Let’s Get Back to Belly-aching about Social Justice

Mass protests don’t easily translate into changes of policy or practice in the way a country operates. They are necessarily decentred and polyphonic: made up of many voices. This is especially true for campaigns that grow online (all of them, nowadays) because the internet’s great claim is that it can give everyone an equal voice to express themselves.

Modern movements aren’t really organisations, more tenuous webs of connection: huge, headless grassroots groupings that coalesce around a vague sense of having similar values and grievances. By adding their voices to those of all the others, everyone is stating and strengthening their own, singular sense of identity, of belonging, rather than following an inspirational leader or offering practical advice on how a particular social problem can be solved.

So, protest campaigns tend to be unfocussed – a hubbub of dissatisfaction rather than a clear statement of intent. They are often without explicitly targeted goals, and they come together not to get anything done, But to express a sentiment, an attitude, literally millions of times, en masse, with enormous volume. (Although, I admit that protest movements have inspired dynamic individuals to begin activities and organisations that bring great benefit to their communities.)

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