Protest rallies that inspire us
‘Environmental responsibility’, ‘urban democracy’, ‘social justice’ – who would have believed until recently, that these phrases will be heard from the loudspeaker horns at the protest rallies in Tbilisi.
Previous protests used to be nearly 200-percent political; the demands, as old and familiar as a scenery from one’s own window, were shouted out from the megaphone: vague and ambiguous “freedom, “independence and more specific – “go and ‘re-election’.
About a dozen of youth movements, promoting great variety of issues not directly linked to politics, appeared in Georgia in the past 5 years. The most popular demands nowadays are related to the environment and social policy.
The very fact that young and enthusiastic people, who are showing genuine interest in work hours of a cashier at the supermarket, or lack of helmet on a construction worker, is already surprising. And what really draws admiration is how they call on the carpet the cashier and worker’s managers and demand observance and respect for their rights in a well-reasoned manner.
This transformation from political to human that has become obvous in 2015, has been gradual, unnoticeable, soft and unobtrusive and most of us have not yet realized what a revolution happened in our mind and mentality.
It bears repeating that for the first time in many years, our citizens are not demanding political appointments or dismissals, but rather clean air, proper parking, reasonable urban planning; and they are doing it in an effective, dynamic, creative manner – in a new way.
Concert, performance and flash mob is a new form of protest, but not the only one.
The recent time’s most vivid performance was the organized volunteer work for elimination of flood consequences in Tbilisi. The latter occurred late on 13 June. And early in the morning, the disaster-torn Tbilisi was flooded with thousands of volunteers, who set to work without any delay. They worked from early morning until late at night during a week. And some of them even longer.
Multi-day duties in city parks is also a new protest genre. It’s new – because it proceeds without hunger strikes, without grandiloquent howling into a microphone. Exhibitions, concerts and other performances – all that was brought afloat, for example, when protesting against the construction of a hotel in Vake Park, or against the barbaric reconstruction of the historic Gudiashvili Square.
These new movements are uncatchable and ubiquitous. They are growing, multiplying, gaining more and more support. Their online campaigns quickly become viral; their social network pages gather thousands of fans a week, since their demands immediately strike a chord.
Fewer Tbilisi residents will disagree that it is time to stop tree felling and madly construction hysteria in the city center, that one shall not throw litter under the feet or park a car on the ramp…
All these demands seemed to be in the air for several decades, but we somehow were too busy to voice them. And everyone kept silent until a new generation has grown.
Upon a closer look at this youth, protesting in a new manner, one will realize that this is an alternative to something not so remote, something bald and bellied, obsessed with toast and praising old times’ heroics.
In fact, the backbone of this new force are youth, students, i.e. children born in the terrible 90s. They are children of the hungry parents, who worked for penny, queued up for bread and escaped shelling.
Fortunately, these children of the war do not remember the hardships of their childhood and, perhaps, that’s why they are more free that their parents.
If, in the foreseeable future, their demands do not shrink just to political ones, then all those potbelly stoves, kerosene cookers, bread queues and many other things that they remember, were not in vain.