Thursday, 2 April 2009

Marching in April

"So, are you going to be marching tomorrow?"

I was asked this two days ago by the man who came to replace our car windscreen (irritatingly chipped while driving down the French motorway). For a minute I wasn't sure what he was on about - surely tomorrow was the first of April? Then I remembered the protests set to take place in the City around the G20 meeting.

"Er, no," I told him. "I'm going to be working tomorrow."

He smiled. "Yeah, so am I. Good on them, though."

I related this to The Doctor later and his (slightly teasing) response was: "You must have looked like the kind of person who goes on protests."

I wasn't sure whether to take this as a compliment. On one hand, it means that I obviously don't come across like the kind of 4x4 driving, well-dressed yummy mummy whose hubby works in the City and who would be horried by the thought of getting her hands dirty at a protest march. (Well, the guy was fixing our Skoda at the time, so he knew that). Dressed scruffily for working at home, I probably looked more like the kind of Guardian-toting hack that would get out there and wave placards. Still, I did begin to wonder if I could do with a haircut and a new pair of jeans....

And yet. I may (sometimes) be a Guardian-toting hack, but I've never been on a protest march in my life, I realised. At University, my generation of students was always the one accused of apathy; we'd sign a petition against raised tuition fees, but if it meant missing another hour in bed to hold up a placard, forget it. Maybe if I'd been a member of the 60s generation protesting against Vietnam I'd have marched, but when it came to Stop the Iraq War, well, I was too busy, first working and then having children, to get on that particular bandwagon.

When it comes down to it, I am not even sure that protests of the G20 kind achieve much. I do have some sympathy with the cause - I too am outraged at Fred Goodwin's pension - but is smashing the windows of RBS really going to help? And even if I did feel strongly enough, I'd be far too scared of getting caught up in a riot.

But maybe I should change my attitude: get out and reclaim the streets before I hit my late 30s?
Is going on a protest march something that everyone should do once?

12 comments:

Melanie said...

Guardian toting hack eh? That made me giggle. In the "mumble-mumble" odd years of my life I've never been to a protest march and I really doubt I ever will. Why? The very fact that I'm Jamaican means that when I see, hear, or smell a crowd, I head in the opposite direction. Happy to watch on the telly thanks.

Crowds cause me to hyperventilate at the thought of being trod on by large hairy market women who haven't washed since they woke up at 4:30am the previous day to take an over-crowded mini bus (complete with the odd goat and chicken trussed and stuffed into the luggage rack, I'm not kidding!) into town to protest an increase in the price of kerosene.

My way of dealing with these things? I vote, with careful consideration, and then pray that our government is able to make sensible decisions.

But I do own a pair of Birkenstocks :-)

Nota Bene said...

I don't wish to make any comment at all, other than to point out that it has been noted you have not been in the office on either the 1st or 2nd April. And you own a scarf.

Mud in the City said...

I do believe in the right to march and the feeling of being in a crowd of people all of whom believe strongly enough to take to the streets is tremendous (I've done it once!) but it needs to have an aim. There are so many factions protesting this week - from anti-banking to climate change to stop the war. It is hard to see what they want to achieve - except tell people they aren't happy.

Maybe that's just the point?

Iota said...

I went to the Make Poverty History march in Edinburgh a few years ago. I found it all a bit of a non-event. I like to think my son, who came too, who was 8 at the time will remember it, but I'm not sure he will. It wasn't very dramatic.

I was quite annoyed by the news coverage. There'd been one very small incident, involving the police. When I say "small", I mean, I was there with an 8 year old, and apart from getting separated from our friends, there was nothing scary about it. Just some of the protesters trying to stare down a row of police. But the news reporting on tv showed that as their only clip, and made it sound like it had been much more than it was.

Mind you, I wouldn't have wanted to have been at work if I worked for RBS this week.

Maternal Tales said...

Have only just found you - I'm a bit slow on the uptake I think! Funnily enough I had a similar experience yesterday. Popped into the opticians to get my eyes tested and was told that nothing could be done for my left eye other than waiting for more stem cell research. I knew it was bad, but christ! Anyway, the optician concluded by saying 'So if you're ever on a march protesting against stem cell research, then think twice'. And I thought, exactly as you did, 'crikey do I really look like the sort of person who goes on protest marches?' I smiled sweetly and came home to pluck my eyebrows as soon as possible!

mothership said...

I have been on more marches than I care to remember, mostly forced by my parents at an early age - ANC and anti apartheid. As a result I had a bit of an aversion and horror of that kind of thing in adulthood. HOWEVER, having seen that they do get attention and that, to a degree, they work, in that they let the powers that be know that 'the people' won't just sit and allow government to decide their fate without listening to voices of dissent. And as to voting and hoping that the grownups will do what's right for us, that's frankly risible. After all, we're in this mess thanks to that. Apathy is very, very dangerous. I need only point to WWII to illustrate. Sometimes we all need to get out of our comfort zones and make a stand, even just for our own sense of having done so. I'm pretty sure if Rosa Parks had just decided to sit nicely at the back of the bus Obama wouldn't be handing out iPods today.

mothership said...

PS sorry about the ungrammatical ramble. Got a bit passionate and carried away.

nappy valley girl said...

Melanie - I do agree about crowds. I am definitely afraid of being crushed - the reason that I have not been back to the Notting Hill Carnival for about 8 years. I used to love it, until we got caught in a heaving, sweaty crowd around Portobello once and it was suddenly like being swept out to sea on a wave with no control whatsoever.

NB - ah yes, you have got me there. The old 'child is ill and off nursery' wheeze. Really a cover for furtive protest marching...

Mud - I think you have nailed the problem with the G20. All fairly disparate groups and no clear message. If it was just 'stop the bonuses' than maybe I would have gone for it.....

Iota - I think the media always blow these things out of proportion (bless 'em.) On the news coverage last night, all you could see was a mass of cameras up close to the 'scuffles'.

Maternal tales - it was definitely a theme yesterday. I had the same question from a shop assistant in the Kings Road!

Mothership - you make a very good point and I feel really quite guilty now. Someone has to start the protesting, and thank God for Rosa Parks. I really admire you and your parents for having gone on those marches. (And no problem for getting passionate and carried away - that's what comment boxes are for, aren't they?)

that girl? said...

I went on one once.... only because I was 17 and under the influence of the boyfriend du jour! Wouldn't really say it was fun but it was an experience. I believe that we should all have the right to march, protest peacefully etc to express our views... but throwing computers through windows... cant really see how that helps anyone. At the risk of sounding my age... they're just bloody troublemakers. Now please excuse me whilst I shuffle off in my slippers and make myself a nice cup of tea!

Melanie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Melanie said...

Love reading all the comments. Love your blog NVG!

I feel that should clarify my comment by giving it more context. I do believe in the right to protest, peacefully. I do believe in the power of the collective. And I do believe in the right to vote. As families, communities and citizens we have the power to bring a government or corporation to its knees. However we each choose to exercise this power differently.

As I said, I'm from Jamaica and while I'm proud of my nationality I'm not proud of the fact that as a people, for the most part, we do not understand the concept of peaceful protest. 9 times out of 10 it turns violent and it's not the police that start the trouble. I've had friends shot, trampled, stabbed and beaten by the very people they were protesting alongside and in support of.

We are a loving, kind and fun people but mix 95°F temperatures, anger and bodies pressed together and it goes horribly wrong too fast to escape. Avoiding that type of situation has been drummed into my very soul by my mother since I was old enough to figure some things out.

So... I vote, I write letters, I refuse to buy products from companies that have unethical policies, etc. That's how I roll.

nappy valley girl said...

thatgirl - no, computers through windows definitely not helpful! But as for troublemakers, the more that comes about this seems the more the police were at fault!

Melanie - fascinating to hear your point of view, and you make a very good point. Because, see above, you can't guarantee that it won't turn violent, and that's not just the protesters......