God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the mighty.
— I Corinthians 1:27
“If we were any more personal, we’d be doing your laundry,” an American Express ad threatens in the subway stairwell. No, if you were any more personal, you would be mounting us from behind. I glance back down the well.
Would be? Just having to squeeze past such an ad is like getting dry humped. I can usually avoid looking at them but they’ve got some plastic now they can stick to the brick and wrap around the stairwell, so you’re actually inside the ad like you’re ensconced in one of those envaginated spaces that have unfortunately always swayed me inordinately. Every time someone emerges from the stairwell into the light of Capital City like a refugee from Plato’s cave they’re enacting a sick birth. For all I know the not-so-crazy panhandler here at Yonge and Eglinton is calling “Ten centimeters! He’s breaching!” as each passenger pops out into the world.
In the valley of the shadow of debt
The steel clawbones of the big money buildings extend down into the train tunnels to make adcaves. Pretty far under that, a couple of planet radii farther down, Chinese laborers sweat away. Topside, armored trucks fret Capital City all day like a dog its bone, servicing the big financial overlords. On similar chassis and with similar gross vehicle weights, mancage trucks haul mostly victimless ‘criminals’ around to torment them at various locations, and everyone pretends not to see the trucks, including the canvassers for I guess some African charity organization called Because I Am a Girl. If you live in Toronto and now say to yourself, “I haven’t seen these trucks,” you’ve just defined the political unconscious. They’re ubiquitous. The trucks. And the unconsciouses. In the first kind of trucks, loot more valuable than ebon men is moved ceaselessly out of the city and then out of the country, offshored past the ken of little people, often past even the ken of the taxmen, and out of all reckoning entirely. You think because we’re dirt we don’t know what’s going on? They got that smartdirt now.
Show us where we signed on to this contract. Show us where we thought living in the money canyons of the overlords was a good idea and where we gave it an endorsement.
Oh, yeah. Well, still. Buyer’s remorse has flooded the lower runnels and is leaking up into the foyer.
A pox on your system. May it be borne down to Sheol. You have meant it for evil, for continuous iniquity, to squander all and sundry upon your lusts, but we will wrest away what we can for righteousness’ sake, though we walk through your valleys in the shadows of debt and towers financial. We are the nowtopians, and you can’t always kill all of us all the time.
Why do we support non-violence amidst such violence?
We support non-violence because we have a gun to our head. Best reason. When a short fat man with something to prove gets the drop on me?as he did an hour ago?and his woman isn’t fat and is just as armed as he is, and he’s hard, you get your eyes down and your yessirs up. Don’t ever fuck with a short fat blueman whose woman’s armed to the teeth.
Even here in the midst of the American Depression, during which the bankers have waltzed off with the silver while their hired guns stand around with their arms on their chests?at a time, in short, when we should know better?we tend to naturalize cop ambushes. We consign them to a sector of our lives reserved for mild jokes, because we’ve grown up with junk social contracts that we have also naturalized. Nevertheless a man who is interested in seeing the world as it is, and not only as it might be?and both are worthy?would do well to see a cop ambush for what it is: the powerful of the world brutalizing the people.
If you think a social contract based on murder abroad and Chinese slave imports is basically a working social contract that needs a little tinkering, live your dream. Go vote or masturbate out your window on an old lady crossing the street or chant the glories of democracy. Whatever brings you solace.
The sound of one hand
Here in the real world the cop ambush is a fact of daily life. A thousand times a day in Capital City a cop is hard and full of the desire to humiliate. The social contract is the sound of one hand squelching and a thousand hands drawing, reaching for their dreams, quick-drawing, tasering, and the cop who pleasures himself at his leisure is in the world of infinite backup.
Infinite backup changes everything. As late as the 1880’s and as near as Colorado or Wyoming, “having the drop” could be conceived as literal?whoever draws first wins. But for many a long decade now, it has been the case that a cop hardly ever needs to do something so literal as draw his gun to have the drop on everyone, always. This is the fact of infinite backup. If you don’t believe me, try demanding justice or walking away the next time a cop’s standing there berating you with his fat American car idling smoke out upon the world. Tell him about your rights, or the rights of the planet, and see how that works out for you. Do you think there’s anything less than a gun at your temple and taser lines hungry for your testicles? If you resist you’ll be drawn off to be raped in concrete boxes by prison guards, or if you’re lucky they’ll shoot you quickly in the head.
Go down Mo
Our response? For a hero, Moses. The progressives of his day were like, “slow, Mo, slow. Do everything slow, Mo. If you resort to violence, you become just like them.” And Moses girded up his loins, and pondered in his heart the claims of the progressives. And he watched the endless beatings, the police laughing while they watched the beatings, the straw brought in on big tankers from Chinese slaves, the cats sitting around getting tidbits, the rulers posing sideways in minis for photo ops. Instead of being told to say cheese these ancient bigwigs were apparently advised to turn their heads and cough. And in the midst of this it came unto Moses to think thus: “naw, that slowmo stuff is bullshit.”
If you believe in ethics, and I do, despite all that philosophy stuff I used to read, how many beatings or terrorizings of a good man on the part of an evil man does it take for an evil man to forfeit his own life? Ballpark. Ten? A hundred? Is there a quotient of some sort? Peradventure for a righteous man a strong man would venture much. How many times should I let a cop beat my people before I act? And it turns out that the magic number for Moses was a half. The next time he saw a cop getting his hard-on and beating away, Moses killed the cop and ditched the body. Didn’t even let that beating get to an integer. That’s the math of freedom. Half a beating’s a bridge too far. Sure, he was going to get it on in an alliance with that Semitic storm god Yahweh later and get all the cop firstborn killed, but the sudden end to the half beating was the beginning of the most famous anti-slavery movement of all time. What’s the half-life of all cop beatings?
The fat man’s woman’s
My eleven-year-old’s a kilometer out and closing. He’ll be parting the sea at Oz with Chu, our beloved crossing guard, an ancient man who hurls himself into traffic every day to protect us. “Chu’s life!” we say to each other. It’s our battle cry. “Chu’s life.” There are few men like Chu.
Meanwhile the short fat one is explaining in some detail how he’d like to smash my head against a brick wall because he caught me juggling while riding a bicycle. For safety reasons. Smash me into a brick wall. My son’s closing from a kilometer out, and in its turn the scene will be embedded in an American electronic site, where fifty years out advanced search algorithms we haven’t even imagined yet will close on the scene to discover if there were any people in this distant era brave enough to have stood up to the system. The searchers will pause uncertainly at my scene, wondering what counts as bravery amidst the detritus of the by-then long past diorama. I have?I will be seen to have in retrospect?the same slumped submissive posture as I found my son standing in when I discovered him on his eleventh birthday in the principal’s office being subjected to an interrogation filled with blunt sexual innuendo for his having been slapped by a girl. The fat one’s woman’s lips are parted slightly in excitement as she fondles her utility belt. And why wouldn’t they be? Why wouldn’t the fat one’s woman’s lips be parted in excitement? Fat one’s woman’s, the poet muses, pausing enough to get the attention of the searchers fifty years out. Fat one’s woman’s. The owner of these lips knows as well as anyone that men who resist and aren’t sufficiently shot or tasered to death are carried off to be raped?or do you still think something other than that happens in prison? [Browning: “that’s my last duchess there on the wall.”] It must be a compelling fantasy for a woman, doing your bit to get men raped. Like many street people, I’ve been raped, and it gives us a strong sense of what’s behind us. Objects in mirror are closer than they appear. Raped, but not ripped open. Raped not ripped’s my rap. The ripping’s what happens in prison. I’ve been threatened with it, but it hasn’t happened yet. The ripping’s what all these evangelicals who love prison for drug offenses are doing to other humans. Say it clearly, speak the truth: evangelicals support ripping rectums with penises and paying for it with taxes. If your god believes this he must be cursed and fought. [Martha Wainwright: “do you think our time here has been some kind of joke, some kind of incubating period?] We’re not fooling around. The fat man’s woman’s flack jacket flattens her contours. Her tight-cinched belt segments her like an arthropod’s waistline. My rectum feels vacuous at the sight of her. She’s irresistible. Sensing Liam closing, I put a whine into my voice, catch a sob on the larynx and let it linger. Must get out.
In sum, we support non-violence because of the principle of infinite back-up, the permanent rape condition of the West. We don’t have a chance.
Chu’s life, choose Nektar
Against the backdrop of such broodings I came in due course into my own alley, and hailed our local Banksy, Nektar, who’s been graf’n up one of these temples to the automobile that line every alley in Toronto like Shinto shrines. Garages, they call them. Little houses for cars, like a car needs a house. Nektar’s taken over a garage door just around the corner from an aoc original showing a cheerful cop nabbing a criminal dog (fifty paces southeast of Dovercourt and Bloor, here in Oz).
Behold here the devotees and compadres of Nektar, with his score or more of spray bottles, and weren’t we all in just the right mood to remind ourselves of what the revolution’s all about: sunlight and beauty and the handwriting on the wall of capital’s shrines? Reader, we were.
Here in occupied territory, right when it all seems lost, a group of people talking in the alley, keeping the faith, proudly knowing we would not vote, would not ratify the system, would not pledge allegiance. A color guard of artists. We are the people. This is us.
David Ker Thomson is a graduate of The Moody Bible Institute, 820 North LaSalle, Chicago, and has been a missionary on the island of New Guinea and a street preacher in the land called America. dave dot thomson at utoronto dot ca