SAFFIYAH EDOO

I am an optimistic person by nature, despite being a worrywart; I always seek a silver lining. However, it would be foolish to believe that there is one currently, judging by all the scandals that are plaguing the current administration. For all the well-intentioned who join this outdated but contemporary system, believing that any change is more probable within than otherwise, it becomes more and more clear that the system is in fact a maelstrom. Credit however must be given to those who still do not lose faith. Those who stand tall and who believe that despite all the odds, one should not lose hope and should keep on advocating for a progressive change and raising awareness on the ills that are stopping this from happening.

The protest march, organized by Kolektif Konversasyon Solider last Saturday, was just that: a gathering of people who have not lost faith. Some came to protest against legislations that have recently been passed, others because they have borne the brunt of post-COVID fallouts, or simply people who feel that there is something inherently wrong in the way things are being handled on a national level and who wish to see an improvement. As a citizen, it was an occasion to express disagreement and concern; as a parent, it was a golden opportunity to introduce my kids to one of the principal tenets of democracy: freedom of expression.

My teen and pre-teen, who were accompanying me, took in the colours, the slogans, the messages, but most of all, the feel of a non-negligent collective, despite the intellectual dishonesty displayed by the national television. To ensure their safety in case something went wrong, we remained on the periphery, which gave us a vantage point. We marched along, observing; them asking questions, me trying my best to answer them. I guided their attention to what, as well as who to look out for: particularly striking claims, protest leaders, marchers, people blending in, all who were there for a specific purpose.

After the high of the experience, came the hard talk. Standing up for oneself and for others is a common topic in our household be it when discussing fights with siblings, unfairness in the classroom or playground disagreements. Standing up means expressing, however unpopular the feeling or opinion might be, based on the solid ground of one’s rights. More often than not, we are discouraged to express opinions or concerns, we are silenced into submission and meekness by threats of probable consequences of our speaking out. When in fact, we should be emboldened and empowered to defend our position resolutely, in any situation, as long as we remain within our rights to do so.

So we discussed the purpose of doing so, of going against the grain. We discussed how people have been holding protest marches for aeons, claiming their rights, making their identities visible, protesting against invasion or violence, and how sometimes protests got out of hand and people got hurt. We repeatedly came back to a crucial point: that of conviction in one’s beliefs and the strength to defend it. It might not always take the form of protest marches, it might be expressed in the form of speech, in actions, or in the form of writing, but the fundamental idea remains to be steadfast.

We do not wish for our kids to become mirror images of ourselves, they should be free to become who they want to be and follow their own inclinations. As parents, what we can do is maximise their exposure to ideas, opinions, things, movements, movies, to all aspects of life basically so that one day their decisions may be well informed. In a world where freedom is being increasingly curtailed by covert laws and surveillance systems in the name of security, the liberty to speak out fearlessly based on righteous convictions should sound louder.