Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Sapporo protests over G8 summit held in the city

The following photos were taken over a period of half-a-minute around 7.09pm on Sunday 6 July 2008. There were protests in 2008 in Tokyo and Sapporo at the time of that year’s meeting. These shots are from the nightly news in the days before the confab became the G7; Russia formally quit the grouping in 2017.

We don’t normally think of Japanese people as liable to resort to street protests to make a point about the political settlement or about the economic circumstances that condition their lives, but this is remarkable as, since WWII, there is in the country a history of civil disobedience. In 1960, in fact, well before the more well-known anti-Vietnam War protests that would take place in the US, street protests in Tokyo happened that would change, in a decisive manner, the direction Japan was to take.

Those protests resulted in a more mild, inclusive, and accommodating attitude characterising the relationship between government and the governed because the latter, seeing the protests on their newly-acquired TVs and reading about them in the newspapers, decided that “enough is enough”. The 2008 protests in Sapporo, meanwhile, had little effect on the country or on the world although George W Bush, shown in effigy in one of the images below, was replaced early the next year by Barack Obama.

The use of effigies in this way is also puzzling, as though the zeitgeist or the global consensus were nothing more than an action movie with actors you can easily identify with and who play characters that possess limitless individual agency. As though messiahs and their evil doppelgangers were real. As though the global consensus depended, for its reliability and for its strength, on a few men operating in isolation from the desires and aspirations of hundreds of millions of people.

On the other hand, people in aggregate are gullible so such contrivances are regular currency. But what does it mean to capture 30 seconds’-worth of vision in 19 JPG files, vision showing such unedifying contrivances – the police and the men and women marching with their amateurish signs in front of the assembled journalists and the camera operators – as though the unreal were real?

Does it mean taking back control of the message? Is the TV news broadcast itself to be understood as reflecting anything like reality? Or is it just part of a continuous, debilitating spectacle that politicians and public servants and businessmen and -women in aggregate rely on to entertain us and to give us the impression that we are informed – so that we can consent to being governed by them – while they, largely unhindered, politely do their jobs? Aren’t the protesters just actors in a hackneyed drama? And who writes the script? George W Bush or, perhaps, us?

No comments: