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Proper Gander: Putting Protest To The Test

Proper Gander

Unfortunately, ‘growing up’ usually means swapping your youthful enthusiasm for the decades-long sentence of stress and boredom we’ve learnt to call adulthood. Hopefully this won’t happen to the five young activists featured on BBC3’s Fighting The System. Showing enviable amounts of passion for their beliefs, animal rights campaigners Phoebe and Jayne protest at shops selling angora rabbit fur, and hand out leaflets reminding people in burger joints what they’re eating. Danielle is part of a group of climate change protestors who occupy power stations, bravely not letting the consequences of getting a criminal record stop them. Yaz is an 18 year old feminist taking a stand outside the Sun newspaper’s headquarters against topless models on page three. Sarah joins in with the occupation of empty-but-useable council houses in Newham, London by the Focus E15 Mothers group. All appreciate the strong friendships, new skills, and rushes of adrenaline they’ve found through their protests.

Direct action like this only comes about because the vast majority of us have little say in the important decisions which affect us. People end up going to extreme lengths such as jumping out in front of Rupert Murdoch’s limousine or climbing power station chimneys because they don’t have much influence otherwise. And why should they? Corporations and institutions are owned by a distant minority with their own interests to protect. They only take on board the wishes of protestors when it becomes advantageous for them to do so. Direct action hasn’t been able to make changes to the basic way society is structured to exploit and restrict us, and therefore new causes to protest about keep springing up. So, Fighting The System has a misleading title. The young activists it features aren’t fighting the system as much as fighting against some effects of the system, but that doesn’t sound quite so snappy. Hopefully, the activists will turn their energy to making real, fundamental changes to society.

MIKE FOSTER