Make them Uncomfortable: A Coward’s Guide to Protesting

By Soham Mukherjee

So you want to protest. But, if you’re anything like me, you don’t really want to go out into the streets or court arrest or put yourself in harm’s way. That’s fine. Really, it’s fine. I should say at this point that a lot of people will find this sentiment upsetting, irritating, angering and downright hatred-inducing. I’m not particularly worried about that. Not everyone has the same amount of courage. Again, that’s fine.

The thing is, in today’s world, there is so much wrong that it is impossible to protest everything at the same time. At the same time, it is also important to remember that it is possible to at least speak up or question anything, even the smallest of incidents that are discriminatory, oppressive and downright cruel.

Now, the biggest difficulty with systemic discrimination, be it racism, casteism or sexism, is that it is invisible. You don’t notice it, because it doesn’t affect you. I know people who have been part of establishments where the CVs of “generals” and “SC-STs” were placed in separate piles before recruitment processes. I have seen female colleagues being told to be more mild-mannered. I know of professors in prestigious institutions in the city who are sexist on a daily basis. I, myself, have been guilty of a few things I have said “inadvertently”. Casteism and sexism exist, nay flourish with impunity under our very noses. We don’t see it. We are “general” men of “general” stands. We are quite generally blind. And I’m not even going in to all the “kallu” jokes.

If the above paragraph made you even a little bit uncomfortable, you are complicit in all of these systemic processes of discrimination. If you have already realised the deep-seated issues, you may already want to do something about it. Good, let’s discuss how we can do that, shall we?

We’ve already established that we don’t want to go out on the streets. Again, that’s fine. So what can we do? What is the coward’s way to protest? I say coward, but this will require a certain kind of courage that is difficult for a lot of people to access. You know how when you and your friends are sharing a pint or, in more recent times, “hanging out” on video chat and someone cracks what they say is a “joke”. In fact, even if someone says something inadvertently, “without thinking”: question them.

Ask them what they mean by what they just said. Do they really believe that most complaints of rape are simply out of spite? Do they really believe it is okay to say that one football team raped another? Do they really believe that “Hindu khatre mein hai”? Do they really believe that because that girl or boy is dark-skinned, it is okay to call them “kallu”? Best case scenario, they’ll understand their error and hopefully change their thought process. The more likely scenario is you’ll be accused of killing the fun. If their answers to the above questions are yes, ask them why. Tell them “Because I feel/think/have been told so” is not an acceptable answer.

It’s dinner time. Maybe it’s a special day. A lot of people have sat down to have dinner together. You hear a stray remark of the kind mentioned above. React, immediately. Say something. Ask them to prove their point. Just saying something without giving a viable explanation will not cut it in their high-paying corporate job nor will it with you. Make them uncomfortable. Make the whole dinner an awkward affair. Do this every day with your parents, elders, people you know, random people at the tea stall you light a fag for; everyone you encounter. Make. Them. Uncomfortable.

The whole point of any protest is to make those in power, those guilty of discrimination, uncomfortable. Do it in your innermost circles. In order to be able to do this properly, correctly, you have to read, unlearn and relearn. But more importantly – LISTEN. Listen to those who face discrimination on a daily basis – women, Muslims, Dalits, and yes, even black people. Don’t get feed fatigue. If your social media feed is filled with posts about discrimination. Read them. Read up on them. Learn, know – and think.

These are difficult things to do. But if you do not want to go out on to the streets, you have to do this. Make no mistake, it WILL be difficult. But, if in your heart, deep down, you really want to see a change in the world, you have to do it. You have to pledge to make your previous and current generations uncomfortable and force them to introspect, and your next generation better than the previous ones.

Simply sharing anti-establishmentarian posts on social media will not be enough. By all means, do that too. However, it is important to remember that the problem is not with the government, but with the people that elected it. Wage war in your living rooms, at your dining tables. Question. Question. Question. Question them out of their minds if not out of their prejudices. Be the person your family is afraid of. If not, at least be the person your family is ashamed of. Make. Them. Uncomfortable.

Soham is an amateur writer who loves football more than most things. His first book, a collection of short stories, was published last year. 

We also welcome your articles, stories and poems (in Bengali or English) at letters@timesofcorona.com or timesofcorona@gmail.com

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