How You Can Stick It To The Man Using Memes
2016 was one hell of a year. With all the miraculous things to happen such as the fact that Giant Pandas are no longer endangered, or how good Volvo’s new line of cars looks (The V60 Polestar is total eye candy and their new SUV gets 60 MPG on the highways…I’m a Volvo guy by the way), there are a lot of things causing turmoil all around the world. The USA in particular seems to have had an especially rough year, due to a number of reasons such as the fact that our country is set to be led by an angry sun dried tomato with a wig this coming January. A lot of people are upset, and they’re not being quiet about it. Protests seem to be taking place all over the country and they happen more and more often. In this piece, I will be examining these protests and their methods, and how these same methods can be implemented in other aspects in life such as solving a problem in your dormitory involving some guy who can’t seem to remember to flush the damn toilet.
Civil rights protests, public notices and lobbying all share similar characteristics — their short and concise delivery of a message to whatever it is they’re addressing. In the wake of the results of the recent election results, the decisions government officials have made and brute force surrounding the Dakota Access Pipeline situation, and pretty much everywhere in the world where controversy has manifested it’s stubborn old head, there are people out in the bitter cold letting their voices be heard. They are doing this because they care about their quality of life, their own morality and what is to come as a result of whatever said controversy may be. These protests and forms of civil disobedience are all manifested in forms of crowds of people all chanting very short and concise phrases.
Among the more recent protests going on, examples of these phrases could be a rhyme such as “dump Trump” or “Hey hey ho ho, Donald Trump has got to go” or these phrases could be as simple as contradicting what (particular to these examples) what Trump has said with “Build bridges, not walls.” These rhymes and phrases are essentially the most effective way of protest because they’re simple, easy to remember and they demand change, instead of ask for it. This method of criticizing a practice or establishment with short little bits of language is known as institutional critique, and it’s incredibly useful because this technique is hard to ignore.
Still not convinced? Imagine this scenario:
It’s a Cold and rainy night in Downtown New York, on the evening of November 9th. The election results have been in circulation for less than 24 hours and people are very upset. The roads are swarming with thousands of pissed-off bodies who have to let the American political system know just what they think of the way this whole thing turned out. A grid of protesters follows an inflatable screen on wheels, marching through a crowded intersection while cars are honking their horns. The protesters are reading carefully edited 5-paragraph essays written by each individual off of the screen they’re following. The riot police and nearby politicians are taking notes and grading each essay based on its named sources and MLA- format.
Okay, all jokes aside and whether you agree with the protesters or not, nobody is going to sit around and listen to a carefully laid out argument being droned out through the mouths of 90,000 protesters. People will listen and become more interested if their point is heard loud and clear, and if it most importantly rhymes. There is a time and a place for a meticulously crafted speech, but when people are angry and want their voices to be heard around the world, that isn’t the time.
Believe it or not, this method also happens to be incredibly effective at solving a multitude of other problems, which more specific to my scenario at college includes but is not limited to solving the problem I recently had with the bathroom in my dorm room. In short, myself and roughly 20 other 18–20 year olds were experiencing a problem where an anonymous individual would at random “miss” the toilet and then not flush afterwards. This happened on average once a day, and drove the other residents absolutely crazy. So, we cracked our knuckles and started critiquing the institution that was the product of our own misery: The man we all referred to as “the one guy who can’t aim.” As the weeks dragged by, an arsenal of the methods I mentioned earlier started to arise in the bathroom, which included a rotation of memes concurrent with the situation occurring in our own bathroom.
So, how does this relate to protesting, exactly? If you remember me mentioning earlier, protests consist of short and simple messages that are aimed to grab attention. The philosophy around the memes posted in the restroom shares the same technique: people already read newspapers and look at their phones while they’re in the restroom, so what’s it gonna hurt for them to read a sign posted while they’re there? So far, after posting these signs I have received feedback from almost everyone I know on my floor.
After observing this process occur on my bathroom’s floor, I have noticed it popping up in little places all over campus. Signs raising awareness for a multitude of issues can be found scattered all over campus in random corners and walls, and there’s a very colorful sign posted over the sink in my dormitory warning users not to rinse food down the drain. Forms of civil disobedience and the methods that they implement are extremely effective forms of problem solving when the techniques are directed at any common problem, because grabbing someone’s attention for 30 seconds is all you need for this person to decide whether they’re going to listen or not. If you’ve a problem, I suggest you make a sign, practice critiquing your local institution, and thank me later.