Changing the symbolism of a culture by using new signs and names to define it has great impact. There are a variety of types of non-violent protest, but all of them have this at the root of how they motivate changes. Symbolism has long been understood to be the art of using identity to create empathy through propaganda, nationalism, journalism, patriotism, or the reversal of these. Overall the possibilities for using these methods are almost endless. The most effective symbolic and non-violent protests must redefine the national behavior, so that social changes will take effect.
Symbolic protests take already existing symbols, signs, names, and reorienting them, thus changing the meaning it has when used. This has three major types of impact.
The first type of impact is on the actual government or nation that uses the symbol. It causes the symbolism to be made inert or even useless as a tool for their version of identity. If the meaning changes of a national symbol, then how it impacts the people of that nation will also be changed. This can happen very quickly, if the symbol is one that the greater majority of people understand within context of their identity.
The second type of impact is within the culture of the nation that uses the symbol. Cultural symbolism is often a tool of communication between generations and is often very powerful within the communities that want change. The arts and philosophical elements of the culture are tied greatly to any national symbolism. Since these elements of a nation are likely to already understand the current climate or unrest within the nation. Often this is the area that makes the symbolism have immediate impact on the people and their thinking.
The third type of impact is upon the political or historical view of the nation using the symbol. If the nation is under an oppressive government or rulers, using symbolism in reversed context can create dissension at every level of the national landscape. National symbols can lose all power to inspire loyalty from the nation and the people living in it. This may also be carried out and seen by other countries throughout the world. This is how symbolic protests often gain global support in the media today. This third type of impact is very likely to cause the national symbolism to be rendered powerless for use by any particular political regimes.
Continue reading the 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action.