Greetings from Rockhampton,
I’ve been here a month now, long enough to get a grip on reality – and scale back my most extravagant visions of how much I can achieve here in a short time.
I’m happy at what’s left over after scaling back, and the way things are going here.
Firstly, “the people” are friendly and hopeful. When I go to the East St Mall and speak out, I get a whole heap of affirmation, recognition, and joy from passers-by. Four or five times what I get contempt and abuse. Some days I don’t get any abuse at all. There’s strong opposition to the war in Afghanistan. No-one is buying the “victory around the corner” line. There’s a groundswell available for harvesting.
The publican of the Oxford Hotel is not yet among the groundswell, and every time he sees me he calls the Police and tries to have me removed. The Police tell him I’ve got both a right and a permit. Marcus Cryer stopped in to yarn with me last Thursday. Marcus is a senior sergeant, district officer for Rocky, and brother of Sean who used to deal with Peace by Peace in Cairns. Sean is now an Inspector in Brisbane. They look and act very much alike.
Secondly the community of lifestyle greens in Yeppoon and Byfield are strong in their vision of peace. Graeme liaises and works with people there developing a cultural expression of true beauty for Yeppoon on 17 July. I visited on Saturday, after a disappointment in Rockhampton. The culture of Byfield is the same culture as I spent time through the 80s and 90s on the Atherton Tablelands. Very rejuvenating, and it gave me some insights into what I can do.
Disappointment in Rockhampton has to do with the fear and hesitancy of people who really ought be our allies. I went to a meeting where most of the attendees were social justice and environment organisers from Catholic and other service organisations in Rockhampton who held a seminar on the UN Earth Charter. Noel Preston was there (he’s now a grandfather, retired and resident in Rockhampton). I was stopped from making a preamble to my “question” of the panel about exercise Talisman Sabre. Apparently I might have made either the sponsors, or some of the attendees “uncomfortable”.
It’s hard for me to see that kind of behaviour among the good folk of Rockhampton society. A very large part of me wants to shake them and yell “Wake up! We’ve got a job to do”. Fortunately that part of me wears a leash now whenever I go outside.
Thirdly I realise that I cannot be the one who works with the hesitant and the fearful. I am tempermentally unsuited, without skill, and can only make matters worse.
What I CAN do is the kind of theatrical NVDA that teases the media and the public, followed up by a real serious effort at a ploughshares action. There are a couple of veteran journalists and camera operators in Rocky who know what they’re doing, and who already have the picture of a developing campaign in which the local public is already interested, and which may erupt into national significance.
So I’m going to the Rockhampton show this afternoon in my Bob Katter costume – “Bob Katter’s Australia Party calls for peace”. (direct contact, no media)
On Thursday we’ll do a citizens’ inspection of the Serco Sodexo presence at the Western St Barracks. We’ll be using the information disclosed on the TS11 list to challenge the local development boosters and Mayor Brad Carter. (media)
These kind of actions take my mind off the difficulties in organising, and keep my attention where it needs to be.
Fourthly I’ve been working towards the ploughshares action and thinking about Margaret’s vision of a “Shoalwater Wilderness Pilgrimage” and asking myself how I can best contribute.
I’ve been wanting to trespass into the Training Area during TS11 just because it’s so beautiful, but I’m also reluctant to find myself in custody before the attempted ploughshares action. I’m thinking now that an early, undisclosed trespass which establishes a shrine to the blessed Franz Jaegerstaetter in the exercise area – for other pilgrims to travel to and use to venerate the blessed Franz. With help I could be in and out without arrest.
The prospect of action fills me with hope. The continuing presence of serendipity tells me this action is right action.
Yesterday I went to the memorial service for DSC Damian Leeding as a mark of respect. John 15: 12-14 was part of the second reading (the same passage I have on my Peace Trike and other displays). As well as meeting Kerri Duffy, Jo Abood, Mel and some other Police I met in 2009, I got to sit next to Aunty Jeanette for the service, and spend a few minutes talking to Catholic Bishop Brian Heenan afterwards. I spent a few minutes being told off by Mayor Brad Carter.
Mayor Brad just wanted to pay out on me as a disgrace to humanity, and tell me that my issues ought be deprived of all Oxygen, and he wasn’t interested in meeting with me, talking to me, or engaging with me in any way, and that’s that. When I told him that 62% of Australians wanted troops out of Afghanistan by Christmas, Mayor Brad said “Well, I do too!” Really, that’s what he said. As Graeme noted earlier on, even Greg Sheridan wants troops out.
Afterwards, at the Police station where I’d gone to lodge a Peaceful Assembly notice, Rockhampton MLA Rob Schwarten came up to introduce himself and congratulate me on my peace campaigning (he’s retiring at the next Queensland election). Being approached and praised by a Labor MLA felt a bit surreal, but it’s consistent with a city and society that is open to overtures of peace.
Next week is dedicated to making Mayor Carter join in a public debate about his craven warmongering ways. I want peace to be part of the community dialogue in Rockhampton before Talisman Sabre gets underway. Mayor Carter makes a good focus, and he has to appear twice in public next week where he won’t be able to avoid debate. He is the authentic voice of the RSL generation in Rockhampton, and I want to have at him (with love in my heart, of course).
All things considered, conditions are good and progress is steady.