Militant Peace

Remember that thing you didn’t like, so much, that you decided to take it to the streets? Do you remember how many people were there, with banners and awkward slogans, marching through the officially designated streets towards a better tomorrow? Perhaps you made the newspaper or saw a hot-shot official that addressed the crowd. Must have been fun, but I never heard about it. I don’t know what you fought for, and therefore I probably don’t care much. In fact, no one does.
You didn’t shout loud enough. You weren’t angry enough. And I think, you weren’t violent enough.

Three weeks ago, there was a huge protest against certain nation-wide economic changes. Thousands of people showed up. I know this isn’t the first time to happen because as a stage builder, I am often tasked with placing and removing the stages for the animation along the route. The unions like to take care of their members, you see, and since they’re swimming in cash anyway, they like to book a couple national artists to entertain the crowd so they don’t get cold and go home.
This protest was different, though. A large group of people, many of them dockworkers, got violent and trashed shops, cars and cops alike. The commotion was brief but intense, with stuff burning and people getting injured.

About a week ago, the St Nicholas festival took place. It’s an event that welcomes his arrival into the country, and where he declares that there were “no naughty children this year” and they all get fuckloads of candy and toys.
You may have heard of Black Pete, St Nicholas’ servant. He is a black caricature with big red lips, a golden hoop in his ear and a colorful jester attire. I swear I’m not making this up.
There has been a great controversy around his appearance and frankly, once I got over my childish, naive ideas, I agreed that his very existence is an insult to anyone who calls himself a world citizen and the place would be better off without him.
In the Netherlands, there was a tiny congregation to protest against it, as the “March of the Black Petes” (I kid you not) was taking place. Their designated location was outside the city, where they could make an administrative appearance and have their numbers noted by a bunch of disinterested reporters. If you ask me, the way they were treated just added insult to injury, and they seemed to agree because they broke through the lines and invaded the march, turning the whole event into a small riot. Children cried, people were fined hundreds of euros.

Many people, including most of my friends, condemn these people’s actions and claim they give put the protests in a bad daylight. And they have a good point, the focus suddenly shifts from a peaceful statement to violence.
I just happen to disagree.
Both instances were in the newspaper today, even though they happened some time ago. The first triggered a big fight between the mayor of Brussels, who criticized his police force for their reactions, and the later made a photographer, who caught a black man in a fight with a cop with children in the background, pretty famous overnight.

Can you imagine how difficult it is for a single subject to be in the news for 2 weeks straight? I think the Fukushima situation was the last time that happened.
Yes, the articles are about the violence. But with every mention, the same pictures are shown, and people who don’t have a clue, are filled in. This means that the same message, in this case “These reformations are unacceptable/ Black Pete is a racist figure” is repeated.
International companies would kill for this kind of publicity.

Protests that turn into riots get attention that none other does. I’m sure that between my two examples, I’m sure that a dozen more were held, but I didn’t hear of them. I guess they were too peaceful, because their big, controversial statements never made the press.
I don’t advocate violence, I think it’s a retarded form of communication. But I think in the case of protest, of real dissatisfaction with the world, the end justifies the means. All those rights you have, from voting to any form of equality, people died for those. Because that’s what it took to accelerate change to an acceptable pace. These days, we have nothing to fight for, any longer. If you disagree, good. Then fight.

The damage caused is regrettable but you can’t make an omelette without a breaking a few eggs. I think claiming otherwise would minimalize the contribution of those who died for their cause, deaths that we today, thrive upon. The good news is that both examples have a positive story to them as well: They achieved their goal, which was to ruin the party.
It’s what people find so horrible about it: All those children’s days were ruined. Aww. The fact that we parents were celebrating a centuries-old insult to humanity wasn’t mentioned as such, let alone that at that very moment, we were teaching our children to do the same. It’s about fucking time their day was ruined, if you ask me. We are the evil ones, sticking to our ways “because”. Blind to the damage we cause, it was about time someone opened our eyes the hard way.

After the riots in Brussels, people got paid back for their car (a couple times over, in fact) by crowdfunding. Most find it cute, but I think it’s revolutionary. Fallen ones, unwilling victims of the violence, were picked up. The same people that rioted for change, took the time and effort to at least try and undo some of the damage they had done to their fellow citizens, in order to channel the aggression towards the target with minimal collateral damage, thus making it all the more effective.
This is social justice. This is a people forcing change, taking a stand. This shows anger, not in the carpet bomb style of the old days, but in an efficient show of anger and disagreement. If the people don’t act like they have power, no one will be reminded and even we will eventually forget.

If you want change, choose wisely what you stand for and fight like a lion. Spare us your administrative, politically correct show of motherly concern. Every riot gives the unions power, every bonfire draws international attention and puts pressure on those in charge. It is the only real negotiating chip that we have, our strength the only reason why they should listen to what we have to say. Shoot first, ask questions later. Tip a cop car, then repeat your demands. You know you want to.

4 responses

  1. Violence and anger is always danger. Always. No matter what you are fighting for.

    26 November 2014 at 09:05

  2. The trouble is, we are living in a very luxurious world. Or at least you folks. Yet there are countries where people fight not against an old caricature (where open discussion would help much more and you can question the source of anger inside the rioting people) – they have to fight for a free press, or basic human rights that we already take for granted. And there is no crowdfunding to help the victims. If there was, all contributors would be probably arrested for some silly reason…

    26 November 2014 at 09:22

  3. Comment no. 3. Food for thought: the motto of the Velvet revolution in Czech, November 1989, was “We are not like them”. Guess what the meaning is. And yup, the peaceful resistance was damn powerful.

    There is also one strong icon for this:

    or this one:

    26 November 2014 at 09:27

    • Marie, the velvet revolution was one of the final steps of the fall of the sovjet regime, which was triggered by many deaths and violence. And as ugly as it might be, I don’t think the velvet revolution would have happened if that wasn’t the case. Besides, the velvet revolution itslf was not at all a peaceful process.

      If others have more to fight for, they should fight more. Just because we have more luxury doesn’t mean we should let down our guard, or stop striving for progress.

      26 November 2014 at 13:42

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