THE BLOG

Why Dissent is Important

02/24/2014 04:48 EST | Updated 04/26/2014 05:59 EDT

You're a prisoner in your own home. Not able to fall asleep from the gunfire down the street, you fear that your house is next. You protested a new law that gave even more power to a despotic government. One of your friends was murdered, another was raped. This is a fear that has not played out in the western world. We have security, peace, and far more freedom than others. We got to this security because our ancestors fought for it, risking their lives to make their world a better place. It all happened because of protest.

Since former President Hugo Chavez died of cancer, Venezuela's economy has taken a nose dive. President Nicolas Maduro has given the country an inflation rate of 56 per cent to go along with an almost 50 per cent increase in the budget deficit. The currency is atrocious, and supplies are not reaching the country, leaving citizens desolate. Justifiably Venezuelans have hit the streets; in response Maduro's goons are shooting protesters on the streets, at their homes, and wherever the protesters are assumed to be.

In Ukraine, a people who wanted a more exclusive relationship with the western world, broke an anti-protest law, and dodged bullets to force their prime minister from office. Ukrainians lost their lives, but they are slowly winning their freedom. What we saw in Kiev was a replay of world history. When people are oppressed by their government or an unjust law, defiance is the best weapon you can use in your fight for freedom.

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Ukraine Riots (GRAPHIC WARNING)

Without dissent we would not be where we are right now in our home country. Without Nellie McClung and other suffragists holding a protest at Walker Theatre in Winnipeg, back in 1914, would women have the right to vote in this country? Would they hold any position of power? McClung did not simply accept her circumstances, she fought the law, and she won. Freedom and human rights would not be given to her and her fellow Canadian women by asking their husbands politely to petition the government. They did not stay in the kitchen, cook meals and give birth to babies. They wanted more out of their lives, they wanted equal treatment, and they got it through protest.

In America, African Americans after they were freed from slavery were crippled by Jim Crow laws which prevented them from choosing where they could sit on a bus. They were also segregated from whites, and forced to enter public buildings through back entrances, away from their fellow man. Entire towns banned African Americans; some unions even barred blacks from joining. To be an African America during the Jim Crow era meant you were subhuman.

In April 1963, King travelled to Birmingham, Alabama to show support for a campaign to remove racist signs from businesses in the city. A deal was struck to remove racist signs on the windows of the city's merchants. The signs came down, but as time passed most of them came back up. So MLK joined a campaign of sit ins and marches to condemn the broken promise, and fight for segregation. In order to squash the protests, a judge filed an injunction against protest, which like the protestors in Ukraine, did not deter King. He ended up in jail, and wrote one of the most famous jailhouse letters ever printed.

A smuggled newspaper brought to King's attention, a letter by eight clergymen who criticized his methods of protest. Instead of being intimidated and staying silent, he penned a passionate letter that succinctly explained why protesting the current laws of his land was important. He brilliantly wrote the timeless words, "We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed." That sentence is a true expression of the constant fight for freedom. The citizens of Thailand, Ukraine, and Venezuela know this, and they are not sitting by politely and waiting for their demands to be heard. They are screaming from rooftops, and demanding change. They know the power of protest.

Our freedom will never be guaranteed. Whether a government claims civil liberties are up for debate due to terrorism, or whether their disastrous economic policies are excused as a necessity to eliminate poverty and unemployment, our rights will always be in the crosshairs.

Barack Obama has executed Americans without due process; he spies on his citizens as well as you and me.He signed a law that allows for the indefinite detention of an American without trial, or any communication with family or a lawyer. Obama is not a complete tyrant, but tyrannical laws are in the books, and the time could come for Americans to rise up. We, Canadians have it pretty good, but that could also change with a stroke of a pen and a bullet. We must show solidarity with global citizens who want freedom from a government that has stolen all of the power.

Dissent is the most important action in a functioning society. Without the threat of an uprising, an increasingly powerful and despotic government will slowly but swiftly erode the freedoms we hold dear. We must value our right to speak up, move where we please, and have security in our homes, and in our persons. If we don't, tyranny will rain down on us swiftly, and harshly, leaving us with bodies, but no souls.