“……. It is easy to idolise something you don’t have. Campaigning for democracy is easier than exercising it. In practice, democracy is vulnerable: to manipulation by insiders, to the corrosive power of money, to voter apathy, to the frustrating constraints of real life, and to the inherent weaknesses of the whole idea-barnacled decision-making and the triumph of special interests”.
Mega change: The World in 2050, The Economist.
In 2012, The Economist published Mega Change: The World in 2050 which, apart from decrying the erosion of the values of democracy and integrity in governance, positively highlighted that the increase of “public spiritedness” will provide checks and balances on morality.
This public spiritedness involves, “…busybodies and do-gooders getting together forming pressure groups and charities.”
So on July 13th, I, the self-titled global busy body and a do-gooder, clutched my naughty sign and made my way towards Parliament Square. Trump was in town and I was en route to join up with the rest of the Women’s March that had taken off from Portland Place earlier. The email had said to carry pots and pans in order to ‘bring the noise’, however my husband and I were down to our last set due to my innate ability to burn our meals, so I took my voice instead. This was my act of defiance.
But why should it matter so much to me? I am not even American! The shortest answer is that when my grand-nieces and grand-nephews ask me years later what I did about the rise of hate, inequality and capitalistic greed, I can touch their faces with my wrinkled hands and say in all sincerity that I did all I could.
The longer analysis is that I needed to spend time with people who like me, didn’t think it was right to openly invite a foreign body to interfere with a country’s election which Trump had done in one of his campaigns. Between June 2016 to November 2016, the former British spy Steele had written 16 memos warning of the Russian interference. When word reached Obama at the White House, the Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell had warned the administration that if it made any attempt to inform the public, he would attack it for playing politics.
As a global busybody, I watched with interest how the two candidates were measured by very different yardsticks. The man could get away with anything while the lady’s emails caused her demise. And as the do-gooder, I took to the streets to make up the numbers since Trump had clearly showed that petty things like crowd sizes irks him to the core.
My anger was not on Trump per se but rather for everything he stood for. He had labelled migrants like me as villains, leeches on a system that relied on benefits to get by when the facts were clear that immigrants were, in most part, active participants in an economy. To collectively lay the blame of failing economies on the migrant’s door is a lazy rhetoric that gives rise to hate. I had felt this during Brexit and for most of the years I had lived in England. The times following up to the referendum had been hostile, a neighbour in the sleepy country town we had been living in conspicuously put a sign for UKIP on her front window which directly looked into mine. This was the type of hostility against migrants that I feared was taking on a global phenomenon due to the normalisation of figures like Farage, Trump and Le Penn. We migrants were the easy villains while they continued their insular, divisive, populistic politics.
So there I stood, next to people from other ‘shithole’ countries singing and dancing discordantly along with the women suffrages, the non-binary’s, the Christians, the young and the old. There was no police to chase us and no military personnel to violate us. Years back in 2006, a demonstration in Fiji ended up badly for some activists. Dissenters had been silenced and the pictures of those tortured which I had seen circulating in emails back then was enough to make me wet my pants. To be able to have a public demonstration of this scale was truly enlightening.
Throughout the night before the march I had been questioning my commitment to this public demonstration. Would I still have found this voice had I not migrated? Contrasted to the government I had left in Fiji; the government here welcomes critique and scrutiny and there are real attempts at having clear dialogue and finding workable solutions between the government of the day and other stakeholders. Yes of course the UK government has many shortcomings, letters falling off at a conference amongst the many, but the mere fact that the mechanisms of democracy underpinning their government are sound is consoling.
But for the title of global busybody to hold true, I needed to be able to apply this rule to the country I once called home. Sure it’s easy joining thousands in a hippie like atmosphere at Parliament Square but could I be the lone voice of dissent in front of the Ratu Sukuna Statue at the Fiji Government buildings? Would my do-gooder morals impel me to decry the facade of democracy in Fiji when the probability of a boot reframing my face or being returned to my husband in a body bag is real?
I questioned it all. Even the ability of public spiritedness to endure in its role as moral indicator in society but was snapped out of my musings when I saw up ahead a sign that read, ‘So bad Even the Introverts are Here’. I smiled, this introvert as yet didn’t have all the answers, I don’t know if I will be as brave in Fiji as I was here at parliament square but regardless I knew that my actions today, July 13th, was pivotal to the further defining of my moral compass. Besides, I still needed my wrinkled face to be touched by chubby hands years from now telling me, “Noqu Kuku ma ca’ava a’rai” (My great grandmother did that)
I stepped out in front of the little crowd I had joined, lifted my skinny arms in the air and protested.
This act, for the global busy body and do-gooder, felt right.
To all global busy bodies out there