Dominic George: Too many toots ruin the cause

By Dominic George

1 comment
Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy
Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy

Rural radio personality Dominic George airs his views here every Thursday.

One of the most useless and baffling scenarios I've come across during my years in the news business is the concept of "toot for support".

It falls under the wider "protest" umbrella and consists of the aggrieved party soliciting beeps of the horn from passing motorists, with the aim of determining whether said motorist agrees with the slogan or catchphrase championed by the roadside group.

I'm confident "toot for support" hasn't been thoroughly thought through as it has no singular benefit at all. The "toots" can't be collected like a signature, the villain never hears them and most drivers simply toot for the sheer hell of it without knowing what they're tooting for; they see the word "toot" badly painted on to a sign, so they do -- who doesn't love an excuse to let rip on the horn! But most can't, or can't be bothered, reading the small print on the protest banners.

I'd wager there have been screeds of minor road accidents caused around "toot for support" roadside vigils, as drivers strain to see what social grievance has been perpetrated.

I've seen these things go on for hours before enthusiasm wanes and it's time to once again adorn the sack-top, strap up the sandals and head back for another gander at the protest manual.

There are other ludicrous protest methods as well, such as the hunger strike, setting yourself alight, suicide bombings and the like but there are also some useful ones.

Despite the myth perpetrated by Jamie Mackay that my political persuasions lie to the left of Karl Marx, I've never been involved in a protest in my life and have never been part of a Trade Union. But as a student of history I am aware of some of the more rousing moments of protest.

Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the Mexico Olympics in 1968 remains my favourite -- the gold and bronze medal-winning African-American athletes showed their opposition to racial oppression in the US with the simple raising of black-gloved fists on the dais as the Star-Spangled Banner rang out across the stadium.

You'll also recall the vivid imagery of the flower down the gun barrel outside the Pentagon in 1967, the lone Chinese student in front of a line of tanks in Tiananmen Square in 1989 and even the scenes inside Rugby Park in Hamilton in 1981 that saw the Waikato vs Springboks match called off.

My personal favourite is the Ukrainian-based FEMEN group, which uses the technique of the "topless protest" to make a point. They can protest all they want as long as someone's there to take photos ...

Some protests fail, some lead to direct action and others ignite a spark that can lead to greater things.

It's fair to say the agriculture industry in this country isn't exactly one for a march and a chant up the main street of the nearest town or city, preferring instead the more savvy approach of political influence rather than slogans and banners. There are, however, notable exceptions such as National's Shane Ardern driving a tractor up the steps of Parliament to protest the fart tax in 2003, and the dramatic "Bloody Friday" episode in 1978 when hundreds of Southland farmers ran over a thousand ewes down Dee St in Invercargill before slaughtering them to show their exacerbation with the industrial chaos of the times in the face of extreme drought.

Though not as poignant, it was interesting to see hundreds, if not thousands, of people in Hawke's Bay recently heed the call to show a united front in support of the Ruataniwha Dam proposal. If some are to be believed, the weight of public opinion forced a re-think by one or two Hawke's Bay regional councillors. It is, however, but one hurdle that has been jumped in this saga and there are still a few to go. Opinion is divided on whether the economics stack up and it's abundantly clear the government simply doesn't want to know anything about it in the lead up to the election.

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy reportedly made a number of speeches regarding irrigation without referring to Ruataniwha.

You can be assured if there was some mileage to be made out of it, that would have happened. When Ngai Tahu joined Trustpower in pulling their funding from the project, many thought that was the end of it all. But with a rally, a group of interested parties held on to fight another day ... and they didn't ask for one insufferable bloody toot.

Have your say

We aim to have healthy debate. But we won't publish comments that abuse others. View commenting guidelines.

1200 characters left

Sort by
  • Oldest

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a3 at 23 Sep 2014 09:25:08 Processing Time: 358ms