Saturday, September 06, 2008

Base Cullions ...

The need to protest against a perceived injustice runs deep in all of us. It is an expression of faith in the power of those that hear to redress the injury.

A couple of days ago Romanian football threw up another occasion for spontaneous popular protest. The machinations of the footballing barons, the disputes over ‘territory’ and the helplessness of ordinary against the powerful, resulted in several hundreds of fans protesting publicly, a minor skirmish or two (complete with broken heads), the temporary blocking of traffic and a loud march to the centre of the town.

It was quite exciting – I followed the crowd in the hope of seeing some action but in the end was disappointed as it fizzled out – the protesters were leaderless and, by the time they’d made it to Opera Square, it was late.

Although this made the national press little has appeared outside of Romania - which is strange, because it was such a minor protest in the same city of Timisoara which caused the Revolution of 1989, which brought down Nicolae Ceausescu (I won’t say communism) to start.

The difference, I guess, is the comparative political stability now. The spark of a minor grievance is not enough to set a significant social blaze – but should be heeded as a warning by those in power.

Shakespeare gives us a similar ‘protest’ at the start of the third scene of ‘The First Part of the Conflict …’. The protesters are the petitioners – men with a grievance they wish to make public and have redressed by the powers that be (in their eyes, the Lord Protector: Gloucester).

They are not able to get access to the person who counts (much as the Timisoarian protesters, who really need UEFA and FIFA to listen don’t get their voices heard through international media indifference).

The Queen, showing a severe lack of insight, sends them off with an:

‘Away, base cullions.’

She might as well have said, ‘Let them eat cake’!

In less than 40 lines, shifting from the seriously dangerous devil-dabblings of Gloucester’s wife, to an ‘all is not well’ in the body politic Shakespeare has given the foundations for all that is to follow – here we have the rule (and importantly spirit) of right and justice being swept aside, earlier we had basics of ‘respect’ and ‘God-given authority’ being ignored.

The protesters in Timisoara appear to have been as unsuccessful as those in Shakespeare’s play … All they need is a Jack Cade though to feed on their genuine grievances.

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