The First Victory

I love finding quotes on the Internet. Something happens that stirs my intellect and I like to see if other minds have thought along similar lines. What one finds is that their thought processes and feelings are very rarely unique. If you have thought it, you can bet that at some time in history its been thought before by someone, somewhere. Recently I have watched on as two of our peak bodies have squabbled. I have watched on as the masses made themselves heard on the cinema access issues but were ignored by our so called leaders. Of late I have thought much about leadership.I have questioned my own leadership and also the leaders around me.

Some guy, obviously famous, but who I have never heard of – Lao Tzu – said of leadership, “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” This quote struck me because it pretty much sums up the Cinema Access Campaign. One person spoke out on the AHRC website to protest the cinema industries application for exemption to Disability Discrimination complaints and a few hundred more followed. The end result of this first voice of protest was that last week the Australian Human Rights Commission threw out the Cinema Industries application for exemption. Whoever this person was is a true leader.

One would be hard pressed to remember who that first voice was but it does not matter. The voice of that person created momentum. Others came on board to add weight to the arguments. The emotions were stirred. The energy was created. In the end the result was a  massive win for the people – Deaf, deaf, hard of hearing, blind and vision impaired- who were offended and angered by the Cinema Industry’s inability, nae, unwillingness to recognise their right to access and, worse, to recognise the significant market that these people represent.

In winning this first battle for better access to the cinema we all had to make a sacrifice. The 35 cinemas that were going to be fitted out for captioning and audio description will now, in all probability,  not be fitted out. One can imagine that the Cinema industry will now  retreat, tail between its legs and in retaliation actually do less than they already are. Not that it was much anyway.

Another author, completely unknown to me -David Kenyon, said, ” Those things which are precious are saved only by sacrifice.” What is precious here is dignity. What is also precious is fairness. The people that protested in the Cinema campaign protested not so much for cinema access but for dignity and fairness. Australia’s hugely rich Big 4 cinemas were telling some 4 to 5 million Australian’s with a hearing or vision loss that they were a burden and not worth investing in. This is demonstrated by the fact that they were only willing to invest .0125 % of their total profit in creating access for this significant market.

These people sacrificed what paltry access they were being offered to send a message to the Big 4 cinemas, to send a message to the Australian Human Rights Commission and to send a message to society that they were fed up being ignored, that they were fed up of being treated like charity cases and that they would no longer be treated without dignity. The sacrifice was access to the cinema but only FOR NOW. The clear message is that it is time for the cinemas to take us all seriously because we are no longer going to be trodden all over. The real fight has just begun.

The real tragedy of all this is that our leaders in the sector actually ignored the overwhelming voice of the people it represented. Some of these leaders have now seen the light and are backing the masses but some still stubbornly refuse to acknowledge the clear message that the people that they represent are screaming – this message is that they want REAL ACCESS, they want REAL RECOGNITION of their rights and above all they want to be treated with DIGNITY. That this message was at first ignored by our leaders was and is a disgrace.

Oscar Wilde, who I actually know of, said, “Those who lead the people can only do so by following the mob.” It is a message that our leaders could do well to heed. This is not to say that the mob cant be wrong, it can, but to constantly deny  the voice of the mob is not democracy, its dictatorship.  And dictatorship, said Stephen Vizinczey,  “is a constant lecture in instructing you that your feelings, your thoughts and your desires are of no account, that you are a nobody and must live as your are told by other people who desire and think for you.” Just for the record, I don’t know who he is either!

Congratulations to all who were part of the Cinema Access Campaign. Your voice and your commitment could well be the changing of the guard!

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