It is over two years ago that I wrote ‘The Gentle Art to Subversion’ parts one and two, which I now realise are crying out to become the introduction to the opus that will be ‘The Beginner’s A-Z of D.I.Y Subversion’. I hope that you will excuse me for publishing them again – together with a footnote, which I hope will buy me patience and, if not exactly sympathy, then perhaps some protection from litigation – before I begin the serialisation of my masterpiece in earnest…
This is not a terrorist handbook. If you are scanning this page at random whilst pretending to peruse some far more worthy thread, you need not be concerned – it is highly unlikely that you will receive a knock on the door from a shady-looking character with a rolled-up umbrella and a GCHQ security pass hanging from a purple lanyard around his neck. You can read on in relative safety. You are unlikely to find yourself on the receiving end of a polonium enema just yet.
Perhaps we should begin with a definition. My hastily Googled enquiry offered this – Subversion: the undermining of the power and authority of an established system or institution. I see it more as the art of being a bloody nuisance. Like stretching Clingfilm over the toilet bowl, it seldom ends well. I tend to think that the aim of undermining the entire established system might be a slightly ambitious one for a long-in-the-tooth loner such as you. I am happy to discuss subversion in all of its forms, from hacking the Pentagon computers to leaving a drawing pin on the Bowl’s Club Secretary’s chair, but I urge you to consider – those on the receiving end of acts of subversion do not necessarily share your healthy regard for democratic rights and may just call the police if you continue to shout rude words through their letterbox – worse, they might just open the door and chase you.
Subversion is a gift for life. The desire to subvert is there from birth. Any parent will recognise the look on a baby’s face as it widdles on the changing mat or poos in a freshly changed nappy. The urge to subvert grows with the child. School brings unrivalled opportunities: bird whistles behind a raised desk lid; innocently made smart-arse remarks during class discussions; getting lost on the way to classes; falling to sleep during them… all of the things that teachers love. In adulthood, the opportunities to act subversively occur daily. I am not talking about the kind of actions that could cause physical harm; I’m talking about the slight discomfort of a rubber band on the back of the neck, a dried pea in a brogue, an unpicked seam in the underwear… And I’m not necessarily thinking about actual physical irritation, I’m thinking mental too. I’m thinking about moving the most expensive suit you can find onto the Bargain Rail at Next; I’m thinking about casually pretending to pick up a loose bolt from the floor near the railings at the top of the Eiffel Tower or producing your own bottle of tomato ketchup at an oyster bar. It might sound like little more than a practical joke, but it will put a bat up the nightie of a) the multi-nationals, b) the French and c) people who insist on eating raw molluscs in public.
Subversion that results in violence is often linked with religion. Religion is, in my opinion, not something with which the subversive should become involved. Too often, the incorporation of subversion and religion can lead to shed-loads of anguish and not a little bloodshed – just think back to the Sunday school outings of your youth. If you are decided upon a career in religious subversion, there are other websites out there for you, although I would not necessarily recommend accessing them on your mother-in-law’s laptop.
I am no connoisseur of violence – I haven’t queued for a bus in years – but I am aware that some factions quite like it. I am a firm believer that blood is designed to remain within the body. As far as I am concerned, a pool of red liquid around a person’s feet can only spell trouble – unless it is being lapped up by the cat, in which case it probably spells strawberry sauce. I would certainly never encourage risky behaviour: life and limb are not designed to be exposed to danger. Extreme pain is nature’s way of telling you to stop whatever it is you are currently doing, even if it is just sitting cross-legged on a concrete floor. The only advice I can offer is that violence is seldom the answer (unless, ironically, the question is ‘what is seldom the answer?’).
© Colin McQueen 2022