Protest doesn’t work.

In an op-ed piece in the Financial Times the columnist Janan Ganesh wrote that protests are useless. He says that “At best, it will be ineffectual against populism’s raw tonnage of votes, …”. I thought the whole argument did not amount to much and wrote this letter to the editor:


I am writing to you to comment on the last column by J. Ganesh that appeared yesterday in the FT. In it Mr. Ganesh described the marches that happened around the world as a collective spectacle that will be ineffectual. He says that such protests are futile and advocates passivity because all we can ultimately do is to sit back and see how things will play out. I think his views about this march in particular and about the role of protests in general are gravely mistaken.

I took part in the march here in Frankfurt. What I witnessed was no spectacle. Instead, I saw people of both sexes, of all ages and races coming together to stand up for the rights of women in particular and against the coarsening of the political discourse in general. It was peaceful, cheery, and often very funny („We shall overcomb“ anybody?). It felt like the awakening of a political voice that had been dormant for awhile.

To say that protests like these have no purpose other than to snap some pictures to be shared on social media is very hard to understand for a German. Before the Green party joined governments on all levels its members marched in the streets. Without their work it would have been very hard for Angela Merkel to put an end to the use of nuclear power as swiftly as she did. Protests in themselves are not enough but they are a start. My advice to Mr. Ganesh: watch us.

The letter did not get printed. A letter entitled “Protest is a constructive way to pursue change”, saying essentially the same thing, did get printed. You can find it here.

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