Protest Not Your Thing? Think Again

JS63356986.jpgSaturday’s march and demo has the power to unite us, but only if we reach out as never before to those outside left-wing circles. Preaching to the converted is not an option, believes Rev Mike Walsh.

THEY say religion and politics don’t mix — “they” usually being those whose comfortable political status quo is being challenged by the “simplistic moralising” of the religious.

It’s often said that the first duty of any government is to protect its people, but just as often this is narrowly interpreted to justify an expanding defence budget or further encroachments on civil liberties in the name of counterterrorism.

Yet why should a government’s responsibility to protect its people be expressed mainly in those two ways? Doesn’t our government also have a duty to protect citizens from the indiscriminate but much more widespread occurrence of illness?

Does it not have responsibility to protect its people from the ravages of unregulated capitalism? Is our government not mandated to help negate the effects of poverty? Is not the greatest security any citizen needs a decent income and a stable home? If this is not the case, then what is it exactly that we elect them for? A government’s responsibility is to the people — all the people — no matter who you voted for.

David Cameron has spoken several times since the general election of being “one nation” — that is, leading a government for all the people. So he has much to do to protect the millions of people facing the choice between heating or eating this winter.

A major shift on the severity and manifest injustice of benefit sanctions is required if the numbers of people using foodbanks are to fall. The bedroom tax should be modified, if not cancelled altogether, if homelessness is not to increase further.

In the community where I work, the number of people sleeping rough on our streets has increased noticeably in recent months, a foodbank has opened its doors and several local businesses have closed. The government may claim to be paying off the deficit and “rebalancing” the economy, but they don’t understand the human and social cost of the speed at which they are trying to achieve this, if austerity is even necessary at all.

As a minister of the church, I believe part of my role is to represent my community and to confront local and national leaders in defence of the common good, with particular bias towards the most marginalised, but to do so in a way that is both gracious and generous. Even those with whom we vehemently disagree may be good people, as sure of their principles as we are of ours. Yet this isn’t always easy when seemingly remote politicians set policies that make real people’s lives more difficult and cause severe damage to communities.

The Bible famously challenges people to love their enemy, but I don’t believe that means not getting angry, or simply accepting the status quo. There are many passages about helping those living in poverty, but many more about addressing the causes of poverty, and passages about respecting those in authority sit within a wider narrative of holding those in power to account for the good of the whole of society.

Our welfare state is built on the fine principle that no-one should ever live in fear of becoming ill, redundant or penniless, because if that should happen to you the rest of us will help, if only because one day it might be us.

We are only truly “all in it together” if this principle remains at the heart of our welfare systems. Yet many people feel helpless and harshly treated by a system which seems to me to have forgotten its primary purpose — to care for our citizens in times of need.

Last month I attended a People’s Assembly protest in Manchester. Trade unionists, political campaigners, the low-paid and unemployed, the homeless and a whole host of the vulnerable victims of this government’s policies gathered in a spirit of solidarity and anger at injustice. It was a stirring event.

But what worries me is who wasn’t there, because most of those gathered were the people this government have no thought to engage with, no problem at all in dismissing and ignoring. If the only voices at these protests are the voices of people who (understandably) jeer at the government rather than engage with it, will we achieve anything?

So I hope these protests continue to bring together all those with the most to lose, those whose lives are directly affected. But more, we need every decent, compassionate person who cares about their neighbour, our society and the common good to attend these protests too. Only then will this government show any sign of listening.

So if you’re inclined to think this kind of protest isn’t your thing, and that you’d rather write a polite letter than go on a march, please, please think again.

I hope to see you at the People’s Assembly protest on June 20.

Mike Walsh is a reverend of the United Reformed Church.

From the Morning Star.

The People's Assembly has teamed up with the Morning Star to offer all our supporters access to the paper's electronic edition. The Morning Star is the only national daily newspaper to consistently report on the movement against austerity and champion the millions of people who believe a better world is possible. Containing all the same news, features and sport as the printed paper, the e-edition is available at the touch of a button wherever you are. Backed by Britain's trade unions including Unite and the GMB, and supported by left and progressive MPs, the Star is an essential educational and organisational tool.

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  • Martin Arnold
    commented 2015-06-24 15:11:00 +0100
    the PA is a pro-labour group. They believe that they can get Corbyn in to run the party and that, somehow, everything in society will sort itself out again. That’s the purpose of Saturday’s march, to get support for him.

    He’s a good guy, but Labour are a right wing capitalist enterprise. He isn’t going to win, and even if he does…what is he going to do? Labour aren’t in power and aren’t going to be at least another 5 years. That’s the best case scenario.

    The Trade Unions are a waste of time. They are doing nothing.
  • Martin Arnold
    commented 2015-06-23 09:16:27 +0100
    Protest is important. But the government are just laughing at all this. A ppleasant march with good, kind, decent people behaving themselves sounds ideal. It sounds perfect. But, unfortunately, for the scum in Westminster it’s exactly what they want: a safe release for the people who will go back and get on with it while they continue their vile regime of cuts and social savagery.

    I see the PA are asking for donations. For what? Will this money go to something practical, or yet another pointless march!

    I hate to be critical. These are good people and, as a beginning, yes, I agree, it’s worthwhile. But i see no evidence of it leading to anything else. What is the plan? When the PA had their big meet in Westminster a few years ago what happened? They agreed to go away and come back…for another bloody meeting! Meanwhile people’s lives and our society are being decimated by a government that looks at all this and just laughs.
  • Martin Arnold
    commented 2015-06-21 19:42:10 +0100
    So when is the real action going to start?

    Do you think the Tories give a damn about a few people marching around? They don’t give a damn as demonstrated by their reaffirmation for the welfare cuts.

    Enough speeches, enough false hope, enough talking shops. You have achieved nothing so far. Stop pretending this is doing anything except giving people false hope. Do something, like the E15 mums or the various housing protests. WE don’t need to hear from Labour leeches, Labour is dead; they sold out long ago. Jeremy Corbyn won’t be leader and Labour won’t win an election. In any case 5 years is too long. People are dying and suffering NOW!

    Where is the general strike? Where is the timetable of action and disobedience?

    Or will we be back here in a years time pretending, again, that this time the Tories will listen. They won’t be.
  • fernando real
    commented 2015-06-21 19:30:14 +0100
    Thanks for your interested , and many thanks for your contribution to a bertter world, thanks for your creativity, for your intellegence and for your courage….thanks in my name , in the name of all iinvolved at this absurd, uthopic and fascinant project, thanks in the name of United Nations ( U.N. ) , and many thanks in the name of millions womens,girls and childs arround the world, you are an inspiration and example for us , and for them….

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    I AM………..F.E.M.i.N.i.S.T……!!! UN WOMEN world campaign….

    Kiss of love , or french kiss for the true way of relation ourself, others, world, espiritual,earth, space, love, sex or fall in love.

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    you can do it , only make it with passion, emotion,with soul….be expeditive, genuine, original, , dont make it the belive or think, try to translate how you sense, , let your mind free, and make it with tears, with fun, with sense, with horror, with happy… you…..and the theme is " Change World " or THE LIFE…..AND ……YOU .

    Change world is an attitude, not is laws, not is norms, not is policy, change world is an fall in love sense, not light or cursi sense.and the first is STOP wars, human traffick, ablacttion, rapes, killied womans, girls and childs,prostituion, and all of the MENS make at womens in all cultures, not is policy,culture,race,democrazy,education,…and all mens arround the world are guilty for make it , for silence, and for cowardice, and all we are guiltys, and in the name of all mens , i am sorry at all women i know, and all womens dont know, and now is possible start change world.

    Millions womens , girls and childs arround the world are look you, and are waiting for your courage, be them voice….

    remenber your old bravery….spread the world …and maie poesy…

    Now is the time, the new age is coming, the age of womens sense, the new woman, the iwomen…….now it the time for change this crazy realtion… and fight for the new future…….cowardice not is an option way of life….of sense , of love of work….

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  • David Moss
    commented 2015-06-21 19:23:18 +0100
    Hi all,
    I have never written in a blog before and never been active in anything so please bare with me. I am 41 years old and I suffer from a mental health contusion call Border line personality disorder I have two children who are young, I work part time and I can just manage that I am in receipt of D.L.A and I was granted for life and over the past 72 hours I have just read about the Universal credit and in short I cannot survive in these monies and I cannot raise my children and so I beg with anyone who reads this and has a way of trilling to stop it then please do. "On a personal note (I am not saying this for symphony so please don’t) I am feeling suicidal and I am struggling if I cannot provide and I cannot work a full time job and then what do I do. I have tried with jobs and I always get fired because people think that I am strange and so they get rid of me this is because I have not declared my mental illness in my application as I never get a job when I do. That is all I wanted to say and thank you for all the people that have protested to help people like myself and others.
    I wish you all the best and I thank you
  • Deborah Hyde
    commented 2015-06-20 16:26:17 +0100
    Well done to everybody protesting against austerity in London today. I have no problem tightening my belt in tough times, as long as we’re all in it together. But we’re not.

    I have worked since I was 18, always paid my taxes, put myself through higher education, always saved, retrained to widen my work options, created and put work others’ way where I could, never got into debt, and I have always tried to ‘pay forward’ my blessings into my community.

    I.e.: I am not work shy, not a scrounger, not a bleeding heart liberal. In return, I face soaring costs just to keep a roof over my head, zero hours work offers and ongoing work insecurity, constantly rising prices, plummeting interest rates on my savings, and seeing vulnerable fellow citizens being left increasingly unsupported, afraid and desperate. Whilst banks money launder for drug dealers, and corporations dodge taxes by the millions, their allies in government and the media turn every immigrant into a terrorist, and every benefit claimant a scrounger.

    Meanwhile my home city, London, increasingly becomes affordable only to an elite, who are bearing nowhere near an equal economic brunt. These are NOT my values, nor the values my father fought for. I’ve had enough, and I’m thankful to those who have given up their time to represent me on the capital’s streets today.
  • Maarten Westera
    commented 2015-06-19 22:47:06 +0100
    Fantastatic blog Mike !! agree with you entirely. just what I’ve been saying to our church :)
  • LadyDee
    commented 2015-06-19 22:06:00 +0100
    hoping that a great deal of respect is shown towards everyone and a safe day is held by all. I am praying for a huge wave of kindness by all citizens of UK for those people who are strongly moved enough to come out on the streets
  • Allie
    commented 2015-06-18 13:12:59 +0100
  • Judith Chimowitz
    @JChimowitz tweeted link to this page. 2015-06-18 12:39:21 +0100

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