Chile, May 1983… the brutal dictator Augusto Pinochet’s secret police and repressive regime is about to fall. Remarkably it will be defeated by mass mobilization of citizens who protest by banging pots and pans in a din where the familiar becomes revolutionary.
Montreal, May 2012… It’s eight o’clock, normally Noah’s bedtime. Instead, we are on our third floor balcony. Noah has a big aluminum pot, I have the lid. We are both banging away with wooden spoons and whooping like Indians in a B- western.
“Dad look! Didi is there.”
Our neighbor to the left is a 40ish single Mother with a 17 year old boy who looks like what Noah might grow into… tall, cute, courteous and smart as a whip.
She waves a wooden spoon at us before bringing it down on an old pan.
“This is sooooooooooo cool, dad. Woooooouuuhoooouuuuuu.”
Our provincial government has passed law 78, restricting the right to protest, in an attempt to crush a student strike that has entered its 100th day. The government’s autocratic, contemptuous response has sickened an increasingly large majority of citizens.
Noah has stopped banging. I do the same. The whole street is filled with the clamor of clanging metal. We can hear it from near and from far. It feels like the whole city is out on balconies, porches, in kitchen windows.
The message is clear. We are the citizens, in our everyday life, with everyday implements that give sustenance, which represent the warmth of mothers and kitchens and collectivity, We, the citizens, endure and will not accept to be silenced.
To the left and the right of us, all the way up and down the street, people are out. Even the old, bitchy, warted woman across the street is whacking together two old lids like cymbals.
Noah has gone quiet, wide-eyed, mouth almost agape.
“Dad….” is all he can say.
The hair raises on my arms. Generally happens when I’m moved by beauty.
This clanging symphony of domesticity cannot be stopped by any law or pepper spray or arrogant baton charge ordered by corrupt arrogant autocrats.
A voice rings out from somewhere. Another joins in, then a third, a fourth….a multitude.
Noah raises his pot and bangs down with such pleasure.
“Viva! Viva! Viva!” He closes his eyes like a conductor before his orchestra.
The old lady across yells a shrill, cackling “Viva!” like she’s rediscovered she also belongs to the future, not just the past.
A police car rolls slowly up the street. Everybody goes wild with pleasure. The noise becomes elemental, rises to a level that shakes the foundations of the neighborhood.
Noah is gone. Banging, whooping, dancing. This is way better than being in bed.
The protest is supposed to last twenty minutes. At 8h20, there’s a crescendo, a renewed intensity before it suddenly stops.
The silence is as deafening as was the cacophony. People turn in slowly, waving to each other.
We step back into our apartment.
“Dad, that was so awesome. Can we do that again, tomorrow?”
“Sure, every night until the law is repealed.”
“Wow, dad, everybody was out, dad, everybody! Even the really fat guy, sorry to say that, but he’s really fat, yeah and he stays on his balcony and never does anything. He was laughing and like really enjoying it.”
“Yeah, that’s cool. People power. Boo to the bad guys.”
“I know, I know, brush my teeth, feed my fish and go to bed.”
“That’s great, Noah.”
He skips off to the bathroom.
“Noah Power…oh yeah…viva!”