“Ma il furto non m’accora.” — from La Bohème (“But the theft doesn’t hurt me.”)
Warning: Some interview excerpts below include ugly adult language!
On August 25, 1830 there was a performance in Brussels of La Muette de Portici, the one serious work among the usually comic operas of Daniel Auber. Based on the events of a popular uprising in Naples (1647) led by a fisherman, La Muette has not remained a staple of operatic repertory. But in 1830 its themes were so incendiary that, as the audience left the opera house, it began to riot, demanding freedom from Dutch rule. The unrest gathered strength during the days that followed and eventually grew into a full-scale uprising that won the Belgians, within a few months, an independent state and their own constitution.
This new-found revolutionary role of opera was the most dramatic instance of the reorganization of cultural expression and the crossing of traditional cultural lines that marked the 19th century, but it was not alone. The invention of the public concert, professionalization of the orchestra, the regularization of art sales, and the proliferation of publishers all meant that the classic reliance of artists, composers, musicians and writers on wealthy patrons was coming to an end.
Such “democratization” created immense pressures, and this force mounted as demands rose for an end to aristocratic privilege. And a beginning and an end to much else.
For wider political participation, for one. And for the emancipation of women and religious minorities. During this Ibsen (A Doll’s House) era, Nietzche assaulted traditional morality and Christianity, Impressionists questioned the fundamentals of artistic endeavor… and there was unprecedented intensity, causing unbelievable upheavals, earth shattering onslaughts on traditional structures and assumptions that would be like (today)… the general working public embracing shoplifting as legitimate. That shocking, really that new midst what was becoming an increasingly ugly global civilization.
The Shoplifters Association of the Americas (SAA) was formed in West Oakland on Black Friday when the Economic Crisis was announced. Immediately, albeit in modest form… since the fact of having only one supermarket for 30,000 people in their community dictated a lower profile than the founders would have liked to have locally.
However, the thrust of the Shoplifting Association of the Americas was quickly picked up on across the nation. So much so that by Blue Monday they saw the blossoming of branches from Portland, Maine to San Diego.
What is the SAA?
Well, it’s a ragtag group of down-and-outs (financially) who have come together to help one another survive midst the ‘cross the board greed… which has now become quite blatant. Their mission is to help one another (with advice, bail $, whatever) to get through the incessant, proverbial hard times..
Primarily, they address — in terms of very practical application — the fact that stealing is not only condoned but encouraged among the powers-that-be, whilst a double-standard is enforced with regard to theft below. In short, they engage in the easiest and least dangerous form of thievery to keep going. For example, they shoplift food and other survival items from corporate outlets <em>without looking back</em>, watching one another’s backs in some cases. Without pangs of conscience; they help each other to overcome the potentially debilitating injunctions which parents, religious leaders and society in general have plagued them with… for as far back as anyone can remember. “Good Riddance to Guilt-Ridden Rot Injunctions” is their motto.
For them, it’s no longer a viable proposition (for a number of reasons) to adhere to, honor all parts of the Ten Commandments. In an interview with Marcel X, co-founder of the West Oakland group, we were told, “Hey, the food is only affordable for the Players. And what they don’t get gets thrown away. We’re tired of foraging through diseased bins for the perfectly good food that’s gotten tainted prematurely, unnecessarily.”
We asked one of his SAA colleagues what motivated her to join the group, and her reply was instantaneous: “What is this scam? What is this shit whereby Yahoo posts lead articles like this which have to do with compounding ignorance with ignorance… encouraging readers to embrace that very very old nonsense about the glory of becoming a millionaire? That’s absolutely ancient both in terms of personal satisfaction and planetary consciousness. That kind of goal is counter-productive for everyone.”
We understood the thrust of her fiery response, but we delved deeper by asking, “Why do you think such attitudes persist in the face of the obvious one-sided playing field? Why do you think people put up with being deprived while watching others rake it in, running roughshod over what they call the rabble?” She simply shot back, “Greedy, fucking elitist, socially unsconcious bastards! They’ve manipulated the sheep for so long with their mandatory schooling reinforcing what they want… they’ve managed to mesmerize one and all. A la Huxley. They’re dead in the water.”
“But not you?, we asked.”
“Fucking A right, not us.”
That’s a bit of a strong note on which to end a piece like this, but then… what the elites have going is quite a piece of work, isn’t it?
As opposed to the dead bodies which are so often festooned along the boards at the end of operas, I give you a more lyrical conclusion:
“In poverta mia lieta scialo da gran signore
rime ed inni d’amore
Per sogni e per chimere e per castelli in aria
l’anima ho millionaria.”.
“In my poverty, I feast as gaily as a grand lord
on rhymes and hymns of love.
For dreams and fancies and castles in the air,
I have a millionaire’s soul.”
Give yourself a lift. And don’t forget to give someone else a lift too.
LISA MASSACIUCCOLI would love to hear your aria at firstname.lastname@example.org. The above lyrics are from Rodolfo… from Puccini’s La Bohème.