The Revolution of the Reasonable

Written and circulated in 2000.

Scenes of Victorian Police in full riot gear batoning S11 demonstrators sitting down on the roadway in an attempt to stop delegates entering the latest pro-globalisation meeting, merge with images of Victorian Premier Brack berating the demonstrators for being un-Australian, for daring to question the world’s corporate elite’s plans to expand their multinational empires. The image of police on horseback riding into crowds of peaceful protestors blend with sound bites of a leading e-technology spokesman claiming that S11 protestors were the real enemies of the poor in the third world because they were inhibiting what he so quaintly called ‘the dollar a day people’ from having access to the world wide web.

This spokesman went on to explain that once the third world was linked into the ‘web’ then women would be able to find out how to hydrate their children suffering diarrhoea. I could not help but think that if clean water, decent sanitation and adequate nutrition for all in the world were placed slightly ahead of corporate giants’ bottom lines and the arms trade then the need to find ways to hydrate children suffering bowel complaints would lose its urgency.

The following day an unmarked police car ran over S11 protestors and speed away from the scene, and the United Nations Children’s Fund revealed that 2 million children had died in the preceding decade as a result of war. Reasonable people throughout the world tut tutted over their breakfast. Nowhere in the world did any government attempt to stop such tut tutting. Reasonable people everywhere are allowed to tut tut over dinner when they are reminded that over 1,000 million people live constantly on the brink of starvation.

It is possible to imagine a determined group of matrons from Hunters Hill in the Prime Minister’s electorate deciding that the present Government has failed to take seriously the plight of children and adults in the Third World and pledge to disrupt his electorate office every day until he raises the amount of foreign aid from its lowest ever level to the United Nations recommended target of 0.7% of gross domestic product. They might be joined by their Toorak colleagues who could descend on Treasurer Costello’s electoral office. This of course would encourage the Pepi-Grove set in Perth to occupy, the Leader of the Opposition, Kim Beasley’s electoral office. Enthusiasm for such direct action might spread throughout the land as reasonable people everywhere decide they are committed to promoting social justice and human rights here and elsewhere in the world.

The thousands of milk producers who after decades of rising at 4am each morning and who have been declared ‘surplus to demand’ following the deregulation of their industry may think that, as they now have time on their hands, they will join the Hunters Hill Harriers. The thousands of Australians, who did not work in factories owned by the Prime Minister’s brother but who have been retrenched after years of working their guts out, might decide to climb off the employment scrap heap and wander down to electoral offices in their region.

Then the 200,000 Australians who had their social security cancelled or diminished in the last year for breaching a Centrelink dictate might decide they too should go down to their local electoral office and demand a decent social security system. The 34,000 Australians compelled to engage in demeaning work for the dole programs may decide they want a real job rather than a pretend one. They may decide that the best thing to do would be to call on their local member and demand one.

The 700,000 Australians who marched for reconciliation this year might decide that the Sea of Hands should decorate electoral offices around the country and would follow the example of the Pepi-Grovelers, the Toorak Terriers and the Hunters Hill Harriers. The indigenous community may decide that they too want real jobs in preference to CDEP work for the dole jobs and descend on the electoral offices of the nation to help guard the Sea of Hands while demanding justice for the Stolen Generations and sovereignty. While there, they might also point to the need to provide clean drinking water, decent sanitation and adequate nutrition for all indigenous communities.

It is possible that the one million members of environmental organisations may get swept up in the ground swell of enthusiastic calls for social justice and human rights and want to add environmental sustainability to the list of demands. The membership of Amnesty International, immigration and asylum seeker support groups might then be joined by the 40% of the nation who are first or second generation migrants in demanding that people who are asylum seekers are not jailed, that all people who arrive here with the intention of permanent settlement have an immediate entitlement to the same social security system as other Australians.

They could be joined by disability activists and Grey Panthers demanding kerosene baths for politicians, the provision of affordable nursing homes, improved community services and the removal of all impediments to people with a disability engaging in the wider society. The homeless might realise that politicians’ electoral offices are a more comfortable place to lay their weary heads than windswept park benches.

Ferals could creep from the cover of the forest. Marxists might want to maximise and maintain the contradiction. Anarchists appreciating the communal convivialities might wish to join in celebration, and the National Farmers Federation may re-evaluate its previous position, and amalgamate with the Wharfies to form the Federation of Fair Traders.

In such circumstances some politicians might be tempted to call on the police and the army to protect democracy by dislodging citizens from their electoral offices and surrounding streets. They would condemn the proposition that people, even reasonable ones, have a part to play in determining what actually happens in a democracy. It is likely that reasonable church leaders would oppose such calls and suggest their followers also congregate for an ecumenical Mass with the masses.

Eventually the leaders of Revolution of the Reasonable would be arrested, shot or disappeared by the paramilitary forces of laws and orderers and politicians would once again be free to go about the democratic process without having to listen to reasonable argument. For as any politician will tell you: if you want to hear a sensible discussion about globalisation or free trade then get an invitation to a Corporate Box at the Olympics.

Written in 2000 not published.