Walking along Hans Crescent every morning on my way to work, I stop briefly to look up at the balcony fronting the room which Julian Assange occupies in the Ecuadorian Embassy. I’ve been passing his place of residence for five years now and I’ve yet to catch a glimpse of him. What I do see though, are some of Her Majesty’s compliant factotums doing their surveillance—best to keep tabs on the Ecuadorian Embassy and to monitor the founder of WikiLeaks . . . now in situ . . . compliments of the arse-licking British government ‘doing-it’ for American imperialism.
Casting a second glance in the direction of Julian Assange’s balcony, I wondered how the greying Julian, pallid from long confinement within a sunless space must feel, regarding the findings of The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention when it determined that “the arbitrary detention of Julian Assange ought to be terminated. That his physical integrity and freedom of movement be respected, and that he should be entitled to an enforceable right to compensation.”
As I proceed along Hans Crescent I become aware that I am moving towards the city’s financial sector in the company of an army of well-dressed arse-lickers, insouciantly marching to the beat of a market ethos that had turned wine into water and morality into blandishments of the vulgar kind. In the land of the tiara, the bowler-hat, the umbrella and the well-fitting two-piece office outfit, an order of soft-power has evolved whereby tolerance of America’s iniquitous hard-power has blindsided the better instincts of the masses, thus allowing a culture of predation to continue. People seem content to go along with any shit if a pay-check is in the offing, I surmised.
The ubiquitous US empire, I realized, had become an omnipresent force capable of vacuuming up and silencing all who dared question the activities of a system promulgating political chicanery . . . and it doesn’t approve of unauthorized disclosure, as the Julian Assange case demonstrates. Particularly as the covert activities of the ever-expanding American Empire . . . criminal by any measure . . . have become ever more rabid and rancid in its quest for full spectrum dominance.
Fat chance that the masters of the universe would give a fig about the UN vote . . . pigs might fly I thought . . . recalling that the UN findings reflected the injustice of a system that hounded a man whose only crime was speaking truth to power. As I exited Hans Crescent, I felt queasy upon realising that it’s the ‘poodles’ . . . in this case the British variety . . . who sustain the status quo. When I arrived at my office I felt somewhat dejected, and closing the door on the outside world, sat myself down at my desk and said aloud to nobody in particular, “compliance is the flip side of expediency.”
As morning turned to afternoon, I continued to reflect on the life of Julian Assange. Here was a man who was in possession of 250,000 diplomatic cables which shone an uncomfortable spotlight on US foreign policy. He published material documenting extrajudicial killings in Kenya, a report on toxic waste dumping on the Ivory Coast and Guantanamo Bay detention camp procedures and material involving large banks such as Kaupthing and Julies Baer. He also revealed the ugly truth of crimes committed by US forces in Iraq and the West’s role in the destabilization of Ukraine in 2014 plus the destruction of Libya, etc, etc, etc, etc.
A heroic man is wilting in a sunless room, while people on the outside are wallowing in deceit and predation. I had to do something I decided . . . no matter how little, absurd or ridiculous!
It was the evening my old friend Gulliver F. Romano and I joked about my likeness to Julian Assange that the plot was conceived. We were dining in Soho and were in an ebullient mood. Gulliver F. Romano had established for himself a reputation . . . now legendary . . . for innovative artistry in creating special-effects in the cinematic industry. He proved time and again that he was a master craftsman capable of transforming any character’s appearance with his life-like latex masks. In the world of cinema, these artefacts came to be regarded as realer than real. His reputation as a special effects engineer was without parallel.
“You’re a dead ringer for Julian he said laughingly . . . and you’re his perfect doppelganger . . . same height, same build, same everything! With one of my masks, even his mother would be taken in.
“Your government is a cabal of arse-licking pussies” he declared, referring to the fact that I held the same citizenship as Julian. “They’re more concerned about who is rooting whom at home, than having the balls to say something in defence of one of their own citizens who speaks out about the barbarity of a mob who famously despatch mercenaries to every corner of the globe in the name of democracy. Losers are arse-lickers who feel secure if they spend their lives on their knees. Julian is a moral patriot at odds with the sinecure of pygmies who constitute the Australian Government. .” Pausing a moment, Gulliver F. Romano then moved closer to me and whispered, “You’re a very wealthy lawyer with a feeling for justice . . . so maybe you can do something for country and cause?”
As a wealthy lawyer and someone aware of the power of imagination, Gulliver F. Romano’s passionate praise for the West’s favourite bete noire greatly lifted my spirits. I thought Gulliver F. Romano was on to something . . . but what? Over the following days, my mind was like a washing-machine churning over a whole range of futile frilly thoughts without ever being able to escape the loop that repeatedly poured negative energy into a vacuum. I was beginning to feel that nobody could be free until Julian Assange was free.
About a week after my discussion about doppelgangers with Gulliver F. Romano, I was again passing through Hans Crescent when I noticed a smart new billboard advertising the availability of recently renovated apartments directly opposite the Ecuadorian Embassy. “A grand Knightsbridge residence featuring an elegant Edwardian red brick façade and encompassing 31 luxury apartments, penthouses and duplexes—sitting adjacent to Harrods” were for sale or lease . . . declared Queens-New-Age-Style-Developments-Of-Knightsbridge. That these apartments had balconies very similar to the ones adorning the Ecuadorian Embassy directly across Hans Crescent made me reach for my cell phone.
Later that day when I rang Gulliver F. Romano to tell him that I had leased a luxury apartment directly opposite the one Julian Assange occupied in the Ecuadorian Embassy, he shouted “aha! aha!” into the phone, which was quickly followed by . . .”I’ll be right over” . . . before hanging up.
Over the course of the following week Gulliver F. Romano and I hatched an April-Fools day event. He said that he had become interested in making masks a long time ago on discovering that they were the key to understanding power. He declared that he thought that Honore De Balzac got it right centuries ago when he said, “Bureaucracy is a giant mechanism operated by pygmies.” Officialdom, he said “forever imposes a mask upon society, the primary objective being to install ‘in situ’ mechanisms that it can control. This is done by ramping-up the fear of having our freedoms taken away from us or by magnifying external threats. Power masquerading as truth’s doppelganger is what is behind the mask, and Julian Assange is yet another example of how we can be caught in this dragnet,” he stated.
Weeks passed while Gulliver F. Romano perfected the Julian Assange mask and I studied the attire Julian favoured . . . shirts, shoes, pants, linen jackets etc . . . and his body movements per the videos we obtained. When the day came to fit the mask on me, our excitement was palpable. After Gulliver F. Romano applied the mask to my face he stepped back a metre and an uncanny silence ensued. Just as the fear of failure was starting to form in my mind, Gulliver threw his arms over his head and exclaimed, “My magnum opus . . . itsperfect . . . OMG!!.”
On the morning of the 1st April I ventured out onto my balcony at 8am knowing that the pedestrian traffic had by now increased exponentially. Looking for all the world like the real Julian Assange, I stood next to 9 feet tall placard which read;
IS OUR DEFENCE
THREE DIMENTIONS OF REALITY EXIST
A BLOATED CORPORATE CULTURE CONTINUES TO MAKE MONEY OUT OF WARS AND PREDATION
A COMPLIANT BUREAUCRACY RUN BY PYGMIES CONTINUES TO SUCK-UP TO POWER
THE COMMON MASS REMAIN MUTE
Within minutes a crowd had assembled, and many of them, their eyes oscillating between my balcony and Julian’s, seemed to react with mesmeric amusement to what appeared to be Julian Assange’s surprising change of habitat. How was it . . . or who approved of such a move . . . when and why did he take possession of one of London’s more luxurious state-of-the-art apartments, may very well have been the first questions many of them were asking themselves.
When Her Majesty’s compliant surveillance-factotums discovered that Julian Assange had done-a- bunk . . . achieving a state of ex-situ that would have made Harry Houdini envious . . . pandemonium broke out among them. Soon, super-special squads were called in to replace the merely special squad who had seemingly failed in their duty. The SAS, M1–5, M1–6 plus an assortment of affiliated actors were soon on the scene . . . the impossible had occurred and heads would roll!!
Within the hour, the Crescent was sealed off as a thoroughfare, and the media was anticipating activities of the pictorial kind . . . action that could make TV couch-potatoes shuffle on their fat buttocks throughout the world, as they revelled in the excitement of the drama.
Gulliver F. Romano and I were happy that we had the prescience of mind to send an explanation of what we intended to do as an April 1st joke to Julian Assange before the event we planned happened. We hoped that the bottle of champagne we had sent to him the day before, accompanied by an account of what motivated us to do what we would do on the 1st of April would reach him on time.
In it, I explained that I would like to engage with him in a toast to freedom from our respective balconies. I also reminded him that Honore de Balzac had insights into the vagaries of the justice system too, “Laws are spider webs through which the big flies pass, and the little ones get caught.” The message concluded with a request that he be on his balcony at midday so that we could drink a toast to his health and freedom.
The SAS shouted and banged on the door to my apartment that I had fortified. They kept shouting, “open the door Mr. Friedel,” to which Gulliver F. Romano replied, “there is nobody in here breaking any law . . . go away!” As midday approached, and Special Forces continued to manoeuvere a front-end loader with heavily equipped combat-troops in the direction of my balcony, the cacophony of noise . . . a blend of helicopter blades, door-pounding, loud amplified and hysterical communications from the street below reached a crescendo.
On the stroke of noon, Julian Assange appeared on his balcony with a bottle of champagne and a glass . . . his presence had the effect of anesthetizing a public affray . . . a truly best of British moment was about to occur . . . an epiphany perhaps . . . was about to redeem the common people from the bread and circuses aspect of the day. Something conscionable was being reawakened in the collective psyche.
A few individuals within what was by now a multitude of people shrieked with a kind of mad glee upon noticing a second Julian Assange . . . the real Julian Assange . . . appear on his balcony. Soon the entire congress gathered below in Hans Crescent became electrified by the dual apparition. The TV cameras were quick to capture the spectacle of two Assange’s looking at each other and smiling.
Then the strangest of things happened; it was as though the eyes of the surveillance apparatus were rendered blind by an inexplicable force. It was as though the bustle and hubris of officialdom’s day-to-day bland rule was checkmated by an expression of grassroots farce that enabled the common people to take centre stage for a moment, causing ‘authority’ to mysteriously faded from view. It was the moment where the collective voice of the people reappeared to remind ‘authority’ that the common people had clout too . . . admittedly it took two David’s to kneecap Goliath.
As the helicopters disappeared and the prattle of communication-hysteria subsided, the noise in Hans Crescent was replaced with expressions of incredulity and good cheer. By now Hans Crescent was jam-packed with people and television cameras, there to stimulate the imagination of a global audience. So, it was at the point where the two Julian’s were seen lifting their glasses in unison to toast freedom, that a mighty roar was heard across London. It appeared that a proud people had for a moment been able to rediscover their civic bearings and discard the livery worn by arse-lickers. Rising from their knees, they rid themselves of the values of a bellicose American empire now deemed to be beyond the pale of civilised behaviour.
I smiled as Julian emptied his glass, not only had I finally caught a glimpse of him, I had supped with him as well.
Denis A. Conroy is a freelance writer residing in Australia.