Love Over Gold, Community Over Greed

Thursday, 8 August 2013

From what I'm hearing, standing in the early morning light with a bunch of other protesters outside the proposed McDonald's in Tecoma, the beeping-in-solidarity ratio is approaching 10:1 compared to the non-beeps of the cars driving past.  Then there's the occasional judgmental comment - the usual fare, like "Get a job, hippies" or "Morons!" flung from car windows by people who I suspect do not understand the big picture of what this means, what it represents, and why giving a shit is in our best interests.  They are the products of our cultural alienation, not yet fully comprehending the extent of our slavery to a system which is not the only answer - indeed, it's no answer at all.  This protest is not simply NIMBY, although the inappropriateness of the development is a big factor in the wrongness of this particular Macca's build. This extends beyond Tecoma and the Dandenong Ranges, to the rest of the world.  To everybody.  To the way we live, the way we interact, the level of power we hold and the amount of freedom we are willing to fight for.

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.
It is our rapacious culture that is the anomaly to history - except we sort of don't have much of a culture.  Not in the sense of understanding how powerful we are when we're in community.  The closest we get to it regularly is at the footy, or at a concert when you feel that you are part of something bigger than yourself.  This culture, whatever it is, has alienated us from the earth and from each other.  It's one whose media can have on its nightly news a story about climate change interspersed with a story about our awesomely-behaving economic growth figures (we do love our sport), but which seems yet to fully face how one directly feeds into another.  It is a culture which is slowly becoming aware of the extent to which we are in chains to a corporate few, those who control our money supply, and how we must change this to gain our own freedom.

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 petition here (over 81,000 signatures at last count).


  1. I don't know where to begin here.
    The words echo my thoughts and feelings.

    I've wanted to write about the bullying, stand-over, take-over tactics by McDonalds (and the prostitution by VCAT), but every time I've sat down to type, I get angry, then outraged, then indignant and the resulting words are tongue tied and I end up with incomprehensible jargon.

    It's a good thing I don't have high blood pressure. But I do have a very low tolerance for injustice.
    My heart is heavy for the future. With wealthy corporations and government bodies calling the shots and greasing each others palms at the expense of the real people - communities.

  2. I just read the newsletter article by on FB about this unscrupulous wanker from BR Demolitions and my stomach is churning!
    I can't focus on the clay work I have to do this morning in prep for markets and feel totally shithouse.
    There's NO excuse for his behaviour when undertaking this unwarranted and unwanted task. Why make it worse with his attitude by showing such actions and thumbing his nose at the community?

  3. Awww, hugs to you. It's awful, isn't it? Someone I know who lives on Mount Dandenong described it as feeling violated. And why would we not? We have been.

    I think a lot of people are feeling like you are feeling. I read on Facebook someone wrote how depressed she was feeling on Thursday morning after the buildings were knocked down on Wednesday. And she said that when she drove down the road and saw us standing there in the early light with our candles, that it brought tears to her eyes. I loved her comment.

    This is just going to unite us further. That building will go up, and I don't know how long it will stand for or how profitable it will be, but it will be a demonstration of what we are fighting against. It will unite us further to each other as a community, and that can only ever be a good thing. There is a massive amount of creative souls living in these here hills, and we will come up with a multitude of ways to continue to fight back.

    I wonder how much the behaviour of BR Demolitions has been fuelled by protesters turning up at their house. This is a couple with children, and people think that it's fine to turn up and harass them at home? Even if they didn't harass them but were politely standing on the doorstep saying, "We are against you," how would anybody not feel intimidated by that? So I was angry when I read that stupid people did that. It doesn't help, making it personal. Our fight's not against individuals, it's against the system that allows the more easily bought and greedy to flourish. If BR were amenable to our situation before, there is nothing like threatening your family to harden you into a "Fuck them" mentality. Although to be fair, I would think that if you're prepared to cross union lines and be a scab to start off with, that you're probably not all that concerned about anything more big picture than earning your living. I'm not condoning their behaviour by any means. Scabs they are and scabs they'll stay and if I was after a demo job, it wouldn't be using that mob, that's for sure!

    1. I didn't know that people turned up at the property of the demo guy - that's not on.
      I agree, keep it at the Maccas site, not make it a personal vendetta on family and private property.
      I'm still angry at how he performed at the site tho'.
      There's alot to be said for, "just get on with the job", without fuelling the fire.

      There's so much conflicting energies now at the site. It's palpable.
      I wonder if the people who eat there in the future will get "mysterious indigestion" from not only the bad food.
      Maybe it'll keep them away after that.

  4. Yeah, what a bastard, huh?

    The conflicting energies at the site *are* palpable, aren't they! Sad. I often wonder about that mysterious way that places seem to retain the energy that occurs on them. Surely doesn't bode well for the digestion of future diners :) Good, the sooner the stupid place goes, the better. Then we can all put in and buy the land ourselves (along with donations from worldwide supporters), build a community organic veggie garden to fuel the co-operatively-run cafe :)

    1. Oh, wouldn't that be awesome!
      A co-op cafe and community garden!
      We are sorely lacking in good locally grown veggies up here.

      Having only lived here a short while, it feels lonely sometimes, so a place for locals to meet and hang out while tending the garden would be so good.

      Personally, I don't think "the vibe" in the burger-off store will be pleasant.
      Money placed over community doesn't generate a good feeling :(

    2. Well, maybe one day we could catch up for a coffee. Locals meeting locals. (Although if you don't want to, that's okay. It's always terrifying meeting people from off the interwebs :)

  5. I love following your involvement with the Maccas thing. (We call it "Micky Ds, but same diff. :) I think it's an excellent cause and only wish people all over the world would stand up against corporate expansion. We had a bit of that go on here when they wanted to build a new Wal-Mart, but the people failed against the gov'ts desire for taxes. Keep on fighting the good's people like you who enact change.

    1. Yeah, we call it Mickey Ds too, although I think Maccas seems to be the generic term of choice (they actually took down some of the signs on Australia Day which say McDonald's and replaced them with Macca's. So that we, you know, can think that they're not a multicultural corporation and that they do give a shit about Australia).

      It's quite distressing the level of We Don't Give a Shit about you. I guess the more we wake up to that, the more it will change, won't it. Thanks for the support!!


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