Friday, December 30, 2005

post of the year 2005 : #2

Sometimes you have your doubts about a post and it ends up being one that attracts a bit of attention.

For #2 in my “post of the year” selection for this blog, I have chosen a letter I wrote around the time of the G8 summit meeting in Edinburgh, which was the focus of both the MakePovertyHistory campaign and the Live8 series of concerts. As much as the cause meant to me, I was pissed off by the actions of the few who took their convictions a little too far.

I did quite a few posts on this subject around this time, but this one was the first I ever did that was actually linked on other people’s blogs, and it was published on July 6. Go me.

dear fools,

Dear fools,

Yes, indeed, you are all fools, and there is no better word to describe you. That is, if you really thought you were either helping the MakePovertyHistory campaign or ending Globalization with your actions this week. I am well aware that many of the perpetrators of the riots had absolutely no interest in the cause and were only using it as an excuse to partake in senseless violence, and I am equally aware there were no doubt a good many baton-happy police officers to blame also, and the English language has another word for all of them; scum.

I prefer, however, to direct this letter at those from the first category as outlined above. What you have done by making these less than ideal headlines is play straight into the hands of those against whom you are protesting. And don’t think being dragged kicking and screaming into a police wagon is going to make you a hero – for I suspect this may be your primary objective, even if you may not realize it.

If you want to really, truly help this cause, there is no need to charge at a cordon of riot police with weapons. Try charging at a cordon of ignorance with reason. Think of all the people you have day to day dealings with who don’t give these concerns a moments thought and pass off the MakePovertyHistory campaign as yet another charity drive or as simply another excuse for Geldof to get on his high horse.

Take a minute to explain to these people the three aims of the project: Fair not Free Trade, More and Better Aid, and Drop The Debt. We need to make these issues ones that the politicians know must be debated for the next election, rather than miniscule changes in tax rates or the price of cigarettes and alcohol or which oil-rich country to tear down and rebuild next. That is all you have to do. That is what can make you a hero, nothing more. That is what can help make poverty history. It’s that simple. And IT CAN BE DONE.

What you have done in Edinburgh the past few days is beyond despicable, and it actually gives me half a mind to don some riot gear and give you all a good bashing myself. Since that would make me a hypocrite however, I would have to resort to more peaceful means to try and change your minds. If “Live8” was designed to influence the leaders of the G8, perhaps a similar concert should be organized for you lot; we could call it “LiveApe”.

When you truly believe in something, and when those beliefs are challenged by hard-line extremists on the other side, you also have to be wary of the militants on your own side, for they can do just as much damage to your cause. The fight for equality is much like a pendulum, which must be allowed to swing both ways before it reaches its resting spot at the centre – those who try hold it back on either side must be shown just how strong it is, and how determined it is to reach its natural destination.

Don’t be fools. Join the cause for what it is, with a view to achieving tangible results.

Yours sincerely,



Alan said...

Sorry but, as one who was in the middle of it all (and see my own post of the year - here) I have to take issue with this. The protests on the Saturday, Sunday and the rest of the week were very well policed, with a large but unthreatening presence. This was not the case on the monday when the riots occurred. The tactic then was charge first, ask questions afterwards. With good policing this "riot" was eminently avoidable - those present to cause trouble were careful to keep their faces concealed and under a section 60 order (which was in force) the British police have the right to order them to uncover their faces or be arrested, thus it is a very simple tactic to remove the troublemakers before the trouble begins. The authorities chose not to do so. Why? Because this was the march of which they disapproved, and thus this was the march that they wanted to get bad publicity. To be able to say that all the "good" protests passed of peaceably and the "bad" protest ended in a riot was exactly the result required. But look again at the TV pictures. How many of them showed what you describe here - protestors attacking police lines - and how many show frightened people running away and being chased by police with batons being struck indiscriminately in all directions. I think you'll find it's actually very few of the former and many many of the latter.

JL Pagano said...

Thanks as always for the comment Alan, but to be honest, I see little in what you've written that "takes issue" with what I said. I'd be inclined to think we actually agree. If you think in what I said that the "fools" to which I refer applies to you, you would be very much mistaken. As bullish as the police may have been, and I think you will notice I actually go as far as to call them scum, I would be very surprised if there weren't a significant number of protestors who were out to cause trouble.

Once again, I apologize if I caused offence.

Anonymous said...

What a well argued point of view. Your main thrust comes through with its emphasis on the need to fight for the inclusion of the 3 aims of the campaign in national political agenda.

What a gem to have someone who was there come on your blog and put their point of view. I hope Alan will come back at you with more detail about what really happened on the day. I am interested in his hypothesis that there was a conspiracy to create a "good" protest and "bad" protest (reminds me of Melanie Klein's concept of the child "splitting" the good and bad breast).