Wednesday, 28 May 2008

London: Hyde Park. The best of Speaker's Corner

On a smoggy Sunday morning they converge, their minds searching, reaching like suction cups looking to cling to a perfect piece of glass. If only. If only THE IDEA would drop from the mouth of that rabid politician, or this airy preacher. If only THE ANSWER would float over, released somehow through the empty space, (a rectangle of air, of nothing) that bonds the angry Muslim and the sexy Marxist. If only ILLUMINATION would swan dive from their own tongues into the ears of their neighbours, twisting into a TRUTH they could all understand.

Over here the ranting priest, gripping his bible like a boulder with which he will brain us all one by one with THE WORD. The crowd gathered around him stare as the sweat begins to build around his crisp collar, and they mock him as he loses his way yet again, stumbling and coming back to because, because, because.

This man argues that all Muslims should be sent away from Britain:

Sometimes when he speaks he looks like he is hissing. It is easy to capture the subtle features of his wrath. The lines that furrow into his face today will deepen as he sleeps, and in the morning he will wake and wonder what kind of worm has been eating him.

This creature wears a mask to protect himself from what he believes will be a sudden onslaught of wrathful Scientologists. Tom Cruise does not appear so the masked one continues to mumble between periods of silence in which he flips the pages on a giant chart. One page reads: An object looks different based on the vantage point of the observer. This concept is known as perspective.

The horned one? He does not sing or dance. His task is to stand on a box and wear the most contented look of boastful arrogance possible.

The girl in the pink leggings has managed to pull her camera away from the sexy Marxist and his argument about food shortages and the capitalist plot. She doesn't feel the need to lift the lens to a man who has has been predicting the same disaster for years. Worse. It's all going to get worse. She looks doubtful. After all, she is young, and it is springtime.

Meanwhile, at the time a believer three boxes over is telling a small throng that there is no need to examine the origin of the water bottle, THE MAN WHO KNOWS EVERYTHING is asked the question: What is enough? To this he replies: “When you've had enough you've had enough, haven't ya? You know when you've had enough - you can't let anyone else decide that for you.” Most of the time he shuffles silently, trailing thin whispers of omniscience, or sits near the couple who are giving out free hugs. They are the least popular people in the whole mess, and this gives him comfort.

"BRITNEY SPEARS WAS NEVER A VIRGIN." The toothless Cockney has spread out his signs, which are made in pencil crayon and stuffed inside plastic protectors, like the kind we used in school to save our homework from grape juice circles. He is jaundiced and gaunt and does not argue with the crowd. He feels his signs should speak for themselves. Eventually passers-by aren't stopping to read them anymore so he packs up, layers of pop culture insights taking pride of place in an old fashioned leather briefcase.
A solider of Allah walks right past the three old men who look like they should be fishing, while another man gets bored of watching the Scientology hater and lies down to witness the remainder of the flip-chart show.

There is not one woman on a soap box. The scene is dominated by men. Men who long for philosophical discussions, who break off into small groups to try and push their judgements (Jehovah-God-Allah-Immigration-Taxation-Conspiracy-Death) into each other’s unwilling minds. They do this as a child would try and press one more scene from a stamp whose ink has dried. They lift the tool and examine the paper, but there is only a ghostly indentation, and even that is disappearing.

The best part? There is no moral at the end of it. Eventually the day ends and they all go home. Hyde Park is given over to the night and those who do not feel the need for words -their conversations are built with motions and intuition and the body rush of shadows. They debate with thin envelopes and conduct delicate negotiations over fences. Sometimes they whisper, but they don’t know why. Maybe silence is something their instincts tell them not to share.
Sleep, MAN WHO KNOWS EVERYTHING. Dream you are the spectator squirrel, listening to the chatter of aliens. Spend just one moment scanning the spaces between their ranks, then twitch your tail and move on. It is spring. You are free. There is no use dwelling on it.

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