“You can resist an invading army; you cannot resist an idea whose time has come” (Hugo). This quote illustrates the significant power that an idea can carry. The method used to carry out ideas is where questioning violence as a means to perpetuate social change comes into play. Is pacifism the best way to promote social change or does direct action via violence work better to enact social change? History has victors on both sides of the spectrum; therefore violence does work to promote social change but using violence may come with unintended consequences (Public Square).
Violent action draws attention; this is the case for both small-scale and large-scale acts. Rioters and looters are able to draw attention to their issue to those at the top of the social pyramid quicker than those who organize a sit-in or boycott. Consequently violent actions against the system such as looting and rioting bring retaliation from the authoritative figures in place. The authoritative regime responds by bringing in trained agents of the state to neutralize the violence. This brings attention to the issue which the rioters are rioting about but does little more than get the ball rolling for promoting social change. For the social change to actually occur, action beyond taking to the streets in angst has to happen.
One of the greatest examples of violent action which promoted social change in American history is the Boston Tea Party. This violent destruction of property did not immediately cause the beliefs which the colonist held to occur but it did generate enough attention for social change to eventually occur. The results of this violent act of rebellion were enough to spark the American Revolutionary War which eventually led to America becoming its own independent nation. However the nation’s independence came at quite an unintended cost, paid for by blood and hardship by those who held their beliefs near to their hearts. This violent action lead to arguable one of the biggest social changes the world has ever seen; therefore violent action is undeniably able to promote social change but it does not guarantee social change (Bostonteapartyship).
What needs weighed before performing violent actions to promote social change is if the outcome in terms of social change is worth the unforeseen consequence that may occur. If peaceful action is able to generate the same results in terms of social change, it is oftentimes the best option since it will not carry the unintended outcomes associated with violent action such as loss of life. However other situations require that violent action occur so that issue gains attention. The greatest promoter of social change is the worthiness of an idea; if the idea is ripe and ready for picking the social change will occur. Violent action is merely one tool in the toolbox of those promoting social change and those wielding the tool should do it wisely and only when necessary.