26 May 2010

The Tragi-Comedy of the Square

Yesterday, a lot of people were getting very excited about Parliament Square as police tried to enforce some sort of security and/or tidiness upon it.

As irritating as the sight of assorted members of What We Used To Call The Left (WWUTCTL) pitching tents, banners and placards on the Griswald's favourite London attraction is, I reckon Winnie, Abe, Dave, Ben, Jan, George, Edward and Pam might have benignly approved. (As Nelson is still alive, he can speak for himself). It's all very tame compared to the political upheaval of their days. And that is what is truly irritating about Democracy Village: its faux radicalism that typifies WWUTCTL. If there was any coherency to what these people were doing, their despoilment of a world heritage site might attract a tad more sympathy.

According to the Democracy Village website, this whole operation is a "peace strike". Hmm. A "strike", eh? Cool. Workers strike, don't they? Those horny-handed sons (and daughters) of toil. Betcha Dad's told you all about the miners' strike, hasn't he? Now that, that was a strike. And what the BA cabin crew are doing. Phew. That's almost too exciting to bear! Not only are they striking but, in the process, they are also grounding those CO2-spewing aeroplanes.

Hold on, though. Surely to be a strike, you have to be witholding something that that those whom you are striking against want. Now the ruling classes are a sensitive lot, I know. And I'm sure they'd prefer a nice, unobliterated view out of the windows of the Houses of Parliament while they quaff cognac from hollowed-out diamonds and gently caress the capitalist lap-dogs curled up in their Saville Row-tailored crotches. But refusing to be "not in Parliament Square" falls short of a proper strike, don't you think?

Fear not. I'm sure you've got a few other ideas up your sleeves. Like these three, who set out several yards from Democracy Village to drape a protest banner over Westminster Abbey:

Woah, woah, woah, woah. Wait a second. What's going on there? Soldiers home, please? PLEASE? Soldiers home bloody comma please?! There is no greater pedant than me. No one more admiring of the correct use of a punctuation mark. But are you demanding an end to a war which you insist is illegal? Or ordering breakfast? The woman leading this heroic act of peace even described it as "a little bit naughty". What is this? "Carry On Smash The Imperialist Conflict-Mongers"? I'm still not sure exactly what it is you're trying to achieve but I strongly suspect it might take more than being "a little bit naughty".

Help. Please. Help me understand. What's that? Ryan'll sort me out? I can just go along to the Information Stand? Lovely. Now we're going somewhere. I'm starting to get it. Democracy Village is the Ideal Campaigns exhibition. Will you guys be at Olympia, next year? Ryan won't, I'm sure. He'll still be too busy "worrying" about the war in Afghanistan. Pete Phoenix might be, though, as long as there are some suitable "network experiences" to be had.

"The most controversial speaker was a mouthpiece for the
Tories who encouraged us anarchists to register as such in
return for mind-altering substances. A few Villagers didn’t
seem to have a prior understanding of satire and became
quite riled at the ‘Tory’s’ opinions; one lady began shouting
about the Village being funded by oil and arms companies…
and the Israelis."

You can begin to understand when the original long-term Parliament Square protestor, Brian Haw, is said to be less than impressed with his new-found co-habitors. Though if he had a grasp of basic economic theory he would have known that this tragi-comedy was all very predictable. (We know he doesn't have a grasp of basic economic theory through his insistence that the Iraq War was all about the oil when everyone else knows it was about serving the interests of Jewish bankers*.)

Thanks to its unique location in the heart of our political district, Parliament Square can provide great publicity for an issue and the opportunity to communicate with decision-takers. If that opportunity is over-exploited, that provision is depleted. While individuals may benefit from their experience in Democracy Village, the cost - of incoherency, dissipated responsibility, inaccessibility, and counter-productive campaign tactics - is borne by all.

Through his strangely pointless but impressively stubborn nine-year long sit-in on the Square, Mr Haw has established its status as a shared resource for protest. Like all such resources, it has now become vulnerable to the Tragedy of the Commons.

*As this is a new blog and the web is full of lunatics, I rather suppose I should point out that this remark is what is tecnically known as "a joke".

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