My Word: Protests and Miss Frearson's Principle - opinion

AuthorLIAT COLLINS
Published date17 March 2023
Publication titleJerusalem Post, The: Web Edition Articles (Israel)
I couldn't tune out the news – it's an occupational hazard – but at some point I decided to close the list and concentrate on what I had, all of them serious topics

The question remained, where to begin. I was taken back in time: To the social protests that swept Israel (and much of the world) in 2011 and even further back, to an important lesson I learned in school. It was what I call Miss Frearson's Principle. I first wrote about it in the heat of the summer of 2011, when, like today, I saw many friends protesting without knowing exactly who was leading – or funding – the anti-government demonstrations. Even protests which start with the best of intentions and for the best of reasons, can get hijacked, I learned long ago at Copthall School in England.

One wintry day – particularly cold even by London standards – the window in our classroom broke. I was appointed by my classmates as the representative who should ask the headmistress that it be fixed.

I set off on my own down the long corridor, which always seemed to echo with the call: "No running, girls!" Along the way I was joined, or at least trailed, by an ever-growing number of pupils, each urging me to raise another demand (that we be allowed to wear trousers rather than skirts during the cold spell; that we be allowed to go home early; and other conditions which I've forgotten).

By the time I had reached Miss Frearson's office, there was quite a crowd – I think her word was "rabble" – some of whom had no idea of my original mission. "What are all you girls doing here?" Miss Frearson asked in her most English-headmistressy voice, and, as one, they disappeared – surprisingly quickly considering the no-running rule.

"Why did you bring so many girls with you to my office?" asked Miss Frearson when we were alone. I explained that it had been something like a snowball effect.

"Aah," sighed the Oxbridge-educated former history teacher. "Let that be a lesson to you. When you start a revolution, you never know who will join you on the way, or what the end result will be."

I don't remember if we got the window fixed, but Miss Frearson's warning remained with me.

The judicial reform protests

Sparked by opposition to the proposed judicial overhaul, the protests that we've been witnessing for the past 11 weeks developed into Days of Disruption and they're tearing the country apart. Legitimate protest through legitimate means is a principle enshrined in democracy. There's a big difference between that and...

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