The protest culture all across the globe is witnessing surreal responses and participation from the millennials. The ubiquitous anti-state protestors being resolute in their motives have adopted artistic, humorous, sarcastic, glamorous and other engaging undertones, taking their demonstrations up a notch.
Abbie Hoffman once said, “The only way to support a revolution is to make your own.” This rings a bell when videos and photographs of the youth protesters taking to streets quake the internet every now and then. Dancing to the zealous beats, shrouded in national or symbolic flags with faces either patterned or smeared with colours, and holding placards or chanting slogans with unrecognizable verve were some obvious understanding of a protest site. But the millennials today have redefined revolutions by owning them in a way as never before.
As beauty queens in tiaras and sashes, a group of brides in wedding gowns and a troop of shirtless bodybuilders, other than Batman and the masked Rider marched down the streets of Myanmar with “free Aung San Suu Kyi” posters, the entire world halted to listen to their grievances against the recent military coup. When in Hong Kong, an anonymous group formed on the Reddit-like forum LIHKG, proposed an idea to draw global attention to their anti-government outrage over extradition laws, hundreds volunteered and built the four-metre high statue, “Lady Liberty Hong Kong” modelled on a young first aider who sustained an eye injury from the police clash at a protest. Protesters from Hong Kong, Myanmar, Brazil, India, Lebanon, Chile, Russia, Sudan, Venezuela, USA etc have revolutionized the protesting culture en masse, hanging the global attention on a peg of creative overdrive, everytime their voices begin to fade in an echo.
The participation of women coequally on the forefront is a major marker in the march of the millenials. From the 22-year old Sudanese architecture student Alaa Salah wearing toub, standing on a car, chanting and singing with her arms raised wide open during Sudanese protests to the three women students of Jamia- Ladeeda Sakhaloon, Aysha Renna and Chanda Yadav, standing on a car with their arms raised in motion during anti-CAA protests in India, they somewhat became the visual image of the rebellion which lingered in our minds. From reading out a ‘feminist manifesto’ as part of a #MeToo agitation to the women of Shaheen Bagh, who camped at the anti-CAA protest site, enduring chilling cold days and nights while sharing cultures, opinions and biryanis. These women became the paramount examples of resilience and determination to change the system. Such emotional and powerful appeal from the committed youthful protesters remind the world of their indefatigable courage. The youthful protesters have also turned to merchandising revolutions to produce goods like caps, t-shirts, masks and so on for supporting and funding the cause while amplifying its impact.
On the other hand, we have the spectacle packed with witty posters, amusing references and ineffable gestures. In Hong Kong protesters were found quoting “If we burn, you burn with us” and adopting the ‘three-finger salute’ from the show ‘The Hunger Games’. Bruce Lee’s quote “Be formless, shapeless, like water” was chanted to chide the government. A poster from a young Lebanese protester read “It’s so bad you made me forget how bad season 8 was!”(referring to GOT). Similarly, the demonstrations against citizenship laws produced posters with subtle sarcasm and satire directed at the unconstitutional practices of the Indian government, fit for “memefication” as part of millennials’ protest culture: “Shut down Fascism, not the Internet!”, “Normalcy has reached DELHI!” (referring to Kashmir’s “normalcy”), “Jab Hindu-Muslim raazi, toh kya karega Nazi.” At the same time, certain gestures from either protesters or police made the whole world gawk. From a group of protesters offering roses to Indian cops after massive crackdown preaching “love in return for hatred” to a Hong Kong’s police officer reluctant to take arms against the protesters, the millennials’ march and their meaning run deeper than expected. At another instance, a video of some Leabanese protesters singing Baby Shark to a commuter’s baby who was scared, stirred the internet. When the anti-government protest of Venezuela reached the streets, thousands of women marched, dressed in white as a symbol of peace. The sight of a young man standing bare chested amidst the tear gas, playing the national anthem on a violin thrilled the voyeurs.
The ability to mobilize large crowds without any supreme leadership and solidarity among themselves or with other ongoing peaceful rebellions is another major marker of the millennials’ protest culture. During Black Lives Matter protest, a march was organized by the Black Advisory Board, made up of Black LGBTQ+ leaders and organizations in “direct response to racial injustice, systemic racism, and all forms of oppression.” In India, Muslim youths formed a human chain to protect Hanuman temple from arsonists when a protest against a social media post turned violent in Bengaluru. While rebelling has become the new normal all across the globe, the meaningful dimension of the youthful protests often gets lost in the cacophony of violence and discordance which blemish the entire revolution. Nevertheless, they try to endow their revolutions with a beauty and connectivity like never before because millennials know that “the whole world is watching”.
Samra Ejaz is a student pursuing English Literature from Jamia Millia Islamia.
Edited by: Varda Ahmad
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of The Jamia Review or its members.