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Freedom to Speak?

October 23, 2011
Protesting is de rigeur nowadays: everywhere from the Middle East to Europe to even America, people are jumping on the bandwagon (do I sense “trending” going on?) As a liberal-minded person who advocates freedom and being able to express yourself (as I myself am opinionated), I am nevertheless on the fence as to where my feelings are regarding the act of protesting.
That liberal-minded hippie in me loves the idea of protesting. If something is wrong, I believe one should try to fix it by any (legal) means possible. If I do not like something that is going on, I should be able to critique whoever or whatever it is without risking going to jail or alienating myself. At first, I was unsure about the Occupy Wall Street protests, and after going one day to Liberty Square, I felt like I agreed with the protesters. Now, however, I am unsure. I am happy that I went and could witness a part of history–when was the last time that Americans protested?-and I was happy to see the people standing strongly and united for a (vague) cause, devoting their time and energy to protest. I was glad to see Americans taking action and caring about what’s going on.
I do believe that mob mentality is a strong and dangerous phenomenon, and it scares me. Alone, people are largely innocent: they possess their own views and have no one else to impress. Even if you add just one person, the mood changes. Together, people feel more confident, emboldened: there’s someone else there to back them up, to share their views, to protect them. Obviously this works if you’re protesting. But I feel that people will join a cause simply because “everyone else is doing it,” just like that old jump-off-the-bridge-if-you’re-friends-do-it-too adage.

Look at what happened in London: a couple of hooligans start looting and causing mayhem, and then perfectly normal and innocent people join in. Law-abiding, goal-oriented ordinary citizens were suddenly stealing everything from the extreme (TVs) to the mundane (water bottles) “just because” they got caught up in the moment. The London riots were a good example of mob mentality going in the very wrong and dangerous direction: these people didn’t stop to think, why on Earth do I need to steal a bottle of water? They just did it. If it had just been an ordinary day and they were walking home alone down the street, they never, ever would have considered such an action.

Do I think, then, that there should be some sort of “protest rules” to abide by, that state when a cause is worthy enough to protest for or not? No, but I think common sense ought to do the trick. And although protesting can lead to drastic results (i.e., removing long-standing dictators from office) I don’t think it is neccessary to jump in the streets and pitch a tent for each and every cause that comes up. Case in point: when Israel accidentally killed several Egyptians recently, Egyptians stormed the Israeli embassy and their eventual “occupation” caused the Israeli ambassador to Egypt to leave. I understood their anger, but was it really neccessary to cause a great commotion and to make an ambassador question his safety enough so that he leaves the country? I’m pretty sure the Israelis already knew that the Egyptians were ticked off…..

I think what unsettles me about protesting is that, many times, people don’t understand the whole picture. They see what’s on the news and in the media, sure, but since when does the media ever paint a full picture? Furthermore, they only see the end to something: the ending to a corrupt government, the ending to corrupt banks, the ending to this and that. Do they ever see what comes after? Do they ever consider that what might happen afterward might be just as bad, if not worse?

In the end, I say: protest, but do it because you BELIEVE in the cause, because it is close to your heart. Do NOT just join a protest because you’re angry at the world, because you believe in the freedom of speech, because it’s the “cool” thing to do. Before, I mentioned that I thought it was great that Americans were excersing their freedom of speech. And it is great. But just because I am liberal and like to voice my opinion doesn’t mean I should support just any cause. After all, what if the protesters believed in something clearly bad, like segregation? I sure as hell wouldn’t be joining their fight  then!!

 Remember: protesting is basically debating. You should go into it knowing all the facts, knowing your opponent’s side, be prepared to defend your cause and know a solution.

The girl behind me has a good reason to protest, given what her poster says, but what is she proposing we do?

9 Comments leave one →
  1. October 26, 2011 2:37 PM

    Great article, I really like it. Going to steal it and post on my WP blog ok? 🙂

  2. October 26, 2011 2:46 PM

    Thanks for visiting my blog today. It helped me find you.

    At this point, the only voice I think we voters have in America is the protest, and I applaud the Occupy folks for trying to make a statement. Our political system is bought and paid for by special interests and those with money. The politicians listen to them, make laws to benefit them at the expense of everybody else, and pad their own pockets.

    They WILL pay attention to these protesters on some level, because they are gaining press and attention.

    • October 26, 2011 2:51 PM

      I agree, someone will pay attention, for how long and what the outcome will be, who knows. Hopefully it will be well worth the effort and problems that have occurred as a result of the protests.. Glad you posted cuz it helped me find this blog too!:)

    • October 26, 2011 11:48 PM

      You’re both welcome….@ Andra: It will be interesting to see just how far the politicians/banks listen and if they implement any changes…though how to change without sending the economy into even more of a tailspin, I am not sure. Hopefully every one can work together and come up with some good solutions for our country!

  3. Knudsens permalink
    November 11, 2011 7:47 PM

    I think free speech is a human right. And I am very glad that I live in a country where the constitution gives me the right to express my opinion.


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