Midnight Lace and Burning Rubber

In Trinidad people burn tyres, one went on a hunger strike, others chant in stirring rhythm their frustration and generally a good time is had by all despite some episodes of sheer desperation or the promises by Trade Union Leaders that better days are coming. As the country heads towards a General Election next year, 2015, whatever paint left over from Carnival, and road marches that provide the right tempo, will not go to waste but will be employed in signs and banners, chants and choruses, to herald and hurry along the inevitable tsunami of protests by squeaky wheels which know that the time to get well and truly greased is before voting day.

I was looking at how other people protest and checked out the “Occupy Wall Street” movement that started on September 17, 2011 in Zuccotti Park in New York’s Wall Street financial district. It started with a Canadian group, Adbusters, and the slogan “We are the 99%” referred to the difference in wealth between the very rich 1% of Americans and the rest of the country. Some of the 1% are the American late night comedians and they responded with mixed messages.

David Letterman pointed to the irony, “They had a midnight raid and they cleaned out Zucotti Park where the Occupy Wall Streeters were camped out for about two months. So if you’re keeping score, here’s what the score is now: Eighty down in Zucotti Park; Wall Street executives arrested: Zero.” Conan O’Brien was ironic, “Occupy Wall Street protesters are planning to occupy the subway in New York City. Because if there’s one place to confront the nation’s wealthiest one percent, it’s the subway.” Jimmy Fallon was a little more sympathetic, “Yesterday the CEO of Citigroup said that he can understand why all these Occupy Wall Street protesters are so frustrated. In fact, he felt so bad for them, he gave himself a $10 million sympathy bonus.” Jimmy Kimmel quipped, “”Some protesters brought their kids to the demonstrations. Some of the kids got bored and decided to occupy Sesame Street instead.”

Not all protests get the same level of attention or media coverage. On the list of the ten weirdest protests on ODDEE.COM is one against Valentine’s Day. A few dozen protesters briefly blocked a road in downtown New Delhi, India, burning Valentine’s Day cards and chanting “Down with Valentine.” In the nearby city of Lucknow, extremists threatened to beat up couples found celebrating their love. “We are deadly against Valentine’s Day,” said Sapan Dutta, a regional leader of the hard-line Shiv Sena group. “We are for civilized love and affection.”

The protests by groups like Shiv Sena, who say they are defending traditional Indian values from Western-style promiscuity, have become an annual media event. I really wish I had heard about this two weeks ago so I could have told my wife that as a devout Hindu and newly minted member of the Shiv Sena group I was against Valentine’s Day and would be returning to civilized love and affection whatever that is.

On October 2003 in England, divorced fathers Jolly Stanesby and Eddie Goreckwi dressed as superheroes climbed up the rooftop of London’s Royal Courts of Justice to call attention to the plight of fathers in family courts. As members of controversial “Fathers 4 Justice” group, the men were well prepared and had enough food, bedding and clothes for a whole week of caped crusading. The following month, another member of “F4J” scaled a 120-foot crane to protest a judge’s decision to deny him access to his 3-year-old daughter and he too was dressed like a superhero. Though none of the men served time for their guerilla-style theatrics, the organization nearly collapsed in 2006 after authorities uncovered a plot by several of the group’s members to kidnap the 5-year-old son of then Prime Minister Tony Blair. The judges were right after all. A few people said that they should have been sentenced to 10 years hard labour in a kryptonite quarry.

The nicest and most revealing of the protests happened just a few days ago in Kazakhstan, Russia and Belarus. Women walked around the main city squares with their underwear held high and visibly aloft protesting against a trade ban on the sale of lacy lingerie. In a no-frills stringency move by the Government, any underwear containing less than 6 per cent cotton was banned from being made or imported into the countries.

According to one report, “The ban has struck a chord in societies where La Perla and Victoria’s Secret are panty paradises compared to Soviet-era cotton underwear, which was often about as flattering and shapely as curtains.” The ban was first outlined in 2010 by the Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC), which regulates the customs union, and will be enforced from July 1, 2014. According to the Russian Textile Businesses Union, more than $4 billion dollars (£2.4bn) worth of underwear is sold in Russia annually, and 80 per cent of the goods sold are foreign made. Analysts estimate that 90 per cent of lacy underpants would disappear from shop shelves if the ban goes into effect this summer as planned.

EEC officials have introduced the ban on the basis that lace does not absorb enough moisture. I am not sure exactly what the moisture content has to do with banning the underwear but as with all bureaucracies life is just one damp thing after another.

*Tony Deyal was last seen saying that former President Clinton was seen with a Victoria’s Secret undie on his arm and when asked if he was supporting the protestors he replied, “It’s a patch. I’m trying to quit.”

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