The Busdriver Parable

Ragged storm clouds gathered ahead in the distance
Over the factories and smoldering sparks;
The busdriver could kinda hear faint music from behind
Where the sun shined and the immigrants marched.

In trained silence, workers hobbled onboard,
Grim and grey and broken by the smokestacks ahead,
Each one lost in their memory of war, wishing
Life was worth more than debt and death.

Over the factories, the shadow of a missile reflected in the sky—
15 minutes to impact, the busdriver shifted the bus into park
And, turning to look at the passengers, he cried:
“¡Ya basta!” Enough is enough and suddenly disembarked.

The passengers awoke to the raw heat of chance,
And they could hear the protestors’ roar, softly maybe
While the busdriver darted down an open alley way—
For love, for the fight, forever, they couldn’t say.

Yes, the bus sat deep in thought
15 anxious minutes away from the obliging storm.
The passengers’ nightmare seemed to stop
As they looked from the factory to the open bus door.

After the busdriver was long out of sight,
One passenger offered to drive all the way to the factory
But the other passengers dissented, murmuring from their seats,
“¿If one man can be free, why not me, why not me?”

The story of the liberated bus driver and the awakened passengers is not a new one. Its timelessness stems from the anarchist authority-defying action, a folk testament to free will and responsible democracy. I don’t know its exact origin, but I’ve tracked down at least two appearances of it. The first one below is from Crimethinc., which means it is anonymous, or mythological in origin, used as propaganda to awaken people to their innate ability to care for themselves, even in the absence of authority. The second one was written by Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano, but who knows where he heard it first. The allusions to the Spanish civil war introduces an interesting material dialectic regarding relationships of power, it also affirms the deep philosophical anarchy of the archetypal tale. My verse rendition above treats the anti-authoritarian agenda with a tension whose resolution is left to the reader.
– Michaël Veremans, 13/11/10

Untitled (But Who Will Take Out the Garbage?)
From Fighting for Our Lives: An Anarchist Primer

It was in Barcelona, some years after the civil war, when the memory of the syndicates still remained, unutterable, under the iron heel of the fascist regime.
City bus #68 was making its rounds one particularly sunny spring day, when the driver slammed on the breaks at an intersection. “Fuck this,” he swore in angry Catalan, and, opening the bus doors, stomped out into the sunshine.
The passengers watched in shock at first, and then began to protest anxiously. One of them stood up and started to honk the horn. After a few tentative beeps, he leaned on it with all his might, sounding it like a burglar alarm; but the fed up ex-bus driver continued, noncahalant, on his way down the street.
For a full minute, the riders sat in stupefied silence. A couple stood up and god off the bus themselves. Then, from the back of the bus, a woman with the appearance of a huge cannon ball and an air of unconquerable self-possession stepped forward. Without a word, she sat down in the driver’s seat, and put the engine in gear. The bus continued on its route, stopping at its customary stops, until the women arrived at her own and got off. Another passenger took her place for a stretch, stopping at every bus stop, and then another, and another, and so #68 continued, until the end of the line.

“Crónica de la ciudad de La Habana”
from El Libro de los Abrazos by Eduardo Galeano

Los padres habían huido al norte. En aquel tiempo, la revolución y él estaban recién nacidos. Un cuarto de siglo después, Nelson Valdés viajó de Los Angeles a La Habana, para conocer su país.
Cada mediodía, Nelson tomaba el ómnibus, la guagua 68, en la puerta de hotel, y se iba a leer libros sobre Cuba. Leyendo pasaba las tardes en la biblioteca José Martí, hasta que caía la noche.
Aquel mediodía, la guagua 68 pegó un frenazo en una bocacalle. Hubo gritos de protesta, por el tremendo sacudón, hasta que los pasajeros vieron el motivo del frenazo: una mujer muy rumbosa, que había cruzado la calle.
—Me disculpan, caballeros —dijo el conductor de la guagua 68, y se bajó. Entonces todos los pasajeros aplaudieron y le desearon buena suerte.
El conductor caminó balanceándose, sin apuro, y los pasajeros lo vieron acercarse a la muy salsosa, que estaba en la esquina, recostada a la pared, lamiendo un helado. Desde la guagua 68, los pasajeros seguían el ir y venir de aquella lengüita que besaba el helado mientras el conductor hablaba y hablaba sin respuesta, hasta que de pronto ella se rió, y le regaló una mirada. El Conductor alzó el pulgar y todos los pasajeros le dedicaron una cerrada ovación.
Pero cuando el conductor entró en la heladería, produjo cierta inquietud general. Y cuando al rato salió con un helado en cada mano, cundió el pánico en las masas.
Le tocaron bocina. Alguien se afirmó en la bocina con alma y vida, y sonó la bocina como alarma de robos o sirena de incendios; pero el conductor, sordo, como si nada, seguía pegado a la muy sabrosa.
Entonces avanzó, desde los asientos de atrás de la guagua 68, una mujer que parecía una gran bala de cañón y tenía cara de mandar. Sin decir palabra, se sentó en el asiento del conductor y puso el motor en marcha. La guagua 68 continuó su recorrido, parando en sus parada y se bajó. Otro pasajero ocupó su lugar, durante un buen tramo, de parada en parada, y después otro, y otro, y así siguió la guagua 68 hasta el final.
Nelson Valdés fue el último en bajar. Se había olvidado de la biblioteca.

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One Response to The Busdriver Parable

  1. I like Galeano’s version.

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