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« God is love and love is stronger than death | Main | Good Friday, Easter »
Tuesday
Apr162019

Taking it to the streets

You can tell it’s election time: Melbourne streets are alive with the sound of demonstrations. Looking down from my office window last Wednesday on the river of yellow vests wending their way to join their companions, I almost felt as though I were in Paris.

We are fortunate in that we can take our protests to the streets with less fear of injury, incarceration or ‘disappearance’ than in certain other countries. I have exercised the right to march on too many occasions to remember over my life time. I wish that all the issues I cared about were sorted; I suspect that will never happen.

This week two marches have claimed my allegiance.

On Sunday it was the Walk for Justice for Refugees. Having just read Behrouz Boochani’s No Friend but the Mountains and having a personal relationship with two refugees, it’s a cause close to my heart. Neither side of the political divide has exactly covered themselves in glory with this issue. And, humanitarian concerns aside, the various ‘solutions’ they provide make little economic sense.

Then on Thursday, the Stop Adani Convoy has its moment in Melbourne en route from Hobart to the Galilee Basin. Another cause that seems like a no brainer to anyone concerned with climate change, not to mention the survival of the tourism industry around the Great Barrier Reef.  While much of the rest of the world is getting on board with jettisoning coal-fired power, Australia lags incomprehensibly behind.

Both the main speakers at the Refugee Rally, author Richard Flanagan and Executive Director of Refugee Legal, David Manne, ended their speeches on a note of optimism. Most days, I’m afraid I don’t share it. I hope the tide is turning regarding public opinion about climate change, but I suspect most of my compatriots don’t give a toss about compassion towards asylum seekers.

And so I keep turning up to street demonstrations, despite the fact that I don’t enjoy this privileged activity. I don’t like crowds, or slogans, or shouting people or the motley collection of leaflets thrust under my nose when I’m trying to listen to the speeches.

Despite my reluctance, I do it. Because we can. Because it is one of the few things we can do to try and shift the short-sightedness and self-interest of our politicians on both sides of politics, especially as a Federal election looms.

This was published in The Melbourne Age on 17 April 2019

 

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Reader Comments (2)

Thank you Clare as ever for your insightful observations on Melbourne life. Good Friday will bring a different kind of procession: the annual Way of the Cross through the city streets, strangely empty on the public holiday. A solemn gathering of Christians from multiple denominations, spilling out of their own city churches and joining together to walk, sharing an expression of faith to mark the day.

April 17, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterStefanie Pearce

I welcome the chance to march too Clare. It is one way of reacting to my sense of powerlessness in the face of the venality of politicians and powerful institutions and the growing inequality in Australia that creates classes of people who do not share in our common wealth. While we continue to demonstrate peaceably - I wonder for how long.

April 17, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRod

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