think that the real reason why protests don’t work more in this country is because whenever anything is planned for the UK there is always the chance that the rain will come and ruin everything.  Maybe we should protest against that!