Non-conservative, non-angry, mindful protest

Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.

– Buddha

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Just in case you hadn’t noticed(!)…… there’s been an election here in the UK. The Conservatives have a majority for the first time in 20 years and it seems they will be pushing forward austerity measures with no holds barred now.

64% of voters did not vote for them. Many don’t call that democracy and there have already been under-reported spontaneous demonstrations and eruptions of anger at what some consider an unfair situation.

Personally I think anger will make no positive difference and could allow Conservative plans to restrict the right of peaceful protest here in the UK to take root – It is possible to protest without anger, but you have to first learn how to be mindful. At the bottom of this post, I’ve included some links to great information about how to be mindful and less angry.

I photographed an anti cuts demonstration in Birmingham in 2010 a few months after the Tory / Lib Dem coalition was formed. It was during the Conservative party conference. There was a lot of anger then, but I suspect it was nothing compared to what some people are feeling right now.

During that march, protestors jeered Conservative party members who watched on from behind police lines:

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I’m wondering whether angry demonstrations will be a permanent UK sideshow for the next 5 years.

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By pure coincidence, I was in the Gambia when Gambian youth spontaneously took to the streets in angry demonstrations in April 2000.

The government had done little to address their concerns about the alleged torture of a student, who later died, by the Gambian Fire Brigade in March 2000 and of the alleged rape of a 13-year-old by an armed official.

It was a total fluke that my trip coincided with the one month anniversary of these events.

This was the scene the next morning. The police station, post office and prison had been burnt to the ground –

While I was holed up for the night in a campsite with African UN delegates who shrugged their shoulders at my frightened questioning, we could hear the Gambian army shooting rioters just outside the iron gates.

That anger achieved 12 student deaths, 1 Red Cross worker’s death and the death of a 3-year-old by a stray bullet.

I was, perhaps naively, surprised when I got home to see that what seemed a huge and terrible event to me received just a small mention on a BBC News web page. 

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Hopefully those of us who feel disenfranchised right now, can find a mindfully aware way to engage with the new status quo that won’t succumb to anger. It really doesn’t achieve anything positive.

Here are the links that I promised earlier. I have personal experience of how these teachers and resources can really help develop a strong mindfulness practice –

Thich Nhat Hanh: Anger – Wisdom for cooling the flames

Breathworks: Mindfulness courses for those in pain or ill

Free buddhist audio: How to meditate

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Buddha

Overcome the angry by non-anger;

overcome the wicked by goodness;

overcome the miser by generosity;

overcome the liar by truth.

– Buddha

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For anybody who’s interested –

The pictures of the demonstration were shot on a Samsung EX1 compact (I just happened to be there and it was my carry around camera of the time).

The photos in the Gambia were shot on my trusty old Canon T50 35mm camera before I’d ever used a digital camera!

words and pictures © all rights reserved Miles Pilling

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