I Support The Cause, but I’m Sitting Out This Sit-In

Published by Rick on Tagged Uncategorized

                  I

was working in Basildon, Essex this past weekend, the site of an incident earlier this month involving the eviction of the “residents” of Dale Farm, mostly gypsies and other outcasts. The Basildon Council had obtained the legal papers to enforce the eviction, and though they may have had a legitimate complaint, there was no way the eviction wasn’t going to turn ugly. On stage Saturday, I made a back-handed comment about the former Dale Farm occupants now camping out in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. It got a bigger laugh than it probably should have, for the impending eviction of London’s answer to the US’s “Occupy” movement promises to be as intense as the London riots from last summer, and that’s not much to laugh about.  

                  Once again, I turned to the Daily Mail for my “inspiration,” and predictably found things that pleased me and some that did not. I liked the story of the cathedral’s chancellor, Canon Giles Fraser, resigning his post rather than face the possibility of “violence in the name of the church.” What got me in a dither was the “undercover” story of a reporter who spent 48 hours infiltrating the “tent city” set up in front of the cathedral. The article, written by Tom Rawstorne, gave the impression that if he’d found the least thing virtuous about this lot, none of that was going to make the printed page. This was meant to be a hatchet job, and Rawstorne went all-out to portray the crowd as pot-smoking lager louts who were just there to party, a group of professional protesters. Well, there probably are quite a few that fit the description, but it seemed the article was written to condemn the entire movement as some kind of fad.

                   This has going on for over 40 years, and when I went on marches and sit-ins in protest of the Vietnam War (and 20 years ago when I marched against the first Gulf War), I’d frequently hear, “Oh you’re just doing this for kicks!” Well, I never got kicked (or punched, clubbed, or jailed), but I think I was a bit lucky, because I certainly heard plenty of hateful words from people who didn’t even KNOW me. The anti-war movement then, just as the OWS movement now, caught on with the mainstream media, and the eventual result was the end of the war, but only after Richard Nixon had been re-elected president.

                     I agree pretty much with the reasons for the current protests, though I must admit I’ve been amused by the people who might well be there just for the party. The one protest sign that just said “My arms are tired” is quite funny, even though it’s supposed to be a serious climate. Humor should not be completely lost in this environment. I remember one protest on a college campus in 1970 where the university president, whose first name was John, was going to address a very pissed-off group of students. As he approached the makeshift podium, one student grabbed the mic, and announced “He-e-e-e-re’s Johnny!” There was tumultuous laughter, and tensions were eased enough that the threatened violence failed to happen.  

                   My advancing age has not tempered my passion for political issues, but it means that I can only participate in spirit, especially in London, where I just don’t think I’d be comfortable camping out in autumn, when the night temperatures get below 10 Celsius. I’m also not sure what the result of this series of protests is going to be, but I’d be happy to see one heartless, rich corporate head getting dismissed from his defunct organization with a condemnation or a massive fine rather than a million-dollar severance package. That would be a start.  

 



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