Just How Much Can You Take, Before You Can’t Take Anymore?
Dave R writes...has protest lost its power to change? There’s so much wrong with the world today; so why aren’t young people taking to the streets en masse to do something about it?
Sometimes I feel like Larry, Dharma’s father in Dharma and Greg. He was the guy who was forever fighting against ‘the Man’, even though he couldn’t always remember who ‘the Man’ was. Baby Boomers will know who ‘the Man’ was and is but many younger readers may not.
Basically, ‘the Man’ represents authority, the establishment and all systems and people who try to control what you do, how you act and the way you think. Free-thinking people and even those who sat on the fence most of the time in the 1960’s and 1970’s, resisted ‘the Man’ and what they saw as the authorities’ attempts to limit freedoms. Surprisingly, that resistance was often successful! However, this article is not really aimed at my fellow 50 and 60 plussers who, like Larry, look back at those years through their tinted specs but at anybody young enough and with enough energy to still mount the barricades and fight for their rights.
A call to arms (metaphorically speaking) shouldn’t be necessary. Whatever happened to the mass protest movements that changed the world? Where are the students who used to challenge authority at every turn? Unfortunately, we lost the will to fight; somewhere in the race to join the consumer society and students these days are much more concerned with paying off debts and securing employment. We have never been more controlled, spied on and manipulated, so that many of our freedoms are confined to what our governments and their civil servants say ‘society’ wants and needs. That means that we older butterflies, who’ve been somewhat battered on the wheel of time, need you to come out from behind your soap series, X-boxes and Wii’s and fight some real-time battles on the battlefield of HIV and gay rights. Otherwise before you know it, you’ll be doing as you’re told for the rest of your lives.
The inspiration for this train of thought came from something Michael Yoder said in, ‘Down the Rabbit Hole’, an article here on Positive Lite.com. He said:
“In my youth I was an avid activist... These days, I find that kind of activism tedious. Acting out against violence and stupidity with even more violence and stupidity seems to me to defeat the purpose. To my mind, we have more opportunity to sway people through parody, humour and the traditions of the Heyoka, the Sacred Clown”.
Now please believe me, I’m not criticising what he says; I firmly believe it’s one side of a discussion we all should have. I also agree that physical violence achieves nothing in a society that clamps down on that sort of protest by associating it with a ‘terrorist’ attack on its values. A violent protest can probably never win in 2012 but maybe an angry one still can.
I love Yoder’s next phrase; “We must learn to dance backward in order to move forward” and agree with it wholeheartedly because we should certainly learn from the lessons of the past in order to achieve results in the present. History always repeats itself, so I believe we need to look back at what happened in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’,; see what was successful in the fight for human rights and adapt it to the world of 2012. If the young LGBT people of today could see how protest movements across the world brought about enormous changes: for the black, women’s and gay liberation movements; for workers, whose unions fought for better working conditions and for those who struggled to reduce the proliferation of nuclear weapons and brought the world back from the brink of world war; they just may be inspired to look more carefully at what’s wrong with today’s world.
The problem is that these days, in many respects, gay youth believes that they’ve never had it so good. Many young people are not interested in hearing about Stonewall for the zillionth time and for many, HIV and AIDS is the ‘far from my front door’ show that still may bring a shudder but isn’t seen as a huge threat anymore.
So what are the issues today? Why should young LGBT people get up and protest loudly and what should they protest about?
There are still serious issues to protest about as the post 9/11 governments of the western world exert ever more control over their people, quoting the threat of terrorism as the reason. So maybe personal freedom in that sense is worth defending; what do you think? The book, ‘Brave New World’, by Aldous Huxley, published in the 1930’s, warned even then that technology would eventually provide the tools to control society and in the same decade, Orwell’s ‘1984’, has become disturbingly accurate in its predictions. We were warned then but have been lulled into a false sense of security by our growing access to pleasure technologies. Keep the masses entertained and they won’t even think of protesting.
Surely the environment and nuclear energy must also be worth protesting about. Chernobyl and the recent tsunami in Japan, plus the exposures that Greenpeace has brought to light over the years, show we just cannot afford to ignore the threat to the planet’s ecology systems.
Wars are still rampant and guns, bullets and shells, still rip people to shreds; sometimes on TV, over the dinner table but because we’ve seen it all in glorious technicolor in our computer games, it seems to be water off a duck’s back for our young people and worse still, young children. TV newsreel footage has become just another computer game extension. It has lost its power to shock and spur us into protest action and that is shocking in itself...worth an anti-war protest or two?
The recent Occupy movement across the world seemed to signal a resurrection of protest as a means of achieving change. It protests against globalisation and the exploitation of money markets to the benefit of a few and the detriment of the rest. Unfortunately, it has largely disappeared because the authorities adopted a new tactic of letting them protest for a while, while largely ignoring them; reasoning that it would prove more effective than cracking down with force. It worked; the movement, its tents and its protest have faded away like snow in the sun.
Okay, I can sense that readers are yawning and seeing these issues as not really relevant to themselves.
What about the criminalisation of people with HIV then? What about the stigma that forces people right back into the closet because to come out with HIV sets you up for social castigation?
What about the health costs which we’re told are shooting up out of control and mean that many people can’t afford their HIV meds? Why not protest that it’s the costs that should fall, not the patients themselves?
What about the fact that some Islamic governments hang gay people, just for being gay? Or secretly have them ‘removed’ from society, if they turn out to have HIV? Remember Iran’s president said that there are no gay people in Iran...worth a raised hand?
What about African gay people who are hounded, imprisoned and sometimes murdered because of their sexuality? This has been encouraged in some instances by white American, Christian evangelical organisations who whisper in the ears of the men in power. Should this happen?
What about Russian and Eastern European city and national governments that ban any mention of homosexuality and refuse to allow education to take place?
What about demanding that education about homosexuality and LGBT rights become standard in the curriculums of all schools in the Western world? Think it’ll happen? Are you prepared to do something about it?
What about older gay people who end their lives in social isolation and face bullying in nursing homes because of their sexuality. They’re often ill but have to retreat back into the closet in order to survive the bullying in state run care systems? Is that okay with you?
The point I’m trying to make, is that there are plenty of issues to protest about in the modern world. I’m sure you can think of more but are you willing to let all these things happen without raising a finger? The 1960’s and 1970’s may seem prehistoric times but just as today, they were socially turbulent yet so much was changed by people willing to stand up for what they believed. Injustice had to be put right and protests on a large scale were then the only way to do it. Politicians need votes after all. They worked then and they would work now, which is why, this article is aimed at those people who recognise injustice in our world today and are able to do something about it. The greatest enemy of freedom is apathy. Do nothing and nothing will change and that would make every person of my generation very sad indeed. We’re cynical enough; maybe LGBT youth can restore our faith in human nature. As Michael Yoder said at the beginning of this article; violence is not the answer but forcefulness, determination and anger can be powerful tools for change. Remember; genuine protest can never be mistaken for bullshit. Now go ahead, use your i-Phone for good...I dare you.
“Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world...would do this, it would change the earth.”
- William Faulkner -