18 December 2009

Forbidden City ’89

I was late for something but couldn’t remember what. I took solace in knowing that by the time I remembered it would be too late anyhow. I had an appointment later to interview this professional protestor from California. It was a family business. You know how in some families all the men serve in the armed forces or become cops or firemen, well this guy came from a long lineage of professional protestors dating back to the famous Boston Tea Party in 1773. This guy was even at İTÜ when they stood up against the American Navy Sixth Fleet arriving at Istanbul port. Random protests, he was there. Underground these guys were known as “Flints”; they were professional fire starters; mercenaries or “dissidents of fortune”. They traveled the world writing rhyming slogans and organizing uprisings. It was good work if you could get it. There’s always someone upset about something somewhere. In fact, that was their somewhat unofficial motto; passion for a price. The history of the Flints is shrouded in mystery and controversy, due in part to the fact that various individuals have been solely attributed to its founding, and also due in part to a very strict code of secrecy and what can be construed as a practice of deliberate mythologizing by some Flints. Flints don't use last names, even with one another. They just use a first name and a number or a color – think “John 3” or “Bobby Green” (Yes, that’s where Quentin Tarantino got the idea from in Reservoir Dogs). Due to the colorful history of the Flints and the confirmed links of some of its members to organized crime, the Illuminati and various “shadow governments”, speculation and rumor about both the history of Flints and their activities are rife. These guys were practically unionized unlike most rogue protesters who tend to be a bunch of colicky college kids with rich parents up on Society Hill. There were other groups of failed street theatre players, actors and mimes but they weren’t as organized and didn’t have the clout to land themselves on the guest lists for the bigger, high profile protests. Some protests, you see, were, behind the scenes, just as competitive as getting into Studio 54 for Bianca Jagger's 27th birthday. Take Tiananmen Square for instance. That was huge. Tiananmen Square on your résumé was like having a Wharton MBA on Wall Street. If you were there for Forbidden City ’89, it meant you were a player; a real “Flint”. Tiananmen Square was like Woodstock for hippies or Altamont for The Red & White. Do you remember “Tank Man” – the “anonymous man” who stood defiantly alone before a line of Type 59 battle tanks? He was a Flint. He retired after Tiananmen and started his own firm of professional dissidents. True story.

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