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Protesting or demanding? Tony Benn in Cheltenham

Here in the town of Cheltenham, UK we have just finished our annual festival of literature. Fantastic event, in fact over 200 seperate events over 10 days with authors from all fields - fiction, politics, science, biography, philosophy, childrens' books and much more - speaking about their work, reading from it (a little), debating, signing books and generally having a fun and improving time. Some of my favourite events this year included Tony Curtis (a real genuine Hollywood legend and still in good spirits at 83 years old) and Jonathan Powell, the civil servant who worked throughout the Northern Ireland peace process (he said some interesting and SF relevant things, which I'll cover in another post).

This Saturday the guest director was Ian Rankin (author of the Rebus series of detective novels set in Scotland), who was fascinated by the events of 1968 (when he, like me, was only 8 years of age). He presented a discussion with veteran socialist, campaigner and Cabinet Minister Tony Benn and activist Tariq Ali. Ali couldn't make it on the day and his place was taken by philosopher and all-round smart person AC Grayling.

Benn made a very interesting point during thius discussion which seems to me to have some SF relevance. He was asked about the impact of the protests at the time. "The thing about protests, I now see, is that once you are protesting you have already lost the arguement. What you have to do is DEMAND." He went on to say that demanding something meant that you were still in the fight, and hoped to have an influence. Protesting, on the other hand, implied that you dislike something that is happening - but have no other idea.

This was very striking for me. It seems quite in tune with SF ideas: the platform is 'what do you want?' and that's very different to 'what do you NOT want'. To hear Benn, a veteran protester over the years, come to this conclusion was very remarkable. Maybe there is hope yet. So, what are WE demanding? ;-)

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Comment by Mark McKergow on November 1, 2008 at 9:12
Up for a fight - yes, I guess that's Tony Benn's way! ;-) Demand is rather strong - perhaps the idea is about being 'for' something rather than being 'against' something - particularly if the being against is tacitly accepting that the thing you don't want is happening anyway.
Comment by Carole Waskett on October 27, 2008 at 17:48
Oh yes, I see how the idea fits with SF. Though I wouldn't use the word 'demand' unless I was absolutely sure I was going to get what I wanted. I might 'request' or (perhaps better) state what I wanted. 'Demand' sounds like such a vigorous, harassing word, like being up for a fight, don't you think?
Interesting bloke, that Tony Benn.
All the best,
Carole
Comment by Mark McKergow on October 27, 2008 at 17:29
Hi Carole

Not at all... I was making two points really. One was that there is an interesting difference between protesting and demanding, which seems analagous to the problem/solution focus difference. The other, quite separate, one was to wonder out loud what we are in favour of... No great significance really.
Comment by Carole Waskett on October 26, 2008 at 15:54
Well, thank you Mark, that seems to make good sense. I don't feel as if I need to demand anything. I have been well taught first by BRIEF and then dozens of other practitioners I've been trained by or have worked with. I feel quite comfortable using the SFA - and experimenting with it too. I'm thankful and pleased to be able to use this great approach in many things that I do. I don't feel the need to either protest or demand anything to do with the approach.
or am I missing the point??
All the best,
Carole

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