I spent my January 21st watching tennis, and strictly observing a no press policy unless it involved the Australian Open. It was extremely pleasant to stick my head in the sand and simply appreciate some superb athletes demonstrating their best.
But tomorrow is now here and I've spent the morning reading about the protests happening around the world. To be clear, I absolutely admire and respect the idea behind these protests but I doubt whether they actually create change. So, I asked the question on Twitter about what we should do next.
The responses I got were "Protests are effective. Go Google it.", "Run for office" and "Maybe you can start something". While they are valid responses, they weren't what I was looking for and they left me feeling really unsatisfied.
In thinking about it, I realized it's because all of these expect me to be a leader. For most of my life, that's what I've been expected to do and for most of my life, that's exactly what I've wanted to do. So, here's the situation I find myself in:
- I want to do something about what I see as a negative turn for the world
- I'm working on other things that I find more important on a day-to-day basis
- I'm willing to make some time to work on 1, but not so much that it takes away from 2
I'm not someone who has made an effort in the past to be politically engaged. While I'd like to do something now, I cannot make the time now to be a leader in this movement. And it feels like if I'm not a leader, I can't do something to help on an organized level, other than participating in marches. The answer might be that I need to suck it up, make more time and be a leader here. This might be absolutely right but it doesn't feel like the answer for me now.
I definitely think I can still make a personal change by staying informed, finding objective sources of truth and continuing to write and speak about what I see as the truth with proof to back it up. I can and will donate to organizations that are in line with my principles. I will engage and follow more people on social media who represent and lead these causes.
But this time, I'd like to be a follower and find someone who can help me engage within the limited time that I feel I can give.
As an aside, I did spend some time reading about protests and whether they are actually effective. Here are some of the websites that I thought were most useful:
In summary, my opinion is that marches are important as an expression of community but they don't create change on their own. While I think protests can be effective, they still have to be part of a clear plan that focuses on political or corporate change within an existing framework. Protests can spur action, but the results have to be shepherded through. That's the unglamorous work that isn't well reported on by mainstream journalism.
Also, mainstream journalism doesn't do much for protests and protestors. A reasoned and well thought set of demands and follow up actions isn't what tends to be reported. Instead, the news seems to focus on disruptions, drama and irrelevant statistics. They don't focus on the speakers, what the protestors' plan of action is, or what they are actually trying to accomplish.