For me, this is about saying no to ongoing, relentless corporate expansion which decimates the environment (and does not pay for its decimation, ever noticed?) and ignores the wishes of the people. About saying no - not just in our hills home to a proposed 24/7 outlet not far from a primary school and kindergarten, on a single-lane road, bordering national parks, in an area that Melbournians drive to on weekends to escape suburbia - but everywhere to unsustainable systems. The fight is strong here because there is a lot to lose. People don't fight proposed Macca's outlets in, say, Clayton or Bundoora because those places are already built-up and relatively soulless. But it doesn't necessarily mean residents are happy about yet another Macca's being built, five minutes from the other one. It's just hard to muster yourself up out of the apathy that comes from living isolated from your community, surrounded by fast food outlets and building supply chains.
When your own council votes unanimously against McDonald's building on the site, and 80% of your own community is opposed, but the decision is then overturned by VCAT and is proceeding despite that level of community opposition, that's a fight worth having.
And it's a peaceful fight, despite what you might hear to the contrary. It's right to fight this, because progress is not inevitable, and if we don't, the whole world will resemble a multi-storey carpark, with servos on two corners and fast food outlets on the other two, all in the name of the great corporate god's expansion at all costs. Because that's the paradigm. And it's a paradigm that comes from short-sightedness and greed, from a worldview where it is okay to make profit for yourself at the expense of the many. We are so used to living this way that we think it's the norm. We think that it's survival of the fittest playing out, and it's always been so. I beg to differ.
|Protesters at the march, where an estimated 3000 people|
said no to Maccas in Tecoma.
What group of people, if they were inventing a culture, would be happy with one where a small bunch of uber-rich invent our money out of thin air (literally), and then charge interest to the majority, who then spend years of their lives paying back way more than they borrowed in the first place, in servitude to the dollar instead of their passions and interests and talents? Deep thinkers and far seers in cultures other than ours have warned long against the indebtedness that comes from a system based on charging interest. It leads to slavery. And slavery breeds apathy. It's easy to be apathetic becuase this thing is too big, so what's the point of fighting it? The system is too big to change, or to fail.
Except the only reason Wall Street hasn't failed is because its puppeteers continued to wrangle its strings after 2008. This economic system has within it the seeds of its own destruction, and it has already begun turning within and devouring itself. It's only a matter of time before the whole thing collapses, and what we will have left will be a bit of agoraphobia, and more freedom than we first know what to do with. And it will take us years to understand that what seemed to be the end, was in fact the beginning.
Those are some of the far-ranging reasons why I have spent four of the past 24 hours in the cold (a couple last night in the rain, with reddened fingers) holding a sign saying "Maccas Says No to Democracy". You don't do that sort of shit unless there's some passion from within to warm it. I don't know who made that sign - it was one of the communal ones available for people who come down to join the fight. Yesterday was the first day I came down. I've been involved in this protest from the beginning - going to meetings, tweeting, marching - but yesterday was my first stint of sign-holding. I admit I was scared to come down. Like many people, I don't know many of my neighbours, or my extended community. But then yesterday afternoon someone I do know rang local ABC radio to complain about one of its reporters insinuating that things were gearing down at Tecoma now the buildings have been demolished. In fact, it's the opposite, she said. She was just about to make her way down there herself after she picked up her daughter from school. I recognised her voice and took the opportunity to go down there myself, to see someone I know to speak to rather than simply recognise the many I have come to know by sight from the last many months but who I don't actually know. It was my way in. And I was scared. But I have overcome a little of my shyness in the past 24 hours and met people I wouldn't have met before, united in a common cause. It's amazing how people will open up to each other when they have something in common to share. This is what community is - people with commonalities, people who share the commons. I feel like a part of this community much more than I did 24 hours ago.
Across the road from the proposed site is an impromptu No Maccas HQ. A local community member has made available use of their front yard. They've put up a tent, provided an urn for a cuppa, and it's such a basic thing but it is so damn powerful. People have written songs about this protest, made videos, taken photos, written, used their PR and admin skills, all for free, and all from passion. This is what life really looks like.
I came here this morning along with a bunch of other people for a candlelight vigil, to mark the sadness of the day before when the buildings which were once the Hazelvale Dairy, built in 1920, were demolished to make way for a generic prefab plastic city producing plastic food. It was lovely, seeing the hills lightening in the background, and people with candles and lanterns, singing "No Maccas no." It was a gentle way of grieving the violence of the day before, and for reigniting the hope that though the buildings have gone, the fight will continue.
You can sign the change.org petition here (over 81,000 signatures at last count).