Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Marching and Train Timetables

Stop the War 19th March 2005

I haven’t been blogging much lately. This is largely down to the fact that my idle thoughts are preoccupied with domestic UK politics; thoughts that are largely unsuitable for inclusion in my blog.

The problem is I’m taking it all far too seriously. And if you can’t stand back and see the absurdity of a situation, I really don’t think you should write about it. Otherwise you stand a very real risk of being a boring t*t.

Ditto for emails by the way.

The problem is that in the run up to the, as yet unannounced, general election there’s politics everywhere. Admittedly there is much to mock; from the national importance now attached to the ingestion of Turkey Twizzlers to the recent epidemic of public figures calling each other Nazis. I have been particularly impressed by the calculated, populist cynicism of the Conservative Party and the hysterical bleating of Labour officials, p*ssed off because the Conservatives are doing such a good job of copying populist and cynical Labour campaign tactics.

The problem is I’m just too grumpy to laugh at it all; maybe tomorrow.

This vegetative state is probably down to me attending the Stop the War march on Saturday. On top of the overwhelming, and entirely typical, lameness of the entire event I keep thinking back to a conversation I had with one of the policemen watching over the march.

I’m far from holding anti-police views. They are the first people we turn to when horrible things happen and, for all their faults, they should be accorded the respect that goes with that. In my experience, London police do a very good job of turning up when called. Having said that, they do a considerably less effective job of stopping nasty things from happening in the first place, but that’s another story.

Anyway, I was chatting with this policeman and mentioned that there really was an incredibly large number of police attending the march, even by the standards of other, similar marches.

Matey’s eyes glazed over and, from a shallow, trance-like state, he recited ‘The thing you have to remember is that we are not here to hamper the demonstrators in any way. We are here to ensure that people have the opportunity to exercise their democratic right to protest’

Which was just about the most insincere thing I’ve heard anybody say for weeks. He must have spent ages memorising that one.

It’s quite awesome how totally given over to bullshit this country has become since 1997. Back in the days of the Thatcher government no policeman would ever have been expected to come out with this kind of nonsense.

Anyway, we moved onto another topic and he became human again.

I couldn't help being niggled by what he had said though. Or rather what he hadn't said. He missed a bit off at the end. The bullshit-adjusted statement should have been...

‘We are here to ensure that people have the opportunity to exercise their democratic right to protest and then fuck off home'

If marches changed anything they'd ban them.

Tony Blair watched a million people march against the war two years ago, finished his Cornflakes, told a few pork pies, then went to war.

And he’s still in power. Largely because of the hypocrisy and stupidity of a large section of the British public, particularly on the Left. Much as they dislike war and death, they dislike the other political parties even more. They are also open to a little bribery. Sure, being party to an illegal war and erosion of civil liberties at home is bad thing but there are other, more important fish to fry. That’s why more, much more, time was spent on pushing an anti fox hunting law through parliament than spent discussing the merits of attacking Iraq. On reflection, this is not entirely dissimilar to Italians and Germans supporting fascist parties in the 1930s because they made the trains run on time.

Come to think of it, at least their trains did run on time.

If those million people who had marched against the War had engaged in an active campaign of civil disobedience and direct action, things might have turned out a little different.

Look at the success of the animal rights movement.

I personally find the concept of animal rights a bit hard to swallow. Animals do pretty nasty things to each other. However, whether you believe animals have intrinsic rights or not, some of the things that are done to them by scientists are pretty heinous and largely unnecessary; from cosmetics to food additives, we’re not talking cancer cures here. Even if you believe that animals are just dumb, soulless sacks of chemicals there are issues that should be considered. Forget the impact experimental cruelty has on the animals, what kind of effect does it have on the people performing the experiments?

Anyway, animal rights protestors realised long ago that marching didn’t change anything and took to direct action instead. They made furs unfashionable. They broke into research labs.

Unlike marches, this government has recently introduced a whole raft of laws to deal with that kind of activity.

It was probably right to do so. The animal rights direct action thing was getting a little out of hand. After all, it’s not right to impose your views on others by acts of aggression. Violence, we are told, is never an answer.

That’s why it is now illegal for parents to smack their children. What kind of example does corporal punishment show to our kids?

And so, neatly, I come back to, erm, the War on Iraq.

Apparently it is sometimes OK to get what you want through violence but only if you’re a politician. They get to use police, soldiers and high explosives. We get to march up and down Trafalgar Square until we get bored, go home and tuck into a plate of turkey twizzlers.

Now someone could respond to me by saying 'The government is democratically elected by the majority of the population and therefore has a mandate to commit violence where necessary'. Well, and I've mentioned this before, the general election will be decided by something like 5% of the vote. Assuming a 60% turn-out that means 3% of the population get to decide whether or not this country is run by a deceitful lunatic fascist for the next five years or not.

To me, that doesn’t seem all that fair.


Northun Munki in Oxford Circus said...

Since when did the governance of this land have anything to do with democracy?

The only democracy we have is if they come across a thorny issue they don't dare to tackle and make a decision on - so they "devolve" the problem an let us have a say "Want to join Europe?"

Jane said...

Off topic.....


Just wanted to say that your photos of London are great, I'm living in the suburbs of Sydney at the moment and am completely homesick so your pics really helped give me a little dose of the city, can't wait to get back there's nowhere else like it

Thanks Mate

Stef said...

NM - You're right of course. the answer to your question is 'probably never'. Having said that, things could be worse. I've just watched a series of interviews with leading American Neocons and that was *really* scary.

Jane - Off topic is good, particularly when delivering fawning praise ;-)

Having spent a couple of days in Sydney Suburbia a year or so ago I sympathise heartily.

I have many issues with London in 2005 but sitting in a back garden, staring at fence slats with a can of beer in my hand doesn't strike me as being Shangri-La either.