As an angry young man, and later, as an even angrier old man, I have attended many rallies, marches and protests over the years, but the largest perhaps was in 2003, on the occasion of the Iraq war.

Remember those times? George Bush Jr and his cronies were leading America to war with a mix of lies, distortions and miswired patriotism. Here, loyal lap-dog

Prime Minister John Winston Howard was keen to drag Australia into the quagmire, despite the majority of Australians being, if not fervently against the whole enterprise, then at least distinctly uneasy.

Sure Saddam was a rat bastard but many of the “reasons” advanced for this particular war seemed distinctly dodgy. Weapons of Mass Destruction? Working with Al Quaida? Hmm. Plus there was always the lurking suspicion, often voiced, that maybe it was really just about the Oil. So we marched.

Across the country maybe a million people marched. Here in Brisbane we had the biggest gathering ever recorded. How many marched here on that day? 60,000? 80,000?

100,000? I heard various estimates. It was hard to tell. There were so many people there that day that the head of the march had come all the way back to the Square before the end of march had left. The column of people was four lanes wide and circled six city blocks and there were people still waiting to leave the square by the time I got back there. We had become Ouroboros, the Celestial Serpent that swallows its own tail. Ouroboros is a symbol since ancient times of the Universal Cycle itself, constantly destroying and recreating itself. You know, the old Life, Death, Rebirth thing. Under the circumstances, the march’s metamorphosis into this living Symbol of Creation & Destruction seemed apt.

It was a sombre occasion. Unusually for a demonstration, there was no chanting or singing. For the most part we shuffled along silently, not even talking. Everyone seemed deep in their own dark thoughts. Yes, the crowd’s mood was decidedly grim that day.

Few believed that our marching would change anything. Howard, as always, had nothing but contempt for the people on the streets. No-one wanted this war it seemed yet it was still going to happen. It was a day where it felt like I was living in anything but a democratic nation.

But of course Australia is a democracy of sorts and four years later John Howard not only lost government but even his own seat in parliment, consigned by the Australian people to the dustbin of history in one decisive electoral gesture. But by that time the damage had been done and much blood had flowed under Bagdhad’s bridges, and though little of it was Australian we had certainly contributed.


But there was one incident during the march which brought a little cheer, and the image is lodged in my mind to this day.

       My segment of the crowd was shuffling along, heading down the home stretch back to the Square. We were passing a fine old Victorian-era sandstone building, once a government office block but now converted to a luxury hotel.  It was there that we saw the Naked Couple“.

They were standing in front of a window on the first floor, about twenty feet above the crowd. The Hotel has handsome, floor to ceiling, arch shaped windows which provided a nice frame for the tableau displayed before the crowd. And there they stood, unconcerned by the eyes of the multitude upon them, naked as Adam and Eve.

They were a young, healthy couple, a little flushed and with tousled hair, as though they had just been making love. Behind them in the room we could see the lush hotel bed they had just left. They looked so sweet standing there hand in hand, smiling and laughing and occasionally waving to the crowd. The crowd cheered good humouredly and waved back. The girl’s eyes were shining excitedly. The boy wore a goofy grin. I felt an enormous wave of protectiveness and compassion towards them. They seemed so innocent, and happy and in love.

Then the boy made a gesture, raising one hand to shoulder height with the palm turned towards us, as though in greeting or salutation. As he did so I was overwhelmed by a feeling of deja vu, or possibly presque vu. There was something curiously familiar to what I was seeing. My brain scrabbled to make the connections.

Then it hit me! Pioneer 10 and the “Generic Couple”!

You see, back in the glory days of space flight, around 1973 or thereabouts, NASA sent off a couple of one-way probes into the inky vastnesses of space. One of these was Pioneer 10, due to enter the Alderbaran system sometime about the year 2,000,000 AD.

Now it was someone’s bright idea, I think it might have been Carl Sagan, to turn the satellite-probe into a sort of “Greetings!” card from Earth, on the off-chance that something “intelligent” elsewhere in the galaxy would find it.

To this end various artefacts of significance were enclosed, including some mathematical equations in binary, a record of various earth musics and a metal plaque engraved with a diagram of the solar system next to.. the “Generic Couple”.

Basically this was a simple but elegant line drawing of a naked man and woman standing side by side. The male has his right hand raised to shoulder height, outstretched palm facing you in a gesture of greeting.

Originally the couple were supposed to be holding hands, but NASA vetoed that idea, fearing that the Intelligent Life out there wouldn’t be that intelligent after all and would mistakenly think it was only one creature being portrayed. (the Beast with Two Backs, perhaps ?)

Also interesting to note is that while the male is, if not generously at least adaquately endowed with penis and scrotum, his female companion is sans vulva. Apparently NASA prudishly vetoed the Generic Girl from having any genitalia, and hence on the Pioneer Plaque she is as sexless as a Barbie Doll.

Now one could speculate endlessly on the peculiar psychology of NASA scientests thus revealed, but I’ll just say this: You want to push past the known boundaries of Science, explore far horizons and communicate with strange new races on distant stars but you can’t bring yourself to draw anatomically correct women? Okayeee…

But these quibbles are just marginalia and came later. The essential point was the shock of recognition I received when my mind made the snap connection between the Naked Couple on display above the protest march and the Generic Couple representing the Human Race engraved on that gold plaque drifting between the stars.


Well soon enough the crowd carried me past the Naked Couple. The last I saw them that day they were still smiling and waving and holding hands. It was like we were some strange endless army on parade, eternally marching past the reviewing stand where the Representatives of Life took the salute.

What went through that young couple’s head that day, I wonder. They seemed to be on our side. Were they perhaps making a demonstration of their own, the John &Yoko of our generation? A spontaneous gesture of support? Maybe they just happened to open the curtains then, unaware in their cocoon of love that there was even a march going past, and then just stood there bemused, like a rabbit in the headlights of an oncoming car. Were they “just” high on drugs perhaps, their inhibitions temporarily in abeyance?

It was hard to tell. They certainly seemed to be in favour of making Love rather than War, and on that point we were all in agreement. At any rate there was something reassuringly human about them. It was nice to think that while the whole world went mad with war and fear and hatred, there was somewhere a couple of people who were merely happy to be in love. 

Now it’s nearly ten years later and I wonder if anyone else remembers the Naked Couple. How easily we forget.

Already the military Hawks are talking about the next imperialist venture. Perhaps an invasion of Iran, or maybe Korea. No doubt there will be new protests and marches. Perhaps there will even be another Naked Couple. Pioneer 10 will still be journeying towards the stars and Ouroboros will continue to turn in the endless cycle of Creation & Destruction.



The Reverend Hellfire is a practising Performance Poet and an ordained Minister of the Church of Spiritual Humanists AND the Church of the Universe.

Donations accepted.




~ by reverendhellfire on February 12, 2012.

9 Responses to “MARCHING IN CIRCLES”

  1. Hello Rev: Ahh… all the stupid acts commited by various governments on this planet. Mine (The U.S) especially. From stupid wars to stupid probes any sane being might reason that we as a race are suicidal.
    i think we should stop electing idiots to run things and get naked more.
    I enjoyed reading this post. Interesting and thought-provoking.

    • I seem to recall some years back someone running for office in the U.S. whilst naked. His campaign slogan was “Nothing to Hide.” If only the same could be said for the rest of our leaders!

  2. We marched in Spain “No blood for oil”, the government did not listen. So we marched again and a few months later the government was replaced by a new one. i will post some photos from those occasions when I get them scanned.
    All I could think about was Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War”.
    It seems not much changes in politics, but the world is now a global village and hopefully change will come, if not we are on the path of self destruction.
    thank you for your piece of village history 😉

  3. Keep the fire alive brother, without it entropy will overcome.

  4. George W. and his minions, including PM Howard, were all nuts, of course, more interested in increasing the riches of the rich than in trying to keep the world within sanity. This is a great post: Naked couple and all. If there is intelligent life in the universe, then hopefully they will be able to sing and write poems and live life rather than worrying about who is richer than rich. If Midas went to war he could not touch guns. They would all turn into gold. Not one gun would be able to fire a golden bullet. I am past the point of demonstrating, though I sometimes think about it. But this is a post that appealed to me greatly.

    • Thanks. It was just one of those strange, random and seemingly inconsequential events that nontheless somehow seem to embody larger forces at work. At any rate they stuck in my mind. Theres a pattern if you look for it.

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