Protests are not good. No one likes protesting, not really, people protest because they have a reason to be dissatisfied that has grown to a point that they see a benefit by going to a protest. Protests are nothing but indicators. When a sector of the population protests, they have something to say for any number of reasons; sometimes logical, others not so much. But what unifies protests is their value as indicators of how a society “feels” regardless of how well designed or well operated it is.
Protests are turned illegitimate when they’re ill conceived. Which is why, whenever an oppressor wishes to delegitimize the oppressed, they turn to provoking some form distraction. Be it highlighting the damage done by the protest (be it garbage, or some sort of tangentially related inconvenience) or, in more aggressive situations, by having protests hijacked by violent agitators. To those at home, looking at the protest through a TV, violence is always unacceptable, and negative externalities of freezing the regular order of things are also unacceptable. Influencing the comfortable is easy, because no one who is comfortable wishes to be in discomfort, and bite-sized opinions go great through our minds when our opinoins are informed through our state of comfort.
The roles of oppressors and the oppressed in protests are never clear, supporting or opposing a protest is not something that should be taken lightly. Analysis beyond “did they block a road too long” or “did they damage private property” or “do I believe in this cause” is necessary to capture the scope of protests as indicators of social emergencies.
Ultimately, what is occurring in the United States should be of utmost worry to anyone living there. Not because of the discomfort they cause, but because of how the oppressors will, inevitably and naturally, react to how the oppressed protested.
A few months after being elected, Felipe Calderon laid the last nail in the coffin of civil policing in this country. In truth, it was a long time coming, ever since the creation of the Federal Directorate of Security and it’s transformation into the National Intelligence Center later on. Ever since the “Federal Preventive Police” was stripped from most of its investigators and turned into the “Federal Police.” Everything predating that fateful operation in Michoacan 13 years ago led to a transformation of police from a preventative scope into an active scope.
Because active policing is, inevitably, more violent and expensive than preventative. Having societies work well, however, is harder than having them work forcefully. It requires tools that oppressors in government never want the public to have, because it limits their power and ability to stop societal inertia that keeps them from impacting.
Oppressors are not always governments, are not always majority groups. One can be oppressed and oppressing at the same time. Some, not all (certainly not justice) interactions in society are zero-sum, and negative externalities of some will affect others. It is part of why protests are so complex and so hard to understand. It is why sometimes, some people will have to be oppressed in order to have others less oppressed. The balance of oppression is harder to swallow than it might look on the outside. Sometimes we don’t understand what things are oppressing us, and freeing us.
Oppressors must, sometimes, loosen their hold of power, because if they don’t they risk losing all power. The reason why protests are important indicators is because sometimes protests lead to oppressors loosening their grasp. Making the oppressed more free. The loosening and tightening of the grip of power happens dynamically; whenever an oppressor can, it will hold more, because it serves what they believe their purposes should be. Same is true of the oppressed.
What I’m worried about in the US is that, we know this story. We know it here.
We, under the guise of maintaining comfort, under the guise of maintaining order, have made our police into brutal, sanguinare, shameless corps; which keeps trying to force a dysfunctional, impossibly complex and misunderstood society into working. We have murdered our way into the twenty first century, sometimes successfully forcing society, others not so much.
When the protests are over, when Americans return to their places of work, and the legislators to their chambers, do not accept senseless oppression. Do not lose sight of the terribly dangerous power of comfortable idiots, who vote insensitive ignorants into office, who pass unrealistic bills into law. Don’t let them seduce you with security and simple solutions, we fell for it and it was the worst figurative one night stand this country has been through.
It is harder than saying government should be small or big, or if guns should be legal or not, or if bussing and affirmative action is bad. It’s hard to balance the roles powerful individuals should play, and how individuals in society can be empowered.
Will the oppressors change for good? No. They never will. Protests are indicators that something is potentially wrong. Continued vigilance and participation of how the system is crafted is the only thing that might make things right.