I have never been to a protest. There is no footage anywhere of me marching with a banner demanding an end to war, nuclear weapons and child poverty. This is not because I don't want an end to these things, but rather a lack of opportunity and poor geographical positioning. London might occasionally overheat in the glow of a demonstration, but York and Southampton are hardly political hotbeds.
As soon as I get to the capital, however, I intend to take advantage of the right to protest. People just don't do it enough these days. Freedom of speech and freedom of expression are pivotal aspects of our democracy, and opportunities to loudly express discontent should be cherished. As long as any demonstration remains non-violent, I see no reason why they should not be encouraged. When MPs are not speaking for the people, and not acting in a way the people like, then the people must take some kind of direct action themselves. Protests have been known to have positive effects, notably with the poll tax in the 1990s, though it is regrettable that violence occurred in this case.
People don't seem too bothered about protesting or demonstrating these days. This situation developed due to a number of reasons. The great demonstrations of the 1960s, in reality, achieved very little. Anti-war and nuclear disarmament campaigns have generally been met by deaf ears in the corridors of Whitehall. Disillusionment with the political system may also play a part in people becoming estranged from taking part in the process in any way at all, and the recent expenses revelations will only exacerbate that situation. Fear might also play a part, with the police response to the demonstrations earlier this year perhaps discouraging people from taking part. I also blame Margaret Thatcher, as I am inclined to do with a lot of things. In declaring the 'end of society' and the era of individualism, Thatcher initiated an era of selfishness, where the majority of people do not care about issues unless they are directly affected by it. In this world where everybody is out for what they can get, regardless of other people, demonstrating over more distant issues becomes less important.
I stand by the importance of demonstrations. People have a right to gather and speak out, especially in days such as these where members of Parliament seem wholly incapable of representing the views of the people. In a political system where the creep to the right has been severe, demonstrations and rallies should become a particularly important tool for the Left as they seek to get their views across. People's disillusionment from politics should also encourage them to demonstrate. If politics is not doing it for you, don't retreat. Do something about it. And let's declare an end to this horrendous Thatcherite consensus. Our world is wholly unequal and getting worse. The recent economic crisis has shown the dark side of neo-liberalism. While we're at it, let's bring society back. Look around, and see that people are worse off than ourselves. Rather than thanking our lucky stars that we are not as unfortunate as others, let's take it upon ourselves to go outside and tell our government what we think. I'm almost certain they aren't listening, but if the clamour is big enough and loud enough something might get through. We owe it to ourselves and to our society, our global society, to try and make ourselves heard.
So keep signing those petitions, and get yourself out on the streets next time an event is organised to promote a cause you're passionate about. I'll see you there.
The politics of death
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