It's April 30th
Do you know what you did 30 years ago today?
Although at that time I was living in north-west England, close to the Windscale Nuclear Reprocessing Plant
, I had hitch-hiked down to London to take part in an anti-nuclear demonstration. (Maybe I should have started this paragraph with 'because'.)
I stayed with friends in Brixton who had another demonstration to go to the following day, Sunday 30 April 1978, and so did I. My friends worked for Lambeth Law Centre, which offered pro bono
legal services to the poor of the borough, many of whom were black. We were all concerned with the rise of the National Front, an overtly racist organisation, as an electoral force.
Many folk were opposed to them and formed groups affiliated to the Anti-Nazi League and wore lapel badges suggesting that we were civil servants, like my father, teachers, coal miners or whoever against the NF.
As on the previous day, the demo started with speeches in Trafalgar Square, which were followed by a march.
We got to Trafalgar Square long after the speeches, so we tagged on to the end of what we realised must have been an immense demonstration because there were no police left to escort us. We followed a flat bed lorry on which one of my favourite groups, Misty In Roots
, played Exodus
, the Bob Marley song, to which we danced down the Strand, Fleet Street past Petticoat Lane and further into the Eat End of London, supposedly the haunt of the fascist thugs we were opposed to. I say “supposedly” because there were few to be seen, but we were thanked by the multi-racial onlookers.
By the time we joined the throngs in Victoria Park, we’d missed many performances by the bands who had united for Rock Against Racism
Someone who obviously got to the park earlier than us was Eva Lake
, now in the USA, who remembers the Clash, X-Ray Spex and Steel Pulse. And we both recall singing along with the Tom Robinson Band
about being Glad To Be Gay
We were united in fighting intolerance and it was a great day in British social history.
That nigh on thirty years later I am now witnessing a darkening intolerance going hand-in-hand with the deepening of Indonesian democracy
is sad. Although some, such as Rima Fauzi
argue that the alarming increase of intolerance among people of different groups and religions ... could be the beginning of Indonesia’s journey into medieval times
, I tend to disagree.
And this is in spite of such outrages as the burning of a mosque
belonging to a supposedly heretical Muslim sect, Ahmadiyah, by a mob of presumably underemployed hooligans. That the government is being urged to ban the sect, founded over a hundred years ago, and that SBY should ignore Article 28 (1) of the Constitution which guarantees the right to worship the god (or gods?) of one’s choosing is an indication that there is currently little focus on the problems facing this country other than the here and now. The recent ‘anti-pornography’ bans on dangdut
singers, the suggestion that masseuses should wear chastity belts, are surely just signs of sexual immaturity. (Those men who are so easily discomforted in the presence of women should be ones put under lock and key.)
Society has yet to learn how to make its way in the world following Suharto’s abdication ten years ago. Having been bottle-fed from birth, and punished, often brutally, by Suharto's New Order, Indonesia’s emerging democracy is barely past the toddler stage. Children of just ten years old are rarely able to think beyond their immediate concerns and still tend to say still 'gimme, gimme'. This accounts both for the gross consumerism and the lack of awareness that others have a right to personal space.
If you think about motorists with their shiny cars disregarding pedestrians and ignoring the white lines painted on the roads in order to rush into the next bottleneck, you get the picture. It's just like children with toys which they won’t allow others to play with. Readers of the local news are well-aware that it is the so-called élite who are generally caught with their pants down and their hands outstretched. They are unable to offer true leadership because they have always been sheepish followers.
Yet it is the children, the next generation, that we have to look to for guidance. If they can see through the lies which their indoctrinated teachers and parents give them, and that older generations have shown little regard for the future well-being of their successors, then maybe, hopefully, the youth of today won't fuck things up so much when it's their turn to operate the levers of power.
I believe the world can be made a better place before it's too late and that the majority of today's children offer the hope and tolerance which Indonesia sorely needs.
But then, I remain an unashamed idealist.