Democracy. Free speech. The participation of the masses. The glory of mass involvement. The ability and right to stand up and make your voice count and be heard. To say ‘this is what we want, and this is what we believe, and you will listen to what we have to say.’
So sad it is then that while thousands of citizens march tomorrow and exercise their right, many thousands more sit shackled by apathy. Even the massive political strife of the last two years hasn’t been enough to shake them into caring.
Now fair enough there are many who can’t make it because of work or family commitments. There are plenty of legitimate reasons why people wouldn’t be able to join in, but in the case of Londoners it’s a particularly virulent strain of apathy which means people can’t even be bothered to join a march that’s in their own damn city. Laziness, ignorance and cynicism mean that lots of people are just as likely to complain that the transport system isn’t running because of the ‘bloody protest’.
“I would go, only I don’t really know how to march and there’s an interesting exhibition about mass politics on at the Tate Britain; and besides i’ll probably be able to catch some of the march on the tele later on anyway.”
This is an important moment in our shared and collective history. A chance to say that on top of all the financial ruin that those at the top have laid upon us, we won’t allow further cuts and a further degradation of our frontline services. This is a call to arms.
But I’ll say this: make sure of one thing people; that you know what you’re marching for. In reality any added support and participation should be applauded, but one thing I can’t stand is the jump on the band wagon approach to politics; the attitude that says ‘yeah we might as well, it will be a bit of a laugh.’
Is that attitude any better? That’s an attitude that leaves people open to distraction. Those people will get side-tracked because they found a pound on the floor, or allow themselves to be dragged down the pub by a mate. The attitude that the march might be a ‘bit of a laugh’ is the same one that will lead to saying ‘yeah I was going to go to the march, but I forgot that there was some [generic and meaningless] sport on the tele. I mean sure they’ll play against each other another thousand times in a ceaselessly alternating order, with the same meaningless result, stretching indefinitely into the future, but I’m a person who likes to live in the now, you know what I mean?’
Back in 2001 there was a large anti-war march in Cambridge. There were herds of school kids joining ranks and marching into town. Normally such a political awakening and mass stirring of youth should be celebrated, but in reality it was just an opportunity for most kids to stick two fingers up at a teacher and, with a sense of moral superiority, legitimately get out of going to school.
“They can’t do me for truancy when I’m standing up for what’s good and right.”
There was a sit in taking place on a large crossroad in the centre of Cambridge. I was about to say ‘sit down’ until I realised that was something that mafia bosses do. As it was in the middle of a road perhaps I should say it was a ‘sit out’. Anyway, we all descended on this crossroads and sat down as a sign of protest.
Unfortunately it wasn’t long before almost everyone had lost sight of why we were actually there. Most people seemed to think we were protesting against the traffic instead of war, and it was this new line of political action which reached its clearest expression when an ambulance, siren blaring, urgently approached the junction desperate to get through. The crowds reluctantly parted letting it crawl through the turgid crowd, at which point a crafty little bugger in a car tried to sneak through behind it.
The mob roared and descended on it with claws out, slashing at the chasis with their nails and hammering against the windows with their fists. The swollen waters came crashing down around the intrepid driver as the frenzied mob screamed insults at the car, jeering and waving one hundred pairs of fingers in through the windscreen.
I watched the look of horror on the young mother’s face, fear lighting up her eyes, who was more than likely just on her way to pick up her kid from school or something similar. A protest against our country’s military involvement half-way across the world had turned into a bitter struggle against the traffic of Cambridge city centre.
Oh well, we’ve all got to fight our own battles.
The point is we have a chance here to make our voice count and help steer this country in the right direction before we’ve gone too far. I for one will be going if I can get out of going to work. Just so long as I don’t end up going out on friday night, waking up the next morning bleary-eyed, scratching at my memory trying to recall what it was I had to do that day and finally face the dilemna of whether to get dressed and go into town, or sit in my dressing gown and watch Judge Judy.
Ah sod it, the bloody trains probably aren’t running anyway. Typical.