Monday, 26 September 2016

BLM Meets the Quiet Man?

Black Lives Matter is a movement I agree with, as I suspect (and hope) all anarchists do. Who can deny the existence of racist structures in the American (and not just American) state?

Colin Kaepernick is an American Football player who's standing up to the racist US establishment and its imperialist hegemony by refusing to participate in the anachronism that is the national anthem

So it's kinda weird to see this:



The only 'Ian Smith' that I know of who said such a thing is our beloved former Welfare Overlord, Iain "The Fridge" Duncan Smith (he's certainly cold as ice).

Now, look, this isn't a criticism. I've got all the respect in the world for BLM and it's supporters, including Colin. It just made me chuckle.

Or maybe the Ian Smith's of the world are on the march, nmaybe they could adopt a catchy acronym: IS...?

No, that will never catch on.

Here's a poem someone else wrote. I found it while trying to find IDS' toe curling quiet man speech.


 I couldn't find that speech, perhaps it's for the best. Not even a wet grey Monday morning can persuade me to trawl the depths of youtube and listen to more of that awkward hateful zealot's performances.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

The Peacock Festival

The internet is in so many ways a wonderful resource. Social media likewise offers a truly democratic (advertising notwithstanding) platform for people to be heard. But neither are perfect nor are they free from all the shit humans carry with them. In particular the internet seems to foster some traits that are denied by simple real time human interaction, where honesty is a must. Online, people are quick to judge and slow to change, they are also deeply uncharitable refusing to extend the benefit of the doubt in conversation. It is also deeply reactionary. It's a peacock festival, a competition not a conversation.

Last night I got into an online argument with a guy who, like so many, believe they are living in an age where the average male is being oppressed. These are people that use terms like 'social justice warrior' seriously, even though the only purpose behind such pejorative is to stifle the discourse. I am not a 'social justice warrior' - nothing so patronising - I am someone who cares about equality and is aware (or at least trying to become aware) of the relations between groups and their hierarchy within our society.

The bone of contention was the notion that men don't have the freedom or opportunity in society to air their problems and discuss 'men's rights' issues. The reason for this isn't the prevalence of toxic masculine values in our culture (what feminists call patriarchy), it's because the feminists (as if they are a singular, monolithic, hive mind) are stifling every attempt to do so. I simply don't buy this. Certainly there are protests of events where 'men's rights activists' have attempted to hold meetings, inviting individuals with a record of hate speech to attend, under the guise of free speech.

Now look, I'm all for people being able to discuss issues and certainly there are issues that affect genders - largely because of those self same values I mentioned. Male suicide rates can be, if somewhat simplistically, attributed to feelings of failure in not having lived up to one's perceived potential as a male. But these are also issues that feminists care about - even the more strident ones. However feminism is a broad church and, like any movement, has outliers and fringe thinkers. So what? They are not shutting down every avenue that men have to speak - they are protesting occasions where dodgy speakers have been invited to lecture at, for example, a university. That's not a free speech issue either; these people have plenty of opportunities to speak and walking into a university lecture hall isn't one of them.

That said, I endeavoured to find out more about what was happening by asking a reddit forum entitled 'askfeminists', a place I'd been to before with some success. I woke up this morning to find that my question had been deleted, and that I was banned with no explanation. An attempt to find out what the reason for this was, and to allay any suspicion that I might be a misogynist troll, was met with a warning not to contact the moderators again within 72 hours. No explanation, no effort made to interact, no charity offered, just the obvious assumption (presumably) that I am trolling.

And so one avenue of inquiry is permanently closed.

This is also not the only instance of this. I have made similar inquiries of anarchists, in particular in trying to learn about Trotsky on an anarchist forum. I was accused of being a 'trot', though given I don't understand his politics, let alone why they are bad, how can I be? No one would answer because, again, no explanation, no effort, no interaction, and no charity.

This fucking annoys me. I find this intensely frustrating. How can this attitude be anything other than utterly self defeating. Both feminism and anarchism are perceived negatively in the mainstream media: the popular view of the strident harridan feminist or the black bloc student throwing bricks at coppers are the stereotypes de jeur. How on earth are people to change perceptions if, when asked, representatives of these communities not only refuse to engage, but actively disregard those making inquiries as troublemakers?

I don't live in a cosmopolitan area. I live in Toryshire. I live in the sticks in a sea of electoral blue. There's nothing radical or progressive happening here for fuck's sake. Who can I appeal to offline to learn more about these long standing traditions, the ideologies behind them, and the particulars of instances such as I have mentioned. If I can't access the facts then how can I defend against those who criticise these positions that I hold with such tentative knowledge.

Look, I'm anarchist not because I have a long proud history of involvement in direct action and class war, but because I believe that people should be freed from oppressive authorities and hierarchical structures (such as capitalism). They should be able to freely associate on a horizontal not vertical basis, working to render the state obsolete through grassroots activism responding to issues and problems.

And I'm a feminist not because I'm female nor because I held hands on cold grey weekends around Greenham common, but because I recognise that women are not fully equal partners in society. I understand that patriarchal culture, such as we have, is harmful to both women AND men, and that by destroying it and promoting true equality, we all benefit, regardless of gender or sex.

These aren't controversial opinions to me; in fact they are the only hope for our society.

So when I ask you, as advocates with expertise and knowledge, to share that knowledge, please don't fucking shut me out!

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Mental Health

What is fear?


It is the distance between where you are and where you want to be.


It is measured in units of aspiration and regulated by conformity. To do what must be done is to invite fear. To resist what is expected is to invite fear.


It is the voice you hear when no one speaks.


It is what you do when you can't do.


Mental health is a shadow that obscures the reality of your experience when your experience falls short of what is expected. When you try to show the world that something is wrong, but there is nothing you can show them because your problems are invisible and can't be measured in broken bones.


This is the one aspect that separates mental from physical difficulty. Even though physical problems can be just as debilitating, perhaps even more so. Even though society can be just as judgemental toward those with such issues, these problems can be seen. As such they can be understood. A person with a broken bone can wear a smile and earn sympathy, a person with a broken mind can wear a smile and nobody will see how hollow it is. In fact in the eyes of others that smile will betray the depth of what they are feeling.


Not drowning but waving. Nobody sees the problem for what it really is. Nobody wants them to. .

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

The Measure of a Life

In truth, there is no future.

I should have lived a life markedly different and better than how things worked out, and I feel judged everywhere I turn. I feel as if I have to apologise for that life. For not conforming to the standards imposed by our culture.

I feel as if I have to apologise in advance because this post will seem indulgent and self pitying. I can't (and won't) help that; it's another cultural judgement.

This is not the life I would have chosen. It was not how I wanted things to be. I had dreams, but I didn't have the strength to realise them. That's my failing. Dreams are permitted only where and when they can be realised. Anything else is just shirking. That's the message.

I could tell you about the art teacher who didn't give a damn about the students when I was interested in art. I could mention the music courses that shut down while I was applying for them while leaving me with no clue as to what to do, or the education establishments that didn't care about offering any support in that context. I didn't even know what UCAS was while everyone else I knew at college was applying for university. I only went to college because the sixth form at my school weren't remotely interested - and I only applied for that because that was what you did. I had no idea how to live my life or how to do what I wanted. I was interested in things, but with no guidance I was adrift.

And that's how it's been ever since. Now here I am with nothing to show for it, except this self indulgent crap I doubt anyone will give a damn about. I never conformed and I paid the price for it.

Today I met someone in the street who has moved in to a nearby house; someone that moved away years ago and made a life for himself whom I knew as a child. Now he has a wife, kid, career and a nice home. Now I have to walk past it every day if I want to get around. Just one person in my neighbourhood I know will be judging me. That's what people do. I don't even walk out my front door these days, I don't need or aspire to the opinions of neighbours who, if they see me, will be thinking, hey, he's a joke. That's how we are socialised; it's the values of the Tory party as expressed in comments about inappropriately closed curtains.

We hide our lives behind appearances. When asked about our well being in the street honesty isn't required, just a polite acquiescence to the positive. But what can I say afterwards? Sure "I'm fine", but I'm not fine and I have nothing more to say - and if I say nothing then I'm rude and standoffish. I'm neither of those things, at least not internally. I care about people, but I care more about how they view me and so I'd rather not talk because talking reveals the paucity of my life and invites judgement. I'm not married, I won't be buying a home, and I doubt I'll ever have kids.

What are my options for changing this above and beyond the magical thinking that people indulge in when discussing the failings of another's life. Just pull yourself up by the bootstraps, or indulge in some cosmic ordering and wish it all into being. If wishes had currency, things would most assuredly be very different.

But they aren't. I have never felt comfortable in this society, or even in my own skin. That isn't a cry for attention, though it will be seen as such (as will that), it's a statement of fact. I didn't aspire to be created and I certainly didn't choose this fucked up society. But even expressing that invites more conformity: if you want to change things, get a job and vote. What good will that do? Plenty of people vote and nothing changes. Nor will it. First past the post Westminster style democracy is a pit of snakes and demagogues with no interest in actual change. No vote for a British politician ever amounted to a damn, and what compels these liars to even listen? We even make light of it, acknowledging that we understand our complicity in this charade, yet instead of accepting responsibility for this and addressing it, we blame the less fortunate or those we perceive to be lazy.

I don't see a future at all. I have a CV that's slightly less convincing than a blank sheet of paper. I have to compete in the labour market, both concepts I abhor, with that CV against people who have achieved more. My inevitable failure will enable society to dismiss my efforts and traduce everything I aspire to. I can't cope with the conventional work structures, but that will be seen as another excuse. The problem is that this isn't a two way street. They talk, I have to listen; that's the balance of power between state and citizen in this country. The DWP aren't likely to help me, even if they wanted to. Instead the government will hand money to private companies to waste on schemes intended to help, but never do, rather than actually give that directly to people to help them achieve something themselves.

In the end even that would be a sop. It's no substitute for a real society where people can take responsibility for their lives. When affored that opportunity they really can blossom, but our system stultifies genuine inner aspiration and replaces it with greed and ambition. A system where one must start out at 'the bottom' in order to reach 'the top', whatever that may mean. One must endure working through shit, in terms of pay and conditions, becasue that's character building. But I don't need to build my character, I need the means to live my life. I do not consent to be exploited and I don't need to be judged for not conforming to that exploitation.

There are no systems that can help. Mental health isn't interested in actual wellness, it is interested, at best, in simplistic triage. That why I'm continuously referred to a simple CBT service that will be over in a few weeks. A service that cannot address the root causes of the alienation I feel and that, like the rest of the medical service, seeks only to engage in victim blaming while using vapid excuses such as "other people manage" to mask it. This term has been put to me more times than I can count, yet it lacks any explanatory power and nothing to back it up is ever preferred, despite the asking. How do they manage? Who are they? What are they doing? Are their circumstances even remotely similar?

I had nothing to say to the person in the street and now I feel even more alienated. This isn't a personal attack. I do not begrudge him his life or his success at living it. I just don't want to be judged. I would rather he wasn't in the neighbourhood. Unfortunately there's nothing I can do about that except die inside a little more.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Two Months In Politics Is A Long Time!

I've allowed this to slide for too long, but I had to say something on the recent watershed in British politics. What a joke!

At first the news seemed to imply that remain had won the referendum, then the news revealed the reality. A shocking outcome, certainly, but when you think is it really that surprising? We've been subject to years of political arrogance that has disenfranchised the working class. This has coincided with the latest wave of migration, particularly from the continent. The Labour government, though certainly not alone in this, did precisely fuck all to help communities on both sides integrate and arrogantly assumed that people would tolerate the situation. It is here that the rampant and vicious xenophobia of the exit campaign took root.

But it is erroneous to assume that the working class are intrinsically and comprehensively racist. This was a shout of rage from still-deprived, and increasingly so, communities who want change. It was inchoate, possibly even inarticulate, and, quite possibly, in some small quarters even racist. But the message is clear: we are fed up with YOU: the people that take our power and act against our interests while claiming to do the opposite. People that claim they know best while communities crumble through deprivation. People want an easy scapegoat and that was provided by migrants, but they are a symptom and not the cause.

People were right to reject the EU. It is a vastly undemocratic institution - at its core. It is run by an economic elite comprised mainly of white men. It is unrepresentative and almost unaccountable. Unfortunately to reject it entirely is simplistic, because there are benefits that come from being within it; free movement of people for example. I believe in open borders, but I also believe that people should run their communities, not states or governments. The EU cannot really provide open borders because it is an institution built out of nation states and nationalist structures. Open borders means nothing if you can't get a passport or can't afford to travel anyway. These are still elitist propositions.

It is a fortress that, in recent years, has allowed refugees fleeing war in the middle east (largely fuelled by western imperialism) to drown rather than be helped. As such it is itself racist, never mind the thuggish rhetoric of those campaigning to leave; there is racism on both sides.It is a capitalist institution that seeks trade deals which oppress the working class: TTIP, for example. Fundamentally it is a structure whose existence cannot be justified and is not necessary. All the advantages it offers (such as movement across Europe) are temporal; they can be revoked just as easily as they can be offered. It is a sop offered for the benefit of capital, nothing more. Movement of people exists because it is economically beneficial to capital. That is all. Should that change, so would the policy.

People might argue that the EU protects human rights. But that merely shows the paucity of our own laws. If people have to appeal to the EU courts to get justice then something has already gone drastically wrong. Why is this not being addressed? What guarantee is there that the EU will be any more just than local courts? Does it address the fundamental problem of justice under capitalism: that justice exists only for those that can afford it?

 This was a shout that toppled a leader that had only been in power for a year. It seems like a small victory given the hawk that now sits in number 10, but don't forget, Cameron didn't comprehensively win in 2010. He had to appeal to the traitor Clegg to be his kingmaker. When that ended he won the first election for his party in decades - only to foolishly offer a referendum intended to appease the swivel eyed eurosceptics within the Tory party. That cost him his head and his legacy. A result that won't put food on the table for those still suffering the injustice of austerity (a policy supported by the EU, I might add), but a result nonetheless.

It's also a result sneered at by the liberal media. The soporific snobbery of Polly Toynbee and Owen Jones has been insufferable; they cannot understand why we would want to leave. Yes, that's the problem! You lot sipping Pimms in Islington don't understand!

And speaking of the odious Toynbee she's been a cheerleader for the leadership challenge initiate in the wake of Brexit against Jeremy Corbyn. This is an extraordinary state of affairs that has culminated in Labour spending the income from members to exclude those members from having a say in who leads the party - while landing those who resisted that effort with a whopping tens-of-thousnds-of-pounds legal bill. Is this the party against or for austerity?

It is a futile and brazen affair: Corbyn, like him or loathe him, was elected legally according to the rules accepted by all concerned. He's not even been the leader for a year and the knives couldn't have come out quicker. No sooner had remain lost the referendum, Corbyn was scapegoated. We have the likes of Margaret Hodge arrogantly blaming him while ignorant of the fact her constituency voted to leave. But they don't care about that, they have sought this opportunity from day one. Consequently this situation will not be resolved when the hapless and desperately unpopular Owen Smith (coming out from behind Angela Eagle and stabbing her in the back, while arguing that Labour is egalitarian) inevitably loses. Another crisis, another challenge, and so on until 2020. Corbyn will end up being ousted by the death of a thousand cuts. This to me is a dismal inevitability. They do not like him, they do not like his views, they do not care how hypercritical they are as long as the Blairte scum once again get power. They will do whatever it takes, with increasing desperation, until Corbyn is bled dry.

This then is the immediate future. People need to forget Corbyn. Don't get me wrong, he seems like a nice guy, but he is stuck within a system that will destroy him. He refuses to fight against that system while running a capitalist party. Labour is exactly that and that is why they want him gone, because they want that capitalist element to reassert itself. Owen Smith is just another corporate lackey, just another voice for a slightly less red blooded version of capitalism. He won't offer change, and he can't deliver it. He hasn't a prayer of winning this election, no matter how desperate the tactics of the anti-Corbyn contingent. But the reality is that Corbyn and the ballot box will not give us the change we need. That can only come from the grassroots. We must reject the system and replace it through direct action, making it and its representatives irrelevant, as they surely are.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Ghost Whistler vs the Internet

Over many years I've been online and one thing I've noticed; the internet is an awful place for conversation.

Don't get me wrong, I think as a source of information and even opinion it's superb. There are many positive aspects to this technology, which is good since nothing I do or say will get rid of it! Not that I want to.

The problem is message forums. I don't know what it is but I have managed to cross almost every single forum I have been on. Not deliberately, you understand; but the nature of the medium makes it impossible to discern honest intention and to differentiate between that and dishonesty.

But by far the worst aspect are the cliques that form. Even on places that profess to be more open minded, or to oppose accepted norms and values, such as capitalism. These forums will still be governed by prevailing attitudes determined by a clique who will refuse to extend the slightest charity when interacting with someone new or someone different.

There is also a curious phenomenon wherein those who are subsequently marginalised will be unable to respond in any way to defend their position. If they try this will be taken as evidence they are lying, because well he would say that, wouldn't he!

I don't think we see this in real life. Talk to someone for real and you have to acknowledge their presence in all aspects. They might be in your face. At the vbery least they will be right there talking to dyou, and that demands respect. It's a lot harder to bullshit to someone's face, than through a series of pixels. Tell someone to their face they are a liar and see what happens.

The internet has sanitised that vital aspect of communication and thus made it easier for people on forums to create vapid echo chambers wherein dissenting opinions, regarldess of evidence, can be silenced. It has become easier to dismiss someone who may simply have misspoken, or someone like me who finds communication difficult.

I can write text, I can put words together (you may disagree of course), but the problem individuals like myself have is that we have to dwecode our own thoughts. There is a cypher, created by cogonitive (dys)function, that takes what we intend to say and translates it, through the very same language, into something we may not. The problem with that is that we don't know this is happening. When input into forum converation there are no allowances made for this and attempts to explain are ignored. Again this is because people do not extend charity or courtesy online as they must in person because real human presence demands this.

Finally the last corrupting facotr is the prevailing cultural values that seem to find a home online. Currently there seems to be a backlash against progressive values and understanding. Advocates of these values are deemed regressive and examples of fringe or outlier behaviour are proferred as justification for intolerance. These people make no sense to me. What is wrong with tolerance, compassions, respect or courtesy? Why is the assumption that, when someone seems to mispeak, it can't be because he might have a cognitive impariment or anomaly? Why is it that they are instead deemed ot have subscribed to a regressive ideology? What in fact is regressive abotu this other than to limit people's ability, if not desire, to behave like an asshole to others? Why is it assumed that such cognitive anomalies are instead just loony left excuses for laziness?

I can't deal with people that think like this. To me racism, misogyny, and other oppressive social structures must be challenged. Why would anyone want to adhere to them. The answer is simple: because they benefit, directly or indrectly, consciously or otherwise, from the privilege offered. Why else do people object to Black Lives Matter, or feminism, or...whatever? We all benefit from supporting these efforts to dismantle established hierarchies. Even those who think they don't.

Unfortunately the internet is full of people who climb inside to have their conditioning reinforced and their prejudices pandered to. We are all raised within a certain culture and that includes submitting to the propaganda we've heard all our lives, and thus normalising and rationalising those values. There's nothing difficult about that and it is nobodies fault for how they are raised. But there must come a time when we challenge these views. It is sad that efforts, including my own, to understand these structures and to learn about what they are have been marked by dealing with some of the most intolerable and repugnant people I've ever come across who are every bit as unpleasant as those they criticise.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

How I Survived the Cameron Years...

That was the subtitle I chose for this collection of thought vomiting I laughably call a blog. It appears to now be complete, since the Cameron years are - almost - over. His arrogance has cost him his job as Britain's premier feudal overlord and, as I write, he has been replaced by Theresa May about whom the less said the better (condescendingly, she promised to be a champion of the poor but her voting record says otherwise).

So it seems that I have survived. These words are not coming through from the Other Side (tm) and are not the product of a seance. In fact I appear to have been returned - unlike Cameron - to the Work Related Activity Group. I received a letter on Thursday informing me of my victory over the forces of ESA darkness. At least I hope so otherwise I'm in for a nasty shock! :D

I have not recorded my experience at the interview since there really wasn't much to tell. Most of those reading will know what to expect; it was a routine affair (fortunately I suppose). My appointment was 20 minutes earlier than when I was seen, despite there being no one else present. The same receptionist was present as the last time, but, pleasantly, she was much less snarky than before. Perhaps we can attribute that to a change in management as these tests are carried out by Maximus and not ATOS. Though I imagine it's too much to assume they are significantly improved over their predecessors.

The interview process was pleasant enough: the interviewer could well have been from any medical (or not) background. I have no idea and didn't see any point asking. The questions were the usual psuedo-friendly mix of polite medical inquiry and subtle pressure - i.e., asking how I attended and who my companion was is all an attempt to elicit a kind of response. We all know this.

There are two fundamental truths I can point to by way of advice to anyone else undergoing this experience from my own:

1. Take someone with you. I had a friend who very kindly volunteered his time to attend and offer invaluable support. I can't express my gratitude enough for this, particularly as he was left to sit and observe. Not the most fun way to spend your time! I cannot offer hard data to support this, but I strongly suspect the presence of another really helps the case.
2. The moment you knock on the door the test starts. From that point everything, including how you enter the building, ascend the floors to the waiting room, how and whom you speak to, is part of the test. It's not Bladerunner's Voigt-Kampf test, but it's close. In fact, and again without hard evidence, I suspect that being kept waiting for 20 minutes is also part of the test. There was no real reason for it, they have plenty of assessors - in fact the whole top floor of the DWP building is given over to this process. Everything is there to test you, no matter how pleasant it may appear.

So this is a happy way to end the Cameron years, for now at least. I am supposed to now be available for Work Focussed Interviews. I've technically already had one, back in June, when I spoke to the adviser on the phone. At that point I was ready to throw in the towel. He was supposed to get back to me but didn't, now I suspect he will.

But the problems still remain: this is still a horrific situation and any victory, and associated happy feelings, must be tempered. There are also plenty of people with far more serious conditions experiencing far worse than I. This system is ridiculous: I mentioned that the entirety of the top of the DWP building is devoted to the medical testing. That itself is absurdity: why are these tests not done by one's own GP or even through the NHS? Why is this bureaucracy necessary? Why is money spent on hiring a private insurance company to administer a test we all know to be, at best, arbitrary, at worst discriminatory? These questions betray the reality: that the poor and sick are to be treated with utmost suspicion if their value as production drones is ever called in to question.

That is the worth of a man, and, to end on a considerably more downbeat note (the struggle is far from over): this isn't really a victory. I don't want to be in this situation. I don't want to be dependent on the capriciousness of capitalism and the whims of its neo feudal aristocratic overlords. I remain at their suffrance and what they deign to giveth can justeth as easily be snatched back.