Blog post

‘You are not powerless’: Dan Hind, author of Return of the Public writing for Al Jazeera

Decca Muldowney18 January 2012

'What's the point of political action?' Dan Hind asks in his latest opinion piece for Al Jazeera. He begins by outlining the general and widespread cynicism that has characterised our attitude to the public protest in recent years,

In Britain, vast public demonstrations in 2003 failed to prevent our government from joining the United States in a war of aggression in Iraq. If they can get away with that, why bother?

Politics has, for some time, been the reserve of politicians and broadcasters, who have been free to decide what is and isn't political for all of us. It seemed that we, the public, had given up the fight. However, in the light of recent events, Hind argues that what may have seemed like 'common sense' a decade ago now appears absurd; 'There is too much evidence that direct action, if sustained and sufficiently troubling to the established order, works.' Using the actions of protest group UK Uncut against tax avoidance as an example, Hind points out that,

A relatively small number of people who aren't supposed to act politically have begun to act in ways that effectively disrupt the orderly circulation of idea, goods, and alibis for inaction. In assembling and discussing matters of common concern they have exceeded the formal limits of polite protest. Their methods are demonstrably effective. 

We, the public, have been waking up to the power we have to create change in the world around us. Although politicians and broadcasters may 'continue to insist that they, and only they, are entitled to determine the scope and content of the political,' Hind predicts that 2012 will be an important year for an emboldened public,

This year we look set to find out what we can do once more than a handful of us start acting like free citizens in a democracy. When we spend as much time talking with one another as we spend listening to talking heads on the television, we will discover the full extent of our shared power to describe and change the world.

The full article is available at Al Jazeera.

Dan Hind's The Return of the Public will be published by Verso in paperback this May.