If You Must “Protest” Do It Right!

If You Must “Protest” Do It Right!

If there ever was a word long overdue for redefinition, it is the word “protest.” Whatever happened to “peaceful rally”?

Since its founding, America has struggled with living up to its stated intentions. Violence, racism, hyper-capitalism is as American as apple pie and baseball. Contrary to popular belief, political ideologies and economic class isn’t what pumps the fuel needed for our social ills to keep moving forward. The inherent human needs to conquer, be ahead of the pack, stand out, be comfortable, and project success. Therefore, we find ourselves in a world steeped in outrage. Everyone is fighting for more… more money, more freedom, more autonomy, more from the government.

The inequalities so many are raging against, mostly from behind anonymous social media accounts, are human DNA driven, not divisiveness caused by political leaders.

There’s so much rage in the world today, yet few can pinpoint the root cause of their wrath. Personally, I find many people who are outraged attempting to romanticize a time when they were not victimized. Their ancestors had to suffer, and now they want to reap the benefits of their suffering. Sounds about right.

There is not one person reading this who’s lineage didn’t suffer any historical wrongdoings (Granted, some more than others.). Our need to be outraged is such that demographic groups point to past wrongdoings that took place long before their lifetime. When you hear someone in their 20s and 30s, refer to history as oppressing them, it’s embarrassing. What is oppressing them; however, they care to quantify their oppression, is today’s beliefs and thinking, not what happened 100 years ago. Today’s mindset needs to change, not history.

Outrage is addictive. Putting aside those who are religious fundamentalists, it’s in our psyche to feel we have an absolute moral superiority over others. It’s more attractive that wealth. This explains the need so many have to tell others how to live, what to believe in, how to conduct themselves. There’s no shortage of moral police.

For example, there are face mask wearers, and there are those who don’t wear facemasks. Both sides can Google “the science” to support their choice. Instead of respecting a personal choice whether to wear a facemask, if legalities allow, we twist a person’s decision into a divisive political narrative.

Last I heard facemask wears were on the left of the political spectrum and non-wears were on the right, or do I have this backwards?

Civil debate is as rare a Made in the USA.

Because like-minded people and tribes are easy to find and join, I believe social media inadvertently rewards people for their moral outrage. The comradery of being outraged over “whatever” gives everyone an incentive to get upset with others.

Despite what everyone thinks, research shows political and moral beliefs have not changed much in the past 20 - 30 years. People have the same views as they did in previous generations. What’s changed is how those beliefs are expressed and how we each react to opinions we disagree with. Whereas in the past, we met opposing views with respect and understanding, today we meet it with moral outrage, seeing people different from ourselves as evil, the enemy and the downfall of society.

The Internet’s first rule should be: Instead of trying to prove others wrong, try to see in what sense they may be right.

When we mentally place an individual in a particular bucket by anything other their actions which affect us directly (Should I care if Bob gambles, believes in Jesus, is a Patriots fan, voted for Trump, has high blood pressure, is a member of the Teamsters, doesn’t believe in climate change and puts hot sauce on his pizza?), we’re no better than the leaders and enablers we point to for failing us as if they create and control our thoughts, values and actions. We are just as divisive as those who seek political leverage by dividing us.

Who amongst us doesn’t enjoy feeling as though they are on the right side of history? Who reading this doesn’t feel they have some meaningful moral crusade to fight? In this sense, there is a weird pleasure and satisfaction that comes from being angry. The immediate gratification anger provides makes us feel more alive than giving unconditional love, expressing gratitude, or chasing our passions. As our self-serving moral battles upset us, they feed our growing sense of entitlement: the feeling that we deserve a better world that we are not getting, that we are somehow better than the life that has been given to us.

I have a theory; people who blame others for their own emotions and actions do so because they believe if they continuously paint themselves as victims, eventually someone will come along and save them, and they’ll receive the love they always wanted.

I understand why you may need to protest to express your anger. I’m with you there, I’m all for protesting. It’s how many protests that I see as being pointless, ego-boosting, not conducive to meaningful change. In quite a few cases, the method of “protesting” is disenfranchising those who once supported your cause.

  • Rioting, destroying, isn’t protesting.
  • Waving signs isn’t protesting.
  • A hashtag (#BLM, #MeToo, #StoptheSetback, #JeSuisCharlie #BoycottAmazon) isn’t protesting.
  • Yelling at someone they are privileged is an assumption, isn’t protesting.
  • Labelling someone whose views you disagree with isn’t protesting.
  • Insulting someone whose views you disagree with isn’t protesting.
  • Not voting out of “principle” isn’t protesting.
  • Posting memes on social media platforms isn’t protesting.
  • Playing the “my ancestors suffered more than yours” game isn’t protesting.
  • Playing the race card isn’t protesting.
  • Playing the victim card isn’t protesting.
  • Saying you’re a victim of historical wrongs, which took place before your lifetime, isn’t protesting.
  • Toppling statues isn’t protesting.
  • Vandalising historical moments isn’t protesting.
  • Being easily offended isn’t protesting.
  • Verbal bullying isn’t protesting.
  • Corporations putting out solidarity statements, without a roadmap for creating a racially diverse workplace, is simply PR, it isn’t protesting.
  • Holding onto false narratives to support your wishful thinking isn’t protesting.
  • Public shaming isn’t protesting.
  • Calling someone ignorant, a racist, homophobic because it is much easier than attempting to understand how they came to live the narrative they are now defending isn’t protesting.
  • Denouncing capitalism from your iPhone or laptop, while wearing fashionable labels and sipping a Starbuck coffee, is hypocrisy; it isn’t protesting.
  • Claiming some “ism” prevents you from reading a book, getting an education, taking care of your health, and moving ahead, isn’t protesting.
  • Judging someone on anything other than their actions isn’t protesting
  • Not accepting the universal law that you are the some of your choices at any given moment isn’t protesting.

All the above is moral grandstanding, under the guise of making people “aware,” as if social injustices weren’t common knowledge.

If you need to protest, and we should all protest something, it’s good for the soul, then do it right!

  • Voting is protesting… the ultimate protest. (US election day is 100 days away as I write this. It’ll be interesting to see the voter turnout this November.)
  • Donating to a political party, or a candidate, you believe in, who’ll address the issues you’re outraged against, is protesting.
  • Volunteering is protesting.
  • Donating to a cause you believe in is protesting.
  • Giving spare change to the homeless is protesting.
  • Setting an example for future generations to follow is protesting.
  • Hiring someone to provide them with a chance to better their circumstances is protesting.
  • Picking up garbage off the ground is protesting.
  • Being aware of what your consumerism does to the environment and which corporations it supports and accordingly adapting your spending/lifestyle is protesting.
  • Showing empathy to someone is protesting.
  • Having manners is protesting.
  • Being a shoulder to cry on is protesting.
  • Listening without judgement is protesting.
  • Shaking hands after you agree to disagree is protesting.
  • Trying to understand someone’s reasons for their beliefs is protesting.
  • Living your best life possible, with no excuses, is protesting.
  • Owning your life choices is protesting.

All the above is a quiet power.

Systems continue to exist; political ideologies continue to be entrenched. Those who benefit from keeping the status quo fight harder (manipulate better) to maintain their way of life than those who mindlessly drink the divisive Kool-Aid and compelling vision for themselves, their community or country.

Instead of asking, why don’t they (governments, corporations, your neighbor) do something? ask yourself why you aren’t doing something? If you’re serious about doing good in this world, of upholding the image you have a “social conscious,” the one you brag about, then you need to shift the narrative and accountability to you, not to others.

Regardless of how you define yourself, the only protest that will make a lasting difference is changed behavior, and ideally, beliefs from everyone. This is not happening with hashtags, rioting, insults and shutting down views you may disagree with.

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Nick Kossovan

Nick Kossovan

I write as if I care about the reader’s experience. My words slam into perceptions of reality. I observe. I think. I write. My trying = “ballsy” writing.