A day in Guantanamo
OK not quite. But I have just spent a day in an orange Guantanamo style jump-suit, as part of our student Amnesty Group’s “Orange Wednesday”. This was a bit of harmless and colourful street theatre, designed to draw attention to the injustices of illegal detention all over the world. A few hundred of us, mostly students but some staff, went about our daily business dressed as Guantanamo detainees.
I volunteered for this fancy dress partly because I believe in the cause. But partly because most students seem so un-bothered by issues of surveillance, civil liberties and human rights that it is important to show some solidarity with those who are.
That said, I’m afraid I’ve lost some of my old knack for political action.
The first problem was: was I going to be able to get into the damn suit? (Not an issue for the poor thin creatures at the real Guantanamo, needless to say.) I had ordered an extra-large, but still had my doubts – particularly when the word went about that they only came in one size.
The good news was that it fitted. The bad news was that once in, it was almost impossible to get out. Going to the loo involved a good five minutes twisting and wriggling, before I could manage to release my shoulders and gradually pull the whole thing down.
But worse was the fact that, even when strutting about the Faculty Library in my bright orange, I still didn’t seem to manage to get the Guantanamo message across.
Maybe classicists really are the absent minded, far away creatures that I’m always claiming they’re not. Or maybe, as one of my colleagues suggested, the handbag I was carrying slightly detracted from the overall impact. But the commonest reaction I got, if anything, was “Gosh, you’re bright today”, “Wow, great colour” etc.
One wag asked me if I’d just been hired by Drainco. (Their guys do look pretty similar, but I thought actually I looked closer to an Easyjet engineer). Another, who at least got the point, asked if I was dressed up to celebrate Fidel’s departure.
I rather envied one of my classicist co-demonstrators who had been giving a lecture today and so at least was able to explain to his captive audience why he was so colourfully dressed (and that he wasn’t actually moonlighting as the drain unblocker).
Was it this difficult in the 70s? I don’t remember it being so. But perhaps in truth it was.