A woman named Juli Briskman showed a finger to Donald Trump as his motorcade passed by her on a road while she was cycling. The woman’s photograph has gone viral and she has become a social media sensation but ironically for her she has lost her job and has been condemned for the disrespectful act. It is at this juncture that we must ask whether the nation-states’ discomfort with dissent will lead us anywhere or if we should see people’s discontent and dissent as catalysts for the building of a strong and vibrant democracy?
Kavya Thomas | The New Leam
We live in a political milieu where theoretically we cherish dissent as the cornerstone of vibrant democracy but in reality we do not have the right attitudes to be able to handle and deal with it when any kind of dissenting voice emerges before the mighty nation state. What then is the degree of our genuineness to the voice of dissent as the heartbeat of any meaningful, functional and most importantly pro-people democracy?
On the one hand we argue that the culture of debate and discussion, the culture of healthy opposition and staunch criticism are all catalysts that enable any existing government to do its job better but on the other hand over the last many decades we have seen that dissent or opposition to the government be it in any form is seldom given the kind of political space that we claim it should deserve.
This then certainly is not a very healthy sign for a democracy as it challenges its very core and does not allow it to have a free and undisturbed access to the anguish, anger and difference that may be prevalent among the masses. What we must also realise at this juncture is that fact that nation-states across the world have superseded the individual even though it is made up of the collaborative support of singular citizens, given that sharp and obvious hierarchy of power between the two- the right to dissent stands as a very important tool in the hands of the citizen to express his distinct thought process or his disagreement with the way that the nation-state approaches important questions.
If we punish people for disagreeing with the ruling establishment then in a very subtle yet powerful manner we are asserting a very autocratic and totalitarian regime that does not allow alternative ideas to simultaneously coexist. We can see ample examples of this phenomenon when filmmakers who make films on issues that reveal government inadequacies have been debarred from releasing or even completing them, when journalists have been harmed or even brutally murdered for speaking against the nation state, when artists or cartoonist who have taken the courage to assert a different opinion have fallen prey to the authoritarian power of the ruling establishment- all these examples make it sufficiently clear to us that dissent although theoretically cherished is often a cause of worry and even manifest unease for mighty nation-states.
In Washington a woman named Juli Briskman recently dared to show a finger to President Donald Trump as his motorcade was passing by her while she was cycling on a road. When asked about this later she argued that she could not resist herself as she felt extremely infuriated at the way that he run the nation-state and behaved and when she saw him pass by she merely expressed that anguish and anger. The gesture was captured by a White House photographer who was travelling in the motorcade and later the photograph became viral on social media. We do not know if the President saw the gesture at that very moment or not but what is evidently clear is that Briskman’s employers certainly did not as they immediately sacked her from her job at Akima LLC which is a builder company working for the US government.
Now, what we must realise from this entire incident is the fact that any kind of expression of dissatisfaction or disagreement with the status-quo is necessarily problematized by the nation state which should have instead tried to explore the reasons for this dissatisfaction and then work upon it. It is also ironic that given the availability of social media platforms and many forums for the expression of public thought we are yet as citizens unable to make a lasting impact on the way that modern nation states with their mighty apparatus tend to treat ordinary citizens. Juli Briksman showed a finger and intended abuse to the President but will her anger ever be heard at the national platform? Will the head of the nation-state who came to power thanks to the many ordinary citizens of his country ever bother to step down and hear their collective concerns and disillusionments? Perhaps voices like those of Briskman will be crushed under the mighty voice of the powerful nation-state perhaps after being viral on social media for two-three days all of would forget the incidence.
But what kind of impact will it have on the health of our democracy? Will the perpetual negligence and subjugation of dissent sustain vibrant pro-people governments or will they take us to the medial and feudal regimes that oppressed, marginalised and compelled people to cooperate without gaining any genuine public support or love. Like the US it is time that all nation-states across the world paid heed to this important question.
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