There are more effective ways to get things done
By Cazzy Lewchuk, Opinions Editor
Every time there’s some kind of injustice—and there are a great many in the world—I see a petition going around online begging to be signed. Sometimes these are over smaller and local issues such as asking the Vancouver School Board to reconsider re-naming a school. Others are of a much larger and near-impossible variety, such as asking the US Electoral College to completely dismantle their system and elect a candidate who won the popular vote instead. (They didn’t.)
The larger the scale the demand of a petition is (and the higher powers it has to go to, as a result) the less likely it is to be effective. The powers that be of government and authority do not listen to signatures. They listen to protests, actual voices, and votes. (Obviously, when there’s not an election going on anymore, voting is irrelevant.) Many petitions don’t actually reach the powers they’re trying to, or are completely disregarded.
Smaller petitions do actually lead to change sometimes, as the authority figure they are being presented may not necessarily be one with ridiculous amounts of power. School kids petitioning a principal have better luck than citizens petitioning a president, because less people are affected and there’s more room for negotiation.
Enacting social change is about speaking loudly and clearly, and an intangible petition simply doesn’t carry that sound. This rings particularly true if the demand is something outlandish or impossible to enact. Social change can and does happen on a large scale, sometimes rapidly, but it involves discussion and room for reasonability. A long list of signatures demanding the government do something they’re not going to do simply doesn’t work. A group of concerned citizens specifically lobbying for specific changes through action often does work. Actions speak louder than words, and a petition isn’t much of an action.
Today I am inspired by the Women’s March on Washington (and similar marches involving millions of people around the world) protesting the misogynistic new president and advocating for women’s rights in general. Unlike petitions, protests are physical, disruptive, and demanding. A thousand bodies are a lot more effective than a thousand signatures. A thousand phone calls to a government representative is probably even more so.