Justice is very much a consideration for Druids, and protest can be part of how we seek justice. However, it’s all too easy for protest to be a sort of self indulgent performance piece that doesn’t lead to change. Shouting some slogans, waving a banner and marching about can feel powerful and important, but that’s not going to result in justice all by itself.
Protests have to be targeted so that the people who should be making change feel pressured to do so. That means taking the action to the right people. Three protestors outside the local bank aren’t going to change the company policy. Three protestors outside every branch plus media/social media coverage have a shot at it.
Protest has to be clear – it’s not just about having a lot of people protesting. You have to be clear about the change you’re demanding. You have to be able to express that in a way that brings people in rather than making enemies. This may be a particularly good area of protest for Druids to engage with, and is certainly where bards should dig in. Communication is vital for making protests work. People engage more with emotive content, but push too far and this works against you. If the emotive aspect of the process makes people feel powerless, fearful or overly guilty, they won’t come onboard.
It is really important to be for something. Protesting can tend towards resistance and being opposed to things, and sometimes that’s really the best focus. However, alongside that, you have to keep a sense of what it is that you are for. Being against things becomes exhausting all too quickly. You can raise up a lot of anger around fighting something, but that is more likely to burn people out than sustain them. If you’re involved in protest for the long haul, this is a really important issue.
For protest to work, there has to be a sense of consequences for the people you are trying to pressure into changing things. It is important to consider the ways in which you are prepared to escalate if your protest doesn’t work. If there’s no threat, the protest can and will be ignored. With politicians, it’s the threat of not being voted for, which means you have to persuade them enough people care about the issue in the first place. With companies, the best threat is the loss of revenue. Sometimes the threat of public shaming can get things done. We know from history that sometimes protests have only worked because they’ve escalated into mass strikes, riots and other forms of violent expression.
Peace is often considered to be an important part of the Druid path. However, genuine peace is not founded on oppression or injustice. A peace maintained by sacrificing the vulnerable, harming the planet or allowing unjust things to occur, isn’t peace, it’s capitulation. It’s important to think about what we’re prepared to put up with for our own comfort, and how much privilege we have when we choose to do that. At the same time, the potential for violence is a complicated issue if your personal dedication is to peace.
Increasingly I think we’re all going to have to consider how uncomfortable we are willing to be, what kinds of risks we are willing to take and what our priorities are. With physical protest being made harder in the UK, we undoubtedly need to either be more innovative, or more inclined to deploy in huge numbers.