Revolution Ready

Revolution Ready

If you turn your nose to the wind in the provincial town of Dunedin, New Zealand, you may smell revolution in the air. The breeze, which curves steadily over the currents of the Leith River, carries with it the explosive potential for powerful change. While for now, in the Northernmost part of the city, the population of students go about their daily lives unperturbed by the possibility of plots, coups, or overthrow, the essential ingredients are already present for an all out riot.

Comrades, let me state at the outset that the context of the coming revolution is not important to this article. I am not a politician, nor an activist or rabble-rouser. I am merely a connoisseur of the recipe of riots. As I know, from close-watching of Les Miserables, half-attention to socialist memes and probably Banksy, the revolution will not be televised. It may, however, be instagrammed, snapchatted and turned into a YouTube Red for mini-documentary by Vice. My job here is not to incite revolution- it is to anticipate it’s course for your viewing pleasure. 

Every good revolution begins with cheap beer. Nothing else fills the mind with riotous thoughts quite like it. Currently, beer consumption is an unstoppable, yet untapped, force for mischief in the city. I estimate that some enterprising young entrepreneur will unknowingly set the ball rolling toward revolution. Lifting his nose to the wind with tassel swinging, a fresh graduate will smell the fruitful odour of rebellion, mingling with the yeasty scent of beer. Turning down several lucrative graduate packages snagged with a crisp new marketing degree, he will appeal to his parents for capital. Six months later, Constant Revolution will open on George St, in a secret location that everyone will know about. The requirement to knock three times will be thwarted by the long line. The bar is underground - lit appealingly with faux oil lamps. The tables have been lovingly worn-in with sandpaper and intricate staining techniques by underpaid workers in Bangladesh. There is a new retro-style television piping a fresh spring of anti-Trump memes into observers. Professionally contracted graffiti on the unpainted brick walls reads- The Writing is on the Wall.  This ambience, combined with the house beer price of $4 a jug, quickly makes Constant Revolution the most popular bar in town.

The house beer of Constant Revolution is Vive. It tastes approximately, but not exactly, like cat piss. It is resoundingly celebrated by the students of campus, and a source of much pride. The brand is so essential to the consciousness of the student body, the enterprising young entrepreneur takes it upon himself to order 1000 shirts reading “Vive la Revolution” in gothic type on the back. “Constant Revolution” is written over the pocket. The entrepreneur, giddy with his own fresh success, receives the box of shirts from China with excitement. He knows he can sell them, at thirty dollars a pop. However, when he opens the box he finds that the shirt reads Vive la Resolution, a sentiment which undermines the entire spirit of the bar. How could a singular S do so much damage? The entrepreneur, affronted by an attack seemingly so pointedly anti-revolutionary, decides heads must roll.  He calls the company who made them- Corporate Holdings Inc of Lower Yangze, China. Corporate Holdings Inc., is a conglomeration of large factories producing textile consumer goods, including branded sweatpants, beer coolers, visors and fanny packs. Corporate Holdings Inc employs 57,000 people, 2.7 times the number of students at Otago University. Corporate Holdings held very high standards of work to be one of their most important selling points to their customers. When the entrepreneur who pioneered Constant Revolution called their customer service team, they were more than aware that the bar had recently been brought by the manufacturers of several internationally distributed beers. It made them nervous to hear he had negative feedback. Two people, contractors of the company living Dhaka, Bangladesh were fired in response to the call. “Consistent Service” is the motto of Corporate Holdings, and the manager of customer services team assured the young entrepreneur that he intended to uphold it, even if it meant drastic action.

Meanwhile, Constant Revolution was surprisingly doing a roaring trade on the shirts. Irony was a very popular trend. Nobody had any idea that they had not been originally designed to say “Vive la Resolution”, and thought it was a stroke of genius to decorate them thus. It seemed awful funny to them, that the back and the front contradicted each other. They had no idea that two people had been fired because they had accidentally used the wrong letter when typesetting the shirt. Some students liked the saying so much that it began to appear spray painted onto walls around University, and doodled on random desks by those bored in class. People who had never even been to Constant Revolution had heard the phrase. More shirts were ordered, with the error included. This time, Corporate Holdings delivered, an order of 7000 shirts. These shirts could be purchased alongside Vive beer, which was now on sale at liquor-stores across the country, and at Wellington, Auckland, Christchurch and Dunedin outlets. 

The Vive brewery, located in the industrial area of Dunedin, was struggling to keep up with demand when they were thrown into further turmoil. The secret recipe for creating the gently dank flavour of Vive beer, the life-blood that supported the families of the 315 workers at the factory, had been abandoned. Realising that students actually had comparatively little money to spare, the plucky entrepreneur had decided to take the brand along a new trajectory- toward the young professionals of the main centres. The dream of revolution for these office workers was one of sweet escapism as they imagined the excitement that such a reality would bring. They longed for the smell of a flame torch burning in secret underground tunnels. Instead of tedious workmates- friends and allies, ones you would be willing to die for. The masks that might conceal one's true identity. Imagine! Uniting around a cause so important one might give your life for it. The young professionals did not like Vive. They demanded that the house beer of such an important establishment be hoppy, with notes of gunpowder, treason and a hint of basil. It was also asserted that said young professionals would absolutely love to go on a tour of an artisanal brewery with brass fittings and “Vive la Revolution” spray painted in red on the walls. That, after all, made more sense than Vive la Resolution. The bulbous gas lanterns will spit and burn with real gas, and will look suitably grimy right from day one. A company, masterminded by a young entrepreneur from Wellington, sourced genuine grime to be smeared upon the lampshades, scraped from uncleaned ceilings of restaurants throughout Vietnam. 

On the day that the Vive brewery in Dunedin announced they were to become a tourist attraction only- that Vive no. I, II, III, IV and V were to be produced overseas to lower costs, and then shipped in decorative oak barrels to Constant Revolution bars across New Zealand, the paper published a full front page picture of grown men crying. The Newspaper, once the main steady stream of information to Dunedin, had been replaced for most by the internet. Those reading it reduced year by year. The people who worked there had been filled with an underlying panic that soon, the Newspaper, that had been around for over a hundred years, would be unsustainable and their hard work obsolete. They shuddered at the thought of becoming PR assistants or copywriters, something that though they would be good at, they would have no passion for. This has resulted in a change of mindset towards articles which the workers there do not even notice- they begin to report in a gimmicky way to attempt to capture the lost attention of people who once dutifully purchased their pages. The continuation of the Newspaper relied largely on eloquently reporting the actions of the President of America. The Newspapers continued existence could be directly linked to the person it’s employees hated most in the world. The screech of their headlines fell on mostly deaf ears. However, the men on the front cover, who were depicted there wearing white overalls and gumboots with yellow soles, notice. They more than notice. The men have been taught to be deeply ashamed by the act of crying. They regret crying outside the brewery when they hear they have been laid off and do not like it when their friends and family say they saw them on the front of the paper, and offer their pity up. They do not want pity. They want their jobs back.

The old, iconic shirts reading “Vive la Resolution” take on a new meaning for the workers. The Resolution they want is one which gives them back their jobs. They wear them and the intention is no longer ironic. The Resolution shirts are no longer produced- YoPros are not inclined to wear them. The workers create them with well worn t-shirts, stencils and spray paint in the same shade that the decorated the original walls of Constant Revolution. They protest, 200 odd people marching the main street on a Saturday Night. They demand the reopening of the Dunedin brewery and the return of their jobs. Students, watching this display through drunken bleary eyes, are enthralled. The excitement outside the bars is much more thrilling than waiting in the long line to get into Constant Revolution. Such yelling! Such passion! Drunk already, the energy is easily channeled into protest. Some enterprising worker tells the students- Vive beer will cost three times as much if manufacturing moves overseas. The delicious urine-coloured beverage will be replaced with something poncy containing discernable flavour notes. “You students won’t be able to afford it.” The outcry is animalistic. One of the recently laid-off has brought along the stencil and the spray paint. It is not long before the town shirts of all the males are discarded in a pile, and their chests boldly present the slogan “Vive la Resolution”. The dresses of the girls, normally sacredly guarded from all but alcohol spills, are doused with the same red paint print. The pain of a stolen icon, once a brave representation of student culture, was now echoed in the stolen jobs. The empathy is emphatic. The students have been told their whole childhood they had could be anything, so why were these people struggling to have jobs at all?

The next day, the Newspaper reports 1000 people stormed the George St Constant Revolution and stole 7 new Italian craft oak barrels full of Vive beer. The drunk and violent crowd, they reported, rolled these barrels down George St, disrupting children sleeping and people urgently trying to getting to the hospital. As they went, they joyously smashed windows and screamed “Vive la Resolution”. As the crowd made its way toward the clocktower, it became larger and rowdier. The newspaper reported the mob was students, throwing glass bottles and spitting at police. It swept, leaving ruin in its wake, up George Street, and through the campus trampling flower gardens and overturning expensive statues in the honour of learning. They swarmed over the Leith river, ignoring the piddling bridge. They, wet and resting the beer barrels on their multiplicity of shoulders, arrived roaring at the clock tower. They crashed open the doors and swarmed inwards. The clocktower in their possession, these young ruffians having destroyed their futures and historic architecture in one foul swoop. As of early this morning, the iconic clock tower was still occupied by the horde. The base was obstructed by a barrier of couches and chairs and other debris. When asked for comment, a University spokesperson claimed the students “represented a few outliers of the student body, and not the University as a business or institution” and “would be dealt with". A student, yelling slurrishly over the barricade, reported “Once we finish drinking this beer….. we are gonna find some gunpowder to fill these barrels with”. According to one source, the beginning of this ‘revolution’ was anger at rising price of beer

This article first appeared in Issue 7, 2017.
Posted 12:30pm Sunday 2nd April 2017 by Mel Ansell.