It was already suppertime when the Moose Flats police moved a requisitioned truck with a cherry-picker on the back into place. By then nearly every citizen of the municipality and many more from further reaches of the county were amassed around Town Park. The cops did their best to keep the onlookers out of the park itself, but could do nothing to clear the street. For several hours cross-town travel was not possible whether east-west or north-south, but no one noticed since they were all stood in the middle.
Chief Schertz tried every manner of exhortation to get them to clear off. “Surely you don’t want yer women and kids to see this. Don’t y’all know its past dinner time, ain’t you hungry yet? I believe it’s gotta be bed time by now for these little ones here.” In the end, he gave up the effort, but retained his resolve not to satisfy the ghoulish tastes of the mob. “I am gonna go down there now,” he used the megaphone, “but I will not be pulling that unfortunate individual out of there. No, they’re gonna have to stay down in that awful place a while yet and the reason, the only reason, for that is that you folks won’t clear off so we can do this decently.”
The cherry-picker’s winch was attached to the chief’s chest harness and, with his flashlight firmly gripped and his hat in the care of an underling, he made his descent. With his stubble-head exposed and several more flashlights trained on him, the impression that his was a head carved from rock and peppered with rough lichens was more apparent than ever. He already had a good idea as to the identity of the body from what he’d seen from the top – the telltale arrogant mop of hair.
Fifteen feet down and the air was cold, dead and uncomfortably damp, he spread his feet out and braced himself. Getting his light and head properly positioned took some awkward and claustrophobic fumbling and brought him into unpleasant contact with clammy walls of the well. When the time came to pull the body out, he’d send somebody else.
Hey hey, it’s E.J. the DJ, and I am talking to you, do you hear me Moose Flats? My co-host Terry says I have a special dispensation to play classic rock. I think he’s trying to make fun of me – but I’m gonna use it anyway. ZZ Top used to be great. But ya gotta go way back before all that MTV crap. Nice legs, shame about the rock and roll. They used to play R’n’B swamp rock that would make Lynyrd Skynyrd wish their beards were longer. Don’t believe me? Here’s the proof on vinyl. Jesus left Chicago and why wouldn’t he? I can’t see the son of God hanging out in big city penthouses and shaking it down with hookers… …that was okay, I think. Am I right?
– Pretty smooth.
Switch it on, push up the slider and keep an eye on the levels, ain’t all that much to it. I thought it would be tricky. But it’s pretty easy.
– No there isn’t that much to it. The controls are really simple, what matters most is whether you can speak well. Listeners will put up with tons of glitches and mistakes – sometimes that’s what they listen for. One of the reasons commercial radio sucks so hard is that it’s error-free. The technical side is really the least of it. For example, have you noticed that the microphones are still on?
He was a person you had to either love or hate and knew it. He wanted it that way – to be someone who forced the issue, who demanded consideration and a verdict. If that meant that he was largely unpopular, that most would shun his company as too stressful and disquieting, so be it. Such was the price of remaining aware, conscious and alive. Isolation was just one of the wages of intelligence which he happily paid.
Resigned to this fate, he nevertheless kept an eye open for kindred spirits. He figured they’d be easy to spot; like him they’d hold their heads above the waterline of the mindless sea of humanity.
Intelligence, as he saw it, constituted only one of the elements required. At least as important was the will to keep kicking. Many others could. Many others were at least as bright as he, but they chose not to. They opted for the comfort of somnolence, of getting along and getting by – stir no pots, ruffle no feathers.
This might be tolerated in those who were merely stupid – what more could one expect of them? In the rest, however, the best that could be said was that it was sad and pathetic. They had an obligation to wake up, to stay awake and keep kicking whatever the personal cost. “Hold comfort in contempt” was one of his many maxims and he kept it writ large and posted right alongside “All provocation is worthy” and “Art equals vandalism.”
When one regards the sprawling moloch of human cities, the vast complexes of steel, glass and concrete, the networks of pulsing highway, railway and flight path that connects and sustains them – so reads his manifesto and confessional, unfinished, largely unwritten and provisionally entitled Kampf-fire Chats – it is easy to see the similarities to insect hives and nests. But the analogy does not hold. In the individual residents of these so-called communities, one can see none of the selflessness and sacrifice that is the redemption of worker ants and pollen-gathering drones.
No, in terms of insects, mankind is more akin to the cockroach. Roaches will happily nest and feed together and they’ll just as happily cannibalize when the opportunity presents itself.
The true analogy for human society cannot be found in the insect realm – it is in the bovine herd.
Graze over here.
Everyone else is grazing here.
Run quickly over there.
Everyone else is running, and over there is where they’re running to.
And when the predators come calling it’s safety in numbers, meaning: I will make no effort to defend my neighbours. Aucontraire! My strategy of self-preservation abides in the hope that they will eat one of you instead. That is why I sought your company in the first place.
He was someone you had to either love or hate and he liked it that way. Far better that than to be someone whose presence was never a bother and whose absence was never a lack. Even compassionate Christ said that he preferred either the hot or the cold but would spit the lukewarm from his mouth (the Goldilocks paradox).
Hard-boiled atheist though he was, he kept a place in his pantheon of revolutionary iconic figures for Jesus the rabble-rouser.
Force the issue. Stir the pot. All provocation is worthy. Anything that might wake people up was justified: jab ‘em in the eyes, kick ‘em in the balls, spit in their food, fart in their airspace, smear excrement on their altars. Scare them with truths or frighten them with fairy tales. It made no difference, so long as it forced them to react, to decide, to think and to do.
All previous strategies of revolution have failed – certainly not for lack of effort or bloodshed. The problem is that revolutionaries themselves were obsessed with injustices in their particular day. The mill gave us social order X, the factory gives us social order Y. At one point in time it is the landowner who expropriates the surplus value of the peasants’ labour, at another it’s the factory owner doing the same thing to the proletariat.
Criminal injustice? Sure. But it is also historical ephemera. What do all of life’s victims have in common? They all fucking well have it coming. But that’s not really the point.
A revolutionary movement that directs all of its energies towards correcting flaws in the socio-economic structure necessarily becomes a project of social engineering. And all such projects must end either in failure and collapse or in dictatorship under the one guy with the audacity and sheer balls to claim that he has the blueprints, that he knows what is to be done. You can always tell the dictatorial type who thinks he’s up for the job by the stink of snake oil that follows him.
No social order can be satisfactory and no effort at restructuring can succeed so long as mankind is sleepwalking, taking the comfort cop out. A mass movement, whatever its aims, is worthless so long as the mass of the mass is just doing what it’s told. If it is based on a herd instinct, collective action cannot be a force for liberation, all that it can do is trample.
Liberate mankind through a mass movement? One might as well herd cats with a steamroller.
True revolutionary action is provocation and all provocation has revolutionary potential. Force the issue. What issue? It doesn’t matter!
It follows that mass media is the ideal theatre for waging revolutionary struggle. Radio is the most cost effective weapon – not for preaching or polemicizing. There is no point in that. Sermons and speeches are useless in an era of aesthetic post-politics.
We are beyond argument just as we are beyond politics. Party affiliations have nothing to do with policy – they are lifestyle options. Ballots are cast for they same reason as dollar-votes – for a vision of the good life, a composite image of all that is good and beautiful and true and for the exclusion of all that is not.
All motive is aesthetic.
Music is revolutionary ammunition because music provokes. It does not matter what the band members say their songs are about, still less what causes they may espouse or whether they do benefit gigs. What matters is that the right song at the right time can turn a concert into a riot or a party into a flop. Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music and Rupert Holmes’ Pina Colada Song have nothing in common, except that they are both atomic bombs.
He was the sort of person anyone could love to hate and that was fine by him. They’d all get theirs in the end. Charm was fraud anyway, and charisma was demagoguery. Rumours that he had been forced to flee his beloved Toronto after having bored a man to death during a particularly slow night at the Danton Pizzeria were only slightly exaggerated.
Now nearly thirty, he had retained his adolescent rage, tempered it with adult mindfulness and patience, and rendered it lethal. The proverbial angry young man had acquired a work ethic and he had sufficient independent wealth to bankroll CRAK FM along with several other personal projects. In short , Peter Sealing was a not insignificant public menace.
He rarely asked himself the question, but the answer came unbidden as he stood in the balcony, feeling very much a sea captain surveying the lower decks; there were committees in animated discussion, fighting squads drilling for attack and defense, invaluable Binder Dundat sharing his protest savvy and first aid training, printers in the computer station were churning out reams of the posters of defiance that would soon wallpaper the town. He was happier now than ever before in his life. Tonight, as a special treat, he’d set the old projector back up and show a double-bill of Battleship Potemkin and Wilhelm Reich: Mysteries of the Organism on the big screen. He felt very happy indeed.
The Flatter Patter was first to announce the news: Moose Flats’ long anticipated mascot would be unveiled on Thursday. In acknowledgment of this momentous event in the history of the town, Mayor Malech had taken the unprecedented step of declaring a municipal holiday so that all would be free to attend what was sure to be the grandest festival ever seen in these parts.
Chief Schertz had opposed the idea. The town was in a mood that fluctuated between giddy and hysterical. The last thing it needed was a four-day weekend. As far as he was concerned the longer and more grueling the workday, the more thoroughly exhausted every citizen felt by evening, the better for law and order. Malech rejected this idle hands/Devil’s work formulation and would not even consider waiting for the weekend proper. He wanted the mascot up and the troublesome matter settled as quickly as possible. Delay would serve only to encourage more jiggery-pokery.
Terry Umble had hoped to get away early that Wednesday morning. He had plans. But his alarm clock was unaware of the urgency and made no more than the usual feeble effort to roust him. Then Rue took an amount of time that stretched the limits of credulity selecting which of his clothes to wear. He’d never thought of his wardrobe as such a cornucopia of choice before. Then the bike had to be loaded into the back, as it was unlikely that they’d be heading home at the same time.
By the time he pulled up at Campadillo, it was clear that he’d have no time for errands and would likely be late for work. But she ruffled his hair, kissed him on the neck and told him he was wonderful before wishing him a great day. In fact he did feel pretty good and he dropped the windows to let the air rush in as he hit the highway and made for Moose Hills, Saskatchewan. Even the prospect of a full day at the John Deere mailroom seemed pretty good. It was a tedious place, but at least nothing happened there that did not make sense. The gung-ho can-do atmosphere that had taken over CRAK left him feeling quite alien. If you can’t be a nay-saying slack-ass at an alternative radio station, then what hope was there left anywhere in the world?
While Terry slept in his mobile kitchen and the majority of Moose Flatters did likewise in various places in their homes, the mascot arrived on a flatbed trailer drawn by a rented rig. It traversed town via Henday, crossed the Town Park intersection, then turned north into Moose Flats’ newest subdivision and snaked its way past Dr. Speck’s house onto the access road that took it up the gentle north slope of Greyere’s Hill. The crane that would load it into place was already up and running. Constable Renchuk, raking in great overtime making sure that no one, particularly W.O.E., tried anything funny, was fast asleep in his cruiser.
First to see the mascot arrive was old man Toole. He liked the late night of summer for the coolness of the air, liked hot chocolate with at least three marshmallows melted in and liked the music of the crickets – fall was coming and they’d all be dead soon. He was richly enjoying all three when the rig passed his front porch. The mascot was entirely draped in canvas drop cloths and there was nothing to be impressed by other than its size, but even that evoked no more than the shadow of a smile from old man Toole.
Dr. Speck was next to see the mascot arrive and he was the first to see it in its entirety. He might have preferred to give the spectacle a miss but the mastiffs were too trained to vigilance to let that happen. They greeted the stealthy and quiet arrival of Moose Flats’ mascot in the dead of night by going berserk. The city police received fifteen noise complaints that night, each of which was forwarded to Constable Renchuk who was parked near the transplanted gazebo in the festival area and happily snored through it all.
The workmen threw on the floodlights to see what they were doing, creating a massive rectangle of light against the polythene veil, like the majestic port-o-potty of Olympus. Even the Jolly Green Giant must find somewhere to discharge his bodily wastes, thought Speck, chuckling softly. He must have finally hit upon the magic combination of chemical soothers, for he felt no pain or anger at all. Such a grand personage as he could not possibly feel threatened by such puny interlopers.
On the morning of the last day you could not have wiped the smile from the face of Nathaniel Malech with a sand-blaster. The sun beamed down and he beamed back, giving every impression that he himself had arranged for the fabulous weather; just the barest touch of a breeze to keep the heat off and no single hint of cloud in the entire broad canopy of prairie sky. The city would make a killing at the beer gardens.
Power, as he understood it, was a mechanical or bureaucratic thing. It could easily be handled from behind a desk. But real authority had to be drawn from ritual and occasion. As he went through his morning routines and prepared himself to preside over a truly grand and unprecedented occasion that would leave the indelible mark upon the town for which his tenure would always be praised, he trumpeted Pomp and Circumstance so incessantly that his wife, Kitty, declared that if he did not “ram a cork in it” she would snip off his beard the next time he slept. She abhorred natural light and a full day in the sun promised to be hell on the foundation and mascara. He promptly snapped his lips tight, but the tune remained with him for most of the day.