What would make YOU protest in the streets?

The Occupy movement comes to RichmondA lot has already been said about the Occupy Wall Street movement, and I have little new commentary to offer on its origins, tactics or potential impact that hasn't already been said.

The important question the movement raises, one that I hope we all take a moment to consider is, "what would it take to make us take to the streets in protest?"

I've written here before about our cultural disdain for those who take direct and public action to live out their personal values, whether it's through making statements that confront some untruth or injustice, being a community organizer, or holding up a sign in the rain on a street corner.

Practicing what we preach is hard, and fear of change is sometimes paralyzing, so it's no wonder that we can become confused, resentful or even outraged when someone does stand up for what they believe in, especially if what they believe in is different from our own views and beliefs.  It's vulnerable, difficult and even embarrassing to put ourselves out there in front of complete strangers, let alone to do so for hours, days, weeks and months at a time; no wonder we sometimes look at the OWS folks like they're a little crazy.  "There are civilized ways one is supposed to handle these things," we say.  "Standing in the street can't accomplish anything."

But whatever you think of Occupy Wall Street protesters and their demands or non-demands, whatever good or bad things you think of when you hear the word "activist," please, PLEASE ask yourself this question: "what injustice would need to occur for me to drop what I'm doing and take action against it?  What would make me protest in the streets?"

Would some great harm brought upon your family members, your children, your loved ones be enough?

Or would it take someone who makes decisions about your paycheck, your pension fund, your tax dollars being caught red-handed stealing or maliciously misusing those funds?

How about an imminent threat to the land you live on, or the public spaces in your community where you gather with friends, take kids to play, the places that define your environment?  What if you found out someone was poisoning your water supply or putting harmful chemicals in your food?

Sure, maybe at first you go to a co-worker, or the police, or a lawyer, or a judge...but what if they didn't see it your way?  What if they didn't bother to help you?  What if they actively tried to stop you?

Is there something that could happen that would feel important enough for you to take action?  Today, right now?  What does it look like?

The Occupy Wall Street movement is a group of people who have decided that something has happened in their lives, in their world, that merits protest and other forms of direct action.  They've decided that "the civilized ways one is supposed to handle these things" aren't enough, or aren't working.  Some line has been crossed, and so they've decided to cross their own lines, making themselves vulnerable and uncomfortable and maybe a little bit embarrassed.  We don't have to agree with where that line is to appreciate that they've found that clarity for themselves.

And if you can't think of anything that would cause you to take action, then what do you stand for?

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Chris Hardie

Chris Hardie is an Internet tech geek, problem solver, community-builder and amicable cynic.

2 thoughts on “What would make YOU protest in the streets?”

  1. I've attended solidarity protests here in Ithaca (one larger one and a smaller one last night, with an overnight occupation, though I didn't stay overnight). I've been to Zuccotti Park 3 (4?) times, risking arrest by attending a large demonstration in Wash. Square park one of those times and also staying overnight in Zuccotti. We've got a General Assembly here in Ithaca, though I can't attend as often as I'd like.

    I'm *ALREADY* at that point where I'm willing to take it to the streets. I have two little kids that I love very much and I don't want them to grow up in a world where they have to choose between debt slavery (doing what you want / are passionate about / believe in, but being unable to afford a living) and career slavery (doing what other people are willing to pay you for so that you can survive but disliking / not believing in the value of what you're doing).

    Kudos to the person there on the corner for doing it. If I was there, I would join them (her?) on my lunch break. And after work. And any time I was able. If people don't agree with the methodologies of the protesters, but agree with the cause, then protest differently! 🙂

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