?

Log in

Back to the Future - Rallying at Queen's Park - The Annals of Young Geoffrey: Hope brings a turtle [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Young Geoffrey

[ Website | Edifice Rex Online ]
[ Info | livejournal userinfo ]
[ Archive | journal archive ]

Links
[Links:| EdificeRex Online ]

Back to the Future - Rallying at Queen's Park [Nov. 7th, 2004|05:53 pm]
Young Geoffrey
It's November 7. For some reason I thought the date significant, but a quick (half a page) google on the topic suggests I am wrong.

Maybe it's because I found myself - for the first time in many years - gathered with a crowd on the lawn in front of Queen's Park (Ontario's Legislature for my foreign Gentle Readers) that I thought today marked some significant anniversary of historical significance.

Yes, I went to a demo.

For many years now, I've had an aversion to such public displays of political commitment. Not because I think there is something wrong with citizens coming together to state their believes - far from it! - nor because I am a cynic who cannot believe they will do any good (though that is closer to the mark). Rather, it is because I don't enjoy the (necessary) over-simplification involved in mass action of any sort.

Nevertheless, there I was, urging our government to do something about the (apparent - more on this anon) genocide going on in Sudan. After all, it's hard not to be opposed to genocide. Er, isn't it?

It was a strange demonstration, from my point of view - in fact, it was a bad deomonstration. Though I had little interest in hearing the requisite speakers (I knew why I was there - I didn't need to be reminded) it nevertheless seemed strange - unprofessional, even - that the sound system was so poor that I could make out maybe one word out of 20 coming from the steps of the Leg'.

Strange too, that there was almost no police presence; that there was no sign of any of the bizarred splinter groups who claim to carry the One True Quill of Karl Marx. One had the sense the vast majority of those in attendance were - like me - people who had read about what was going on in Sudan and felt/thought that something should be done.

Which thought brings my cynicism to the fore.

Beside the facts that demonstrations (assuming no assault by the police) are boring and that Canada currently has no capacity to do something about the slaughter in Sudan (assuming we had the will), I have a long-standing aversion to them due to the fear of embarassment.

Many years ago, attenting a demo at city hall that was nevertheless one aimed at dissuading our then-government from participating in the United States' plans to test cruise missiles on our soil, a good friend of mine found herself on the stage, giving a talk.

It was winter, January or February, and all of us were cold despite the thousands in attendance. It might be the weather prompted her off-topic comment.

In any event, Dina made the statement that, "5,000 homeless people" had frozen to death on the streets of Toronto the previous winter.

Oh for Christ's sake. I turned to Vern and shook my head. We exchanged that knowing glance that said, "I haven't been tripping over frozen bodies every time I step out of the house - have you?"

This was in the early 80s when, I suspect, Toronto probably had no more than five hundred homeless people, let alone five thousand dead ones.

Point being: demos bring out my inner cynic.

That said (and despite the - apparent - fact that there are no mass graves to back up the claims "the West" ousted the thug Slobodan Milosevic because "the Serbs" were commiting genocide in the former Yugoslavia), I am inclined to think that whatever is happening in Sudan it is pretty ugly at best; and Laura's report of hearing a talk by Stephen Lewis about the issue makes me even more confident that the signatures I applied to a couple of petitions were at least going to real causes.

But still, I can't help but think that sort of demonstration is the next-best thing to pointless. Sudan simply doesn't register strongly enough on the political seismometers to matter; Arabs against blacks? In some country most of us couldn't identify on a map of Sudan? The 2 or 3 thousand people who showed up at the rally while the thermometer was plummeting care, but they're unlikely to switch political alligiance from one party to another because of the issue.

But I'm glad I went anyway (and not just because I got to hold Laura's hand a while). It may be only a symbol, but it is a symbol of the fact that I do give a shit about what happens to people I don't know. It is a piece of evidence I will be able to hold up saying, "I may not have done enough, but I did something to stop the murders and rapes of tens of thousands.

No, it's not enough. And my inner Political Realist knows there are more important fights - by which I mean: fights we - as Canadians - are more likely to do something about - to fight. But still, it's something.
linkReply

Comments:
[User Picture]From: sabotabby
2004-11-07 04:18 pm (UTC)
I'm frustrated by the inability to find out any information about what is really going on in the Sudan. I mean, obviously a ton of people are being brutally murdered. But from what I hear (in Time, I think, and from other sources), the whole Arabs vs. Blacks thing is patently untrue. Almost everyone in the Sudan is Black and speaks Arabic. I mean, there are Sudanese Blacks and Sudanese Arabs, but the populations have been historically pretty intermingled.

And there's the issue of various paramilitary groups. The Janjaweed -- the group responsible for most of the atrocities was formed by the government in response to another paramilitary group that was killing a bunch of people before. (Which makes me think of the former Yugoslavia mess.)

The other thing that disturbs me is how readily the Right has leapt onto this issue (I guess because the Janjaweed are Muslim). The CJC, one of the sponsors of today's rally, have never cared about any genocide except for the one that happened 60 years ago (and they only cared about part of that genocide). That makes me...suspicious.

Not saying that we shouldn't condemn the mass killings over there or try to do something about it. I'm just not sure what we can do.

Also, I loathe demos.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: fromaway
2004-11-07 05:52 pm (UTC)
The other thing that disturbs me is how readily the Right has leapt onto this issue (I guess because the Janjaweed are Muslim).

When I'm being cynical, I think it's partly an attempt to fuel anti-Muslim sentiment (although from what I gather, a lot of the victims are Muslim too) and partly an attempt to justify the doctrine of pre-emptive invasion/occupation, even if they have no intention of using it to help people in Sudan.

Most of the time I am not that cynical. I've encountered individual people from the CJC whom I strongly disliked and for whom I would agree with you that this would be more about pointing out how evil Muslims are than anything else, but they were individuals. I think better of the organisation than that.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2004-11-08 04:55 pm (UTC)
My reading has suggested almost all the victims are black Christians - but I haven't investigated the issue closely.

Assuming our suspicions about the truth of the situation are correct, the idea that the current stories coming out of the region are an attempt to justify pre-emptive invasion sounds about right.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2004-11-08 04:51 pm (UTC)
I'm frustrated by the inability to find out any information about what is really</i> going on in the Sudan.</i>

What frustrates me more is that I don't know if I know what's really going on.

I remember an argument I had with my great uncle Jules, a veteran of the Mac-Paps, during the build up to the attack on Serbia. I was quoting the CBC and the Globe and Mail, while Jules was giving me what I thought was a mindless Communist "analysis":

- the West's "concern" about the situation was based on oil - Macedonia, he said, was in the idea spot for a pipeline form the Black Sea; and

- we were being fed a load of anti-Serb/anti-Socialist propaganda by Nazi-influenced (if no longer -led) Croat ustache about the so-called genocide (I think I've got the particulars right).

I scoffed then, but since the revelation that - er, well - there are no mass graves, I can't help but think I was played for a credulous dupe.

So, now, I am highly sceptical of the reports coming out of the Sudan. Your point that the Right seems so gung-ho on the issue makes me even more suspicious, the CJC included. (I wondered about the Israeli flags I saw at the rally - I hoped it indicated the presence of politicized Jews concerned about something beyond their own tribe, but fear you are correct they are more likely furthering the CJC's own agenda.

The feeling that I don't know what I can do to change things is one of the reasons I bowed out of activism so many years ago.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: patriarch420
2004-11-07 05:28 pm (UTC)

lame lame lame....

Hi dear,

I share your views ((which is unfortunate, because if I turn into a cynic to the degree that you are now at 17, what the HELL will i be like when 30 rolls around? ))

Having signed the petitions and going there... I still feel like I've done fucking nothing. Perhaps I'll personally write the government ... not that they'll read it or anything. This type of shit makes me feel hopeless sometimes.

Despite being in my high state i did enjoy your company.. irene didnt have any luck with her camera... because it's an older version and the technology changes so quickly that none of the stores will even buy them to pawn to somebody... a side from that all the pawn shops were closed because it's Sunday.

The pictures were fabulous- please e-mail me the ones you didnt post ...to my yahoo account- i think that one has more memory

smurfy_mcpot@yahoo.ca

Please refrain from any ~sass~ you may feel like dishing out at this point in relation to my email address.

*kiss lix* you're wonderful-I adore you..

-laura
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2004-11-08 05:04 pm (UTC)

Re: lame lame lame....

I don't think I'm quite the cynic you take me for. I prefer to think of myself as a realist (which is the original meaning of "cynic", in fact). For what it's worth, I believe I was just as "cynical" when I was 17 as I am now; the major difference is that I know I have been misled by such sources as the CBC and the Globe on more than one occasion - which leads me to be cautious about those things which may be convenient for the powers-that-be.

Presuming for the moment that all this suspicion about the truth of the situation is wrong and that Stephen Lewis is right, I know what you mean about feeling you've done nothing. It does seem rather pointless, gathering to demand the Canadian government do something. Clearly, our military is in no shape to step in and I don't think we have much leverage in terms of a trade relationship with that country.

Of course, one could take my uncle's example and ship out to take back arms on the side of ... well, whatever side over there is actually in the right.

Sorry to hear about Irene's bad luck. Nevertheless, I was happy to spend a couple of hours with you and yours, despite your "state". I'll be sending the remaining pictures your way tout-de-suite. And I'll say nothing about the address, my sweet smurfette. :)
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: fromaway
2004-11-07 05:39 pm (UTC)
I was at the Stephen Lewis talk. His speech made me cry. I couldn't go to the demonstration, but I wanted to.

And I do feel totally powerless here. I'm not sure how much good it does to register our outrage. Is anyone listening? I hope so, but I don't really know.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: pbprincess
2004-11-08 10:43 am (UTC)
I likewise attended an event designed to protest the killings in the Sudan a couple of months ago. It was well attended, famous people were in attendance and there was lots of money raised. The problem?
I left knowing little more than I came knowing, despite best efforts. I'd like to see more clear paths to information being forged, since the Sudan still denies that there's anything fishy going on and that's the biggest roadblock to real change.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2004-11-08 05:07 pm (UTC)
For what it's worth, a quick search of Truthout suggests that they, at least, also buy the contention there is a genocide going on in the Sudan.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: pbprincess
2004-11-09 09:20 am (UTC)
couldn't follow the link, but yes, growing consensus seems to indicate genocide; it's just frustrating to receive such muddled reports.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2004-11-10 04:47 am (UTC)
Ahem (again). Try this.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-11 06:56 pm (UTC)

The October Revolution

It's November 7. For some reason I thought the date significant, but a quick (half a page) google on the topic suggests I am wrong.

You're not wrong: you're just an idiot. Let me quote from Wikipedia:

"On November 7, 1917, Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin led his leftist revolutionaries in a nearly bloodless uprising in Petrograd, the then capital of Russia, against the ineffective Kerensky Provisional Government (Russia was still using the Julian Calendar at the time, so period references show an October 25 date)."
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2004-11-11 07:10 pm (UTC)

Re: The October Revolution

So ...

Like a flaking Grecian urn, so has Cool Hand Luke appeared, eager to defile my blog with argument, ironic example and cheap invective (apparently, more the latter than the former).

Welcome, old adversary, old friend. I look forward to more quotes and obscure references, thrown like a tattered gauntlet upon the floor, without ...

... ah, never mind. Get yourself an account - sooner or later I'll piss someone off and have to block anonymous comments. cool_hand_luke would amuse me (and Vern) to no end.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-12 02:37 am (UTC)

Re: The October Revolution

I look forward to more quotes and obscure references, thrown like a tattered gauntlet upon the floor, without ... Obscure references? A reference to the October Revolution is obscure? A reference to the most important event -- unfortunately -- of the 20th century is obscure? This, from the man who taught me the meaning of "left wing". This, from a man who, if he is not a former Marxist, is at least a former fellow traveller. -- Cool Hand
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2004-11-12 02:34 pm (UTC)

Re: The October Revolution

All right, the new handle is close enough for jazz; if it doens't quite delight me, it does force a gentle smile.

A reference to the October Revolution in November, when I am half-drunk, is obscure to me. Besides, I was blinded by rage at being personified as (I quote) "an idiot" on the one hand and sweet, sweet amusement at your sudden (though not entirely unexpected) presence, on the other.

I must say, however, that to characterize the Bolsheviks as Marxist is about as accurate as it would be to characterize the Bush government's propensity for handing taxpayers' money to the likes of Haliburton as capitalist.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: cool_hand89
2004-11-12 07:19 pm (UTC)

Re: The October Revolution

Besides, I was blinded by rage at being personified as (I quote) "an idiot" on the one hand and sweet, sweet amusement at your sudden (though not entirely unexpected) presence, on the other.


Just remember Yerffoeg: when there's a cheap shot to be delivered, my presence will be sudden but not unexpected.

I must say, however, that to characterize the Bolsheviks as Marxist is about as accurate as it would be to characterize the Bush government's propensity for handing taxpayers' money to the likes of Haliburton as capitalist.


I'm sure that you have a point in there, some where. I guess. But anyway I didn't characterize the Bolsheviks as Marxists.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2004-11-13 02:38 pm (UTC)

Re: The October Revolution

I'm sure that you have a point in there, some where. I guess. But anyway I didn't characterize the Bolsheviks as Marxists.

Please sir. You may not have characterized the Bolsheviks as Marxists, but you certainly implied a connection at the very least. Allow me to refresh your memory:

A reference to the most important event -- unfortunately -- of the 20th century is obscure? This, from the man who taught me the meaning of "left wing". This, from a man who, if he is not a former Marxist, is at least a former fellow traveller.

(Incidentally, I tried using blockquote for quotations, but the lj format quickly taught me that italics do the job better.)

But enough about you. Laura will soon be arriving and I must prepare for debauchery.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: angel_thane
2004-11-12 11:29 pm (UTC)

Hello, I really hope that I'm not disturbing you.

Hello. I'm the guy who got banned from actiontoronto for saying pretty much exactly what you were saying, but apparently at a worse time (or perhaps just failing to use the word 'patriarchy' I'm not entirely positive).

It seems to me that we were saying pretty much the same thing, kudos on getting her to listen!

Anyhow, I'm probably disturbing you, and that wasn't my intention, I just wanted to say thank you for adding a bit of extra reason to the discussion, which I am unable to do anymore.

(and if she wonders why I didn't mention the patriarchy, it was because that wasn't what we were discussing, it wasn't a debate about the causes of the violence, but rather one about how we should support the victims - at least that's how it seemed to me)

Again, sorry to disturb you, and thanks.

-Thane.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2004-11-13 02:42 pm (UTC)

Re: Hello, I really hope that I'm not disturbing you.

You're not disturbing me - and, for the record, I don't believe I used the word, patriarchy.

Thanks for the kudos, though.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: angel_thane
2004-11-13 09:05 pm (UTC)

Re: Hello, I really hope that I'm not disturbing you.

My pleasure.

nice to meet ya.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)