Monday, July 04, 2005

Edinburgh, 2/7/05

When we got to The Meadows, the place was packed. A little later, we saw that there was, in fact, another area with another stage that was as big as the bit we were in, which was more amazing. The media report there were 225,000 people in Edinburgh for the march, and I can well believe it.

Unlike Hannah, I was not suprised at the anti-G8 messages at the event. I knew in advance that Dissent! and G8Alternatives were going to be there, as well as the Clown Army and all the usual protest crowd. If you read IndyMedia regularly you get to know who is going to go to a protest, irrespective of what that protest is for. To me, I think there is a grain of truth in the idea that the G8 is essentially a part of the problem. It is a meeting of the leaders of the 8 richest countries in the world, and their aim is, first and foremost, to make sure it stays that way. To the anti-capitalist groups, that makes them the enemy.

However, I was disappointed by the amount of groups that were at the event for their own agendas. There was a vast amount of people who go to every British protest held, and frankly I don't think they remember what event they're at from one day to the next. They unfurl their CND and Peace and Anarchy! banners and march with everyone else, not quite knowing where they are or why they're there. There is a grain of truth in most of their claims, but this event is not about war, it's not about saying Bush is a terrorist and it's not about ousting the Imperial War Machine in favour of a Marxist utopia. It is simply about making poverty history; about making sure that we stand up and take responsibility for our brothers and sisters around the world who are dying, regularly, because of things that we wouldn't even take a day off work for.

What did touch me, though, was that there were more "normal" people there than there normally are at protests. Aside from the protest regulars and the odd few people that decided to go along because it was a nice day and all the shops were shut anyway, there were about 200,000 everyday folk. People that don't protest. People that have never been to a rally. People that don't spend their spare time tie-dying shirts and selling Ban the Bomb badges at car-boot sales.

These people were, for the most part, there because they've had enough of the global injustice that is extreme poverty. And, to me, this was amazing.

Being honest, getting to Edinburgh was a chore... I didn't do the driving, but it's a long old trek from Hertfordshire and it's quite uncomfortable and takes a fair bit of effort. The event wasn't too exciting. The closest we got to a celebrity was Billy Boyd, and the music bands I heard weren't especially to my taste. (Unfortunately I didn't see Baba Maal). It was good, and there was a happy atmosphere, but it was no Live8. And I think that is the point.

It's been quite sad to see most of the corporate media didn't report on Edinburgh much, if at all. As Hannah said, there would probably have been more coverage if things had got riotous. Indeed, look at BBC today and you'll see that is pretty much proven: The Carnival of Full Enjoyment taking place today and organised by the anti-capitalist groups, has enjoyed far more corporate coverage because it has enjoyed far more police intervention. Which is sad.

It is sad that, when I asked someone I know if he recorded Live8 he responded "yeah, but I cut out all the political bits to save space." It is sad that Live8, which is clearly run with the best intentions in the world, had overshadowed the real events this weekend in the Media.

My hope is that the leaders of the G8 notice the genuine attitude of the people at these events who are campaigning against poverty, and that they don't lose sight of the real issues in a sea of media gloss and revolutionary sub-agendas. There are other important issues to be addressed, such as climate change, but poverty is what it's really about right now, and this is no time to bring our other agendas into the mix.

Was it worth going? Undeniably.
Would I go again? Of course.
Will it have the effect desired? Let us pray.

Make Povery History: My Reflections

The event was quite a learning experience, never before had I been to something like this. I felt quite uncomfortable hearing some of the attitudes held by some of the people who had turned up at the event. Many people were voicing anti-G8 messages and using the event as an opportunity to express their opinions on the war in Iraq. Personally, I found this unhelpful and offensive. It upset me that the event was being hijacked and the focus for some people was not on “making poverty history”. Nevertheless, seeing such a huge turn out was very moving and it was clear who was there for the real cause.
We spent most of our time hearing about the work of the different organisations under the “make poverty history” banner and having the opportunity to make our concerns known to the G8 leaders. People were encouraged to write a message on a white band which would be sent to the G8 leaders. This is something that “The Lounge” had done with us the week before and so we were able to post their messages with ours.
Unfortunately, due to the large turn out we were unable to take part in the march. We had been queuing to do so for about an hour with little progress when the minute’s silence took place. I was feeling quite tired and getting quite impatient at this point. I felt trapped, as there was no other known way out of the venue. That minute reminded me why we were really there. It was not for our own personal gain. I thought of those who are imprisoned by poverty and have no escape. Parents struggling to feed their children and doing anything possible to earn the little money they can. Those people are tired; those people have something to be restless about.
Spending the day considering these issues and hearing about the work of the many organisations involved in “make poverty history” has encouraged me to challenge the way that I live and to get further involved in the campaign.