Wednesday, March 01, 2017

From the Back of the Crowd.

My spirit was broken, I had fallen into the gutter and I vaguely hoped she might lend me succor. From the back of the crowd I listened to her oration, articulate and inspiring as ever. Though separated from her by hundreds of adoring fans I could almost feel the heat of her charisma, even bathe in the light she seemed to give off. Her blue eyes expanded with the strength of her argument and, with the crowd, I was eclipsed by them.

After many years of activism she was the progressive Left’s hero, standing up to the injustices of the world, and I admired her greatly, she had been a decisive influence upon my own rebellious life. I had accompanied her on many escapades in our youth and, though it had been my own decision and volition to join her, I had mostly deferred to her direction and leadership, encouraged by her wisdom and bravery in the face of the State’s terrifying power.

As I watched her rousing words uplift the sullen mob I fondly remembered our misadventures so long ago, arrested with her and her gang of gutsy mavericks on issues we held implacably dear to our hearts. There was the time in the late 'Seventies when we attended a Christian anti-abortion "Right to Life" rally in Hyde park, the women dressed as pregnant nuns and myself dressed as a Catholic priest. I handed out sweets, Smarties, to all the children from a jar labelled “The Pill”, driving the Christians into a frenzy of bloodcurdling antipathy, they screamed blue murder and demanded the police lynch us. The police responded by beating us mercilessly and arresting us for “disturbance of the peace.”

Many of us were members of the Prisoners’ Action Group and as such we wanted to bring the barbarous conditions of the jail system into the public’s eye:  prisons overcrowded, the inmates bashed, fed on slops, with no facilities for rehabilitation, akin to the convict era of colonial settlement days. We tricked our way into the Screws’ Union office then barricaded the entrance making the police axe their way through the door and stacked-up office-furniture to drag us out to the waiting paddy-wagons.

When we went to court to face our trespass-charges the women gave impassioned pleas for justice and humanity and the Magistrate looked upon them with bemusement, benevolence and barely disguised titillation for they were, after all, beautiful Amazons from good middle-class families. But when he cast his beady eyes upon me he saw only an ill-behaved, upstart working-class homosexual, deserving of no lenient commiseration.

The State never forgives nor forgets, just waits for its chance to exact a vengeful justice to those who dare to rise above their station and challenge an authoritarian Establishment. Ten years later, when I no longer had a support group and was eking out a precarious existence hustling for arts jobs in between nursing the dying in palliative-care hospices, I was grabbed off the street and framed for an armed robbery. My previous civil disobedience transgressions committed under the guidance of my anarchic Boadicea leader were held as proof that I was indeed capable of heinous crimes. Tortured in the Central lock-up, under house arrest for two years, indicted for armed robbery and going to trial, I was eventually acquitted on a case of false identity. But the damage was done, my career foundered, I had to have psychiatric intervention for suicidal depression, my artist’s life was ruined.

I went to many “leftist” organizations and "friends" hoping to get help, finding most didn’t want to know about it, the mention of police giving my libertarian acquaintances the willies, some even pleased I got my comeuppance for being a loud-mouthed gay. I had dreamed I could at least get it off my chest by telling my story to supposed concerned politicos, my “activist” comrade of old in particular, her of hero status, if only I had the luck of some day meeting her. And here she was before me, inciting the crowd to action against a corrupt State machine.

She blathered on about the misguided activities of the “Corporate State” and how they must be countered by civil disobedience, including sitting on roads, blocking traffic and waving placards, all in peaceful protest, like good Gandhians, to the point of going to jail if they had to. We could all write letters to the money-grubbing pollies, sign petitions, it was even possible to join the System and try to change it from within by standing for elections. Blah blah blah, the crowd politely applauding, till I grew somewhat impatient to hear something truly revolutionary that would have an effect, rile up the crowd in anger and get the pollies to shit their collective pants.

My heart ached, I badly needed to speak to her. It would be difficult to get her attention for as she stepped from the podium she was surrounded by her groupies. I pushed my way through the crowd, waiting for my chance; a few words from her in benediction, as if I were confessing to the Virgin Mary, would go some way to healing my wounds. Suddenly there she was, alone, gazing into her cell-phone, her fans occupied with gossip. I stepped up to her and spoke, softly, like Oliver asking for more gruel, “Excuse me, do you remember me?”

She cast her beatific blue eyes upon me and smiled that enigmatic smile of hers, “Of course I do.” I took a breath and was about to continue, to tell her my life had been devastated by corrupt cops from the days of anarchic action with her, hoping she would give me some sympathy, tell me she felt for me and thank me for putting my career and life on the line all those years ago.

But before I finished the breath a gruff-faced old lesbian stepped from the crowd and, after giving me a dirty look, caught her attention ; she had always been a ditzy dreamer, head filled with a thousand and one needful thoughts and actions, and easily distracted by clamoring supplicants. Not realizing what she was doing, in the full-flight of the moment, she turned her back on me and was led away, not even saying to her friend, “Excuse me a minute” or saying “Goodbye” and apologizing to me for getting way-laid. I wasn’t even worth a minute, not even ten seconds really, she was off to save the world somewhere else, on some other issue with a crowd of feminists cheering her on. I had reminded her many years ago that it was not only about the big political issues but also the treatment of the individual: if he/ she was dehumanized by whoever/whatever then it meant society as a whole would be a tyranny of some sort and not worth fighting for.

Apparently in her crowd's eyes I was worthless, even though few had ever put their life on the chopping block and got arrested fighting for any principles. I’d come up against a small lesbian mafia in the '80s, they made out I was the one who had crossed them and my name was mud in certain circles across the city. (Thankfully some dykes were supportive of me way back when, Julie, Digby, Virginia, Egg and Christine in particular were very kind to me and I'll never forget their compassionate humanity.)

“Fuck them!” I fumed. I was furious. The straight world had tortured me all my life, with bashing, unemployment, loveless drudgery and no chance to realize my potential; and some of my fellow gays had been just as cruel, raping me, excluding me, crushing me in the race for the money, the job, the kudos that was available to very few gays. And here I was, about to blow my top, lost in a crowd that was milling about like stunned sheep, waving their banners and bleating, “What do we want? When do we want it?” I screamed, “To destroy the fucking tyrants! Now!” and pushed my way up onto the podium.

“Come on, you fucking wankers, what’s your problem? Haven’t you got any backbone? Or are you gonna be wimps forever and let the fat-cats who rule you eat you for breakfast?” The crowd gasped and stopped their placard-waving, frozen in mid-stance as they stared up at me, mouths agape. “Here you are bleating like sheep, letting off a bit of steam only to go home and have your cheap-assed baked beans for dinner while your rulers laugh all the way to the bank! Sitting peacefully blocking traffic’s not gonna achieve much. Oh yeah, maybe a few arrests, and a few media commentators moaning that perhaps it's not all gonna go smoothly for the high Cappos. But we'll always be a beaten down morass of self-gratified stupid clowns. Later on they’ll still knock down the working-class houses, chop down the trees and open up the giant freeways for the benefit of the construction companies! I want more, to bring it all down upon their heads. No, you're too scared, like sheep you’ll all be herded into the abattoirs and slaughtered with nary a ripple left behind on the social pond. What gutless wimps you all are!”

The crowd snapped out of their daze and roared abuse, “Fuck off! Douche-bag! Shut him up! Shit-head!” But I laughed maniacally and carried on. “Oh, you don’t like a reality check? Let me remind you. The State has made all the mistakes in the world and got you fools to pay for the mess. They fucked the economy, let their mates take-over with the robots so that there’s few jobs left, then they reward themselves with huge wages, pensions and perks. They hand vast tax cuts to the wealthy, only listen to corporate lobbyists, and throw many of you unemployed off the dole. They cut the pensions and parental allowances, under-fund hospitals and healthcare, trash the schools and allow destruction of the environment, deny climate change and increase green-house gas emissions, all in the name of profit for their crony mates in the multi-national companies.

“They will force all those on welfare to use welfare cards provided by companies who are connected to the ruling party, getting a huge cut of the welfare budget that should’ve gone to you poor and then donate some of the money to that same ruling party as payback, that’s what THEY call recycling! They are controlled by the Billionaire's Media which demands paupers like you be mulched, they’ve got you all under surveillance so you can’t make a move without their Police State knowing and they’ve quashed free speech so we only hear their brainwash rubbish.

“Oh, and let’s not forget they’ll privatize the prisons and then send not only pot-smokers but you protesters to jail, as many as they can, to achieve what? Oh yeah, yet more profits for their money-grubbing investors. And if you lot don’t end up in jail where will you be? Living under fucking bridges and starving because there’s no housing, jobs or welfare for you, you poor fucking sods!”

Now I had the attention of the mob, they started yelling, “Yeah right!” and “Fuck the State!” “On ya mate, you tell how it is!” “Eat the rich!” and “Lynch the tyrants!” I screamed as if it was the end of the world, “And the bastards sell Uranium, to poison the seas and the atmosphere, to fuel nuclear weapons that will one day destroy the whole fucking planet, sure as a nut-case’s fingers will press the red-button, so even living under bridges in rags will seem like paradise!

“You don’t get anything by being spineless jelly-fish, everything we have our grandparents and parents fought for, through unions, strikes, hard work and sometimes riots! They’ve done away with the unions and there’s little viable work available and that leaves only riots. Nothing like a good riot to make the shit-bag pollies sit up and take notice. They might be scandalized, give it bad press, carry on about nasty violence and make lots of arrests but if you keep it going, trashing their property, in time it makes them think things through, they start to make concessions and chill with the harsh cut-backs, allowing more democratic freedoms, especially if the riots keep happening!

“So what do you say? You can’t be limp dishrags forever! Parliament House is only five hundred yards away, let’s march to the front of it and let those dickheads inside hear our screams of displeasure!” The crowd was really riled up, many shouting and waving their placards threateningly, “Yeah, let’s show the cunts! We won’t take it anymore! We’re tired of being walked on and treated like useless shit!” My one last oration yelled so loud it echoed in that Martin Plaza of big banks and designer clothes shops. “We are powerful in our strength, we far outnumber their forces of oppression, we can stand against injustice and throw down any tyrant that dares to stand over us and fuck us! Follow me and we will overcome!”

Across the road six cops on horse-back had been chatting with each other and not paying much attention to the rally, thinking it was the usual benign affair; the same for the twenty cops on foot standing in the bank arcades, they had long considered the people as dumb lumps, easily oppressed and controlled, and were unprepared for any real action. So they were surprised when the crowd moved off as one and quickly marched up through Martin Plaza towards Parliament House. They attempted to rush ahead and push a few of the crowd back but a thousand irate paupers stormed over them like a tsunami, with me in the lead, shouting for the bravest to follow me and stop being wimps.

When we got to the wrought-iron fence protecting the glorious Govt. house I simply climbed over it without hesitation and many followed me. Others pushed through the open gate, the uniform on guard there knocked over, trampled and unable to resist, again taken in surprise by the mob, bound hand and foot and made helpless. Before any other cop could stop us about five hundred protesters had stomped their way into the building while others flowed around the edifice, looking for other ingress, smashing windows along the way.

My mob charged into the inner-chamber where the pollies were having their grand meeting sitting around a long oak table, looking up at our intrusion and going into shock at what it portended. Before they could flee each fuckwit in his and hers expensive suit and tie was grabbed by the mob. I ordered them to be tied onto their precious green-leather bench with their ubiquitous ties. Then all the other furniture in the room, including the table, got dragged over and stacked up to make barricades against the doors. Now we would wait and see what shit-storm would erupt, eventually to make demands of the “Powers That Be” and see how much progressive change we could bring about to this class-ridden tyranny we the poor were suffering under.

We could hear the mob howling curses outside, more smashing of windows and soon the whir of helicopters above. The police started shouting orders through megaphones for us to give up and hand over the captive pollies without harm. We sent a Green senator out to the roiling crowd that had grown larger by the minute, protesters, onlookers, cops, media, and Special Forces Army Personnel. We asked for food, water and a television set to be brought in as we were not ready to leave until our demands had been met; otherwise it was on their conscience if the State’s pollies were thrown through the windows with their asses on fire.

The Green came back wheeling a trolley full of sustenance and the required TV. Most of us had been following the State’s response on our smart-phones but now we could watch collectively as the entire System flipped its wig, the whole nation agog, even international news covering the outrageous stand-off. Bigger crowds gathered outside, to cheer, cry or curse, our fellow protesters were dragged away but we held firm, the precious pollies sweating and begging for release unharmed.

On the television we watched a crowd march on Canberra, our Federal Govt. House, and try to smash their way in, only this time the cops and army were ready and the rioters were rebuffed. The same revolutionary mass-attacks happened in all the other States and in some country towns, at the police stations and town halls. We pissed our pants laughing as the right-wing media pundits frothed at the mouth demanding the immediate destruction of the resistance, by whatever means necessary.

But a few commentators, left-leaning, more empathetic, considered the rebels’ demands, and suggested the State was now made to listen to the “people’s” complaints and not continue with the present status-quo of an overweening, greedy, privileged class structure. We demanded a redistribution of wealth, especially a “guaranteed Universal Wage” in the face of automation and job losses. We demanded the recognition of climate change and the implementation of technologies to counter it. We demanded egalitarian funding for schools and hospitals, the end to the “war on drugs”, the closure of private prisons, the implementation of marriage equality for the LGBTQI community and the full restoration of rights and funding of Indigenous Australians, especially an end to the stealing of their children which has gone on unabated for a century.

The list was long and much spluttered over by “the Powers”; the moneyed tyranny was not going to give up its extreme privileges without a fight, they couldn’t live without their private jets, harbor-side mansions, designer gowns and gold-plated taps. Just as we were sharing a hopeful meal, even spoon-feeding the terrified pollies, the State made its move. They’d been watching us via a miniature camera secreted in the food trolley and knew when it was a good time to attack, the pollies be damned, even those shit-bags were dispensable in the face of the bigger threat, a nation-wide revolution.

Suddenly tear-gas grenades shattered the sky-lights, I saw one pollie's head blown off by a missile, and black-armored SWAT teams swung in on cables, machine-pistols firing, tazers zapping. At the same time squads of the soldiers and cops smashed down the barricades and charged through the doors surrounding the parliament’s inner sanctum. Coughing from the gas I saw pollies as well as rebels drop, blood spattering over us all, some having epileptic fits on their padded bench or on the floor from the tazer-wires sticking out of their backs and bellies.

While many were mercilessly shot down I was quickly surrounded and hogtied, then dragged through the rubble to be exposed to the screaming mob seething outside. The building was in flames, much of it smashed and destroyed, if not by the rebels then by the “savior cops”. I was frog-marched to a waiting paddy-wagon, some rubber-neckers trying to claw me, others attempting to pat me on the back.

All rioting across the nation was crushed and their private prisons were full at last, but the pollies and commentators did indeed discuss endlessly the perceived injustices that had led to such drastic reaction. (As many families across Auz had someone involved, there was a huge outcry so that eventually everybody got released, all of them to continue the struggle another day.) But in an attempt to discourage the mob and any individual who might consider following in my footsteps I was given a public trial, the number one media-star of the moment. The entire nation tuned in to pillory or commend me, the right-wing shock-jocks discussing my previous history as a drug-addicted, cock sucking bum with no discernible saving graces, a trouble-making terrorist who’d caused the biggest upset in Auz history since “the rum rebellion” or “the Eureka stockade”, forget the protest marches against the Vietnam War or the ’78 Gay freedom riots.

A panel of bewigged judges pronounced me guilty in the extreme and the “death penalty” was revived due to the notorious special-circumstances of my violent rebellion. I was taken in an open, motorized cart along crowded streets, people cheering and crying, to the very place where I had first lost the plot, Martin Plaza. Yet there were moves afoot to change the "social order", to improve the lot of the majority, especially the poor, and thus I could go to my death with a smile on my face. As I was led up the steps to face the noose I saw the anarchist, female hero of my youth kneeling at the base of the scaffold, gazing up into my own expanded blue eyes, her spaced-out peepers tear-filled and seeming to beg me for forgiveness. She still came across as Mary to me, only now I was a Jesus Christ-like martyr.

As they put the noose around my neck I shouted to the hushed crowd, “You still have the power, you can overcome any tyranny, if you dare.” When a TV reporter leaned forward and asked, “How do you feel?” I replied, “Fucked! ... Such is life!

The floor dropped away, I swung in mid-air and a black void engulfed me. Oh, welcome interstellar dust, how glad I was to be shat of that miserable human species on their tiny blue ball lost in infinite space.

Suddenly I felt hands on me, I was rudely shoved aside, a lumpen mob ignoring my tears, and I snapped awake. I’d been fantasizing, it had all been a wank, after the rebuff from my beloved hero I'd been pushed to the back of the crowd again in Martin Plaza. The rally was over and my dear comrade hero was disappearing over the horizon with her friends

I did meet her a few years later, still a mover and shaker, and I wished her well, all strength to her. She was sincerely aghast at my story, it having never reached her ears, even though I'd told many politicos in attempting to get help, such is the faux concern of the pseudo lefties that parade around as working-class saviors. In reality they were middle-class careerists, only seeing me as competition, and I was existentially alone. Always alone, boo hoo hoo. My heart aching, my spirit forlorn, still I felt some fight left in me; if I was to find any succor I’d have to create it myself. Surviving and ever productive is an achievement in itself.

If you enjoyed this story please go to the WEB address above and consider buying my book of tales about growing up anarcho-queer, rock and roll punter and mystic adventurer in Australia and India of the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s.