These days it seems that every news broadcast includes at least one item about Protestors protesting about an issue of national or even global significance, and I cannot help but ask whether it does any good except draw attention to the issue. It certainly gets the issue talked about and brought to the attention of the general public, but does it usually get anything done? Of course sometimes it does, especially if those in control of the issue or those who have responsibility within it could be voted out of power – says the cynic. But generally speaking, does anything change?
When I think back to my later teenage years and early twenties, I did my share of protesting. I was right at the front of the crowd holding the beacon as we processed through Great Yarmouth to the beach to join in the national movement of the Festival of Light – Mary Whitehouse, Lord Longford and Cliff Richard’s campaign against lax standards in the media. Although I was not personally involved there was the Peace Movement of Flower Power, the CND marches and the woman’s camp around Greenham Common to counter the threat of ICBM annihilation, the Vietnam War and B52 bombers.
Remember the truly thousands of people who marched against Tony Blair’s propaganda of Weapons of Mass Destruction. And did anything really come of all of that?
At the moment we have the Global Extinction ‘sit-in’s’ and school strikes demanding Government to do something and for us to consider. And although I am not saying these issues are not important or frightening, of course they are, I am asking whether it makes any difference when our Government cannot even get Brexit right!
In the counselling room I often hear people protesting about the unfair nature of life, of being the victim of a situation, of being powerless or without a voice, of wanting an answer or solution to an issue or predicament. It is the same kind of wail heard from the news broadcasts but on an individual’s level of involvement. And what is the way forward, where is the answer to their problem? Well it isn’t to wail all the louder nor is it to look for someone else to ‘do something about it’. The Counsellor helps the Client to explore the situation for themselves, to come to an understanding of the possibilities for themselves, to make decisions on that knowledge for themselves, and to find the resources within themselves to carry things forwards – for themselves. The grand gesture rarely gets you what you hope for but usually brings you enemies of some kind or other.
One protest in the past was against slavery and growing fat on the proceeds of the slave trade. Of course the issue had to be brought to Parliament and thrashed through, but the real protest was made in Cornwall, in particular, by the Methodist people giving up sugar and hitting the slave trade in the pocket as a result. There was the muscle behind the protest, coming from individuals taking responsibility and not just bleating about it. The movement had to be spoken about and organised by a few leaders, especially the Wesley brothers and the Clapham Sect, but it was the power of the people that made the real difference.
So if you are frightened by climate change or the threat to our planet’s wildlife from plastic waste, then ask yourself what you as an individual can do. It might seem a very small step or of no consequence, but if enough people followed suit then business pockets would be hit and change would have to be made. It still needs governmental influence but politicians would see voters putting their money where the public’s mouth was, and take note.
Money – not sentiment – makes the world go round.
Happy May Day and have a great month.