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Nikola Tesla on the Occupy Movement’s 1st Anniversary

September 25, 2012

Ever since we fell out of our mothers, we have been whining.  Crying.  Baying.  I feel the coin on my chest; it hangs from my neck on a red thong.  My mind is clear, and my gaze seems to carry for miles.  The streets in front of me, the asphalt is bubbling and the architecture dances and jigs, but I know the neon graffiti sprayed all over everything is just the drugs.  There’s a crashing of piano and the drummer falls off of his stool.

My friends and I, we are inaugurating the second year of Occupy London.

Right this instant, we are in the middle of staging a musical panto based entirely on the Ferguson documentary, Inside Job.  The whole company, myself included, are all coming up unexpectedly on LSD.  We have dragged a stand-up piano out on casters; a half dozen musicians are struggling to control their instruments and the players are in costumes which appear to be breathing.  The crowds of pedestrians outside Whitehall have been very warm.  Totally, enthusiastically shocked, but warm.  It is an oatmeal sky, Sunday, September sompink.  Thingy o’clock.

stupid monkey - Church of Euthanasia

fruit monkey says: waaah! waaah! (img Church of Euthanasia)

A little bit first on my history with street protest: my history with street protest has been lengthy, colourful.  While others threw molotovs in Seattle, I was throwing shapes.  We also did a provocative tango Argentine while agent provocateurs brought down police fences in Doha, Qatar.  At the Chicago Teacher’s Union strike, which I flew to last week, I made a balloon-animal replica of Mayor Rahm, which I named Emanuensis, which I then propped atop a fellow dancer’s head and popped with a high heel during a rumba line.  It’s all on film.  Mine will be known as the dance revolution.

I have dabbled in other direct action.  After the mass murders in NYC, I of course perfunctorily signed petitions to both my Senators and the pertinent congressmen at rallies late that summer, as well as to Bush, imploring cooler heads and resistance to uneven military response to the attacks.  I even featured in the Church of Euthanasia’s viral video later in the year, I Like to Watch, (links below) which helped reframe the narrative in the media in easier to understand, more sexualised terms.  Killing being so grotesque and all.  This is when I was living in North Carolina.

Later, after the little Texan bombed Baghdad in the middle of spring break, and I sang “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” as we watched the first cadmium orange blasts flare live on T.V., I even started attending street protests.  At first, I hung out across the square from the protestors, across the street, a bit removed.  The first sign I took read, “FREE SADDAM!”  One of the protestors came across the street to put her sign in front of mine.  Her approved slogan cancelling the one I had made on a giant slab of cardboard with blue and red magic marker.  She said I was counter-protesting, whether that was my intention or not.  The next week I brought a friend.  Our signs now read, “MORE BLOOD FOR OIL,” and “NUKE THE POOR!” and were stapled to real professional-looking sticks.  A lot of cars honked at us.  Nobody bothered to come across the street to complain.  We kept going back, even being as bold as to slip our signs in the piles of theirs while the organisers packed up.  They always got thrown away, I guess, because they never showed up on their side of the street.

Then, on the third anniversary of the bombing campaign and ground war in Afghanistan, we hired a few sheep costumes from the fancy dress shop in town, there, and printed up a few briefcases worth of fake Federal Reserve notes.  A couple of guys in sunglasses and fedoras held these on one side of the street, and we sheep went to go pick up money fluttering along the crosswalk while the traffic was stopped.  Every once in a while, the fedora-and-briefcase lot would ‘go fishing,’ casting off with a fishing rod and a counterfeit note on a string.  The sheep would all run after the hook.  It was hilarious fun for the rush-hour motorists.

Anyway, about a month ago, I started waking up in the morning feeling physically and mentally like shit.  This was very odd, because I am normally in peak health.  I have a training and dietary regimen that could bring cadavers back to life.  But over a period of four days, I awoke, looked through the curtains at that oatmeal sky, and felt like chucking it into the drink.  Walking out to the Grays pier and hauling myself off the end of it with a pocketful of bricks and a tear in my eye.  At first I thought it was just the weather changing.

Gradually the real tension was revealed to me: I was watching these Occupation anniversaries on the television news.  I saw the massive turn-out in Madrid; the heavy-handed police pre-emption across New York City; I read the tickers at the bottom of the screen, waiting for some word on what the old Occupy London would be doing.  Waiting to see how this sooty, dirty, muddy country, the land of a thousand generations of poets, workers and dreamers; what would we bring to the table this year?  Nothing.  There wasn’t anything going on.

I turned to my drinking partner, Matt Damon.  I had a sneer on my lips.  ‘The next time I hear the word “occupy,” it’s going to have “London” after it, and it’s going to mean something to people everywhere!  God damn it!’  Matt looked frightened, which was odd, because he’s normally the one with restraint issues.  I have known Matthew for about five years now, nearly as long as I’ve been here, in fact.  We met down at the Mecca Bingo in Islington; he had started a row with a couple of blue-rinse grannies over allegations of cheating.  His American accent stuck out like a hard-on in front of a Sunday school chalkboard.  Something about unauthorised markers or cards or some damned thing that inevitably leads to vitriol at a bingo hall.  He was clapping a few security goons over the backs of their heads when he noticed me at the back of the room.  He recognized me immediately, and came back to shake my hand.  Apparently he had studied quite a bit of theoretical physics for some film role or another, and couldn’t believe his luck at finding me here in London.  I walked him to his car, we exchanged numbers, and we’ve been occasional drinking partners since.

So as I said, for a moment he was taken aback; but as he stared in my eyes for clarification, his look of fear softened.  ‘Are you thinking what I’m thinking?’ The idea fell like an egg out of a duck’s arsehole.  ‘Yep.’  And then we said, in unison: ‘Street Musical.’

All of these rock-throwing, office chair-wielding, masked and camera-adorned youth: they miss the point when it comes to rioting.  All great revolutions have had a great soundtrack.    Matt knows this.  Matt is a true artist.  He immediately phoned his “fancy Jew lawyer in L.A.,” to secure the rights to adapt the documentary he narrated into a libretto, and I called Phillip Glass.  Then we organised the lock-in at the Briar and Paw, my local.  We drank steadily for two days,  and it wasn’t long before we assembled the whole team.

Phil kept new pages of the score rolling straight out of the fax machine; Matthew knows some people who know some people at the LSO, and we got a hold of some two-bit session musicians who were just happy for a chance to perform.  We told them we could only afford to pay them in beer, but since Matthew was involved, they were quite obliging.  At some point it was brought up jokingly that this show, to be a total success for the ages, must have Julian as one of the leads.  I don’t know if you have heard, but  old Assange has quite a reputation… for his contralto singing voice.  I find it inspired and dulcet.

I can’t know for sure who slipped the LSD in our drinks before the performance.  But I have a suspicion that it was the sousaphonist with the long hair and the lazy left eye.  He seems to be the only one among us who is handling the quickening psychedelic  come-on with any grace.  God bless this charlatan.  Singing in chorus becomes quite the religious experience when your head’s full of drugs.  Put on a cheap wig and a layer of pancake makeup, and you’ll be bawling your eyes out in a park, sobbing deeply, grabbing handfuls of muddy grass in no time.  That’s where we will be in a moment.  Just like children.

Before all this, we had to get Julie out of the embassy.  He was mad about the idea, said it would be an honour to participate.  He said just to sneak him out the back door;  apparently, he does this all the time.  It sounds like a cheap device in an ‘eighties’ movie, really.  Someone from the embassy will phone out for pizza, and then Jules drives off with the scooter in a helmet and leather jacket while the real pizza man chills out with satellite sport on in the screening room.  He tips the delivery guys ridiculously.  Most of the drivers don’t speak the best English anyway, so there’s very little chance any of them will sell Jules out, but they are quite convivial to help and there are worse ways to spend an evening.

So now we’re here, in front of Whitehall, in our costumes, belting out the final choruses, tripping our balls clean off.  Jules is beaming.  His face ruddy with life, he mounts the piano-top, the final chorus rushing out of him.  The band are barely holding it all together, but valiantly bringing up the finale, like an elephant pulling a caboose by one arm and a Radio Flyer wagon by the other.  The final chord of the whole piece – octaves and artful assonance and lots and lots of jazz hands.  And it’s right at this moment when Matthew stops singing and plops onto his ass.

‘Oh, fuck… what if we win?’ he states breathlessly, childishly.  He looks as a child, in his lederhosen and painted-on freckles.  ‘If we get ourselves direct democracy…  what will happen?’  And he just keeps repeating ‘oh, fuck,’ kind of catatonically for a bit.

The audience’s applause is undaunted by Matt’s breakdown.  In fact, I feel like it makes quite a poignant ending to the performance.  Kind of cathartic.  We take our bows, shake the Home Office and Met officers’ hands, push daisies into the barrel-ends of their sub-machine guns, and roll our equipment out of there.  I pick Matthew up with some assistance from Jules, and make him promise to explain himself to us when we get to Victoria Gardens.

This is what he will say at that point, when we are finally sat below the statuaries and tall cycads.  Our minds bubbling over.  Barely able to form words with our own mouths.  Tears streaming down our cheeks.  He will declaim to us that:

“I am secretly afraid that if the public in the US, or the UK, win a chance at real democracy, they will then summarily appoint a load of religious fanatics to run everything.  That is, after all, what has happened in nearly every one of the Arab Spring countries, after which the Occupy people have modelled themselves at least in spirit, right?  People in the so-called West have no exclusive access to reason or intelligence.  What’s to rule out the rabble doing the same to our system, once it were to be finally democratised?  Cocksucking lawyer career politicians might end up looking pretty good.  What have we started?  What have we done?”

This will happen, once we get to the park.  And after he tells us this, we will hug him.  The musty musicians, the scrabbled actors who moments ago and mere blocks away had portrayed collusive bankers and regulators, who are painted and dressed as the very politicians and bureaucrats what engineered the terrible ascendance of the one percent, Julian and myself included; we will hug our truth-sayer.  This will happen.  I can see it – a Dionysian huddle of bodies, crying all together in a pile on the lawn.  They say that Occupy’s not about physical space anymore.  Over here, in this moment to come, it’s absolutely physical.  It’s a motherfucking ballet.  It’s an orgy of the real!

Then everything lights up like the flying jellybeans going past the Starfleet starship Enterprise, and one of the fountains turns into some hideous pullulating gilla monster.  And what if we do win?  What happens then?

for a copy of Church of Euthanasia’s “I like to watch” video [discaimer: EXPLICIT, NSFW!], go to

http://www.churchofeuthanasia.org/misc/I_Like_To_Watch.mp4

for an excellent photo-essay and article (by my Dominican friends!) of the first year’s St. Pauls camp, go to

http://www.acento.com.do/index.php/news/8401/56/Si-el-Capitalismo-esta-muerto-su-velorio-es-en-la-Catedral-de-San-Pablo-de-Londres.html

for a great over-view of the Occupy movement to-date, including some of the thoughts I’ve plagiarised above, see Nick Pinto’s article at

http://www.villagevoice.com/2012-08-29/news/occupy-year-two/

[UPDATE]   finally,  for another view of the second year, seeThomas Frank’s new article at

http://www.thebaffler.com/past/to_the_precinct_station

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