What is the heart of your action?

Over many years, quite a lot of riots and demonstrations, such as student movements, occupy movements, and racism protests, have occurred all over the world. These varieties of activities have been interpreted its meaning and effect through unruly lens for a long time. In this blog, I focus on the meaning and motivation of actions as I believe that the meaning of activities is reflected by motivation.


Motivation generally means internal and external factors people face to create actions. In terms unruly politics, Van Zomeren and Spears (2009) point out that collective action such as riots and demonstrations has occurred worldwide in order to change the relationships between individuals, groups and external reality. For example, a wide range of protests and demonstrations known as the 2011 Egyptian revolution emerged in Tahrir square in order to oppose authoritarian regime by former president Hosni Mubarak (Jones, 2012). In particular, the introduced and reinforced discriminatory idea that the young Egyptian was a burden on society increased frustrations of citizens who are excluded economically and politically (El-Sharnouby, 2015). In other words, the people’s motivation to participate in the Egyptian revolution in 2011 was ‘fury’ over the autocratic and discriminatory government. Indeed, 28th of January on which some protests began is called ‘the Friday of Anger’. Although the Egyptian toppled Mubarak’s autocratic regime that governed Egypt for 30 years, the revolution resulted in creating a number of arrestees and causalities.


‘Anger’ is, so to speak, ‘minus’ emotions. While anger would be driving force to inspire people, at the same time, it triggers further anger and amplifies negative energy. Those who are provoked by anger are likely to become a mob. Once people run riot, others try to violently oppose them the force in order to die it down. Participants in a riot do not necessarily resort to violence to accomplish their goals. However, they tend to justify violence as a way to tackle with problem while being caught up in the negative emotions. In that riots and demonstrations cause social confusion would be a contributory factor that these actions are sometimes criticised.


How can we overcome it? Well… I think an answer is to shift motivation for actions from ‘minus’ emotions to ‘plus’ emotions. For example, in a case of an antiwar movement, negative feelings, such as anger, anxiety and fear, swirl within the message against war. Anger will stimulate further anger, anxiety further anxiety, and fear further fear. What matters is to proclaim ‘promotion for peace’ to the public instead of the ‘antiwar’. Apparently, these seem to be similar statement, but emotions surrounding the words are completely opposite. The context of praying for peace includes positive motivation like happiness, calmness and smile. Hidden messages which are associated with ‘peace’ would make people calm and catalyse positive behaviour to a prosperous future.


Of course, just changing the name of actions does not necessarily contribute to a peaceful result. If we take a wrong way to achieve our aim, a tragedy that no one presumed would happen as a result. However, words often have a great effect on actions. I believe that messages derived from ‘plus’ feelings rather than ‘minus’ feelings might provide us with a favourable and meaningful influence.


‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.’

Martin Luther King, Jr.




El-Sharnouby, D. (2015). From State Exclusionary Politics to Youth Inclusionary Practices: The Tahrir Square Experience. International Journal of Sociology, 45(3), pp.176-189.

Jones, P. (2012). The Arab Spring. International Journal, 67(2), pp.447-463

Van Zomeren, M., and Spears, R. (2009). Metaphors of protest: A classification of motivations for collective action. Journal of Social Issues, 65(4), 661-679.


Do what you feel in your heart to be right

The ideology of unruly politics was totally apart from my daily life. It was difficult to deeply understand ‘unruly politics’ which is an elusive and abstract term even if it was literally translated into Japanese. Indeed, I heard a wide range of interpretation towards unruly politics in the lectures and literatures, often confused about it. A simple message of unruly politics I learned during the course was that ‘we have a right to express our voice’. In this respect, I have felt that Japanese people really need the idea of unruly politics.


I spent a good part of my life in Japan which is a relatively peaceful country and was brought up to follow rules and not to bother anyone. Keeping rules was a first priority for most the Japanese. So, in Japan, demonstrations and protests conducted by activists are often blamed as a dysfunctional behaviour because it can harm people directly and indirectly in that it blocks traffic and make a racket. Given that circumstances, demonstrations, protests and even strike are hardly performed in Japan and I have never seen such actions in Japan. Recently, a demonstration against a national security bill was conducted. Not a few Japanese, however, opposed that demonstration because we thoroughly pay attention to ‘harmony’ rather than dissatisfaction!


I now realised that there are a variety of unruly activities large and small during my stay in the UK. I myself participated in protests against racism in Brighton and London for the first time. People were putting up a placard, singing a song, and addressing their complaints while marching through the town. What was surprising for me was that people around us tolerantly accepted the protest. Some people even served free foods for participants of the protest. People have understood that this is a way to tackle with formal politics and that we can generate a space to express our own voice. Declaring our voice has taken root as a sort of culture in our daily life and has been broadly admitted for people.


Although I am skeptical about the effect and influence of unruly politics, I believe that the Japanese should adapt the concept of unruliness. Japanese people who tend not to say dissatisfaction might not be aware of a right to show their grievances. Furthermore, they do unfavourably receive such behaviour as an annoying event and even force to act in concert with them unlike people in the UK and other countries. I think that would be related to that Japan is a racially homogeneous nation. Unlike multiracial nations, we have not comprehended how to treat those who have different perception. The public tendency of extreme ‘harmonisation’ has been still prevailing in Japan though we have been gradually globalised, than ever, by the increase of tourists from overseas and the influence of Tokyo Olympic in 2020. Raising people’s voice is deemed as an anti-harmonised action, so to speak, ‘selfish behaviour’ against Japanese culture. To sum up, a challenge the Japanese remain is not so much taking an action as a people’s hostile attitude towards outsiders. Under that situation, it would be difficult to create diversified and inclusive society to which globalisation is heading. So, I would say the Japanese still has a room to improve capacities to accept difference in opinion, culture and value. We do not necessarily have to pursue biased ‘harmony’.


‘Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway.’

Eleanor Roosevelt


I hope the Japanese learn ‘unruliness’ as a first step to be generous and recognise ‘being different is excellent!’ in the near future.


Do not be afraid of being different from others.

Be brave to ignore people’s sympathy and antipathy.

Be an unrulist!

The Rio Olympics Protest

Ethiopian marathon medalist Feysa Lilesa crossed his arms, when reaching the finish line at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. His gesture expressed the collective grievances and institutional discrimination Lilesa’s people suffer in the Oromia region. His x-mark is generally used as a symbol to protest against the government in Ethiopia. Lilesa said he might be killed if he returned to Ethiopia although the country’s official said the runner would be welcomed home from Rio as a hero (BBC, 2017). It was widely reported worldwide and caught a great deal of attention.


It would be difficult to ensure his safety. The Oromo people who participated in protest against the government’s plan of the expansion of the capital’s municipal boundary have been killed in Ethiopia. His performance was literally at the risk of his life. According to Human Rights Watch (2016), over 400 people are estimated to have been killed, thousands injured, tens of thousands arrested, and more than hundreds have been victims of enforced disappearances. Security forces suppressed participants in a violent way, arresting students and influential members of the Oromo community, such as musicians, teachers and others thought to have the ability to mobilise people for further protests. Human Rights Watch also reports that Police and soldiers firing indiscriminately into unarmed crowds. To tackle with this tragedy, Lilesa decided to express the x-sign on behalf of the marginalised Oromo people.


However, using Olympic venues as demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is prohibited by the 50 article of the Olympic Charter. If a player breaks the rule, there is a possibility of ‘disqualification of the person of delegation concerned, or withdrawal of accreditation of the person or delegation concerned’.

’50 Advertising, demonstrations, propaganda

  1. No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.’ (IOC, 2015, p.93)


His gesture had conflicted with the rule, but has not been stripped of his medal yet.

Historically, a protest, which is called the “Black Power Salute”, was performed by medalists at the 1968 Summer Olympic in Mexico City. Two American medalists raised a black-gloved fist on the podium, and Australian silver medalist wore human rights badges on his jacket to represent a lot of sympathy for the protest against racism. Given that performance, International Olympic Committee (IOC) deemed it as a deliberate and violent breach of the Olympic spirit, and imposed severe punishments on them, such as the deprivation of the medal, the exclusion from American team, and the exile from the Olympic Village. After returning to the US, two American medalists experienced heavy racism wave there. Even Australian medalist was accused of unpleasant conduct in his country. However, IOC now shows understanding in the legitimacy of the Black Power Salute to a certain extent although it took a great many years to restore their honor.


As mentioned, even though IOC bans political demonstrations based on the Olympic spirit, these protest indeed attract people’s attention and are used as a way to deal with challenges in a long-term. Protest is often contrary to rules and regulations. I normally believe that protest should be performed under rules and disciplines as people who are not protesters tend to put emphasis on a violation of a law rather than on an argument that protesters really pursue. On the other hand, there would be a problem whether rules and regulations are legitimate or not. I cannot evaluate the legitimacy of the Olympic Charter 50 itself, I, however, consider his protest should be accepted as freedom of expression in his case. Considering that Lilesa still maintains the medal, the rule that players must not do political demonstrations might have a room to improve under some conditions.


Now, Lilesa has not returned to Ethiopia and the conflict between security forces and Oromo people has been lasting. His endeavour at risk to his life and at the sacrifice of his career is calling for dignity, stability peace and development for all the people, and the citizens of the world to stand with the people living in the Oromia region. The place of the Olympics was a chance he obtained by himself to confront the existing hardship. This was a result that he seriously worked on training and pursued running for Ethiopia. Lilesa said “I have no regrets about doing what I did in Rio. I would rather regret not doing anything” (BBC, 2017).


Hope his action retrieve the Oromo people out of the tragedy.



Human Rights Watch. (2016). “Such a Brutal Crackdown” Killings and Arrests in Response to Ethiopia’s Oromo Protests. Available from: https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/report_pdf/ethiopia0616web.pdf (Accessed 10 May, 2017)


IOC. (2015). Olympic charter: in force as from 2 August 2015. https://stillmed.olympic.org/Documents/olympic_charter_en.pdf#search=%27olympic+charter%27 (Accessed 11 May, 2017)


BBC. (2017). Feyisa Lilesa: Ethiopia’s Olympic protester hopes to compete for his country. Available from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/athletics/38507078 (Accessed 10 May, 2017)