One of the most effective means of peaceful protest is an international consumers’ boycott. A boycott is simply when customers refuse to shop at a given location or business, ensuring that their money does not go to support a practice or individual policy they disagree with. Because money drives the world, boycotts can lead to heavy hits being taken by businesses and even governments, who then must change their ways in order to win back a broader customer base. As the world has gotten smaller this has become an option on the international stage as well as the local and national one for many consumers.
How Does It Work?
Say, for example, that a consumer felt strongly about apartheid, whether it was in South Africa or in areas occupied by Israel. A boycott of products that come from the country where the oppression is happening will have the effect of sending a message loud and clear that this sort of political or legal operation will not go unchallenged. The consumer in question might even combine their witholding of purchases with other peaceful protests like writing letters of dissent to the country’s governemtn and to the media both at home and abroad, as well as trying to spread the word about what is going on in hopes that other people will also join the boycott.
An individual consumer will make very little difference to the income of an entire country, no matter how small that country happens to be. However, consumers as a group, especially if those consumers have the backing of companies, carry the full weight of their collective wallets. If a huge percentage of a market decides to speak with a unified voice then even a country will soon find that its unpopular methods of oppressing a people cannot exist in a vacuum. The bigger the boycott of products from a given country becomes, and the more the businesses and industries in that country feel the pressure from the international community, the more likely the government of that country is to bow to what people are demanding.
As with any form of peaceful protest, there is no guarantee that an international boycott will have the desired effect. However, when combined with other forms of protest it can certainly draw attention to the country, and the practice, that is being condemned. That is certainly one form of victory.
Continue reading the 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action.