Straws in the Wind: Long day's journey into nightby Max TeichmannNews Weekly
, October 7, 2000
The World Economic Forum has come, seen, and gone from Melbourne, moving on to trail its coat in other cities of the world. The economic rationalists are enjoying one psychological and public relations victory after another, and winning the public debate ... by default. As Richard Pratt said during the Melbourne Forum, "The media aren't interested in the arguments going on in here, only in the demonstrations" - and any examples of violence to be found.
Despite the quite inadequate coverage in our Press and the puerile treatment by the networks, some worrying material - worrying for the globalisers - did emerge from the conference. Most of the delegates who do support globalisation showed an awareness of the extent of public opposition or disquiet, and declared that one of the main aims of talk fests like this is to find ways of minimising the pain and disruption likely to be associated with such drastic changes to our ways of working and living. I believe that most globalisers are genuinely concerned with this, but suspect that they may be trying to square the circle.
But S11 and other radicals who ran the attempted blockade, and who hijacked the opposition to globalisation, have no interest in free discussion or alternative strategies.
The Economic Forum, the attempted blockade and the accompanying demonstration are now parts of collective memory, but many of the consequences live on. Certain matters which we had thought resolved - e.g. Steve Bracks' command over his Party; the police and governments' right to enforce the Unlawful Assemblies and Processions Act; the right of all citizens to enjoy freedom of speech and assembly, and to move freely about their lawful business without being intimidated, hurt or grossly inconvenienced, e.g. shop keepers, Casino workers, motorists, the police - still appear under implicit challenge.
If Bracks goes back on his clear message - spelt out, that "the S11 protesters got everything they deserved from the police" - he would have betrayed our police, and the great majority of Victorians.
But to the demonstrators. They came over as quite unrepresentative, and seriously unaware of how most people regard them. Wilfully ignorant of either the pros or the cons of globalisation, or indeed any complex social or economic question - they clearly intend remaining ignorant, and to stop anyone else finding out what the issue is about, or its implications.
The younger ones, products of the New Education, couldn't put two words together; the hard men who ran them had their usual armouries of neo-Stalinist platitudes or reruns of the Cultural Revolution war posters - which satisfy them, even if no one else. School children, drummed up by teachers, these veterans of so many happy hours and teacher union cabals ... were there.
Others had been sent - suitably brainwashed - by parents, usually mothers, reliving their own heroic experiences in the Moratorium.
Then there were the permanent demonstrators; and the ferals.
Students I have spoken to since then - and some went to look - indicate that most don't want a bar of such people, and are far more interested in the world of Bill Gates. It is their burnt out teachers who saw the Crown Casino as the Winter Palace waiting to be stormed. The students have quite different ideas - even including those who go round parroting the stale, despairing propaganda slogans of their mentors. The fact is, the trade union uglies, the tragedy queens of victimology, and Labor branch hacks represent, to the young, the dead hand of the past. Parts of a hegemony which has failed them. And the young did want to know what Gates had to say, and what if anything, globalisation and the hi-tech Revolution has to offer, for them.
Anything or anybody who can break the monopolies of the humbugs, the public services union slackers, and the infantile communists, would get their backing. As to the newspapers, they don't read them anymore. The ABC? You're joking.
Their mums read The Age - their Watch Tower - then hang on to the ABC like Radio Omsk, while the old bores in the street buy into the talk-backs. Intelligent young people - no matter how badly served by their schools - soon see through all these comforters.
One of the seamier spectacles was the legal procurers, wearing arm bands saying "Legal Adviser" and/or "Legal Observer" - touting for litigants, and acting out their own fear and dislike of the police, their own lack of respect for the law, and social mores; and displaying a strange confidence that, like Arthur Daley, Labor appointed judges and magistrates would see them right when the time comes - viz exonerate the malefactor, and punish the victim, or the defender of the law. We shall see if this confidence is misplaced.
In this regard, the acceptance of masked men, aping PLO terrorists - a coward's castle if ever there were one - conjoined with complaints that some police removed their numbers so as not to be set up, could only pass in a society which no longer distinguishes between Right and Wrong; only "us" vs. "them".
The globalisers are being given one free kick after another. I happen to think they are offering Fools' Gold, but this will never come through, while the debate is stifled, or hijacked by time warps, amid hysterical shrieks from Brunswick Street and Albert Park Lake.