The leftward and other blatherings of Span (now with Snaps!)

Thursday, December 08, 2005

blast from the past

I wrote the below over five years ago - at the time, and for many years afterwards, it was the best protest I had ever been on. After today I am not so sure it still holds that crown.

As I can't post about today I thought I'd put this up instead, unaltered from how it was back in The Day.*

Today Rocked!
Let me tell you a little bit about today...

Today rocked! I spent two hours with several hundred other students fighting for what we believe in; and it made an impact, if not on the Government (yet), then certainly on the hundreds of people we passed in the street, whose cars we stopped, the hundreds of other students we passed at the University, the dozens of police and, most importantly, it impacted on us.

It taught us that together we are strong, together we are good for each other.

We sang, we clapped, we smiled, we listened, we squirted each other with water, we shared sunscreen, we chanted, we talked, we ran up and down the middle of Queen Street like raging spanish bulls, and we laughed. We felt strong and we shared our strength with each other... And what's the most important word up there? 'We!'

Muhammed Ali once said, 'Me? We!' I have always taken this to mean together we are strong; that 'I' am a part of 'us'; to express the intrinsic value of the collective spirit, something that can't be boiled down into a monetary concept because it transcends that - it is joy and it is love... and it is so much more than I am able to express.

I want you to feel the elation I have felt, to share a moment with hundreds of other people, and there are many, many opportunities to do this, all over the world, virtually anytime - a chance to revel in the comaraderie, to feel a part of something, a chance that is all too rare in the society we live in now. Despite our big cities, we all walk around in isolation - we don't even know our neighbours anymore. Rather than being a bunch of feeling, thinking humans living together, we are becoming more like a group of robots, who just happen to be existing in the same space-time.

So reach out, connect with others - raise your voice above the sound of the traffic! If you're not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

* I think I wrote this in either early 2000 or late 1999 - if anyone can help me work out exactly when that would be much appreciated.


gpjwatson said...

I think back on the many protests I went on or led over a decade and a half with fondness.

It is a pity they don't still happen at the University, but even the leftists there these days are without a belief in the power of their collective action.

I don't know what year your writing above referred to, although I would doubt if it was 99 or 2000 as any marches were pitiful in those years. The last decent sized one I remember was in 98.

Maia said...

I'm pretty sure that the series of occupations (one in Christchurch, a short one in Wellington, and either an occupation, or an attempt at an occupation in Auckland) was at the end of the 1999 academic year. There was supposed to be a series of occupations at the beginning of 2000, but I'm pretty sure only Wellington did it. Possibly Auckland had a good protest at that time. So that's not much help

Also about today - you rock, and should be so proud of yourself.

Ben Thomas said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ben Thomas said...

Ali's quote was actually "Me? Oui!" (not "we") - so a collectivist interpretation would be pretty wide of the mark.

span said...

GPJ - gee you really can't say anything nice without sticking a barb in the tail (and/or making it about you), even all these years later.

it wasn't a very big protest, but it was full of energy and commitment. i was stoked despite the size, for all the reasons i wrote about above. don't try to trash it Graham, you just look bitter.

Maia - thanks :-) I'm almost positive the protest was in late 1999 - it was the week before a very similar one which the police broke up violently, arresting lots of people - Ben you may remember when that was, as we had a protest the next week against police brutality which i remember you came on.

In regards to the "Me? We!" quote - it seems there is much disagreement in the Great Wide Vastness of the Internet about what he actually said - I read one article that reckoned it was "Me? Wheee!" If Ali didn't say "Me? We!" does that mean I can claim it for myself ;-)

gpjwatson said...

If you are asking people about past events you are consulting their memories, memories being personal naturally entail a degree of self reference and/or personal reflection.

I assume you consider my reference to the size of marches in 99 and 2000 as 'pitiful' to be the barb. I am sorry you have taken it that way, it was an attempt to be accurate. In your post you estimated a couple of hundred people. I was assisting you to pinpoint the temporal location by elimination.

span said...

thanks to the magic of Google I'm pretty sure that it was in early March 2000, probably on the 9th.

All thanks to a Scoop article on the protest against police brutality which a week and a day later than the one that I wrote about in the original post.

GeorgeDarroch said...

I remember having a glorious time at that particular protest. Mostly I remember it being warm and sunny and having effigies on Queen St. I wagged school to go to it, figuring that since I'd be in university soon enough I had a right to express my opinion.