Thursday, March 12, 2009
Subversive resistance to authoritarian regimes
Not the same thing as open revolt, armed insurrection or fighting in the street, nonetheless, there is a place for wits and whimsy as a device for showing such beautiful things as hypocrisy and the arbitrary nature of all totalitarian states to be incapable of responding to the anarchist who eschews throwing bombs for...jellybeans! (Those in the know have already joined me in a half-smirk at the memory of our fearless leader's masterpiece. For the rest, please read "Repent, Harlequin!...said the Tick-Tock Man" by Harlan Ellison. Why does it still give me goosebumps to just recall the first time I read it?)
It was, then, utter serendipity to discover the above on the front page of the NYTimes today. I believe that it might be legible if you click on it, but, having whetted your appetite, I am certain you could find any number of other embellishments (as I have). There is something so marvelous, bright and wonderful to this collective sedition (for that is what it truly is, a well-nigh planetary protest against the forces of censorship and repression as people all over join in the weaving and linking this into a veritable web of ridicule) that I almost want to be smug as a conservative in a CPAC rug. But I can't be. Watching the Chris Marker cinemessay "The Case of the Grinning Cat" the other night must be part of it.
(I herewith include a link to Ed's blog on, coincidentally, the exact same subject!--Marker, that is http://mediafunhouse.blogspot.com/2009/03/elusive-genius-chris-marker.html--with, undoubtedly even more amazing insights!)
To summarize (as briefly as possible), the filmmaker chronicles his observance of this graffiti feline (usually signed off as "M. Chat") in places all over France, and then the world. And, as he sees it cropping up at anti-Iraq War demonstrations, begins to yearn for it, finds it to be the most inspiring part of it--this universal imp of the preverse, one might suppose--to the point where, during the biggest march, he is almost in despair of its appearance, ready to turn away if he doesn't see it...and then THERE IT IS! IN ALL IT'S CHESHIRE-GRINNING, GOLDEN GLORY! This is, then, his sign from the Forces of Cosmic Truth and Humor Department of the Zen Trickster Ministry, that all is well.
Well, this is mine. It appears that neither of us sees much so marvelous as people working together towards a common purpose and shared goal of achieving liberte, egalite and fraternite (still haven't figured out how to do accent grave or ague or whatever those Frenchies do with the final "e") as much as finding satisfaction that there is a thread that doesn't forget the value of a carnival atmosphere. Or absurdity.
And one more little popcult ref from obscurity. A long time ago there was a band called Brute Force. They were set to release an album for Apple and gave them a single to sort of prime the pump. I think it got very limited release, but I am unsure. (Any Beatles experts in minutiae may provide a definitive answer below.) The reason they lost and were tossed was more that Capitol (who was distributing Apple then) refused to touch it. And why? It was called "The King of Fuh", and the chorus went "OH HAIL THE FUH KING, THE MIGHTY FUH KING..." etc. This is an example of subversion that didn't make it past the gatekeepers of our puritan sensibility.
But it was a nice try, guys.
Remember: they also disserve who only stand and thumb their noses.