Monday, September 25, 2006

March in September

In Manchester on a fine Saturday afternoon was the protest march against the war in Iraq organised by the Stop the War Coalition with somewhere between 20 to 50 thousand people walking around the city centre with Respect/SWP banners and silly whistles shouting things like "Bush and Blair, Go Go Go" and "who's a terrorist, Blair's a terrorist". Naturally I took part walking around, with a LDYS banner we had gotten our hands on for our stall at Fresher's Week at Man Uni. There were also many of the Lib Dem councillors taking part. It was all very emotional and somewhat self-congratulatory - especially the speeches at the start by the organisers who were giving themselves incredibly large pats on the back (a polite way of putting it) for their role in "winning the public debate" on everything they've ever discussed.

A large problem was that it was largely preaching to the converted - who would take part in a march who hasn't made their minds up already? I suppose the shouting would be heard by staff in nearby shops and office blocks, but if I had not made my mind up and I heard "Bush's a wanker" I would roll my eyes, sigh and become even more convinced that most anti-war protesters are a bunch of loony communists who are as incapable of rational debate and are as keen on slogans and soundbites as New Labour.

As this was the first march I had been to I was keen to see what actually happens. All the interesting protests you hear on the news are there because there's been major confrontations with the police with tear gas and riot shields being employed. A slightly infantile part of me was longing for this to occur right before my very eyes, but it was very peaceful and the police were very helpful and friendly, with only one officer I saw actually instructing a protester to do something. Most police officers seemed to be enjoying themselves. That was what I liked. What I did not like were parents bringing their children along, especially young children. Babies and toddlers don't really know what is going on so are not being indoctrinated but children upwards of 8 years old are hearing repeated slogans and soundbites and these would be ingrained into their minds. How are they to take part in political debate as they grow when they have only very biased bullet point statements to think of? It breeds intolerance for opposing viewpoints which in ages gone by has led to slavery and fascism.

This is not to say I am in support of the war in Iraq, I am not and I think it is a tragedy for the people of Iraq and has done more to ruin the reputation of the United Kingdom as a peaceful arbiter than any other thing in the past. The UK has much to be proud for but even if you give someone 9 fantastic presents but offend them once, you're an arsehole, not 90% great friend. This has no bearing on the issue that indoctrinating people at an age when they are not emotionally developed enough to recognise the difference between facts and opinions. That the Earth is spherically shaped is a fact. That the Iraq war was morally valid is clearly not a fact, but neither is that the Iraq war was not justified. Many of the arguments for removing Saddam Hussein from power are very valid. Others were not.

Parents who bring their young children to protests - children who have uncritically accepted their parents' political opinions as fact - are more repugnant than any changes Blair's government has done to the education system. It is scientifically proven that young minds are not fully developed, and deprogramming entrenched opinions is very difficult. It is easy to teach young children to accept opinion as fact, however this is simple ideological brainwashing and it is intolerable, cult-like behaviour. Doctrinal teachings are unjustifiable whatever the subject, whether they concern the war in Iraq, faith, even human rights. People should know why something is worth supporting. That is the purpose of a liberal democracy.


Liberal Neil said...

So what are you supposed to do with your young children if you are going on a march?

And is taking them on a march any more indoctrinating than taking them to Church? Or teaching them basic rights and wrongs?

What if one of your children demands to go on the march, as my 13 year old daughter did with the big anti-Iraq war march in London?

Tristan said...

Having seen some of the photos from the march, there's some scary elements.
Open support for Hezbollah and Islamists. The ever present communists and socialist workers (a contradiction if I ever saw one) of course.

I've read reports that someone who sought to protest against the Iranian Islamists and for human rights was silenced by Stop The War officials... then again, Stop The War seems to be a far left puppet these days, so what do you expect...

Its hard to oppose the war, but stand up for human rights and democracy amongst such people. That's why I've given up on them. They'd rather have a dictator than democracy if the dictator was 'a friend' of their cause (they don't like the current dictators because they're often friendly with the US).

Chris said...


The simple answer to the first question is don't go on a march if you don't have something else for your young children to do (such as a friend looking after them, kindergarten, etc.).

I don't think taking children on a march is as indoctrinating as organised religion, mainly because a child would take part in organised religion far more frequently than they would a march.

I see the trap of the definition of what is a basic right/wrong lurking before me so I will refrain from answering that question. :)

As to the question of your 13yo daughter, responsible parents should be able to determine whether their children are coming along because they believe in the principles of whatever the march is standing for, or whether they think it will be a fun day out.

Tristan, I agree with you entirely, I saw exactly the same things as you describe. It's ironic that the US supported "friendly" dictatorships for exactly the same reason - the dictators were supportive of their aims. Democracy should exist for democracy's sake.


el tom said...

A good communist position to take on this one would be that 'children should not be treated as the property of their parents'.

I have contempt for people that take their kids out to stuff like this.

I also have contempt for the StWC, the Hizbollah supporting fuckwits. And what does Palestine have to do with anything?