Sunday, 31 August 2014
Blaugust 31, 2014 - March in Blaugust
As you may know, I've had weekends free due to a temporary work assignment. Today I was able to participate in one of the 'March in March' followups, and although I agree with the core message of expressing dissatisfaction with Tony Abbott and the current government, I came away feeling uncomfortable about the direction this particular 'movement' is taking.
What follows are my opinions at the time of writing. Given another hour or two, my thinking will probably evolve a bit further and I might change my mind, but I don't expect that in this case.
My first negative observation related to a fellow selling 'Fuck off Tony' badges, and someone in a 'Far Q Tony Abbott' shirt. I'm all for saying that sort of thing among friends if you feel that way, but in public I think it is juvenile bullplop that engenders negative associations in those who might be considering our message but not yet entirely sold on it. Likewise, banners and signs that stoop to the same level as the infamous 'Ditch the Witch' sign don't help matters.
My second negative observation came courtesy of the Socialist Alliance members. They certainly have passion, but marching in their vicinity while they yelled slogans into a megaphone, slogans that wouldn't do anything to change anyone's minds, made me irritable and less likely to attend in the future.
The third related to the turnout. Obviously down on past attendance, it seemed like the percentage of interest groups was up compared to what you might call 'ordinary folk'. The anti-fluoride/chemtrail guys were out prominently, for example (they annoy me, but at least their brand of scientific denial doesn't threaten the future of the entire planet), and had positioned themselves prominently on the steps of parliament house near the speakers, their signs making everyone look like a bunch of whackos by association.
The fourth, and this was the real biggie, was the MC. This guy came off like a classic demagogue. Everything about the way he went about addressing the crowd screamed 'seasoned campaigner', and it reminded me of the style of sermon you might get at an evangelical church in the US South, designed to whip the crowd into a frenzy of 'hallelujah' and 'praise be'. There were even the rote responses you'd expect from a handful of folk in the crowd, framing the response for everyone else.
I was particularly annoyed by the way he claimed, on behalf of March Australia, 'leadership' of the public opposition to Tony Abbott, specifically calling out the Greens and PUP as not showing any. Now for what was originally supposed to be a means for all groups and individuals unhappy with the Abbott government, regardless of broad political affiliations, to march together in a show of broad public outcry, this was an extremely political statement to make. Every political instinct in my body screams 'new party setting up a Senate bid'.
Frankly, these marches sprang up as an outlet for public sentiment. These people aren't shaping opinion, they are a reaction. Leadership would be proposing alternative ways forward, and that is what a number of the groups and parties out there, whose members have all marched, are doing. Shouting 'not in my name' is all well and good but a movement needs more than that to endure.
So while I agree with the broad sentiment behind marching under this March Australia banner, I doubt I'll do it again unless something changes.