O little man, sitting cross-legged in the road with a line of spidery spittle hanging down from your mouth. Breathing deeply, gasping for more. Recovering from the combined effects of tear gas and water cannon used by Thai police against opposition demonstrators in Bangkok.
Will you go home and ne’er come back again, little man, now you know you could die out here?
‘He’s alive, he’s alive.’ The excited voice of the man up top, issuing directions to the diver whose headcam footage we’re watching. Making his way through syrupy water looking for dead bodies in a sunken tugboat, until – that zombie moment – a hand presses down on his glove.
Headcam holds on pale palm against black glove; pans round to the head and torso of a thickset man who’s survived the sinking and managed to stay alive in an air pocket for 60 hours. Wide-eyed with fear, joy and disbelief – right now he couldn’t tell them apart. As his rescuer fixes him up with breathing apparatus for their ascent, we see the folds of skin around his hips. Yes, a big man with baby fat.
Here in the midst of life and death, what’s in the frame is only homely – as if someone’s running a webcam in the bath.
Compared to these intimate moments, footage of demonstrations on the streets of Bangkok or Kiev seems lifeless, run-of-play, routine. Rolled out for rolling news.
Is it because these events really are less than decisive; or is it that this author also – behaving the same away as everyone else, for once – is losing his appetite for public life?