Friday, 6 July 2012

My Tynwald Day - no mud, no parasites, no regrets

It has become almost a tradition that either on or just after Tynwald Day I come on here to report how bad it was.
 Sorry, not this year. As a matter of fact, I spent longer than usual in St. Johns yesterday and had a great time. Mostly because I was busy well away from the ‘official’ disaster zone. I spent the grand total of 15 minutes laughing at the usual sad collection of losers, shysters and bigots who these days frequent what used to be the ‘charities field’ drowning in mud behind the Tynwald Grandstand before wandering back down the hill, where both the drainage and the company were far superior.
I should explain that Amnesty International have never been welcome on the charities field. We have this annoying habit of pointing out what politicians in the real world get up to, and highlighting (not deliberately by the way) abuses by some of the dictators, corporate entities and military throwbacks the Manx government sees fit to invite to the ceremony in any given year.
Some years we struggled with mundane problems – like erecting our stall the night before, only to find it demolished by a passing burger van. Some years we even arrived to find ‘forces unknown’ had moved the entire stall to another spot, handily out of the eye line of that year’s royal visitor should she, he or it be guided around the field by a fawning minister. This was in the years when you just ‘booked’ your stall by queuing at the Wedding Cake after the announcement in the Examiner, so it was first come, first served for a decent spot.
Then government changed the rules, so only ‘Manx charities’ were eligible, with the other spots going to commercial enterprises who paid dearly for a day’s licence to distribute botulism - or just PR to cover up their participation in the decimation of emerging democracies. Amnesty is not a charity, and as being a Manx one involves collaborating with the Manx government (and in many cases accepting money in return for that collaboration) we never can be. For a year or two we piggybacked on the stalls of those more willing to put profit (or just survival) before principle, but we also had to tone down the campaigns so as not to discomfit our hosts.
This year we were part of an experiment – to put local groups who work in other countries and local residents with roots in other countries together – in the gardens behind the One World Centre. It worked well. For a start we got a much bigger space to work, close to decent amenities, and no censorship.  
Sure, I had a grandstand view of the religious bigwigs who water down or divert the potential for a project like the OWC as they sat around a picnic table pretending they had thought the whole day up. They did not. I can state that as a fact, having caused most of the publicity myself after working with two people who did put the day together as they were failing to get any.
Still, they are harmless – at least compared to the average civil servant – and some of them both mean well and do some good elsewhere. Certainly it was amusing that they carefully avoided the Amnesty tent, but if you are in the myth industry I suppose hard facts must be a terrible distraction - possibly even a sin.
There were two added attractions. One is that the worst evangelical drains upon developing countries declined the OWC invitation and stuck to the ‘official’ charity field, where they could grub for money without inconvenient evidence of the damage done in those countries by their US allies. The other was that we got to talk to people with first hand experience of the outrages Amnesty kicks off about. People, for example, who told stories about parents punished for opposing the Marcos regime, or who had relatives and friends who had seen the Lords Day Resistance Army in action.
I have more contact than most with new residents from lesser known countries, but I was still staggered at what a wealth of knowledge was revealed yesterday by some of the people who passed through our tent. If only we could get them into our schools instead of those neo-colonial chancers linked to religious oppressors our education department seems to prefer.
Eventually, both social change and education on the island will happen because of people like that, and not ‘the professionals’. It was such a joy and privilege to spend our national day with them - instead of being bogged down in the mud with those who hold us back.

No comments: