I spent all week thinking about what to put on a sign. A few days before, a group of protestors had made headlines crashing a speech the prime minister was giving and wielding a rectangle of disgust that read ‘FFS CLOSE THE BLOODY CAMPS!’. (FFS = For Fuck’s Sake!) How do you top that?
I’d never made a sign before, although I’d read a good many of them at the daily protests in Bolivia. Things like ‘Mineros de pie, nunca de rodillas!’. In the end we made two. My sister, a design student at the university down from Town Hall where the protest was being held, had just finished class and bought us some sturdy white cardboard the width as long as my arm and the length twice that. Minutes before the rally started The American came up with ‘Send MAL to Manus, Bring THEM here’. Later he would overhear a by-stander ask, ‘Who’s Manus?’ Mine read ‘End the War on Asylum-Seekers CLOSE THE CAMPS!’
What I should have written is ‘I’m so angry I made a sign.’
But I wasn’t angry during the rally, I was buoyed by hope. Hope that comes from seeing a sea of demands that human beings take care of each other. Hope that comes from reading sign after sign beseeching the government, by-standers and Australians everywhere to understand that our humanity is collective and so too our inhumanity. Hope that comes from chanting together and walking together – knowing you are not alone in this fight. Together and in step with your own values and the strong belief that change is stirring, rubbing the sleep from its eyes and taking form – slow as molasses but sure as the sun rises.
I could try and find the words to explain myself but Rebecca Solnit says it best:
‘Your opponents would love you to believe that it’s hopeless, that you have no power, that there’s no reason to act, that you can’t win. Hope is a gift you don’t have to surrender, a power you don’t have to throw away. And though hope can be an act of defiance, defiance isn’t enough reason to hope. But there are good reasons.
Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act. When you recognise uncertainty, you recognise that you may be able to influence the outcomes – you alone or you in concert with a few dozen or several million others.
It is the belief that what we do matters even though how and when it may matter, who and what it may impact, are not things we can know beforehand. We may not, in fact, know them afterwards either, but they matter all the same, and history is full of people whose influence was most powerful after they were gone.’
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