Like Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring, flash mobs embody community and, ultimately, hope.
For heaven’s sake. I am a 37-year-old man. I’ve built houses, I kind of play rugby, and I have a beard. Yet, whenever I see a flash dance mob on YouTube, I start to cry.
A ten person Irish step dance to bagpipes at Faneuil Hall had me wiping a few tears from my cheeks, a couple choked up smiles, a fuzzy warm feeling. Watching a handful of folks dancing to a Sound of Music remix in an Antwerp train station grow to a huge synchronized mob of smiles and jazz hands had me openly weeping.
In seemingly unrelated news:
Muammar Gaddafi was killed just earlier this week, one among a recent list of ethically vacuous dictators. The Arab Spring has rekindled a sense of hope and cemented our collective, inexorable freedom as a constant, where dictatorships and autocrats are the unnatural component and not the status quo.
Occupy Wall Street has hit Boston and hit JP. There are pamphlets on the T. A real grassroots movement. There are leaflets and stickers cropping up everywhere, like I imagine handbills, born from beer-sodden meetings in the Green Dragon in the 1770s, seemed to multiply.
There is a glimmer of hope, unity, an empathetic and collective understanding that we are not a nation or planet of individuals boot strapping and prescribing to Darwinistic survivalism, but in fact a unified body of individuals, educated, compassionate and other reliant.
In the words of Elizabeth Warren, “There is nobody in this country that got rich on their own . . . Part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.” That is other reliant.
Seemingly unrelated topics, but due to some odd wiring I may have, I see a link. Without sounding Pollyanna-ish (too late), I see teamwork, i.e. flash dance mobs, Occupy Wall Street, Boston, the tundra (one of my favorites). These are not red flags of socialism. They aren’t even unpatriotic. They are unified movements that emanate a sense of goodwill.
Dancing to Michael Jackson in public spaces isn’t a sign of impending American Dream-ending collectivism. It’s good, old-fashioned fun. It creates a common ground that supports everyone in his or her own pursuit of happiness. Perhaps this is what I see in those videos of flash mob dances. A group of people, not looking for fame or fortune, just simply bringing ten minutes of fun to whomever happens to be standing around.
If a group like this is willing to take the time to practice, to meet up weekly, to risk embarrassment, simply to bring a smile to folks walking downtown, or catching a train, then maybe there is hope. Maybe my opinion of late, that this is a Mad Max sort of world where if I don’t strive 24/7 I’ll be eaten up by the wealthy, greedy, out-for-themselves conservative Tea Party/liberal Bostonian climber types, is wrong.
The overwhelming support for the myriad Occupy Wherever-ers, the protests of solidarity around the world, even the “captive” audience synchronized dances of South Asian prisoners, all speak to hope and community.
Hope and community was a seed planted in my mind during Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, since ignored and under-watered, but just recently refreshed by the international community, the tartan-wearing high-stepping folks in Quincy Market and beyond.
I shed tears of joy for the potential all of this may hold, for the fact that despair and hopelessness has not set in, despite how the media insists, and the corporations intimidate, and the lobbyists monger the fear.
And if I wasn’t so busy striving, for fear of irrelevance, and running to the store to buy happiness, I might join in on one of these Occupy situations, or at the least learn the steps to Thriller. However, it should be noted that here, in Boston, the Occupy movement has succumbed and been victim to theft, greed, rape, and apathy. Perhaps then, it is a swing of the pendulum, and this is a small correction, and the middle lies between an unfathomable disproportion of wealth and greed and some sort of hive-mind utopia. Maybe it is a flash dance mob looking for sponsorship to the tune of a semi-corporate pop band in a collectively owned sports arena that recently held a benefit fundraiser for gladiators.
Most likely, it is some unstable version of the two extremes. I yearn for the Star Trek model—no hunger, no money, yet still able to beat the Kobyashi Maru simulation—and a place where one can amass great wealth and lord over the weaker among us, but those weaker still are fed and cared for and can go see a Red Sox game now and then. Though, who knows why they’d want to after this season’s implosion?
—Photo vdrg dansschool/Flickr