Is Protesting Fashionable or Functional?

May 16, 2009

I’ve blogged a few times on protesting, mostly with regards to students

Suzy Dean, a 23 year old wrote an interesting column in The Times on Thursday, complaining that “Demonstrators today seem more interested in mouthing platitudes than marshalling the case to advance real causes.  The article (which can be found here), raises some good points and highlights just how ‘fashionable’ it is to protest, and actually how little can come of it.  She succinctly articulates,

“I’m just here to raise awareness,” was another common response from demonstrators. Actually “raising awareness” is now a standard part of demo discourse: from the Put People First coalition to Stop the War marches, protesters gather to make the public “aware” of a cause. No one seems to think beyond awareness, or believe that convincing the public to join your cause counts for much.

If we are unable to articulate what we’re demonstrating for, the act rather than the aim of protesting takes centre stage.

The differentiation raising awareness and raising support has probably become very cloudyd it’s a fairly easy trap to get caught up in.  I mean, apart from being angry at bankers, who actually knows what many of the protestors at the G20 were protesting at?  And that’s undoubtedly been the most famous protest this year

Adrian Lovett, Director of Campaigns and Communications with Save the Children wrote a reply in the letters section yesterday.  As it’s reasonably short, I’ll copy it fully underneath.

Sir, The Make Poverty History white band I still wear every day is a little less white than it was and I wish it could be described as “demo chic”.  Rather than a fashion statement, it is a simple statement that the avoidable death of a child every three seconds is unacceptable — and a reminder to me that the small actions of human beings can change this reality.

Suzy Dean is right to say that campaigns need to go beyond raising awareness alone. But when a quarter of a million people marched in Edinburgh at the peak of the Make Poverty History campaign and called on world leaders to act, they did, with a promised $50 billion aid increase. That campaign went beyond awareness to action and there are children alive and in school today as a result.

Many people joined organisations at the peaceful Put People First march to urge the G20 to keep those promises in the face of a global recession. My guess is most of them came not to strike a pose, but to make a point.

Adrian Lovett, Director of Campaigns and Communications, Save the Children

Greencastle-Magilligan ferry must be maintained

May 1, 2009

Providing a vital link between the tourism of Donegal and the Causeway Coast, the ferry operating between Magilligan and Greencastle must be maintained. 


The current contract expires in June and until now there is no solution in place.  Limavady Council can’t afford to keep their side of the bargain going, nor should they since statistics show most passengers pass straight through the area and onto the Causeway.  Conor Murphy and his department won’t yet take responsibility for it, due to a legislation glitch which means it doesn’t technically come under their auspices, but action must be taken, most probably by Arlene Foster, Minister of Enterprise (including tourism). 

The Ferry saves a 49 mile journey for those who want to keep a Causeway coastal path, and without it the areas of rural Donegal and beautiful Downhill would likely be passed by by the unsuspecting tourist. 

The ludicrous security checks (which operate only on the NI side of the border) are said to cost between £80,000-£90,000 and should be scrapped immediately. 

The ferry service is economically viable, whether it makes a profit or not, as it ushers in hoardes of tourists to the Causeway area, and as such should be preserved as part of a bold strategy to attract tourists as well as Donegal residents looking to take advantage of the weak pound.

Sign the petition here to save the Greencastle – Magilligan ferry service.

Sophie Scholl – The Final Days (2005). “Decency, Morals, God”

April 27, 2009

Last night I watched Sophie Scholl – The Final Days, and would encourage you to watch at least part of the film, this fascinating clip below.

Sophie Scholl and her brother have been arrested for their involvement in the White Rose movement, distributing leaflets criticising the Nazi regime and Hitler.

After thorough interrogation their guilt is proven, and here (2mins 3os in) we see a conversation between Scholl and Investigator Mohr, who treats her in this as intellectual equal, dealing with issues of morality, conscience and God.

The White Rose movement holds high significance, showing clearly that there was opposition to the Nazis from within Germany, thought painfully highlighting its infrequency and lack of strength.

I was in Cologne a few years ago where the actions of the White Rose movement are now celebrated annually.

Article on Sophie Scholl from the Catholic Herald can be found here

North Korea … We know

April 8, 2009

Further to the National Geographic piece on Refugees from North Korea which I mentioned a few weeks ago, I’d like to highlight just one practical way in which you can make your voice heard.

Open Doors are running a campaign to speak out against China’s forced repatriation of N.K. refugees. It is a great tragedy that China forcibly return refugees to a country where leaving is a capital offence. As a result, not only are many refugees returned to face potential execution, but the stance of the Chinese Government means that female refugees who aren’t caught, unable to declare their status, are often forced into the sex slave trade. Open Doors claims that 70% of N.K. women refugees are forced into brothels or sold as sex slaves or wives (source)

Just as we condemn the Allies for knowing about Auschwitz and doing nothing about it so will our children condemn us for knowing something of the terror that goes on in North Korea and refusing to engage with it, instead ignoring the information and living selfishly in denial.

When you kids ask what you did to liberate the people of North Korea, what will you say?

Start here – not to ease your conscience but rather to take action – by sending a letter to the Chinese Ambassador asking her to urge the Chinese Government to change its policy of forced repatriation.

Click for change

Student Fees – Where’s the value?

April 2, 2009

Where does £3,125 of tuition fees per year go, if you study at the University of Ulster?

Extra lecturers, or even pay rises to attract the top ones?
No, staff face pay reductions of up to £5000 per year, as the Vice Chancellor received a 25% pay increase to take him up to £212,000 per year (that’s slightly more than the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, and nearly 20 grand more than Gordon Brown gets) (source)

Free printing?
No, students pay 5p per sheet which is the same as, for example, Bennett’s 1 hour photo charge. A service, or profiteering?

No, apparently the money that students pay to the University, is not reinvested back into them. Rather it pays for extortionate and rarely used equipment such as the ‘Bod Pod’.
And surveys which reveal the jaw dropping results released today, that sisters make people happy”

Wow. If that’s not value, I don’t know what is

‘Escape from North Korea’, from National Geographic

March 26, 2009

Since last summer when I looked into the possibility of going on an organised tour to North Korea (there is no other way of travelling to/within the country), I have had kept an eye out for any news smuggled out of the country. As the world’s most inaccessible country, it appeals enormously.

National Geographic ran an article last week entitled ‘Escape from North Korea’ and whilst it’s long, it’s well worth a read, bringing up issues of sex trafficking, active love, gratitude and the effect of faith on people in need

Read it here