Countless profiles on Facebook are sporting a black dot as their profile pic. They are protesting – against the barbaric rape of the 23-year-old in the national capital. They’re mourning – the decadence of the human morality, the government’s helplessness. They have begun yet another chapter in the time-honored, and certainly universal, concept of the “Campaign”.
Campaign – the state of inspired generalized public awakening or the one intended to garner it. There’s a cause, there’s the multitude with a voice, and there’s the need to bring about a change. It’s the formula that won almost more than half the world its independence. It’s tested and foolproof. The late 20th century saw the beginnings of a widespread protest by women across the UK and the USA, frustrated by their social standing, taking to the streets, demanding universal adult franchise-the Suffragette. Then there was the weed driven, flower powered anti-Vietnam War protests in the US in the 60s. Another campaign that gained widespread popularity was the anti-AIDS campaign. The Red Ribbon would become synonymous with AIDS across nations. My hometown Bangalore too had the famous Pink Chaddi Campaign ruling national headlines for a while. Also rather (in) famed was the Slutwalk. Red has come to symbolize breast cancer. Then of course there are the candle light vigils that succeed every disaster, every failure of the judiciary.
Campaigns work. There are 196 independent countries. Women can vote. America withdrew from Vietnam. However, with most other campaigns the symbolization has overtaken the cause. Every year on December 1, millions across nations proudly pin the Red Ribbon onto themselves, in solidarity with the anti-AIDS movement. But how many of these same people will vow against unsafe sexual practices, vow to have their partners tested before going the whole way? But sport the Red Ribbon we will. The Pink Chaddi campaign of 2009 collected 1000s of pink chaddies to be mailed to the offices of the Sriram Sene in protest against a group of women attacked by its goons in a pub in Mangalore. The movement was to become eponymous with the rights of women. And what difference has it made? Three years later girls were beaten up yet again for partying in Mangalore. Women continue to be abused, molested and raped. The Pink Chaddi seems hardly empowering! Millions of women swear to go braless on October 13 to celebrate the Breast Cancer Awareness Month. How many of these millions however, are aware of the danger signs or have themselves mandatorily tested every year?
The question is do we take part in these campaigns because for however little a while, they do make us feel that we are working for the betterment of our brethren. Because just for that little while they make our otherwise mundane lives seem of some consequence. Because it is important we care. Because that is what the society expects off us. The emotions behind these campaigns certainly aren’t wrong. They however do take away attention from the real cause. The campaign takes center stage. Campaigns set up to reform the judiciary cannot lead to the deaths of those employed to protect it.
The 23-year-old lies critical, battling for her life and the Black Dot is going to do nothing to better it. Or put an end to women being violated. They will continue to be raped. And we will continue to be appalled.
The protest is only the means to an end, not the end in itself. It cannot be become bigger than what it purports to solve. Because we all know what we want, but we are either ignorant or in denial of the means of achieving it. A campaign merely takes the horse to the water, but will it drink it or piss on it is the question.