Polite Anarchy Bites

I'm too cranky to carry the black flag

Rating: NNNNN

The other day I wandered into the Buy the Pound store on Adelaide East and just stood there kind of stunned and fascinated. I felt I’d happened upon Hades. Massive wooden carts of cast-offs rumble into the room. Crowds surge forward to be beaten back by a man who might have trained in a lion’s cage. Figures stand hunched over piles of rags, intently applying mysterious personal processes of elimination and accumulation.

Evidence of less mysterious elimination processes mark garments with unspeakable stains. But the discovery of trousers still wet with the excretions of their former occupant does not deter the determined diggers.

At the front of the room, a circle of people surround a clerk who is unpacking a crate of books and hurling and flinging them in every direction. Some land on a table. Others are caught in midair by brave bibliophiles. Huge hardcovers come winging and spinning with enough force to break bones.

After this display of books and anarchy in action, the official Anarchist Book Fair on October 19 and 20 seems a trifle tepid.

I’ve always wondered about anarchists. I used to live near an alley where someone had spray-painted the slogan “Anarchy please.” Radical politics and extreme politeness struck me as an odd combination. Why not go all the way? “Revolution pretty please, with sugar on top.”

My friend F.U. lived in a rat-infested cave with some of these nice anarchists, who were always taken aback by my negative reply when I phoned and they asked in secretarial fashion, “May I say who’s calling?” If anarchy involves ditching everything except annoying niceties, I think I’ll vote for nihilism.

The Anarchist Book Fair is being held at Kytes on Bathurst. My ascent of the stairs (is there wheelchair access?) is very slow, as I am behind two proud parents allowing their toddler to set the pace. “Oh, just pick the kid up!” I feel like saying. See? I’m too rude to be an anarchist.

I make my way through the cozy kitchen, where messes of chow are being served up to radical ragamuffins, to a room so full of tables that those working them have to crawl under to get out. Avoiding getting whacked by bulging backpacks is a challenge.

A lot of the material is free or close to it. Zines, pamphlets, printouts and books on menstrual activism, the Spanish Civil War, eco-defence, anarcho-feminism, the Black Liberation Army, the Billboard Liberation Front, Plan Puebla-Panama, justice for prisoners. I’m intrigued by the Association des Astronautes Autonomes and presume that their idea to “quitter la gravité” is a metaphor, but closer scrutiny and a wee chat with the lad squeezed behind the table reveals an intellectual premise that addresses the possibility of a non-hierarchical society in outer space.

It’s all very enlightening but too much information in a tight room, and I want to pass out. On my way outside, something catches my eye in the recycle box — yet another tidbit to support my theory that anarchy is just a front for niceness freaks — a note from a display containing two “pleases,” a “thank you” and a circle with, not an A in the middle, but two dots and a crescent, a happy face!

I take my cranky hardcore self away from the nice book fair to the public place where I feel most comfortable, the street. Sweet sounds of electric slide guitar pull me up Augusta, where the Nationals are plugged in outside. You’ve gotta love Canadian musicians — playing in the cold, probably for no money, with no jackets on.

I sit on a bench, and a drunken street bro who is grooving to the music plops down beside me. Then he bends down and opens a bag full of big cans of Baxe high-alcohol beer.

Two men armed with guns sidle up, cops just waiting to bust him. I touch his knee. “Hey!” He finally looks up. I pretend to be absorbed in eating my rica pupusa while they go on at him about his lack of proper ID and run him through the computer. He comes up clean. For my benefit, they give him a piece of friendly advice, virtually useless to someone who lives on the street. “You shouldn’t drink outside.”

When they’re gone, he offers me a beer — not my brand — and admires the bowling shoes I found at the Pound. “Yeah, but there are no bowling alleys downtown,” I complain. There’s always the anarchist soccer game in Trinity Bellwoods later in the afternoon. I can picture it. No shouting or shoving, just a lot of “Excuse me,” “Sorry” and “Please, after you.”

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