Wednesday, 29 January 2014

The story of the time (I say) I was accidentally an anarchist

My friend, C, and I occasionally enjoy seeing plays, performances a bit left of field. We also enjoy attending lectures. TED.com talks are great too, if you're ever in the mood.

One night, just after when Julian Assange was arrested over the wikileaks debacle (I know it's not what he was technically arrested for but there you go, that's my view), C asked if I would like to go to a lecture in the city to find out more about what was going on in that world.

We were both interested in Julian Assange and wikileaks and we are also both curious by nature.

So along we toddled into the city. Quick bite to eat and then found the place for the lecture. In City Hall.

We couldn't see any signage out the front for the lecture so we sort of wandered around the foyer trying to guess where it might be or follow someone in. Then I spotted a handwritten note on the wall, pointed up some stairs.

We went up and followed a few extra signs to a room, with a circle of chairs.

C looked at me dubiously and said, "I don't think this is a lecture".

I shrugged, "we're here".

So in we went.

We took a seat, from the circle of seats, and waited for "it" to start.

The Chairperson of whatever-it-was was also sitting in the circle, and when enough people had arrived he began by talking about the importance of transparency, and said we would all take it in turns to introduce ourselves, and also fill out a sheet with our names and contact details.

"My name is Fred Jones and I represent Green Peace."

"My name is Sally Johnson and I represent Save the Children."

I gulped, imaging myself saying, 'My name is Mary Ryan and I work at ____.'

Lucky C went first, skipping the part where she worked and simply saying she didn't formally represent anyone. I repeated her introduction.

It took a while to go around the circle. But eventually we all had total transparency. Phew.
[*I'm making a dubious face right now]

Then the discussion about Julian started. A bit of background was given. An explanation as to his incarceration was mentioned. And then we got down to the important stuff. What we were going to do about it.

My interest had begun wavering but it started lifting at this point.

We had chosen to (turns out, foolishly) sit quite a way from the door, and because there was only a front row (circle) - getting up to leave didn't seem appropriate.

I had anticipated the lecture would go for 1 hour, 2 at the most. But there we were, after 1 and a half hours later, still discussing Item 1 on the agenda: the merits over the use of the term "free Assange" over the term "bring Assange home" for the protest motto banners. Seemed we were in for a loooong night.

Some were saying (I was one of them) that he might not necessarily want to come back to Australia. If I correctly recall, the words I used were, "have any of you actually talked to him, like, asked if he wants to come here?" No one had answered that but I got the impression it was a 'no'.

Once we had moved on from the great Free vs Bring Home debate, we discussed the other details. Where a protest might be held. Where we would walk. What we could use as props, that sort of thing.

During the course of the meeting, a number of late comers had joined in the fun. The room was starting to look quite full by now, and ideas were starting to really flow. It was actually a bit exciting, sitting with a bunch of passionate people, talking about interesting and topical issues, and all with a view to some sort of action.

I was tired, but my interest was continuing to grow.

Until shortly after one particular newcomer arrived. I remember him introducing himself as some sort of anarchist. I silently reviewed the theory of social contract in my head but gave him points for his honesty. Takes all kinds etc.

After more time had passed, the conversation was getting very passionate. The anarchist had a brilliant plan for a protest prop. We had decided we would start by meeting at X location (I can't remember where, maybe the State Library?) and walk through the city and then up to Parliament. Made sense.

"We could take an American flag and burn it on the steps of Parliament", suggested Mr Anarchy.

I looked at my friend C, "okay honey, I'm leaving, you joining me?"

She nodded and we left as inconspicuously as it we could muster (which was, completely conspicuously).

I have no real problem with self proclaimed anarchists. I firmly believe in the people's right to protest as an important element of democracy. I quite enjoy voicing my own opinion in various ways, and that includes attending protests (although admittedly I haven't attended very many). But I was definately not comfortable burning any kind of flag, nor was I convinced that it would have assisted Julian Assange during his plight.

All I knew at the time was I had to get outta there.

As we were leaving C asked me, "you gave a fake number yeh?"

"Oh! I didn't think to!" I wailed.

So for the next year or so I would get random texts inviting me to participate in all sorts of protests being held in Melbourne.

It was kind of exciting even though I didn't attend any (of those) in my capacity as a protestor. I did go along a few times to watch the fun though.

"EVERYONE DOWN TO OCCUPY MELB THE POLICE ARE ON THEIR WAY WE NEED EVERYONE WE CAN GET"

[*looks at watch and thinks to self "yeh I can make that to watch the fun before work"]

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