“ “They have incredible stamina. A pack of wild boys can cover fifty miles a day. A handful of dates and a lump of brown sugar washed down with a cup of water keep them moving like that. The noise they make just before they charge…well I’ve seen it shatter a greenhouse fifty yards away. Let me show you what a wild boy charge is like” He led the way into the projection room. “These are actual films of course but I have arranged them in narrative sequence” ”
William S. Burroughs – The Wild Boys (1969)
Some footage I took just next to my house (all approximately within a 500m radius) at about 19:00 on Thursday night, 29th March arranged in narrative sequence.
Vaga General 29-M part 01 from Christopher Mann on Vimeo.
Vaga General 29-M Part 02 from Christopher Mann on Vimeo.
The Vaga General or General Strike was called by the syndicates as a protest against both the continuing implementation of more and more severe austerity measures as well as the governments proposed new employment legislation that will further empower employers and facilitate sacking processes while minimising the subsequent payout. This is apparently supposed to boost a labour market already plagued by 23% unemployment . The timing of the strike was the day before the right wing Partido Popular (PP; People’s Party) announced the new budget, much of which is designed to placate European demands and avoid a Greek-style bailout.
While the videos would suggest anarchy and the rule of violence, careful observation will also show the opposite: families, mothers with children walking down the garbage-laden streets close to the action in relative tranquillity. Direct conflict with the police was orchestrated by few (two of which, presumably, can be seen parading through the crowd in hoods and with lower face masked) although the effects were astounding. While not condoning the violence in any way, it seems that the intense frustration brimming over in a largely unemployed population growing more and more restless and more and more uncertain has only recourse to make themselves heard and that is most certainly not democracy. Those who did vote PP at the national level late last year may regret the heavy handed way they have blustered into government, using the crisis as a kind of “shock therapy” to push forward their unnecessary and draconian measures that will never be rescinded and will only benefit the entrepreneur.
While cutting bloated government debts is admirable, it is also suicidal to do so in a cold and numerical way at a time like a puppet state run from Brussels (ie Paris and Berlin) when people need jobs; when the market needs stimulation; and when new methods of governing and economic management, particularly relating to transparency and sustainability, have been called for by the Indignados. It is an irony in itself that the police forces have faced their own “recortes” (cuts) and yet still fight on for a political system that is haemorrhaging more every day. Perhaps they fight on because their opposition are essentially only Wild Boys, for the moment, Okupa groups and more extreme radicals, and not, in a sense the general population? Time will tell, but the history of Spain already tells this story and hopefully we will not need a sequel.
I say Wild Boys as by coincidence I finished William S. Burroughs novel of the same name this week. The dystopian mood, the nonchalant sexuality and the rebellious, anti-systemic violence are the major themes, told of course in Burroughs mind bending cut-up style. The Wild Boys, it must be said, is still one of Burroughs’ more accessible novels despite the technique.
“Tio Mate Smiles” represents the first chapter of the book, set in Mexico, but introducing in the first words one of the images and themes that will run through the book: the editing of film and by extension, the editing of memory and information.
The chapter “The Wild Boys” quoted above returns to the theme of films, image and editing and evokes images of the riots plaguing Barcelona on the 29th March. The original setting is the north of Africa in Morocco and features a somewhat more sinister battle with CIA controlled forces that erupt into homosexual rituals once victory is ensured.
Australian music video director Russel Mulchay had once planned to make a film version of the novel, which never came to fruition, although it did give rise to the long video clip for Duran Duran’s 1984 hit of the same name.
Primal Scream’s “Exterminator” from the album of the same name (after adding vowels) also gives plenty of reference to Burroughs in the lyrics, as well as reflecting again the street scenes in Barcelona.
“Exterminate the underclass
Exterminate the telepaths
Control violence hallucinatory programmes
Septicaemic interzone, psychic distortions
Satellite sickness TV junk
No civil disobedience
No civil disobedience ”