Spectre of Death Haunts Land Warfare Conference .. And Us All
Its been a tough week for the peace movement the little one in my head, anyhow.
- It was only last Friday that I heard there was a week long Land Warfare Conference happening at the Brisbane Convention Centre all this week.
- John Howard was to launch his biography at the Irish Club, the same week.
- Julia Gillard had just announced that she envisaged our military being part of the Afghanistan occupation for another 10 years.
- It was also revealed she was negotiating with the US for a permanent military base in Australia, probably Townsville.
- The parliamentary debate on Afghanistan was turning into a pro-war propaganda fest, aided and abetted by a compliant media supplying patriotic photos of our brave soldiers risking life and limb to help the Afghan people.
- Politicians and media both seemed oblivious to the fact that all polls show over 60% of Australians think we should not be there.
Of course all of this is just part of a militaristic progression in this country ever Sept 11 2001. At the time we happily promised to help the US in whatever path of destruction they chose to pursue. Kevin Rudd may have caused a slight blip by an early withdrawal of most Aussie troops from Iraq, but Julia Gillard is more than making up for that now.
What was a more depressing for me was the renewed realisation that there was so little resistance. The larger peace movement seems to have all but disappeared – and the little one in my head was a little unhappy.
A few weeks before I had been talking to a researcher from Melbourne who was writing a book about resistance to the Aidex 89 and 91 arms bazaars in Canberra. Hundreds of people successfully blockaded the1991 event, resulting in an abrupt end to the proposed biennial event. Now a similar event was openly happening in Brisbane and no resistance was being planned at all.
All of the above led to my first nightmare of the week on Monday night. It started out as a vague dream about a plan to go on a long bike ride, but the second half of the dream was very vivid, and remains so today. I was on the second story balcony of a flat in suburban Brisbane, looking at the city in the night sky. Suddenly I saw a missile ( a Cruise missile I immediately thought), rising to the sky. Is our Government bombing its own people, I thought? The missile started to come down towards a spot near us. Well, this is it, I thought. Im going to die. I was not too worried about dying, but I was hoping it would not be too painful, thinking of concrete coming down on me. I ducked on impact and was amazed to see that I, and the building, survived. I looked out at a path of destroyed houses all in a line. My last thought before the dream ended was, Oh, I guess I should go and help the survivors.
The second nightmare came at the end of the week, just last night. It was more vague. I was just being chased by people firing machine guns at me. You see last night I took my children to see a kids movie at the local hall. Our local Lions Club generously put on a recent movie for a cheap price once a month.
A happy diversion for the week you might think. The movie was an Australian animated movie about owls titled, Legend of the Guardians. Hoping for a relaxing night, I was shocked to find myself watching the most blatant piece of pro-war propaganda one could imagine. The most memorable moment came near the end when the young owl hero kills the evil owl with a blazing stick through his insides. The old mentor/warrior owl, quietly says, You did the right thing, son. From that point all that is left is a little glorious music, and patriotic dribble about the fight against evil. Even my young boys were quite shocked at the blatant message. No Freudian analysis needed to find the source of that nights nightmare!
Next morning I read the news that 2500 soldiers had marched through Brisbane streets the same afternoon. They were returning form Afghanistan, East Timor and elsewhere. The article said it was the largest homecoming march in over 20 years. Indeed, we have been in Afghanistan and Iraq for 9 years and East Timor for longer, and I have never heard of such a march before.
Once again the famous Hermann Goering quote comes to mind, The ordinary people dont want war. But it is easy to convince them, whether one lives in a democracy or dictatorship.the people can always be brought to the bidding of their leaders.
But, in between nightmares, some of us did manage a little resistance after all. About 15 people picketed the Convention Centre on the final day of the Land Warfare Conference. (Actually Sean, who could not make the Friday had bravely done his own one person picket the day before with his sign, War is murder Not an Industry ).
I had dusted off my old spectre of Death costume, made a new Scythe to replace the one the kids had long since played to death, and got Anne to make a new Merchants of Death banner. I then proceeded with my daughter Rebekah and my11 y old Ben to Rebekahs year 12 graduation Mass and Morning tea. (Oh yes, the path of resistance is often diverted by more mundane -or important , depending on your perspective- activities.)
Afterwards the three of us headed to the Convention Centre. We met a few other punctual folks and immediately climbed the long steps at the front of the centre. The Spectre of Death marched slowly back and forth in front of the doors – bringing a bit of reality to what was happening inside. Meanwhile Merv, Anna, Rebekah and Ben held the Merchants of Death banners.
It was a few minutes before well groomed and equally well mannered security guards came to negotiate. For me, the good thing about being the spectre of death is that you dont have to speak (Death feels above such pettiness). So Merv skilfully took on the negotiating task. As expected the guards did not like our free advertising for their conference, and wanted us to move to a place where we could not be seen so easily.
Before occupying the steps we had agreed we would stay there till the police came and threatened us with arrest. To our surprise, after a few minutes discussion, the guards left and locked all the doors! Any visitors would have to find another entrance. One small victory so far!
It was another ten minutes or so before police came. First two, then about another 8 arrived. Three scruffy adults and two school children must have looked pretty dangerous I guess. The police were as equally well mannered as security. (Though one did insist in standing in the middle of my dramatic Death Walk, halving the length of my walk and doubling my turns.)
After more polite discussion and a final suggestion to the police that they might be better off speaking to the people inside who were preparing mass murder, we bowed to the inevitable and moved to the bottom of the stairs.
Soon after the rest of the resistance had arrived with leaflets, guitars, big posters of the victims of war, and blood splattered clothing. For the next hour and a half folks picketed, leafleted , died, and sang peace songs. Death continued his walk.
Not a mass blockade to end all arms bazaars perhaps. But a small sign of hope to break the power of nightmares – and disrupt the consensus of powerlessness that keeps good people silent.
Why not join/start the resistance near you.
20th Nov 2010