Tom Stockley looks at how change can be brought about, peacefully.
As we get older (and the more institutions we pass through), you realise that things are not so black-and-white. Those at the top of a system will make decisions, sometimes accidentally, that do not reflect the good of the wider community. It’s a difficult job, progressing as an organisation whilst trying to keep thousands of students and local residents happy. There is no good or bad, yet corruption, misinformation, and greed do exist. We learn that those we trust to run our day to day lives (at a micro-level like University or in a broader, government-related sense) will let you down. Actions are taken that may leave you feeling powerless and with a feeling that those with the power and the money do not have your best interests at heart as funding is cut, vanity projects are built, and support for those in need is decreased. It can be easy to react in anger and negativity, but it’s important to try to turn these feelings into something positive. Learning from experience, the art of peaceful (yet successful) protest is possible to achieve.
With the latest budget from George Osbourne being announced recently, and tensions running high within our own University regarding building developments like the two concrete signs on Woodlane and Tremough, now is the time to think how to act. We must inform ourselves, pool resources, and form relationships even with those we are angry at. Protest is at its best when used as a means of communication, not separation. The FOLLYWOOD protest on March 16th is an example of this: students and local residents united to spend a day sharing art, music, and food, facilitating discussions in how the University is run and leaving with a more positive and healthy attitude in the process. It’s important that such protests do not sink to the level of personal attacks and anti-social behaviour (vandalism, violence or offensive language for example) but take place with an overwhelming sense of positivity and approachability. If this is managed, it’s all the more likely that the concerns being expressed will be listened to and a stronger discourse is built up for future issues to be raised.
So, when faced with something that you feel is unjust (often rightly so) think how you can set change in motion that will bring people together without giving yourself and others a bad name.