November 22, 2004

Beautiful Militants for Zaoui

Miss Olivia Kember writes...

Who is Jeremy Elwood? Five hours at the Kings Arms on Sunday led me to this conclusion: he’s a well-meaning bastard whose unfortunate conviction that “comedy is one of the most potent forms of political statement available to us” almost transformed me from a casual Labour sympathiser into a supporter of whoever would have the power to cut off his PACE benefit.

I was at a Zaoui benefit gig. Nice people, happy to fork out fifteen dollars to hear nice bands, happy to play for free and a bit of publicity. Dave Dobbyn looked like a chubby Castro in his little revolutionary cap and sang about virgins. Don McGlashan sang about Korea. The Brunettes sang about… well, whatever, but they tactfully dropped “You Beautiful Militant” (“you pick up your gun, and shoot everyone”) from their set.

But bloody Jeremy had to get up in between and harangue. “What I like best about New Zealanders is we’re not afraid to stand up for what we believe in.”

Rubbish. Most New Zealanders can barely complain to a waiter, let alone pick up a placard and picket. But clearly his New Zealanders are not mine. There’s a sad gap between the ones that protest – and protest and protest – and the rest.

I’m in group two. Despite my theoretical support for their aims, I just don’t like activists very much. I don’t like their hair, their righteous t-shirts, their simplistic slogans, or their sincerity. I loathe Thursdays in Black, and Alannah Currie’s wailing made me want to forcefeed her with genetically modified toads.
I also can’t stand activists who graft other protests on to whatever protest they’re actually at, or the ones in silly costumes. And I particularly hate the way they congratulate each other for having the bravery to stand up for what’s right. As if, in this case, there was anything particularly noble about coming to a concert.

Besides, despite Don McGlashan's best attempts, Zaoui is not a hero. Just because he may not be a terrorist doesn’t mean we have to idealise him. He’s a democratically elected leader, as Jeremy chanted over and over again, but then so is John Howard. And Bush. Zaoui might turn out to be some sort of Nelson Mandela-in-training, but we’ll have to wait and see for that. In the meantime the best we can assume is that he’s an ordinary man.

But then Deborah Manning, Zaoui’s lawyer, got up to speak and I felt ashamed. Whatever Zaoui’s merits, his family have to eat, and those who bothered to come along on Sunday scored his wife and kids $4000. And – whatever the Prime Minister might say about process – two years’ detention without charge is a disgrace.

I’m also increasingly sceptical of anything involving the SIS. The spy’s briefcase found at a bus-stop and containing only a pie and a Penthouse, even the bungled burglary of GATT Watchdog’s Aziz Choudry suggested a reassuringly bumbling incompetence. We might have spies in New Zealand, but at least they’re crap. They can’t do us any harm. Besides, what is there for them to do?

Pick on iwi, it appears. Their shambolic handling of the Zaoui case, from the ‘lost video’ they made to the ‘casing video’ they accused Zaoui of making, suggested a more sinister side to their fumbling, while the latest revelations from the Sunday Star-Times
make it clear: the SIS is shit.

It occurs to me now that there probably was a spy at the Zaoui concert. Lurking in a "Stop America’s Racist War" t-shirt, worn as bait in order to lure sympathisers into a chat about the need to acquire fake passports. Thinking she was just another comrade, I didn’t speak to her, but in retrospect she seemed too…obvious. Or maybe Jeremy was the spook, which would explain why he was so not funny. Who’d join the NZ SIS? Nothing of importance to do, and no one to tell…an ideal career change for a failed comic.

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