The tale of the Protester
I was quite surprised to see the cover of the Person Of The Year TIME with the face of an angry masked gu… wom… person whose name is simply The Protester. It seems like the concept of a guy throwing stones and yelling anti-establishment slogans has entered the mainstream awareness for a moment. I have recently collided with a guy on one of well-known drumming forums regarding the authenticity of the propositions people coming into the streets seem to be standing for. His arguments were that those guys, sitting out in Wall St, disrupting traffic are in reality kids from the so-called good homes, for whom protesting is a break from “the four year university party.” My reply was fundamentally that whoever they are, it’s them who have managed to gain mainstream media’s attention to the injustice which has been taking place in Wall St, in the American government and around the globe for quite some time, undercover, away from people’s attention, fueled by corporate and lobbyist money. As the thread was unrelated to drumming it was eventually closed but you can get yourself familiarised with the details of the exchange here.
As it happens, when something gets a lot of attention it becomes a part of the folklore, common popular awareness, and soon people talk. Just like Lady Gaga, hated by some, loved to no end by others, she’s impossible to pass without eliciting SOME sort of reaction. Similarly, the Occupy movement has risen to the status of a collective celebrity, derided or glorified. Evidently, 2011 was abundant in popular uprisings, from the Middle East, to Greece, to London and to many cities across the States. And while media portrayal of the middle eastern countries looks, and indeed is, very dramatic, to which viewers around the world respond with compassion, it seems that protesters in London and the US are quickly being labeled as spoiled kids with too much time on their hands. I would say the people’s response is proportional to the injustice they experience hence we don’t (yet) see tanks rolling down Piccadilly. Yet…
Subsequently to the London riots in August I saw an article in The Independent saying that the parents of those who looted the streets would lose their benefits, and in some cases even face eviction. Being a highly developed social aesthete (Google confirms that apparently such a word exists), in all my enthusiasm I hurried to share that news with my workmate who pitifully looked at me with an ironic smirk on his face saying “You sure it’s the people who deserve punishment?” And in spite of being an avid political sceptic, in all my ignorance I was reminded what truly is the issue. I think it was Stalin who once said that idiots are easiest to govern. I’d only like to add that idiots divided into small groups of seemingly conflicting interests are even easier to manage. Imagine a government composed of two (in some countries even more) parties which proclaim two distinct methods of making its citizens happy and violently attacking the other group’s ideas. Now imagine primary and secondary schools with very low standards and expectations towards their students, programs like “No Kid Left Behind”, universities with extortionate tuition fees whose prospective students have to take credits to “stimulate the economy.” And finally imagine an army of undereducated, consumptionist, gullible ants tossed around in the ‘rat race’ they call a career, lost in the midst of the competition for the best house, the best car, the best phone, etc… Welcome to the reality. We are the children of (for the lack of a better word) the system, and whoever thinks that people have the free will to do as they please better have pretty big balls.
I am by no means saying that protesting for ever and ever is the way to go, as it is a means rather that the ends, a mid-station. Just read that the London Occupy branch stationing at the St. Paul’s Cathedral decided to disperse on their own accord. It remains to wonder what will happen now, if the entire thing will die down and the entire dust-cloud of noble ideas settles, because without those who in some way disrupt the every day order, put a crack on the society’s own reflection in the mirror created with the inexhaustible aid of the media, we will just issue an uspoken consent to the usual walloping by means of increased taxed under the agenda of “recession and responsible spending”, limiting personal liberties, for which see HERE and HERE (out of many more), as well as limited access to health care and education, among others.
All I am saying is that it takes more than one concealed face on the cover of a magazine. It takes millions of faces like that, but unobscured, authentic, angry heads full of ideas, wisdom and intelligence, which should come together, above all the artificial conflicts and divisions imposed and sustained cross the history. At some point it will become necessary to prove that ‘power to the people’ amounts to far more than a slogan for a mobile network, that it is the every-day man and woman who are the catalyst of change. Look behind you, it’s been done before…