I was lucky enough to be in Riccarton’s Westfield Mall today as a typically unruly horde of protesters, typically, attempted to encroach on everybody else’s good time.
We had become sidetracked as Grandma – having again fallen asleep with pots on the boil, burning out the bottoms of another few thus warranting this particular ‘emergency trip’ to town; thinking initially that a trip to Briscoes would meet all her saucepan requirements, then deciding that as long as we were in town she might as well stop in at the public hospital to visit her sister, which of course soon led to a thorough going over of Westfield Mall – now decided she liked the look of something over that way.
Typical of protesters their chant lacked diction and try as I might, indeed stand and listen as I did, I was still at a loss as to the reason for this particular day out.
Grandma had successfully done her favourite thing and now, having managed to engage a store assistant’s services, was happily listening as they outlined their range of whatever it was that had piqued her interest in the first place.
Understanding then that I had at least five minutes before I’d have to wander over and soberly explain to the sales assistant something along the lines of, ‘This is my grandmother, and while she is indeed a consumer, right here, right now, she is simply playing a game with you, and while you might feel as though a sale is near, regrettably, and please Miss, I mean don’t get me wrong, I do appreciate the attention you’ve given her, I’m sure she has adored every minute of it, but honestly, she’s doesn’t plan to buy anything in your store today, and we really must be on our way’, before leading Grandma back out the shop entrance and resuming our hunt for saucepans – thus I saw fit to make my break.
“Excuse me, Miss,” I addressed a plaque-holding dreadlock-wearing twenty-something year-old woman. “May I read your poster?”
“Go for it,” she shouted, unnecessarily, given my proximity.
I now made a show of reading what in fact I had already perused as I was posing the question and glanced at the woman, her face streaked with the perspiration that obviously comes from getting up late in the morning before assembling a disagreeable rabble then wielding a few signs and embarking on a day of impassioned – albeit unintelligible – ranting.
She pushed past me uttering the words, “We gotta stop this fuckin’ TPP ‘fore it gets started, eh.”
I took a few large steps to again be alongside her. “Excuse me,” I implored, “please, tell me Miss, what is the TPP – for what does it stand?”
“The TPP stands for the end of democracy as we know it,” she shouted back, again, unnecessarily because again, I was right there.
“Right,” I took a few more large steps, “sounds bad, but what about the letters – I mean what is the TPPA?”
“Oh, it’s ah, Trade, ah, it’s the Trade, ah, Partnership – no no, it’s the Trans Pacific Partnership!”
“Oh wow, so what does that mean?” I asked, taking a few more large steps to keep up.
“It’s a trade deal,” she spat the words at me as though I was stupid, “and it’s gonna ruin what we in New Zealand stand for.”
“No,” I feigned disbelief, “not like, really ruined, like, with no democracy and like, when they’ve stolen our sovereignty and that..?”
“Yes … Just like that!” the dreadlocked woman screamed in my face, a look of stark revelation in her eyes, as though she had just successfully proselytised every capitalist right wing supporter in the Mall that day, before realising that I taking the piss.
I took a few more steps to swing around in front of this perplexing creature. “Tell me, please, do you and you cronies even keep up with current affairs, or is this, causing unjustifiable bedlam I mean, just your hobby?”
“What? ’Unjustifiable’..? Are you serious? The TPP’s beating us down and taking our democracy, and you try to tell me this is unjustifiable’?”
“Yeah, about that, did you even see the debate, where the question of whether the TPPA should go ahead was held? I mean, were you following it back then?”
“What? There was no vote, there was no debate – there is no democracy!” she shouted that last bit, which, fortunately I sensed coming and pulled back just in time.
“In fact there was a debate and your guy, the idiot who was there peacefully protesting the TPPA – shouting and carrying on like a bloody child that there ‘is no bloody democracy’ – was voted out of the room … That, my dear, is democracy.”
“Oh, what? When was that?”
“Shit I guess, that would have been what, about, I dunno, almost twelve months ago now, you know, back at the start, when the TPPA was initially being pushed through, when people actually gave a damn.”
“What do you think we’re doing now? We give a damn!” she shouted, again, unnecessarily because, again, I was right there.
“Yes but,” I said, feeling myself becoming increasingly exasperated with this sweaty brick wall, “this trade deal, why are you still going on about it, I mean, it’s already a done thing, I mean, you’re over six months too late – what’d you do, sleep in?”
“TPP is not for me!” she shouted – that basic rhyming scheme giving reason to the fact they don’t refer to it as ‘the TPP-A’.
“Look,” I stated firmly, feeling my ire rise and thriving on the sensation, “you and your silly little band of misfits have clearly been feeding on the Donald Trump election hype, you’ve become all pumped up and empowered hearing how he would abolish the TPPA if he were in power and somehow, for some stupid reason your cohort of brainless monkeys thought that today would be a nice day to resurface with your gay little signs and your shrill little voices and to rave about a topic over which you and your band of ignorant buddies have sweet fuck all knowledge.”
The dreadlocked woman took a large step back.
“The TPPA,” I went on, having expunged my ire, “in a nation such as New Zealand, so small and isolated, is the only way that we as a people, in a future where the world is essentially interconnected, can ever expect to prosper…”
She remained silent; even her plaque was drooping.
I continued. “…International trade, for New Zealand at least, is not a bad thing … I have no idea where all this crap about ‘no democracy’ and ‘losing our sovereignty’ – in fact I would like you to tell me what the word ‘sovereignty’ means in a minute – no idea where all that shit even eventuated, I mean other than the fact that you recent protesters are obviously just copying the old protesters’ chants and well, it wouldn’t even surprise me to learn that you’re using their banners but seriously, what is the point of all this? I mean like I said, it’s done and even if it wasn’t done, why you would wish to stymie New Zealand’s prosperity is beyond me – you’re just causing shit for no reason now.”
“Not for no reason,” she was suddenly indignant, “we gotta stop the TPP.”
“My God,” I said to myself; then to her, “did you just space out for the past few minutes or something?”
“Who’s your friend?”
I turned toward the new voice; it seemed Grandma had come to save me this time.
Article by Tim Walker
Edited by Brock Wall
Photography by Swaddy Pryre Toster