On Student Activism, Standing In Solidarity, And The Politics Of Protest

Generally, protests are deemed constructive for any democratic country because it effectively criticises the governmental machinery and by this critical public opprobrium, the state recognises its various inadequacies. This article will expatiate on the myriad overlooked benefits which emanate from protests and in this way, it will express the indispensable cruciality of protests.

Before examining the materiality of protests, it is essential to classify protests into two distinct categories:

(1) Some protests are undertaken for a single self–seeking purpose. The objectives of these protests are fairly narrowed and they fail to interconnect the various sections of society because it not their intention to do so. In a nutshell, these protests are done to achieve ‘sectional interests’ which may benefit only a particular portion of the society. I call these protests ‘particularistic protests.’

(2) Some protests are undertaken to wage a collective struggle against something which jeopardizes the entirety of the social fabric. This category of agitation is the ‘conspicuous cementing power’ of any specific society. Due to these protests, a commonality emerges in the social and cultural heterogeneity. This type of protest arises when the citizenry feels that a specific issue poses ‘an apodictic threat to the fundamental values of their society.’ It can be construed as ‘universalistic protest.’

Scenes from an anti-CAA protest. (Photo: APPSC IIT Bombay/Facebook)

Among the aforementioned two protests, I will emphasise the significance of universalistic protests and will delineate how they have the immense capability to rejig our social structures.

Apart from the advantage of democratic enrichment, universalistic protests increase the morality of society. These agitations are actually the manifestations of the fact that the citizens are sensitized towards the various maladies of the country. This sensitisation can only happen after the realization that every individual is responsible for protecting and maintaining the elementary ethics which in turn helps in the development and sustenance of a morally decent society.

Every protest is interrelated to a complex network of emotions. These emotions can be empathy, anger, etc. When it comes to universalistic protests, this outburst of effervescent emotions shows that the agitating people are emotionally attached to advancing the interests of all people.

They subvert the popular and ostensibly rational assumption that individuals are primarily concerned with the maximization of self-interest. In today’s world, every universalistic protests show that the social fragmentation and endangering of communitarian ethics brought about by capitalism cannot go unchallenged and citizens have the ability to find common ground in the highly fissiparous social environment caused by the innate inhumanity of bourgeoisie democracy. These protests encapsulate the collective anger against neoliberalism.

The occurrence of universalistic protests is rare. This is mainly due to the overwhelming task of making the people realize the utmost importance of social solidarity. Universalistic protests can only be effectuated if a sense of deep togetherness is established among the various communities.

Recognising the fact that all humans are bound together by a common goal will also lead to retrieval of the idea of community. This idea of community is of great significance because we are living in times where the society is extremely atomised and individual interests are superordinate to collective goals of social welfare.

The near annihilation of the welfare state and the ensconcement of neoliberal education have made the establishment of social solidarity even more difficult. Student activism presents a glimmer of hope because it allows the students to comprehend that the attainment of jobs or the sequential attainment of degrees is not the only objective of education.

Apart from student activism, universalistic protests can be actualised if the people, who are hermetically sealed in the synthetic world of crass consumption, are sensitized to the escalating pauperisation of the oppressed masses.

Featured image source: Vishal Singh/Facebook.
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