People often say to me “Why go to protests? They don’t change anything.” Usually my response relates to the necessity of an actively engaged population within a democracy. If we’re not on the streets asking for change then change won’t happen. The usually response to that is a lame excuse that we can’t change the institutionalized systems.
We can and we do.
If 2011 has taught us anything it’s that being on the streets matter. Talking politics matters. Talking about injustice matters. Telling friends why you’re protesting something matters. Voting matters. Writing politicians matters. It all matters.
Not going to protests and not talking about these things ensures that change will not happen. If anything, if people aren’t involved then the change that happens is usually the change that isn’t good for society.
So let’s change things for the better. Let’s do this because we can and because we need to.
Looking back on 2011 we have seen a near-global awakening of people-powered movements that come in a different form everywhere. We’ve heard a lot about Egypt and Libya in the west but there have been more. Some are still ongoing in Syria, Bahrain, and many other Middle Eastern countries. Closer to home in North America we have the Occupy Movement.
All of these movements have different concerns, different people, different reasons why they are on the street. They even have different goals.
There is one thing that they all have in common from Occupy Sydney to the oppressed people of Bahrain: to make the world a better place through democratic inclusion.
Who can’t get behind that?
For the upcoming year of 2012 I challenge every reader of Things Are Good to get out there and just show up at your local protest for positive change.
The Arab Spring initiated a jarring series of events in 2011 that illustrate the radical political possibilities of just being present. When the regime won’t listen, when being heard as an individual isn’t really a viable option, simply standing together and being seen can be profoundly political and empowering.
But will just “being there” really bring significant change?
Revolutions never happen overnight. They result from accumulations of dozens, even hundreds of moments, often stretching over a period of years, that make possible the ruptures that emerge when vast numbers of people begin to imagine, and then to demand, an alternative to their living conditions. We have been seeing these moments over the past year, first in the Middle East but then spreading to England, Brazil, Spain, Great Britain, the United States, and elsewhere. In this sense, we are experiencing a revolutionary moment in which the popular perception of what is possible has indisputably shifted in a way unseen on a global scale since 1968.