Guest Author: I came home from a protest today…
I came home from a protest today. It was a small one, at SkyCity, about 200 students. The police poured it on, as if they were all-out to impress the elites who will soon be privatising them with how on-the-job they really are. The street was blocked off far enough away that the delegates were at no risk of being exposed to any political reality. However I could see some of them watching surreptitiously from the skywalk above. I’m beginning to believe that vicarious police violence is the only form of gratification available to some Angry White Men after a certain age. They were disappointed today. The students were peaceful as always – they had their say and left.
When I got home though, I was a little bit sad. Having the flu always makes me sad. But I was also sad that we even had to argue about the value of universal education at all.
I checked my messages, then I saw this video link and realised today was the 43rd anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing.
It seems like a dream now, but yes, it really happened, and these days, amazingly, you can actually see their leftover gear on the Moon.
I watched the video. It reminded me of the days and nights I spent watching it all live in 1969. When Neil Armstrong stepped out onto the surface, I sat in our tiny house in California with my mother and my brothers glued to the TV. I can still see their faces, lit by the flickering grey images as if it only happened last night. It was a glorious time.
But when I watched the video, I was suddenly overcome with grief. Seeing those bright, shiny Kodachrome faces, I recalled how no one had any idea that July 20, 1969 would be the high-water mark of American Civilisation. We took everything for granted. We should have fought to keep what we had. We should have kept the Promise of the American Century – the promise to extend the American Dream of freedom, peace, prosperity and civil rights to everyone.
Naive? Less so than you might imagine. We had just landed a man on the Moon after all. We could do anything. And what we wanted to do was help the world. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen. We lost our way. Or rather, our way was subverted.
As I recall the faces of the students I saw today, they can’t know how keenly I feel that my generation has betrayed them. Today, we fight just to hold onto what we have. The promise of the American Century, real as it was, and close as we were to achieving it, is as dead as the tragic Kennedy brothers who first conceived it.
Today, I am an expat, and an activist, living in New Zealand. I campaign for New Zealanders because I love them, and because this fight is winnable, far more so than the struggle going on now in the United States. New Zealand is small enough, and her people are still brave enough that it can be won. We can have our democracy and our sense of community back. The government has not yet managed to frighten and terrorise New Zealand into submission. Victory is still possible.
Of course, nobody is going to just hand it to us. If we are to stop our slide into the Global Slum the Neo-Liberals are preparing for us all, we have to dig in hard. We have to lose our fear. Non-violent struggle is not pacifism. It is not for cowards. It takes courage to stand up for your rights, to keep coming out, in the rain, even when you are sick, and you don’t exactly feel like it. You have to take risks. You have to harden up. You have to resist.
Had we done that when Reagan and Thatcher first began undermining the Great Society, after I left university, I admit, we would not be in this mess today. Had the first generation of students hit with fees fought as hard as they fight in Quebec now, education would still be free. Had Kiwis resisted to the bitter end the first time a public utility was put on the block, we would not be fighting Asset Sales today.
I hope that a future generation will not say of us, “Had our parents really fought all out when they wanted to sell the last of our assets, we would still be able to afford electricity now.” That would break my heart.
We fight, because we must. Because what you are not prepared to fight for can and will be taken away from you by those who are prepared to steal. Nothing ever turns out fine by itself.
We should remember that when we commit irrevocably to seeing something through, in spite of the risks and uncertainties, as we did on Apollo, miracles are indeed possible. Nothing is ever really beyond us.
Facebook Page: Kiwi Expats Against Asset Sales
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