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? ;-)