Essays & Opinion Writing tips: from writers for writers

10 inspiring quotes from writers and artists on protest and activism

As democracies around the world face unprecedented challenges, amid ongoing climate breakdown, we bring you inspiring quotes from famous writers and thinkers to inspire change.

As Alexander Boris De Pfeffel Johnson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, moves to suspend “the mother of Parliaments” to help force through his unelected government’s unscrutinised manifesto, many people across the UK are seeking ways to voice their outrage and help protect the country’s democracy. Protests have been organised; petitions set up. Yet while aggravated Twitter users hash out hashtags, there is a sense among some that all efforts of the people are futile in the face of a government seemingly hell-bent on forcing through a no-deal Brexit.

To offer some food for thought for those in the UK and around the world currently despairing at the wider political malaise (and catastrophic climate breakdown), we have put together a short list of inspiring quotes from famous writers and thinkers on what we can and must do during times as fraught as these.

Check them out below. Solidarity forever, comrades.

William Faulkner

“Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world…would do this, it would change the earth.”

Maya Angelou

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

Henry David Thoreau

“Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.”

Margaret Atwood

“Water does not resist. Water flows. When you plunge your hand into it, all you feel is a caress. Water is not a solid wall, it will not stop you. But water always goes where it wants to go, and nothing in the end can stand against it. Water is patient. Dripping water wears away a stone. Remember that, my child. Remember you are half water. If you can’t go through an obstacle, go around it. Water does.”

The Penelopiad

Alan Moore

“It does not do to rely too much on silent majorities, Evey, for silence is a fragile thing, one loud noise, and its gone. But the people are so cowed and disorganised. A few might take the opportunity to protest, but it’ll just be a voice crying in the wilderness. Noise is relative to the silence preceding it. The more absolute the hush, the more shocking the thunderclap. Our masters have not heard the people’s voice for generations, Evey and it is much, much louder than they care to remember.”

(V for Vendetta)

Susan Sontag

“The likelihood that your acts of resistance cannot stop the injustice does not exempt you from acting in what you sincerely and reflectively hold to be the best interests of your community.”

Kurt Vonnegut

“I don’t know what’s going on, and I’m probably not smart enough to understand if somebody was to explain it to me. All I know is we’re being tested somehow, by somebody or some thing a whole lot smarter than us, and all I can do is be friendly and keep calm and try and have a nice time till it’s over.”

Elif Shafak

“Ironically, [living in] communities of the like-minded is one of the greatest dangers of today s globalized world. And it s happening everywhere, among liberals and conservatives, agnostics and believers, the rich and the poor, East and West alike. We tend to form clusters based on similarity, and then we produce stereotypes about other clusters of people. In my opinion, one way of transcending these cultural ghettos is through the art of storytelling”

Charles Fuller

“To spend one’s life being angry, and in the process doing nothing to change it, is to me ridiculous. I could be mad all day long, but if I’m not doing a damn thing, what difference does it make?”

Emma Goldman

“The strongest bulwark of authority is uniformity; the least divergence from it is the greatest crime.”

Neil Gaiman

“Being brave doesn’t mean you aren’t scared. Being brave means you are scared, really scared, badly scared, and you do the right thing anyway.”

Have we missed something?

People have been speaking and writing about protest – and using language, writing and poetry to encourage people to protest – for centuries. Perhaps since 1819, when Percy Bysshe Shelley was moved to pen poetic verse in protest at the Peterloo massacre. The Masque of Anarchy advocates radical social action and non-violent resistance: “Shake your chains to earth like dew / Which in sleep had fallen on you- / Ye are many — they are few”.

So, there’s a lot of groundwork that has been laid here and undoubtedly many quotes from countless great writers that we might have missed in our short post.

Please do tell us, then, if there are any quotes you can think of which we should list here. Drop your recommendations in the comments below, or come find us on the barricades!

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