Peace vs. Disruption

Disruption works, unfortunately…..

It’s a very interesting question you pose. The generational aspect is that younger people don’t think about the consequences of actions as much as the older (I am in your age bracket). They just see cause and effect and go for it.

If marches are to show solidarity, then Saturday’ Women’s March was a success. If it was intended to have some direct effect on decision making, then that outcome is less certain.

Despite all the vast media attention, the White House did not deign to even mention it, instead tying the media up in knots about “alternative facts”.

Did the march effect any of the Executive orders that being signed on a daily basis? I don’t think so. As long as protest does not actually cause any disturbance or restrictions to the establishment, it can be safely ignored.

Peaceful protest may work but it it has to be kept up unrelentingly for a very long time to have any impact at all. Disruption has the effect of focussing the mind with immediate effect.

Imagine – if the Women’s March had been disruptive, had incurred costs in extra policing, had caused overflowing jails and courtrooms worldwide, had put pressure on businesses by taking place on a working day instead of on a weekend and so on, the media would not be reporting on turnout, they would be reporting on the disruption and who was affected by it. There is a difference.

I could quote you many examples, including those fantastic disrupters, the suffragettes, but I’ll come closer to my own experiences.

My late father was a printer, back in the days when national newspapers relied on metal cast moulding. He was the Union representative but that was really in name only, as in the were not militant in any way. They spent years trying to negotiate better pay and conditions, politely and with great forbearance. The Newspaper owners just ignored them.

The one day, there was a “camel’s straw” event. It was a small thing, a cancelling of a meeting but it was the latest small thing in a long line of small things and it sparked something unusual. All the men, without consulting each other, simply got up, put on their coats and walked out.

My father went to management and told them he hadn’t even asked them to do it and he thought that they would stay “out” until it was clear that progress was going to be made through talks.

It took a mere 30 minutes for the Newspaper owners to agree to meaningful negotiations which then led to significantly improved pay and conditions. The possibility of the newspaper not being published the next day was too much of a risk and got them to the negotiating table. The possibility of this happening again kept negotiations on track.

I am not saying its right. Why should we employ blackmail, emotional or real, to get people to engage in meaningful discussion? But this is the way the world is made.

It can be done peacefully, without violence – Ghandi was the master of this. But real change can only be brought about by getting the clear, focussed attention of the person or institution you are trying to effect.

What do they care about most? What can you do to affect that? That is how disruption works.