This Is How We Get Heard | Pushing the Wave

This Is How We Get Heard

Opinion, 25 February 2024
by L.A. Davenport
This Is How We Get Heard Graffiti in Stamford
This is how we get heard: graffiti in Stamford, Lincolnshire
Back in October, I argued that our liberty and freedoms, hard-won over centuries, are being eroded from what has disappointingly turned out to have been a high-water mark for workplace, social, racial and gender equality to something resembling more and more the situation in the Middle Ages, with the populace progressively cut out of any form of decision-making, whether on a local, national or international level.

That may seem to be a rather extreme statement, bordering on what the tabloid newspapers would no doubt characterise as rabid frothing at the mouth, but looking on a global, rather than national or even regional, scale, it is painfully clear that many people across the world are now further than ever from the sorts of rights that we are lucky to take for granted, and are sliding into not-so benign dictatorships.

Even in our privileged Western world, it is clear that the apparently relentless arrow of improvements in human rights and self determination that was loosed during the Age of Enlightenment has been, at best, slowed to a virtual standstill and, in some ways, turned round and is now going in the opposite direction. Moreover, surveillance on a vast scale is now the order of the day throughout the globe, whether carried out by governments or businesses (see Surveillance Capitalism, by Shoshana Zuboff).

(It is interesting to note at this point that the right talk a lot about personal liberty but they usually mean only for people who think and live like them, while all others should have their freedoms severely restricted. On the other hand, the left proudly flout a belief in a vision of liberty that may be universal but is one-size-fits-all and is to be imposed on everyone, with objectors labelled as fascists [or whatever pejorative term leaps to mind]. My vision of human rights and liberties is rather uncomplicated and would no doubt be labelled as naïve: that people should be free to decide precisely how they want to live and be left alone to do so, while respecting the next person’s equal and equally inviolable right to do the same. However, it strikes me that the thing humans find most difficult to do is not to, as the saying goes, say sorry but respect those who are not like them.)

Whatever one’s view of it, our liberties are being eroded, and so the question becomes: What can we do about it?

In other words, how can we tell the powers that be that we do not want this situation to continue? And I mean not just to make our voices heard when it is a freedom that matters to us and our friends and families, but also when the freedoms of those who are different from us or whose lives we may not even like are under threat. After all, liberty should not be limited and conditional. It is either for all or it doesn’t exist at all.

The only thing we can do to help halt the slide away from freedom to oppression is protest.
‘Protest’ is treated in some quarters as a dirty word, and talked about as if it is an activity that is undertaken only by rabble rousers seeking to disrupt the lives of law-abiding, right-thinking individuals. (Again, it is interesting how that biased and negative view of any form of dissent, so typical of Middle England, does not apply to ‘conservatives with a small c’ when one of their activities is under threat.)

While the right to peaceful protest may not be described as such in law, it is enshrined in our rights to freedom of expression and assembly, and is a key part of democracy. Protest, one could argue, is the raw voice of the people speaking directly to power, rather than the filtered and dampened down statement expressed at the ballot box.

Protest can take many forms of course, from graffiti, sit-ins, strikes, picket lines, assemblies and marches to standing on a soap box, heckling passersby at Speakers' Corner and direct contact with an MP, to articles written in to newspapers and magazines, and comments in social media, etc. Typically, the form a protest takes is determined by whatever means people have available.

While protests should always be peaceful, they occur on a sliding scale in terms of their disturbance to non-protestors. After all, when the powers that be do not want to listen to polite and well-argued discussion and prefer to sweep all disagreement under the carpet, protest is obliged to become ugly and the wider public will need to be inconvenienced, if only to get people’s attention.

That is not to say that the ends justify the means and, much as football fans say play the ball and not the man, personal insult, threats and violence are out of bounds. Protest should always be an integral part of, and subservient to, debate. Once the ear of the public or lawmakers is obtained, that is the moment to discuss and find a common ground through whatever impasse led to the protest in the first place. After all, it is no good striking or taking to the streets if you aren’t willing to sit down and find a solution to your ills.
There is a lot to protest about at the moment, especially as the living situation for many people is getting worse and worse and their ability to do anything about it is more and more reduced. There are millions of people in our country who are trapped in a cycle of poverty and deprivation that leaves them no better off than the peasant workers of times past. Yet their needs and suffering are falling on deaf ears, and our political leaders are seemingly retreating further and further into a world far removed from our day-to-day lives.

That seemed almost understandable when the vast majority of MPs, and certainly everyone in the House of Lords, was drawn from what was known as the ruling classes, but it goes to show just how much our apparently more egalitarian and classless society is an illusion that the status quo is very much in place.

Perhaps our leaders and lawmakers are paralysed by the belief that they can do nothing and see themselves as stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to enacting domestic politics in an internationalised world. Yet it often strikes me that their actions are almost calculated to do as much damage as possible to the fabric of everyday society, and their measures are undertaken with a disdain to individual lives that borders on callousness.

If we are to turn this ship around and we are to restore optimism, hope and, above all, freedom and liberty to all in the face of such disregard, I am afraid that some sort of extreme action is required.

This does not mean the smashing and burning of our cities or the blockade of the country until it is brought to its knees, but rather the people, you and me, coming together to listen to each other’s problems and to say to those that have the privilege to lead us that enough is enough. Maybe I am naïve, but I believe we have an untapped force among us, and our voice, given in unison, could break down any walls, not just those of Jericho.
On a lighter note, the recent BAFTA awards gave me an excuse to indulge in my love of red carpet watching, and I was pleased to see that us Brits were just as able to put on a show as other ceremonies on the other side of the Atlantic.

For me, looking through Vogue’s gallery of images, I found my eyes drawn to the outfits worn by Fantasia Barrino, Carey Mulligan, Rami Malek, Vivian Oparah, Ayo Edebiri, Deepika Padukone, Charithra Chandran and, for an example of classic tailoring, Alexander Payne.

Fascinating though many of the choices were, I have to confess that all it has done is whet my appetite for the Oscars. Roll on March 10…
© L.A. Davenport 2017-2024.

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This Is How We Get Heard | Pushing the Wave