Why are we protesting?

Photo by Jerry Kiesewetter on Unsplash

Over the weekend, I came across an article in the New Yorker that asks: Is There Any Point to Protesting? The author questions the results of modern protests and why we haven’t seen them produce the same amount of systemic change as other protest movements in the 60’s and 70’s.

If you look at recent events this year, protests have seemingly become more and more reactionary. They’re in response to events like neo-nazi rallies or police misconduct or something Trump says. I’m not saying any of these things aren’t worth speaking out against, but I worry about the way in which we’re doing it. There’s no longer-term, coordinated strategy. And without some kind of longer-term, coordinated strategy, these protests are too fleeting to result in any real systemic change. It seems like for many participants, these protests are serving more as a form of group therapy. And in the process of bonding with others over outrage, it’s strengthening our identity politics, creating a vicious, divisive cycle.

On the latest episode of Sam Harris’ podcast they question why we’re seeing an escalation of identity politics. One hypothesis is that all of this could just be people searching for more meaning in their lives.

In Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, Yuval Noah Harari argues that the contract of modern society is: humans agree to give up meaning in exchange for power. In other words, science gives us remarkable power through knowledge and technology, but in the process it’s de-valuing traditional religion to the point where it no longer provides us with meaning.

If all of this is about people searching for meaning, are identity politics going to become our new religion?

At the very least it seems like things are going to continue to get more divisive unless we figure out how to make bigger changes.

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