1. The bad poetry: It has become a precondition of revolution to carry banners that read like they were written by six-year-olds. Even the most famous, “Hey, hey LBJ/how many kids did you kill today” is about as sophisticated in its rhyming as a Nawaz Sharif slogan.
2. Crowd estimates. It is in the interests of protesters to inflate their numbers, it is in the interests of the police to downplay the crowd’s size and it is in the interest of the media to be balanced. But it really isn’t very enlightening to be told that a protest had between 20,000 to 250,000 marchers.
3. Self-righteousness. I would have joined everyone out on the streets but if there’s one thing I care about more than the rights of KESC workers its cricket. Leave me alone.
4. The lack of specificity. There are many injustices in the world. War. Poverty. Hamburgers without onions. What exactly are you raging against? I’m not going to care if even you forgot what riled you up so much.
5. Spelling mistakes. There is a demonstration against Western immorality every day. You aren’t helping your cause by misspelling “condemn” as “condom”.
6. The misleading advertising. Thanks to the 1960s and hippies, every protest carries the temptation of illicit drugs. The lack of LSD is sorely disappointing.
7. The sameness. No street protest is complete without the US and Israeli flags being burned. I’ll join in when you find me another flag that’s equally flammable.
8. Lack of nuance. Sure, I hate nuclear weapons and would like Pakistan to have fewer of them. But I also believe their presence has prevented the outbreak of war. But “No nukes, except for about a dozen” doesn’t lend itself to a show of street protest.
9. Jealousy. Most protests are a dismal failure. But when one leads to revolution, like it did in Egypt, it makes you feel like a loser for mocking activists while watching them on TV with Cheetos crumbs on your T-shirt.
10. No one protests for the right reason. If you want to risk jail time for the judiciary that’s your right and your waste of time. I’ll save my protest for when someone like Misbah-ul-Haq denies Shahid Afridi the captaincy of the cricket team.
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, February 20th, 2011.
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