Sunday, September 12, 2010

Heading for the Demonstration - an excerpt

From the court behind the clock-tower a few hundred yards away, I slowly became aware of an unintelligible, yet clearly orchestrated rising and falling chant. It sounded like yet another demonstration, I smiled, heading for the uproar.

The medieval fountain-court at the foot of the tower was a favored venue for heated demonstrations. The stone-paved yard could accommodate several hundred people, and the circular wall that had once surrounded the village fountain, which had not seen water flowing in decades, was regularly used as a podium, from which passionate speeches and pleas were delivered. It was a popular place for many unauthorized protests, as the ragged stone pavers and the freshly-painted blue iron-poles surrounding the court made the place inaccessible to police cars. Whenever trouble erupted, the many roofed alleyways that once led to the old gaol, too narrow for horse-mounted police, provided easy escape routes. A demonstration here was something I could not resist.

It didn’t matter that I had no idea what the demonstration was about. Seldom did I identify with the protestors; rarely could I find an event that didn’t tingle my cynicism. 

My last demonstration had been in the height of the autumn duck-hunting season, when I found myself marching amongst a vocal group holding anti-hunting banners. I felt I could support their cause. But when they started bragging how they’d covered a popular hunting pond with diesel to stop hunters, I couldn’t resist asking if ducks preferred to be shot or poisoned.  They were quick to introduce me to their entire collection of verbal abuse, and although I managed to diffuse the tension and prevent the situation from evolving into a fist fight, the fast heart beat, the clenching fists, and the clarity of the ready-to-fight mind empowered and excited me for many days.

Fights were not the only reason I was attracted to demonstrations. In protests, especially unauthorized, I found the drama and fervor that were missing from my everyday life in England, where the only heated arguments I witnessed, outside pub quarrels, were about sports and weather – neither could I care about.  I missed vibrant colorful characters; eccentrics who loved to express their unconventional ideas and were not afraid to let raw emotions clash. I craved heated debates and the intensity of feelings they created. All this I found in demonstrations. And of course, it was a great place for seduction.