Saturday, October 15, 2011
From a Diary I:v
Notes inégales: a convention of performance practice in which notes of equal written duration are played with unequal duration. Our local edition of the Occupy movement established itself today with a march from (the profoundly appropriate) Rathenau Platz to the European Central Bank, on Willy Brandt Platz, facing the Frankfurt Opera. I walked alongside (not marching; I gave up marching with marching band in the 9th grade) enjoying the optimism and commitment of the participants (who had an astonishing age range; interestingly, it was the old '68s, many of whom are now securely in their pensions, who did the angry-voiced street theatre, with drums and bullhorns and ratchets, while the youngsters, who may never see a pension of similar value, were the mellow ones, practicing consensus rather than confrontation and using silent gestures rather than noise makers), glad that political parties generally stuck to encouragement rather than trying to assert themselves, and was even amused and nostalgic at a few encounters on the fringes with the usual sorts one finds at the fringes (yes, count on the LaRouchies and Young Sparts to show up, here, cheerfully, to no effect.) If the program of the protests here is, as yet, unfocused, that's okay, because the problems are complex and time were surely allow for some coalescence around a group of core issues (e.g. financial transaction tax, limits on political participation by corporate persons, unequal compensation, progressive taxation etc..) The organizations or informal movements closest to the protest in program, or at least those with the most dovetailing interests, like Attac or Anonymous, participated without appearing to dominate. It was a beautiful day for a walk through the city, with the clouding discrete enough to make their reflections in the mirrored surfaces of so many skyscrapers something approaching the poetic. At one point, an impromptu amphitheatre formed on the steps of Commerzbank Tower, and as the marchers passed in the little canyon between Commerzbank and the branch office of Deutsche Bank, a single older and hippy-ish handdrummer in the middle of those steps, with several dozen camera'ed folks forming a chorus line to his left and right, caught just the right tempo to play in time with his own echo. A big planned demonstration of this sort — especially when institutions like the European Central Bank is are on the route — is always going to face surveillance from authorities and Frankfurt's police seemed both practiced and restrained. However, with the ubiquity of digital cameras and mobile communications possibilities among the participants, it was striking to consider how an old basic inequality of official surveillance has been evened out. This was an event with thorough and independent documentation. As it happens, this evening I returned to the Opera house with my wife and daughter for an entertainment, Chabrier's opéra bouffe L'étoile. Looking down from the opera foyer at the now-tented protesters, now in for the long haul in the park with a camp fire set before the ECB, I was surprised by the lack of dissonance. Chabrier's operetta-like fantasy was silly, but the protesters were having their own fun alongside the serious business of getting the financial world to save itself from destroying its own ecosystem. Moreover, L'étoile is itself something of a political parody, of a kingdom in which the literal exercise of the law is not always optimum, indeed can be very cruel. Actually, quite a nice bit of political theatre complementing some of the street performances earlier in the day.