At the protests I go to I rarely take part anymore and instead I usually take photos or talk to people I know. Its not that I doubt the urgency of the causes we fight for, the vital need to take action like never before or the conviction of everyone on the march or picket. Its just I find our actions unbearably depressing, as the world burns all we can do is march down to the US consulate for the tenth time this year. Most of the time even the cops are bored. Members of the self styled riot squad chat amongst themselves and stroll down the street beside the marchers.
While we are getting hot and angry working up a good self righteous sweat most of the public walking down the street are either bemused or confused by our action. Most simply snap a photo on their cellphone to show to the family later and turn to their friends puzzled as they try and work out exactly what we are protesting about. The hundred or so angry people escorted by police move in a revolutionary bubble down queen street leaving little wake behind them and eventually dispersing to the pub to swap stories about that march when the flag got lowered at the US embassy.
Our pickets and smaller protests seem to offer a better chance to engage the public but the story is the same, a small microcosm of misfits amidst a swirl of shoppers. When a member of the public does come over to talk to us most of us tense up expecting a verbal barrage and are shocked when word trickles over that someone actually supports us.
We seem to be stuck repeating these tiresome actions over and over again knowing that the best possible outcome of our march is 40 seconds of critical coverage on the six o clock news and only then if one of us decides to punch a cop. Most of the time we simply go home and check indymedia to see photos of ourselves and to read an over inflated account of our protest.
I know this is a dark picture of our protests that I have portrayed but its only because I feel stuck. I was still a teenager when queen street filled with 30,000 people marching against the release of Genetically Modified organisms into the New Zealand countryside. I remember standing at the top of queen st and looking down to see it completely filled with people literally as far as the eye can see. We had widespread public support across the entire country, this was a domestic issue not some war in a third world nation or some US backed regime massacring an indigenous minority. Despite all this we lost the GE battle, whilst we aren’t yet growing GE crops in Aotearoa field trials of GE crops are becoming widespread. That movement melted away and despite a lot of training and a lot of work most of the people involved seem to have disappeared.
So as the world economic system is crumbling and tent cities are springing up I’m left wracking my brains as to how to make our opposition to the current system felt. And more than making our opposition felt how do we build a counter culture that rejects individualist capitalism. Surely marching and protests should come from a body of people opposed to the current system rather than being our way we try and build and opposition.
I’ve got no answers but this is something I’m interested in so I might try and work out what’s going on in other countries to resist the current recession and how they are building and organising.