Breathe Deeply

The lock down ended with race riots. A black dude called Floyd was asphyxiated by a cop called, for added irony, ‘Chauvin‘. His snuff movie went viral. Shot from behind a parked vehicle, Floyd’s head can be seen with officer Chauvin crouching over him, a knee on his neck. The other cops who had their knees on his spine are not seen. I only watched 30 secs, because I’m prudent, but it goes on for a full eight minutes as the life is choked out of this black man like it did not matter. Proper horror show.

His dying words – “I can’t breathe” – became a snappy, three word slogan. We had been shut in for so long the air was stale. The atmosphere was oppressive; it was suffocating. As if racism is an airborne virus worse than COVID-19. Millions around the world watched this black man being murdered in Minneapolis on their various electronic devices, transfixed; many more than once. Following this ritualistic spectacle, people’s anger felt fit to burst. Out onto the streets they poured to demonstrate, first in American cities and then – over the weekend following an eclipsed full moon – globally. So potent was the spell.

Thomas Sheridan, a pagan wizard, uploads his Corona Chronicles on YouTube from the driving seat of his car, commenting upon the sci-fi sitcom of current events; the new normality, in which no one can possibly say with any certainty exactly WTF is going on. Thomas knows as well as anyone that a battle is being fought on every level of consciousness to liberate us. This manifests in 3D with such flashes of dark comedy as protesters covering their mouths and noses while declaring, ‘I can’t breathe.’

Nothing quite became George Floyd in his life so much as the leaving of it. He was elevated to iconic status as his portrait went up on murals worldwide. Trump retweeted this video of Candace Owens saying Floyd had a long record of addiction-fuelled criminal violence. He was high on a speedball of methamphet. ‘n’ Fentanyl and acting erratically while passing a counterfeit bank note, allegedly, which is why the store owner called the cops on him and why they responded with such extreme prejudice. He did not deserve to die, but Candace doesn’t want black people to be represented by a felonious junkie.

Others observed the similarity of the extreme restraint procedure that snuffed out Floyd’s life with routine incidents in Palestine, where many local US police departments go to train with the IDF. Or, in the case of Minneapolis, the IDF comes to them. In the USA, the demos turned nasty, possibly abetted by agents provocateurs, with burning and looting. Still, the President of MPLS City Council, Lisa Bende pledged on Twitter ‘to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department and replace it with a transformative new model of public safety.’

At home, the demonstrations reminded me of being 16, when Rock Against Racism marched through London to a Carnival in Victoria Park feat. The Clash. Punk kids from all over the country congregated. Tom Robinson was Glad To Gay and Steel Pulse were wary of the Ku Klux Klan. Forty-odd years later – how many generations is that? – young people who had been cooped up recently for what seemed like an eternity flocked to Parliament Square, protesting that racism endures and that black people continue to suffer at the hands of the Police. But they didn’t get to see any bands.

Back in 1978, crusty old Colonels complained about us via the letters page of The Torgraph. Their generation had put the kibosh on fascism by killing Hitler and these scruffy young people did not know they were born. Now middle-aged,  I understand that any opportunity to check oneself for residual bigotry is to be embraced, especially here and now, in the revolutionary vortex between eclipses. Still, I bristled at the home made Black Lives Matter signs that appeared in windows around my way. Talk about virtue signalling! I was particularly irritated by one that said, ‘White Silence = Violence.’ That’s as maybe, m8, but What You Resist, Persists!

The highlight of the demonstrations was the toppling of a statue in Bristol of one of the City’s patriarchs, Teddy Colston, an 18th Century slave trader and Tory MP. This monument was erected in 1895, 65 years after Colston’s core business became illegal; it’s a relic of racism that has long been fought over. All sensible people – policeman & politician alike – concur that it should have been removed to a museum aeons ago. Now, BLM protestors tore it down in a literal act of  iconoclasm or, as Europe’s first directly-elected mixed race Mayor, Marvin Rees, put it the morning after, an “iconic moment.”

Following a febrile weekend of untold fury, things felt different on Monday morning. The air was perceptibly clearer. The offensive statue had not merely been pulled down, but cast into the muddy waters of Bristol harbour, where the slave ships once moored. Some 19,000 of Colston’s slaves perished en route and were thrown overboard, so the symbolism was weightier than the bronze statue as it sank into the depths. If prosecutions ensue, an appropriate punishment might be to insist the protesters retrieve the statue and deliver it to a local museum, where this episode will become a colourful chapter in civic history.

We live in a magical moment, in which the eternal struggle between darkness and light is playing out melodramatically in our consensus reality. The eternal choice between love and fear may never have been more stark. Tommy Sheridan reckons that we are crossing the threshold into a new renaissance and I’m with him on that score, however dodgy his politics may be. No birth was ever easy. As to the suggestion that silence isn’t golden, something Bernhard Guenther said on Facebook persuaded me to speak up a bit more.

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