I am on one of the last few trains that will take me home to the west of London. Normally, this train would be fairly empty, but given that it is Saturday, you would expect the last of pub-crawlers and bar-hoppers making their way home, so I expect a few more people than a weekday.
Not to be.
There is a huge defiant crowd on the platforms and in the train, and they are loud. They are singing happy celebrating songs, so I think that a football match has been recently won somewhere nearby. I didn’t think there was, but not being an avid football fan, I wouldn’t really know. I have seen that before. There is something different today, however. Very obvious. Every person on the train is carrying a can of beer, or a glass of golden spirit. There are fancy dresses and happy faces almost concealing anger.
I had a wonderful evening today, relaxed and stretched out, without any agenda determining the speed or direction of my walk. Later, after a couple of tranquil and thoughtful pints, my mate jocularly suggests taking a beer can for the longish tube journey from the East to the West. I agree, I should, for it is the last day today when you can legally drink on the local transport, but then I have never had a drink in public transport ever, so we let the joke die its natural death, rather than be reborn as reality.
I see them, from between a tangle of arms and legs through angled armpits and knees, there are those that grip the aluminium cylinder, very tight. They stand quietly leaning near the door, no songs of celebration and such. You would think that someone was almost about to snatch it from them. Which is true, in a way, fourteen minutes later.
It is 11:46pm. Starting June 1, 2008, drinking alcohol or carrying open alcohol bottles will be banned.
In a crescendo the cheering and speech from every beer-can-wielding person grows shrill. The belligerence pierces my in-ear Bose ear-phones. It is a loud and hollow sound, empty of substance and unworthy of the rebellious icons on their beer-drenched t-shirts and tank-tops.
A rebel would start this act fourteen minutes later. To rebel against a law, before it is in force, doesn’t come across as a rebellion, really. I will not be on the tube tomorrow, so I will not know if any true rebels remain — for whom this is so important an issue that they will have a similar party tomorrow. But I doubt it. If the purpose was just fun and frolic, well then I sure hope everyone enjoyed it. If it was just about sending a message, I am sure they got it. Thank you very much, the ban is in force 14 minutes later.
All over the world, there is a gradual acceptance of everything that is imposed on us. There are no rebellions anymore, romantic or otherwise. There is cataract-like compliance — slow opaqueness to reason a blurring of reality that spreads a dull sameness all over.
Score: Authority: 1; Rebels: Nil
Sad, now, that we rebel within the confines of law.