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The Politics Of Love

Oscar Beard | 14.02.2006 16:27 | Culture | Free Spaces | London | World

Valentines Day is here again. Did you, like millions of others all across the world, traipse into novelty gift and card shops to buy up cute teddy bears holding velvet red hearts, red roses - real and fake - gold chains and rings? Or diamonds, the ultimate way to prove your love, right?

And cards. Big ones, musical ones, cards with badges and huge fluffy red hearts. But forget about trying to buy a Valentines Day card made from recycled paper. Are you kidding me? A card to prove your love made from second hand paper? Man, how cheap are you? But what about love for our planet? Call the police, we got one of them hippies on the premises. They might be dangerous. Smelly too.

Well, here is a seemingly novel idea, and yet so simple, as promoted by those from the group O-I-L (Operation Infinite Love). Don’t prove your love with expensive gifts that will probably end up in a cardboard box in six months time, rammed behind the water tank in a cupboard. No, prove your love with love.

That was the message on Saturday 11 February down at Piccadilly Circus, under the watchful gaze of the Eros statue, God of love, son of Aphrodite.

Every year for the last three years O-I-L have gathered a colourful bunch of noisy reprobates to hammer out on drums and rock the foundations of Piccadilly Circus with music from portable sound systems.

And this year was no different, despite the cold winter weather. But, the cold just made people dance harder. To Bob Marley’s One Love, Sweet Dreams by the Eurythmics, Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive, and irresistible beats from the Rhythms of Resistance samba band.

Pink was the colour, as one would expect with an event promoting infinite love. Flags declared “Reclaim Love” and people ran around spraying “Love Juice” into the air, a mixture of water and natural aphrodisiacs.

O-I-L is the brainchild of Irish-born Venus, a self-declared love activist: “The reason we call this Reclaim Love is because of Valentines,” she said. “People think that they have to go out shopping to prove that they love somebody. And it’s absolute rubbish. You do not have to go shopping. All you have to do is love them.

“People say that oil and gas are the most important resources on this planet today. That is also rubbish. Love is the most important resource of this planet. Because we are all O-I-L. One In Love.”

The result was a vibrant mass of dancers, Capoerra martial art displays, infinite and typical fun from the now world famous Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army (CIRCA). Hundreds of regular Londoners and tourists were drawn into the love and dance-fest. Even a group of protestors from the Muslim demonstration joined in after their march from Trafalgar Square to Hyde Park.

Halfway through the event Venus called on all those gathered to make a “beautiful big circle to send love and healing out to all the people of the world”.

And they did. A truly incredible sight. Some six to seven hundred people from every background, every nation and religion, all stood hand-in-hand around the Eros statue to celebrate simple and untainted love. In fact, the circle was so large it spilled over and ran past Piccadilly Underground station into Shaftesbury Avenue.

The only concern came from earlier threats to the London Metropolitan Police that week that an anonymous body, possibly terrorist related, was about to try and steal the Eros statue from its plinth.

Several city police watched on, first in confusion. Then they seemed to lighten up as young women flung their arms around them. As the sun went down a three-man team of London’s finest Forward Intelligence Team (FIT squad) appeared, fearing the worst. But they were soon accosted by a gang of clowns who proceeded to heavily violate them with hugs, kisses and general stupidity.

Not even the most serious and stern of the FIT team, my good friend and police cameraman Neil, could keep a straight face. After ten minutes they packed up and left, laughing all the way back to the riot police van parked around the corner.

On the following Monday afternoon I met Venus to help her with some video editing at my tiny North London flat. She told me of O-I-L’s future plans. This year’s Reclaim Love had been the biggest yet. But she was not going to stop there.

“This is only the beginning. By 2009 we want a European-wide Reclaim Love,” she told me. “And by 2015 we want to see it worldwide. Imagine that.”

So, when 14 February appears round the corner next year, stop and think for a while. Shall I go out and buy the one I love a big cuddly red heart, which was probably made in one of the millions of unloving sweatshops across the world? You can usually tell this by the country where the item was manufactured.

Or shall I grab the one I love, be they male or female, and give them the biggest cuddle I can? Consume or just simply love? That is the greatest question of all.

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Oscar Beard
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