Recent protests in the neighboring region of Hong Kong have triggered, as always, different reactions from the public. While some have clearly decided to express their support, either on site by participating in the marches, or online by posting opinions, comments and images on social media regarding the cause, others have expressed repudiation for such actions, primarily online.
Without wanting to take sides, I would simply say that nobody likes protests!
I truly believe this is true. I, at least, do not know of anyone who has a particular interest in, or derives pleasure or happiness from taking to the streets under the sun or heavy rain to complain (that’s why we love social media).
If protesters do not protest because they enjoy it, the only other explanation is that they are seriously angry, upset or disappointed over a certain topic that they feel is very important for their current or future life.
In fact, and contrary to the beliefs of some media organizations, counter-protest actions do not happen very often. When they do occur, they tend to be of very small size when compared to the original cause of the protest.
But let us go through a few things to justify why I say that nobody likes protests, including the protesters themselves.
Protests are annoying; they are disruptive of the normal state of life. They block streets, cause traffic jams and bother a lot of people, even those who are not participating because they don’t wish to disrupt the normal functioning of the city or place where the protests occur.
They also generally come with a lot of noise, chanting, loud speakers, yelling and the sound of clashes or things breaking.
After a protest, demonstration or march, there is also a big waste and rubbish footprint. Sometimes there is also damage caused by conflict with police and other authorities, possibly caused by rioting on the sidelines, especially if the protest is against someone, or some institution or company in particular.
The damage caused by protests results in economic loss, and when protests take place across long periods of time there can also be disruption to the economic activities of surrounding businesses who may close their doors or experience absenteeism from their employees, among other things.
All this is to say the obvious – there are absolutely no points in favor of a protest, which means that when protests happen it is because the people have reached a tipping point in their dissatisfaction and see no other means of making their voices heard, other than taking to the streets.
I would also risk saying that street protests are a reasonably accurate barometer of the degree of dissatisfaction with particular decisions made by governments.
One thing is certain – nobody likes protests, and nobody takes to the streets lightly, especially for protests that mobilize a significant percentage of the population.
There is no bravery in protesting and there is no pride in it. What can (or cannot) be considered brave or a matter of pride is the original cause of the protest and the outcome that protestors aim to achieve, not for themselves personally but for the whole community.
Excessive? Of course, there is always some element. Who has never committed an excessive action in their life? Despite the risk of harsh consequences, I am far more concerned with those who have “never fought for any cause,” the so-called “peacekeepers” who rush to criticize and ascribe too much importance to small acts done in the “heat of the protest.”
Those are the ones we should keep an eye on.