I was walking home from work today through the city and came across a protest in the city centre by the local Marxist group calling for Equal Rights in regards to Gay Marriage. I totally agree that the discriminatory division between homosexual couples and heterosexual couples should be removed, with marriage and all rights associated with it available to all.
What I’m conflicted about is the group’s tactics, its approach to getting its (very important) message heard. The group was chanting slogans, yelling thru megaphones, leafleting, petition and info tables all set up. In many ways these elements are all great, showing organization, seeking to get the message out. My questions come from whether such an approach is effective for the context. Does yelling through a bullhorn going to encourage people to engage (I found it hard to hold a conversation with the people at the petition stand), who is the intended recipient of these slogans? Does the tactics being employed develop support or does it just vent anger? When I engaged with the woman behind the stall, rather than discuss the issue of concern- gay marriage rights- she immediately talked about anti-capitalism and handed me a copy of the organizations periodical. Again, this isn’t problematic as such, but there was no attempt to link how capitalism may have an effect on sexual discrimination or vice versa. Instead it felt like the protest was the merely a means for the group to promote itself.
My encounter left me feeling ambiguous. There seemed to be a confusion of intent, what was the purpose of the demonstration, what did it aim to do? Raise awareness? Engage with people? Send a message to those in parliament? All of the above?
In many ways I admired the group’s efforts, their commitment to be out in the public raising awareness and seeking to promote a radical critique. On the other hand I wondered what their efforts hoped to achieve, did they engage with people? Or were they based more around habit, or even laziness, with city commuters either avoiding the area or coming away as I had, feeling that the issue at hand was quickly pushed aside in favour of a Marxist economic discussion once you actually talked to someone. I think protests and demonstrations of this kind can be influential and have been in the past, but I also wonder if there is a need for more creativity, more considered approaches that doesn’t dilute the critique or vision, but avoids stereotypes and stagnating habits.
I left encouraged and discouraged all at once