Sunday, January 1, 2012

A Revolution for the New Year

Elsewhere, I have mused on the title of this blog. In one sense, it refers to the burrowing owl, Athene cunicularia, who is my "totemic animal" or "mascot" or "spirit guide" or "alter ego" or whatever. But the other sense of "underground" is that of a counterculture, a social movement that exists outside the scope of mainstream, politically correct, popular culture. (The burrowing owl is one of the few birds who nest in a burrow underground, so it works that way, too.)

I resist the term "old hippy" (the way I read the brief,"hippy" and "old" are mutually exclusive terms), but I still try to do my bit to walk against the current of consumerism, conspicuous consumption, and the idea that "retail therapy" is good for what ails you. (It seems ironic to me that those who would not voluntarily reduce their dependence on fossil fuels, are now being forced to do so by economics. -- Nothing will make you turn down your heater thermostat like a whopping great fuel bill!). So it was with great interest that I read a recent blog post by a lady I recognized right away as a kindred spirit. (I'm much too Taurean to live like she does, with a free spirit and few possessions, but ideologically, we have much in common. ) I'm taking her up on her challenge to "spread the word, share the symbol."

Here's the rune and the symbol:

And here's the word (in her own words):
For some time I have wanted to make an image with which to start a quiet revolution on the backs of service station toilet doors, on the billboards behind carparks, over the screens of insidious train-journey advertising. In deep hatred for the feeling I get when I am forced to enter motorway service station cafes, shopping malls or toilets, I wanted to rail against all that is bland and homogeneous and commercial and life-suckingly chrome-and-concrete and spreading un-refuted like a disease across our land. I imagined planting little seeds of hope and solidarity in the form of a beautiful and rousing image which I would stick between the scrawlings of desperation and ugliness in the perfumed, disinfected cubicles made for us to shit in whilst we are not at home. The backs of public toilet doors are a fascinating melting pot of honest expression, dissent and advertising; it feels like there’s a communication between strangers played out there in this, the most private of rooms, and this is the way I wanted to communicate: liminally.

I suppose I wanted to plant my revolution-seed in the dirt in the cracks of the pavements, in the dirt between the formica and polyester, in the dirt pushed to the edges of millions of touchscreens, in the dirt underneath escalator rails and hygienic hand-dryers. Like the gargoyles and marginal grotesques of the middle ages, I wanted to coax beauty in once more like a stranger to the citadels of public ugliness we all have become so used to. I wanted to surprise and unnerve and delight and disedge all the lovely human beings who have grown so unseeing in the unbeautiful subway of their daily rush through these places. I wanted ivy to grow over all the chrome and adverts, its clinging rootlets ruining the L'Oréal shine with their ancient, living patination, and its roots grinding escalators to a twisted halt. I wanted green silence to toll through the noisy claustrophobia of shopping malls and for the shoppers to break their ankles on huge ancient roots, which had crept in past the security guards (notwithstanding hoodies and ASBOs) to smash up the shops. I wanted to grab them by the hand, and run with them (limping) to the dark woods and remind them that they are powerful.

I give you this image to do with what you wish: download it, reblog it, print it, photocopy it, make it into stickers and take them with you in your bag to stick on the backs of public toilet doors, on supermarket conveyor belts or over underground advertising screens; make it into a poster, a projection, print it on bags and T-shirts, paint it large on the sides of petrol stations, pavements, parliaments. . . I want this image not to be for sale - take it freely and use it, let’s make it spread unrelenting from the edges, appearing everywhere, but not obviously authored. . . . It is yours. A gift to our revolution for Two Thousand And Twelve. Take it and run.

I want to be the one to bring the revolution to America (The last revolution we Americans had was against the UK. I think it's time we shared one.) We will probably be called "rooties," but what's in a name? Roots traditionally come with stems and leaves attached, and by our fruits ye will know us, to turn a phrase.

I would like to end this post by quoting the soi-disant "activist clown and former frozen dessert" the inimitable and incomparable Wavy Gravy, who says, "Put your good where it does the most." Words to live by.


  1. Hee Hee! I like that...'Wavy Gravy'! ;)))))))

    I follow Rima's wonderful blog too, I've managed to buy a couple of her prints and they hang in my hall, magical.
    I really appreciated finding your comments on arriving at my desk this morning, Happy New Year my friend, you're a Star!

    Hugs Jane x

  2. There is a sense in which to be obsessed with consumerism (or any of the other perceived vices of society) is to be as much a victim of the vice as those who wallow happily in it. One of the saddest sights is of those people who strive self-consciously to be eccentric, witnessing their little rebellion in their dress and in the chanting of shallow mantras of one sort or another. If they were truly free, they would simply be themselves, not caring what they look like to others.

    Is there any difference between those who seek to enroll others in some sort of "revolution" (no matter how good they believe it to be) and those religious extremists who seek to coerce the rest of us - by the bomb and the sword, if necessary - to accept their sordid creeds? I don't really think so. To think oneself right is not to be right and it does not confer a licence to browbeat - much less to railroad - others.

    All the revolutions I have read about in the history books have ended one form of abuse only to incur another from which the people have again needed to be rescued, perhaps bringing further violence. Revolutions merely exchange one corrupt ruling clique for another.

    It is evolution, not revolution, that can save us. It is doubtful whether that evolution can occur fast enough to save us from our own stupidity but it remains that only force that can. Revolutions merely speed us down the slippery slope.


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