The other morning I woke up and found myself a Jehovah’s Witness
That was the criticism levelled at me, that I was the Jehovah’s Witness of the anti-VLAD movement. This was odd, since I cannot recall knocking on anyone’s doors lately. I do try to avoid people whenever necessary. I was deeply insulted as I have had my own JW experiences and I do not appreciate having a quiet morning at home interrupted by people asking me personal questions, quoting scripture, and blasting frigid Vancouver winter into my cozy home. I also certainly do not tell people what their political views should be, however I do dispute those who claim to be anti-VLAD, anti-Liberal, anti-Newman, anti-Abbott, yet choose to do nothing but whinge about “others” and minimise those who are speaking out and seeking to make a change.
Apathy is a sickness.
Newman stated, “These [VLAD] laws are there to protect Queenslanders”. With Lawyers, Veterans, Christians, Tradesmen, gyms, tattoo parlours, Librarians, and individuals sporting tattoos being targeted by the Liberals, I have to ask Newman if he has decided Queenslanders are safest in jail?
Critique #1 From a practical standpoint the only way that laws can be changed is through judiciary overruling of the government, or an election implementing a new party is in power with the intent to repeal the laws. Therefore, anything else is a waste of energy and resources.
I agree that fighting smart and utilising strategy is vital. I take issue with the attitude that individual activism and citizen involvement is not essential, that change is up to the lawyers, judges, and politicians. The fallacy of this argument is that politicians may not repeal the laws unless they realise that their electorate is clamouring for the repeal. Politicians need to receive pressure from constituents to make it clear that repealing these laws is part of the contract if they are to receive votes.
Furthermore, Queensland’s political system is flawed. The Parliament is based on the Westminster model but it is the only Australian state to lack a second chamber considered a balance or “check” on the elected party. In Queensland, the Government “has almost unlimited power”. Therefore, it is vital that the public ensure they have the reigns on the government. The premise of democracy is that it is to represent the will of the people.
Those who place responsibility for the repeal of anti-democratic laws onto the Political and Judiciary systems, negate their responsibility for action. Think about the Civil Rights movement in the US (1955-68) – a battle fought in the courts, in government, and on the streets. There were extreme groups and moderate groups. There were individuals who quietly took action in the nature of Rosa Parks who may never be recognised. There were individuals who became leaders and rallied the masses, such as Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr., That movement succeeded because it was fought on all fronts every day, not just when an election came along. The early part of the Civil Rights Movement relied on litigation, public education, and legislative lobbying. However the 60’s saw a direct action strategy of mass mobilisation, nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience: marches, boycotts, sit-ins, and Freedom Rides.
By being vocal and visual we are sending a clear message that the electorate is angry and will not put up with these anti-democratic laws. Yes, some changes take time, take judicial repeal, take elections, but parties need to know that we are expecting them to work for our votes, that we expect change.
Critique #2 Your Work Won’t Change Anything
Advocating for my clients, I have successfully negotiated with municipal and national departments by putting in the time, using pragmatic arguments, consulting with ombudsmen, citing reliable studies, using valid assessments, and outlining a breakdown of the risks and costs of a certain outcome. Successful or not, at the end of the day I look my clients in the eye and tell them I tried everything I could.
Of course you will fail if you do nothing. That is guaranteed. If you try, you may fail, you may be partially successful. You may succeed beyond your expectations.
I want to look at myself in the mirror and say “I did everything I possibly could because I live my values, I walk my talk”. Anything less is bullshit…and I am having so much fun!
And here I will let Howard Zinn, by way of Matt Damon have the last word.
Critique #3 Your Actions Do Not Have Enough Impact and Critique #4 There Are Not Enough of You
How do you measure impact? The cell that KYR created became a learning opportunity for many children at the demonstration. Their parents used it as a way to discuss imprisonment. It was a physical representation of an abstract concept, and made a real impression on them. Maybe years later, that experience (and many others) will contribute to who they become, what they accomplish in their lifetimes. Certainly we have goals and hopes with the work we do, but there are many ways to have an effect, ways that we may never be aware of.
In the short time of working with KYRTG, I have made amazing friends. We support each other with emotional and practical help. We inspire each other and collaborate. Is that not a sizeable impact?
David Bowie and a little sparkle
The next time someone questions the value of what a small group of people are doing, remind them that all it takes are a few key individuals to have a tremendous impact. They may be unknown and unacknowledged (and that is why most people think individuals have no effect) – but that does not negate their impact. Consider the individual radio operators and interceptors during the war who could recognise the message styles of different “enemy” transmitters and spent hours documenting seemingly nonsensical code for the cryptanalysts (who were themselves essential individuals). Their work was key to guiding military strategy and the allocation of resources.
Critique #5 You Are Not a Very Serious Group…
As I said in the KYR press release, “there are many ways to fight. There are many ways to express rage”. You see it all over the world: the mothers of the disappeared gathering together in public squares in Argentina, the clever bobsledding ad by The Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion, even the Olympic outfits of the German team – do not tell me that those do not have an impact or that there is not strategy behind them. Many of us in KYR are activists and work in health or community services. We have considerable insight and experience as individuals and as professionals behind why we feel the desire to act. There is room for the artists: spectacle, symbolism, visual impact, advocacy. Other organisations have requested our attendance at their events because of our innovative approach and visual impact.
Canadian athlete Kripps went head to head with Russian censorship laws when he tweeted this picture of his team…looking good
- Keep reading. Find some great media resources to stay up to date about current events (the ABC Perhaps)?
- Check out this great article about law and order and Queensland’s abuse of power by Crooke and Fitzgerald (Gary W Crooke QC was senior counsel assisting the Fitzgerald Inquiry (1987-89) into Queensland Police corruption and Tony Fitzgerald AC QC was chair of the Fitzgerald Inquiry – so they know about the abuse of power).
- Contact those running for election in your catchment area and ask them what they are doing to represent your views. Let them know that by voting and rallying you are doing our job, what are they doing? Demand actions, not words.
- Read the VLAD legislation
- Utilise Facebook and similar social media are great for networking and learning about upcoming rallies and events (ie. Queensland Civil Liberties Network)
- For those inclined to craftivism or something humorous and creative, consider joining groups such as Knit Your Revolt (Australia-wide, with international members) and/or the Queensland chapter, Knit Your Revolt Tricycle Gang
- Find speeches, blogs, discourses that inspire you
The people are more powerful than the government. An apt metaphor is the training of elephants. As youngsters from the wild, they are conditioned to think they cannot escape when tied to a tree. The elephant is raised to believe it can be held captive by simple means when in fact it could rip trees out of the ground and break metal chains. Are we happy to remain tied to the tree, or is it time to rampage? It is time for the public to take back their votes and make it clear that parties need to start listening to the people.
Fighting a unified public is like fighting water. Water inevitably wins. It can be a steady drip accumulating over decades, or a tsunami that levels everything in its path within moments. Neither is better than the other – just depends on the context and needs of the time.
PS – here is a gift for those still asking “why the hell Abbott?”