Monday, 23 May 2011

Rubbing the wrong way

As a departure from the usual routine, JC and I went to the movies in Chartres on Friday evening. It was lovely to do something together during the week; in fact we had met over a meal at Buffalo Grill on the Wednesday evening.

JC had chosen Woody Allen's latest offering Midnight in Paris which stars Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Kathy Bates, Adrian Brody. It focuses on the stereotypical favourite spots in Paris and adds in a bit of historical time-travel. Amusing to recognise the famous figures in painting and writing. Not a great movie of course but diverting nevertheless, a bit of fun.

We followed that up with, what was for me, our own bit of time-travelling. JC brought out his fondue set and we set to combining chunks of bread and melted cheese. It's decades since I had a fondue-most of which were the chocolate variety. Yes, it must be a good 30 years since I've dragged out my own fondue set for some serious melting. It was only last September that my two fondue sets were given away before my shift to France.

This last weekend JC's son and his girlfriend  joined us. Family and friends are very important in French society. Sure, they're important in other countries but its particularly marked in France. We had a BBQ even though the weather was a bit fresh. Of course it was challenging and tiring for me trying to keep up my focus and comprehension when native speakers get together-nothing new there. It gets particularly tricky when I am trying to defend my point of view when I feel I am being attacked, even if some of it is in English. I have been told in the past that some French people can be pretty full-on and in your face when discussing things. I can say that this is certainly fair comment and there were a couple of times that I felt uncomfortable and unhappy being told what I would be expected to do and think and how I would change my mind about things.

I don't mind debating things on a level playing field but I do appreciate it being done respectfully. Apparently some french people equate activists with terrorists. Greenpeace seems to be the whipping boy in this respect. A bit rich really when France displayed it's blatant state-initiated terrorism against a friendly country when it's secret service agents bombed the Rainbow Warrior in Auckland in 1985 and killed a man. What's the difference? Well for starters dropping nuclear bombs in the Pacific is just plain evil as is bombing a ship in another country's harbour and on a completely different political and destructive scale to anything I can imagine Greenpeace doing.

Some activist groups do silly things which I wouldn't agree with and I don't financially support any groups, but I don't think all groups trying to draw attention to injustice in the world should be written off as terrorists. As part of a work project it's important that I monitor what's happening environmentally around the world, what the issues are and what could have an effect on our own communication efforts. So I trawl the internet to learn. What I learn isn't pleasant and I have admiration and respect for many of the groups who try to fight murder, corruption, pollution and corporate arrogance.

I will need to be careful in what articles I write for the
 project and will avoid the 'A' word so as not to provoke negative responses from the seemingly rather blinkered french. In many countries, organisations which fight injustice are considered heroes because who else dares to brave the horrid process and consequences?

In NZ we have a government that wanted to mine our National Parks and most fragile ecosystems. Quite a lot of NZers needed to be activists for a short time to stop that. It worked - 'this time'. There's the famous environmental struggle to stop Lake Manapouri's destruction just to generate some electricity. NZers got active and eventually the politicians got the message. And there was also the Springbok tour activism-violence on both sides but often from the police. Sometimes the odds are stacked so much against justice that unsavory methods get used.

My own past includes fighting for a precious ecosystem at the back of my street. I won a battle, lost the war, inspired others to get involved and wore myself out with the effort. But we do need individuals and groups to get passionate and effective and not lie down and say- too hard or, it's someone else's problem or, it's just political crap to manipulate us. Cop-out!

So if you want to rub me up the wrong way: assume you understand all my motivations, accuse me of not understanding things, be black and white judgmental about groups that deliberately court the media, and tell me what I should think and do. Sometimes people's passionate ideas can come across as bullying. I hope I don't fall into that trap myself.I'll keep an eye on that and work out how to get the message across anyway.

Photos show JCs cheesy efforts and a flaming french BBQ, the Rainbow Warrior sunk by the french in Auckland, the memorial in Northland, NZ.


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