A Creative Essay on rock concerts, riots, Hong Kong, umbrellas, political discourse and philosophy. Events within are mostly factual. This may or may not reflect my own thoughts and persona. The purpose is to provoke thought and challenge existing ideas. Readers who are familiar with my work may notice recurring motifs, or perhaps, laziness, on my part, for the sole purpose of assignment writing, please bear with that. It will be edited later. Leave comments and engage in dialogue on Wattpad.com
“This is thoroughly exquisite,” she must have said something to that effect. Or perhaps it was a confession of love, maybe a sudden Freudian epiphany over a dream she had — or that she needed to feed her dog. (Her dog was a brown hairy mess and smelled like chili peppers. I’ve always wondered why it smelled like chili. If she was thinking about her dog, it wasn’t surprising at all. For all the times I had been over, the dog was the only one that mattered. One more time would make no difference.)
But as far I know she could have just as likely said nothing: most of the mouths in the crowd were hanging open anyway. A cross between consternation and awe. Entranced and fixated on something beyond their understanding in the darkness. On the other hand, I was desperately scrambling for meaning, what exactly its captive audience — or captives, for that matter — was receiving. Some sort of wavelength or frequency beyond my capacity? They were all paradoxically silent in a sea of noise. All I could feel was her body pressed up hot against mine, sweating profusely like condensation on a pipe in the winter.
For some reason, rock concerts were not so different than riots.
I told her I couldn’t hear her at all.
She might have said the singer was cute.
We had waited for a good five hours outside under a temperamental sky. It’s a white canvas above, blank and stoic. And then every once in a while, some great unseen being came in with a hole-puncher, painting blue polka dots into stacks of clouds.
We were armed with umbrellas and all. Crouching and squatting like homeless children, signs all painted, strung, doodled, scribbled, as if Pollock had brought a garden spade. Big bold fonts. They splayed the Japanese band’s name, “ONE OK ROCK” over an eight foot length, but it might as well have been saying “DEMOCRACY FOR XXX CITY.” Or “DESTROY THE OLD, FORGE THE NEW.”
Some old woman was passing by and turned to me and asked if something was going on here. I told her it was a concert. She gave me a strange disapproving look as if I had said it was a revolt before she clambered up stairs in a hurry to the stale military-grade apartment complex we were blocking. Moments later, a man with a kid stopped and stared at us. He smiled apologetically as if we were suffering.
There was indeed a great amount of us in the line waiting for the doors to open. We had gotten there four or five hours early and cut short our sandwich lunchtime, but there had already been a hundred or so. Hundred or so anxious faces. People were sitting and standing and then standing and sitting. People in dress shirts and people in mini skirts. A lot of blacks and whites. It was a rock concert, not a rave after all.
Bags of crinkling chips and half-crumpled bottles of water sat on curbs. But afterwards, plenty of dehydration. There were sunglasses and dyed hair, a multitude of heads like a bobbing school of fish. Antsy feet, paranoiac pacing, shifty eyes, stiff shoulders, strained laughter. I couldn’t tell if they were excited or frightened. Excitement and fear, anticipation and unease were not all that different.
As if this was all too obvious, there erupted lots of niceties and handshakes. “Nice to meet you. What’s your favourite song?” was the most common icebreaker. The standard go-to answer would be: “that’s hard to say, I like so many of them, but…” And then, you could tell if they were die-hard fans who would rattle off names of old indie pre-label classics — the ones that sounded like they had been mashed up on some early 2000 mp3-slash-USB device — or newbie fans who only knew the stereotypical movie soundtrack, “The Beginning” backdropped to samurai battle scenes. Just like that, you could elevate yourself into the highbrow crowd, as though you were listening to classical music. What, no Haydn? Liszt? Brahms? What about Tchaikovsky? Schubert? No?
I interviewed the beginning of the line (on video for my Youtube channel, I told them): a few Japanese people, but mostly Chinese. (Impressively, but not surprisingly, most of the crowd were of East Asian heritage. No matter how down-to-earth and grungy the venue, fans of Japanese bands were infamous for being relentlessly loyal and fanatic. It was overwhelming for the local residents to say the least. The venue for their first concert in Toronto was a small house-ish building at first glance, tossed on a side street somewhere — I can’t remember where it was anymore. When the band members came by taxi from lunch or something, we all screamed. They smiled and waved and I realized how short they were — like looking at the real Mona Lisa. The neighbours must have thought someone was being held at gunpoint.)
In any case, the people at the front of the line had eerily identical plump faces, short brown bobs that didn’t flatter the image, and were probably older than a large portion of the crowd. I noticed the blankets on the ground in front of the doors and asked them about it.
“We have been here since three.”
“Three?” I said, “I got here at three and I’m all the way back there.” I must have pointed.
They looked at my finger and then at me, confused. “Oh, no no, we were here since three A.M.”
I didn’t bother to ask why. At least it wasn’t as bad as the iPhone 6 line ups. My throat was dry.
It started pouring at around five. Makeshift umbrella-tent constructions and campfire team huddles were of no use. Eventually we herded ourselves into an enormous incoherent organic mass of scuttling plastic exoskeletons, multicoloured and glazed with rainwater. Backs against backs, hair in faces, limbs tangled. We collided and jostled and the umbrellas dumped its contents down people’s shirts. It was like being doused with a firefighter’s hose instead of pepper spray. Umbrella Revolution. The wetness from my shoes and socks crept up my pants and towards my throat. I could barely see with the dew on my glasses and the trickles down my face. I stood there stiffly, walled in on all sides with waterfalls — suddenly the world became a gaussian blur and all I could do was avoid breathing on her face and extend my consciousness through the fogging screen of my phone. “It’s pouring, bring two umbrellas,” I tweeted. And I thought I had been smart by bringing one. She ended up like a trembling damp extension of myself — she had brought none. Being wet was suddenly not such an attractive concept after all. I felt like I was having sex with a worm. And I suddenly couldn’t decide whether I had any enthusiasm left for this pilgrimage.
It was a pilgrimage. I was seeking something. I wanted to grab hold of the reins of some creative energy, some prophetic message: give me inspiration. I wanted transformation, to ascend. I wanted something to make me whole again. To supercharge my reason for living, for creating art, literature, music, whatever it is. A spiritual awakening, whatever. Something was bound to happen. Surely they could give me an answer.
ONE OK ROCK is my kind of music. Raw charisma, a powerhouse vocalist with just the right amount of grit and texture like carefully calculated and measured seasoning on a well-made dish — no matter how brilliant the instrumental work, the voice could be the bane of the whole piece. But he does it well. Perfect English sung by perfect Japanese. Calling on the poetic lyrical forces of life-change and social reform, he makes way for transcendental riffs and gut-churning soul-thumping drums. Foot-stomping, fist-wheeling, head-banging — but without all that, its the content, the instinctive recognition that there’s something else. An aura of immense energy that sinks into the depths of my being, or maybe it was an immense energy I was sinking into, like swimming at night in a vast, deep sea, without knowing which way was up and which was down. Something was there and all around. I was on to something. They were on to something. And it became a dialogue, a conversation between creative spirits, soul to soul, heart to heart. It was something beautiful and I was there to complete the journey, to experience the full gale force of their colossal creative prowess.
I paid something like $184 for the tickets. It was only $46 for one, but I had organized something. We had been waiting for them to make it to Toronto. They were taking the world by storm, touring with American bands, Europe, Asia, and seemed to just miss Toronto. So when the announcement came, my gut was churning and I was camping out in front of my computer early in the morning waiting for the tickets to be on sale. I pounded out Facebook messages all in capital letters, “OMG” was my only vocabulary.
“You’re going right? Make sure you get my ticket. I’ll pay you back.” I received three of such messages afterwards.
I connected with, and organized strangers online via a Facebook group, e-squealing in excitement, and analyzing ONE OK ROCK music and performance like Yeats or Ancient Greek text. When I made it there, I had a small army of about ten following me. My friend, who was there before we approached the line, commented that I looked like Moses parting the Red Sea.
From what I could tell, people ranged from those who thought the lead singer was cute, those who wanted to meet new friends or had come for a good time, to metalheads and Japanese entertainment otakus, and those who were fanatics and went to every concert they could — including the ones in other countries. We call ourselves inspired, we call them inspiring. Art, music, literature, whatever it was, could do that sort of thing. Pick you up out of a pit and set you on the top of a mountain. I am a real believer. I believe in the power of the arts. I am a creator of the arts and have had the opportunity to bless and change lives, provide insight, touch hearts — at least that’s what they tell me. As such, I expected no less from the concert and expected to receive. I was entitled to it. It would make me happy.
Inside the venue, we made the first three rows, the empty stage gaping like an open mouth, drooling with steam and smoke. The guitars, the drums, the microphone stands, looked alien, forlorn and empty, so devoid of life in the lighting, on fire with dim blues and then dim reds. I could almost remember being in the Alien vs. Predator science-fiction thriller experience when I was six or so at Disney. Excitement and fear boiled into one.
It was warm so even the wet clothes didn’t seem so bad. I peeled off my jacket. Then as if on cue, the masses filled in and eventually we were compressed and vacuum-packed and sealed. I was surrounded with my own little group of ten or so. Familiar faces, but not so familiar now that we were washed over in hellish watercolours. I looked at everyone in a new light, literally. It’s funny how people can easily change depending on their appearance. On my left, I watched as her nose became flat and her eyes started to grow sunken, retreating into shadows. I watched as someone’s hairline seemed to recede and expand like ebbing tides. Everyone became cultists at a sacred ritual.
I wonder how strange I looked.
We probably waited for an hour, quite typical, before anybody came on stage. There was an opening band. I thought the sound system was poorly tuned for the local rockers, probably since they were using their own gear — everything would have to be readjusted. Or maybe they just didn’t matter very much. But regardless, I couldn’t hear a thing. It wasn’t a large venue so I had to wonder why they had to turn the speakers on so loud. There were no lyrics, no melodies, no rhythms. I saw the animated passion contorting the musicians’ faces and their heads bob up and down like buoys on stormy waves but nothing came through to me. It collided and converged into a pool of static noise.
I was being beaten in the ears and yet, in between each song, I could hear people cheering and clapping. What the audience could hear, I never found out. We didn’t know them, they didn’t know us. They were playing in front of a hostile crowd impatient for the feature band. They were Caucasian and we were mostly Asian. But we looked up at them and cheered anyway. We thought they were really good. I cheered and clapped and thought they were really good. They thought they were pretty good.
We had to wait another thirty minutes before the storm struck hard. We saw Asians with the same coloured hair step onto the stage with professional dexterity, a whole team of them, solemn, deadpan faces, laying out cables, cords, plugging things in, pulling things out, jacks going in and out, and checking the microphones and hitting the drums — each a mighty boom — and tuning them with meticulous grace and then the roar of the guitars, PRS Customs, Les Pauls, the distorted buzzsaw and the blend of the massive Marshall tube amps. The bass lit up with LEDs. “Ahem.” The man at the mic said. You knew it was getting serious.
At the “ahem”, the atmosphere gathered up tense and heavy like a winter quilt. The crowd started chanting and cheering. “ONE OK ROCK” began to sound like “VOTES FOR ALL”. Every time the stage lights dimmed and the staff cleared off the stage, we cheered. Then they came back. Rinse and repeat. I didn’t know whether they did it to evoke suspense or if the band was praying backstage or something like that.
When the band did come, I was caught off guard. I had my smartphone in the air, as did many others, capturing video footage, barely looking at the actual stage — and then I nearly lost it. It could’ve fallen, swallowed up by the swirling shadows and its dark humanoid effigies. There was a tremendous tidal wave and I was thrown forward. For a moment, I almost thought my feet wouldn’t return to the ground as if I was floating on a cushion of air, until I slammed against the person in front of me and found her hair in my face.
I must have shouted or something because she looked at me with a wide eyes. To my left, my other friend gave me a maniacal grin. “This is it, man!”
It was the psychadelic effect of rock music, screaming kaleidoscopic lights and Japanese fans. Japanese fans or fans of Japan were serious business. They didn’t fool around when it came to something like this. They needed to be up close and personal, it didn’t matter who was in the way. The girls in school uniforms of the Japanese pop dance music industry may entertain a different kind of obsessive culture, but they knew hard rock was another story here.
Taka, the vocalist, had his foot perched up high, lights around him in a halo like Jesus Christ from Giotto’s “Last Supper”, launching into a full blown chorus of “Ending Story” in a visionary reversal of Alpha and Omega. But I couldn’t see him. The sound was earth-shattering and everything was shaking, sloshing back and forth and off balance. I was busy trying to tread water. There was a sea of jumping silhouettes and a surge that went left and right and then front and back and my foot was stepping on another person’s foot and then on air and then under someone’s foot and then I tripped but couldn’t fall because I was perpetually an insect, crushed inside a wad of tissue.
I raised my arms in combat stance, rested my fists on the back of the person in front of me, elbows to the side against someone’s face and shoulders and bent my knees and I was pitched this way and that but I ironed my will and hardened my stance. And then it started to stink with sweat as I felt the sweat of others’ dripping down my face and flinging off of wet hair like blood on a battlefield and I couldn’t tell if it was my own or someone else’s or whose it was at all. Then I realized she was being pushed away from me, sucked into an undercurrent. And instead of saving myself I tried to save her and put an arm behind and around her to fend off the burly fat man next to her and the six foot tall giant behind us. I got another girl’s wet hair in my mouth.
“Do you want to move somewhere else?” I shouted at her.
“No, this is fun.” She said.
She was jumping. I jumped with her.
It was fun, she said. She had no idea my hand was near her right breast and I couldn’t move it.
Needless to say, I heard nothing and saw nothing, I saw glimpses of the band, charismatic no doubt, launching into the air in gravity-defying leaps and throwing their heads up and down, the man with the microphone and his signature red cord as if he was fighting a war with an invisible force but here I was, fighting a real war with bodies, afraid of being trampled. He swung his microphone around in circles like a cowboy lasso and the bassist spat water over the crowd. I was uncertain if I got any of it because I was already soaked with sweat.
I looked up. There they stood on stage bathed in vibrant luminescence as if they were from a different world and we had our hands up in surrender, screaming, reaching towards this new world and I longed to be up there with them. What was it that they had that I didn’t? Why was I drowning?
In my head I heard Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence”.
Perhaps I could only grasp the true meaning of the pilgrimage afterwards at home when I was looking through my videos, uploading them, watching videos. The iPhone was impressive. It caught the sound clearly and fully, without the noise-hurricane. It was more capable than human ears. Only then, with my iPhone, after those hours in the audio-sauna, massaging sore muscles, and forgetting fading visuals, did I realize how perfect they were live. I’ve seen the videos before though. I had gotten the inspiration and the charisma loud and clear.
But I had wanted more. I had wanted something real. I had received nothing.
I did purchase a band t-shirt however.
The only available versions of truth were displayed on my pixel screen, like a fountain from the night of, cascading down in multiple directions in synchronicity and echoing parallels. They all exist at the same time, rebounding, projecting, from different angles, flashing here and there, yet, which was more real, which was more true? Was my blind and deaf, sensory deprived subjective experience truth?
In my novel, Espresso Love, from the context of a dystopian magical-realistic paranoiac worldview, there is a strange caller at one point on Christmas Eve who speaks to the first-person narrator:
“In a world where there are no longer any secrets or privacy, the age of Facebook and Twitter, Youtube and Instagram, Mixi, LINE and Nico Nico, among many others that make up the mosaic of human life and communication, we all exist somewhere else, in multiple places — on computers, cell phones, TVs, on screens everywhere: a reflected impression and imitation, a simulacrum.”
“Yes.” He says.
Simulacrum, according to French theorist Baudrillard, is the simultaneous representation and reproduction of an original, where the original no longer matters. The images become accepted as reality in its own right and actual truth becomes only another version of the subject. Everything is real and illusionary at the same time. The picture of Shizuka and I captured in a single moment is only a representation of our reality without context or construct, distorted and warped through a camera lens, with different colourations, enhancements, adjustments, rescaled, through transmitted data over international airspace — no matter how realistic the portrayal, it is its own solitary masked version of reality that has no relation to the original. People accept it at its face value. They view it subjectively, carrying all their experiences, personality, knowledge and history — or lack thereof. There is a clash between the recreated version of the original and the perceiver, and from which, comes a new interpreted reality. This becomes law. Even though we know what was real at the time, it can be argued that it is an isolated, biased personal interpretation, by two witnesses, as opposed to a photograph thousands of people might have seen. As opposed to thousands of ideas and opinions. The photograph thrives as its own independent existence and each interpretation as their own stand alone byproduct.
“In an age of social media, there are alternate versions of reality, and in these versions of reality, you exist in a different form.” (He says.)
Coming to the end of September and into October, Hong Kong was seized by the pro-democratic Umbrella Revolution, the Occupy Central movement sparked by the Hong Kong Federation of Students and Scholarism (Joshua Wong), as the world bent in to watch and listen, in a haunting reminder of the June 4 Tiananmen Square Massacre when PRC troops rolled in with tanks and rifles some twenty five years ago.
From Toronto, there was not much we could do but follow the social media, see the videos, read the articles and the outbursts. We could scavenge for information like sewer rats through the filters and aggregate them into something with more structure. A towering toppling amalgam of subjectivity and rapid-fire opinion. Then perhaps with some sense, we could come to our own conclusions realizing that it is also possibly entirely subjective.
But it might not have been so for many people. My Facebook news feed immediately lit up with hundreds of fiery posts condemning the police and the Hong Kong government. Social order is to be sacrificed. People don’t need to go to work. People don’t need to sleep. The police shouldn’t obey commands. Police need to protect the protesters not themselves. Leung CY is the devil. The mainland is destroying Hong Kong culture and the economy. Poor students. They’re fighting our fight. The occupation is not illegal, it is peaceful. There won’t be any violence. It’s not anarchy, it’s necessity. They are peacefully armed with umbrellas and goggles. The authoritative government is in cohorts with the mafia. We are heartbroken. We must fight for what’s right.
Democracy, how can it be wrong? Democracy is always right. “Democracy is vital for the world,” someone said on T.V.
A friend left a comment in our discussion, something like “China could come down to Hong Kong and tell people dogs were cats and you’d have no say in the matter.”
My devil’s advocate rebuttal was that in a democratic society, you would have people who thought cats were cats and dogs were dogs, and people who thought cats were dogs, and then others who thought dogs were cats — there would be a great argument about it and no one would come to any conclusions, except that they were all right. Perhaps one majority group may win, or a minority group may complain that they were at the disadvantage. Perhaps one opinion would be voted in, only to be hated the next year and ousted in a perpetual cycle. Then someone has got to be blamed. Fragments of opinions ricocheting back and forth, speech directed at one another but not to each other in productive dialogue. A roar of voices and static noise aiming to subdue one another. In the meantime, the bigger issues of life and identity are drained out by the systematic mundane, floating in peripheral cyberspace. At least Hong Kong could still be silently turning over the bigger issues in their heads.
What’s better? Neither.
There’s the story of a wonderful eloquent, prominent best-selling author, journalist, professor, and singer named ______, a handsome, athletic-looking man, who had lived in various cities around the world, (who also happens to be on my friend’s list) — and he would sit on the streets during the occupation with a black t-shirt and a handwritten cardboard sign that says “Free Help With Homework” in red font. He was interviewed several times and became one of the symbols of hope, of peace and love. He was also on the receiving end. “When it started to rain, students came to me with umbrellas and raincoats,” he commented. “I am so absolutely and thoroughly humbled by them. I would wash their feet, to use a biblical reference.” In pictures, he knelt traditional style, hands on his knees, front facing the camera.
Joshua Wong is another well-known name and students hail him as one of the heroes of student-led Hong Kong, the genius of a new generation and a new intellectual movement using Facebook and other social media techniques — but he denies it and aspires to exalt the power of the people. He has a short skinny stature and wears thick framed glasses. His eyes are small. He believes in humility and God. Meanwhile, professors from Hong Kong universities are similarly involved and make appearances in encouragement but also with words of warning and advice, wading along tricky ground between shifting polarities. The plea for peace and no violence, or all efforts would be lost. But sooner or later, many begin to say they were not under any leadership at all and were self-directed. They would do whatever they thought was right. The words fall on deaf ears.
On the other hand, a police officer was seen holding a megaphone and a sign that said “We are just doing our jobs, if we could, we would not be in this position; we don’t wish for conflict anymore than you do, let’s cooperate.” And on the other side, a torrent of protesters held up their hands and candle-lit cellphones and umbrellas, reminiscent of a stadium cheering for their favourite singer, but not so different from pictures of jihadists lifting AK-47s. A few blocks down the road were rows of injured policemen, laying down, heads against the wall like dead soldiers in a war. One of them, a thirty five year old, with a once-nicely gelled hairstyle, groaned in pain and was worried he couldn’t see his wife or son for yet another thirty six hours. He had had no water or food for most of the day.
The next day, students prevented ambulances from dispatching to emergency calls and blockaded an escort of supplies to the police headquarters. A mass of heads hemmed in the vehicle, like a shipwreck caught in the throes of ice. After much conflict, they ended up delivering food and water to the police themselves, “not trusting the government”, when a statement claimed the personnel were dehydrated and starving. One night, a Western blogger approached a policeman to speak with him and a young man ran up to him. “Don’t talk to them, they’re all trash. They’re all liars.” When the expat tried to explain, the student cursed and walked away, calling him an ignorant foreigner. All around were posters and lettering that bore red hearts and peace aphorisms.
After a week of occupation, there was no longer tear gas but students were sexually harassed and brutally beaten by hordes of men in masks wearing black, claiming to be the anti-Occupy “blue ribbon” movement standing up for the daily function of society while people held cell phones and captured videos of bleeding heads and police officers apparently watched without intervening. “You’re so fucking noisy! Motherfucker! (unintelligible) Students (unintelligible) what did they teach you? (unintelligible) Screw your dreams! Get out!” a Blue Ribbon shouted. During a radio show in Toronto, a caller accused the students of holding the citizens of Hong Kong hostage and blackmailing the government. Then on Facebook, I read: “Shame on the HKG and the police for organizing physical aggression and sexual abuse! Disgrace to Hong Kong!” On the other hand, shopkeepers and massage parlour owners were quoted to be expressing their fury at the hold up of their businesses and livelihood. In one of the most recent coverages in South China Morning Post, Lee and a group of pro-police anti-Occupy members tried to gain access to parts of the locations and were hounded by hostile protesters shouting them down and accusing them of being “paid to demonstrate”. They had to be escorted out by a convoy of police.
The general public and the protesters claim they would not have responded so strongly if it were not for the tear gas and pepper spray used on the first few days. The police said if it weren’t for the charges against government buildings and the surging numbers they were up against they wouldn’t have had to employ it in prevention and precaution of casualties. It seems the students had prepared umbrellas but they weren’t meant to actually use them (right?)
You could see rippling waves of protesters at the beginning of the week — just as vacuum-packed as a concert — swarming the gates to government offices. They climbed fences, and crashed brittlely against riot police as if it were a scene out of a fantasy epic. Then cut to shots of pepper spray streaming against umbrellas and smoke grenades detonating, and CNN reporters and camera crew cowered behind railings as tear gas billowed in the air like a volcanic eruption. “Water!” Someone was shouting. Another shouted for more umbrellas and goggles. Faces were streaming with tears that day, or sweat or water from bottles, contorting in violent passion.
If the students were victimized or if they victimized themselves depending on how you see it, I would not venture to answer.
“We love Hong Kong,” an enormous sign boldly states.
A little old lady in a lavender tee complained on the news in front of a barricade. “Boy, I’ve got to buy food. I need to eat, I don’t care if you don’t need to eat, but Grandma needs to eat here.” She was speaking to a student leader with a bandana, dark eyebags and sunken cheeks. Indeed, the older generation were seen finally standing up, wanting a voice about their past experiences and trauma living through dirt-poor kind of poverty, revolutions and protests in the past. They thought that they already had decent lives now. “Why do you have to ruin our Hong Kong? We went through so much to build up the city. It is as much ours as yours,” one working lady was quoted as saying.
I received a phone call one night. Someone was telling me, “you just don’t understand. You don’t understand. You’ve got it all wrong.” I may have got it all wrong, but I sure know no one else has got it right.
There are 7 million people in Hong Kong. There are billions of stories and views untold and undocumented that saturate the stratosphere, yet are only the loudest voices, most entertaining videos and the trendiest stances considered? In all totality, it was the epitome and the physical manifestation of a democratic system, albeit with less cover ups and sugar-coating.
Somewhere in the Admiralty core, a sculpture made by students could be seen, a haphazard myriad of coloured umbrellas, pink, blue, orange, stripes and dots and cute characters, endless patchwork patterns, with no beginning or end, like an Escher composition, arranged as a sphere on top of metal barricades — it became a tower of freedom, umbrellas, a symbol of a peaceful world. But on another street a bus is plastered with a collage of crude notes on white paper telling the Chief Executive to step down.
It’s all a global stage.
The Umbrella has another meaning. In a capitalist system that is only becoming larger and larger, as enormous conglomerates hungrily purchase one another, umbrella corporations become monopolies, and the rich become richer and poor, poorer. The greater the numbers, the greater the influence, the greater the persuasion. And the greater the oppressive hegemony and the efficiency of mutual conditioning. It doesn’t matter that each individual comes with their own upbringing and experiences, with their own values, opinions and beliefs — there is strength in numbers and in trends. Amass followers, rank up on Twitter and pump out viral Youtube videos, flatten ourselves into images and sounds to change the world, join our voices together and converge into one slipstream current. We fight for individuality but yet we become one, under one enormous umbrella collective.
I love this quote by B.W. Powe from Towards A Canada Of Light: “We become slaves the moment we hand the keys to the definition of reality entirely over to someone else, whether it is a business, an economic theory, a political party, the White House, Newsworld or CNN.” Human beings offer their perceptions, their happiness, their reality and the value of their existences to the system. To the media. To an external source.People find their answers in other people, in other things. Get a nine to five for a big house, for fast cars, for decent meals, for tailored suits and brand name purses. For a nice guitar, for the latest smartphone, for a hockey game, for benefits and insurance, for candlelit dinners and movie dates, for drinks at a bar and high school reunions. You could even buy followers on Twitter and have 100,000 people see an ad for under thirty dollars. Purchase the illusion of popularity. Or the illusion of safety and security. Or maybe for that rock concert. For that sense of exhilaration and inspiration. On the other hand, maybe to trade in for a new political system because it may just solve all problems with the illusion of individuality and voice.
And all of which, transient and will cease to exist. All that’s left are pixels on a screen and letters and numbers on documents. Once that expires, what can prove our own humanity, our own existences, our own journey and our experience?
After the ONE OK ROCK concert, when they finished performing “The Beginning”, it was as if I knew half of the crowd filing outside and their sweat stained shirts clinging to chests. My forearms were gleaming wet. My legs were sore. When I looked down I found my once-khaki-coloured shoes were completely trampled black. We all lit up in laughter.
“That was fucking awesome.”
“The best time of my life.”
“Man, they were so good.”
“I’m sweaty as hell.”
“I’m thirsty as hell.”
“You can see my bra.”
“I need to feed my dog.”
“Want to grab a drink?”
No one got into specifics. I began to wonder if anyone actually knew what had went on all night. Maybe the world had become a better place. I had lost my umbrella, that was certain.
It was twelve and my ears were ringing. Even on the drive home, I couldn’t hear a thing and it was so disorienting it was somehow affecting my eyesight. I was tearing up for some reason. When I told her about it, she gave me a weird look. “I don’t know about you, but I thought they sounded great. I had fun.”
“You thought they sounded great. So they might not have sounded so great.” I said.
“You drive, I’ll tell you what the signs say,” she said.
I turned on some classical music.
Perhaps I just have sensitive ears.
Copyright 2014 Takatsu