We thought we were all alone

Did you watch that selection of speeches at the anti-pope protest? It’s a good selection – Geoffrey Robertson, Johann Hari, Maryam Namazie, Dawkins, Peter Tatchell, Andrew Copson. You can see Ben Goldacre to the right of the stage, and Terry Sanderson in the background.

And Barbara Blaine speaks; she is a survivor of priestly sexual abuse. She said this:

When we were children, and the priests were raping us, and sodomizing us, and sexually abusing us, we thought we were all alone – and we felt very alone, guilty, and ashamed. And over these past years, and even more recently over these past months, many of us as victims have found each other, and we have learned that we’re not alone. And I must tell each and every one of you: thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for all the victims, because today we recognize that you too care about the victims.

That’s why the protest was not mere grandstanding, or a party, or piling on, or any of that over-fastidious bullshit. It was, among other things, a yell of rage about what the Catholic church and its priests have been doing to people – including children – for its entire history, and in particular within the living memory of millions of people. That yell of rage is music to the victims. What do you think its absence sounds like? It sounds like indifference, or worse, endorsement. It sounds like the apathetic or enthusiastic agreement of the whole society that it’s perfectly all right for priests to prey upon and torment children, and get away with it. Imagine how that adds to the misery of the whole thing. Imagine what a relief it is to know that a lot of people don’t agree and don’t endorse.

Next to that fact, finicky objections to groupthink or the joy of protest just look callous at best, and revoltingly self-indulgent at worst. Someone at Facebook (SIWOTI!) made a comment in that vein –

People are having way too much fun laying into the Pope. It’s like a party, which is parasitic on the sins of the Catholic Church. People just love the frisson of protest, and I find that rather distasteful, given that it tends to be parasitic upon the suffering of other people (precisely the sorts of people one is supposed to be protesting on behalf of).

Barbara Blaine didn’t see it that way. She saw it the opposite way. No doubt people do just love the frisson of protest, but so the fuck what? If what they are protesting needs protesting, then so the fuck what? Why is that more important than, you know, saying this evil is an evil?

That’s my considered view.

And having said that, I will add – you’re damn right. I wish I’d been there. Those people aren’t just trendy butterflies – Peter Tatchell got beaten up by Russian cops in Moscow on a gay pride parade – Maryam Namazie risked her life in Iran – Ben Goldacre does about six jobs. Yes, I damn well do feel elated listening to Johann lay into the pope. People who sneer at him and the rest of the protesters and moan about finding it all rather distasteful – well they don’t impress me so much.

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