The Gentle Art of Subversion (part 2)


I urge you, now, before it is too late, to consider what it is that has drawn you to this subversive path. Perhaps you have always harboured an urge to behave subversively. Perhaps only now, after (comfortably) more than half a century of life’s travails, have you built up sufficient resentment to act. Remember: into every life a little rain must fall. There’s always sunshine after the rain etc. etc. Except that there’s not, is there? After rain, there’s normally even more rain, followed by fog on high ground and flooding in low-lying areas. Subversion comes in many guises: think Guy Fawkes attempting to blow up the house of commons; think ringing a call centre and leaving your phone off the hook; think taking an unfeasibly long time to read all of the myriad delights laid out before you on the Starbucks menu before asking the extensively over-qualified barista, ‘do you do Nescafé?’.

Whatever subversive action you decide to take, even if it is just sticking your tongue out at someone when they’re not looking, somebody is almost bound to take exception to it. If they react badly, you will find yourself in ‘a situation’. At this point adrenalin will kick in. You are unlikely to experience the fight or flight dilemma as you will be too busy running away. Whatever you do, always make certain that you have a suitable means of escape. Bicycles are excellent, but only if you are heading downhill. If you plan to escape by public transport, always ensure that you know the location of the easy access stops.

Broadly speaking, subversives fall into two categories: a) those who consider themselves torchbearers for the right and good – enemies of injustice and inequality – warriors for a righteous cause and b) those who would really quite like to get their name into the newspaper. Many of those who fall into category a) will enter into politics, whilst many of those who fall into category b) will also enter into politics. The Houses of Parliament are the subversive equivalent of the elephant’s graveyard. Politics is the domain of those who have lost all conviction – or at least home to those who have sued the press for releasing details of their convictions. Subversion is simultaneously the enemy and the father of politics – whilst politicians are often simultaneously the father and employer of any number of tax-deductable children. Winston Churchill remained subversive throughout his political career but then, so did Tony Benn and Dennis Skinner and look where it got them. For most, subversion and political success are mutually exclusive – in much the same way as hand-knitted cardigans and sexual excess. Indeed, for the majority of subversives, subversion and normal social intercourse are also mutually exclusive. Show me a subversive with friends and I will show you a liar. Subversion, like golf, is a group activity in which no member trusts any other member; consequently, most D.I.Y subversives also become solo subversives. After all, what is the point of other opinions if they do not agree with your own?

Somebody once said that 99% of all subversive activity takes place between the ears. They obviously associated with different subversives to me. 99% of what goes on between the ears of the subversives I have met is… well, zilch, quite honestly …and the other 1% involves sexual exploits – 99% of which are fictitious.

Remember, subversion is not all glamour. Che Guevara was indeed glamorous, but not until after he was dead. If you want glamour, you are reading the wrong blog – look elsewhere – there must be one somewhere about existing purely on the calories extracted from cigarettes and cocaine.

I do not seek to persuade anyone that committing subversive deeds could in any way be seen as a desirable course of action. Indeed, I consider it imperative to advise against any activity that may, in any way, be associated with terrorism or extremism and which might, ultimately, lead to the suspicion that it was me who placed the fake dog-dirt in the butcher’s doorway. Amateur subversion seldom involves killing your enemy – although it may necessitate tying his shoelaces together. If you are happy living your life as a friendless bozo, perpetrating small acts of subversion whenever and wherever the opportunity arises, distil from this such succour as you are able – then, for God’s sake, go out and get yourself a life…

The Gentle Art of Subversion (part 1)


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?’).