Thursday, 10 November 2016
We shall not be moved, sang the peaceniks of former years as the children of the post-war generation began to exercise their hard won rights to free assembly and free expression and eschewed the taking up of pitchforks that in earlier centuries may have been the last resort of desperate peasants. Freedom and democracy and the brotherhood of man and the right to turn on, tune in and drop out and let’s all hold hands until we get a better world. The young became enfranchised and politically active in a way they never had before and some things genuinely changed for the better.
And on they went, those children to become some of the wealthiest and happiest people on the planet. Maybe because in an age before the instant wish fulfilment of the internet they had the sustained will to organise, spread the word and turn out; it took resolve and stamina to protest back then and it was effective, eventually. But in the present, when 89.5 million people follow Justin Bieber on Twitter, when the world watches Kim Kardashian’s enormous and ever bared arse and a movement can spring up and die in a day without anybody leaving their bedrooms, protests are just a form of entertainment.
“Anything worth watching?” Not really. “Wanna hit the streets, we can get an Uber?” It’s all too easy and ironically, the ease and convenience of the world we live in distorts perception. It might feel like you’re taking up cudgels for a cause, but it wouldn’t surprise me to find you can buy ready-made protest kits from Amazon: V mask, banner, your-own-message-here placards and tips on taking the best demonstration selfies. There are so many gatherings of zombie-like, pre-contribution citizens that if there is any unified message other than ‘Me, me, me’ it is lost in the chaff and clutter of information overload; it just sounds like an enormous flock of roadrunners out there.
As the US Election result became clearer Shaun King, of Black Lives Matter tweeted: “Dear Friends, If Donald Trump wins within the next hour, we still have 70 days before he becomes President WE MUST ORGANIZE OUR RESISTANCE.” Whatever happened to the democratic will of all the people? Once, people demonstrated in order to be allowed to vote. Now they demonstrate, nay demand, that those votes be ignored or overturned and they have marched on Trump Tower in New York City against ‘Trumpageddon’ and ‘Trumpocalypse’... oh and the all-encompassing ‘hate’.
Does any of this sound depressingly familiar? The anti-living-within-our-means protests, the anti-Tory demonstrations, the anti-Brexit movement. How come we didn’t see anti-Labour demonstrations... at least until Blair upset the bien-pensants of the ‘new establishment’. I think it may be down to a matter of confidence. The students always were revolting, to resurrect an old joke, but today’s ‘yoof’ seem to be in thrall to a whole swathe of loosely bound minority rights issues and emboldened by years of soft administrations willing to indulge them. After half a century of moral grandstanding they have come to believe that what they want is theirs by rights and creating mayhem is the way to get it.
You'd better believe it!
Meanwhile the rest of us, too busy getting on with getting on, grin ruefully because we can see what they can’t. While the entitled classes were going about the business of insisting that their needs were met, that their rights were respected and loudly proclaiming that they would reclaim the streets, end globalisation, abolish war, fight poverty and establish universal equality; while the mob was loudly demanding that everybody else listen to what they had to say, they rather forgot to listen. To see the fallout is truly glorious.