Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Nature of Protesting


As long as opinions exist human beings will engage in protests against those things with which they disagree. Unfortunately for protesters the general rate of success is rather dismal because most protesters have seemingly forgotten the purpose of protesting and its inherent limitations, especially in modern society. How can protesting become a useful tool for establishing change versus simply being a mobile echo chamber of time wasting annoyance and/or criminal behavior?

The major purpose of protesting is to cast attention to a given issue and either inform others who have the power to influence change or those who are also affected by the issue of its importance and the need for change, but may not already be aware of it. In modern society, especially a Republic or Democracy, the secondary goal of a protest is to act as a persuasion tool to convince others that the issue of the protest is meaningful and worthy of attention. This attention hopefully will lead to a stronger and more unified front for change against the particular issue increasing the probability that there is change.

One of the chief problems with modern protesting is it is imbued with too much emotion and not enough logic. It is understandable that there is an emotional element to protesting for either the acute veracity of a singular event or chronic weight of numerous smaller events typically produces an emotional driver to facilitate individuals into taking the time and effort to publicly air their grievances. However, this emotional aspect of the event(s) underlying the motivation for the protest has lead protesters to make disadvantageous decisions and actions in the process and/or administration of the protest.

Emotional responses and drivers apply an illogical conclusion to believe in a greater necessity to increased frequency of protesting, which relative to the purpose of protesting is commonly detrimental. Basically protesters protest action/policy “y” at greater frequency than they should, because the cause is so emotionally important to them. However, when major protest events occur within close temporal proximity, the impact of those protests towards those not already in support of the “cause” is lessened and even potentially damaging to the success of the cause. For example the group known as “Black Lives Matter” have fallen into this pitfall in their recent activity.

Part of the problem with multiple protest events over a short period of time is it portrays the organization as disingenuous to actively seeking change versus just simply seeking personal attention or notoriety. Most major protests, especially those that spawn organizations to manage the desired change, focus on a meaningful, yet large-scale issue that requires time, resources and effort to produce change. However, multiple protests over a short period of time lead those who do not immediately agree with the protests to conclude, somewhat correctly, that the protesters are not serious about their so-called desire to produce change because they do not understand the process in which that change will occur, if it occurs at all. This attitude will lead individuals to conclude that the organization and perhaps even the cause itself is not worth focusing on, especially in a world where there are already so many other “meaningful” problems.

Some may counter that protests do not just serve as a means to cast attention on a given issue or even rally like-minded individuals and convince “on the fence” individuals, but also to provide an avenue to a frustrated demographic to vent… so to speak. While this initial argument has some merit, its value is only relevant so long as the protests do not significantly interfere with the lives of others in society, for example by stopping/blocking traffic or reducing the effectiveness of economic activity. One may like to punch the air to vent; however, it is not appropriate to punch air that another person’s face is filling. Using violations of the law as a means to “burn off steam” is clearly inappropriate and heavily limits the credibility of any protest and the individuals and/or organizations responsible for it. Therefore, the argument that mass-scale protests can be used as a means to vent is an invalid one that is simply used as a flimsy excuse.

Also these types of protests that block traffic and/or generally inconvenience others are rather foolish from a standpoint of cost-benefit. By inconveniencing others, especially numerous times over a short time period, the protesters are significantly increasing the probability of producing more enemies to their cause. This behavior is meaningful because whereas an individual may have remained on the proverbial sidelines for the protester’s fight, now thanks to the slight by the protesters, either directly or indirectly, that individual may work against the motives of the protesters, perhaps simply out of spite alone. Some could counter that “you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs” (i.e. disruption of the status-quo is necessary for change), but there is definitely a difference between intelligent disruption and needless/foolish disruption and most protest organizations seem to not understand the difference limiting the validity of that argument in relation to their activities.

Overall mass-scale public protesting is only step 1 in the process of producing change by demonstrating that something is a problem and creating a mindset among the populous that the problem must be addressed with haste in the future. However, the real work to change the problem occurs after step 1, for step 1 does not actually achieve any change. Not surprisingly though the steps beyond public protesting are much more difficult both in their initiation and in determining and demonstrating any actual progress towards the goal/change in question.

Unfortunately these challenges appear to trip up most organizations that materialize in the space of step 1. Either these organizations are not capable of transitioning beyond step 1 or they do not care about the events beyond step 1. This lack of skill, ability, influence, etc. traps most organizations in step 1 for through the act of public protesting, these organizations can continue to demonstrate their so-called relevance for public protesting is easy, especially with access to the Internet and the existence of a non-authoritative government. However, as time goes by these organizations are simply lying to their supporters about their relevance because continued public protests on their own will not produce success towards addressing the change these protests claim to desire. Prominent recent examples of this trap are both Black Lives Matter and Occupy Wall Street.

Perhaps that is one of the more unfortunate problems with these organizations, the idea that the “leaders” of these organizations realize that the organization is ill-equipped to accomplish the change, yet cannot acknowledge that it is time to disband or evolve the organization under the idea that such action would be regarded as failure by supporters. Recall it is much more difficult to demonstrate success from meetings in a boardroom than holding up traffic on the street. Therefore, these leaders instead aim to maintain their positions and any benefits that come from those positions, by simply continuing to focus on step 1 in an attempt to obfuscate their own lack of ability and competency by turning the attention of their supporters to the “evil” of the so-called opponent.

While the above position is rather cynical, it is also true that certain organizations function under such a mindset. However, the transition beyond step 1 has also proven difficult for those non-self-aggrandizing organizations. Thus, these organizations must focus not only on pointing out the problem(s), but proposing detailed and valid solutions to the problem. Unfortunately this is not the case for a vast majority of situations. In a sense the step 1 attitude by most of these organizations can be viewed as similar to Homer Simpson’s campaign slogan in “The Simpsons” when he ran for Springfield sanitation commissioner… “Can’t Someone Else Do It”. Basically the organizations state that they have done the “hard” work of pointing out the problem exist, now someone else can actually fix the problem which the organization will take credit for it.

Even when organizations propose solutions, those solutions are typically lacking with a variety of holes, usually on the details end and probability of application due to the general lack of information and/or bias. For example The Urban League proposed a “10-Point Justice Plan” to address the negative relationship between the black populous and law enforcement. Unfortunately this “solution” was heavily lacking in detail largely associated with general application. It promoted a lot of “universally applied” ideas merely by citing either one program in one particular city or one un-passed existing piece of Federal legislation. Also it was rather bias and generally na├»ve. A number of elements to the “solution” could be viewed merely as quasi-demands over actual genuine attempts to solve the problem.

However, for all of the problems of the “10-Point Justice Plan”, at least the Urban League produced a starting point in which to produce solutions. Unfortunately the fact that organizations like Black Lives Matter continue to reside in step 1, protest, draws resources and attention away from that starting point, thereby heavily reducing the probability that a long-term solution even materializes in the first place. This type of behavior goes to demonstrate the disconnect between organizations in step 1 and organizations that have moved beyond it, but claim to be “working” towards a solution to the same concern/problem.

Another concern with most protests is the tone and lack of awareness for the existing problem. For example the negative relationship between the black populous and police officers in the eyes of the black populous is thought to be entirely the fault of the police. Of course this is not correct for the black populous certainly does not treat the police with the appropriate level of respect and decorum that is expected for the position, which not surprisingly exasperates problems in the relationship. Part of the problem is a number of individuals in the black populous fall into the same pitfall they claim the police do: stereotyping all police as out to get them racist, just as they believe police believe all blacks are scum-criminals up to no good. Until the black populous acknowledges and corrects this behavior of stereotyping police officers as racists, among other things, the relationship between the black populous and the police will remain strained for it is not a one-sided problem.

Furthermore some may believe that protesting works because they look to the past and see the fruits and successes of protests. Unfortunately in the process of looking upon days long gone there is a lack of understanding in how society has evolved. These successful protest movements were able to demonstrate the power of the protesters to effectively influence society due to their integral role in society. For example The Montgomery Bus Boycott was built entirely around the fact that the general economic survival of the bus company was dependent on its black customers.

Unfortunately for protesters, over the last few decades economic development and technology has significantly altered the way the economy functions. Globalization and the Internet have generally decoupled major business from their proximity and those local consumers. Therefore, local protests tend to only impact local businesses, which frequently only damages the local infrastructure, which can cause more harm overall than what the protesters are protesting against. So while in the past, protests could apply more direct pressure, now the manner in which society has changed mitigates a lot of that direct influence and power. In some respects it can be argued that there are just too many people for protests and boycotts to really have any significant influence economically. Now such influence is regarded more as mere annoyance to outright criminal behavior that does not win allies.

In a democracy change demands voting and placing individuals in power that will produce that change. Unfortunately while step 1 attempts to create the necessary attention to get prospective voters to care about the issue, it does nothing beyond this element. A lack of voting is definitely one of the major reasons why despite all of the protesting in the world, so little genuine and meaningful change has actually occurred on most issues.

This voting issue has been largely noted in minority communities with reference to the local governing body via claims that minority demographic x makes up 72% of the voting eligible population, but the local government is 80% white and how this is wrong. However, this point is rather devious and inappropriate. It is important to note that that it is bias behavior if an individual with demographic characteristic x votes for a candidate solely because he/she shares that demographic characteristic (i.e. a black person votes for a black candidate solely because he/she is black or a Jewish person votes for a Jewish candidate solely because he/she is Jewish, etc.)

This demographical point is rather idiotic to make because a democracy is not structured in such a way that government officials should proportionally represent the electorate demographic; the point of a democracy is government officials should pass policies and govern in a manner that is approved by the majority of voters. However, the above statement commonly made by minority “activists” regarding certain communities being 72% x, yet 80% of government/civil servant positions being white portrays a racist/bias mindset of x should be represented in more government positions solely because the electorate is some % of x. Therefore, it is important that individuals vote and that are informed enough that they vote for officials that will best represent their interests regardless of whether or not those individuals share certain characteristics.

In the end individuals/organizations who seek to produce change by initiating protests must understand that protesting can only cast attention to a given issue. Gone are the days when only protesting can produce valid and meaningful solutions. These solutions are produced later through honest detailed analysis of the problem to produce an appropriate guideline and outline of a solution and then hard work and commitment to turning that guideline into a functioning solution. protesters must be wary though of alienating both potential allies and advisories through excessive protesting, especially the latter. Excessive protesting can definitely spur the passions of potential advisories to work harder to defeat the protester(s), not necessarily because they passionately disagree with the idea/object of the protest, but because of scorn directly towards the protesters themselves. Overall protesters must focus on advancing detailed and thorough solutions to issues they view as problems rather than focusing on simply protesting those problems with no or only piecemeal superficial solutions.

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