Sunday, 16 September 2012

Thoughts about the Secular Europe march

Yesterday's March for a Secular Europe went ahead successfully and finished up with a rally featuring a number of great speakers.  Most notable from my point of view were Sue Cox, Peter Tatchell, Terry Sanderson, Robin Ince and Chris French, but the efforts of the others can not be denied.

Reflecting on the day's events I'm left with a number of potentially opposing thoughts.

First, I wondered about the choice of route.  I assume that it was the best of the options available, but compared with last year's event it seemed second class.  Granted it started off near Parliament, but it ended up in an obscure little road where nobody could have noticed that a rally was even taking place.  Last year's rally was in full view of the end of Downing St.

The rally at the end of the March for a Secular Europe 2012, London.
The rally at the end of the March for a Secular Europe.

It was a shame that so few people attended.  We must have numbered only about 1000.  It is hardly enough to be noticed in a city where there is a protest march almost every day.  How do I know this?  I asked one of the policemen whether this was a regular weekly event for them.  He said that it was more like daily at the moment, since the end of the Olympics.  He also volunteered that not many of them were as polite and well behaved as this one.  (Corollary - well done to all of us for behaving well but polite and well behaved marches don't really get noticed at all.  I'm not complaining - just saying.)

Secular Europe 2012 - Peter Tatchell - powerful and natural orator.
Peter Tatchell - powerful and natural orator.

Then I was left wondering what we were actually marching about, having tried to explain it to someone on the train home.  I felt that I hadn't been very convincing.  I know what it says on the website and I should point out clearly that I agree with all the issues.  However, the recent furore over Atheism+ where the antagonists are discussing what qualifications are strictly necessary in addition to atheism leads me to ask a similar question about secularism.  What exactly do women's rights and gay rights have to do with a desire for a secular Europe?  Certainly they should emerge naturally from a fair secular government, but I wonder whether their inclusion might confuse the message slightly.  On the other hand, their inclusion clearly boosted the number of attendees, and Tatchell's oratory power without the use of notes definitely enhanced the experience.

2012 Secular Europe March - humour and dedication
The spirit of the march!

Having been a little too open about my doubts and inviting your comments on the matters, I'll reiterate that it was a really great way to spend a sunny afternoon with a lot of lovely, well-intentioned, like-minded people.  I conclude with two of Robin Ince's humorous but deep insights.  When asked how you can have morality without God, he said that he wondered, in the case of certain of the churches:

"How can you have so LITTLE morality WITH God?"

and an interesting observation that

"Nowadays, if you think about it, it is the racists who are oppressed!" 



Paul Baird said...

I do think that the lack of visible presence of anyone involved in politics did not help us. This is a political rather than an anti-religious movement, we're about a level playng field for political ideas, preferably based on empirical evidence. In which case, Peter Tatchell aside, where was our Eric Pickles ? I don't know who was there who is involved in Local Council politics, or any MP's or MEP's, yet that is where the heavy lifting will be really be done.

My final comment was how uncomfortable I felt after the Daily Mail segment in the Pod Delusion 3rd Birth Day Bash. The Daily Mail is a piece of shit but the chanting at the end did remind me of the two minutes hate from 1984. I think we must be careful not to become what we despise.

Plasma Engineer said...

Well said sir.

More about the Daily Mail incident tomorrow. Apart from that, the Pod Delusion event was very entertaining, although I very nearly missed the last train home. :)