It’s a cry I hear frequently while protesting. It’s directed at those of us who are taking time out of busy schedules to bear witness to the suffering and cruelty of the animal agriculture system and other forms of speciesist control and oppression.
And I wonder: why do these people think we don’t have jobs? Why do they assume we are all dirty hippie layabouts, who do not contribute to society and don’t pay taxes? I mean do they think we mooch off of society, hanging out in our communes wearing Jesus sandals and dashikis, clouds of questionable smoke wafting around our heads?
Time management: heard of it?
Sure, we are obviously not at work at that moment in time; some have days off, some have later shifts. Some of us are retired, having spent our lives working, contributing and paying taxes (and still are) and are now enjoying free time but choosing to do something positive with it. But there we stand, at our corners, with our signs, peacefully bearing witness to beings destined to end up at slaughter mere moments later, and all around us the hue and cry “Get a job!” echoes around us continuously.
I saw comments on a thread on Facebook a few days ago, and someone posted the “get a job” remark, to which I replied, “Why do you assume they don’t have jobs?” And you know what he said? He replied, “Well they obviously they have too much time on they’re hands.” (sic)
So there it is, peeps. If you have spare time after work, and decide to do something constructive with your time, such as exercise your Canadian Charter Rights and Freedoms, then YOU HAVE TOO MUCH TIME ON YOUR HANDS.
Apparently, to be a legitimate contributing member of society, you must work all day and night, with only enough time to get a few hours sleep in between shifts. If you have extra time on your hands, and maybe go shopping, or to the library, or lounge in your backyard, or protest something you feel strongly about, then YOU HAVE TOO MUCH TIME ON YOUR HANDS.
I kid you not. This is a thing.
Then I noticed something: the opposition had protesters too. Morning, afternoon, evenings, whenever we were there, they were too. Did they all quit their jobs to keep up with us? They must not realize they now also have TOO MUCH TIME ON THEIR HANDS, and so it might be helpful if we yelled “Get a job!” at them now. I mean, if we are there, and they are there, WHO’S WORKING?? Who is keeping our economy going, paying the taxes, supporting medicare and social programs? Because now we all HAVE TOO MUCH TIME ON OUR HANDS!
I don’t know if our country can ever recover from this.
Basically, the phrase “Get a job!” directed at activists infers our cause is unimportant and should therefore be abandoned in pursuit of more productive tasks. But who is the arbiter of what’s important and what is not? Who decides which task qualifies as important to society and which impedes it’s advancement?
I understand we have opposition: people who disagree with us. Maybe even hate us. There is a fundamental belief out there that those who shake up the status quo are bad, troublemakers, malcontents, maybe even criminals. It appears it has never entered their heads that protesters are the people who bring about change; who bring issues to the forefront of awareness in society. All the things in this world that we have accepted now as the norm were all once issues which were fought over, with many, many dissenters. Emancipation, desegregation, the vote for women, abortion & bodily autonomy, child sexual abuse, Indigenous rights, corporate glass ceilings: all these issues drew blood in society. People died to bring about these changes, and we’re still fighting for them today in many cases. Who are these people who fight for these improvements?
Us. Activists. And it has ever been so since the dawn of time.
And what’s important to realize is we don’t have to be activists to make ourselves heard. There are many ways to bring about change. Activism can be as simple and as quiet as living a certain lifestyle with conviction: no fanfare needed. Lead by example.
But there are some of us who like to make a little noise, shake things up, challenge the “man”, plants seeds and just generally kick society in ass and get some discomfort going to fertilize those seeds of thought. That doesn’t make us bad; it doesn’t make us toxic; it doesn’t make us unemployed layabouts, either. It does however, scare people.
Humans historically feared the unknown.; We burned witches, despite the fact they healed the sick; we oppressed different cultures, even while appropriating goods and actions within their communities – because it was unexplainable. As cave dwellers, we didn’t travel far from our homes – to do so was to challenge our survival. Predators, extreme weather, starvation, murderous rogues from other tribes: these were our enemies and being away from the cave put us in jeopardy. Routine was familiar, safe. Introduction of some new element or being meant things were different, unknown, and it created rampant and widespread fear, because our and our tribe’s safety was dependent on knowing the who, what, when, where, and why’s of our environment. Changes are rarely welcomed with open arms, and even today, that is still typical . Despite all our advancements and technology, we are still animals and we still have a need for security for our survival.
So activists with radical ideas and loud voices threaten not only everything we hold dear, but our very existence! Obviously, most people will oppose the new ideas and are fearful of the strident message: it challenges the margin of safety we have put around ourselves. It introduces elements of the unknown and we sure as heck can’t have that!
One of the arguments against protests I hear from people is that we “disturbed their peaceful, lovely day.” Well, duh. That was our intent! They weren’t going to hear our message magically with feathers and sparkles blown in by a gentle breeze a la Disney stylez. People don’t sit up and take notice of quiet, pretty messages floating by on clouds of inconspicuousness. You send someone a message like that, where does it end up? Still floating – forever and ever. And ever.
No, the way to catch attention, make people sit up and think, is to be loud and maybe even obnoxious. Activists want to disturb you; they want to interrupt lovely days; they want you to hear their message. It might be the only way you will actually HEAR it. Once you hear it, it stays with you, and you think about it. And you may disagree, in fact, as history as shown, you probably will disagree – emphatically. But eventually, as you continue to hear the message over time, in different ways, some subtle, some not so much, your opinion might change. And that seed of thought, that bud of transformation is how we as society grow and progress from cave dwellers to a civilized society.
We in Canada have an unalienable right to civil disobedience. It’s in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We are allowed to gather in public, peacefully – but not necessarily quietly. We are allowed to express our views publicly by any way we choose – yelling, talking, leafleting, creating dramatizations, marches, public spectacles, signage, speeches. We are allowed to disturb your peaceful day. We are allowed to disrupt traffic, to agitate. We are allowed to ROCK YOUR WORLD.
That is our job.
As Ghandi said, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”