Last night a friend asked me why I had never thrown a well-sized rock at anyone. Or at anything, for that matter. Didn’t have to be the police. Might just be a shop front, or across the fence to the American Embassy. Anything that would somehow physically manifest my political affiliation.
I didn’t have a ready answer then. And I don’t have one now. But I feel quite certain that I never will throw rocks at anyone or anything. It’s just not my line of argument. I’d feel foolish for sure donning a ski mask and prying loose paving stones. Like a freak in a circus doing whatever it takes to get the spectators cheering.
Instead I’ll just state a few things about myself. Firstly, I grew up in the upper middle classed suburbs north of Copenhagen. My parents weren’t exactly rich, but we sure didn’t lack anything. I remember trying to force my mother into exchanging my winter coat for a board game I’d seen down in the toy store. I simply sat down in front of the game claiming that I wouldn’t move until the deal was done. Fat chance, stupid kid. However, it was my first act of passive resistance, and my mother had to go through the embarrasment of dragging a screaming kid across the floor to get me out of the store.
Politics never were a topic of dinner table conversation in my family. I refused to read newspapers, and when the Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme was shot all I did was complain that the early morning cartoon show had been cancelled. I purposely avoided watching the news, and any mention of war would sent me running into my room and the safety of building make-belief Lego townships. The world that existed outside of my own was all chaos and confusion, and I didn’t want anything to do with it.
This only changed when I was in my late teens. The outside world became a place of adventure and excitement. I began hitching around Europe, meeting strange people, and having even stranger conversations. My outlook on life was broadened and distorted at the same time. The bubble burst. I became part of the chaos and confusion that I had so far steered clear of. For the first time in my protected existence I didn’t quite know what to do with myself.
Still I didn’t have a political standpoint. Like most young idealists without any sense of reality I insisted upon a world of peace, love, and harmony. Perhaps that was why I chose to take the ferry across from Scotland to Northern Ireland. I wanted to visit the hot spots of the Earth, and show the people living there that alternatives were possible. Pretty damn naïve and arrogant, I have to admit.
What I did discover was that not only were people so tired of the conflict between Protestants and Catholics that it had almost died out, they also seemed more vibrant and full of life than most other people I had met. Was living in a country with violent demonstrations, car bombings, and street riots actually making them thrive? I think it was Orson Welles who said that 30 years of civil war in Italy produced such geniuses as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, while 400 years of peace in Switzerland produced the cuckoo clock.
Now, I still don’t believe in armed conflict, and I sure don’t wanna take part in it. I would rather somebody threw a rock at me than I threw a rock at them. Not because I don’t wanna protect me and mine, but because I wouldn’t know who to throw it at. Should I aim for the immediate enemy, or should I aim for someone higher up the hierarchy? The agitators? The crowd who believed them? The moneymen who backed the men in power? The news media that recorded everything to inform and enrage the public? Yes, the public, should I go for them too? And if so, might I not just start with myself, and knock out my own brains with the rock that I already hold in my hand?
If forced anyhow by circumstances out of my control I would probably just fling it in the general direction of the majority. To even out the scales, I guess. Too much power in one place never seems to work out. Except in art where I always find the individual performance more interesting than the communal. More interesting even than the guided. But that’s another discussion for another day.
To return to the original question I still don’t have a ready answer as to why I never throw rocks at kings’n’things. I can sure feel the urge at times, but in the end it just seems too pointless. I love pulling things apart – at least metaphorically I do – but I prefer to use the parts for building new stuff rather than for throwing away.
Anyway, it’s only in history and fiction that you can tell the good guys from the bad guys. And at this particular point in time and space it seems even the good guys have turned bad. In the words of German director Werner Herzog it’s ”every man for himself, and God against all.”