All things considered, the “March on Wall Street” is a non-violent protest. Yes, there are accounts of violence but they are nothing in comparison to, say, the protests seen in the United Kingdom earlier this year sparked by an increase in tuition fees.
While the protests in the UK weren’t terribly violent by global standards, they lasted for about a month (as have the Wall Street protests) but they yielded results (which the Wall Street protests have not).
At the end of the protests in Great Britain, the Welsh Assembly announced that it would not allow an increase in tuition fees for Welsh students. Tuition fees rise in the UK and fire extinguishers get thrown from roofs. Wall Street creates the largest economic disparity in any industrialized country and a group of “hippies” camp out in the Big Apple – I think we’re doing it wrong.
Now, the first argument that will be leveled against me will undoubtedly hark back to Mohandas Gandhi’s peaceful protests against British sovereignty over India. True, the people of India defeated the empire of Britain via predominantly non-violent means, but the people of India didn’t stay non-violent.
After Great Britain left, a power vacuum was created that pitched the Hindu people and the Muslim people of India against each other. This struggle was certainly not devoid of violence either. In 1947, just two years after India gained independence, Hindu-Muslim riots erupted that caused around one million deaths, all while Mohandas Gandhi watched. Such blatant disregard for the lessons he tried to teach mere months earlier caused Gandhi to conclude that he had failed.
Yes, Gandhi was a failure. He was even quoted as saying, “[The] thirty years of non-violent practice was an utter waste of time.” This all means that non-violence is really only a strategy for those who cannot afford the means to be violent. Once one can become violent, they will (and, according to some, ought to).
I’m certainly not trying to preach that we, as a country, start bringing rifles to protests and smash the windows of AIG, but rather that we start being less complacent.
I get the creeping suspicion that there isn’t any passion in this country for real change, rather than change as some campaign slogan. Setting up tents, playing guitars, and smoking pot is not a way to demonstrate our dissent towards government.
Sending a brick through the window of some investment bank may accurately display our frustration, but it’s not terribly appropriate. There must be some median where we don’t need to purchase sheet music to the John Lennon’s Imagine or military grade ammunition.
William Pearson can be contacted at email@example.com