Monday, 7 December 2009

::06 12 09::

An Unlikely Activist
Ben Mansour Mimoun, 68, is a habitual activist. Having focussed his efforts on the promotion of multiculturalism throughout his life he’s also been distracted by anarcho-veganism and expelled from his homeland Morocco for his allegiance with insurrectionary socialism.

We met as a result of a recurring battle between food and bed that happens each time I pass through a city alone. As usual, food had walked off with the prize of the few Euros that I had to spend on one or the other. The Belgium chips and waffles went down well but left the victor with a few hours until dawn as everything else began to close.

I walked up to the Arabic neighbourhood near Gare du Midi where it was probable that the Moroccan takeaways there had the stamina to stay open until I could enter the station at 5am. Typical of any late night cafĂ© near a station I was offered some weed, however, determined to get some use out of the backgammon I’d foolishly packed I returned the gesture by suggesting we play instead.

He had other things to do. We spoke for a while and I went inside. The dealer got back to work and Ben struck up a conversation about racism in Britain. He’d been watching the footage of anti-Islamic demonstrations in Nottingham on Al-Jazeera, however, it offered an opportunity for me to find out about everything he’d done.
Worldly and knowledgeable, until it came to AIDS which he said you couldn’t catch if you were circumcised, he snuffed his snuff and we chatted about his time working for Ravage, No Paper and SOS Racism in Amsterdam. He cooked at the famous autonomous kitchen Autonomcentrum and is still active now, directing Mrax.

It was clear that his anarchist uniform of black Dickies and a hoodie had enjoyed a lifetime in rebellion. Whilst the scenester protestors might dress up like Bill Ayers (police photos below), here was the fashion inspiration for the more autonomous activists.

His saggy face looked like a basset hound as I caught him cadge a Lipton from the fridge and sneak it into his pocket. This freegan from three generations ago has probably used that look a lot. However, whether it was because he saw a similarly rebellious streak in me or because he was pleased to have beaten me twice at backgammon, my completmentary chick-pea stew and mint tea was well received.

It was nice to come across this diehard in the most unexpected of places.

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