Was there a time – perhaps back in the 1970s when hope for humanity still existed and people were actually engaged with the political realities that ruled their lives – when children knew how to protest properly? When they actually got organised with their strategy, rather than simply “winging it” whenever the prime minister hove into view?
I guess what I’m saying is that when the primary form of political engagement evident in our children is throwing sandwiches at Julia Gillard, it is an indictment on us all and our failure to educate them properly. Not least about the pressing issue of food waste: I mean, who throws away a perfectly good salami sandwich? There are children in the third world who would be grateful for that salami sandwich. You won’t see kids in Somalia throwing sandwiches at their political leaders, for two very good reasons: a) they know the value of a good piece of salami; and b) they know the value of a good rock.
There’s the key, kids: rocks. What’s wrong with throwing a rock? That’s how we used to do it in the old days. When I was a lad my friends and I thought nothing of heading down to Macquarie Street to sling a few hefty pebbles at Nick Greiner, and it was the best fun you could imagine having. And Nick took it in a good spirit too: he understood we were passionate young citizens expressing our democratic right to hurl projectiles at others, and he respected that.
How will Julia Gillard ever respect a kid who throws a sandwich at her? Let’s face it, she now knows that salami kid is no threat. She probably went home and laughed her head off with Tim about it. “Fools!” she cried. “Is this all they send against me? Sandwiches? Our victory is assured!” To a very real extent, that salami-tosser has entrenched even further the oppression of the Gillard junta. Thanks a lot, kid.
I mean, look, I get it. I get why maybe rocks seem a bit “old school”, a bit “square”, a bit “up your nose with a rubber hose”. I understand how the youthful mind ticks. And I also understand that schoolchildren can’t always get access to the sort of weapons that adults might substitute for rocks.
But surely there are ways, within the field of food-throwing, to make a bit more of a statement than just flipping a sandwich. Aren’t we supposed to be living in a multicultural society? Aren’t kids these days supposed to love watching Masterchef and My Kitchen Rules and Man Vs Food and all those exciting culinary programs? Then why would a young lad with a thirst for throwing go with something as dull and mundane as a sandwich, even if it was one made with salami, the prince of meats?
Think how much more impressive the stunt would have been if he had thrown a vegetarian casserole at Gillard: not to mention the potential for burns. Or consider how a well-constructed croquembouche would not only have done serious damage to the prime minister’s self esteem, but would have made the point about the limits of parliamentary democracy in a much subtler and more ultimately effective way. Or imagine someone throwing a suckling pig at Gillard. Just imagine it. Wouldn’t it be hilarious?
Perhaps blame needs to be directed at the parents. What sort of mother or father, upon learning that their child will be in the presence of the prime minister, sends them off with a mere sandwich in the lunch box, instead of some kind of terrine or self-saucing pudding? Parental dereliction, is what it is. No wonder when the prime minister herself is…you know.
Maybe I’m being harsh here: after all the kids have been throwing stuff, and that’s a definite positive. Whether we think a sandwich is the ideal missile or not, we can at least all agree that a prime minister having things thrown at her is better than a prime minister smugly going about her business with no fear whatsoever of catching a splat in the chops. So yeah, let’s applaud these kids for having a go in the old Aussie way, and encourage them to pursue their dreams, while steering them in the right direction. Suggest they head to a Q&A taping and throw a shoe. Go to a football game and throw a frozen chicken. Go to the movies and pelt the screen with Fantales. Then as they grow older, our children will learn to branch out into more innovative and dangerous ways to assault public figures.
It’s so true, as the ancient Athenians knew only too well, that a functioning democracy requires a robust opposition, an independent public service, and a large number of children throwing stuff. If we lose that, we lose a most important check on the unfettered growth of executive power. So it’s time for all of us to do our bit to safeguard our institutions. Next time you see your son or daughter heading out the door with a sandwich, stop them, smile and say, “Wouldn’t you rather take this?”
Whether, in that moment, you choose to offer them a ripe tomato, or a live grenade, or an ill-tempered puppy, is up to you. The important thing is they’ll be on their way to the development of all-new ways to attack prime ministers, and when you do that, you’ll have helped maintain our democratic traditions as much as anyone.
Just remember, throwing a thing at Julia Gillard doesn’t start with the arm: it starts with the mind. Now get out there and chuck, kids!