What is the will of the people?26 October 2010 Zie Nederlandse versie
by Arnold Jansen op de Haar
Last week, Nick Robinson, BBC’s political editor, was a hit on YouTube. After he finished his report in front of the TV camera, he turned around. For some time, a demonstrator with a banner saying: ‘Cut the war, not the poor’ had stood behind him.
Nick didn’t hesitate for a moment, he pulled the placard from the man’s hands and trampled it under his feet. You shouldn’t behave like that when you are a political commentator but I understood his feelings. He politely returned the pole, which had been attached to the banner, to the astonished demonstrator.
Recently, for the first time in my life, I came close up to a demonstration. On the 29th of September I travelled from The Netherlands to London by train and I had an hour to spare at Brussels South station. I decided to smoke a cigar outside the station hall.
The sound of a large body of people on the move drifted towards me. Jeering demonstrators in red and green rain jackets moved past. The demonstration at Europe Square was about to start.
Later I learned that it was a campaign ‘against the handling of the crisis by EU countries’. A somewhat vague concept but about 100,000 people, sponsored by the unions, and with packed lunches and party horns, had travelled to Brussels, only to gather before my eyes.
Next to me stood an older smoking gentleman in an expensive suit. The demonstrators blew their horns, and here and there the first fireworks were set off. The gentleman standing next to me had just explained that the police stayed out of sight to prevent making matters worse. Just at that moment the Union of Teachers walked passed.
I don’t know who threw it but suddenly a fire-cracker exploded near my ear. Another of these missiles flew into my neighbour’s trouser leg. I checked my head and my neighbour pirouetted on one leg. A few of the demonstrating teachers burst out laughing. At that point I would have loved to remove the placards from the demonstrators’ hands.
The comments on YouTube have it in for Nick Robinson. They call him among other things ‘a fucking little rat’ and ‘a scum’. Anti-war demonstrators are one of the most aggressive kinds, which is strange. I mean, you leave home to demonstrate for peace only to enjoy vandalizing a few things along the way. Nick Robinson simply gave them some of their own medicine.
I will never take part in a demonstration. I will also never join a union, not even a writers’ union. (I hate meetings.)
A few years ago I was asked, as a writer, to sign a petition by the foundation for ‘Pigs in Need’ against the Bio Industry. I agree that we need to treat animals much better but I believe in democracy not in the tyranny of the street mob.
Besides it is likely that pigs have been used to make the book you read (glue) and the shoes you wear. Crushed pig bones are also used in china and train breaks.
Pig’s fat is a component of biodiesel. Pig’s fat is used to make glycerine, which in turn forms part of toothpaste and wax. Its bone marrow provides gelatine: an ingredient of chewing gum, ice cream and fruit juices.
So when in the morning you have brushed your teeth, drank a glass of fruit juice and travelled by train to join a demonstration about animal rights, you have already killed a pig. That is what I call humour.
Dutch writer Gerard Reve (1923-2006) once wrote a poem called Testimony. It ends like this:
© Arnold Jansen op de Haar
© Translation Holland Park Press
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