When I was seven, I saw a news report on the TV with all sorts of dirty long haired hippy looking people demonstrating. They wanted to ban something called Uranium from being mined. My instinctive reaction to those protesters was that we should mine more Uranium.
So you can surmise that I am not really enthused or in agreement with most protests and demonstrations. I am way too conservative to be comfortable with protest marches or the causes that are usually represented by them.
However, I do believe in the right to protest, and consider that for us to maintain a healthy democracy, people do need to find ways to protest against injustice and the issues which they feel strongly about.
You just won’t see me at an anti-Uranium mining march, and I doubt that anyone is going to organise a Let’s Mine More Uranium protest for me to attend.
Therefore, reports this week that the weekend anti-lockdown protesters in Melbourne were shot at by police with solid pepper pellets are concerning. Whilst some of the protesters are crossing the line in terms of legitimate protest by using various projectiles, this is a major and disturbing escalation in the capacity and behaviour of the police in suppressing protests.
What will happen after lockdown is over, and people resume protesting about matters they care about without risking spreading plague all over the city? Will our peace marchers, university student free education campaigners and environmental activists get shot at and forced to disperse? I sure hope not.
Whilst we have the Covid plague around us, protesting in public places en masse is both foolhardy and irresponsible. Covid is real and quite dangerous, and major public gatherings are events which could easily spread it widely.
But that is not to say that there are no other avenues to protest.
The internet exists, and there are a myriad websites which you can use to express your opinion. You can set up a group on your social media page (I personally despise Facebook but I am in the minority) or a petition on Change.org or you can try to crowdfund money to run a campaign at the next election to unseat your least favourite state government MP (please do this).
Or you can put a sign or a symbol outside your home (like my boots out on the verandah last year as a ‘Give Dan The Boot’ message).
Alternatively, you can take the example of Homer Simpson as Pieman, who in one episode disguises himself and starts putting pies in the faces of all sorts of appalling denizens of Springfield.
Pieing as a form of political protest is real. Back in my uni days, I vaguely knew some bloke who would normally wear a suit and carry a briefcase around campus. But Monash was world renowned years earlier for its hippies, and a few years later I saw him transformed into some sort of long haired hippy activist in shorts and sandals. Perhaps spending too long at our beloved Clayton campus changed him.
He made quite a reputation in the late 1990s as what the media like to call a ‘serial pest’. His signature activity was to pie various prominent politicians.
Pie in the face is harmless, funny, and attention grabbing as a form of political protest. Compare that to other less fortunate countries where they assassinate their political leaders. We should be lucky to live in a country where we pie our politicians.
And there should be more of it, especially now when the politicians are being overbearing and technocratic. Some harmless levity in the form of pie in the face as a protest would allow the public to let off some steam in a Covid-safe manner.
Pieman where are you? We need you now.