The street that is not yours
Take a walk down the street that is not yours. Those soaring skyscrapers are not yours. These smaller shops that sell your food, your clothes, your morning paper, are not yours. The bus and train whisking you to a work that is not yours, where your desk, your computer, the very seat upon which you labour, are not, either.
You are hungry. You spy a tasty pastry in the window. You count your change. There is just enough for it, but not enough for the fruit juice that might complement its taste and texture. The pastry will be yours, but not the juice, you mourn. To add to your ownership of your pair of shoes that you require to cross the gravel, and of your warm coat to brave the cold. Your trousers are yours, your underwear too, your wallet, your hat, the paperback in your left pocket.
The television in the window of the electronics store that is not yours brings news of the world’ s latest war. It too is not yours. It is waged from wings, wheels, and the barrels of guns, none yours. The electricity conveying the broadcast to you is not, either. Yet the politician now on the screen, paid (not by you) to lend your support for it takes great pains to convince you it is yours, to incur your sense of guilt, to seduce you like an ad associating some useless thing with a quality that is part of your nature. That politician, like that useless object, needs you, wants you. Your power, like the little change tumbling around your pocket, is yours, and the ruling thieves want even those for themselves!
You walk on, down a concrete street named after a slice of nature long ago replaced by condominiums. The planet too is not yours. Only the air you breathe is yours. But it is so consumed by fumes you, too, consume, that you are not too sure if the air itself is really yours, after all, nor your lungs, your whole body, your health. As for your sanity, it is fast slipping with the beginning of each new workweek. Time is most certainly not yours, either. Only by a protracted scheme to steal them, do any elements of time remain yours. And in these pathetic crannies of the vast universe’ s time that you have plotted for yourself, do you read these words about other workers’ ‘ plots to steal back their lives, their world, their time, that you, too, may join them in such delicious and necessary theft.
There are rare moments of truly human exchange that may be considered yours. There is comfort in the smiling and bleating of your children, but these are oh so easily sullied by the ominous awareness of how many of their ideas are no longer theirs, of how much of their original spirit has year-by-year been murdered by the influences of the barons of time, power, and money, heirs to all that is denied you, and all is.
The sun shines brightly and warmly upon your face, but you are not sure if it too may be considered yours, either. So much of your factory or office time keeps you from its embrace, the way the keepers of the order have kept you from the tantalising embraces of your partner for the length of time you would really need to meaningfully unite with your lover’ s flesh, breath and hair. Those moments of orgasmic union stolen before your work preparation time at home, or after work when you are too exhausted to exchange more than a few brief words, glances and body fluids, are like the meals downed in haste before, during or after the rulers’ ‘ work period. That work day seems to stretch interminably into all time and all life, even outside of itself. It is there in the painfully long commute, traffic jam, and crowded streets. It weighs heavy upon your mind whenever you worry about your finances, it rears its ugly head in every argument with your lover, it takes up the bulk of every small talk with every newly made acquaintance, it creeps into every joke, it is the reflection of death in the eyes of every stranger, it is the poisonous scream in the corner of every fake smile on the lips of every passer-by.
The life you could provide for yourself and for your children has been relegated to its shadow, the life you bestow your employers and their children. The objects they sell to attain their riches after paying you those insults every week or two they call a wage or salary, have settled into every view you might take, descended like invading aliens. Is even your sight yours, then? The images of the commodities, embodiments of the dead labour of the world’s exploited masses, command your attention in posters, advertisement breaks on TV, on shirts, through windows of shops, and on both the pages of newspapers and the shreds of these blowing about the sidewalks that you spied when you tried to avert your gaze by walking, eyes down. Your very brain has been victim of this hostile takeover, your central nervous system programmed to know what’s new in the market (that is not yours), to compare its prices, to debate its trends. Your children too are not immune. They place their demands upon your purse or wallet to keep up with their friends in the market geared for child consumption. A finely tuned brain evolved through a million years of subtle and patient evolution reduced to a mere appendage of the vagaries of the capitalist economy.
There appears no real escape. Only escapism – but at a price. Madness and illness are the last refuge of the worker desperate to flee the nightmare, and such desperation itself will inevitably take their toll on your bodily and mental health. So what is yours besides your rude and motley collection of cheap things? Your imagination, your dreams, your strength, your courage, your solidarity, your humour, your hope, your insistence upon your freedom.
They batter inside you, longing for flight in others’ bodies, clamoring to be heard outside, in the screams and banners and songs of the crowd: “Long live our freedom, may the needs of people and nature replace the needs of money!” You can hear them now, years before the event, as you walk down the street that is not yours but may, just perhaps, be, one day. They are such sounds of joy that you can barely contain a smile, though you normally don a frown.
This street may not be yours, but then nothing ever will be yours alone. That is perhaps what it will mean to own, that no one will own, as we don’t the sun or the waves, that no one can keep you from them.