Friday, June 23, 2006

Jesus with a Machine Gun

Russell Square, London: 12:03 PM

Principles take their toll after 17 hours writing and fifth of Mount Gay 'Anejo' (also ten limes and a bucket of ice) as I found myself trudging accross the garden of Russel Square at 11:20 in the morning to the beat of drums and shouting, most of which was not in my head. I'd been up all night polishing off a rewrite for a review--after scrapping 15,000 words at 1:40 the previous afternoon, and needless to say, the rum and frantic typing has left me a little ragged at the edges and in no mood for delay. Boosted by only a pre-coffee espresso, I was a veritable time bomb as one eye was seeing square and the other round.

The incessant drumming, reminiscent of the 'War Drum' scene at the end of She Wore a Yellow Ribbon--where John Wayne is talking disapointedly to the old Apache chief, was getting louder as I approached my building. Coupled with shouts and cheers. Marijuana smoke was heavy in the air as the entire scene was undelain by a loud techno groove from enormous speakers. I'd left my home office (dining room) and stumbled onto a heady block party. As I got closer, and began to peer through the haze, I realized I was in no mere celebration but a protest, an 'occupation' of a 'derelect' building by student activists taking a stance against the University charging them money for their apartments. Marxist slogans wafted through the air from glassy eyed hipsters with dreadlocks. I stopped dead in my tracks and retreated to Starbucks for reinforcements because I knew where I was going to be in 5 minutes.

"Corrupt cops and crack rocks!" a chorus from the speakers--was that Rage Against Machine? Returning to the jaws of the animal crowd with a giant paper Starbucks cup, my hand burning because I'd accidently dropped that cardboard sleeve thingy, my attention was earnistly seeking the leader of this thing (it would turn out that my coffee would be my undoing, for reasons that are probably already obvious).

The flags said 'peace', at least the one next to the Anarchy black and the Sandinista crimson/black banner but I knew that free love and world harmony was not on the minds of these student freedom fighters--rebels with no clue bourgeousie whites from Essex and Surrey--they were into the drugs, the scene, the noise and the prospect of spending their parents' rent checks on Lager during Sunday's England match that squatting would afford them. There was a fire breather and a juggler too: all the components of a resistance movement. And, obligatory for every movement, this one had a name: Tragic Farce (in one act), brought to you by the London Anarchists.

I fought my way through the crowd, careful not to spill my coffee on my shirt and mindful that my flipfloped toes might get trod on by the barefooted brethren. Buses rumble through the noise, whilst deisel fumes and taxis circle the park. The world goes on around and through the gathering. The din rises to a full blooded fever, orgiastic and complacent in the fact that a few blocks away, the shear movement of world capital and finance would obliterate this place if it bothered to care--a testament to the futility of angry white middle class protesters--I thought about scoring some LSD, but the bloke selling the little capsuls looked kinda dodgy, like even he didn't buy what was going on and was only in it to off load his old product before the next batch came in for the weekend's raves, clubs and rock festivals.

The thobbing mass getting ugly at my stumbling and elbowing for coffee room was soon greeted by 'the leader' a grungy dreadlocked Westender, who before standing to the crowd pulled a ski mask around his face--a hushed crowd, drums stop, techno turned down to a manageable level--the masked man arms spread like a martyr elicits a loud cheer--and then silence. Birds chirping--he's getting ready to speak,

"Revolution! Freedom! Existence is Resistence!" cheers again from the crowd as he hushed them again.

I've wormed my way to the front row, right at the foot of the podium, "Chingada maracone...Hola! Commondante Marcos?" Holy Shit, did I just say that out-loud--paranoid, who here speaks my brand of gutteral Mexican Spanish? The crowd turns mean, they don't know what I said, but my short hair and shaved face, brandishing my sign of imperialism in the form 20 ounces of liquid happiness was enough.

The grumbling of the crowd increased, "pig!" "narc!" I decided to beat a fast one to the safety of my office. Fighting and shoving my way out, a wild eyed, black soled, dreadlocked, self-rightous vegan barred my exit--pushing me back, "hey man" he challanged "what's your problem?" "just curious" the caffiene and alcohol are finnally mixing in a death brew on my frontal lobe--sparks are closing in from my periphery, taste of blood at the back of my mouth.

"it's protest man, against people like you"

composing myself, note book out "how so?" no answer, "what I thought, excuse me" taking the easy out "I need to get to work", as I start enroaching on his space. The crowd has once again gone back to the guy dressed like Marcos, leaving me and my friend to settle our differences in the reletive obscurity of the mob. He pushes me back--"what's your problem?" he enquires again.

The rest is hazy, I aimed for the back of his skull, and before the melee ensued I was accross the quad into the mob of onlookers and other cynical naysayers. But i'm left perplexed, also a swelling face and severly bruised right hand.

Where did it go wrong? And perhaps more broadly, where and how can a group of white upper middle class men get the idea to demonstrate that they are not happy that the university evicted them for not paying rent. And perhaps more troubling, why was no one hip to talking about it, instead hiding behind slogans ripped off from a Mountain Dew advertisement or from Taco bell- quisero chalupa?. The protest was cut short because of rain--perhaps the ultimate commentary about convictions--flying flags of revolution, until the elements might damage i-pods and mobile phones--one kid was on a blackberry, even protesters need to keep up on email. Perhaps what is most disturbing was the lack of diversity in the crowd--mainly one of white 19-23 y/o males, protesting against forces they both completely embody and cannot fully comprehend. How many threw away their i-pods when it was proven that Chinese slaves made them? Or their phones? It's the scene; branded represention of social lives--protesting because it's hip and in the end they have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Defeat takes them back to mom in Surrey countryside--or into a 12 month tenancy agreement for a Camdon flat; victory equals free London rent. Where were their convictions in Elephant and Castle when the Latino population commemorated the death of some poor Brazilian student because he 'looked Asian' and was was wearing an unseasonable coat--before being gunned down (six to the head by most accounts) by the Met in Kennington. Or the poor bastard who was shot in his parent's house, suspected of terrorism in Bethnal Green, only to find out that the police were acting on fourth party hearsay intelegence? How far would these convictions fly if the police were to come burn them out. Think 'Marcos'' mask would protect him from the CS gas or the trudgeons that London Cops are so fond of using?

Perhaps my own perspective is mistaken now. Maybe I'm too old for this. And it could be that my own situation put me into the maw of beast that I wasn't prepared to handle today--pushing just a little too hard in my own surely self-rightousness.

I'm out


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Blogger Ben-in-UK said...

this is the last place you want to post this shit pig fucker. do it again and i will find you, and it will be ugly.

2:43 PM  

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