Jugglers and clowns by Trevor Plumbly
When the circus came to town
I remember they used to parade down the street with elephants, clowns on funny bikes and sexily dressed female acrobats prancing around. But these days it’s a different circus: the latest parade is as far from entertaining as it gets. Though they’re a lot less exotic, this crew still march to the beat of the drum. They don’t dress up and the razzle-dazzle’s been replaced by a mindless chanting, which I presume carries a message for the uninitiated. Protest is very much a part of democracy; god knows I did plenty in my younger days, but it’s got grubby with this lot, with non-believers jeered at, roads blocked and small businesses forced to close their doors, reducing political dissent to rabble-rousing. Events in the US, Canada and latterly down here in NZ indicate that the ‘freedom call’ is little more than a rallying cry for attention-seeking malcontents and bewildered conspiracy theorists.
Roll up! Roll up!
Infected like cinema vampires of old, the ‘Trumplings’ invaded the capital Wellington in droves. Sustained only by false reality and the dream of re-birth they congregated and next thing we know, it’s party time in parliament grounds, tents go up, food and water get shipped in by the faithful and misguided. The problem compounded when the rest of us looked for a resolution to the anti-social antics of these folk abusing the freedoms they claim to be preserving for us. When we spoke up, ‘who’s running the country’ and all that, it became a hot potato: for the Prime Minister it was a police matter, in sticky times, politicians prefer to avoid politics if they can; in the interest of ‘containing’ the situation, the Mayor delayed towing or ticketing illegally parked vehicles while oddly enough, elsewhere in the city, the guys were slapping them on everything that didn’t move on time. Wanna get away with a ticket Gran? Join the revolution.
Having failed to send them home rejoicing and realising there wasn’t much political profit in confrontation, the powers-that-be did a Pontius Pilate and turned it over to the police. The cops were required to show they were in control and not there for window dressing. It was a tightrope walk: Joe Public expected no-nonsense, while the Independent Conduct Authority demanded perfect restraint, at the same time as the happy band were pushing, shoving and screaming for freedom. It was all a bit silly really, breaking the law in pursuit of liberty makes about as much sense as ‘fornicating for chastity’ as we used to say. Violence and intimidation may have replaced civil disobedience in Trump’s America and elsewhere, but surely it doesn’t deserve breeding space here?
Cracking the whip
We’re in the middle of an epidemic and during emergencies regulations often get introduced that are uncomfortable, inconvenient and, to some, objectionable. That must have been the case in Britain during WW2 with the blitz, rationing and families split by war service. Back then restrictions were part and parcel of daily living, moaned about, joked about, but never regarded as a breach of anyone’s basic rights.
The problem we face now is that the ‘we’re all in this together’ attitude isn’t there for some. Despite the fact that 90 odd percent of us have done all we can to restrict the spread of the virus, there’s a small band that feel persecuted. Non-conformists will always be with us, I hope, but I’m not sure about plastic anarchists. If judges do little more than send them to the naughty boys’ corner, the police could scarcely be blamed for adopting a why bother approach. Unless the incident in Wellington is treated seriously, every half-baked crusader will continue to pop-up for their few minutes of fame.
For the media of course it’s a daily diet, which fans the flames a bit (hey look at me Mum, I’m on TV!). It’s hard for me to find anything positive about this bunch: the sight of children roaming around in sodden unsanitary conditions sums up the extent of the idiocy these self-ordained ‘freedom fighters’ are prepared to go to. Like many countries, we’re struggling socially and economically under the effects of the epidemic, and the last thing we need now is imported strife.
A massive majority have taken the logical steps to protect themselves and others; of the remainder a few may have perfectly legitimate reasons for not complying with regulations, but, for the rest, the sawdust Caesars and their camp followers in Wellington, there is no justification. Restrictions are a pain in the arse for most of us, but they’re introduced by those we elect to make laws that protect us. It’s called Democracy, it’s not perfect but it’s the best we’ve got and we can’t afford to let a few clowns play around with it as they please.