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The Anti War Demos, Raves and Religion


One of the truisms of the New Age was that nobody concerned with spirituality could possibly be interested by 'politics.' The two just didn't mix. Spirituality was about taking responsibility for your own life yourself, not about blaming others: spirituality was concerned with going 'in' not going out.… I'd like to question this whole thing. Are mysticism and social action necessarily opposed to one another?

 The recent anti-war demos in London would suggest the contrary. The overall feeling, as anyone who was there can attest, was quite extraordinarily loving. Anti-globalisation activists, Pakistani shopkeepers, Trotskyites, ravers, old ladies with purple rinses, Druids - all were getting on perfectly well with one another, thank you very much. On the second demo, the one with the record turn-out of 100,000, the Muslims had an area of Trafalgar Square roped off for their prayers and this small sea of people kneeling down to pray amidst the fountains, pigeons and stone lions (bowing to a Mecca lying somewhere beyond Big Ben) conveyed an almost dream-like sense of human solidarity. They had brought thousands of dates to share the breaking of Ramadan with everyone else; while some Afghanis, harder heads, were wandering round giving out hash cookies.

 Nor was it just the sense of agape. Playfulness, a sort of mass taste for the Surreal, was well to the fore. At the head of the march on the first demo was a young man turning cartwheels who, each time he stood the right way up, cried 'Happy Justice!' Someone else was cycling round on one of those bikes where you have to lie right back to pedal it: he'd attached some bird-like wings, big things with a seven or eight foot span, and fixed a placard to the handlebars reading LOVE YOUR MUM. I found a Da Free John bookstore in the flank of one of the lions, and they gave me a free Da book; someone else handed me a pamphlet on ibogaine…

 At the end of the last demo, the big one in December, a friend and I scrambled up one of the plinths outside the National Gallery, and once up there (a young guy turned us on and gave us some bananas) had a birdseye view of the whole Square. Right at the back of the march came a tight-knit group of drummers and dancers who, as soon as they appeared, got the whole North end of the Square dancing. For an ecstatic moment I thought, God, this it it! The whole demo's going to start dancing! The police were freaking out. Could they arrest people for dancing? The flags, the costumes, the drums- all this was more than just a denunciation of war, this was a positive manifestation of different values. This wasn't just freedom from , this was freedom for .

 If you watch the Genova Libera video- documentary footage from the 300,000-strong dancing anarchist riots in Genoa last summer- you can catch a glimpse of what's happening. It's rave spirituality hitting the left-wing. Suddenly all that Ecstasy-fueled 'love' doesn't seem such narcissism after all, but something very real, with real implications for life. Dancing has brought to protest politics a form of direct action which is not violent- and finding this has been the problem of demonstrations all along. Celebration is becoming the central form of political protest. And you can catch glimpses of a huge and wild synthesis here.

 Surely the bottom line is that in essence we are all one- and this insight is something only mysticism can bring to politics… If the present war continues, and there's every indication it will, it could furnish just as the war in Vietnam did the focus for a new counter-culture; catalysing, just as Vietnam did, a whole new life-style. And celebration is the key to this. Celebration is the point inside and outside become one: the point at which the most obdurate of dualisms begin to melt down, to fuse.