Monday, May 26, 2014

Protests are passe?

Public protests and marches have passed their use-by date according to Annabel Crabb, particularly if you’re a uni student.

Not surprisingly the student protests she's discussing condescendingly, aren't living up to the standard of well resourced, professional campaigns, run by expensive marketing companies, for political parties or multinational businesses.

And while she's - 
... not arguing there is nothing to protest against in the budget, nor that university students should not take every opportunity to explain what the full deregulation of tertiary fees in Australia will mean for parents and children. 

 - when they do just that - take an opportunity to publicly protest the impact of deregulation and the hypocritical double standards of a government, many of whom benefitted from a free education, they're criticised from pretty much every sector of the main stream media (msm). 

Ms Crabb goes on to ask:
How, then, can it possibly be that student protests have not changed even one little bit over that time? And how can it be, as even our phones gets smarter, that protesters are somehow getting dumber?

Protesters are not getting dumber, but unfortunately, informative reporting is, particularly in some dominant and less balanced areas of the msm.

Students and others are called slacktivists if they sign petitions, uninvolved if they protest with hashtags, and lazy when they don’t take to the streets. Creative YouTube clips are made, artists and cartoonists express their frustration and anger ... and are either ignored or vilified. How much easier it would be for the government if the uni protests hadn't received any media attention, and students obediently opened their anorexic wallets, handed over credit cards, and said “take the lot, it’s yours.”

Thankfully our students and many other Australians are more intelligent than that. They understand that a well educated population makes for a wealthy country, way beyond monetary value. They also understand that withholding education or making it unattractive in a variety of ways, is a means of control and manipulation. Understandably the proposed measures don’t sit well with those raised to believe in an egalitarian Australia, where giving less privileged people a ‘fair go’ is respected.

Ms Crabb goes on to wonder  "why university students … are still protesting like it’s 1969".

This is partly why:

As someone said to me: “Marches and protests are not outdated .... Eventually they go on to show the true power of “we the people”. The right looks down upon the unions and little people and tries its best to make it an evil because these unions stand up to immoral corporations, for the people’s rights."

What Ms Crabb and many other msm commentators completely fail to notice, is that the power of a protest goes way beyond posters, chants and slogans (which, by the way, can be enormously powerful, as was the repetitive and effective 3 word slogan, AXE THE TAX, which we're reaping the doubtful benefits of now.)  

The reality is, that if the msm covered the current protests maturely and informatively, rather than demonising those involved, we'd all be a lot better off. (This includes the candlelight vigils for Reza Barati, March in March and March in May protests) At present, they're either not covered at all or the activists are presented as revolting ferals and beneath contempt. 

  • What's the real agenda when this happens?
  • Who benefits from demonising protesters?
  • What prejudices (ie pre-judgements) are being encouraged and why?
  • Which of our 'hot buttons' are being pushed - why?
  • Who benefits from misinforming the general public?
  • What are we being distracted from looking at?

Sadly it also seems that if the issues were discussed fairly and rationally by the media, it’s highly likely that this would be perceived as bias against the government, and there’d be loud and sustained outrage about the particular media outlet being "unpatriotic”.

Protests aren’t attended on the naïve assumption that that alone will change government behaviour.  That misses the point entirely. I attended one of the March in March protests. I didn’t know what to expect – would they all be scary ferals much the same as presented in the murdoch press? Would there be anyone else there? Would I feel silly and out of place?

The reality was none of the above. It was an extraordinary experience. I’ll never forget the incredible sense of togetherness, the goodwill and strength of spirit - “we’re in this together”. I’m sure that anyone who has attended a huge sporting event understands the impact of being with thousands of people focussed on the shared experience - chanting and singing! Why think that a protest is lesser than that expression of shared emotion in sport?

When you’re a single person, sitting at home grieving over what is being eroded in Australia: honesty, integrity, a sense of shared values; when you’re disgusted with the lies being spread about vulnerable peoples, appalled at the willingness of our political parties to embrace injustice, and disgusted at extreme power of multinational corporations to manipulate. And when you’re sick to the core of writing letters and emails to politicians, where if you’re lucky you’ll receive a reply - a form letter sprinkled with empty rhetoric and ‘it’s all Labour’s fault’, when responsibility is avoided… then you come together and protest.

There’s a sense of community in banding together with similar minded souls. There’s the power of song, of shared jokes and laughter, discussing experiences, forging friendships, swapping business cards.  The sense of isolation passes. Being with others underlines that we’re not alone and there’s power in numbers. And those numbers grow during the march as people standing on the sidelines ask what’s going on, hear from real people (not filtered through snide, insulting or belittling comments from the media) what’s happening – many are supportive, some join in. And they go back to work, chat over the urn, go home and speak to their friends. Information is shared, perspectives are able to shift, change happens.

People who drive past a march honk and wave and smile and hi-five. They’re joining in and enjoy the “feel-good factor” of participating and being engaged as well. Some passers by see that the protesters and marchers aren’t threatening as they’ve been led to believe, they’re normal everyday people, mums and dads, grandmas and grandpas, suits and tradies.

Protests happen, they’re a sign of a healthy, vibrant democracy. They don’t have the slick professional shine of an extremely well funded and highly orchestrated multimedia campaign. They’re an expression of frustration and are homespun, homegrown, and to sneeringly belittle them with condescending remarks, overlooks their very human importance - a sense of community. 

People overseas who've been horrified at Australia's willingness to ignore human rights abuses and vilify and lie about asylum seekers, who've been dismayed at the erosion of environmental protections including loss of jobs in the sciences related to the environment, climate change and climate change adaption have said "you Aussies should take to the streets". Messages of support for the various protests come from all over the world. Protests can make world news. That's significant!

It’s time the media got over the snarkiness about people exercising their democratic right to protest.  How about we see some genuine discussion about what’s really important and stop criticising protests and protesters.  

What kind of country do we want Australia to be? One tied to the apron strings of massively profitable multinational mining companies, obstructing fair taxation on the pollution they cause, frightened that their obscene profits might be affected, or one looking ahead to address the impact that our changing climate will have on every person in this country?

Are we going to be a well educated, innovative country, welcoming investment and with solid skills in climate change adaptation and renewable energy, or one stuck in the past where a compliant or complicit mainstream media continually points the finger at the wrong group of people?

More information:

The value of political memes: 

The dire circumstances of those living in poverty:


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