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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Salvage or Selvage?

Ahoy, lofty, alighted and abridged sailors, be sure to stow away and sail away, for if we run or stand agrounded we'll be nothing but salvage for pirates, sharks or the king's garbage men. Thar'll be nothing left. Just scrunched up, ruined stuff flotsaming free upon the sea. Sadly true, pirates are not an olden day myth. Impoverished African nations are increasingly relying on stolen fortunes and the ruination of the lives of 'developed world' seafarers. A new breed of murderers and thieves steal a foothold on the bottom rung of the economic evolutionary ladder. Out of control anachronistic anarchists? When someone behaves like a Robin Hood character, can the line between social justice action and self-combusted soul destruction actually be held?  

Jello Biafra provides worthy commentary about America's economic crisis; saying that it has nothing to do with the country losing its financial assets, it's entirely about the same people who have always had wealth, stealing even more of it from the poor. After bringing the behemoth to its knees, the 'have alls' don't look like giving anything back. Not a new story. The rich get richer and the poor get the picture, said some rock and roll muso, come politician who reckons he didn't inhale the meaning of his own words.

And so the salvage of humanity's material worth washes up on the same peoples' shore, in a different century.   

More important is the edge that social fabric relies upon: the selvage that that holds and takes care of the common weave, the democratic equality principle. But we also know that the thin facia that guards us from the abyss is frail and fraying. Society's handmaidens and seamstresses are working hard to patch it up and hold it together, but vast chunks have worn, torn and fallen away. Yesterday Rob and I happened upon the Occupy Melbourne protest, as we were going to a 'date day' lunch. Young and bemused police officers on horses and others carrying riot shields swept through and pushed the everyday citizens out of public space. I briefly spoke to an Occupy Melbourne organiser who was disgusted. He told me that, during the week of occupancy, any protester who uttered fighting words was evicted. On the sidelines a few scouting types handed out cornchips and fruit pieces to onlookers while the chanting gained strength - 'this is what democracy looks like', and 'we're here to keep the peace'.

I also chatted with the fruit-stall man, who asked, 'what's it worth - we believe in democracy and a fair society, but nothing ever changes. What difference does a protest make?' 
I think every action makes a difference. Occupy Melbourne is a small and passing moment in time, where a curious motley mix chose to be selvage, and held a line. 

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