With not very much planned for the bank holiday at the beginning of the week, I’ve found myself busy meeting people and seeing parts of Londres I don’t usually see. I even enjoyed doorstepping for the Opposition. Now all I need is for this humidity to end.
Yesterday on the way for a drink I was approaching a nearby district when I saw a column of smoke ahead of me. It lent an air of apocalypse to the warm evening. I was reminded of the Londres riots of five years ago. I had been here too then, in exactly that spot, watching crowds breaking into shops, and police sweeping down roads with dogs. For a moment I wondered if we were seeing new riots, but there was no restlessness in the air, no air of desperation. It turned out to be a burning scooter abandoned in the middle of the road. I edged around it and went on, passing a fire engine a few minutes later. I noted some slight sense of disappointment. It’s not that riots are a way forward, but dissatisfaction that intense feels like it could drive change.
The evening was one of convivial drinking and getting to know a new resident of Londres. I left with a good feeling, a new connection made, and lay in until midday. It has been a weekend of conversation and I am happy to have a quieter day today. I love talking with people but after many hours of it I feel the edges of myself slipping, the need to sit quietly for a while, re-establish some inner calm. Perhaps I should let those edges slip a little more, but I’m not sure that it would make for a better me.
A thought from the weekend: one of my worst sides, to see people as better or worse than me, seems to be abating. Some time ago I recognised this tendency that I had, exacerbated by a society that thinks competitively, to unconsciously rank people as good or bad, better or worse. That framework is driven by fear I think, mostly of losing what you have, but also of being made to suffer unnecessarily. Those fears aren’t entirely unreasonable, but it’s no good having them in the driving seat.
It’s been a week busy with meetings. On Tuesday I met with a group I haven’t worked with before, though several were known to me already as habitual resisters. It felt good to be part of an attempt to build a large organisation, a Union Against Landlords. I became aware, however, how much time this could suck up, i.e. every minute I make available to it. I need to keep an eye on this. I am a better human being when not stressed and tired – or perhaps a better way to say it is that I feel more myself.
I’ve been thinking more this week about whether I’m as clear as I had once thought about who ‘myself’ is. It’s a tricky question to answer. Each part of me has a history, including the parts I don’t like, and different people bring out different parts of myself. There is no ‘true self’, but there is a self I favour, a self sometimes hidden by circumstances and interactions and my own reactions. Perhaps this is what people usually mean when they refer to their true selves – the bits they like. We can, to some extent, make life choices that bring out our best selves, but we all end up in a relationship with the bits of ourselves we don’t like too. The compromises we can least avoid are the compromises with ourselves.
Last night I went to a meeting to discuss collectively owned homes. It was the launch of a great report and the room was full of excellent and interesting people. I left rather frustrated that the event had been led so much from the front, without leaving time for the people in the room to talk to each other. It’s one of my pet hates, having seen it many times: a roomful of people who are interested in each other, and who might produce good things together, but not given a chance to interact. Politics is interaction, and Londres militates against it. We should take all the opportunities we get to talk together, so that we can make decisions and take actions together.
A summer day in a Londres spring. This spring has also provided winter days. These are not good signs, but the sun on my skin is good.
After the poor start to the weekend it just got better. I went knocking on doors for the opposition to our rulers. It felt good to take part in something bigger than myself. From the to a party at the Rebel Teacher’s house. On the way I met Dynamo Sparkle and one of her comrades underground. I invited them to the party and they came along. It was a good night with the best of company, though at the end I got into a discussion with someone who couldn’t see why people might be so negative about the Island’s colonialism. I left the conversation rather angry when he seemed dismissive of the suffering and death it has caused not just in the distant past but recently too in Mesopotamia. He said blandly that those with power will use it. I pointed out that sometimes they should be stopped, and that includes the rulers of this Island.
Then a glorious lie-in till midday, and lazy afternoon until it was time for a reading session with Power Fist and others. A friend from Cold Blow Farm joined me, though I’m not sure she was a convert to the intense political discussions of the rest of us. The reading segued into a barbecue, and the Curious Brewer cooked us fine food as we chatted. Such moments with friends are the bedrock of contentment.
Today was all about the sun. It takes me, oftentimes, to other places, where the sun shines more strongly. Alas today it took me, with the Public Tree Service, to the garden of some members of the Vermin Party. On their lawn lay the statue of a young adolescent girl, naked and reading a book on her front. It struck me as fairly typical of their degeneracy that they would cast this social unacceptability in bronze and display it for people to see. Why not? The rules aren’t for them. As I was leaving, they scoffed at the idea that public service cuts might actually affect service levels. They live in their own world, and the reality of people’s daily struggles aren’t for them. This is how we are ruled.
I woke up in a terrible mood after a bad dream in which someone was being nasty to me. It was a product, I think, of thinking about my childhood, in particular the question of whether I was allowed to be myself. This is a difficult idea because who I am now is always a product of my past. There is no ‘true self’ that you would have been without relationships that skewed you. So on one level it’s pointless to hypothesise what you might have become. Yet it is possible to analyse whether the way people behaved towards you were positive or negative.
My parents were awkward, but there was also all that stuff that boys/men are always subjected to. As an adult I discovered I preferred talking about feelings to talking about football. I think this was always true, yet as a child, and particularly as an adolescent, there was absolutely no way to discover it. I only felt a low level dull resentment around the topic of sport, and gradually developed a thick callus shell against the way adolescent boys interact with each other.
This isn’t an attempt to paint my situation as something special, though there were some special circumstances. In fact I think the above is normal. What is less normal is recovery. I look at our rulers driving us towards the end of the world and see that they never recovered. But I look too at all those who vote for the Vermin who are kicking them, and see that they too never recovered. Many people are still living in their hard shells. Which isn’t to say, alas, that they don’t genuinely like football.
I’ve been cheered up by a funny story from the Red Flash, and going for a run to get the adrenalin flowing. Just in time too: the rain is back in Londres.
The rain in Londres has been torrential, I got two punctures yesterday and one today, and the Vermin are still in charge. I am feeling better than I have done for months. There seem to a few different factors involved, one of which is very simply distance from the tragedy of last year. Another is that I have been making plans to travel. I always enjoy that. It makes me feel like the end of the world can be escaped.
Another factor I think is the conversations I have had lately with the oracle by the Tamesis. The oracle has a habit of asking very penetrating questions. It may seem curious that I go to an oracle for questions rather than answers, but part of the pleasure of the visits is that I am the one who provides the answers. There is a lot to be said for simply asking the right questions. My oracle has had many decades of experience and is good at it.
The final factor is, I think, taking some political actions for the first time in a while. Political theory is all fun enough, and there’s a lot to be said for moaning like a bastard about how shit everything is, but when it comes to my personal happiness, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as sticking the boot in to The Enemy.
And that is all for today.
It has been a better weekend than expected. I had to leave Londres for a stag party in Boggy Mountains. Even at the end of the world people want to get married. I took the opportunity to cycle in the mountains going to and from the cottage we stayed in. Everywhere you go is beautiful countryside and the bridleways were a pleasure to cycle. I saw a pair of Wheatears visiting from Africa – not a sight you see in Londres. Monbiot describes these hills as upland deserts, victims of the depredations of capitalistic sheep. I agree that we shouldn’t expend a lot of resources trying to maintain defunct agricultural landscapes, but that doesn’t stop me enjoying the current landscape.
The stag party itself was pleasant enough. Often in a group situation I find myself on the edge, but in this group a couple of others seemed more out of place than I felt. I’ve been thinking about my participation in groups, and my fear of being taken over by groupthink. Perhaps even thinking about it helps me feel more positive about being in groups. It’s a shame my last venture in that direction didn’t end well.
I discovered that my brother is a menace when drunk.
On the train back to Londres I read Lefebre and Harvey on cities. I’ve been reading them with the idea of studying a little further. They were enjoyable to read for their own sake, and I had forgotten how much there was to agree with in Chapter 3 of Harvey’s Rebel Cities. He talks about urban commons in a complex way, making it clear they often get co-opted as part of the city-as-investment factory. But he sees a way to make urban commons ours for good too. In particular he references Murray Bookchin’s federated communities as a way forward. Bookchin was one of my political loves some years back, and I agree with Harvey that he had thought about the problem of organising commons at scale more than most. Any resident of Londres has to think about solutions that scale.
It’s a good sign that I enjoy reading these academic texts. It makes me feel more confident about the value of a little more study. The question will be whether academia would value the idea of me studying enough to give me actual money in a time when the government is pretending there’s a shortage.