Clarkson on: protest
Another day, and another letter arrives from another disgruntled motorist who’s fed up with the traffic light phasing/number of speed cameras/proliferation of bus lanes in his local town. He fears he’ll become so hot under the collar that he may spontaneously combust.
So why, he wails, do I not start some kind of protest movement which will demonstrate to the government that 28 million drivers in this country have had enough of the persecution? He sees a day, I suppose, when we all paint our faces blue, and I make a big William Wallace-ish speech asking if we would sacrifice this day, for all the days from now until the day we die, for the one chance we have to take OUR FREEDOM!
Right. And then I suppose we all charge at Longshanks Blair and his homosexualist army, in our 4x4s and our hotted up Citroens, chopping off their legs and heads in a big fountain of blood.
Sounds dreamy, but it’s not going to happen, because I’d end up on a rack, having my liver pulled out by Peter Mandelson. And you, the motorist, would continue to be squeezed and persecuted. This is because, in the whole of human history, protest has never worked.
Ask Wat Tyler, if you don’t believe me. Or Arthur Scargill. And then wonder why the Tolpuddle Protestors are known as the Tolpuddle Martyrs.
Think about it. In the late Fifties, when young people stopped wearing their parents’ clothes and listening to their parents’ music, and the word ‘teenager’ appeared, there was a sense this youth movement could change the world.
So, in the Sixties and early Seventies, the charts were full of people warbling on about the Vietnam War. Bob Dylan, Crosby, Joan Baez, Stills, the Byrds, Nash, Donovan, John Lennon, Peter, Paul, Young and Mary. The list went on and on.
Yes, ’n’ how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind,
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.
You didn’t even need any musical talent to climb on the band wagon. You may know the, er, song, If I Had A Hammer. It’s used these days in the endlessly cheery programme Changing Rooms, but back then, it was an anti-war protest song, too, along with Eve of Destruction, Universal Soldier, War, Give Peace a Chance and so on.
You’d have imagined, then, that the situation in Iraq would have sent the nation’s youth up to its bedrooms to write angry poems about the travesty. But it seems not. As I write, the charts are full of spotty white boys singing a load of pre-pubescent pap about girlfriends who’ve left them, or young black men who want us to kill some homosexuals.
Some would say this is because today’s youngsters have too many PlayStations and not enough talent to write an enduring and powerful anti-war ditty. Others argue most of today’s music is written and organised by Simon Cowell who, with his trousers and $400 haircut, doesn’t really look like he’d know one end of a CND symbol from the other.
“Blair can ban smoking, smacking and hunting in one week, imagine what’s next. Gassed for eating an apple at the wheel”
Those who’ve really been paying attention will look at the Dixie Chicks, who, during a British concert, said they didn’t like George Bush very much. As a result, their music was banned on all US radio stations and people across America burned their CDs in the streets.
But actually, the main reason why there are no anti-Iraq war protest songs is because protest songs don’t make a blind bit of difference.
Neither does shouting. You may recall that in the early Eighties, the entire country resonated to the sound of a million students and trade unionists shouting, “Maggie, Maggie, Maggie. Out, out, out.” You could hardly hear yourself think, but she stayed in for 200 years.
Then, just before the start of Tony’s crusade to the Middle East, half a million people converged on the capital to tell him with much fist shaking that it was a stupid idea. But he went anyway.
And who can forget the problem of foxy-woxy? This time, a million rolled up in London with their tweeds and their horns. And guess what? The Hunting Bill was shovelled into law using the backhoe loader that is the Parliament Act.
You see? Protest, in all its forms, is pointless.
And so we arrive back at the problem of how to persuade Longshanks that his war on the car is unwise. Obviously, at the next election we could all vote Conservative, since they’ve promised to up the motorway speed limit to 80 and abolish the M4 bus lane. They have also said they’ll review every speed camera in the land, but you just know they will do the review: see how much money is being generated, then decide they’re all fine. In fact, they may even decide we need more. But don’t worry, because even the Conservatives admit they have as much chance of winning as my postman.
So we’re stuck with Blair, and if he can ban smoking, smacking and hunting in one week, just imagine what he’ll do over the next five years. You won’t be fined for eating an apple at the wheel. You’ll be gassed. And satellites won’t be used simply to monitor your movements and speed. They’ll also be programmed to fire lasers at people doing 33.
So, how do we stop him? If 10 million turn up for a march, he’ll simply argue that 50 million didn’t. And that night, surrounded by his friends and colleagues, he’ll have a jolly good laugh.
We could block the roads. But this would block the path of a fire engine and as a result, a child would die. And then the ringleaders would be made to look like murderers by the Labour Party Publicity Machine.
We could choose to ignore the new rules in an act of mass disobedience, but this is Britain and I’m afraid we’re not very good at that sort of thing.
For this reason, I’d also be disinclined to suggest no-one pays their income tax. Because only a couple of hundred would actually withhold the payment and this would only result in a couple of hundred people going to prison.
We can’t resort to terrorism, either, because being a suicide bomber is jolly painful, I should imagine.
In fact, there is nothing we can do, but don’t let it keep you awake. Don’t let it make you angry. Simply buy a 4x4 and drive to the moral high ground, where you should consider this prospect.
One day, long before he’s too deranged to care, history will judge Mr Blair to have been a lying, two-faced opportunist. That mad grin will go back in its jar and all his friends will have long since deserted him for his replacement, whose New Old Labour policies will undo everything he did in the first place. He’ll be left a lonely and broken man whose life’s work will have been for nothing.
And if this come-uppance doesn’t get you off to sleep at night, imagine the big-eared clown being transported to his funeral in a big yellow Hummer. Where, instead of a 21-gun salute, the priest will play AC/DC’s Highway to Hell... I guarantee you’ll be sleeping peacefully by the second verse.