Saturday, December 22, 2007

Freedom of Association

I can't remember when this happened - some time way back before I got married, obviously. When I'd finished Uni, had a job and enough income to afford a flat of my own.

It was a Friday night - I was in my poky little kitchen, turning a chook over in the black cast iron roasting dish, when I heard a knock on the door. "Bugger, she's early!" I thought. The chook still had a good half hour to go and so did the spuds. I hadn't got round to blanching the haricots vert yet, nor had I set the table or crammed the candles into the necks of the Mateus bottles.

But it wasn't her at the door - it was some bloke I hadn't ever seen before, and behind him a few people who all had one thing in common - they were complete strangers to me.

"G'day, I'm Eric," he said, "Tom said you might be able to help us out."

"Uh, I'm a bit busy right now - I've got a friend coming over for dinner at eight."

Tom I knew only vaguely - he was the weird downstairs neighbour with the Che Guevara poster glued to the outside of his front door who'd buttonhole you on the staircase to ask you if you were interested in going along to a forum on the socialist approach to stopping the international arms trade and other such exciting events.

"Yeah, well the thing is, we need somewhere to hold our meeting tonight."


"Well Tom told us your thinking was fairly sound - for a bourgeois - so maybe we could use your place."

"I've got a friend coming over for dinner at eight."

So then this bloke, who still hadn't introduced himself to me gives me a pointed stare and said:

"You've heard of freedom of association, haven't you? It's a basic human right."

I gave him one of those blank looks you give someone who's just said, or done something totally astonishing, then patiently repeated:

"I've got a friend coming over for dinner at eight." Since that clearly wasn't going to be enough to get the message across I spelt out the consequences "You'll have to find somewhere else to hold your meeting."

"Typical f'k'n bourgeois pseudo-leftist..." he grumbled, "Care more about your own bloody sex-life than basic human freedoms!" His firends all gave me disapproving glares and disappeared into the night.

A few days later the managing agents for the flats came round to inspect Tom's place and he received an eviction notice. Apparently there'd been a few complaints from one or two of the other tenants about loud music in the wee small hours and other strange goings on. I didn't learn about it until I bumped into him as he was moving his stuff out to his new place.

"What sort of person would do something like that?" he asked, after recounting the events just described, "Where's the class-consciousness?"

"No idea." I said and went upstairs to sit down and listen to Bach's Mass in B Minor, on vinyl, confident that this time the et resurrexit wouldn't be interrupted by The Ballad of Joe Hill coming up through the floor.