Opinion Editorial Archive March, 2022: International Protest Day

opinion editorial
Any opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the policies of The Peoples of the World Foundation. Unless otherwise noted, the author and photographer is Dr. Ray Waddington.

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Ironically, those who have the most-justified cases for protest also have the smallest protest platform. Take Canada. Not last month but 32 years ago. In 1990 the Canadian federal government announced the pending introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST). Then, as now, the wealthiest did not like the prospect of new taxes. So, despite no social media at the time, they persuaded average Canadians to protest against it. During those protests a small, rural Canadian town announced that its provincial government-run beer store would soon close for economic reasons. Suddenly, most of that town forgot about the GST.

Or take Russia. Not last month but around 50,000 years ago. That's when modern humans first entered that part of the world, including Ukraine. Protesters were not arrested in Russia last month because they know that history but because Vladimir Putin pretends that he doesn't. Their protest against invading Ukraine is justified but their platforms were removed and many of them have likely already been poisoned. If Putin or anyone else wants to see what happens when the threat of retaliation is not present, they need look only at Thailand. There, just a few days ago, citizens from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus marched in unified protest against the invasion.

Russia eliminated the ability of its indigenous people to protest long before Putin was born. Other parts of the world are only now following the legacy of Russian tsars. Take the United States. It has been almost three years since indigenous elders in Hawaii were arrested for protesting peacefully against the desecration of sacred land. Due process continues to be denied them.

Or take Ethiopia. There, as everywhere, the vast majority of ordinary people do not want the war that continued to rage last month. Among them are the indigenous Afar girl in this month's photo. I took the photo in Hamed Ale, a tiny, isolated village on the outskirts of the Danakil Desert. She had asked me if I had a pen to give her. When I told her I didn't she immediately clenched and raised her fist at me. It was a mock protest but make no mistake, she has much more to protest about than Canadian truckers do. Yet their protest was about the only mainstream news story about Canada last month.

Perhaps there is no International Protest Day because we now live in a world that would need it every day. Or, perhaps it's because the international community cannot agree on what to protest against and how to protest at all. Even the world's so-called largest democracy refused to even vote last month on whether to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Those who start wars are aware of the wounds they inflict. In the journal Current Biology a paper was published last month describing how researchers had observed chimpanzees (an endangered species, thanks to us) treating the wounds of other chimpanzees. This practice may survive longer for them than it does for us.

Learn more about the Afar people.

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