[Since the Arab League uprisings] There has been a subtle shifting in the nuance of the term "protest".
The word is defined as
1. To express strong objection.
2. To make an earnest avowal or affirmation.
However, the colloquial interpretation has shifted.
When students protested, older (and wiser) people compared them to those who protested over human rights in the 1960's. Pejoratively.
Now we see the true levels of protest in the Middle East, in this so called domino effect, as a ripple of democracy spreads and people challenge their autocratic leaders.
The changing of a word's meaning is frightening, and can create a pattern of emulation. Words take on new meanings in dialect, but those words then inspire actions, motivate and inspire people to embrace and utilise the new meanings of the words. If protest no longer means civil, if protest now means challenging oppression, what does that mean for protest in countries without oppression on such a grand scale?
Setting Up Custom and Practice
The person who set themselves on fire in Tunisia established the same act to commence the Egyptian revolution, and then in Libya, and Yemen and a handful more. While it is not a rule, it is logical to preclude all demonstrations with self harm to establish a point. Harm to myself is less important, is less severe, than a democracy for the nation.
By such a grandiose stance, there is an established baseline for any protest to be considered "seriously" in the future.
Now the TUC protests in March, what is the likely outcome?
We have already seen an escalation of activity by students and by #ukuncut; and an escalation of police tactics in response. A spate of arrests and civil cases.
What precedent does this set for UK protests in 2011? Especially with the Middle East providing a structure to follow.
Yesterday I saw a number of Tweets referring to #March26March as Britain's Tarhir Square.
I was going to attend, on the basis I am a redundant NHS worker who disagrees with the white paper.
But these comments, and my previous reflection on escalating protests above, made me consider the wisdom of doing so.
I *hope* that the March today is as much of a washout as the protests of all 100 people at the Lib Dem Spring Conference.
However, the repeated texts, emails and letters from Unions imply there is a level of hype and (hopefully) organisation that will ensure it is well attended. I just hope no one sets themselves on fire.