…And I was hurt and scared and shocked
when they sent a limousine from heaven to take her to God if there is one...1
Now that limousine has taken Gil Scott-Heron to heaven;
and he will see to it that God, if there is one, has a lot of explaining to do.
The revolution in heaven will not be televised, but poets undermine the power
of empires and their words live on.
I first heard ‘The revolution will not be
televised’ on the grassroots independent media project www.indymedia.org when
it was covering Prague ‘S26’ demonstration against the International Monetary
Fund (IMF) on September 26, 2000.
I was there for the demonstration – an
overwhelming experience that changed my life and worldview.It sent shock-waves through governments
and succeeded in focusing attention on issues such as the legitimacy of the IMF
and the clash between World Trade Organization rules and UN environmental
‘The revolution will not be televised’
became the soundtrack for this unexpected metamorphosis.
Despite first being released in 1970 (on Small
talk at 125th and Lenox), in 2000 it resounded relevant and fresh amid the carnivalesque
tactics of beautiful chaos of the pink- and-silver bloc that disrupted and
halted the IMF conference. The Carnival Queen entered the lair of the IMF,
through tear gas, police batons and street fighting, chasing the beast away
from its prey (for the time being)2.
There were cameras – our cameras –
everywhere. This revolution was going to be televised, but with more than the
one-sided, editorializing, clichéd mainstream media descriptions of ‘a hard
core of demonstrators’.
En route to the conference centre where
the IMF were meeting, Prague’s high concrete Nusle Bridge was the scene of a
long showdown between demonstrators and cops. The Italian Ya Basta group3
were at the front in home-made padding with plastic dustbin lid shields – a small
army of Michelin people, taking the police blows and pepper spray.
After many hours in solidarity linking
arms and pushing forwards against the armoured personnel carriers of the Czech policie, we went for food.
We emerged from a curry house an hour later
onto Wenceslas Square to rejoin the crowds.
Due to some planning error two unescorted
buses carrying IMF delegates drove right into the middle of hundreds of milling
At the sight of the crowds the delegates
stared out at us frozen with terror, hanging tightly onto the yellow poles
inside the bus, their complexions pale as the name-tags pinned to their neat
The crowd, also frozen in stunned silence,
stared right back, unsure how to react. Here were the deciders of policies that
impacted on so many lives worldwide, against which the protest had been
struggling, vulnerable and exposed in our midst, staring fearfully at us
staring confused and unsure back at them.
Static-laden, the atmosphere was filled
with potential confrontation. No-one knew what came next.
A young woman darted out to the front of
the bus, took out a spray can and sprayed a big smiley across the windscreen in
shaving cream. There were cheers and laughter. The silence and tension was
A small regiment of riot police ran
single-file into the crowd, briskly escorting the delegates off of the buses to
their nearby hotel, refusing to acknowledge the surrounding crowds, then
vanished as fast as they had come.
Later, listening to this story reported on
Indymedia radio; I was amazed and inspired by the track that followed: ‘The
revolution will not be televised’.
This song and the moment of confrontation
between the IMF delegates and we, the people, are for me intertwined.
The fear on the delegates’ faces and the
fear that as a member of a mob I could be called to act violently against
defenceless people acts as a reminder that we are all human and vulnerable and
of how easy it is to abuse power at the moment we have power over another.
The young woman with the can of shaving
foam kept it real. Her gesture thawed the ice in which we were frozen at that
Over the next five years the
anti-globalisation protests continued and the Indymedia phenomenon grew;
expanding into radio, video and online projects across the world with the
slogan ‘Don’t hate the media, be the media.’ From this dramatic introduction to
protest and grass roots media I became involved in Indy media projects in:
London, UK, France, Italy, Belgium, New York, Switzerland and Spain.
That hearing of “the revolution will not
be televised” on the streets of Prague completely changed the direction of my
life and I played Gill Scott Heron regularly on the weekly radio slot I
produced and hosted on Resonance FM for five years, Global Indy reports.
Gil Scott-Heron’s words and music
continued as an inspiration. And his poem ‘Whitey on the moon’ remains
pertinent in the face of the government cuts and austerity measures while the
banks are bailed out with business as usual:
Was all that money I made
(for Whitey on the moon?)
How come there ain’t no
money here ?
(Hmm! Whitey’s on the
I think I’ll sen’ these
(to Whitey on the moon.)4
Global capitalism is failing the vast bulk of the world's
RIP Gil Scott-Heron: long live your words.
MORE BLOGS BY THIS AUTHOR
|Gil Has Left A Large Legacy Of Songs And Writings.
Now We Just Have To Listen.
|Nice to read your blog|
Leave a comment