I was unable to attend the first March in March for 2014. I wanted to be there among the potential masses but there were other things scheduled on my personal agenda that I couldn’t get away from. I had seen the posters around and about the place calling everyone along to a protest against the recently elected Tony Abbott led Liberal government. It was to happen the day after our South Australian state election.
The South Australian Election Day arrived after a few busy weeks for me. Since the start of 2014 I had been in Sydney and then Perth working with a performing artist on a show I was directing and co-writing with the artist. If you play your cards right in Australia, and have the means to do so, you can follow performing arts festivals around the country starting in New South Wales and then going to Western Australia, then South Australia and this is exactly what my performing artist friend and I had done.
Sydney Festival, Perth Festival, Adelaide Festival. Actually we had been more connected to the Fringe Festivals once we left New South Wales; Fringe World in Perth then Adelaide Fringe in Adelaide. Leaping from one side of our vast country to the other over a relatively short period of time provides a rare insight into the nation. One gets an opportunity to see up close the faces in the street and listen to their murmurings.
After getting back to my home base of Adelaide and sleeping off a rigorous schedule of performances, I attended a week-long workshop with Katie Keys a Melbourne based poet who tweets original short form poems on Twitter. Part of the workshop process with Katie Keys was concerned with live tweeting as part of a team, from the stalls of Adelaide Writer’s Week. This particular experience was inspirational in the extreme.
I have been on the internet for most of the twenty five years it has been available so I am pretty familiar with the notion of reporting via the Twitter stream. It was a fun thing to do albeit very taxing to the brain because Twitter only provides one hundred and forty spaces to compose a tweet, so one must process what is happening and (in order to keep-up) quickly find ways to describe it in a short form within the limit per tweet.
On the day of the State Election I started creating some tiny little poems of my own to broadcast on my own Twitter stream. Here are a few examples of those tweets:
I like to tweet and election day poem
For the mind should be busy
as the tally comes home
Will you just accept the outcome,
Sweet or bitter
(or will you spill your guts all over twitter?)
So you voted South Australia
For Green or Red or Blue
Job’s not done make sure the one
You’ve elected works for you!
Sad in a way, after our progressive past
That a bloke’ll come in first
& a bloke’ll come in last.
The faces in the street
the shuffle of the feet
the crunching of the numbers
the tweet tweet tweet
Cream fed cats standing tall purr
Among their minion thrall
“Vote for me,” they smiling say,
“cast your vote & lean my way!”
Faces in the voting line
Look a little gaunt this time,
Plump ones wear a flatline grin;
Fallow nurse a well bruised shin.
Celebrity candidate, power stunt-monger
Bet you wish your voters were younger.
Keen to build on a shaky base
making mockery to win the race
Hand me your guide
To direct my vote
when I get inside;
if I say I don’t need it
don’t start to chide
I researched; I vote with pride
You have your choice
Same goes for me
No matter the outcome
whether homo, bi
intersex or het
there’ll be another vote m’dear
on that you can bet
This exercise strikes me as similar to doing a crossword puzzle which they say helps keep the brain functions developing for the individual; it is also a fun challenge only one or two steps away from creating live tweets from an event. I am not suggesting the poems are great although some of them were retweeted by followers who evidently saw some value in the ones they shared with their own followers, poetry is subjective, one person may really like a poem that twenty other people don’t like, but it was nice to have some of them appreciated.
Back to March in March.
I couldn’t attend in person so I decided I would be involved on Twitter. I wasn’t so much in the mood or circumstance to compose little poems, so I focused on retweeting images mostly, and since I was watching the ABC News 24 channel on television (and expecting to see some live coverage of this national day of action) I thought I’d include @abcnews24 in quoted retweets. That’s a tweet you retweet as a quote. There were a lot of photographs coming into the #MarchinMarch stream and even though I’m a writer I do agree that a picture speaks a thousand words, and it would be good to share the pictures people were taking in one part of the country with people elsewhere around the country. Australia is a big place and there are some time differences between one side of the nation and the other, so I thought it would be heartening for people who are just arriving at one designated place to gather to see what was going on elsewhere.
For example on the east coast they’re a little ahead of us here in the middle of the country, and on the west coast they’re a little behind us. Hopping around the country earlier in the year has brought this home to me I suppose. Not that I wasn’t aware of it previously, but when your body clock is dealing with these time discrepancies the notion tends to stick in a different way I suppose.
Protests have died down a bit over the past few decades. I remember being in huge protests against Blood for Oil in the 1990’s and feeling like I was part of a community movement that was really significant. When I was a teenager we protested again Uranium Mining against the Malcolm Fraser led Liberal government, and I recall doing some street theatre that was protesting against Valium when that was being introduced as the magic bullet drug of choice for all ailments, so I have attended quite a few rallies back in the day. I’ve protested in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. Obviously in the larger cities the crowd is bigger, and the sense of being part of something big is greater. I have been involved in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade more than once and that’s actually a protest march as well, albeit a very colourful one with lots of bells and whistles.