THE ROARING SILENCE
In Yeovil, the two minutes silence for Armistice Day (11:00 11/11) began, appropriately enough, with the local Air-Raid siren that was used during World War 2.
Then something strange happened. People suddenly froze in their tracks, like extras from an episode of Doctor Who, and for two whole minutes the town’s population was temporarily trapped inside a John Cage composition…a Zen-like sonic picture-frame where every normally-insignificant background noise was suddenly amplified into hyper significance...
Coughs and sneezes; the whirr of air-conditioning units on the side of shops; restless children (“Mummy, why’s ev’rywun not talking?”); the distant hum of traffic; some twat still talking on his mobile (“Hahaha…Yeah, right. Cheers, mate, yeah. I’ll see you at the football tomorrow. Yeah, speak soon. Bye.”); rustling leaves and scraps of paper blow thru the gutter, driven by a gust of wind; people in queues, standing at shop-counters, money or goods in hand, freeze-framed at the moment of transaction, uncertain what to do or how to proceed…people were visibly squirming, embarrassed by this enforced act of silence…stranded, temporarily raw and exposed, unable to hide their naked, awkward humanity beneath a wall of banal noise…
I watched an interview with William Burroughs a couple of evenings ago and the interviewer asked him why he thought that Language was a virus. Ol’ Bill answered that speech...the need to talk, is an uncontrollable urge, a spasm…that it seems to come from somewhere else, from outside of ourselves. Humans just can’t help themselves: they are unable to shut the fuck up.
Of course, it’s only right that we remember the dead and the dying of so many wars, past and present…a billion lives, a billion deaths: some brave and heroic, some stupid and pointless…most of them terrible, all of them human. So many potential futures snuffed out…because of churches and corporations and crusades and trade, and because of a handful of greedy, evil, privileged fuckers whose need to control us will ultimately ruin us, who widen the small differences between us into a chasm so that we’ll continue to fight in their name and keep them on top of the whole stinking monkey-heap.
And it’s also only right that we should be made to twitch and shuffle with embarrassment, that our guilty bodies should betray us when we're faced w/ two minutes where the facade suddenly fades and we are forced to think about the millions who have died so that we can eat and breed and shit and shop.
Prevented from buying things, forced to stand still and actually listen to the sound of the world for two minutes, cut adrift from the familiar, comfort-blanket noise of our mobile-phones, TVs and i-Pods, we are lost, helpless and pitiful, like rabbits caught in the headlights of a huge, on-coming truth…deprived of monkey-chatter and artificial ad-noise, of the ring-tones and the digital info-backdrop that constitute a constant bit-stream of orders from High Command, this silence temporarily showed us up as the fucking automatons we truly are.