Pitch-idea by sdaferv



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									Freedom Day
“Man is born free yet everywhere he is in chains”(*1), or should that be in chainstores? Starbucks, Tesco, MacDonalds? The current media coverage of the 200th anniversary of slavery has got me thinking. In what way are we, the current working population, not slaves? Most people I know, especially those with progeny, are slaves to their mortgage, their jobs, their debts and caught in a “running to stand still” financial cycle. I guess the main difference between us and the historical slaves is that we acquiesce to our bondage and in theory (if not in actual practice) we have the right to withdraw our labour at any time. This right is important. We freely enter into a contract with our employers selling them some of our short and valuable time on this earth in exchange for money. If either party is dissatisfied with the deal, then we walk away. For me it’s necessary to remember this every once in a while. I’m not just a cog in the machine, or so much gristle for the grinder. I am free! And last Wednesday, to celebrate this fact I initiated my “Freedom Day” – a once a year personal event that I would recommend everyone having. Here’s how it started. Wednesday 08:10 Finsbury Park tube station: I walk up to the barrier somnambulistic. Donna Summer tells me she feels love on my i-pod. I have to disagree. What I feel is mild depression. Not strong enough to do anything about it, just an undercurrent. I am preparing to enter the trance-like state needed to brave the Victoria line during the morning rush hour. So practiced am I at this switching off mechanism that when I approach the touchpad, I’m totally unaware that my Oyster card isn’t actually in my hand, instead I slap last night’s flier on the gate and only register mild surprise when I’m denied entry to the Rat Stink hole that is London underground. I stand there still half asleep, gently slapping my hand on the yellow access panel like a seal waiting to receive it’s sprat. It’s only when the grumbling of commuters behind me gets so loud and the pressure of some businessman’s gut digs deeply enough into the small of my back that I realise I’m not in possession of my Oyster card. I retreat backwards, the usual spell broken. My daily script has not been followed and I suddenly look around me with fresh eyes. What the hell am I doing? What the hell are WE doing? This is not right, this is not fair! This is not what we were promised by teachers when they told us to use our imaginations and create wonderful handpaint drawings, or when our young mothers spun us hopeful bedtime stories of the future as soft and intricate as spider’s silk. I walk to the ticket machine and fish out what change I have in my pocket. £6.70 is what Ken wants for me to masochistically invite myself to go down into the belly of the beast at Finsbury Park tube, ready to dig upwards for air at Green Park like those rabbits in Watership Down, smoked out by Farmers and Ferrets. £6.70 to display the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder at the end of my journey. Yes please – where do I sign up? Just as I’m about to purchase, I pause. Not today. Not today. Today is mine to have. It’s not been promised to me, but it’s here and I intend to wring as much quality from it as possible, so that when I go to sleep tonight, I can say that I really made today count. Out in the crisp morning air I reach for my phone to give my boss the good news. The secret to calling in sick when you’re not, is to remember that when you’re truly ill you don’t care whether you are believed or not. It’s only the faker that tries too hard with elaborate tales of food poisoning and electrocution. I realise that if I combine my tube fare with my usual lunch money then I’ve boosted my Freedom Day budget to £10.70. With mild alarm, I count up how much I spend monthly on my work lunch and make a mental note to start making the packed lunch.


So I find myself free. What to do? Freedom day has to be special, I can’t just skulk back to my flat and watch daytime TV. That would merely be a Duvet Day. No. a Freedom Day has to be imaginative, creative, unusual – a day out of time where the normal rules don’t apply. I start whistling Bowie as I head off to find the action. “We could be heroes, just for one day.” A gentleman of the road (or tramp, as they’re called in Islington) comes up to me and asks if I can spare some change for food. I offer to buy him breakfast in exchange for conversation. Food for thought as the tax for his free breakfast. “Dave” agrees and we cross the road to the café. I tell him about my Freedom Day as he orders up a bacon sarnie and he seems to like the idea, saying every day for him is like a Freedom Day. I’m not convinced and ask him how he finds himself needing me to buy his breakfast. It’s a tough tale starting in Manchester and ending up on the point of a needle in Kings Cross. To try and keep off the smack, Dave finds himself drinking more and more, which in turn renders him unemployable. I ask him how he feels about selling the Big Issue: he says he lacks the confidence. I can understand that. It always seemed incongruous to me, that the “cheeky-chappy” personas and hard sell employed by some of the people selling the Big Issue means that they are actually working harder than if they had a full-time job – why don’t they use that skill to sell cars or double-glazing? Saying goodbye to Dave he shakes my hand, asking if I smoke. I tell him I gave up a couple of years ago, but instead of asking me for a cigarette he puts a small piece of green shrubbery into my outstretched palm, saying “skunk”. On any other day I would’ve declined but I accept. I pop into a nearby newsagent and contemplate buying some cigarette papers and rolling tobacco, but the price is too high and doing so would waste most of my budget, so instead I take the free bendy bus down to Regents Park. (!) I’ve really hit it lucky with the weather. Spring has sprung all over the park and the late morning sun makes me feel energised. Some way ahead, two girls are sitting on a blanket and I can see a lazy plume of smoke curling up from one of their hands. I’ve struck Virginia Gold. One of the girls offers me a cigarette paper and some of her tobacco. I role the joint in front of them, hoping that my initial instincts were correct. They ask if I have any to sell, which of course I don’t but I offer to share the joint. I sit down and tell Baba and Sinead about my Freedom Day. They seem interested and in turn tell me about a the project they’re doing for their film course at The Slade involving London underground and which line has the best dreams. Baba produces a small DV camera from under the blanket and shows me the work in progress: they’ve been filming short interviews with a random selection of tube-travellers asking them what they dreamt about last night. Based on this unscientific study they will deduce which line is the most imaginative. I say that my money is on the District line; they tell me that based on current evidence it’s the Circle! Baba offers me a flier for a party going on at the Barfly in Camden tonight and as I go to leave, I make another mental note to save £1 for the entrance fee. Continuing to walk through the park, still bouncing off the joint, I buy a coffee from a kiosk next to the lake and sit for a while, watching the swan and taking in the view of London. An old question occurs to me – one of those types of things that we all file in the back of our mind to look-up one day when we have the time: I wonder how far the human eye is designed to see if the view is perfectly clear and uninterrupted? I decide to make a list of all these types of questions that have been on my mind and come up with a list of about ten. I take the most interesting three and decide to find out once and for all. I live in Stoke Newington, which has a large orthodox Jewish community as well as a large Niqab wearing Muslim community. When I’m in the local supermarket (one of the only places we can all interact) I’ve noticed that the Jewish women always buy an incredible amount of hand tissues, not just a couple of boxes, but 10 or 15. Every time I queue at the checkout, I always want to ask why they need so many, but


obviously it’s none of my business. In addition to this, I’m curious as to why some Muslim women choose to wear the full face veil – something that I personally find quite irritating although I can’t quite put my finger on why – I think it’s because we are human animals, and like our ape relatives, a large amount of our communication is understood through facial expressions. So I’d like to find out why some women choose to and others don’t wear any headdress at all. I exit the park near London Zoo in search of an internet café. Paying my pound for 30mins, I begin my investigation and pretty soon I have my answers. Orthodox Judaism puts a lot of emphasis on cleaning rituals. There is nothing in the Koran that suggests women should cover their face. The decision to wear the Niqab, or Hijab or no veil at all revolves around this sentence:
“Tell the faithful women to lower their gaze and guard their private parts and not display their beauty except what is apparent of it, and to extend their scarf to cover their bosom” Koran, 24:31 (English translation)(*2)

An interesting thing I noticed on my search is that if you put “jews” into google the first listing you get is an apology from Google saying:
“If you recently used Google to search for the word "Jews," you may have seen results that were very disturbing…If you use Google to search for "Judaism," "Jewish" or "Jewish people," the results are informative and relevant. So why is a search for "Jews" different? One reason is that the word "Jew" is often used in an anti-Semitic context”. (*3)

OK, fair enough. But why do Google only care about this search result? I try some other faith words or derogatory ethnic word searches and no such Google disclaimer appears. (I email Google to ask why, but am still waiting a response). Oh, and the human eye can see for 12miles approximately! I check my change and am left with £8.00. Overcome by an urge to see the Gorillas at the nearby zoo, I walk across to the entrance gate – it’s £5.50 with a student card. I search my wallet for my old university card. The photo stares back at me like it should be my son. The girl behind the counter luckily doesn’t even check the ID and I’m in. The gorillas greet me with Stoic indifference. They’ve just been built a new multimillion enclosure, but instead of sitting there soaking up the opulence like hairy Hugh Heffners, they’re banging around looking for a way out and onto the Camden road. I catch the eye of the silverback and try to make a connection. There’s only 0.6% difference in our DNA with apes, but I guess that makes all the difference. The silverback stares deeply into my eyes as if searching for that 0.6% From his viewpoint I’m also behind a Perspex wall, so perhaps he thinks I’m an exhibit. I walk the short distance to Camden Market where I spend £1.50 on an exquisite Thai stir-fry that I’ve never tried before from one of the marketstalls and look at the flier for the night at the Barfly. I have exactly £1 left for the entrance fee. It’s still a little early, but I decide to go anyway and celebrate with a Freedom Dance! (*1) Jean Jacques Rosseau. (*2) http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/5411320.stm (*3) http://www.google.com/explanation.html

Michael G Zealey. 2nd April 2007.


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