Thursday, June 02, 2005

The Limits Of Protest

I always think that those of us who have done nothing to help people in Africa should lay off Bob Geldof who, if nothing else, has kept the issues of poverty and disease in the public's mind.
But I heard another Irishman called Kevin Sharkey saying that since Bush and Blair had slaughtered 100,000 people in Iraq, why did Geldof think they would be greatly disturbed by the death toll in Africa from hunger and AIDS?
It seemed a fair point.

Now Geldof wants one million people to protest at the G8 Summit in Scotland. I seem to remember that number, or maybe more, marched through London before the Iraq war. As they discovered, it had as much effect as pissing against the wind.
The political establishment quite like managed, mass protests. They act as a useful safety valve but can be completely ignored and they enable politicians to smugly say, as Blair has many times, 'be grateful you live in a country where you can do this.' If protests turn violent, that also suits the politicians because it undermines the protesters' cause and they can all be portrayed as violent anarchists.

The true attitude of the establishment to political dissent is revealed in their treatment of small but persistent groups and individuals.
An elderly lady has been put under curfew for her protests at an American base. They tried to give her an ASBO but that failed.
A goup who protested at Fairford Air Base against the Iraq war were herded on to coaches by police and driven to London. This was later ruled an illegal use of anti-terrorist legislation.
Parliament has changed the law in order to remove a solitary protester who has camped opposite the Commons for several years.
These actions are in the public domain. Meanwhile, unseen and unscrutinised, many individuals who pose no threat to the state will be subject to surveillance by the security services, a distinction they share with several members of the present Cabinet in their younger days. But I rather doubt if that's a distinction shared by Sir Bob Geldof who has shared platforms with Blair and Brown and bowed his tousled head before the monarch.

Anyone fooled by Blair's moist-eyed rhetoric on Africa should look at his domestic record. This is the man who says he is untroubled by the widening gap between rich and poor under his Premiership and whose very modest attempts at redistribution are hidden behind an impenetrable smokescreen of tax credits and are policies that dare not speak their name.
And if after eight years has been unable to give more than 40% of the population access to an NHS dentist whilst finding £5 billion to prosecute a war in Iraq, one wonders how he has either the practical skills or moral commitment to be the saviour of the people of Africa.
Enjoy your concerts and marches, Sir Bob. But wake up and smell the coffee.


At 6:19 PM, Anonymous Alan said...

But Bob is (and we are) now hoist with our own petards. We have to march come what may, because the march has been announced, and the march has been played up, and so not to march gives the world leaders the opportunity to point the finger "so much for the will of the common man, they couldn't even be bothered to show up."

At 6:45 AM, Blogger geokker said...

It's good Sir Bob is correcting his mistake of 20 years ago. Attack the cause. It's expensive to maintain our standard of living. The cost it would seem is to have unfair trade agreements, tilt the table with a gun, kill the people threatening the supply of vital resources and ignore those with no economic import.

Iraq was attacked for a reason. Blair and Bush aren't blood thirsty, they just recognize the shocking importance oil* and the future of a worldwide, free trade economic mechanism. When the market gets a little older and everything is privatized and people are at the mercy of market forces, I'm sure sweat shop manufacturing will naturally move from the fast-developing far east to Africa. After then, robots (we hope).

* Of course, Bush might have some kind of weirdo religious agenda, but I'll let that one pass!

At 9:46 AM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

alan, I hope people do march in large numbers. I suppose I was saying three things: that it wouldn't have much effect; that Geldof has become the establishment's licensed rebel; and my usual refrain that Blair's a bastard.

geokker, of course Blair and Bush insisted that the war had nothing to do with oil but you're not alone in not believing them.
Hitler also didn't kill millions of people from bloodlust but for economic, strategic and ideological reasons. The motives of Blair and Bush are little comfort to the thousands who died or the children with their limbs blown off.
As for Bush's religiosity, it's interesting that he's fervently opposed to abortion yet relaxed about killing both unborn children and their mothers when fighting God's war in Iraq.


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