It started in 1801 and happens every 10 years: the population survey administrated by the Office for National Statistics. We’re told that completing the survey is important for government, local councils and businesses to be able to respond to people’s needs. Creepy invasion of privacy, waste of money (£480 million cost, in this messed up economic time), or important document of changing lives and needs? Whichever way, the government has announced that the 2011 census, to be filled in for the day of the 27th March, will be the last.
Historically, activists have used the census to lodge their resistance. In 1901, before any woman had the right to vote, suffrage campaigners would deface and refuse to fill in their forms. As The Guardian reports:
“Votes for Women” is written in capitals across a return from 27-year-old Mary Howey, who calls herself an artist and suffragette living near Malvern, Worcestershire. Another has “No Votes for Women – No Census” stuck on a printed message across the return, with a handwritten addition: “No persons here, only women,” while a third declares: “If I am intelligent enough to fill in this paper, I am intelligent enough to put a cross on a voting paper.”
And what’s the hoorahey for the 2011 forms? Well, whilst a “are you religious” question was added in 2001, there’s never been a question about sexual orientation. Folks like campaigning group Stonewall and lesbo entertainer Amy Lame are speaking out about that, with Lame encouraging us lady homos to write “Lesbian” for religion.
But it’s a shady game to play. As a pagan who also needs visibility, my first impulse is to out myself as someone with a much oestracized and discriminated against “religious practice”. But why should our identities have to compete? If I’m gay and a witch, why do I have to choose sides, prioritise fights? Only in 1951 were the English Witchcraft Laws repealed, and pagans are still fighting for legal and cultural recognition. The Pagan Federation are calling for all pagans, whatever their path, to write Pagan in the designated “other” box. (We were denied our own box on the census. This is amidst newspaper reports often citing “pagan” alongside “Jedi knights” to show how silly people are taking the form to be. Like paganism was just made up or a piss take).
What’s the other stink about the census? Anti-war protesters are calling on people to boycott the census, and risk the £1000 fine and criminal record (which could be avoided if enough people resist?), because the US arms manufacturer responsible for Trident is involved in gathering the information. Lockheed Martin -who make Trident nuclear missiles, cluster bombs and F-16 fighter jets – won the £150 mil deal from the National Office of Statistics.
This is unacceptable. And you know what, it trumps being gay and a witch. Petition organised by Stop The War Coalition. Watch this space for further info. Mass boycott, perhaps?