Love thy enemy (and the perils of plastic furniture)

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In around two weeks time the people of Colombia will be voting on a peace deal with the FARC.

Think about it as sort of being the Good Friday Agreement… on crack (I really hate it when people use drugs to imply superlative, but because of the inapprorpiate nature of doing so in this context I’m going to go for it).

Some people are for it, and – as you might expect – some people are against it.

According to the most recent edition of news magazine Semana, the ‘Sí’ side are beating out the ‘No’ side in the polls by a margin of 72% to 28%.

With them numbers, you might think the Sí side would be dedicating their time and resources on finding the most obnoxious ways to rub their inevitable victory in the opposition’s faces.

But no, everyone is still manning the decks, and yesterday I got to see a load of people doing this:

What you’re seeing there is two rows of people going face to face, arguing it out over the merits and pitfalls of this peace deal

All while sitting on what appears to be borrowed garden furniture.

At home, the referendum on same-sex marriage in May last year saw things getting pretty heated.

The ‘Yes’ side faced accusations of being dismissive and condescending to the views of large swaths of Irish society, while the ‘No’ side seemed to lean on some pretty specious arguments about the possible impact on adoption law.

At some point in the near-ish future (whether that means in a year or in a decade) Ireland is going to have to have a referendum on abortion and repealing the 8th amendment.

When that time comes around, rather than letting debate on the issue be confined to late-night news magazine programmes, advocates on both sides might do well to sit down on garden furniture and get their knees touching.

It’s a lot harder to call someone names when you’re staring them in the face.

Seeing all of that was sort of incidental though.

I was actually down at an event to see this dude:

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That’s José Mujica, former president of Uruguay and hero of the internet (while in office he continued to drive a VW from the 1980s, rejected the presidential residence in favour of staying on his farm and gave away around 90% of his salary).

This political event was comparable to the sort of left-wing rallies you get back in Ireland – in that they had far too many speeches and the soundsystem kept on cutting out.

There were about 3,000 people in attendance, all seated on the same plastic chairs that were being used outside.

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They were being kept together with plastic ties, and when someone got in or out of their seat it narrowed the spaces between the rows, driving my knees into the chair in front of me and putting a trip to the toilet out of the equation.

When it came time for the main event, Mujica sort of stood up after being introduced to rapturous applause, and then sat down to give his speech (I was much more forgiving of that after the event when Wikipedia told me that he is in fact 81-years-old).

He seemed to be a pretty good speaker, although to be honest I didn’t have a single clue what he was saying.

Got a lot of claps though.

This final run-in to this referendum will play out over the next two weeks, and I feel lucky to be in the country for this particular moment in history.

I will definitely try and get along to a few more events before polling days arrives, with a view to establishing the ubiquity of plastic furniture.

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