Thursday, March 1, 2012

Use protest to produce change

By Paula McFadden, Opinion Columnist

People protest when they perceive a lack of control, whether for themselves or others.

The problem is there are many issues not debated because the situation is not common knowledge to the public.

The obesity epidemic is visible to the average American, but the causes of the epidemic are hidden behind FDA regulations and ingredients that make food cheap to manufacture.

Health regulations are an issue worth protesting.

Food affects our lifespan, our mental health and our overall quality of life. Unhealthy food may be cheaper initially, but the medical bills that come from an unhealthy lifestyle cost more in the long run.

Physical education programs in schools are being cut due to lack of funding, even though children are supposed to get an hour of physical activity a day in order to maintain healthy growth.

A study conducted in December 2002 at the University of Sussex found that the act of protest can be a healthy way to feel more connected within a society.

Peaceful protest allows groups not in control of the government or media to have their voices heard.

Take the protests against the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act for example: Online communities, including Wikipedia, went dark to petition against the threat of online censorship.

Congress reacted to the protest by postponing the legislation in order to have further discussion on how to handle piracy without disrupting freedom of speech.

However, a protest loses its effectiveness when the participants become violent or turn away from the original message in order to inflict harm

There was a march of about 250,000 people in London last year in disapproval of budget cuts that Parliament had recently passed.

The actual event happened without incident, but a small group broke away from the protest and attacked police vehicles, banks and other buildings.

Police arrested 201 demonstrators for using fireworks, damaging property and breaking windows.

Instead of garnering discussion to find an alternative solution to the budget crisis, the violent protesters disrupted the message of the larger protest. The media covered the damages to the city and how the police were going to handle the threat of more violence.

Protest can ultimately be a means to produce change.

Consider what you have control over and use your voice to make a difference, whether it affects you or not. 

Paula McFadden is a junior at Pacific Lutheran University pursuing a degree in English with an emphasis in writing and minors in communication and publishing and printing arts. She lives on-campus but calls Lakewood, Wash. home.