Saturday before last, the 21st of January 2017 (I want to engrave the date in my mind) J and I joined an estimated 100,000 other people walking from Grosvenor Square to Trafalgar Square. It was damn cold, not the dry freezing cold of continental climates but the damp horrid cold that UK winter does so well and I had dressed badly thinking more of cycling there than the long, long wait standing still waiting for the huge crowd to move. But oh boy was it worth it! A huge turnout and though the reason for it is grim, there were smiles all round. I don’t think there was a moment in over four hours, across the thousands around us, in which I wasn’t seeing happiness and animation pretty much everywhere I looked. Of course there was anger too: we were all there because we’re angry; we’re angry that Trump represents a new resurgence of misogyny and of gender hatred in blatant and nasty form. We’re angry that so many Americans (a minority but the minority that carried the day) voted for him. However, as many posters and banners said, this was about a belief that affection, love, humour and joining up with people across differences will win over anger, hatred, fear and contempt.
I’m sure everyone there shared that anger and I felt waves of it as I have from the minute Trump stood for the Republican nomination and started to reveal this side of him. As the march went on I felt that and waves of disgust, and deep waves of fear washing through me, swashing back and forward against the sheer joy and hope at being there. This felt to be about turning my anger and disgust, and my contempt even, the emotion of mine that I fear most, to fuel; putting it to constructive, creative use not letting it moulder away in me and poison my presence for others.
This event was driven by anger about anger. My anger toward Trump is about two things he has brought together with devastating effect. Most obviously, and the primary driver for the march that day is his understanding of the tragic appeal to humans of confident hatred — the terrifying ease with which we align behind a dictator or a dictatorial system. He is of course a democratically elected leader, but so was Hitler, such is one of the many problems of democracy though it’s probably still better than the alternatives. With the right presentation, the right massaging, the right rhythm and ritual we will vote for people who hate, who tell us it’s alright to hate, tell us that it’s OK to have contempt for others. This is a a position he fills with consumate, disgusting, brilliance. The other thing I hate is his indifference about facts, truth, his contempt for careful exploration of complex challenges, and his wish to stifle those trying to find sufficiently truthful, grounded, knowledge about our world and the parlous state we humans put it and ourselves in. This is a vital complement that any dictator, any would be demagogue needs, this is a crucial part of what I call the massaging of the message, it enables the ritualisation of the speeches so they contain very little of any real substance at all, so they preempt all thinking, all exploring, all testing. Suddenly Brecht’s “Resistible rise of Arturo Ui” seems less a burlesque, more a simple warning to us all.
We have to, yes please we have to, oppose both aspects of Trump’s rise to such power, as Brecht knew so well and personally, these things are resistible. I know my part in that starts with protesting against these things, knowing that I am angry, I am full of disgust and contempt. I know I have to both hold these passions, but also that I must challenge them, use them carefully as fuel to strengthen me to stand with others. Held in that way then they are necessary emotions and the testing, trying to find facts and truths and share them, is the vital containment vessel that makes these feelings safe and vital
More on this to come I hope. No photos, I know we were all there to make a public statement but that felt like turning it into political tourism, a spectator sport (that’s me: hooray for anyone who felt differently and is circulating their ‘photos of the smiles, the brilliant jokes on posters and so, so much that was good). However, I do think Lily Allen’s video celebration of the event really captures it well:
I do love the fact that I found out that she had produced this because google pointed me to Piers Morgan railing against her when I searched for information about the march! Now he’s another contemptible Trump puppet. Ouch, back in the fuel tank hatred and contempt. More protesting to be done (and ongoing) but also much, much resisting and finding creative alternatives to Trumpery and hatred to be found.
Edit note: First posted this morning 10:30ish 1/2/17 when it was garbled (too much anger, to little time!), now, 21:00ish 1/2/17, a bit better I hope.
2 thoughts on “I’m protesting again: trying to turn anger and disgust to constructive fuel”
Hi Chris — I was thinking about you a couple of days ago and wondering how you were getting alone. Yes, your blog entry really resonates with my thoughts as well. Trump is most recent manifestation of deep societal problems in the United States. A myriad of compromises, millions of small, hateful decisions, laze, entitlement, racism, bigotry, impoverishment of education, greed, and envy — these and other things have been both splitting and plaguing American society for a long time. The fact that there are not enough people to stand up to Trump and people of his ilk means that there is a majority of people who either support him actively or enable him through inaction. And there are other strongmen in Turkey, the Philippines, as well as our own version here in Japan — Abe, who lies constantly and works to enact policies that hurt the most vulnerable in society and posits the notion that war in East Asia is inevitable, so Japan must become a ‘normal’ country, get rid of its pacifist constitution, and start supporting the US on the high seas. Dark times, my friend. But people like you will ensure that civilization will move forward in the long run.
Ah, I’m no leader for the resistance. Variants on this banner (https://twitter.com/realhelenowen/status/822777028889952258/photo/1) were common.
I’ve always been rather wary of those who wish to lead but we need them. I guess what we know, and so painfully at the moment, is that good leaders need to have many constructively critical followers and sympathisers. We do also need leaders and it seems that some people in the UK at least are really stepping up to lead. I find it interesting that these emerging leaders and organisers seem to be outside the traditional political parties. There were some MPs and prominent figures there, the Mayor of London (Labour), Sadiq Khan and the veteran Labour MP Harriet Harman were there according to the Evening Standard. I regard the Standard, which is probably the oldest London newspaper, now given out free around London, as pretty right wing and very much a supporter of the rich and of modern market capitalism and of the increasing concentration of the extremely rich in London. Having said that, its ‘photos and commentary in this report (http://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/womens-march-thousands-of-activists-march-on-the-streets-of-london-in-support-of-equality-following-a3446331.html) seem to me to capture things and give a flavour of who it saw as importantly there. I’m amused and pleased to see that Chris Robshaw, until recently the England Rugby captain was there. The report gives a good flavour of the banners and what struck both J & I was the diversity of people marching but also how many seemed what I would call “very respectable, institution, Brits” not looking at all like protestors.
Interesting about Abe: yes, I seem to see only very muted and thin commentary on him and the Japanese situation here but that seems worrying the picture we are given. Have there been official or unofficial protests about Trump there in Japan?