Why protest is important – with Pessimism is for Lightweights poet Salena Godden

Why protest is important – with Pessimism is for Lightweights poet Salena Godden

by Suswati Basu
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Protest is an invaluable way to speak truth to power, which is why we spoke to award-winning poet Salena Godden, who wrote Pessimism is for Lightweights: 13 Pieces of Courage and Resistance. Throughout history, protests have been the driving force behind some of the most powerful social movements, exposing injustice and abuse, demanding accountability and inspiring people to keep hoping for a better future.

Protest is important for several reasons:

  1. Expressing Dissent: Protest provides a platform for individuals and communities to voice their dissatisfaction and disagreement with social, political, or economic issues. It allows people to express their grievances and draw attention to injustices or policies they believe are unfair or harmful.
  2. Raising Awareness: Protests draw attention to specific issues and bring them into the public consciousness. They can generate media coverage, spark discussions, and increase awareness among the general population. By highlighting problems or inequalities, protests contribute to the dissemination of information and encourage public dialogue.
  3. Mobilising Support: Protests serve as a rallying point for like-minded individuals and communities. They bring people together who share similar concerns, creating a sense of unity and solidarity. Through collective action, protests can mobilise support and build movements for social change.
  4. Pressuring Decision-Makers: Protests can exert pressure on those in positions of power, such as government officials, corporations, or institutions. By disrupting the status quo and demanding change, protests can influence decision-makers and prompt them to address the concerns raised by protesters. They can lead to policy reforms, legislative changes, or increased accountability.
  5. Symbolic and Psychological Impact: Protests have symbolic power and can inspire hope, resilience, and empowerment among participants and observers. They demonstrate that individuals have agency and can make a difference by standing up for what they believe in. Protests also serve as a reminder that people are not passive bystanders but active participants in shaping society.
  6. Historical Catalyst for Change: Throughout history, protests have played a crucial role in driving significant social and political transformations. They have been instrumental in various movements, such as civil rights, women’s suffrage, labor rights, and anti-apartheid struggles. Protests have the potential to challenge existing power structures, foster social progress, and advance human rights.
  7. Democracy and Civic Engagement: Protest is an essential component of democratic societies. It reflects citizens’ engagement, participation, and exercise of their fundamental rights, such as freedom of speech and assembly. Peaceful protests allow individuals to engage in civic action, voice their concerns, and contribute to shaping the public discourse.

It is important to note that while protests can be powerful and influential, they should be conducted peacefully and within the boundaries of the law. Respect for the rights and safety of all individuals involved is crucial for the effectiveness and legitimacy of protests.

So why is protest important?

Thanks to the following guests for participating:

Salena Godden, who is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, is an award-winning author, poet and broadcaster based in London. In 2021 Canongate published her highly acclaimed debut novel ‘Mrs Death Misses Death’. It won The Indie Book Award for fiction and was the winner of The Peoples Book Prize 2022. It was also shortlisted for The British Book Awards; The Bad Form Magazine Book Of The Year shortlist and The Gordon Burn Prize. Film and TV rights to this unique debut novel have been taken by Idris Elba and Green Door Pictures.

Salena’s work has been widely anthologised and broadcast on BBC radio and TV. Her essay ‘Shade’ was published in the groundbreaking anthology ‘The Good Immigrant’ (Unbound). A short-story ‘Blue Cornflowers’ was shortlisted for the 4th Estate and Guardian short story prize. She has had several volumes of poetry published including ‘Under The Pier’, ‘Fishing in the Aftermath: Poems 1994-2014’ and also a literary childhood memoir, ‘Springfield Road’. She has produced four studio albums to date – her solo poetry album LIVEwire (Nymphs and Thugs) was shortlisted for The Ted Hughes Prize.

A new hardback edition of ‘Pessimism is for Lightweights – 30 Pieces of Courage and Resistance’ was published in February 2023 by Rough Trade Books and the poem version is on permanent display at The Peoples History Museum, Manchester. Godden is currently working on three new books for Canongate, one of which is the eagerly anticipated new fiction novel set in the ‘Mrs Death Misses Death’ world, three new titles will be published by Canongate in 2024 and 2025. We’re talking about Pessimism is for Lightweights today.

Puneet Singh Singhal is the founder of Ssstart, an organisation working towards a more inclusive and accessible society for people with disabilities. His life is an intersection of poverty, domestic violence, and multiple disabilities.

Here are some of the resources from the show:

From the encampment in Zucotti Park, Danny Schechter, “The News Dissector,” spoke to Laura Flanders of GritTV about the financial crimes committed by Wall St and various financial institutions. His movie, “Plunder: The Crime of our Time,” and companion book, “The Crime of our Time: Why Wall Street is Too Big to Jail,” dissect Wall Street fraud and corruption. This video was broadcast live on October 5, 2011, as part of Free Speech TV’s coverage of Occupy Wall St.

Books looked at this week:

Salena Godden: Pessimism is for Lightweights – 30 Pieces of Courage and Resistance

Danny Schechter: Occupy: Dissecting Occupy Wall Street

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