The Importance of Non-Violent Protest

by distractingdelusions

I actually started to write this in a notepad late last night with no intention of sharing it on here. But, after today’s events at the Shard, it seemed pertinent to share my personal take on the importance of peaceful protest in raising awareness of causes that would otherwise be overlooked.

I’d also like to say congratulations to the #iceclimb team for being so successful in their endeavour. You stole the spotlight and made a lot of people who didn’t know much about the Arctic drilling – myself included – a lot better informed, and outraged, in the best possible way.

 The Importance of Non-Violent Protest

When I was ten, I was a chorister at Westminster Cathedral in London. This involved singing mass in the Cathedral itself six days a week with Monday off. In exchange for this, I received a private school education between the ages of eight and thirteen. It was a very regimented, sheltered environment

I had no clue about anything.

The real world might as well have been another universe. Please don’t misunderstand me here, I wasn’t a “true believer” or anything like that. But all I knew was the ritual and the songs and, frankly, the ritual didn’t mean anything to me. It just meant standing up and sitting down in a pre-ordained sequence, and occasionally we would get to sing something cool in between the day’s plainchants. I certainly wasn’t alone in viewing it that way. Though I will admit that the pageantry of the main feast days was quite fun in a purely theatrical sense.

My friends and I were just kids that could sing. We didn’t think much of the wider implications of anything we were participating in – we weren’t required to.

The first real indication I got of the reality that existed beyond the high, protecting walls of the choir school happened on a Sunday in 1994. I believe that the gospel had just been read and the presiding priest was mid-sermon when, all of a sudden, there were white balloons floating up to the high arched ceiling, and a small group of people were being escorted from the building amidst tuts of disapproval from the general congregation.

Of course, they weren’t balloons. They were helium filled condoms. But no one bothered to explain that to us. Nor was it explained that the people being escorted from the building were members of the LGB rights group OutRage! who were protesting the incumbent pope’s stance on homosexuality.

It wasn’t until after I’d left the choir school a few years later that I was able to find out any of that information. No one told us a thing. But I’d caught a glimpse of something different. There were adults that disagreed with the established narrative and these people… protested?

“What’s a protest?”

No answer.

As far as epiphanies go it wasn’t anywhere near the level of a particular Mitchell & Webb sketch. But my mind began to open to the possibility that not everything I had been told was necessarily as sacrosanct & agreed upon as I had been led to believe. So I started to ask questions, and when I continued to be ignored, I read books and learnt about things no adult would willingly share with me.

Needless to say, by the time I eventually heard of a band called Rage Against The Machine, a year and a half later, I was already well on my way to leading a much more interesting life than the one that had been chosen for me.

All because a small group of people weren’t afraid to stand up in public and say, “No!”