Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Standing with terrorists

The police have asked the attorney general for permission to charge 3 of my friends, 4 acquaintances and 10 (or 9, or 11) others with terrorism.

I haven't really known how to write about these events. Partly this is because I haven't had time. But also because I can't seem to stick to the political point when thinking about these charges - I keep coming back to who the arrested people are. Most of the reasons I think the police charges are ridiculous isn't relevant to wider political debate about the issues. But I can't get my head away from the fact that some of those arrested wouldn't work together to design a poster.

I have a similar reaction to the Scoop profiles of the arrestees (see Omar Hamed and Rongomai Bailey). These profiles do a very good job of portraying the hard work that those accused of terrorism do, but they set my teeth on edge with their worthiness.

My friends who were arrested can be irritable, self-righteous, impulsive, pig-headed, judgemental, and throw about completely unfounded accusations of Stalinism. Yes, they've all done some really awesome political work, but I've been part of demos with all of them which were complete disasters. Once, one of them was on the megaphone at an anti-bypass demo and said "We're here today in solidarity with the people of Iraq. Oh Shit... Oh Well it's all connected."

There is a point in here, I think. I hated in the Ahmed Zaoui campaign that his worthiness was always a matter of debate. That he needed to be portrayed as a deeply spirtual man who wrote poetry in order to earn his freedom. We lose if we debate on those terms, because we make rights things we have to earn with perfection. Even though I know that some of those arrested are pretty fucking awesome, I don't think it's their awesomeness which means that they should be free, it's their humanity.

You'd think being a blogger who knows and loves 3/17ths of the story of the year would give you an inside running, but instead it makes it impossible to see them as the story of the year.

So instead, all I can say is that my solidarity for those arrested is not conditional. I stand with my friends, because I know they're human, not in spite of that. I stand with those I don't know, because I know they will have strengths and weaknesses just like those I love. Those arrested I don't like? I'll demand their release, and continue to dislike them just as before.


  1. Anonymous10:35 am

    I think the point is that, from those of us that know these people personally, we can say with certainty, these people are not terrorists. What amazes me about those charged, is they are some of the sweetest, kindest people I know within activist circles.
    They live from the heart and their work reflects a deep love for humanity and dedication to creating a world free from oppression.

    I agree that worthiness of respect should not be up for discussion - human rights are human rights. The gubbermint is throwing all that out the window and welcoming the guantanamo style 'justice' of guilty before proven anything, and long term jail terms for people awaiting trial.

    It is of interest to consider who the gubbermint has chosen to label terrorists. The message they are sending out is that standing up for Tino Rangatiratanga and Peace opens you to have your homes invaded with douchy or no warrants, guilt by association, that terrorising rural indigenous communities (Ruatoki or NT in Aus...) is A-OK in the national interest.

    What are they preparing us for?

  2. Anonymous1:41 pm

    Please keep writing and updating as stuff occurs, Maia - for those of us not in a main centre, blogs like yours and the alternative news sites are our eyes and ears.

    I agree with you that human rights are human rights, regardless of how likable or otherwise the person involved, however I think things like the profiles on Scoop are currently acting as a sort of 'PR' campaign for the accused, to illustrate to wider NZ -who don't know them, and don't know much about activism- that these are people working for social justice, not terrorists - and therefore, the style/content has to be a bit fawning/worthy.

    It lacks emotional punch to write "she has worked tirelessly for social justice but has a tendency to monomania and difficulty working with consensus" or whatever. (Excuse lame example.)

    I've been saddened by how many people I've talked are wary of supporting those arrested outright, despite their concerns about the way the police conducted the raids, because "they might be a type of terrorist if they are willing to make napalm bombs". I've also heard (and dispelled) some hilarious rumours - like, there were molotov cocktails and semi-automatic weapons under the beds at 128.

    Therefore, some sort of 'PR' campaign is necessary to clarify who the people are and dispel the rumours.

    So long as we don't turn them into matyrs and start wearing images of their faces on t-shirts a la Che Guevera, where's the harm?

  3. Me three. Maia, please keep talking, I'm in Oz and it's a little tricky to keep up with things from here, your viewpoint is a great addition to indymedia and scoop.

    Count me as wary to offer unconditional support just because I'm not there and I don't have direct contact with anyone involved. I'd rather be slightly cautious and wrong than unconditionally supportive and wrong, you know.

  4. I completely agree that human rights are unconnected with how "worthy" or "unworthy" a person may be.

    I'm also really concerned with how we define "terrorism" as a society and how this whole situation is going to push people into distinct camps a la American rhetoric.

  5. Maia,

    Earlier this year when people I know were arrested by an anti-terror squad for charges related to the G20 protests in December last year (they've recently been cleared), I felt similarly. I wanted to talk about who they are as people and what they're like to organise with.

    It's true, the Left is extremely divided and full of sectarian conflict. But that's not a weakness. I wouldn't want to be part of any movement that was "unified" -- "unity" generally means hierarchy. We hate that shit (mostly).

    I think your ambivalence is exactly what we need. It signifies maturity and openness in a politics when you can be flexible about who your opponents are (and I don't mean in the "enemies of our enemies" way).

  6. Anonymous10:58 am

    Maia, you have perfectly expressed my own literally frozen brain; I too, while offering unconditional support in our activities fundraising/demonstrating/meeting/discussing/creating consensus, have felt conflicted many times.

    There is one person, not arrested, whose absence I feel very keenly at this moment, especially as I would like her advice about re-running an event we worked on together last year. While I celebrate those Bailings that have been acheived, I'm still upset that the (subliminal) rifts in our own community fabric are not mended, yet.

    F*k, I'm sick of the crypto-linguistics we are all being forced into by this ridiculous example of over-use of state force!

    xxx anarkaytie

  7. Would you stand by them if they killed someone?