A friend once told me that most lawyers have a crime they won’t defend based on their own moral compass. For example, a lawyer may choose to defend an alleged murderer, but refuse to defend an animal abuser. I was thinking about this in relation to public demonstrations. Lately it feels like social change is all around us. Locally, there was a protest at a radio station as a result of offensive videos. Provincially and nationally we’re seeing protests about indigenous issues with an emphasis on astronomical rates of suicide. Our friends down south are experiencing political upheaval that hasn’t been seen in decades at least. What is clear is there is a lot of anger that has built up over time and there is hunger for change.
All of these demonstrations have something in common. When a protest happens, the public reacts not only to the issue, but to the protest itself. Often the character of the protesters is judged harshly. The public will question the employment status of protesters, misguided priorities, or over-saturation of the issue. But let’s look at it from another way. Protesting is a good thing. This anger is being channeled into community engagement. That is how change happens. Everyone experiences change within their own life and it’s almost always painful. Similarly, as a society we only move forward when we are pushed forward. The people who put their time and energy into protests are the pushers. Those protests only happen when people care to try to make a difference. Just think about how much effort it is to put pants on to go grocery shopping some days. It’s not an easy task to take on.
Going back to the lawyer question, you may be reasonably happy with society. Maybe everything is going swimmingly. That could change in the future. When gas is running out? When the police search your house randomly? When bacon is banned? What issue would it take to make you, as an individual, go out and protest it? That very issue that would get you to put pants on and leave your house? Other people will think it’s unimportant. The people who make these political statements deserve at least respect for their initiative. Personally, my critical issue is reclassifying caffeine as a controlled drug. You can take my house, my car, my salary, but you will have to pry my coffee from my cold, dead hands. And the non-coffee drinkers will say “I never drink the stuff anyway.”