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My take on the APEC protests

Ok, I know I've said it before and I'll say it again. I just don't understand the point of protests. Get a medium sized number of the people Sam Kekovich derides as sandal-wearing, dole-collecting tofu-munching long-haired hippy types together and it proves exactly ... what?.

And, seriously, a Stop Bush rally? Yes, the man may be a mismanaged war short of a Rumsfeld, but he only has 14 months until the US constitution will stop him. And no amount of protests will change this. Actually, let me clarify. No amount of protests short of a popular march by half of America to allow a 3rd term will allow it. While we're at it, a single bloke in a book repository with a mate on a grassy knoll might have an effective protest, but I digress.

So Sydney gets locked down to restrict terrorists and protestors. Undesirables are prevented. While I'm sure none of my regular readers are unhappy about inconveniences to Sydney-siders (please let me know if I'm wrong), you have to admit, this Laura Norder does have its scary side. But people will accept anti-feral security as long as it is necessary. Which brings me to today's suggestion for a protest: Don't go. Seriously. Announce a protest - say, against the restrictions being imposed, by not going. Declare that in protest against the police-state Sydney is becoming, you will stay away from the APEC site. And you know it will be a success as millions of Australians will join you!

If you really have to have a gathering, I'm sure Brumby will follow the footsteps of Kennett and Bracks and try to poach any protests from Sydney. Have it in Melbourne. Let's face it, you're not going to get anywhere near Howard, Bush, Clark or any of the other major leaders in the region, so you might as well gather somewhere nice.

But even better, won't Howard and Iemma look stupid if they have spent millions on protection and barricades and stuff, and no protests happen. The riot police stand there bored. Law abiding New South Welshmen are inconvenienced so that Howard can get his mates to dress up in stubbies and blue singlets while enjoying tinnies of VB (surely even in Sydney they wouldn't stoop so low as to drink Tooheys at an "important" event).

So that's my advice to the protestors: Actively don't go in support of your cause.

But, in the interest of balance, I will also give advice to the teachers of protesting schoolchildren.

Now, I realise that it is remarkably surprising that students feel so strongly about this that they would sacrifice a day of their beloved school education. But apparently that is what happenned. Good on the kids for having convictions. Because we all know it isn't just about having a day off school.

And I think the teachers should support the protesting students. They should announce a policy, in advance, that any time students feel strongly enough about an issue to protest, they can do so with the school's blessing.

A couple of caveats apply. Firstly, the student is required to submit all due homework the day after. Any assignment set on the day they missed will be due for them at the same time as for everyone else.

Secondly, and more importantly, to encourage their civic mindness, they are required to write, say, a 3000 word essay, due at 9AM of the day after the protests. This essay must spell out: what they were protesting against; why it requires protesting; what change they hoped to effect with their protests; why the protests were an appropriate avenue for effecting the change they desire; what some of the consequences of the changes would be (e.g. President Cheney) and at least two reasoned arguments against their own cause.

This way, the school can encourage them to exercise their democratic freedoms without endangering their education. Indeed it will enhance their education by getting them to engage with the civic process and to explore what they believe in and why.


Comment from Gillian

Both fabulous ideas. Now if only you could propagate them on a somewhat wider forum than this one... But of course, staying away from the protests isn't going to happen. People have this peculiar idea that governments and other PTB actually care what people think, and that large groups of people saying so has some effect. it doesn't. Only when large numbers of people put the current government representatives as the last number on their ballot paper will there be any effect. Maybe.

I respond

I don't think it is that they don't care what people think. I think it is more that, as Rudd says, Howard is a clever politician (sadly "clever" isn't being used as a compliment), and he knows that the people who are marching would vote for J. Stalin before they voted for J. Howard. As a wedge-happy politician, he knows there is no value pandering to annoying opponents he can't convert to his cause anyway.

As to other fora (sorry, couldn't resist...), email to friends suggesting they read it.

Comment from gelfen

i don't think your essay idea goes far enough. discussion of the consequences of effecting their desired change should have equal space devoted to analysis of both positive and negative consequences

they should also be required to discuss the direct impact of their protest on the general public, including whether or not these impacts are acceptable if they deny the rights of others (e.g. if they deny people the right to go about their lawful employment, or put the health and safety of others at risk)

I respond

Agreed. It was just a starting point though.

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