In October 1936 on Cable Street, there was a fight. On one side the people in London who defined themselves as being “fascists”, led by Oswald Moseley, protected by the police, going on one of those ignorance marches. “Who do we hate? People not like us! Why do we hate them? Lack of perspective!”
They were the “Blackshirts”, echoing Mussolini in Italy who made hatred of the constructed “other” look sexy with a potentially affordable slimming fashion choice. “All you need is a black shirt and you can hate like me and look sexy too!”
We are looking at a potentially very different take on the results of the second world war from the UK perspective if Oswald’s little hateypocket had started snowballing followers. Like most people following hateful ideologies they didn’t really think about who they hated and why. As ever they hated who they were told to hate by the people with actual personality – “it’s your choice to hate who I tell you to hate, and you’re smart if you do what I tell you!”. In trying to take their own power they just listened to these endless demagogues who gave no fucks about them and spewed polemic. So it has ever been. So it is now. “If you pass this test you are clever. Send me £30 and I will give you a clever certificate.”
Mosely hated Jews first and foremost, and after that anybody that didn’t look like him. Then after that I dunno – artists? That bloke? Your mum? Anybody but Oswald, despite perhaps being the most worthy vessel of such a sentiment. But there they were in their sexy black shirts, being angry together and thinking that those positive endorphins of shared indignation were enough to cancel out the desperate hateful unhelpful ignorance of their standpoint. It’s nice to breathe together. To think you’re part of something. To think you have special knowledge that everybody else is too unenlightened to fully understand. “You just don’t get it!”
On the other side in Cable Street in 1936 stood the varied and living people of East London, in large numbers, having no tolerance for such fuckery, coming out to stand against it, not being suckered in by the initially easy bait of hate.
It’s frequently down to individuals to police fascism. It was then too, in large numbers, with the officers of the law protecting the hate.
The people on both sides went on, three years later to fight and win an important war together against a cult of personality at the heart of a recovering German nation that took these comforting ideas about blame too far, so far, further still, that far. So far that ignorant and fearful people are already attempting to pretend the astonishing atrocities didn’t happen. Wouldn’t it be lovely if they hadn’t. But they did and that’s the logical end for these thoughts and beliefs. That’s where the simplistic stuff can lead. It can easily happen again and again and again as it has across the world over and over as we breathe from hate to love and back again.
It’s terrifying what darkness we humans are capable of through shared fear and outrage. It’s amazing how much basic unpleasantnesses we can justify perpetrating individually when our leader is broken. Everything trickles down from the head. Trump is a nasty fool, Boris a compulsive liar. Both entitled. Two nations that used to have meaning, crippled by their past and by present ignorance… Grrr
Anyway, I was talking about Cable Street. Why was I talking about Cable Street?
Because somebody threw tomatoes through my car window on Cable Street today, God Dammit. Vine tomatoes too. Little ones. Quite expensive. Still fresh. Pre-split for maximum splashage. One hit my cheek, the other hit the seat by my head and dropped down behind my back. If they were propelled by any kind of ideology I’m not aware of it. It’s more likely they were chucked at me thoughtlessly by kids. I didn’t know what had hit me at first. Came as a shock. I found it more funny than anything else but still phoned it in to the local cops just as I could’ve panicked and knocked over a bike or some such and it’s not smart to condone the waste of good vine tomatoes when nobody can fly anywhere to get more.
A hit in the face with a thrown tomato? That’s the closest I’ve had to contact with a stranger since a jogger shoved me out of his way in early march. I’ll take the jogger. It was weird. I always thought I’d be on stage the first time I got a tomato in the face.