Bob Jones: Protests on streets the height of stupidity

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Why do the marchers bother? No one - neither politicians nor the public - ever takes the slightest bit of notice.

A special amusement derived from living in the capital is the regular displays of insanity and futility Parliament attracts.

My office looks down on Wellington's main street, Lambton Quay, and across to Parliament Buildings. While I don't go in often, it's a fairly regular occurrence when I do to see emerging from Parliament's grounds varying sized banner-bearing ragtag protest processions on their way to march down Lambton Quay. So frequent are these that they mostly go unreported.

If they number several hundred or more then they need a permit - usually forthcoming - to march down the middle of the road, stopping at the Civic Square. But many comprise just 40 or 50 and for whatever reason, nearly always leave Parliament around lunchtime.

The marchers emerge cock-a-hoop, banners high, and set out for Lambton Quay's pavement, whereupon bang goes their protest. For at that time they run smack into the hundreds of gargantuan government female employees spilling out of offices on midday cake-eating expeditions. So their parade falls into total disarray as presumably fearful of crushing they flee to safety. This is a highly entertaining spectacle. But what is truly puzzling is why they bother. No one, neither politicians nor the public, ever takes the slightest notice of them - the fate in fact of street protests everywhere.

For example, a few weeks ago, marking another predictably United Nations-contrived non-event, namely International Women's Day, several hundred banner-wielding madwomen assembled on Parliament's lawn and after the standard megaphone ranting and the symbolic releasing of two white doves, set out down Lambton Quay towards Civic Square in a march for - brace yourself - world peace.

In response, over the following three days the Syrian civil war intensified, the tubby North Korean dwarf effectively declared war on South Korea then followed it up with a threat to bomb America into oblivion, hundreds were killed by bombs in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, and so it went. Plainly these protagonists were unaware of our New Zealand madwomen's demand for the cessation of hostilities.

It's conceivable that some of these women have husbands. One's sympathy goes out to them. It must be hell learning that one's wife is marching for peace that day with the terrifying prospect that someone will find out. No wonder so many blokes are fleeing to fairydom.

For my money this street-marching lark is simply fashionable behaviour. It began here in the 1970s but prior to that there were huge ban-the-bomb marches in the 1950s in Britain which, as always, were totally ignored by the government.

In the late 1970s, large futile marches inevitably led at the front by soaking-wet clergyman and even more saturated, wispy bearded men with babies strapped to their front became voguish in Wellington, protesting about something or other and always, always ignored.

In recent years, Euro nation capitals have featured huge marches against their governments' economic contraction policies - all in vain. The policies, ill-considered though they are, remain unchanged. One in Lisbon recently saw a turnout of over 500,000.

When the ghastly Tony Blair released the dossier revealing Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction "evidence" it was so blatantly fictitious that hundreds of thousands hit the streets of London and other European capitals to protest, but still Blair lapdogged that great intellectual George W. Bush and marched his men off to war. He will forever be a pariah in Britain for that dishonesty. He certainly can't blame Catholicism as he's a recent convert and wasn't indoctrinated in the standard childhood deceit training.

But here's my point. Anyone with the IQ of a turnip should be capable of concluding that street protest marches, no matter how large, never make one iota of policy difference. All the shouting, the banners, the chanting and marching are no substitute for reasoned debate.

In fact, they are anti-democratic insofar as they're an attempt at coercion through noise and flamboyant gesture rather than logical argument. Governments often change their mind on policy announcements thanks to well-argued newspaper editorials or a quiet approach to ministers pointing out why a proposal is not actually a good idea.

None of that will stop the marchers, however, for as said, it's simply fashionable behaviour. Perhaps they should change tack and emulate the Estonians. They got rid of the Soviet Union by everyone quietly singing insulting songs about Russia whenever they walked past the Soviet soldiers posted outside city buildings. Eventually it became too much for the troops to bear and they duly packed up and fled home.

Since then all Estonians annually assemble in a grand celebratory march through Tallinn then spend a weekend singing in an outdoor arena. It's quite dreadful and I don't even know Russian, but after enduring an hour of it a few years ago, like the Russians I also fled.

Debate on this issue is now closed.

- NZ Herald

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