The Art of Protest – The Internet, Activism and Resilience.

• July 11, 2013 • Comments (5)

For many of us, the internet and social media have saturated our everyday lives, a constant stream of information and images – from the banal to the ridiculous to the profound. Social media has also revolutionised revolution, we have seen in the last few years how it has facilitated the organisation, coverage and reporting of global and national movements such Occupy, anti-austerity protests in Europe, the Arab Spring and more recently, protests in Turkey, Brazil and Egypt. There is nothing new about people taking to the streets, yet the internet offers up new channels of communication that can circumvent censorship, sidestep the hegemony of mainstream news and loosen the stranglehold of corporate media. It has also facilitated solidarity across continents, finding unity and commonality in the face of oppression, division and aggression.

Image: Ecological InternetI have experienced a love/hate relationship with communication technology over the last few years (see The Short Circuit Report). Working from a desk in London – supporting activist networks and communities resisting the devastating impacts of the extractive industries – the speed of electronic communication and access to information is an incredible tool for information sharing, activism and solidarity. However, the pace and pervasiveness of it can feel like an unrelenting appendage – always online, plugged in, always connected. Constantly being bombarded with images of destruction – to ecosystems, livelihoods and communities – a seemingly limitless stream of news of human rights abuses and a relentless pillaging and toxification of our Mother Earth. Though it is vital to stay connected to the real-time impacts of our global system, this access to information can become oppressive, overwhelming and even paralysing. It can make the crises that world faces today seem like a too great a challenge – too big a problem to fight.

Thus, an important question to ask (and a question which we will explore further with Joanna Macy and Chris Johnston next week), is: “How can we face the mess we are in without going crazy?”  How can we stay informed about global events and the impact we are having on the planet, and remain positive about our ability to be part of the change? How can we honour the pain that we feel for the Earth – the distress, fear and anger we feel about climate change, wars, and social and economic injustices – while remaining strong and energised enough to be part of a solution?

Banksy Flower ThrowerRecently, it has been through social media that I have been reminded that in order to fortify our resilience, we must be the change we want to see, and this includes acting with love and kindness – even in the fight against issues we perceive as morbidly unjust. It has reminded me that maybe the best use of one’s energy, and a way to look after ourselves and each other, is not to only stand up and say: “NO, this has to STOP!”, but to also say “YES to LIFE!” and work to create the world that we want to see.

In the last few weeks – via social media – I have come across some of the most tear-jerking, humbling, defiant acts of beauty and humanity in the face of aggression. It reminds me of the power of symbolic gestures of peace, kindness and commonality. For example, the German pianist who wheeled a grand piano into Taksim Square in Turkey and played to a silenced crowd – still wearing gasmasks. The wobbly phone-cam clip relays a captivating ethereal calm, the levelling universality of the music pacifying and uniting the crowd – how could you fire at a piano recital?

I also saw an article online recently of how a mosque in York dealt with English Defence League supporters who came to their place of worship to protest in response to the horrific murder of a British soldier in Woolwich, London. A potentially volatile situation was met with an invitation to share refreshments, open dialogue and an impromptu game of football – who would ever underestimate the power of tea and biscuits in conflict resolution?

Symbolic gestures like these are incredibly powerful because they pierce the illusion of separation and difference. Their potent simplicity remains in the cultural consciousness, like some of the most enduring images of peaceful protest, such as: the image of the lone man standing in front of tanks in Tiananmen Square; the women’s anti-nuclear peace protest camp at Greenham Common US army base ‘embracing the base’ and dancing on the silos; and the anti-Vietnam war protestor poking flowers into the barrel of a gun.


It would be naïve to propose that peaceful, non-violent action is appropriate in all situations. However, the celebration of LIFE in activism and protest – spirituality, solidarity, kindness, song, humour, music, and dancing (all the things that make us human) – is an incredible tool for resistance. It is also vital for the resilience and strength of individuals, communities and social movements.


You might also like:

The Tao and Social Action

Dan Millman: The Way of the Peaceful Warrior

If you have any examples of random acts of kindness, peaceful protest or sacred activism in any medium (short film, painting, photograph, poem etc) that you would like to share please comment below or send to us…



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Amy Woodrow Arai

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Since graduating with a degree in politics and development, Amy has been working on issues concerned with Indigenous rights, biodiversity protection, alternative economics and action on global climate change. She worked with the Native Spirit Foundation, which provides a platform for dialogue between the Indigenous world and modern societies, coordinating an annual film festival and workshops, screenings and events through the year. She also worked at the Gaia Foundation, working with communities to revive Indigenous knowledge to secure land, seed, food and water sovereignty and to protect Sacred Natural Sites. She worked specifically on highlighting the devastating impact of the global extractive industries and supporting communities to strengthen resistance to mining in their territories. Concerning the challenges that face humanity today, she believes that there is much to learn (and re-learn) from Indigenous cultures and traditional knowledge. She is also excited by the many possibilities and social movements presenting alternatives to our unsustainable global economy.

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Comments (5)

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  1. Corinna Lotz says:

    Nice one, Amy!

  2. Amy Woodrow Arai Amy Woodrow Arai says:

    Chile: BESATON!! (kiss-athon)

  3. […] The Art of Protest – The Internet, Activism and Resilience […]

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