Fleur Duval remembered her mother Rachel lamenting the loss of life at the Eureka Stockade which occurred at Ballarat in 1854, “they had to die in order to get a response to their grievances”, were the words that left an indelible impression on her mind. For her, the Eureka Rebellion was identifiable with the birth of democracy in Australia as it inevitably unleashed the forces required to confront the implacability of corrupt entrenched power…30 diggers and 6 troops dying in as many minutes occurred at the Eureka Stockade when a polyglot people becoming Australians, dissented not so much against government but against bad government.
When next she returned to Bakery Hill in Ballarat to visit her mother, Fleur Duval noticed that Rachel had boldly drawn a red circle around a number on her kitchen calendar. November 11 is a resonant day in Australian history and mythology. It is the day the bushranger Ned Kelly was hanged and Prime Minister Gough Whitlam was dismissed, and the day old men sell poppies in the streets to remember other men killed in France, at Gallipoli and on other battlefields. And it was on November 11, 1854, that up to 10,000 gold diggers and their families gathered at Bakery Hill…where Fleur’s family homestead now stood…amid heat and flies and sly grog-sellers and government spies to adopt a charter setting forth their grievances and their hopes.
November 11 represented a combination of myth and pragmatic acceptance for Fleur. She saw herself as part of a family tree…a flowering gum tree she named it…whose roots were as intricately part of the whole as were its flowering bits. Sitting under the gum tree in her mother’s garden at Bakery Hill this November 11 eating salami, cheeses and biscuits and drinking alcoholic cider, the two women drifted into confidences and recollections of past events that connected pen and sword.
Fleur conveyed to Rachel her interest in people who possessed the innate ability to connect the particular and general for the purpose of serving the common good. “People who don’t let erudition get in the way of their art”, she remembered her mother replying.
But one thing Rachel had said on that November 11 about the Eureka saga while they were in the garden at Bakery Hill would resonate in her mind for years to come. Summing up her impressions of the Eureka saga, Rachel had said, “At a time of apathy and cynicism about politics it shows how people, when they choose to do so, can change the world.”
Fleur Duval met Chuck Willmore when she attended Princeton University USA as an exchange student in 2003. She was 24 when they met. He was 6 years older than her, studied commerce and had a passion for Grand Prix racing. He owned 2 racing cars and had come second in a major event that took place in Portland, Oregon. He was the only child of Jane and Jesse Willmore who owned a very large and profitable business called ‘Hygiene Paper Products ’ supplying a swathe of stores and supermarkets across a range of states. Chuck, the man of action, was later to claim that he fell in love with Fleur upon hearing of her mother’s theory about the limits of theorizing, “words without actions were for those who sat on their ‘rings’ unable to engage in anything apart from theory.”
Fleur and Chuck had been happily married for 10 years by the time of the crash that took his life at the Metro Grand Prix in 2013. Life had been good for Fleur for so long that the very idea of change had escaped her attention until she lost Chuck. Sure she had witnessed the passing of Chuck’s parents and the great Wall Street meltdown in 2008, but those events in themselves had not set her ruminating on the meaning of change or loss, let alone anything else, because she had been so completely cocooned in the presence and protection of Chuck. Now all of that was gone and she felt uncertain of how to act as there was no longer a context in which to express her thoughts. Her life, as she had known it, had vanished with Chuck. For want of something better to do, she returned to reading the notes on philosophy she had compiled while a philosophy student in Melbourne.
That the ancient Greeks…pre-Plato…used myth to explain reality as time in motion, suddenly captivated her imagination. Could it be that in death, we all return to a cauldron of primary activity for rebirthing?
One day at the supermarket while she was reading the small print on a tub of yogurt she became acutely aware of a woman with a baby-sling standing next to her. Looking more closely at the baby that was no more than two weeks old, she was surprised that so tiny a creature was capable of holding her gaze. Suddenly, the words, ‘out of the cauldron and into the cradle’ came to mind, and before she had time to think she had uttered Chuck’s name loudly. The young woman departed the dairy-aisle with surprising alacrity.
While gazing abstractly at the young mother who had departed in haste, she began to believe that reality was giving her theory of ‘rebirthing’ accreditation. Something was about to reveal to her the essence of things, she thought. For a long while after the supermarket experience, she saw Chuck in random forms.
One afternoon at the zoo she encountered a large male gorilla with very-very sad eyes and it immediately projected a magical hold-your-gaze spell on her. It seemed to know something she didn’t. Transfixed, she would intermittently articulate her late lover’s name as the primate continued to look at her with mournful eyes that never blinked. The official notice that repeatedly advised patrons that the zoo was shortly to close took an eternity to penetrate Fleur Duvall’s theoretical sanity. She returned home in a distressed state, uncertain about her connection to the external world.
The next day she confided her problems to her doctor and was prescribed the appropriate medication. Doctor Sue Ryan advised Fleur to consider doing some voluntary work with a charity she herself regarded as a good cause. “Time you got out of yourself” she advised Fleur. The charity Doctor Sue Ryan recommended was one which helped service the tent cities that were springing up in and around Portland. Her other option was to involve herself somehow in the company “Hygiene Paper Products” she had inherited after the death of her husband. But by all accounts the business was running like clockwork, so she decided to leave well enough alone.
Fleur’s experience of tent cities rushed through her psyche like a cyclone. She was totally unprepared for it. She had inadvertently stumbled upon the quintessential cauldron of primary activity in its most mortal form…human survival and little hope of escape from it, let alone rebirth, for a multitude of people cast aside by an essentially anti-social economic ideology indifferent to the ignominy it delivered up to the citizens of a once proud country. But what was strangest of all was that this was happening in America just months before the 2016 Presidential Elections and it was hardly a newsworthy affair.
That night Fleur lay in her bed staring at the ceiling feeling alone and distressed, trying to understand where the American dream had gone. She could hardly believe that following the Wall Street crash, the shysters who stole the resources of an industrious workforce were rewarded a second time when they were bailed out by the government which, in effect, delivered a one-punch knockout blow to the taxpayer by imposing responsibility for debt upon them as American taxpayers.
Fleur soon discovered that large tent cities had been established in the heart of major cities such as Seattle, Washington, D.C. and St. Louis. Homelessness had gotten so bad in California that the L. A. City Council had formally asked Governor Jerry Brown to officially declare a state of emergency. And in Portland where she worked, the city had extended their “Homeless Emergency” for yet another year. She found herself reflecting on the fact that the stock market had continued to experience a boom for the last couple of years, but for those on the low end of the economic scale things had just continued to deteriorate. More than 500,000 people were homeless in America right now, but that figure was increasing by the day. Fleur dreamed that night that she was within the Eureka Stockade loading muskets for the brave-of-heart diggers who fought for a fair go for all.
As election year in America 2016 came splutteringly closer, the level of petty vitriol, vindictiveness and nauseous narratives of one kind or another increased exponentially. The two candidates contesting the Presidency looked more inept, corrupt and pathetic by the hour. Trump and Clinton were perceived as the Presidential hopefuls who represented nothing more or less than the death of representation itself. From Fleur’s perspective, 3 months out from November 8, things looked grim indeed. She had great difficulty in trying to understand why the ordinary citizens hadn’t taken to the streets in protest.
Fleur Duval lay lazily gazing at the rosette in the ceiling above her bed. It had been yet another day exposed to the misery and pain created by unfettered mismanaged economic order. Without warning she perceived the rosette as a large arsehole and it appeared to be telling her something. Astonishingly, the arsehole appeared to say “Commodify Your Dissent”. Suddenly sitting up in bed, she turned to look at the arsehole again and heard it say, “The trickle-down effect can only be explained as Fat Cat orifices stuffing-up the public mucous membrane with the odour of foul excretions”. The words of the arsehole seemed symbolic of the state of affairs she was now struggling with. Looking at the dark tones of the rosette once again, Fleur wondered if the ‘light’ might come from where the sun never shines. With mouth agape Fleur listened to the words coming from the puckered orifice above her head.
Sometime passed before Fleur realized she had been in communication with an oracle. Its final words, “Monopoly Capital sucks everything to the top, leaving dereliction in its wake”, conjured up visions of tent cities, homelessness and squalor.
Fleur experienced an epiphany. From nowhere the words uttered by her mother on that last November day in Ballarat when they were commemorating ‘Eureka’, came back to her; Rachel had said apropos the Eureka Stockade, “At a time of apathy and cynicism about politics it shows how people, when they choose to do so, can change the world”. As Fleur drifted off into sleep she decided to use the resources of “Hygiene Paper Products” as her sword in the battle to alleviate the apathy the unrepresented people had been thrust into. The arsehole had given her an idea.
When Fleur Duval outlined her plans to the workers at Hygiene Paper Products of printing the toilet paper and other products with the words “The Motion is Passed, Corporate Money Corrupts Democracy, Stains That Shame”, the die was cast.
Fleur noticed the look of incredulity on the face of her General Manager as she informed him of her plan to print “Pass The Motion” text on all of Hygienic Paper Products toilet rolls. Upon hearing the details of new packaging strategies like, “EVERYBODY’S GOT ONE…DO IT FOR DEMOCRACY”, Jake Noonan, General Manager of Hygienic Paper Products, had a hissy fit before wilting under Fleur’s new purposeful gaze. Capitulating to her will, he accepted a separation payout on the spot.
Fleur Duval had proposed that every ballot paper should be submitted with a soiled piece of paper on election-day so as to highlight the existence of the bad smell now permeating the political and economic systems. 2008 had sent Main Street down the toilet and the memory of that event was still a major irritant to the collective mucus membrane. The idea of rebranding his favourite de lux best-selling toilet paper line, “Grace in Motion”, to read “Farewell Corporate Motions”, and the tissues to be rebranded with the words, “Pull Your Pants Down For Democracy”, was a bridge too far for Jake Noonan. When that workhorse of toilet rolls “Dependable” became “Fat Cat Poo” and “Wall Street Waste”, his world seemed to collapse around him. The very idea of politicizing toilet paper accelerated his departure and with termination papers that were strictly unpolitical, he made a quick exit from Hygiene Paper Products.
The success of the shit for democracy rebellion known to most people as “Everybody’s Got One”, or EGO as it affectionately came to be known surprised everybody. For the media, the experience had become a hydra-headed farce de jour alternatively promulgating prudishness along with a mawkishly Rabelaisian style of humour. 12 million people were alleged to have contributed to the success of the rebellion. A New York Times headline read “America Caught With Its Pants Down”. Another national newspaper ran the headline, “Landslide Win To S**t” when reporting that staff at polling booths all over the country had fled their stations due to the noxious odours emanating from booths across the states.
The initial shocks that inevitably occurred were predictable to some degree. But what really gave traction to the enterprise was the fact that the election campaign had come to be perceived as a strange non- event. It was like Doctor Strangelove had begat bastard children … Donald and Hillary… with Alice in Wonderland, and with one month to go before the first Tuesday in November, America had become a beehive abuzz with discontent and disbelief, knowing there was nothing in it for them. It seemed to be all about a couple of wackos and their cohorts holding the rest of the country to ransom.
It was at this point in time that wise-guy Bill O’Reilly created a segment on talk-back-radio called “Would You Do IT”. The segment was so popular that it soon doubled in radio time. Soon every talk-back radio station across the country was running a similar program. By the time it barnstormed through television…especially the late evening shows…it was evident that the Fleur Duval and Hygienic Paper Products campaign had become more dynamic that the election itself…and it was highly amusing to see on television the angry response a Park Lane Matron could deliver when asked “Would You DO IT…would you be part of the program?”
Fleur Duvall took note of the significance of the date, November 11, when Homeland Security arraigned her for that “little chat” concerning national security. When Rear Admiral Alan Hutchinson introduced himself to her, she was tempted to make a quip about the first word in his impressive title, but managed to restrain herself.
Rear Admiral Alan Hutchinson seemed firmly ensconced in a Homeland Security fantasy with the light to his back, and only capable of seeing phantoms flickering on the wall of the cave that enclosed him, Fleur mused. He had been inducted into a service that required little intellectual input. His form of patriotism was one which was handed to him on a platter when he was co-opted into military service. Merciless mercenary, she thought! He and Fleur responded to a fait accompli from within parallel universes. There was no meeting of minds. He was saying that the government might very well classify the actions of “Everyone’s Got One” as a terroristic organization, when she laughed. When he wanted to know what she was laughing at, she responded by interrogating him. She asked him if he knew that November 11 was the anniversary of Ned Kelly’s hanging and a significant day in the hallowed halls of Australian rebelliousness. “Ah! … Australia, we have a base there” he replied.
When Rear Admiral Alan Hutchinson notified her that at the very most she could be charged with inciting civil war, she knew that her enterprise had succeeded beyond her wildest dreams. Certainly delivery trucks carrying the EGO products had been stoned in some quarters and were cheered and had confetti thrown over them in other places, but the response to the rebellion had enabled the people to find their collective voice for a day. Fleur had discovered that commodified-dissent would have to start at the bottom.
– by Denis A. Conroy