Very few things make me stop and think quite the same way that the video of looters in the US attacking a shop owner who pleaded with them to stop did so on Monday.
Yes, we can all understand how angry and frustrated normal Americans feel after seeing the way that George Floyd was treated by Police. But crowds making themselves judge, jury and potentially executioner over the proxy offenders they have appointed help no one, least of all themselves.
Nothing justifies an aggressive and violent response. No matter how bad in one particular moment of time those who feel they are being oppressed or mistreated as if they were the victim themselves might feel about what they have heard about or seen on TV.
Fear drove the actions of the Police. Fear drives the actions of those rioting and looting.
The reason that Government systems around the world aren’t working and people of all backgrounds feel injustices like they do is that the politicians in charge are driven by Fear too.
Put yourself in the shoes of a leader for a moment. If your aim is to maintain the appearance of control, which scenario is more likely to unsettle your mind, question your resolve and really make you think twice before you act next?:
- Rioters across the US burning cars in showrooms, attacking police and shopkeepers, causing as much damage as they possibly can
- Hong Kong residents continuing many months of protest against a regime set on removing their freedom without damaging anything
- Thousands of Colorado protesters lying face down on the floor with their hands behind their backs for 9 minutes simply saying ‘I can’t breathe’.
Those that have taken the law into their own hands in the US have handed the initiative straight back to Donald Trump – who had until this week been on the back foot because of his handling of Covid-19.
No matter how broken the system might be, physical reprisal or retaliation at any level simply returns the power to those who appeared to have it all at the start.
Through reprisal, you simply hand your power back to them as you crash to the level below.
The alternative is genuine solidarity. But genuine solidarity is a thinking mans game.
Solidarity is not reprisal.
Solidarity is being the voice and the peaceful action that makes a statement without inflicting any kind of material or physical cost.
In Colorado what do you think the authorities who were in fear of a mob reaction were thinking when the violent protest they expected never came and they instead found themselves observing a peaceful protest that marched straight into their minds instead?
Solidarity has the power to make the perpetrators of injustice and oppression know that they are wrong.
Reprisal against them just gives them the opportunity to demonstrate to everyone else that they were right and you were wrong all along.
The World today is a fragile place. Peace, whether between communities, people and authorities or between whole Countries themselves is no longer a given – if indeed it ever really was.
The Coronavirus Pandemic is changing the field of play around us whilst we stand upon it. We must all start to think differently about what is happening and the roles we can and should play.