We all know that violence is wrong and should not be used but we also know that it occurs quite frequently in our world. I want to discuss violence when protesting and campaigning for change.
Why do people feel the need to turn to violence when protesting on the streets? The fact is, those issues which run right through the core of our society are things which will not change through a gentle request to those in power. It is a sad but true and undemocratic fact. High unemployment, low wages, growing divisions between the rich and poor, racism and so on; these things are issues that those who hold power are not really willing to do anything about. This may be because it is advantageous to their position, to their friends or capitalism itself.
So is violence the way forward? No, but I think we have to acknowledge that those who want to protest do not have much hope in peaceful measures. If you take a look at violent protests, it is often said that many of those involved have nothing to do with the cause they are supposedly protesting for but that is quite a sweeping statement. They may have nothing to do with the spark but they may still feel wronged, along with all of their fellow protesters.
Peaceful protests were once held up as the idealised way forward to bring change in a democratic society but the reality is democracy is failing. If it wasn’t then in 2003 when over a million people marched against the Iraq War in the UK, it would have resulted in the government not getting involved. If democracy truly worked, then there would have been no raise of the tuition fee in the UK two years ago when hundreds of thousands of people campaigned against it. If democracy worked, then the only peaceful protests which were successful would not be ones which only call for more women’s rights or to save the forests. Not that these things aren’t worth campaigning for, it is merely that they are mostly advantageous to those in power or they simply have no problem with it. Very rarely, have governments truly responded to the requests of their people without any hidden motive or agenda.
So whilst violence is of course unacceptable, you can trace the shift from peaceful protests to violent ones over the last few decades. Disenfranchised masses have lost hope in their government which is why many have taken to the streets in places like North London a few years ago or in Ferguson today. Direct democracy needs to increase and the people need to really be listened to.
How can this change? Well, democracy needs to work. If the people want a change, then they should receive it even if the people in charge are not of the same opinion.
I am sure you will agree with me that there is very little chance of that happening so in the meantime, I fear that violent protests will become more frequent.