The ones to watch
Sometimes I get really downbeat about the lack of people across the world who are standing up to oppression. Its happened a lot lately, especially because there’s hardly anything going on in the UK now the summer is over, and most of the opportunities that do exist right now for doing political actions are being missed. Given I’m part of the human race and should by now know its tendency to be ever-resistant of repression, its weird how it takes me until there’s a few random news stories here and there before I actually remember that somewhere, as ever, someone is resisting.
When I say that there’s little going on in the UK, note the totally unresponsive millions affected by the sudden rise in student loan interest as it has switched to a different method of calculating inflation, and you’ll see what I mean (this could add serious years to people’s loan repayments). 2006 saw a sudden upward bump in the amount of resistance going on in the UK, with thousands taking to the streets nationwide, both locally and in an impressive Emergency National Demo in London (we’re talking the Lebanon crises) followed by the first Climate Camp, and rounded off with at least 2 major marches in London and the beginnings of Faslane 365.
This year, we’ve got a Climate March, a Stop the War march which isn’t even on a Saturday, a national day of action that many groups seem determined to remain deaf towards and not much else. Even the NoBorders camp, which is taking place now, seems a bit of downer. Now, this may be the after effects of having witnessed an Earth-shatteringly amazing mobilisation in the summer, but it still kind of sucks to see so little coming out of it.
But Britain is only one country, and very often the activity isn’t going on in our country. Sometimes it doesn’t look a lot like the action some of us are used to, like in Taiwan where there’s been a major protest of over 100,000 people (in a territory China wants to claim is its own) pressing their own government to carry out a referendum that the government already wants to carry out. To some, this might seem a bit of a waste of time, but this is no ordinary referendum; this is Taiwan deciding whether or not it wants to represent itself at the United Nations, separate of the authoritarian nation that claims sovereignty as the only group of people capable of representing Taiwan’s needs.
For all the faults of the UN, when a nation decides to make a move towards independence against a nation the size and strength of China, we owe them respect, and we probably also owe them some support. These people are marching for a tiny step towards some vague notion of freedom which I could easily dismiss, yet in the face of one of the world’s most dangerous super-powers, this is perhaps as brave as Alaska declaring independence and taking its oil fields with it. For all I could disagree with them, I wish them every success and hope they succeed in some real way.
Then we have Burma, where Buddhist monks are standing up to a regime more interested in playing with its water cannons than accepting that the time for such blatant forms of dictatorship is over. In a culture and a conflict I have little understanding of, here are a bunch of monks, religious people like myself, making a stand. The BBC reports that they marched in silence (never seen how this is empowering), but that they fought back when attacked (which could raise a whole other debate). Yahoo managed to report on the situation by day three (Thursday)
For the first time in nearly 20 years, the people of Burma are finding strength, they’re on the march, and it may only be a matter of time before they finally claim a victory, which may not last all that long (representative democracy is only a partial solution to dictatorship, leaving space plenty of room for elites to dominate just as effectively, if over shorter periods of time), but here democracy of a sort is rising and people are doing something. I find this inspiring, despite my cynicism over the possibilities for success either at a basic or a deep-down level. Again, good luck to them.
There are other places where struggles are taking place that we do not hear about. These are struggles in which people are fighting for their lives, yet their lives are not worth the time of day for news agencies and media outlets to report. That doesn’t mean they’re not there.
But amidst all the quiet here in the UK, there’s one campaign which has really caught my eye, and continues to do so. The more I learn and see of it, the more impressed I am with the spirit of the campaign, and how deeply rooted in culture and community it seems to be. In a way, I just guess I’m glad no political party has got its hands on the campaign. I’m talking about the campaign to free Krek and Mers which I wrote about a few days ago.
I’ve now seen photos of the “Skate and Graf Jam”, and I’m left wondering why the hell anyone still thinks marches are a good idea in this country: it was colourful, youthful and by all accounts exciting. T-shirts have sold out (and thankfully look nothing like the Stop the War ones which are getting so predictable). I’m inspired by the creativity, the freshness and the heartfelt determination to stand up to injustice that is being taken up across the UK, and even the world it seems, mostly by people with no idea of how to write to their MP or whatever.
And its been particularly exciting to see where the debate has swung on the Facebook group, with someone actually raising the issue of crimes against property being different to crimes against people, and some interesting historical analysis (and trust the activist to start using jargon!). Maybe, somewhere below all the apathy and the quite short-sighted politics going on in Britain there really is still a desire for justice, democracy and liberty.