Editor’s Notebook, Regulars and Shorts

Editor’s Notebook: Protest—a different view

By Greta Belanger deJong

Pro (in favor of) test (to speak).
by Greta Belanger deJong


Editor’s note: I received this in the mail from our friend and longtime occasional columnist, Donna Henes, who lives in Brooklyn. It’s an interesting and useful take on what it means to protest: to stand for something. A protest, at its roots, is an affirmation. In this month of giving thanks, and a year from the Occupy movement, it is worth considering:

The media likes to portray peace, environment and human rights protesters as a fringe element of whining malcontents teetering on the margins of proper society. The truth is that those who step forward to speak their mind are happier and healthier folks than most.

At its root, protesting is not complaining, nor is it sending out negative messages. Pro means “for,” “in favor of.” Test means “to speak,” as in “testify” and “testimony.” So, protest actually means “to speak for.” Pro­test is a positive endeavor.

“The world is dangerous not because of those who do harm, but because of those who look at it without doing anything,” said Albert Einstein. “Nothing that I can do will change the structure of the universe. But maybe by raising my voice I can help the greatest of all causes—goodwill among men and peace on earth.”

A study by John Drury, professor of social psychology at the University of Sussex in England, shows that it is good for you to protest. Even though socially concerned people may be depressed about the state of the world, their physical and mental ailments improve dramatically as a result of taking part in a group effort for change and the betterment of conditions.

Involvement in social causes and participation in political demonstrations banishes sensations of isolation, discouragement and impotence and replaces them with an exhilarating awareness of connectedness, well being and empowerment.

When people participate in large-scale protests they get swept up in a communal mood of optimism that feeds their feelings of hope. They believe that their actions can help to change the course of history. “Col­lec­tive action can therefore be a life-changing, uplifting and life-enhancing experience,” concludes Drury.

Editor’s note: The following quotation is widely attributed to Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, though I searched and could not find the date or context. Under any circumstances, it is a fitting conclusion:

The problems of this world are so gigantic that some are paralyzed by their own uncertainty. Courage and wisdom are needed to reach out above this sense of helplessness… To fight evil, one must also recognize one’s own responsibility. The values for which we stand must be expressed in the way we think of, and how we deal with, our fellow humans.

Thank you, all, for reading CATALYST—for putting this information to use—for supporting our advertisers—and for being there for us to write about.

This article was originally published on October 29, 2012.