The picture above is that of a protest that occurred in Philippines. The protesters were 'planking' using a new, somewhat crazy, phenomena that has swept the world thanks to the Internet and YouTube.
"Planking" (or the "Lying Down Game") is an activity consisting of lying face down in an unusual or incongruous location - Wikipedia.
They were doing it for what you can call a good cause. The Aquino govt had decided to cut education spending and that made university professors and students unhappy[Link]. Perhaps the protesters were thinking it would be better if they produce more graduates because there are always jobs in a neighboring country which does not believe in encouraging more of its own people to pursue a university education and rather import graduates from other countries to fill jobs. For the purpose of this article it is not relevant whether the Aquino govt is right or the protesters are right because much of it is a judgement call that has to be made because state does not have infinite resources and either side can be correct depending on how the local economy evolves and how wide one of the neighboring countries will open its doors to graduates from Philippines.
My main point is Philippines used to be ruled by a strongman that disallowed protests, controlled the media and ran undemocratic elections. In facts, 20 years ago, Singapore was far more democratic than the Philippines. Singapore was also far more democratic than S. Korea and Taiwan. Today, these countries are fully democratised. Our immediate neighbor Malaysia is moving along the same direction to abolish ISA and allow public assembly so that peaceful protests can be conducted. Where is Singapore today relative to these countries? Is the Philippines or S. Korea worse off after they moved from authoritarian govt to become democracies?
Peaceful protests allow like minded people to get behind a social cause to get together and express their views more strongly. It levels the playing field for the masses as the monied class and corporations influence decisions in govt. One thousand people separately writing to the Straits Times expressing their unhappiness are not be equal to the 4 property tycoons expressing worries about how they will make a few million less next year due to the slowing economy.
"The more successful you are, the wider your sphere of influence"
- LKY to NTU PhD student, Joan Sim
In LKY's Singapore it is not the more morally correct you are influential you will be. He likes to keep his hierarchical authoritarian system in place. If ordinary Singaporeans cannot assembly and express their views, it is much easier to manage away their concerns and ask them to be more resilient and live with it. A few weeks ago, 500,000 Israelis peacefully marching together to express their unhappiness over the cost of living and the rising inequality in society moved their govt to act with greater urgency. The right for people to assemble to support each other for a worthy cause brings about a more cohesive society, motivate govts to put the interests of ordinary above everything else and accelerate the positive changes to society.