Friday, August 7, 2009

Courage, comrades

The google search were not encouraging. I'd typed in the name of the feminist, grass-roots organisation I was thinking about volunteering at, and instead of finding the address I found blogs accusing the organisation of being a socialist cult, and harbouring guns for a red militia. They were written by mothers who'd finally rescued their "brainwashed" daughters from the group's clutches, by concerned citizens, and by paranoid people who couldn't spell "commeee barstads". Still, I'd signed up for an orientation ("Not an initiation." I reassured myself as I headed down into the depths of Gowanus) and my curiosity was piqued. Would they really try and enlist me to the cause, and if so, how would they take my embarrassed English demurrals: "Universal worker's solidarity sounds lovely, but actually I'm really just a freelancer. Can barely be called working, really. I'll just sit this one out, if you don't mind." This Revolution will not be Quite my Cup of Tea.

Inevitably, the meeting turns out to be anti-climatic. Instead of a charismatic cult leader urging us to sign up we have a pleasant girl reading in a dirge-like monotone a lecture on the history of the organisation (media: bad; internet: bad; workers: exploited), and showing us community newsletters and fliers for bake sales that their members have produced. The bake sale seems largely apolitical and unsubversive, to my unseasoned eyes at least. It also happened almost a decade ago. I am smiling tightly and trying to see the point. Then they bring out actual cake and I find myself agreeing to help members edit their self-published projects. Already as I'm nodding and forking in the cake I sense this might be unwise.

When the pleasant girl is replaced by the charmless autocrat I'd already suffered over the phone ("So can I find out about the organisation./Come today at six./I can't come today, I'm afraid. Is there any other.../Orientations are Wednesdays and Saturdays./Great. So I can just come along to one?/ No. / So.../You can't just drop in, when you feel like it. Do you want to get involved?/Well-nervous laugh-I want to find out a bit more first...") I make my excuses and leave.

Flopping down at our regular table at Trout I can see that Chris has already told the others about my orientation.
"I hope you didn't drink any Kool Aid."
I shake my head, wipe the last tell-tale Tiramisu crumbs from my mouth, and decide they wouldn't really understand about the Schedule and the Benefits.
And so it begins...

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