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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 33 No. 11. 22 July 1970

Salient Interview

page 5

Salient Interview

Photo of Tim Shadbolt

Tim Sbadbolt: his dog is the patron of the Friends of Brutus Society; be helped liberate Albert Park from Auckland's Mayor Robinson and the rest of a dropsical businessmen's city Council; be distributes jelly beans to Councillors and threw paper streamers during a Council meeting; be jumped the fence at the Airport on 13 June and demonstrated a way of protest that none of us, expect peter Verscbaffelt, had the guts or imagination to follow; be told the magistrate at his Wellington trial that "you're got to choose between the lesser of two evils—violence and peaceful protest." Owen Gager interviewed Tim Shadbolt in Palmerston North earlier this month.

What are the main achievements of your career, such as it is so far?

It's hard to actually map out a list of achievements, you know, and say we've done this, we've done that. The protest movement's such an intangible thing that in actual fact it's the minor aspects that / consider to be terrific achievements in the protest movement. There are instances like Clifford's visit and him being impressed by the demonstrations in Wellington so much that in his memoirs he said that he had changed his mind about the War. Even though I wasn't at this demonstration, I feel part of this protest movement. Albert Park was one of the most tangible achievements in the protest movement for civil rights and we actually changed the by-law in four weeks. But I think that above that were specific instances such as members of the Hells Angels organising a sack race. Old people would come along who were obviously against you, but wanted to hear what these beardies have to say anyway. Now there is a sort of communications link-up that has had ten thousand people in the park for no commercial reason. No-one's making any money out of them; they just look at each other and talk and dance and do whatever they like. I'd say that Albert Park was one of the most successful protest events that I can recall.

When I asked you what your achievements were, you immediately described what the protest movements have achieved. What's your relation to protest movements?

I'm just a part of it. You know, I can't isolate myself from the protest movement. Because I'm So involved in it I feel a very strong part of it, and anything achieved anywhere, even when students protest in America, gives me a sense of victory. You see that as part of an international movement-of people against the war, even though their motives are fear of conscription and all the rest of it 1 still feel part of this international movement, of its new ideas and ideals.

You have spoken of yourself as a symbol of the protest movement. In what sense do you mean that?

I said this in court to deny that there were any orthodox forms of leadership in the protest movement. I wanted to deny that in the movement someone stands up at the front and says "follow me" and everyone blindly follows—which is my limited concept of leadership. But what I saw as symbols of the protest movement are people that are recognised as well-known protesters by a lot of young people. I used it more or less to explain to the Magistrate that a lot of people would be watching from all age groups to sec what would happen. Anyone in the protest movement could say they were a symbol of protest just as legitimately as I did. I wasn't trying to place myself above everyone—or saying I'm the supreme symbol—I just wanted to make it clear that what I did was a protest offence, and not a normal criminal offence.

You've been convicted several times and have had several court appearances. What is your attitude to the danger of an arrest?

These days, if you do carry protest forward as positively and as effectively as you can, being arrested is almost a by-product of demonstrating. Look at some of the charges demonstrators are arrested for—stopping on a footpath, having outstretched fingers, giving peace signs, linking arms. These are reasons why people get arrested and you can use them for propaganda and all the rest of it, or make issues of them in the court. But I just see being arrested as almost an inevitable pan of being an active protester, in the normal sense.

Wouldn't you say that the more that people heard of your getting convicted of things like distributing jelly beans to the Auckland City Council, the more they might feel that the whole law and order system was absurd?

I think it definitely does point this out. I think an even stronger case was the young girl in Auckland at the Agnew demonstrations. She went along with her boyfriend and he was arrested for waving a flag. The cops were making a rather severe job of arresting him—one policeman was hitting him in the face—and the girl was crying, but she strongly believed in love and peace, and she said to the policeman as he was hitting her boyfriend "I forgive you, I forgive you" and kissed him on the check. She was instantly arrested for assault. These factors came out in court. People can't help beginning to see, no matter however much prejudiced they might be towards protesters. When I got four months periodic detention, I was in with safe breakers, people who had been stealing cars, people who had been convicted of assault, assault and battery. And I was doing a similar length for giving away jelly beans and streamers. It does make people wonder what's going on. But I don't think that should be the prime objective. It's a separate issue—law and order and civil rights—from the main cause We should not get too sort of side—issued by police activity and by the judicial system. It is an important issue, but not the most important.

You've spoken-in an article in Guerilla—of the objective of the protest movement being the renaissance of New Zealand's national pride. Is this what you consider the main aim of the protest movement to be?

That's an objective, but I still wouldn't say that was a prime reason. I think that protesting has a lot of side effects, such as showing the world that there are some people in this country who are opposed to the All Black tour and showing the world that there are people in this country who are opposed to the war in Vietnam. There are vital issues at stake in protesting, but once again I don't think just sheer publicity as an issue in itself should be taken as the sold goal of the protest movement. We shouldn't be prepared to bow down too much to the Press Association or to the news media in making our protests.

What then would you think were the main objectives of the protest movement?

Well, I'm not speaking for anyone else and I hope that every individual protester would have his own motives or reasons for protesting. Mine are to try and communicate with people more directly. And not just through the news media, to the people who are listening and watching, because I think they get a very distorted view, but to actual people taking pan in the protests themselves and realising the significance of it. The protest movement of people rejecting war, of young people objecting to racism, is vital because of what's happening to our generation, what's happening to our world. People's attitudes are changing, and the sincerity now of hundreds of young people who really feel that the War is wrong and are prepared to act on it is a terrific achievement.

You've spoken of the protest movement as mainly young people. Do you sec this then as part of the youth revolt?

I don't like to limit it, I've often been quoted as saying "anyone over 30 should shoot themselves" and "it's the young people's world off" and all the rest of it but there are so many old people who have young minds and are prepared to listen, and there are so many young people who are totally intolerant and will never be prepared to listen. But why it's so important for young people and not even just people in their twenties, people of 15 and 16 — to become aware of political issues is that it is a young people's world. 50% of New Zealanders are under 27. It's virtually impossible to estimate, but rough calculations have been made that by 1980 over 80% of the world's population will be under 24. That just one estimate. It is becoming a young people's world more and more, and it'll have to be young people who really get behind any new ideas and new forms of change.

Would it be putting words into your mouth then to suggest that you see the protest movement as a movement of majority of young people against a minority of old people?

I'd agree with that, but not as a sole summing up of the protest movement. I'd say that that would be one aspect of the protest movement.

What would be the other aspects.

It's a combination of things When I said that I believe that it's young people, that's just my personal aspirations and hopes, but you can realise that there have been a multitude of effects and reactions and changes in society at all structures and levels, Just having, say, people like myself invited along to give talks after dinner at Lions Club meetings is a terrific achievement. And it's not enough just to say it's a revolt of the young people this is a real revolt for Lions Clubs—to have a dirty, jeaned, barefooted bloody lout come into one of their meetings and tell them what he thinks is wrong with them is a revolution. A terrific one. And it's an integral part of the protest movement. You can't say it's just young versus the old but I see that as a very important aspect.

Do you have any belief at all in the traditional forms of protest movement?

No. I see most of the old, or what I call the old, political beliefs—the Maoists, the Trotskyists, the Spartacists—as losing attention or attracting less and less of it. What the majority of young people are motivated by now isn't political participation within a set group, but a general and more humanitarian drive, or social protest. It's a desire for peace, a desire for racial harmony—just those sort of issues themselves, not within the context of a political dogma.

Would you describe your main ambition as trying to make other people act as individuals?

Well, I don't think you could say I've got any ambition in politics whatsoever, and you would only ask that question from a political point of view. I don't want everyone to be a copy of me, it would be a terrible world. I wouldn't even call myself an individualist, or anything like that. You know you get people who say "Ah ha, you don't believe in anything, you must be an anarchist" or "you must be an individualist" or anything like that. I'm not particularly set against groups, I'm not even in favour of the individualist role—I think it's terrific if people are participating in group movements I'm not saying my way is right, and it's only through the individual that we're going to bring about great change. I wouldn't promote my way as being way and I don't think people should. All I want to do is to provoke people to do something don't want to say "follow me" or even "follow my example." They might want to join PYM—and I'm not in that because I don't agree with them. But that might be their was I don't have any set feelings on how best to bring about change.