There’s no shortage of causes, but the way we protest has changed, says Rosemary.
I’ve known a lifetime of protests, from when I went to them as a schoolgirl until today, when there’s just as much to protest about. But how people go about it these days seems more covert and sinister.
We were out there with our placards against the Vietnam War, or nuclear testing, or racism in sport. You could see our faces, and the most eloquent of our organisers said what we felt in plain language, short of insults and threats. There were scuffles, certainly, among the young male stags of the movements and jeering bystanders or police, but protesting was a calm business most of the time.
People aren’t going to get overheated about schoolkids with banners.
About the time when the scuffles began to scare me, I stopped turning up. That was a long time ago. But I still feel the same about issues: the Vietnam War, still; the last Afghanistan adventure by America and other Western powers, of course. I didn’t like what happened in Libya, and I don’t like public gloating over the deaths of former strong men trapped and dispatched. What happened in Iraq bothers me. Guantanamo bothers me.
But I’m sure I’m not the only person who sees little point in braving cold winds and rain to wave a placard when people are more interested in looking at their cell phones and keeping up with social media. To which I don’t belong.
I’m sure I’m not the only person who sees little point in braving cold winds and rain to wave a placard when people are more interested in looking at their cell phones.
History has a way of validating many protest movements. One example: a century after World War I, we’re ready as a nation to put up a statue of Archibald Baxter, the Kiwi pacifist who refused to fight, and was tortured and abused for it. Everyone should read his book, We Will Not Cease, to learn about the dark side of our past, in this case, what Pākehā New Zealanders did to fellow Pākehā.
Time changes everything, as we know.
I wonder what history will make of a protest movement driven by apathy in many cases, or by misinformation against getting inoculated against Covid. So many diseases that once killed us have been eradicated or weakened by shots in the arm, yet many people won’t have it.
My guess is history will say there was a huge shift in human behaviour brought by the internet – and in many ways. Free access to extreme porn has changed how people talk about and have sex. Schoolkids have humiliated others sexually at a vulnerable time in their lives by exposing them to ridicule and cruelty that should shock us profoundly.
The January 6 assault on the United States Capitol by extremists that degenerated into defecating on its walls and hunting for politicians to “kill”, or at least subject to physical attack and verbal abuse, doesn’t seem like the behaviour of civilised people, and in some ways we’re collectively not.
We’re excited by the many sources of “information” manipulating attitudes that seem as believable as the traditional media, which holds to ethics that a faceless extremist hammering a keyboard in his basement doesn’t have to consider. Lies easily become truths. Shots in the arm to guard against what can be a killer virus have become a battlefield of high principles, some of which I don’t understand. Will it follow that there’ll be mass rejection of inoculations against polio, measles, smallpox, malaria, and forgotten illnesses that once killed babies?
We hate wearing masks and losing our freedoms in this pandemic. I’m sick of it too, but not enough to risk getting seriously sick, for real. Protesting your right to catch and spread a virus doesn’t make any kind of sense.