There was a protest today at Symonds St, the trunk road that runs through the University of Auckland. A group of students staged a sit-in on the road, prompting the police to close the road and forcing the student-protesters to stand up by literally pulling them up.

Of course, such a commotion would attract a fairly-sized crowd, mainly consisting of students. I had just handed in my assignment at the Engineering School, and curious of the noise and large presence of police personnels, went to see what the fuss was about.

It was another demonstration protesting against the austerity measure announced in the New Zealand government budget recently, which according to the banner being held there would rid students of “free education [that] is our means of lifting ourselves from poverty“. As I stood there watching the police pulling away another student from the tightly-held group sitting on the road, the crowd roared a “boo” towards the police officers.

And the person standing beside me watching the altercation suddenly join in the cheer. At that time, it occurred to me that how many of the people here actually understand the root issue and motivation for the rally that they are joining?

I do not have in-depth understanding of the budget cut for tertiary education here, and because of that I would not judge the sensibility of such a rally. However, the issue I’m writing about applies to any rally and demonstrations held anywhere in the world, for whatever reasons.

It is the issue of youth eagerness to join in demonstrations and rally, without actually understanding the motivations behind such rally.

I know many friends who fight vocally for a cause, and often they are more than eager to join in street demonstrations, even if that street demonstration has nothing to do with them or anything that will affect their lives. The knowledge delivered to them via the placards and banners held by protesters is often all the knowledge they have on the issue, and strangely somehow that is enough to convince them to join in the rally. It should be plain to all rational minds to see that such banners and placards are absolutely biased in favour of the protesters.

This behaviour is not limited to just the youths of the society. Many such riots that occurred in history begun with a relatively small group of protesters that incite the crowd, which seem to be more than happy to join in.

It doesn’t make sense to join a rally if you do not believe in the cause being rallied for. I can’t even begin to describe the absurdity of joining a rally if you don’t even know the facts and arguments surrounding the issue that prompted the rally. Doing so would just mean surrendering your responsibility to think and make decisions to the protesters and the rally organisers.

And if you do that, I’m afraid you’ll just be like cattles, herded and milked until you’re no longer useful, and then slaughtered for meat as easily as you had surrendered your responsibility to think for yourself. These words may be harsh, but it is what it is, and often the end result of such a behaviour is disastrous both to yourself and to the society.

In our eagerness to effect change, do not sacrifice our rationality. Change is often a double-edged sword, and people and the world is often not what they seem. Always be wary of leaders who promise a better life for you – free education, increased wages, decreased unemployment, etc. – all for one sweet easy condition: hand them the power to deliver those promises. What is to prevent them from turning on their words once you’ve placed them on that seat of power?