Psychogeography at Home

This article first appeared in the autumn 2020 edition of Dazed Magazine. If you like what you read, help fund my creative work and Buy me a Coffee.

Guy Debord and his mates did not think about coronavirus. A global epidemic was not on top of the Situationists’ list of enemies to destroy. In fact, those 20th-century types took it for granted that you could go outside (and smoke inside). The assumption was that the terrain of struggle, fighting the baddies, was all outdoors. Cobblestones not only make handy
weapons, they also free the earth below the more you pick them up. Beneath the Streets, The Beach and all that, shaping the streets one riot at a time.

Psychogeography as a practice means different things to different people, but exploration, freedom and the urban always feature. La dérive, French
for drift, was Debord’s term for playfully moving through space and seeing the city scape through fresh eyes. About jolting the pedestrian experience into a new, heightened awareness. I’ve long been a fan of this approach to life and the built environment. I love walking through a city and ending up in random places looking at structures and minutiae from new angles. But these days I think: it was all right for them, free thinkers of late, but how the fuck do I go on a dérive under lockdown in my mum’s house in the suburbs? I was up for this challenge, but it wasn’t going to be easy.

I decided that the overgrown garden would be the wrong territory – its impending bramble scratches would detract from the drifting state I needed to conjure. But it would also be cheating. A dérive had to be urban, full of lines, hard surfaces and shadows. There had to be textures of the man-made variety. Dérives are supposed to be just that, drifty, but for a proper lockdown experience, I had to set the parameters of travel within four walls. Surely I could relieve my pandemic anxiety, my fear of what everyday life would look like in the aftermath, by injecting a little wonder into my everyday locked- down, hemmed-in experience? Who needs a rave when you can trip out on the low-pile living room carpet? It’s fractal, right?
If I stare hard enough, I can make it experimental. I was going to make this lonely claustrophobia magical – just you wait, world. I’m a fucking survivor.


At first, the fear of failure and self-ridicule stopped me from diving in. Besides, I’m pretty observant; I notice everything. I’m living in a house I know well and, since I’ve spent so much time inside recently, how would I make it fresh without taking any drugs? By this point I realised I was procrastinating and just needed to do it. I decided I would give myself a good few hours of dériving, so my phone had to be switched off and hidden under the bed. Sunday – after breakfast – I was going to drift.

The moment came, and I was ready for my granola-filled self to let go. I started where I was: the tea towel my breakfast bowl was on. I studied it carefully, ran my finger over its creases. I noticed the coffee stain that won’t come out in the wash, and the lettering in an Elizabethan font: radicalteatowel.com. I traced the edges with my nail and then, suddenly, I flipped over the corner with one quick flick: 100% Cotton. Wash Max 40. Made in the UK. Satisfied by my first excavation, I dropped to the floor next to the dining room table. Here, crouching by a varnished leg, I inspected the carpet beneath me. It’s of a nondescript colour – fuck, what do you call this? It’s kind of reddy, kind of orangey, kind of browny, but too pale to call brick. I put my nose to the floor. I pulled back up. Some threads were lighter than others, which gave it the overall effect from a distance. I extracted a bit of rock salt and flicked it from my path. I was going under the table.

I shoved the 1970s chair on wheels out of the way and got on my back, pulling myself under. The atmosphere was dark and cool. I could hear the neighbours watering their voluptuous hanging baskets through the open garden door, but I felt a world away from them. I reached both hands up and felt the underside. The wood was rough, no – I traced my fingers in circles to check – smooth, just unfinished. Distinctly underside. Functional, but not presentable. I pressed my palms up against the long metal beam that formed the extension mechanism. It was nice and cool. Very satisfying. I stroked it some more, until I spotted some writing from the corner of my eye. I scooted back. WTF was this? Printed in that weird cargo stencil font was 954-306-3 ACCOLADE 12 BY DREXEL 260 – curious! I moved my head to the left a bit and saw blue crayon scribbles over the writing. I felt a pang.
A hand flew to my heart. I must have done that when I was four years old.


Enough sentimentality – it was time to move on. I edged myself back out and crawled over to the radiator, Gollum-style. I pressed my cheek against its cool metal ridges. I rolled my forehead over it, pressing my hands against it and pulling my face back slowly, taking in that rusty, dusty smell and slowly opening my eyes. I was horrified. It’s a disgusting lemon yellow. How had I never noticed? I shifted focus to the adjacent wallpaper, inoffensively white. I reached over and felt the bumps of its random lattice, like a million stone henges piled on top of each other. My fingers travelled upwards, my arms followed, then my whole body was pressed against the wall. My eyes popped open. Could anyone see me? No, the net curtains were drawn – phew. I took a quarter-turn to my right to face the glass-paned door to the hallway. It was frosted and peppered with little petit-pois sized balls. I started counting them from the top, letting my finger bounce from ball to ball. One, two, three, four…

One thousand and sixty-four! I collapsed on to the floor, in some experimental dance move. On my back, exhausted, I checked my watch. Forty-five minutes! And I’d not travelled more than a couple of metres. I decided to call it quits, at least for the day. A smell of barbecued sausages had wafted in and I was hungry again. I sat up feeling satisfied. What I just did is art. I just made pottering avant-garde. Between this and online
yoga, I may never need to leave the house again. My work here is done. Until the next time.

All My Friends in One Place

I’m turning 40 in less than three months. I wanted a big party. Then covid happened.

The idea took shape in January. I told myself that if I was serious, I had to start planning in spring at the latest if I was to get what I wanted. It can’t happen now, not in the right month or right year. But I’m keen to get this down so that maybe at 42 ¾ or more likely 45, it might. 

I need the people I want there to know, I want them to see what’s in my head, to be ready.

The decor, rooms, songs and embraces populated this vision at an accelerating rate since myself and the #ACFM crew recorded the Friendship episode mid lock-down. Things were said, feelings ignited, thoughts jolted into a thousand vignettes giving shape to my party.

When you’re with your friends it feels like a holiday. 

When you’re with an old friend, you’re suddenly a version of yourself you’ve missed, animated, there in real time. 

What would it be like to have all my friends in one place? I think I’ve spent most of my life keeping them away from each other, dosed in the insecurity that they would just not understand. But understand what? I had a fear perhaps that a part of me one lot know, would be exposed to those from another life, and then people I love would think who is she? That they’d feel alienated and wouldn’t love me anymore and it was all my fault.

I’ve grown out of that, like a poppy bursting its bud. I want all my friends in one place. I started wanting it nine months ago and I want it more now.

The more I think about this, the more I realise what I want is a wedding. Not the man or the marriage bit, but the once in a lifetime party where everyone would make a gargantuan effort to be there because they know it’s not going to happen again. Something between that and a fake farewell tour. A festival of sorts. 

My friends mean more to me than they will ever know. I’m partly writing this to tell them this, as we are separated by lives, miles and restrictions. I often say that I only exist in discourse. I am me because of the space between you and I, the soup, the potion only we can create. And I want to drown in all those flavours, I want the intoxication of it all at one gathering. I want it, I want it.

I have to organise this event. No one else can do it. This is for several reasons. One. I’m a control freak. Two. I am an experienced event organiser, discerning and particular about the crafting of atmosphere. 

Three. Deep sigh, look down at keyboard. There is no way of putting this that doesn’t appear self-absorbed and pompous on the page, but no one really knows me. Some, know a lot about me. Some know parts of me much better than I know myself. But I have had many lives.  In both literal and psychological terms. But most significantly, you can’t fully know me because two dominant languages and their cultures embody me. Most people have met me with only one of those buttons switched to On. 

I’m a different person in Arabic, I just am. In English, I’m articulate, intellectual, pensive – a reflection of my twenty years as an adult here wedded to The Struggle. In Arabic, I’m mostly apolitical and stuck in the 90s. I trip over formal language, but I’m fucking hilarious. Of course there is crossover and many aspects of my being are consistent, but there is a different vibe to me in each set of interactions. Wherever I am, there is always a part of me missing, a lurch so strongly felt by the many of us who occupy the plethora of diasporas we inhabit.

Like many others crossing class and cultures I subconsciously adapt so that I can communicate, find friendship and commonality. So I’m hardly ever, fully there at the table. But who is, I hear you cry! True, I respond. But when it comes to a party, without knowing both bits of me, you can’t know some of the fundamentals that tickle me. I am a particular undocumented mash up and I want that mash up enacted at my party.

Here is an illustration: I know very few people, in fact I can think of only one, whose body would be moved into uncontrollable and spontaneous movement and on-beat clapping if Ah we Noss or El 3einab burst through the speakers, AND who also finds Peter Kay’s biscuit sketch so tear-streamingly funny.  If you’re a friend and are reading this, you will get one and not the other. Who cries over both Om Kalthoum’s bitter-sweet laments AND any mention of Hillsborough /Orgreave/the film Pride on the radio? No one I know. Who reaches the palm of their hand out after making a joke AND feels the poetic melancholy of the industrial North in their veins? Not you.

There are, those people. But I do not know them. So they are not invited.

Point is, when it comes to my epic party, there needs to be some melange of stuff going on to satisfy me.  Nobody can design this thing but me.

So let’s get stuck in. I’ve tried composing this into a neat form with some kind of logic but it’s not working so here is a random unorganised list of what it will look like:

  • Think cabaret and English variety show for the dominant feel. Indulgent but rough round the edges. Colour and glamour, but also dark dusty corners. Bits of it will feel very Rumpus, but other bits won’t
  • The Pub.  This room will be fashioned like The Army and Navy on Newington Green – a proper old boozer- complete with a mini stage with drooping tinsel and shit karaoke. Instead of the war memorabilia, it will be smothered with communist tat and random macabre creations. There will be an overbearing seedy-looking sign complete with a couple of fizzing red light bulbs, exclaiming Embrace Your Shame*. Every hour on the hour, the Internationale will play in a different language
  • The bar will be well stocked but you can smuggle in your cheap Tesco voddy if you bribe the door-people creatively
  • A Cocktail Corner serving unpretentious classic cocktails in the correct glasses
  • A uncomplicated hang out area where people can just have an a3da – like a comfy living room
  • A campfire, instruments
  • A more stylised chill out area with lower lighting, a bit psychedelic but conducive to conversation. You can sleep, take time out here.
  • A BBQ and spit roast. This will be run by the London Arabs and Greeks
  • A giant effigy will be burnt at some point. This will be run by The Avebury Camp Crew
  • A buffet or kitchen area with food available 24 hours – The idea of having a party without everyone having food available at all times is just so anxiety inducing I can’t abide it
  • I’d love it if you do a speech, but I’ll be doing the biggest speech
  •  A proper tournament of Flip Flop Boules
  • I will have at least six costume changes. Everyone else can wear what they want. But there will be a big dress-up box with wigs for your convenience
  • I don’t know how any venue will be suitable because there will be at least one fight
  • I hate people leaving suddenly all at once, it’s so soul lurching. After all that, you’re going now? Some people will come for a few hours, some will stay till the glorious end and that’s fine. But you’re not allowed to leave all at once. This party will be at least 60 hours long. I’m thinking Friday late afternoon to Sunday early evening. You should definitely take Monday off though.
  • You will be able to have a decent sleep and a shower, should you so chose
  • Massive communal fry up on Saturday when people get up
  • The joke is definitely on you, not me. There will be a slow dance with ALL of my exes in chronological order. Maybe to the Titanic theme tune, not sure yet.

Few things will be banned at my party. Here are three of them:

Things I haven’t decided on yet:

  • Where the dancefloor will go in all this
  • How the DJ/playlist will segue between Spandau Ballet, jungle tracks and 3adaweya
  • Whether there will be samba. The rule of partying with samba people was always NO FUCKING SAMBA
  • Five friends will have special status. I’m not sure what special privileges they will be afforded or how their status will be marked yet.

Things I’d really want but even the most plentiful resources couldn’t make happen:

  • The indoor bit melding into a fairy-light covered actual forest.  But on Saturday morning it’s not what it was, it’s transformed into the Red Sea. South Sinai, east coast please
  • Having all my friends from Egypt there. Wrong passports for the political age, they won’t all get visas, they just won’t. We’ll have to have a sister party in Cairo on linked up on a big screen for at least part of the gathering

As I get older, a need for synthesis develops. The people I’ve shared my life with, are all the chunks that make me who I am. This party is the external expression of all those bits that nestle in me. If a memoir was an event, it would be this, so I want it: All my friends in one place.

*If I remember correctly this became Barking Bateria’s motto after our catastrophic yet hilarious gig in Hastings fire festival circa 2013/14

Things I learned in 2018

20180610_172357

  1. I can be a total romantic.
  2. I’ve learned to love my legs. I have walked and run miles in them. They are strong. With them I bound, I skip and jump.
  3. Dry hair-cut for curly hair. Mind. Blown.
  4. I find it easy to make friends. Sometimes I just tell people, ‘hey, I like you, we’re going to be friends’. It works. That and paying them time and attention.
  5. Laughter came easy in Argentina.
  6. The Patriarchy is really clever. A lot cleverer than the Left it seems.
  7. People will more readily accept you’re teetotal than your refusal to communicate through a particular medium.
  8. I love male company.
  9. Also: I hate men.
  10. Freedom, Beauty, Truth and Love. What else is there to live for?
  11. Jesse and Celine had the only conversations worth having.
  12. Radio Fip. You have been my faithful companion around the house for over five years. Thank you for liberating me from the tyranny of choice and for curating my playlists. For respecting my humanity with your ad-free sound space. For accompanying me as I stare out the garden door, watching birds for hours. I dread the day when they will take you away from me, and that day will come.

Letter from the home front

20200315_104819

April, May 2020

Dear past selves, futures –

It’s all quiet on the home front.

You never thought it could get more still. And yet now, it is. Slow, peaceful, grasses swaying in spring sunshine. Time passes in a new, unpredictable way. You are surprised but unperturbed – unlike before – when you are reminded due to conversation, or a flip back through your diary, that it’s been sixty three days since anyone sat on your sofa. Sixty nine since you’ve been on a bus. Seventy seven since you touched another person.

You barely walk as far as the high street, once every three weeks at most, to buy all your food. It’s four minutes at most and you can see it from the corner of your road, but you don’t like turning right anymore. You turn left and down to the park where you run or walk, often talking to your mum on the phone  – in a way that certain kind of person would call ‘animated’ or ‘boisterous’- you laugh a lot, or at least enough. You’re never bored.

Boredom. You thought you would have to endure so much of it. What to expect, you were never certain, but you thought this would be harder than it has been. Sure, you had a few wobbles. Everyone has. But your imbalances seem to be triggered by other events, a job rejection or a spat with a friend perhaps, but it was always temporary. Not by the lock-down itself. You have very little money left but you don’t seem to mind. You’re philosophical about it. You long accepted that despite your best efforts you may be unemployed for a long long time.

In the beginning you made a week by week plan on the whiteboard, but you’ve rubbed it all off with kitchen paper. You didn’t need it in the end, you’re coping fine. You’re not anxious about what to do with your day, you’re doing plenty of things. Group activities all happen online as if they always have. It no longer feels like a crazy time you’re living through, it just feels normal. You haven’t put up the ten pound greenhouse but you don’t care.

You watch the birds even more than before, you know their intricacies now. You’ve named the pigeons, and they know you, eyeing you tentatively from higher ground whenever you put the washing out. The magpies are testing your patience though, and your appreciation for their swagger, shiny brilliance and intelligence has started to wane. They’ve put the wood pigeon, Fancy Pants, through quite an ordeal, so much so he flew into the glass with a bang. You were worried he had concussion, but he came back fighting. You find so much joy in this open zoo, but the food – nature separation has returned. You’ve got mince and chicken drumsticks in the freezer. You ache for a rare steak.

20200527_170215

The hairs on your legs are long and black. Your mediterranean genes put any white man’s follicles to shame. Between your thighs, some grow to two inches. You know, you’ve measured them. You lament the day when you’ll tear it all out with hot wax, and that day will come. You’re too far socialised to bare your limbs to others in their natural state. As a woman you have so many battles. And this isn’t one you’re going to fight.

You wonder if lock down has liberated you from contact with random men who bring you down. You wonder if life is better because your contact with them is limited to the cream of the crop, those who see you as you are, a full human.

If this is depression, it doesn’t feel like it, you tell yourself. It struck you recently that it doesn’t take much to make you happy, but it also takes little to make you sad, frustrated, anxious. Piles of rubbish. Lonely chicken bones on a pavement. Boarded up shop fronts. Downtrodden men looking at you like they could eat you, their number growing in tandem with austerity’s entrenchment. You don’t need to think about any of that now, it rarely comes to mind. You’re happy here with your socially distant meet ups with neighbours and the sound of their kids playing on the street bathed in sunshine and time.

When will you have to face the other side again? Your country, town, neighbourhood as it really is? In its decay and indifference. You wonder this, but not as often as you thought you would . How different things have turned out. You barely have any Zoom chats.  You don’t need them as much, nothing seems urgent. Your best days are those where you disengage from the news, don’t check, don’t ask. It’s no longer feels important and part of you doesn’t care.

*You regret that the word austerity was used in this piece. You wish you could dislodge it but you can’t.

20200603_085930

Lock down has released you from the disappointments of what your life isn’t. You pine less for the cocktail bars you’ve never been to and can’t afford, because they’re all closed.

You want glamour, elegance and good tailoring, a pisco sour in a well lit bar free from the smell of insecurity and posturing.  But you’re not bothered about any of that now, the coupe glasses gather dust in London’s basements, and that buys you time.

And yet today, construction (destruction?) has restarted. You can hear it, you are disturbed.  A driving instructor sets off with his student, no masks. You don’t want to go back to normal, to how it was before. Here, now decisions are made for you. Your life is simple, and full of beauty.

June 2020

All has changed.

The hold is breaking. You’re not sure what this is or why you’re feeling it but you can sense the disintegration, the threat, the creep, the return to the old bile-inducing normal.

The clapping has stopped, the thunder started, the streets quiet, a retreat to a different indoors. The children’s rainbows and dinosaurs, chalked in April, embellished in May, washed away in a day. You jogged under grey clouds yesterday, intermittent rain falling. You stretched your quads, hamstrings in the same order wearing the same clothes, standing under the same tree, pressing the same playlist into your ear. But everything seemed different, dark, lonely.  The route, park, the same as it ever was. Same as it ever was.

And you may ask yourself, how did I get here?

20200605_123018

The birds seem crueler. The pair of magpies have taken to chasing the blackbirds out of the garden. A male, turned its orange beak towards its aggressor saying really? You’re going to do this? And was met only with attack. Their corvid hobby turned professional, black and white clothed egos shiny from weeks of success basking in their reign of terror. You saw three wood pigeons congregate on your fence for the first time, an hour before the first lightning bolt hit. Safety in numbers? At least the sparrows and finches are safe. For now.

On your first lap yesterday, you saw two crows terrorising a pigeon at the park gates, hey! You said, stopping and clapping at them. They hopped away like vultures eyeing you with not much concern. By the second lap, the pigeon was frazzled, feathers unaligned, stumbling away when you again interfered. By the third, it was dead on its back, half off the pavement, splayed, pecked to death. The killers were only half interested in their prey, having enjoyed the process more than its result. It felt like a cruel world to you at that moment. The empty park, the grey clouds, the drizzle, that kill. You clicked the volume up and picked up the pace.

Nothing has materially changed for you, so what does this even mean. You wonder if it’s all in your head (but isn’t everything? The other voice says). You know to trust your instincts. You don’t want  to face drinkers on your street again, piles or rubbish, the ghost of neoliberal past thrusting forward in it’s slow mouldy way. You don’t want to commute, absorbing others’ misery and life’s disappointment. It’s so nice here.

*You regret that the word neoliberal was used in this piece. You wish you could dislodge it but you can’t.

20200603_090032You haven’t done all the things you wanted to, that upstairs wardrobe hasn’t been emptied, bags of clothes made ready for the charity shop yet, you Need. More. Time. The garden isn’t this oasis you dreamt it would be, in fact you’ve barely done anything.   The greenhouse you bought in a panic in mid March when everyone seemed scuttling like uprooted ants and all the shops seemed to be closing down? Today you plucked the spinach from its base and chucked the whole lot on the compost heap. You had planted some from roots you had left over, and put twelve containers on your inside window sill.  You needed green veg, what if the shops ran out, you thought in early April. You watered them and watched them grow. Then the heat came and they bolted, flowered and resigned from their role as a potential food source. That was you told.

You’re back in the vortex.

 

Later, June 2020

Fuck this. You just want to get wasted in a field.

End of June 2020

Today the sun is baking. It feels like the end of May again when you were all cookie baking and socially-distant street parties . You are not sure who you are at this point.

You did yoga in a park. One of six. Under two magnificent oak trees. It’s the first non-online activity you’ve done. As you worked through your vinyasa and lifted your chest through cobra, your gaze met blue and white shapes, geometry amongst a fractal of green above. How could I ever be unhappy again, you thought, now that I’ve had this.

That day, everything seemed whole.

20200605_165539

July 2020

The pigeons circle, in clumsy flap, when you go out into in the garden most mornings. Your appearance signals food. The magpies have a brood of three, The robin diligently feeds its three chicks from the bird feeder. It looks like it would rather be engaged in some solitary pursuit, like parenting doesn’t suit it at all, but its genetic instruction compels it. Don’t hold me accountable it says to you, in your anthropomorphic fantasy which unfolds as you drink your morning tea, I’d rather be reading a book or fighting Dunnocks.

You took public transport for the first day today. Took the underground, which is overground, one stop to that same yoga class. In your head it was fine, normal. But something else was going on. Everyone seemed to be looking at you, and you felt your breath quicken under the mask. The men, all the men are looking. You felt exposed. Is this in your head? You wanted to be home, not around people you didn’t know, just casually looking at you. You realised when you boarded the train that you forgot your Oystercard on the bench. You’ve never lost an Oystercard. You’ve had the same one since 2004. You must have been stressed. Will I ever be able to go out again, you wonder as you walked home from the station. This isn’t good. Have you done this to yourself? You need a car. You have no money for a car. In the future, you will.

Next day

One pigeon has clocked you, sitting inside, and has taken to knocking on the garden door glass with its beak.

20200705_105002

Today

The starlings have arrived.

You return from the kitchen to find a pigeon in the living room. It very literally crossed the line. It seems unfazed by your mediterranean self materialising like a hulk, your sharp utterances imshy! Inta etganint, itla3 barra! unfazing. Or even launching a flip flop at it. Back on the patio, it still faces you, as if shrugging, yeah but, sunflower seed? A dangerous precedent has been set.

The poppies have popped. Red, white and yellow.

You wonder when you’ll see your family, you miss flying.

You’re on a 93 day streak on Duolingo. ¿En serio? ¡Mira vos!

Your chinese money plant is HUGE.

London feels so so incredibly, far away.

 

Lockdown reading for escapists

20200331_160257

Tl;dr – I’m not that into State of the World books – here are some fiction, science and on-writing books I’ve enjoyed

As someone who cares about world poverty, human rights and social change, you may be forgiven for thinking that I spend my leisure time reading about world poverty, human rights and social change.

Mmmmm, I’m don’t.

I have read many such books, hell I’ve co-edited one. But I mostly read those while employed, or to learn skills that can be applied to voluntary community organising. Not for fun! Reading them feels like work, so they are read during designated public service time, ideally when I’m being remunerated. Turning such pages does not liberate me from this cruel world or my mad self. I envy people who can read about –  let’s say totalitarianism – learn something, and just get on with their day.

Even Ursula le Guin and Dan Hancox’s acclaimed works lie dormant on my shelf, once gifted by some of my favourite persons. Alas, the only attention they receive is a guilty sideward glance every once in a while. I’m sure they are excellent books, but I’m attracted to a different breed of novel, and mostly short ones. I seek out the tantalisingly macabre*. Apart from that, I read popular science titles and selected works on the craft of writing.

If you’re finding more free time during Coronavirus lock-down and are seeking out escapist reading recommendations, great! I hope this provides an alternative to all the state of the world analysis/pandemic fiction books people are rushing to recommend (how?!?!) . For the rest of us who struggle to read regularly at the best of times and/or may have  a lot more childcare and chores on our hands, I hope my favourites at least pique your interest and present ideas for future indulgences.

Macabre fiction

Some of this is so deliciously ikky, but also quite claustrophobic. Skip this list if you find this terrifying (in a bad way).

The Lullaby – Leila Slimani
Horrific. I love it.

Perfume – Patrick Süskind
Scent based plot set in 18th Century France. What’s not to like.

The Nothing – Hanif Kureishi
So funny, so wrong, so sad, so good.

The Cement Garden – Ian McEwan
Gifted  as a secret santa. Best office present ever.  Maybe don’t read this one if you’re far away from your four kids during lockdown

Milkman – Anna Burns
Totally bat-shit and brilliant depiction of The Troubles from the inside. Anna Burns is an absolute genius and one of my literary heroes

Four excellent novels by Asian women writers:

The Vegetarian – Han Kung
I was hooked from the first page. Who is this asshole and why is his wife still with him and why did she become a vegetarian????

Braised Pork – An Yu
I love it when a bizarre death gets the plot rolling.

Ponti – Sharlene Teo
I can smell the eggs fish and the Singapore humidity-induced sweat just thinking about it. Great anti-hero too.

The Suicide Club – Rachel Heng
What if suicide was banned and you had to want to live forever?

Not-so macabre fiction

The Break – Marian Keyes
Do NOT dismiss Marian Keyes. The Chick Lit category is just a socially sanctioned way of continuing to label women’s work as frivolous and unimportant. Her characters are great and so relatable, and the plot riveting. I cried, I laughed, will she take him back or not goddamn it! We’ve all been there. And if like me, you dont care for online shopping or handbags, the backdrop for her novels will be other worldly.

Middle England – Jonathan Coe
I love Jonathan Coe. Reading this Brexit area inspired book today will truly feel from a bygone era

Season of Migration to the North – El Tayeb Saleh
Arabian Nights in reverse. The Denys Johnson-Davis translation is amazing.

The Thorn Birds – Colleen McCollough 
An epic which takes place over six decades. Totally not the sort of book I’d pick up, it was sent to me as part of the international book exchange, and wow, I loved it. Total escapism into early 20th century down-under. Be warned: In the Virago edition Maeve Binchy gives away a key plot line in the introduction as if we’re all born in 1950 and have seen the TV series, madness. It’s not Romeo and Juliet, woman!

Science

The Organised Mind – Daniel Levitin
This book made such an impact on me, I quoted it a zillion times in my piece on facebook addiction.

The Beautiful Cure – Daniel M Davis
Dramatically told story of our immune system and how it works.

Behave – The Biology Humans at Our Best and Worst – Robert Sapolsky
I borrowed this hefty 800 pager on the promise that every page there will be at least one ‘wow’ moment. The premise is that every behaviour has multiple causations ranging from one moment to one day to centuries before the behaviour occurs. It is pretty damn good, once you acclimatise to the american author’s sense of humour.

Creative Writing

I write fiction. Here are four books I’ve found exhilarating and incredibly helpful

On Writing – Stephen King
The second section of this book is the best guide to writing fiction, and the best written guide, there is out there hands down. You don’t need to have read any Stephen King to appreciate this work of art.

Into The Woods – How Stories Work and Why We Tell Them – John Yorke
I was at the till about to pay for my own copy of On Writing , when the young guy at the till’s eyes lit up and asked me if I could wait a minute, just one minute while he runs to get me another book that I must have if liked On Writing. He came back hyper ventilating with a copy in his hand, trying to speak in gasps on why this was a great book. I was so moved I bought it. He was right, a must for people who love stories.

Becoming a Writer – Dorothea Brande
About the psychology of creative writing. I remember being on the tube, what I was wearing and where I was going when her central thesis hit me. A game changer.

The Artist’s Way – Julia Cameron
Definitely on the hippyish unlock-your-inner-creativity end of the scale, but if you arrive at it’s pages with an open mind, you may find it frees something inside you to make art.

*With one major exception: I refuse to consume or promote any media which normalises the abuse of women by men.

This too shall pass

Hello. This is my first piece in a while.

Tl;dr – not possible. I can’t write a summary because what I want to say keeps changing. Nothing seems right on the page. As a writer, you aim to present your reader with the best possible work, the most coherent, affective piece. I am afraid that I will fail you. It’s taken me nine days to write this. The logic is all over the place. But my editing can’t keep up with real world changes, let alone the tumult of my emotional landscape, so you’ll have to have it as it is now, spliced and forever unfinished.

193263

On the eve of International Women’s Day, I was walking on Ilkley Moor with friends. Someone said something about Coronavirus and I thought ooooooooooh that’s why the nine-pack champagne rolls in Waitrose were gone! I then got on with negotiating the bog and revelling in the scenery, chatting away.

Everything has changed since I was in Leeds, everything.

Since the election….

Hang on. Remember the election? Remember Boris proroguing Parliament? Remember Brexit????

Since Labour’s defeat, I’d taken a step back from political work. I realised I had other priorities in life and this was the time to invest in them. I’ve been applying for jobs, and as usual climbing, dancing, singing and editing my novel. I’d been off social media since December. I hadn’t watched, listened to, or read a single news item from Christmas until mid February when I started going online again. I remember browsing the Guardian website and thinking fuck this shit and going off again for weeks.

I can’t really explain why I’m writing this. It keeps brewing, sentences keep coming to me while I cook, run, and make tea. It feels like years but it may only be two days –  since time is not as it was – since I felt what I last felt which I don’t feel anymore. All I know is that walk on Ilkley Moor seems like two years ago.  As a writer, I think it’s an urge to document, to draft, to test ideas. Writing helps me think, helps things come together. Like a curry you heat up the next day, I leave the page more joined up and cohesive, I have more oneness when I write.

For me it’s day six, no seven, fuck, nine, see? I’ve been running in my local park everyday. I’ve been meaning to do yoga, but I realised, it would only be possible after I did something: Go round to every door on my street, collecting emails to set up a list. I wrote eighteen handwritten notes in case people weren’t home, and was shitting myself in case people were rude. But everyone was nice and enthusiastic about my initiative to connect people and I felt like a fucking hero. As I walked the twenty steps back home, the ground underneath me felt different. It felt like it did when I skateboarded around this very street thirty years ago, when me and fifteen other kids owned the Close. Somehow it felt mine again. Also I know I’m going to be mates with the lady at number nine because her letterbox is dressed with a handwritten notice Do Not Touch  – This is a Bird’s Nest!!! And as we chatted, the robin collected moss for it’s new home, thus distracting us from noting her email address down.

The organiser in me set up the email list because I knew I could use it to build community in the future when this is over. I didn’t think I’d be one of the first to write saying: Hi neighbours, If someone finds some eggs can they buy me some?

Fancy that. Imagine telling any of us just a month ago that it would be a struggle to get eggs. How quickly we adapt. How quickly self-isolation and social distancing have entered our vocabulary.

maxresdefault

Everyday I wake up and when our new reality dawns on me: I’m not coughing, good, I don’t have a fever, good. I feel like one of the lucky ones. In the daytime, not much has changed for me. I have spent the best part of a year working from home and I really like my own company. I’ve gotten used to living off shavings from my life’s savings, and I rarely go into town. I have a garden and every morning spend hours staring out into it, birdwatching. I set a schedule for myself, I have a home routine. I do GCHQ puzzles and the Sainsbury’s mag crossword. I cook lavish meals for myself everyday. Scrolling through my phone is not a  primary activity.

Yet two days ago I found myself again, an anxious phone addict, grinding my teeth, eyes bulging. I learned the hard way back in 2015 what social media addiction was when I hadn’t yet had therapy, and desperately needed validation through likes and comments to mask the pain and darkness inside of me. When I woke up to the fact that I couldn’t make a cup of tea or manage a few lines in a book without checking Facebook, I quit for a month. The change in me was so dramatic, I wrote two pieces about it, launching this blog. I don’t take my phone to bed, check it first thing, or look at Facebook everyday anymore. I don’t like the person I become when I’m on social media, or what it does to my head or my day. If your mind is now going ‘but but but, my alarm clock/sleep app/the news THE NEWS etc!!!’ you’re an addict.

I’m dedicating paragraphs to this – during this extraordinary moment in history –   because it’s important to move through our digital lives with intentionality over this year. Twelve weeks – let’s say twelve weeks for now –  might seem like a long time from where we’re standing, but as any addict knows, a year feeding your addiction could pass in a flash. You could miss the Spring. You can piss away three months scrolling through your phone, developing into a nervous wreck, lowering your immunity. Your pre-frontal cortex now has a fantastic excuse  – a global pandemic – to convince you that you need to be online 24/7, be up to date with armageddon as it unfolds, and type things about it. And since you can’t meet up with actual people as much you used to, you scroll for hours till your jaw aches. And then the day is gone, and you feel like shit. That was me for two or, I don’t know how many days ago. I’ve nipped it in the bud now. Yesterday I had the best day, because I shut my phone off from 12-7pm and hid it under the bed. I haven’t done as well today but I’m determined to keep my gaze at the sky, at the earth, not a screen. I won’t miss Spring. I hope you don’t too.

20180717_175533

The opposite of addiction is not sobriety, it’s connectedness. That’s the paradox. You’ll need to stay connected, but the medium through which you may chose to do so, is designed to make you into a zombie. I know many of you will wince at this, but it’s time to start using your voice to communicate with loved ones. And if you spend a lot of time alone and find yourself working from home, you may accidently not talk all day – which has a profound effect on your brain and wellbeing. Talking in real time or via Whatsapp voice message will make you feel less antsy/distracted/lonely if you do it early in the day. Better than a wank. Evenings: Zoom Calls with your crew/family. If you’re not doing this already, trust me, it’ll save your sanity. My uni mates now have a Zoom call alternating 6 and 8 pm every day and there is always at least four of us on it. It’s great. We chat shit and chat Covid. I had choir online  last Thursday and it was hilarious. I needed to sing. I needed to laugh.

It’s my evenings I’m struggling with. I’m an evening group activity person. With those taken away from me, I feel nervous as the night closes in. I’m not in a touchy/needy faze of my life, thank god, but the last time I had physical contact with a human was ten days ago and I’m already struggling. I’m used to partner dancing with 20 different people every Monday. I really want a hug.

With regards to this new way in which we live, I make no apologies for being on the Milk It side of the how-to-live-in-these-next-few-month debate. The ‘well excuse me if I’m not writing King Lear/Prison Notebooks during a global crisis!!!!’ commentary, is a fucking cop out by the same people who live online and over-use the word privilage. You know, people who like to shoot down, shut down everything and just criticise others for dreaming outside the Twitter box, or seeing life as it really is. Well fuck em. I’m going to dance starkers in my garden. I wish Bill Hicks was alive. Oh my god, Mark. I wish Mark Fisher was here to see this. Mark, I wish you were here.

20180809_125910

Deep sigh. We’re not all going to have the same openings as others and some of us will now be stuck in doors with people we’d rather not be in such close proximity to, day in day out. But there will be *some* opening. The normal is suspended, so do something extra ordinary – something you’ve always wanted to do. Go on a derive, identify clouds from your window, learn a new language. Did you know that 50% of all the world’s bluebells are in the UK? On a global scale, they’re rare, so go revel in them at the end of next month. The National Trust is keeping gardens and parks open so that ‘the nation can relax’, so MILK IT. Have sex on a tree. But when you get home, for fuck’s sake WASH YOUR HANDS.

I wrote that last bit, before the inevitability of a lock down dawned on me.

I’m not glazing over the fact that terrible things are going to happen and are happening. I’m living in an area with one of the highest incidents of Covid-19 in the whole country. Hospitals are already overwhelmed – and the worst is yet to come.

This won’t ring true with most, but there is no denying the last time I felt a bit like this was during the election campaign. For some of us, reality was on pause. Except this time round, I’m sharing that WTF – deep – breaths feeling with seven billion people, not seven thousand. As I sat on the toilet last night with my head in my hands I thought, no wait the last time I really really felt like this, when daily life was deep breaths following waves of MDMA rushes and dark dawning-on-yous, was a week before I got on a plane for Tahrir during the 2011 Egyptian Revolution. I had made a bucket list of what I wanted to do and who I wanted to speak to before I got on that plane.

I had a lot more jokes in this piece, but I took half of them out.

I saw the undercooked chicken leg being prodded by Greg’s knife on Masterchef, and thought how can we eat animals? This is nature getting back at us. The birds are my friends, I don’t think I can handle a leg on my plate again.

I started drinking every night and then I stopped. I want to smoke all the time, but I’m stopping myself to preserve my lungs which is stressing me out.

Universal basic income is a serious point of discussion. The supermarkets have written to the government saying please can you stop making us compete? The government is going to pay workers’ wages. Hotels for the homeless.  I feel dizzy.

Daily events will keep us on tenterhooks. In contrast, our daily rituals will get very boring, very quickly. Keep washing your hands. Pretend it’s a new religion. You’ve got to wash your hands and disinfect those doorknobs, or our NHS won’t cope when you get ill, which you probably will.

I had so much more to say, swiggles on paper over the last few days, but now I don’t want to say any of it.

We’re all adjusting. We’re all doing our best. This too shall pass.

Each day at a time my friends, each day at a time.

25 things I learned in 2017

20180505_131158

  1. Winter is for scheming.
  2. Lots of friends does not mean happiness.
  3. Everybody needs some time to shake themselves up a bit.
  4. No amount time living in the UK will naturalise me to the licking of a finger to turn a paper or The Washing Up Bowl.
  5. You don’t have to be in the left to be on the left.
  6. The opposite of left-wing is selfish
  7. I don’t believe for one second that all these people have all these allergies and syndromes. What’s really going on?
  8. What’s really going on is a cry for help.
  9. Cycling between vacuous, hysterical hedonism and pitiful illness is not my idea of the good life. Witnessing loved ones descend into this, is also not my idea of the good life.
  10. We’ve lost the yearn to learn in all the over stimulation.
  11. Good conversation is euphoric. It builds and builds.
  12. Will millennials please stop apologising for not whatsapping me back instantly. Your anxiety is making me anxious. Thank you.
  13. Whatsapp voice messages allow me to think, process and luxuriate.
  14. People have become fearful of phone calls.
  15. London hasn’t seen such an epidemic of human behavioural change since the 18th century gin craze. This time it’s smart phones. Look what they’ve done to us.
  16. Sleep is not the only reset button you can press on a day.
  17. Nothing says collective crisis like adults, en masse throwing tantrums about how their needs have not been catered for. The final lurch for agency as the ship sinks.
  18. The frequency upon which conversations around literature are tuned today are more pleasure-inducing than that of politics. Politics needs a retune. Badly.
  19. No one made non-wired cotton bras like BHS. Damn you Philip Green.
  20. My gym installed 3 metre high turnstiles reminiscent of maximum security prisons and Israeli check points. They don’t work properly. They are a cause of much frustration and delay. Ladies and Gentlemen, people of London: We have reached peak #BoringDystopia
  21. Mark Fisher lives in me. I’ve developed a sort of lymphatic system made up of his words and ideas.
  22. If I ruled the world, the first thing I’d abolish are the conditions which compel people to consume hot drinks while walking.
  23. Capitalism, appropriates everything. Looking disenfranchised and destitute is now fashionable. Who would otherwise leave their house on a rainy day in furry slippers except the mentally unwell?
  24. In the future, waking and reaching over for your phone while in bed, will be viewed with the same judgement as if reaching for a cigarette.
  25. There is more to me than this. This person I reproduce every day is not the sum of me.

 

Labour Fucked my Period

I’m someone who lives in my body.  Hours of my CPU are spent on whether I want courgettes or peas with my fish cakes tonight, what I need to buy and cook and eat before tomorrow’s meeting so I have a proper dinner, if those nuts really agreed with me and what precise level of satisfaction I’m experiencing with my digestion today. I’m preoccupied by how hungry I am, or not, seemingly all the time. How my knee is feeling today and when I last had sex.  Am I over or under caffeinated right now. That muscle I pulled in top right quadrant of my back eight months ago, I can still feel it, huh, but I didn’t yesterday, why, what did I do different?  The euphoria of that run, the shock my calves felt and the slow day-by-day step down to recovery. How straight my back is, how my sit bones feel on this chair, and the angle of my back arch. The feeling of this texture on my skin, or that. And my period. When I’ll come on, how long I’ll bleed for and how much, on which days, and how the skin around my cheeks will fill with fluid. When and how my pelvis will loosen, and how the pain will permeate from the middle to the outer of my lower back in waves, and cripple me for about 20minutes before I’ll feel at 80% again.

Well Labour fucked with all of that.

Or rather, the greatest social movement of our era despite Labour did. I’ve just come back from The World Transformed, where I forgot to have dinner, smoked loads and felt great. My period was here and gone and now back and now pain on day three WTF??? I was so present in space and interaction, the New Kind of Politics and the people we were all being, that I had no idea what was going on with me and didn’t care. What luxurious queue conversations were had. What laughter in my workshops. What atmosphere in the streets and in the Wetherspoons. Seems like The Left is back. In a big way. And The Suits looked out of place, rigid and dated.

20170620_205927

I’m not sure if this was excitement, it was more like a release. It’s like being on a long seemingly endless train journey when you’re in a tunnel and are sure you’re going to come out, but you don’t know when. Every once in a while you look out for it and you still can’t see it, and some people glance at you funny for looking out of the window in to the dark, and from others, a friendly nod. And then suddenly you can see it, and it looks like a pin hole, and you know it’s coming and you want to hold everyone’s hand. And you start crying.

John McDonnell made me cry, Shareefa Grassroots made me cry. The McStrikers made me cry, Gary Younge made me cry and Diane Abbot made me cry. China Mieville’s To a Red October signature on the first page of his book – which I opened on the tube this morning  – made me burst into tears. I cant even cry. I haven’t cried for five years, and now what, I can? Really? Is it all going to change, inside and around me?

I think I’m predisposed to being so in my body, but it’s also a chapter in my How to Live Well Under Neoliberal Capitalism guide to myself. It’s the way I retain self-respect and refuse to rush or be rushed or pander to the instant and instantaneous. It’s my fuck you to neoliberalism to look up at the sky and walk a bit too slow for London. To have unproductive conversations at inconvenient times. To explore, as Jeremy Gilbert quoted in the Acid Corbynism session, the full potential of my being. To live authentically and spend time pondering ingredients, relationships and textures.

My period is all over the place, it’s here, it’s not, it’s gone it’s back, I have no idea what’s going on. I’ve had a good break from There is No Alternative pumped out and recycled in this city everyday. But most of all I had a break from being inside me, and embodying me. I like being one of many and feeling insignificant in a sea of conversation. It’s how we’re going to get out.

It is in fact, from within the collective, that we will find ourselves free.

You Are Not Alone.

 

 

 

Ashouf Feek Yoem ya Capitalism and other stories

20160327_155313.jpg

Mariam and I have great conversations. Once, we were discussing how we’ve never come across media in our mother-tongue: a mish-mash of English and Arabic, spoken between bilingual English and Arabic speakers in a non-binary fluid way. We decided to make an impromptu podcast and talk about whatever, see what comes out and publish it unadultered for our own, and hopefully your, entertainment.

  So note: This is podcast is not entirely in English

Collectivise Everything

The following is a semi-faithful transcript of an address I gave in Leeds last weekend. I was invited to speak for ten minutes on how we “widen the movement for social and environmental justice, and work to shift popular opinion towards progressive alternatives and away from hate and fear” on the opening panel of Educate, Agitate, Organise! Some people liked what I said and asked me if it was written anywhere. It wasn’t, so here it is, mostly from memory and scribbles on paper. It may be in a different order and include bits I intended to say but didn’t have the time to flesh out and others I forgot to include. I’ll be editing it as I remember bits over the next few weeks. I hope it’s useful.

20170305_155307.jpg

Thanks so much for inviting me to speak. All my notes are on scraps of paper I’ve written on the train up. Ive accepted after all the years of doing this that I just think in long hand so Ive given up on trying to type all this stuff up, so excuse me if I momentarily get lost in my bits of paper.

It’s been a huge privilege to work at War on Want over the last almost eleven years. We have great campaigns and programme partners and do inspirational work. But I don’t want to talk about that. If you want to talk to me about the work we do, come find me at the stall, I’ll be here all day, or come to the workshop we’re co-running. What I want to talk about is the atmosphere, what I’d like to call this neoliberal soup we find ourselves swimming in today.

First though Id like to point out an assumption in the question posed to this panel. There is an assumption that growing the movement leads to leverage. The assumption that if we just get more people over to our side, believing the stuff we believe, doing the stuff that we do we will achieve the change we want. It’s an assumption which many of us, including myself operate under. It’s a question, though. Over two million people marched against the war on Iraq in 2003 and didn’t stop the war. So there is a question there about how we relate to power and to achieve what ends, and a question about what our theory of change is.

Right, anyone who knows me from campaigning and organising inside or outside War on Want knows I’m a ‘form over content’ person. I think our content is great. We have the truth, justice, equality, facts and all these great things on your side. But just because you have these things or “good politics” doesn’t mean people will join you. I believe it’s the form in which we present our work and politics which make people come to you, join you and stay with you. and it’s in this spirit that I’d like to address the question posed to us today about building the movement and shifting popular opinion.

We need to appreciate the logic of neoliberal capital which pervades our very existence in England in 2017. It’s central to the way we relate to each other and the world, and it is only through seeing the soup for what it is, that we will be able to struggle through it and get onto the island. It is not just the economic which is central to how capitalism functions, but the mechanism which makes it almost impossible to imagine a world outside itself and its own logic.

20170202_101836.jpg
Sandwich board in Old Street, London

So Id like to offer ten points from my experience of working at War on Want, in the global justice movement, before and after the financial crash, but also from my experience of  just being a human being living in London over the last 15 years. So I’d like to offer you Nadia’s Ten Point Plan, so here we go:

1. Slow down and take stock

The number one thing I’ve seen activists do in reaction to austerity measures, the erosion of rights and increased oppression and brutality is arrrrrrrrrrrrgh arrrrrrgh arrrgghhhh! More more more! We need to do more! And this sort of hyperventilating, hyperactive reaction to late-capitalism’s ills. Don’t mimic the system’s rhythm of instantaneous reactions and snap decisions. Get off the treadmill. If we let ourselves be in this state of panic, we wont be able to cope, people are already burning out and retreating into themselves, internalising and feeding off individualised distractions as a coping mechanism.

And we need to talk about mental health. And the privatisation of mental health where we are told that the symptoms we feel of depression, stress and that although we know that We Are All Very Anxious, this is our individual problem alone and that the solution is to take certain medication or go to a councillor to solve our individual problems. So even though we all know that many people are suffering from similar symptoms, and there is in fact a crisis of mental health, the hegemonic discourse does not engage with the problem beyond viewing it as a series of individuals’ problems.

The truth is of course structural and the perpetuation of anxiety is part and parcel of the system and how it operates. If you are in a precarious job and housing situation like many people are, you will have less mental space for political action, and will often be way too exhausted and stressed out to go to that campaign meeting on how to save this or that or fight yet another fire.

And here I have to pause and do something I never do. In the fifteen years of doing this sort of thing I have never said ‘read this book’ because I generally don’t think it’s useful for people to inform themselves about the detail of exactly how everything is being destroyed or taken away; I think that has a numbing and demoralising effect actually. But today I’m going to recommend you read Capitalist Realism this great 80 page book by Mark Fisher. Mark tragically took his own life a few months ago, and Red Pepper magazine invited me to write a short obituary, which in the end I didn’t finish because I felt there were many others who knew Mark much better than I did who were writing at the time. However, my unpublished piece was titled He Gave Me Words,  and this book and in fact all of Mark’s work gave me words, through which to understand this atmosphere we’re living under and how it functions to control us.

So other than anxiety and mental health, the other thing I want to talk about in terms of taking stock is the silencing and policing of our minds which is going on, not just through overtly coercive tactics but by micro-aggressions and subliminal training of us into compliance, to keep us in line. Control of this sort only really works if we are complicit in it. Take for example these wristbands we are wearing. Since when do we have to wear wristbands to participate in a university event? I really want to tear it off. But I wont of course. Because I find myself not wanting to get the organisers of this event in trouble, who I really like, have worked really hard to put this event on and want to maintain a relationship with. So myself, and the organisers, and all of you are colluding in this mechanism of normalising tagging and the wearing of wristbands, to mark us some how as official, or alternatively as if we are all collectively going to prison or something.

Also for the first time ever in years of being asked to speak on panels, I was sent a form by the student union asking me to sign a declaration that I wouldn’t say this or that or incite hatred or be discriminatory against ‘any groups’. I mean does that include the government or multinational corporations or the mega-rich? Are they groups? And what this does is set the tone, that yes this is a radical event, but actually there are strict perimeters of how you can behave and what you can say. And why is a student union at a university in a position where they have to send out these forms to speakers? We need to call this stuff out, and opt out of these mechanisms. All of us. Together.

So what I mean by all of this is it’s important to take a minute and slow down together, and have an awareness of how we are operating in the world and how everyday mechanisms may be stifling our ability to take action and be conscious actors and resistors in this struggle.

And that was all number one! Ok ill have to rush through the other nine…

2. Don’t entertain the lies

I mean this literally. The lies need entertainment to stay alive. Step away, dont pander to them by internalising them. Disengage your mind.

a. Capitalism is not only the most wasteful, but also inefficient and bureaucratic system that ever existed. Dont let anyone tell you otherwise. Challenge people who state capitalism’s efficiency as a statement of fact imply it as common knowledge. We all know that things aren’t working for us in the everyday. For example why do all have individual home internet contracts? Why can’t a whole building of flats all have one internet connection like this university does? We all know the pain and frustration of speaking to call centres to rectify a problem with a utility bill, which isn’t even your fault in the first place, and how everyone’s time and money is wasted, even though you’re paying for this service, no wonder people get so stressed out they cant attend political meetings!

b. The choice rhetoric. Choice is not freedom. I don’t want the choice of ten hospitals I can go to but need to travel miles on expensive public transport to arrive at a hospital full of overstretched, underpaid staff being choked by the cuts. I want one properly funded local hospital where everything works. Too much to ask in one of the richest countries in the world? I think not.

c. Mental health is your problem individually. We’ve just talked about this. It’s not.

d. Austerity is ideology. In fact it’s actual fundementalism. The cuts are a deliberate choice to extract profit and transfer power and resources from poor to rich.

e. You cannot buy justice.

3. Know your own history – your history has power

We stand on the shoulders of giants. Learn your history, while rejecting the nostalgia. The minimum wage, votes for women, ending Apartheid in South Africa, all these things happened because a small group of people started something. Learn from what people did before, and take courage and inspiration from them. Some amazing battles were won.Know where you are in history. We lie in a long lineage of people who have fought for justice. Be knowledgable. Be proud.

4. The people responsible have names and addresses

This phase of neoliberal capitalism makes it feel like no one is responsible. Things always seem to be someone elses problem, some one else’s decision. And when people can’t put a face to their oppression and decrease in living standards they turn on people who do have faces; people in their communities and their neighbours, because some one somewhere must be responsible for making my life worse, and turning on the person next to you at least makes you feel like you have some sort of control. But we have to make visible those in power who make the decisions that make the poor poorer and the rich richer and tear our cities and communities apart.

5. Dont let inclusively mean anti-intellectual

Dont dumb down your politics or patronise people. Dont let the quest for inclusively mean that everything needs to be over simplified. Also refuse to be treated as a child by advertising telling you how to behave in public places or in your own home.

6. It’s ok to lead

It’s ok to be a leader, an inspiration, an organiser. Not everyone wants to can do that thing. If it’s you, then just do it. Dont worry about it too much.

7. Look up and look out

From your phone, from the floor, from the screen, out of the window and importantly out of yourself. There lies the power and inspiration.

8. Visions vs Alternatives Vs Firefighting

I’m keen on removing barriers to justice and having a vision rather than firefighting all the time or feeling the pressure that we have to have some coherent alternative. I don’t buy that argument. It’s difficult to build alternatives within our lived reality. Let’s remove the barriers to justice, then we’ll talk. The onus isn’t on us to prove we can build a better world. I’m not playing that game. Capitalism isnt my elder, I need to prove myself to. If anything it’s the other way round.

9. Make the Left a nice place to hang out

We have the joy. We have the joy and the love and the camaraderie on our side. We know that it is good, honest relationships which make people fulfilled and happy. Throw the best parties and bake the best cakes.  Replace vacuous hedonism with meaningful hedonism full of strong bonds and good times. Take as much space as you can. And when you come up against obstacles in trying to throw the best party, make it visible how and why you weren’t allowed to.

10. Collectivise everything

Childcare, admin, gardening, cooking, fixing, thinking, writing, mental health, and refuse, refuse; to be inside yourself.

As the wonderful Angela Davis said, either no one is an activist or no one is – let’s make sure that we too are not using activist as a category to separate us from others, and let’s start from the belief that we, as a collective, all together, have power.

Ill stop there, thanks very much for your time.

20170211_170121.jpg
Neoliberalism vs Democracy Conference – Glasgow

Disclaimer – the views expressed in this piece are the culmination of every single conversation I’ve had, book ive read, laugh of my grandmother, paving stone I’ve skipped over, cloud I’ve seen, song I’ve sang, dream I’ve dreamt and blue-tit I’ve watched eat peanuts from the bird feeder.

The notion that these thoughts and ideas are ‘solely my own’ is totally ridiculous and I dont possess the arrogance or ideological blindness to make such an outrageous statement.