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INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

DESPAIR versus HOPE

 

December 2011

 

By Pam Andritsakis*

People seek change, but at what cost? As I prepare this article, yet another leader in a country ‘a world away’ from Australia has been removed (killed) and people are wearily rejoicing. In recent times, we have seen historic political change in countries where for decades people have lived under tyranny, oppressed from speaking out against governments, yearning and dying for a life we sometimes or often take for granted.

Thousands of people have and continue to struggle or die for a belief in common causes – freedom, democracy, opportunity, independence, justice, equity and human rights.

Watching the extreme courses of action that people will take for a ‘chance in life’ is undeniably confronting and I am reminded that people all over the world share mutual human values and expectations from leader(s).

As we adapt to the inevitability of globalisation, instant access to information reinforces common themes amongst global populations. People want a fair and just society, equity, access to health, education, clean water, gender rights, decent work with decent pay, the right to vote for good governance and government accountability.

I recently travelled to Greece and with images of riots fresh on my mind; I listened to people’s compelling stories of despair, frustration and anger at the country’s destitute political, financial and social situation. In other countries where lives have been lost to realise governmental change, people are hopeful and filled with enthusiasm at the opportunity of a new life. I was and am deeply concerned that the Greek population did not see a positive future or an opportunity to rebuild the nation.

Having left Greece with a heavy heart I found myself walking through the busy streets of New York. When I visited in 1996, Wall Street was a plethora of limousines, Armani suits, coloured vests and excitement. This time it was fenced off, dozens of security officers surrounding the area and not a sign of activity in the street. How interesting that the 1% are now protected with fencing and security. What about the 99%?

I walked on and soon breathed a sigh of relief. I had found hundreds of people representing the 99%. I was in the heart of OWS (Occupy Wall Street). The group of peaceful activists were in the early stages of what has become a global movement for change. Some of the organisers, who freely admitted that they were novice activists, were bewildered at the influx of supporters and solidarity was evident. The NYPD were engaging in friendly conversation with the activists and escorting the peaceful protestors to and from Wall Street. By the time I returned home in 2 weeks, the OWS movement had reached global proportions and I was once again reminded of the all too familiar human values that are our motivation to take action.

In comparison, Australia continues to be relatively well governed and I am grateful that generally, we are able to participate in street protests and activism, without fear for our life. As workers and citizens of a global community, our pursuit for a fair and just society must continue and as I reflect on historic and recent political and social changes, I am convinced that PEOPLE UNITED WILL NEVER BE DEFEATED!

* Pam Andritsakis is the President of the ASU SA&NT Branch

 

 

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