is a joint Australian/US military exercise held every two years. It is also a magnet for anti-war protesters. I am an anti-war protester, and I may one day get up to Rockhampton to join such protests.
However... this year there was an incident which I found difficult to condone.A protester took to a military helicopter with a mattock
, causing $200,000 damage, according to an (exaggerated?) estimate by the military.
Among the anti-war protest movement this action was seen as noble and heroic, and it attracted accolades for the mattock-wielding protester from like-minded protesters. It was labelled by them as a classic "swords to ploughshares"
But it left me feeling uneasy when I read about it. As an advocate of non-violent protest, I do not condone any injury to people or damage to property. The "swords into ploughshares" rhetoric is convincing for some, but it does not sit well with me.
For a start, the biblical origin of this idea
had to do with people voluntarily turning their own
swords into ploughshares. This is not the same as seizing someone else's sword and, against the owner's will, beating it into a ploughshare. The former is a truly peaceful action, whereas the latter is clearly a physically aggressive action driven by a "the end justifies the means" mentality.
And then there's the psychological aspect. If the aim of the protest is to persuade people not yet on-side to come on-side, then damaging helicopters is, I would argue, not very likely to achieve that aim. People currently unable to see anything wrong with joint Australian/US military exercises are likely to find the damaging of helicopters by protesters an affront.
I would argue that such actions offend the very people whose minds we are trying to change. I would further argue that such actions are ego-driven, attention-seeking behaviour aimed, not at changing the attitudes of the as-yet unconvinced section of the public, but more focussed on militancy and winning the approval of the already-converted. It is, in my book, totally incestuous and counter-productive.