A couple of weeks ago I was campaigning with Green Left Weekly at our regular Friday afternoon Central station tunnel spot. It’s a pretty frenetic spot as hundreds of people bustle past every minute, eager to catch their trains and get home or out for the night.
The cover was about university fee deregulation. Sydney University and University of Technology Sydney, both close campuses, were having their orientation weeks and we had a petition against fee deregulation on the stall. Despite the sheer volume of people going past we were getting a good response, particularly from the large number of students.
I'd turned away from the flow of people to catch a breather and get a quick sip of water. When I turned back there was a young man in his early twenties standing in front of me in a somewhat excitable state “You know, the problem with you lefties...”
What usually follows from such an introduction is an open-ended invitation for abuse or a spittle inflected monologue against a straw-person caricature of a leftist, neither of which are particularly appealing. But given his age and his apparent enthusiasm to engage, and because I wanted to hear where this was going, I smiled and replied “Oh yeah, what’s that then?”
“The problem with you lefties is you’re all talk and no action”. When selling the paper on the streets you learn to think quickly on your feet, to come up with a quick come-back but in this case I was dumbfounded. Meanwhile behind us, Jim who I was doing the stall with, kept up with the campaigning “Say no to deregulation. Sign the petition here...” despite this, or perhaps in spite of it, the young man went on: “You never do anything. I’m from the Labor right faction...”
At this point I tried to engage: “What do you think we’re doing here? We’re raising awareness around the issues and getting people to sign a petition in opposition. How is that doing nothing?”
“Petitions are a waste of time," he retorted. "They never work anyway.” When pressed about what we should be doing he again alluded to his membership of the Labor right faction and said that we needed to go to Canberra. And then he was off in a flash, presumably rushing to catch his train, shouting something unintelligible up the tunnel as he went. This was a shame, as I had a number of questions for him.
It left me to ponder how such a messed-up view of politics continues to be perpetuated. How being in the "right" faction and heading off to Canberra were somehow better than engaging with people in a grassroots way. But you don't have to go far to find those types of views held by commentators in the mainstream media; even more common is letting such views go unchallenged.
This is why Green Left Weekly is so important. What Green Left does differently is reporting on the news within the framework of social change by and for the people, showing where people are fighting back and struggling to build a better society and a better world.
It's also an important psychological tool — for me and I'm sure for others — knowing that I'm not alone, that there are others out there who feel the same way and are fighting for a better world too. That's why we need your support, to make sure we can keep getting this message out.
Early last year we put out the call for supporters to make pledges to the GLW Fighting Fund to pay off later in the year, by instalments or immediately. More than $100,000 of pledges came in, giving the 2014 appeal a great start.
This year we'd like to do the same and ask supporters, even if they can't donate now, to think about pledging to make a regular payment during the year or to pay later in the year. Some initial contacting has so far gathered a pledge total of $27,020, but we'd like to make the $100,000 mark again.
You can make a pledge by contacting us on the number below or emailing us at FightingFund2015@greenleft.org.au.