Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Occupy UK Ideas - and Misterman SPOILER ALERT

I do not have time for this, I really don't.  I was hailed on three times yesterday and my laptop died in infancy, only two months old.  Ten years of work was stored on that hard drive.  Really I am taking it quite well.  I try to not think too much about what I have lost and stay in the moment.  This mindfulness stuff is actually very useful for coping with life.  If I write anything it should be about Misterman, the new Enda Walsh play I saw last night.  True to form: I love Enda Walsh so much and think he has incredibly important things to say.  I also have an unseemly love of his plays.  Penelope and Walworth Farce and Electric Ballroom, well, those are plays were really, I thought building up to the play of all plays and Misterman is not it.  Yet that was the one that got the five star reviews and a slobbering standing ovation from the audience at the National.  I never thought I would deride an audience at the National but it was excessive and silly.  Cillian Murphy - who got his start in Walsh's play Disco Pigs  - was the star.  He was the guy who was incepted at the end of Inception ("I never sleep on planes, I don't want to be incepted." - Jack Donaghy, 30 Rock).  He was also the scarecrow in the first Christian Bale batman.  He is good.  He's a better actor than we saw in Misterman, though.

I mean, it has some great moments.  It is the story of a touched Irish boy in Innishfree.  (I assume that is close to Innishmore, as in Martin McDonagh's play Leiutenant of Innishmore. Ireland.)  He meets an angel but he doesn't.  The play had a lot of interesting things to say about Christianity and women, in Walsh's characteristic oppressive small community setting.  This boy, who feels himself God's representative on earth, is completely blind to his own actions, to the point that he kicks a dog to death  and then screams at the man who kicks him in return.  The blindness in the play is represented as the boy's blindness of sound.  Things are recorded on faulty tapes and played on reel-to-reel recorders, and one monologue had to be shouted over Walsh's vision of hell:  a community dance in Innishmore with balloons and "Dancing in the Moonlight" playing at deafening levels.  Making things hard to hear was I think a decision Walsh made because the message of the play was to listen.  He writes these plays about people trapped in their own narratives, their stories of their lives, so much so that sound  (reality, input, facts, events) is distorted around them.  He demonstrated that with sound.  Brilliant, but hard on the ears.

 Murphy's character Misterman is cripplingly male, and drowns his mother's cats four kittens (dead cats being a favourite in Ireland, apparently, see above).   His mother wanted him to drown three and keep one.  He explains that it is better to be a dead kitten than to be an only kitten in a world of dogs.  That is how Misterman sees himself.  The prison of his Christianity is to judge people and find them wanting and in so doing, create a world of evilness all around him.  They are the dogs and he is the kitten and no matter what violence Misterman unleashes, this narrative is unshaken. 

I desperately wanted to write about Occupy so here is the transition: this idea of breaking out of your narrative is very useful to think about when you think of Occupy.  What Occupy has done so far is put another brand, well, really a place-holder for a brand - in the marketplace of ideas.  Aspects of the narrative to consider.  An opportunity to review the narratives we have about what we can do as citizens about the state of the government. We need a new way of thinking about things in order to really solve the problems at hand in our world.  This is what Occupy wants to bring, in peace and with love and for that it deserves all of our support.  Right now Occupy UK is being subject to harshly repressive police action.  On Saturday, the police were incredibly aggressive to completely peaceful protesters gathered at the Bank of England.  I mean, at the Bank of England.  If there is a dysfunctional place in our country in need of the aid of its citizens, it is the Bank of England.  The police stopped the protest completely with some new courses of action.  They issued a Section 14 Order which allows the police to disperse a protest after making the call that the protest represented a threat to the well-being of the community.  (We really need to tell these police officers that in fact they are the threat.)  When the crowd did not disperse (as well it should not), the police kettled and arrested them.  But not just them, they had a list of specific people - some of the most beautiful and visionary people associated with Occupy UK - and they snatched them out of the crowd.

If we read about this happening in China we would shake our heads and thank God we lived in England. England is a democracy and free speech and other human rights are respected.  But guess what, that is a very outdated narrative.  That narrative, in order to exist, requires us to ignore certain facts.  There are so many facts to the contrary out of the realm of the mainstream media.  Just go out there and listen.  Listen to the sound of the Euro crashing.  Listen to the builders putting up surface-to-air missiles on housing estates in East London.  Check out that £11 billion the Olympics is costing us.  Watch the Olympics.  See what they have become.  Please contradict my thesis that the Olympics is essentially an advertising subsidy to corporations and a retooling of the police to subdue civil unrest paid by taxpayers.  Forget the fucking toga narrative, let's see what the Olympics are now.  Listen to me, my friends were arrested for gathering in public.  Look at our government.  It is not basically ok.  It is stunningly inefficient and geared to serve only the rich.  And when people point this out, they are arrested.   They are planning to hold on to power no matter what over at Whitehall.

Anyway, we need Occupy.  We need to take responsibility for our own country.  When we look outside our narratives, we see that actually our country is not so great.  The United Kingdom has not been great lately, but it has been great, and it can now be just.

Ten years I have lived here and a citizen for five and you know what, I never have called it "our country".  But even though I will always be an American, this is my country now.  And I will fight for freedom wherever my children live.  I have to find a way to change the "I am too busy" narrative.  I think the idea that if we don't press back now, we will live in ever increasing fear and a police state.  That idea is helping me change the "I'm too busy" narrative. 

I have tickets to the Olympics and I don't know if I am going to be able to refrain from some kind of peaceful, low key expression of my sadness at what the Olympics has become.  Maybe those who value free speech has to speak it.  

This obligation to change our relationships to governments, to corporations, to banks -  acting on this is to me is of far more use to my children than breastfeeding them until they are four.  I keep asking everyone who is too busy to join Occupy why?  We spend so much time getting little Tyler to his tae kwan do class that we don't have time to press back as more and more goes to fewer and fewer.  We are trying to make sure, I guess, that Tyler has a chance to be one of the fewer.  But Tyler might not make it into the fewer.  What if he doesn't?  What kind of life for him then?

And the mainstream media marginalizes, underreports and frankly does not let on the fact that Occupy actually has done quite a bit.  Occupy is an idea, and the idea is translatable and effective, it is the virus. The snatching indicates that the government is watching us closely.  We have been classified as terrorists, we who only want to uphold the values in the Magna Carta (which I would vastly prefer to celebrate over the Jubilee).  We are not terrorists. We are citizens concerned with justice and the rule of law.  Please help.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

A Small Good Thing

 If you have noticed my extended absence, I am a little sorry, but I do not apologize.  I am what I am and it feels like a miracle to me how much I actually can and do accomplish.  Right now I am writing a play.  But Occupy calls me.  Somehow fortune has made this the Occupy Play.  I pitched a courtroom drama, Williams v First Government, a jury trial in U.S. Federal court I did for a pro bono client fifteen years ago to a producer.  Like every play I have ever written, it was going to be all about me.  I write plays to try to understand myself because I frequently find myself unfathomable.  This play is about the period in my life when I was the hot resourceful young trial lawyer bringing mortgage bankers to justice against inconceivably bad odds.  I recently read the transcript of the trial for the first time since the appeals.  I am kind of racist and make some missteps, I am clumsy in my questions.  But somehow we won anyway.  The big ideas in this trial are very much the big ideas of Occupy:  the big hard questions we are beginning to ask:  what powers do we want the state to hold?  how do we want the state to distribute benefits?  how much should the state police capitalism and how should it be done?  (vaguely related:  The Theatre of the Liquids is a terrible thing that must end:  see my whining drivel elsewhere on this blog)?  What is justice and how do we bring it to our society?  What is a just society?  Occupy needs an intellectual foundation and it needs to grow.  I want this play to contribute to that. 

And there is this other thing, this new thing that prompts my return to the blog.  Yesterday I got a letter attaching a written decision in my appeal of the Metropolitan Police's rejection of my complaint about the kettling at St. Paul's on 15 October.   I complained because the kettling was not necessary to maintain order and was oppressive.  The Independent Police Complaints Commission ( upheld my appeal.  This wonderful person named Neelam Patil ruled that the Met Police had not provided any evidence that kettling was necessary, in fact the police logs indicate a peaceful protest, and that they needed to produce evidence of a threat of violence to justify their actions.  The Met Police have to review this matter now.  So let's help them understand how important free speech is.  Let's give them the evidence that the Commission is requiring them to obtain.  If you were at St. Paul's on 15 October between 12 - 4, what did you see?  Because what I saw was that the only threat of violence came from the police themselves.  It is this threat of violence which really keeps the numbers down on our create a new and better world project.  So let's talk to them.  What happened? 

My specific complaint is earlier in my blog in a post from 15 October:

When I tried to leave St. Paul's Square, though, to find a bathroom, actually, I couldn't.  My signless friend was allowed out of the Square by the police, but I was not.  I was told to stand in a line, single file, to beg the police, after handing over my name and address, to be allowed to leave.  The police told me that I would not be allowed to leave with my sign.  The police I was speaking to did acknowledge upon close questioning that actually the phrase "Justice is Possible" is not subversive or likely to breach the peace.  But still, I could not leave.  That scared me.  Suddenly I longed for my children and the feel of their arms, I longed for the sight of Rhys and our family.  What do you want?  I'm a drama queen.

My friend waited on one side of the police barricades as I lined up to be permitted to walk down a street that my tax money had paid for.  We are in a police state.  The police are crushing people choosing peaceable assembly.  This situation is unacceptable.  I didn't get arrested and I still found it hard and kind of awful to be detained against my will and to be penalized by the state for saying what I think. 

End of quote

Of course it is immediately obvious to veteran protesters that I am a complete middle-aged wimp in that scenario.  In my defense this post is entitled "A Small Good Thing."

But allow me to point out that free speech should not only be for the brave.  It must be for everyone.  So can we use this opportunity to communicate with the Met?  Can you write a witness statement and say what you know?  For instance, I didn't see any fighting at all that would justify a containment.  I saw a lot of cops standing too close very aggressively without need.  I saw the police lined up on horseback, shoulder to shoulder as if they were planning to go to battle to defend Paternoster Square all War Horse style.  But at the time at issue,  the group of people had moved to sit in the sunshine on the steps of St. Pauls (it is and was always meant to be an inviting public space), the general assembly was well under way and small groups had formed at least twice.  Before Assange spoke I did hear some noises and I was told that his bodyguards had been forced to break through the police line to get him in to speak (nice protection of free speech, Met!  very nice indeed!).  So there was no threat of violence except the threat from the police.  These were peaceful people looking for a better world and the harassment from the police was an injustice.  Veterans of Occupy tell me what a tiny injustice it is compared to the injustices they have suffered at the hands of the police, and I am sure they are right.  But this is the injustice we can air in the law.  This is the injustice we were handed.  And it would be great to remember that day and how it felt and how important it was that we gathered. 

The Independent Police Complaints Commission ruled that the Met had not investigated whether the  provided no evidence that the kettling "was justified and appropriate".  If you were there, please tell me whether you thought the kettling was justified and appropriate.  It is easy to say:  never!  But that is not the law.  The law we have is this:  "containment can be justified only to prevent wide-scale disorder and looting".  Thinking about it, maybe we should be kettling the police and the government.  The looting has been ongoing for decades.