You Cowed?

Written By: - Date published: 3:21 pm, January 11th, 2018 - 94 comments
Categories: activism, community democracy, Left, Politics, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, useless - Tags: ,

I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume I wasn’t the only one gobsmacked on reading about, in the words of The New York Times:

A Louisiana teacher who stood up at a school board meeting and asked why the superintendent was getting a raise while educators and support staff were not was ejected from the room by a marshal, handcuffed on the floor and put into a patrol car.

There are various reports across several papers you can refer to, and the entire debacle has been up-loaded and is available for viewing. The first six minutes is more or less the routine tedium of a board meeting. At 6min and 40sec, the wee guy with the gavel tries to shut down uncomfortable questions and pull the meeting to order, and then…

 

It was while watching the recorded footage that my blood began to boil. See, not one person stepped up to kill the situation. People simply bleated ineffectually and recorded what was happening.  It struck me as being not a million miles away from a Black Mirror episode called “White Bear” where people simply record the distress of the main protagonist…except in that instance the people doing the recording are part of an elaborate set-up and they have been instructed to be passive.

Then I remembered this other and very similar situation from early last year when United Airlines removed a passenger from an over-booked flight. Yet again, people bleated and people hit “record”.

 

Compare and contrast with the following footage from a KLM flight out of Amsterdam that the authorities sought to use for the purpose of deportation.  That shit wasn’t happening. And it wasn’t happening because people spoke up, stepped up and didn’t back down.

I don’t know what it is when people won’t have one another’s backs. It’s fcking beyond me. And I don’t know what it is when people will just meekly allow authority to do as it will. Thankfully, that attitude isn’t ubiquitous. I came across the following story from March of last year while searching out the links for this post, and it gave me some heart, though, I’ll just quietly note that, unsurprisingly, instances of direct action don’t seem to attract much mainstream media coverage. From Vice: –

On Tuesday night 17 activists made their way airside at Stansted Airport and blockaded a Home Office privately chartered deportation flight. Live-streaming their action to the Facebook page Stop Charter Flights, the protesters locked themselves to the wheel of a plane set to remove around 50 people to Nigeria and Ghana.

End Deportations, a coalition of campaigns fighting against immigration detention and deportation, took responsibility for organising the protest alongside supporters from groups like Plane Stupid and Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants.

“I think, for me [Lily May from End Deportations], it needs to be a collective resistance alongside those who are most affected. That’s how change happens,” she said. “People who aren’t in detention and aren’t facing deportation can risk their safety for the empowerment and ultimate liberation of people who aren’t able to. For sure there are many different ways, like targeting the companies involved, but this is the only time we have shut down a charter flight, so direct action does seem to be effective and necessary.”

To end, let me bring the whole notion of direct action back to a broader context. Some people deplore the thought of civil disobedience (the bleat and record crew) or have been cowed to the extent they only feel able to bleat and record. Well, here’s Voltairine De Cleyre, who I’ve only recently discovered, from her essay Direct Action (pdf pp 271)

Every person who ever had a plan to do anything, and went and did it, or who laid his plan before others, and won their co-operation to do it with him, without going to external authorities to please do the thing for them, was a direct actionist. All co-operative experiments are essentially direct action.

So I ask again. Are you cowed? Because there’s enough stuff going in the world right now that would suggest we need to be having one another’s backs. And cowed doesn’t cut it.

 

94 comments on “You Cowed?”

  1. ianmac 1

    How come the Marshall was there so quickly? Do Parish meetings regularly have police presence? “Resisting arrest” so I suppose others feel intimidated by the marshall action. Would we jump on the Marshall or protest in due course should there be court action? That might make it worse perhaps.
    Edit: The Marshall is employed by the Board! Hells Bells!

    • One Anonymous Bloke 1.1

      Nope, you have to get in their faces and calmly explain that what they’re doing is wrong. Perform a citizen’s arrest if necessary. Remember that a human rights violation is a crime in progress perpetrated by the powerful unless you stop them.

    • Bill 1.2

      There were more than enough people, and more than enough time, for people to simply blockade the door from the corridor.

      But sure. Opt for the “due course” and listen to the fear riddled (or is it middle class and is there any difference anyway?) voice about not ‘maybe making things worse’, bearing in mind that the whole point of direct action in that kind of situation is to make things impossible – like the passengers on that KLM flight who, by simply not “taking their seats”, made take-off impossible and so stopped a deportation.

      • One Anonymous Bloke 1.2.1

        That’s why they have the right to bear arms, no? So they can protect themselves against their government. Snort. The hippies were more effective.

  2. One Anonymous Bloke 2

    It’s the attitudes exposed by eg: the Lerner and Milgram experiments, and the various studies that confirm their findings.

    And yes – the appropriate response is to get in ‘the man’s’ face and refuse to back down. Thanks for posting this, I’ve been thinking the same since I saw the footage.

    • Stunned Mullet 2.1

      “And yes – the appropriate response is to get in ‘the man’s’ face and refuse to back down. Thanks for posting this, I’ve been thinking the same since I saw the footage.”

      When the man with the face is armed and wearing a badge I would suggest that is a daft response.

      • One Anonymous Bloke 2.1.1

        Calmly, politely explain how things are going to work. Don’t back down. Remember they respond to authority, so project authority.

        Don’t try and intimidate them, that’s what they want. They’re already intimidated enough by the situation. Obviously there’s strength in numbers, but there’s also strength in strength.

        PS: this doesn’t work when you’re drunk and naked at the Sevens.

  3. Whispering Kate 3

    You are commentating about the USA here, no wonder people are cowed. Honestly I would be too. It would be keeping the head under the parapet for me – at least I own it – its not the place to expose your head for anything.

    • The Fairy Godmother 3.1

      I would be as well. If not for myself I would be scared for my family. I have just finished a biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the violence and intimidation in this instance seem similar to what happened in the thirties when the Nazis where on the rise. Before someone quotes that ridiculous Goodwin’s law at me I say if we ignore history we are condemned to repeat it.

      • adam 3.1.1

        Goodwin’s law don’t apply – it’s about real nazis.

      • halfcrown 3.1.2

        “I say if we ignore history we are condemned to repeat it.”

        !00% TFG

      • Tracey 3.1.3

        And some of the responses on here show the insidiousness of tghe propaganda. Yes propaganda. That war never ended. People are deep down scared to stand up for another for fear of losing their life. Seems sensible but there are numerous examples in history of the atrocities this has allowed.

        We have all been subject to propaganda all our lives… from our education to the words utterered by our politicians to the monied groups manufacturing “scientific opinion” to ensure their money river doesnt stop flowing.

        Who wants to leave their comfort? Not many who have “stuff” to lose. But tge more we push into the category of nothing to lose the bigger the chance of it ending badly.

        As long as we acknowledge we are complicit and cowardly in our silence we have self awareness…

    • Bill 3.2

      And Voltairine De Cleyre (quoted and linked in the post) was talking about the US too. At a time in it’s history when a huge amount of institutional violence was meted out to workers and others. Hell, “half” (exaggerating) the IWW she mentions in her linked speech were eventually lynched or deported and it wasn’t uncommon for workers to be shot dead or flung into prison for organising or striking.

      They weren’t cowed though.

      And direct action does not mean “going it alone” and walking headlong into the annals of the martyrs.

      Are you honestly telling me you’d be too scared to simply sit or stand in front of a door at the end of a corridor (say) with 20 others and not do as you were told?

      • weka 3.2.1

        In NZ, I wouldn’t be scared to do that. In the US I probably would (would probably do it anyway). In parts of the US at least, the people who would take action are the ones prepared to be arrested and/or physically assaulted.

        “And direct action does not mean “going it alone” and walking headlong into the annals of the martyrs.”

        Well it might mean going it alone if no-one else stands up with you. In communities with the direct action skills and knowledge, it would just happen that many people would react in the right way. I don’t think that was one of those communities though.

      • adam 3.2.2

        He a summary of labour related murders in the USA. Wikipedia so the numbers are on the conservative side.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_worker_deaths_in_United_States_labor_disputes

  4. Anne 4

    They are cowed Bill.

    The teacher was asking why a superintendent was getting a rise while the teachers who were doing all the teaching get nothing. She was arrested for “intimidation in a public place.” She was articulating a fair point and intimidating nobody.

  5. greywarshark 5

    Referring to how people often don’t speak up and support important ethical matters.
    I had a look at the Simpsons. Mayor Quimby decided to get the monorail while Marge worried about the roads that needed fixing etc. The money wasn’t being spent in the right way.
    Monorail meeting:

    Now Marge is standing for Mayor –
    “The Old Blue Mayor She Ain’t What She Used To Be” largely commits to examining how Marge’s rise to power as Springfield’s new mayor relies upon how the knee-jerk, irresponsibly swayed townspeople are susceptible to manipulation based on their basest, most selfish instincts.

    The Simpsons isn’t a cynical show so much as it resists the temptation to either demonize or lionize civic-mindedness or patriotism. The people of Springfield, tonight, flock to Marge not because she’s clearly a better candidate and person than perennially elected, womanizing, cartoonishly corrupt Diamond Joe Quimby, but because resident political operative Lindsey Naegle convinces her to use Professor Frink’s micro-targeted campaigning. (She’s seen catering to both Springfield’s “yokel Objectivist” and “exotic pet owners” lobbies.)

    The same goes for Marge’s motivations, too, though, as she’s spurred to challenge Quimby not by his legendary moral turpitude so much as by how his sexist condescension at a town meeting discussing the most recent monorail-related Springfield disaster makes her grind her molars.

    Lisa seizes on the feminist aspect of the conflict to urge Marge to run, and Lisa’s right that Springfield (and by extension, Earth) needs a serious lesson in female empowerment. But Lisa’s also running away with the issue for her own ideological reasons, losing sight of both Marge’s real concerns, and any more specific needs the town has.
    https://www.avclub.com/the-simpsons-does-some-lightly-effective-political-sati-1820381738

    It’s hard sticking to the principled point and speaking up for it when there are buttoned- down people you know all around you. And you can get side-tracked by your own individual belief or obsession.

    (Sorry about changing the format of this around. Hope it hasn’t confused you too much if you have been trying to read it. I have finished now and hope it is clearer.)

  6. I don’t know what it is when people won’t have one another’s backs. It’s fcking beyond me.

    It’s what we’ve been taught all my life. That what happens to other people is other people’s business and you shouldn’t get involved.

    We need to start teaching that, actually, you do need to get involved in such affairs because it probably does involve you and will negatively affect you if you don’t.

    Unions used to teach it but not very well.

    • JanM 6.1

      Quite the opposite of the way I was taught. My father was a Methodist minister and supporting others was fundamental to his ethos, and, indeed, of his colleagues. In fact, I would have said it was it was an important aspect of most of the major world religions, whether practised or not.
      Martin Niemoller (you know -“First they came for the communists – etc) was a minister of religion and hs stance cost him a number of years in prison.( My father actually met him in the 1950s at a World Council of Churches conference in Crete, I think).
      I think the development of the ‘precariat’ has made many people afraid for themselves and their families; of losing the means of material comfort, or even survival, pretty much in most countries of the world now

      • Quite the opposite of the way I was taught. My father was a Methodist minister and supporting others was fundamental to his ethos, and, indeed, of his colleagues. In fact, I would have said it was it was an important aspect of most of the major world religions, whether practised or not.

        The majority of people don’t have ministers for parents. This majority live at the whim of the capitalists and they certainly don’t want people sticking up for each other – note the attack on unions.

        Martin Niemoller (you know -“First they came for the communists – etc) was a minister of religion and hs stance cost him a number of years in prison.

        Exactly.

        I think the development of the ‘precariat’ has made many people afraid for themselves and their families;

        Yes. Thatcher said that there was no such thing as society and then went to work destroying it because it gets in the way of major profits for the well off.

        • Bill 6.1.1.1

          What you were taught, or what you learned is different to what JanM experienced. There’s no “all encompassing” small t truth.

          Are there general attitudes affected by culture and general structural position in society? Yup. Can those attitudes be accepted or rejected? Yup. Is there a demarcated route towards either acceptance or rejection? Nope. Is one persons acceptance or rejection of a general attitude a guarantee their children will will similarly accept or reject said attitude? Nope.

  7. Sanctuary 7

    Louisiana has a population of 4.6 million – about the same as NZ. Police fatally shot 19 people in that state in 2016. The New Zealand police shoot and kill 2-3 people a year in recent years in the same sized population.

    US Police are poorly trained, come from a tradition of a psychopathic level of compliance policing, are heavily armed and know they can murder people with more or less impunity.

    In Arizona, population 7 million, the cops kill 52 people a year. The Arizona cop responsible in the video below (caution: extremely disturbing) was found not guilty.

    Of course people are cowed. You’d do nothing as well if you thought the consequences of physically intervening to prevent that womans arrest could easily be a gun happy cop shooting you dead.

    • Bill 7.1

      Yeah, Sanctuary. Because 20 people blocking an exit…the cop’s going to pull out his pistol and shoot his way through. 🙄

      • McFlock 7.1.1

        Easy to doubt until the cop gets nervous and draws.

        And it is the nation that has “one riot, one ranger” as part of its national mythology.

        But more to the point, the cop might also be perfectly happy to walk up and down the barricade spraying pepper spray. And when backup arrives, arresting everyone.

        • Bill 7.1.1.1

          Do you not understand that it. does. not. matter. if everyone is arrested, because then, if nothing else, you get to have an impromptu party in the cells. (Yes, that does happen and has even happened here in l’il ol’ NZ)

          But in your world solidarity dies when a fcking cop says your being naughty. ffs – I hope no-one’s ever in a situation where they’d need you to be covering their back 🙁

          • McFlock 7.1.1.1.1

            And in your world cops carry guns for decoration.

          • weka 7.1.1.1.2

            “Do you not understand that it. does. not. matter. if everyone is arrested, because then, if nothing else, you get to have an impromptu party in the cells. (Yes, that does happen and has even happened here in l’il ol’ NZ)”

            Or, you get locked up in a dog kennel, strip searched, beaten (that was Standing Rock protestors, but try telling comfortable-ish white people that that can’t happen to them).

            Not saying direction action shouldn’t happen, but I don’t think it’s as risk free as you are suggesting.

            • McFlock 7.1.1.1.2.1

              +1

            • Bill 7.1.1.1.2.2

              I never suggested it was risk free. Different actions have different levels of risk attached to them.

              • weka

                tbh, you haven’t been that clear on this point. e.g. you appeared to be saying that in the meeting, those people could have blocked the policeman from removing and arresting the woman without risk to themselves. I’m not sure that is true (or that we are in a position to judge that).

                So sure, more could have been done. If it were NZ, I would have had no problem standing up and saying things directly to the meeting or the policeman, because here it’s unlikely I would get arrested. In the US, in that situation, it’s pretty much a given that shit was likely to happen. How much shit is hard to say.

                • Bill

                  I also put up two other videos of people on planes either standing up to authority or backing down to authority, and a link to a piece on more full-on direct action carried out at Stanstead Airport.

                  The only way to know if some arse is going to nut out if a doorway is blocked, is to block the doorway. But some (“only doing this if they won’t nut out”) attitude can’t be the motivation, because in that case, they (who-ever ‘they’ happen to be) will, as they tend to do anyway, just issue blustery threats….and walk away unimpeded.

            • Tracey 7.1.1.1.2.3

              It is pretty risk free for a room of white middle class people yet sit there they did.

          • joe90 7.1.1.1.3

            if nothing else, you get to have an impromptu party in the cells.

            Being man-handled, processed, strip searched, assessed for self harm, personal items/clothing confiscated and detained in a freezing, reeking, piss soaked lock up with who-the-fuck knows for who-the fuck knows how long ain’t a party in the cells, Bill.

            /

            • Bill 7.1.1.1.3.1

              No. That wouldn’t be. But since I was merely referring to an actual situation instead of letting my imagination conjure up all types of bad, and certainly not “party conducive” shit….

              • weka

                well the actual situation in question is that meeting, surely?

                • Bill

                  Just like you afterwards gave an account of the aftermath of Standing Rock arrests, so I originally gave a brief snap-shot on the aftermath of a fair sized NZ based arrest I experienced.

                  I get that some people want to grasp at fear (worst case scenarios) because it justifies inaction. And I’m not saying truly terrible things can’t happen. But generally speaking, because we’re not usually dealing with long running and highly charged situations (eg – Standing Rock), that’s not the case.

            • Bill 7.1.1.1.3.2

              So whereas it’s okay to allow some cop to arrest a teacher who (in your mind) might be exposed to being man-handled, processed, strip searched, assessed for self harm, personal items/clothing confiscated and detained in a freezing, reeking, piss soaked lock up with who-the-fuck knows for who-the fuck knows how long…it’s not okay to prevent that from happening because then you too might wind up being man-handled, processed, strip searched, assessed for self harm, personal items/clothing confiscated and detained in a freezing, reeking, piss soaked lock up with who-the-fuck knows for who-the fuck knows how long

              What the fuck’s that about joe90?

              I’d have thought that if there was a risk someone would be man-handled, processed etc, etc then that would serve as all the more reason for fucking well stepping up.

              But no. Seems not.

              • joe90

                What the fuck’s that about joe90?

                /

                Your wrong-headed notion that principaled disobedience earns you a party in the cells.
                /

                • Bill

                  Sure. Referencing an actual thing that happened following arrests for a direct action is “wrong-headed”. And running off to arm wavy “the sky will fall in” extremes of possible repercussions for a group of mostly middle aged and middle class white women who might have hampered or stopped the progress of a cop making a trivial arrest (the equivalent of trespass) is appropriate and level-headed.

                  On balance, given the situation and circumstances of the first vid, I’d put money on the repercussions tending far more towards my take than yours.

      • Tracey 7.1.2

        Room was almost entirely white…. the cops have less of a record shooting white middle class people in a room

      • Gabby 7.1.3

        You think you’re being sarcastic brother bill but verily you speak the truth. You’re quite safe though.

  8. weka 8

    I think the situations in the post are all quite different from each other. The US is basically now an early stage fascist state. I agree people are cowed. They’ve had a whole year of fascist playbook intimidation, socialisation, and strategic acts by the government to not only make them cowed but to normalise that state. Sarah Kendzior and others were talking about this shit in the year before the US election, and many have been documenting it since the inauguration.

    I also think race/ethnicity is a factor here. White people for the most part still think they have things left to lose. So standing up in a situation like that were they face arrest or beating or fear of being shot, is a big ask. I agree that surrendering to the threat and perceived threat is a losing proposition in the medium and long term, but I understand why in the short term it’s what is seen as viable (plus the room had kids and elderly in it).

    I’m guessing none of the people in the room had training or experience with direct action or probably even protest.

    I think what some of the people did was good. Recording is very important (and uploading). Also good to see that quite a few people followed them out once they realised she was being arrested. I think close ups of the officer’s ID would have been useful, as would have been some quick organising to go to the station with her (it did look like friends were there to do that). And following up with action afterwards, both for her arrest and the issue in the meeting itself. Get the media involved, organise, etc.

    Beyond that, it’s exactly communities like that that are the risk for fascism arising, because by the time they realise they need to be activists it will be too late. Hopefully that will have woken some more people up but I suspect it’s going to get a lot worse before enough people get skilled in taking action.

    What interests me more is what the similar situations are in NZ and how we would respond here. I see some good stuff happening in the activist communities esp around climate change and in Māori communities, but mostly I see people who are ok to not rock the boat *too much. I don’t know what the solution to that is.

    • Sanctuary 8.1

      “…What interests me more is what the similar situations are in NZ and how we would respond here…”

      It is difficult to think of an analogous situation here. For a start, it would be highly unusual to even have a police officer at such a middle class meeting of teachers and administrators. Such is the level of gun violence in the USA, I guess they regard that as necessary at any public gathering.

      Secondly, an obviously armed cop at a small public meeting here would be regarded as impossibly provocative and would be more likely cause a riot than prevent one because middle class New Zealanders respect police officers, but don’t particularly fear them. The idea a cop might shoot them for public disorder offences is simply beyond our imaginative framework.

      That means to me a single cop trying to carry out such an arrest here simply would be prevented from doing so, either by means of a human blockade or being physically set upon and restrained by the crowd.

      Really though, the cultural and psychological gulf between the two societies is so deep that we can scarcely imagine how it must be to live with that sort of gun soaked policing.

      • Bill 8.1.1

        That means to me a single cop trying to carry out such an arrest here simply would be prevented from doing so, either by means of a human blockade or being physically set upon and restrained by the crowd.

        I see. So take away the “excuse” of ‘fear of gun’, and everything suddenly changes? (Oh, and gets really fucking stupid and descends to the level of assault 🙄 )

        Except it doesn’t. And that’s the point. Actually, I’ve seen it attempted once. But that was down to some “undesirable types” cajoling a large crowd of dock workers to not listen to their union officials and back their mates who were being held by the cops behind the wharf’s wire fence.

        A deal was eventually struck that allowed the cops to save face (unfortunately) and the two guys they were holding walked.

        And I could go through example after example of kiwi’s exhibiting extreme (to me) levels of abeyance before authority, whether that be a cop, a boss or a whatever.

        • weka 8.1.1.1

          Might be more useful to explore where we don’t/didn’t. During the Tour was one of the most obvious ones in my personal experience. And that had the middle classes engaged.

          • Bill 8.1.1.1.1

            I think I’ve covered it off about as much as I want to in reply to whisperingkate at 10.1 below.

            In essence, some people will have your back and actively defy authority (KLM passengers). And others, the cowed, (United Airline passengers) will with an extra long roll of toilet paper worth of excuses if need be, drop you in the shit every time.

            I don’t really have anything more to say on the matter at the moment. (Some responses have been “interesting”)

            • weka 8.1.1.1.1.1

              Not sure you are if you are saying there are only two kinds of people, but it kind of comes across as if people don’t act in the way that you deem useful, they’re cowards and useless. That’s not been my experience.

              It’s easy enough to slam people. Much harder to build bridges or effect change.

              • Bill

                Cowed is when a person is browbeaten, acculturated or downtrodden to the extent they believe themselves to be powerless. A coward is a different beasty altogether.

        • Sanctuary 8.1.1.2

          I expect from your dogmatic certainty you must have some sort of lofty qualification, perhaps in the field of crowd dynamics? Could we be so blessed perchance as to it being a wise and insightful dissertation by way of a PhD? If so, if you could be so kind as to point me in the direction of your learned treatise, I look forward to eagerly consuming it’s forthright prose, full as it surely must be with your clearly demonstrated grasp of the lucidity of the English language and incisiveness of conclusion.

          Otherwise, I fear I might have to ascribe your certitude to the arrogance of the ignorant, and being of a sunny disposition towards my fellow Standard readers I would hate to be forced to contemplate such a horrid thought.

          • Wensleydale 8.1.1.2.1

            Let it never be said that Bill isn’t prepared to enthusiastically defend his opinions. And that’s about all I have to say about that. Probably because I’m cowed.

      • weka 8.1.2

        “Really though, the cultural and psychological gulf between the two societies is so deep that we can scarcely imagine how it must be to live with that sort of gun soaked policing.”

        I agree, very different. But in terms of what Bill is getting at, I think we have our own situations. I’m white, middle class, and a woman living in part of the country where the police aren’t known to rape women, so I feel relatively secure in dealing with the police in most situations. Try asking a Māori woman living in a more violent part of NZ, or some of the women who were Louise Nicholas’ peers how they see the police and you’ll get a different story. Or a young non-white man. Or someone living on the streets. Or beneficiaries who’ve had bad experiences with the new security at WINZ. Plenty of people in NZ at the coal face of fear of police. How they’re going to respond is going to depend on lots of different things.

        I think the dynamic that Bill is pointing to exists here, just in a different form. Who are the people willing to put things on the line to help others and to resist fascism? Who are able to? Who are the ones who are still too comfortable or feel like it’s not their job or that there’s no point or simply just don’t care? Who are the ones in between who can be supported and encouraged to pick a side and do something?

      • JanM 8.1.3

        Here you would be subject to constructive dismissal and if you have a complete breakdown in the process that is seen as a plus. Read some of the education articles about what has happened to teachers here at the hands of Boards of Trustees 🙁

    • The Fairy Godmother 8.2

      I looked at the follow up videos and the community are behind her and taking action the union is supporting her.

  9. Obtrectator 9

    Having sat through all nine and a half minutes of the goings-on in that KLM aircraft, I have to say I found very little that was edifying in it. Just a bunch of burly aggressive men doing a lot of shouting. Then having the effrontery to complain about some frightened children when it was probably their own threatening behaviour that did most of the frightening. I’m not saying they were out of order with their protest, just the manner of it. If you’re going to make a stand, then do it quietly but firmly, keeping as still as practically possible.

    (And did anyone else notice that when it wasn’t those men being shown, it was often just people recording people who were themselves recording?)

    [PS to Bill and others: I’m more inclined to be receptive to arguments that don’t have to be expressed with unnecessary expletives (or implied ones).]

    • greywarshark 9.1

      Ob….
      The occasional expletives, or implied ones presumably with dots for missing letters, are just part of our robust discussion and not overwhelming. I am sure if you have been very well brought up, you will have heard a few swear words.

      • Obtrectator 9.1.1

        Sure I did. And I agreee that well-judged use of expletives can at times achieve a startling effect not otherwise attainable. But one has to beware of overdoing it, and nowadays I just seem to hear or read too many of them. They’ve become, to use the currently fashionable term, “normalised”.

        The trouble is, when that happens, they lose their force and become incapable of providing the release of emotion that a good old swear-up used to bring. And when you’re deprived of a verbal means of relief, what are you left with? That’s right, a physical expression of your frustration/anger/whatever. BASH!

        (Case in point: I once had a serious disagreement at work with my manager, a nuggety little fellow whose every other word at times seemed to begin with F or S. Because he’d got so hacked off on this occasion, the usual cuss-words simply weren’t adequate for his purpose, and he started to be physically aggressive as well. I had to remind him sharply to get out of my personal space.)

        Often enough, it’s only laziness on the writer’s part, a quick grab for the first “strong” word in the vocabulary. A moment’s thought, replacement with a “regular” word carrying almost equal force, or perhaps employment of some striking piece of verbal imagery, can be just as effective in getting your message across.

        • Molly 9.1.1.1

          Because using swear words is a stress valve for you, it doesn’t mean that it is for all. Many people use swear words as their go to adjectives or nouns, whether angry or not.

          You are describing a difference in stress and anger management – that is not necessarily linked to vocabulary.

          Some of the most chilling words can be spoken without swearing:
          “You are not allowed to see your family anymore”
          “This is our little secret”

          • Obtrectator 9.1.1.1.1

            “Some of the most chilling words can be spoken without swearing”

            My point exactly. And I don’t necessarily condemn the ones who really do know few (or indeed any other) intensifying words. It’s the highly articulate people – of whom Bill is clearly one – whom I’d like to see trying a bit harder.

  10. Whispering Kate 10

    It is hard standing up and making a stand. I was a Union Rep once upon a time and stood up on behalf of my fellow workers seated around me and none of them backed me for what I was fighting for although they were in support of our claims and I got in the gun for it. I had to have a meeting with the boss and his hench man – my partner turned up for me as he was well and truly versed in how to deal with this sort of dispute and when the boss found there was equal numbers of people to fight the case I was let off and came out of it unscathed.

    Its easy to say stand up and not be cowed – I always remember my dear old Grandfather saying to me “you cannot beat city hall” – he is dead right – unless you have tons of dosh and weight behind you and fellow workers who you can rely on – forget it – its martyrdom if you try. Its disheartening but a fact of life – the little man hasn’t got a dog’s show.

    • Bill 10.1

      I was a Union Rep once upon a time and stood up on behalf of my fellow workers seated around me and none of them backed me…

      And that shit, that bad shit, happens far too often. It’s the “we’re right behind you” mentality that means “behind” as in far behind, out of sight and poised to duck for safe cover. It’s the United Airlines passengers as opposed to the KLM passengers.

      And guns or fear of guns have got nothing to do with it. It’s the shameful behaviour of the cowed.

    • weka 10.2

      I think you have to pick your battles, and have strategy and skills. I’ve been in some losing situations, and I’ve been in some ones where I came out with my power intact and/or I got what I was after. In retrospect I can tell the difference in what happened. Direct action takes skill and experience, and working together. It’s that last one that’s the stumbling block IMO. NZ now is particularly inured to individualism.

    • Anne 10.3

      It is hard standing up and making a stand. I was a Union Rep once upon a time and stood up on behalf of my fellow workers seated around me and none of them backed me for what I was fighting for although they were in support of our claims and I got in the gun for it.

      Yep. Same thing happened to me. I only took on the job of being the ‘PSA Rep’ because my colleagues begged me to do it. Then when a dispute turned sour they left me hanging… and (metaphorically speaking) I was subsequently hanged.

      “I think you have to pick your battles, and have strategy and skills…”

      Not always as simple as that. When you have an arsehole of a boss – as happened in my case – who deliberately undermined and provoked with the purpose of creating a dispute, then all the strategy and skills in the world count for nothing.

    • Rosemary McDonald 10.4

      “…and none of them backed me for what I was fighting for…”

      Been there WK. Winter 2014, and after three deaths of significantly disabled young people at the hands of state funded residential care providers my partner (a wheelchair user) and I had had enough. We knew one of the children, had cared for him ourselves, and knew it was criminal neglect for him to have drowned, alone, in a bath. The Health and Disability Commission had their annual Disability Conference (middle of winter…disabled people..talk about unsubtle messaging) and we decided to stand outside the conference room holding placards listing the names of the three lads, that they were neglected to death and we were demanding criminal charges for providers who killed. We set ourselves up in a prominent but unimpeding position just opposite the table where the H&D Commission Help Elves were handing out the conference info and goody bags.
      Now…most of the attendees were representatives of disability groups, contracted care providers and a few suppliers of disability equipment. It was white table cloths and glassware and little bowls of lollies…you know the type of do.
      When it was obvious what we were doing…silently I might add..we were almost totally ignored, by everyone…including the Help Elves at the registration desk.
      Two parents of disabled children sidled up to say, quietly, ‘good on you’ and admitted what we knew already that they’d love to join us but were too scared in case they pissed off someone and they lost their funded supports.
      Scary, right?
      Tariana Turia was opening the conference and she arrived fashionably late and after we had been snubbed by mostly all and sundry. Her advance guard came and had a chat, and after ascertaining we were mostly harmless led the boss over.
      I’m no fan of Tariana and the Maori Party…but credit where it is due…she listened and got it that it was the mothers of these dead boys who took the blame on themselves in the absence of the providers being held legally to account. She went in the conference room and did the speech thing and got applause and finally the attendees burst through the doors for morning tea break.
      Turned out that Tariana had not forgotten her activist roots and had mentioned us in her opening speech. We had the approval now from the government representative…the same government that funded all of the DPOs and NGOs in attendance…and all of a sudden we were the centre of attention…from some any way. Our persona non grata status had been diluted and it was considered nearly safe to be seen associating with us.
      We politely turned down an invitation from the Help Elves to join in the Conference, waiving the $45 fee. Job done. My partner had got to speak at some length to two attendees who were in a position to push the issue and it has been gratifying to hear his words come through in some of the subsequent reports.

      • Bill 10.4.1

        You’re comment exposes what the post was trying to highlight rather fucking well Rosemary. Thank you.

        • red-blooded 10.4.1.1

          Although I also think it supports the point others have been making about context, Bill. Yes, it takes commitment and a kind of courage to make a public stand to highlight an issue of concern in this kind of protest and I guess it would have taken a different kind of courage to publicly associate oneself with that protest at a gathering of this sort. But it’s not the same as the courage to confront a US cop with a gun.

          • Tracey 10.4.1.1.1

            Courage is courage. I do think the people behaved cowardly but know I would have been a coward too. Bill is right. Most of us are cowed by self interest. Lets be honest about it rather than… gun or no gun…

            • Rosemary McDonald 10.4.1.1.1.1

              “Most of us are cowed by self interest.”

              This.

              And context.

              And having nothing to lose….which kinda takes care of the self interest factor.

              For my partner and I anyway.

        • Tracey 10.4.1.2

          I just wish people would be honest and say I woukdnt do anything cos I dont want to get shot and the issue isnt important enough for me.

          Anything else, imo, is BS windowdressing.

          I have often asked myself if I had been in Germany would I have hidden a jew knowing I could be killed. I honestly think my answer is no. I would not hide them. Maybe if the situation actually happened I would behave differently. I think I would be a coward and put my life first. I woukd feel guilt about it for sure.

          Part of our problem is a hero now is a basketball player or rugby player earnibg millio s NOT genuinely selfless acts.

          • red-blooded 10.4.1.2.1

            Well, that’s a really honest comment, Tracey, and it’s probably true for most of us (whether we want to admit it or not).

            Having said that, hiding a Jew from the Nazis was attempting to save a person from extreme misery, suffering and probable murder. The risks are more extreme, but so are the need and benefits. People stepping forward in the meeting Bill linked to would probably just have been saving the woman from being ejected from the meeting and getting a warning of some kind. They would have been risking making the situation more extreme, exposing themselves and others to a possible risk of harm and not achieving anything like the benefit of someone hiding a Jew during the holocaust.

  11. Carolyn_Nth 11

    I do think that in NZ, a lot of people are timid about speaking out to authority to defend people’s rights – more so than my experiences in the UK.

    I would stand up verbally, but when any physical violence is threatened I do take a step back.

    Especially now that I am a small older woman with a minor permanent injury, which would be majorly made worse by any physical force it would probably require immediate surgery.

    You assume able-bodiedness and average capabilities in standing up for others in the face of physical threats or intimidation.

    • Bill 11.1

      I too would have to step back these days in some situations due to a precarious permanent injury. The post was intended to highlight attitude, not physical capability. I only have the former these days, but even when I had the latter, it was never the idea to get hurt.

      • weka 11.1.1

        Well that’s confusing. Because I thought you were calling the people in the meeting cowards because they didn’t physically blockade an armed policeman from arresting and removing someone from the meeting, irrespective of the physical capability of those people.

        • Bill 11.1.1.1

          And the people on the KLM flight? And the people on the United Airlines flight?

          The post covered more than one situation pertaining to direct action, but I’m hardly surprised the thread has focused and run with “cop has gun, can’t do jack-shit” type lines that generally appeal to the spectre of physical harm.

          • McFlock 11.1.1.1.1

            Not “can’t do”. Just that the risks are real and should be taken into perspective before showering contempt on people who were there.

            With the KLM vs UA comparison, the main difference seems to be that the US security were willing to beat the living shit out of someone for no reason. “Bleating” is speaking out. Not as much as you want, but not nothing. And the recording was the thing that actually made the airline accountable.

            • Bill 11.1.1.1.1.1

              Sure. US plane security were going to beat the living shit out of ‘half ‘a planeload of passengers if they’d been quite simply and literally standing up. 🙄

              Right fit buggers, those US plane security wallahs, if that’s even close to a possibility.

              • McFlock

                Who needs to be fit if you have a motorola?

                • Bill

                  You’re a card McFlock!

                  First a lone cop was going to shoot his way through a group of middle aged women, and then “half” a planeload of people were going to be tazered for not sitting in their seats? Just…wow. 🙂

                  • McFlock

                    You remind me of a time at school when a teacher who was notoriously free with the strap had to step out for 20 minutes. Some genius said “he can’t strap us all”, and the entire class had a fine old time.

                    Guess what happened? Yup, sore hands all around.

                    Tasering? Bah. The real issue is a rough arrest that results in hospitalisation (like what happened to the first dude), being detained under whatever aviation security regs they have there (probably risking insane penalties), being bunged on the no-fly list for the next decade, and still being in a city they’d already paid to leave.

                    Now, if someone is willing to lose all that, there’s nothing stopping them. But resisting a dickhead on the assumption that the worst case scenario won’t result? You only need to be wrong once. That’s why people give armed robbers the cash.

                    • Bill

                      These comments you’ve written…I was struggling to not write you off as morally bankrupt. But I’ve finally given up.

                    • McFlock

                      Whereas all I’ve done is acknowledge that people face real risks in standing up to power when they have stuff to lose. It’s not the almost trivial matter that you describe.

                    • McFlock

                      And where do you get off calling me morally bankrupt? I’m not the one saying that everybody should take risks because the worst that can happen is a party in the cells, ffs.

                    • Bill

                      When you constantly pitch your take to the point of nth fear, and use that pitch to justify doing nothing and throw in random, so not necessarily connected, vignettes demonstrating how (apparently) people routinely respond fearfully to situations, then it seems, from your comments, that you wind up in a place that couldn’t give a damn for – carelessly abandons or condemns – anyone who might act from a sense of solidarity or compassion for their fellow human beings.

                      In the context of your surrounding comments, when you write “if someone is willing to lose all that, there’s nothing stopping them” – that, for me, conjures a picture of you sitting on that plane casually reading through some in-flight material or a newspaper you’d bought before boarding, ‘tolerating’ the inconvenient delay to your flight while quietly waiting for the authorities to “just get on with it” and give people what, in your mind, they deserve.

                      If they don’t get the entire book thrown at them (your nth degree one), then I can only assume the authorities will be deemed to have acted reasonably and with restraint.

                      And to my reading, your comments under this thread are more or less in tune with your comments regarding the punishment meted out to the Dunedin musician who distributed his tapes for free by taping them to walls – he deserved it; what did he expect?; the authorities were right enough to respond as they did.

                      “Morally bankrupt” might not be the term that best captures that attitude and approach. And it’s true that a morally bankrupt argument does not mean that the person making the argument is necessarily morally bankrupt. So I apologise, unreservedly, for calling you morally bankrupt.

                      p.s. I did not say “the worst that can happen is a party in the cells” (I was merely referencing a personal experience and making a nod to historical events – IWW free speech campaigns referenced in the De Cleyre piece I linked). And I certainly didn’t say that direct action is trivial. It’s not trivial. It’s powerful.

                    • McFlock

                      So yeah, I read your comment this afternoon but had to go somewhere, but I did have a bit of a think about it.

                      The main similarity in my comments in the two discussions is that I expect people to understand why folks do what they do, rather than just railing against the stupidity of society and calling people cowards (sorry, that should read ‘someone who is cowed’). Then we can either work around normal human behaviour, or constructively try to improve it. Just bitching about it does nothing.

                      Maybe the UA crowd simply lacked a leader to take the first action – pre-empting the milling effect is the first step to crowd control. Maybe the situation was so unfamiliar that they didn’t know how to react, that the idea of resistance never crossed their minds not because they were “cowed”, but they simply didn’t have the cultural experience to respond in that way. Each option has different tactics to use if you want to change social norms.

                      The contempt you have for people who are in an unplanned and unexpected stressful situation is pretty fucking arrogant, as is your minimisation of possible repercussions for the actions you demand they should have done.

                      You had a party or two in the cells. The Standing Rock crowd sure didn’t. The KLM crowd got away with it. Lots of the peaceful Occupy crowd didn’t. Yes, cops back down sometimes. Sometimes they panic and overreact, maybe with lethal consequences. Sometimes someone saying or doing something different sparks a full crowd response, or merely a systemic one. Sometimes these responses should be completely predictable, other times maybe the people on the scene are better place to assess the risk they face.

                      Being absorbed with what one intends, one would do, or one has done, and then using that as a benchmark to fruitlessly criticise the majority of society is an excellent way to maintain the status quo.

                      Oh, and if you think that recognition that people might have something to lose by physically intervening in a situation means that people should just sit there calmly reading the inflight magazine, then you are literally ignoring the evidence in the footage of the UA incident, and the existence of the footage itself. But otherwise you might have to have a less shitty opinion of people.

        • The Fairy Godmother 11.1.1.2

          I think the people in the meeting have scored a big victory particularly if you look at the aftermath videos on youtube I think its a case of picking the right battles, losing a battle perhaps and winning the war. It could have been really nasty if they had blocked the policeman.

          • adam 11.1.1.2.1

            Would it though? The video went viral and that helped, but if the video had not, what battle, what war? And who loses?

            You seem to have forgot, Bill is not arguing for an escalation of violence, indeed that would be the wrong tactic in any situation. The point is to just say NO, stand up, and reject this type of violence.

            Why do you want to create a safe space for people to be violent under the name of authority? Why support violence of any type?

  12. The Fairy Godmother 12

    I watched it on U Tube and the aftermath videos. The teachers are all backing her and they are having a march all wearing black. She says she has had nothing but love and support from the families and staff. Perhaps that way is better than acting and blocking the officer who has a history of aggression apparently being involved in pushing an elderly man down causing injury. Perhaps they didn’t want to make it worse for the kids. She was released and will face no charges. She is talking with teachers union lawyers about further action. They might win a lot more this way.

  13. eco maori 13

    I’m in a situation where I’m being harassed by the police my neighbors just watch these sandflys break into my house they will have seen them letting down my tyres to my truck they no my human rights are being breached because the sandflys come up with a new spin when ever I check there last spin and tell eveyone in the neighborhood these lies . I have some people whom are close to me and they don”t have the private parts to help me . But I do have some people helping me behind the seens ECT I know who these people are many thanks for your Tautoko ka pai.

    I have help from others to but you will have to figure that out for yourselves .
    This is how the neo liberal control systems works everyone is has to many problems to solve themselves to bother to help people in need or they are to scared .

    I know that the sandflys are just a TEST TASKS A CHALLANGE for me to beat on my journey up my ladder of life . Someone is wiping away the hinu that the police are putting on the rungs of my lifes ladder . I know when I have completed the challenge that the justice system/ Gisborne man has laid in the path of my fate that my work will have just started I will have many challenges on my crusade for a safe environment for my/our mokos Papatuanuku health and EQUALIY FOR ALL this is my fait .

    Ka kite ano

  14. Obtrectator 14

    I realise the main focus of these comments has been on the Louisiana incident and its implications, but is it not rather telling that no-one bar the author of the original post has explicitly supported those boorish and intimidating Nigerians on the KLM flight?

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