“Go on, tell them,” says Jacko to Sean.
“Tell them what? I’ll tell them nothing. They’re not people like us, they’re just a bunch of sardines.”
The fish people in the water below do not like this.
“You heard me,” jeers Sean, “Cold-blooded fishes. You haven’t got a drop of good red blood in your body.”
They don’t like that either. They’ve been surgically altered by the regime of Professor Zaroff, an old Nazi scientist who was employed by the Western powers before he disappeared (it’s implicit) and who is now running the underwater city of Atlantis (the Nazis were obsessed with Atlantis). He has forcibly turned an army of his workers into fish, complete with gills and fins and big round eyes, so that they can do the underwater jobs. (They just don’t make mad scientists like Zaroff any more.)
“A flatfish from Galway would have more guts in them than that bunch!” Sean continues. Oh yeah, I forgot to say… Sean’s Irish, hence his “gift of the gab” (sigh).
The fish people start throwing things at him.
“All right, all right, all right,” laughs Sean, “Oh, calm down and listen. Listen, will you?”
The fish people decide to hear him out. Presumably because he’s like them: a man captured and exploited by Zaroff’s regime. He hasn’t been surgically mutilated, but he’s been put to work in the Atlantean mines. (By now there should be no need for me to reiterate the connection between surgery and capital, the way the evisceration and infibulation of the human body expresses anxieties about life in capitalism, about how wage labour cuts into your bodily autonomy and your life and your physical freedom, dissecting your time and… oh look, I’m reiterating.)
“Look, you supply all the food for Atlantis, right?” asks Sean rhetorically, “It can’t be stored, right? It goes rotten in a couple of hours. That’s why Zaroff has you working like slaves night and day, right? Well, has it never occurred to your little fish brains to stop that supply of food? Feed yourselves but starve Atlantis, eh? What do you think would happen then? Well now is your chance. Will you do it, or will you stay fish slaves for the rest of your lives? You’re men, aren’t you? Well, start the blockade right now!”
Again, this is workplace agitation. The jokes at the fish people’s expense are clearly rhetoric. Sean whips them up. But the power is theirs.
I won’t attempt to describe what comes next. The fish people’s underwater strike is indescribable. And that’s good. It must be seen to be believed… and by that I don’t mean ‘believed’ in the sense of believing that there were actually fish people who actually swam around in Atlantis. I mean ‘believed’ in the sense of believing that it ever actually got made and broadcast. To us, now, it looks like a transmission from another planet. Again, that’s good. The planet we live on now is pretty boring compared this one.
It’s a relic of a lost time, when the spectacle could still express material relations of struggle, and express them materially. …