28th September 2017

A few days ago I had a meeting with a Londres academic who potentially has a lot of power to make decisions about my life. During and immediately after the meeting I felt fine, but a little later I suddenly felt the vulnerability of my position. I lay awake in bed worrying about my mistakes, and how they might be interpreted. I worried that a breakdown in confidence halfway through the meeting would be looked upon poorly. I felt suddenly intensely jealous of people whose confidence never cracks.

It reminded me of what the Oracle by the Thamesis said to me recently about how one’s attitudes towards others often stem from one’s attitude towards oneself. What does jealousy of another mean except that you are not content with yourself and where you are? What does anger show except that you feel threatened?

I came home to Coldblow Farm last night and fell into a conversation with The Builder about vulnerabilities. It felt good to admit some of our own to each other. It is typically masculine to hide all vulnerabilities, to pretend they are not there, even to build strategies of aggression to ensure they can never be seen. To be made to feel vulnerabilties is not pleasant, though the Oracle tells me it can be important part of self-development. The vulnerabilities of the inner child can be felt and absorbed by the adult, and so become better integrated into everyday life. Or something.

The world does not encourage this, Londres does not encourage this, and even the left does not encourage this. Social success so often comes with a cast-iron confidence – or a facade of it – and vulnerability shown in a discussion easily reads as lack of confidence. I am rather ambivalent about allowing feelings of vulnerability that could reduce my ability to work with my peers. Perhaps in time the vulnerabilities will seem less important, will seem laughable, a mere trifle to be stepped over. Perhaps. But it also seems to me that we all need to change, to accept vulnerability in others without it turning into a questioning of their authority to speak.

28th September 2017

24th September 2017

I spent most of the weekend with my sister, showing her the area of Londres I live in. It happened to be a sociable weekend, so she met many of my friends. Among many things I like about my sister is that she reminds me I can click with people in the absence of some of my usual crutches for social interaction: discussion of politics, books, and other inanimate or abstract forms. We have things in common that other people do not; some of it is simply about a way of interacting.

We went to a birthday party last night. It was a relaxed atmosphere, and in a beautiful garden. We stood around the fire, listened to music, ate good food. To me however the night had a sad edge to it, for there were many people there who could once work together but no longer can. The personal interaction at the party was good, but politically it didn’t offer much hope.

The sun made an unexpected appearance this afternoon. I spent as much time in it as possible, then my sister left for the Last Beach Resort, a place which I would never choose to live in. Then, despite the sun, I had to retreat to my room to do research for a project I am considering doing. Which reminded me that I enjoy research. On Friday I saw the Rebel Teacher, who was encouraging about my project. We talked too about many other things; it’s always good to be with an ally. Social life itself is a resort, even when, or perhaps especially when, working together is hard.

24th September 2017

19th September 2017

Yesterday I found myself in the bowels of Londres, where the effluent flows. I had wanted to visit these tunnels for years, had finally found an entry point. Strange noises echoed in the darkness. I shone a light ahead of me, hoping for a sight of the legendary Beast, which fears the open air more than anything. The problem, I knew, was the Beast is frightened of humans. And who wouldn’t be? Other, far more ferocious creatures are said to roam tunnels, monsters grown fat on fat and high on cocaine. So while the Beast was scared of me, I was scared of the monsters that live on what we throw away. Each step was fraught, each corner a horror until my light had turned to reveal the emptiness. I felt unsure why I was there, knowing how unwelcome I was, except as food. All the while the grey and aromatic waste flowed past me, heedless of my presence.

A noise. Quieter than the other noises I had noticed. A scuffling. I stopped, frozen, waiting to hear it again. There it was. I put my hand over the torch so that only a glimmer of light escaped, and I did not move. Scuffle, drag, scuffle, scratch. And there it was, in the low red light from my fingers. The Beast was somewhat like a beaver, but bigger, and with overdeveloped front paws that looked like hands. It suddenly noticed my presence, stopped. It sniffed the air, peered at me, and to my surprise moved closer. I turned my head to follow it. It noticed my motion and nodded, as though noting something. It’s snout was mere inches below my nose now. I risked looking down. The Beast gazed up at me, and I sensed in it not the fear I had expected, but an overwhelming isolation, such as could only be felt by a unique creature. We looked at each other for some moments, and I felt that I too was as vulnerable as this Beast. I too was prey, subject to the whims of a world not designed by myself or by anyone I knew. We seemed, though perhaps it was my imagination, to reach a shared understanding in that moment. We both lived in an uncaring universe, and the fact that it was both of us was the only comfort we would find.

In a moment, the Beast was gone. I slowly made my way to the surface, meditating on the encounter. When I had gone down into the tunnels of Londres I had been unsure what I was looking for. Now I was unsure what I had found, but I was glad that I had found it.

19th September 2017

13th September 2017 

As I head back to Londres, I think about how I’ve been getting involved in new collective projects recently, or trying to. This involves a lot of negotiation with others, even a process of questioning oneself, if you value success over ego. 

I’ve thought about the problems of collective organising a lot over the years, including about what repels many participants in collective projects. It isn’t only ego, but also insecurity, impatience, over-idealisation, fear of defeat. Nobody, to my knowledge, has written a guide to getting involved in collaborative working where you are an equal rather than an employee. It is assumed you will work out how to do it as you go along, will feel the right things naturally. This is perhaps a shame, because many people don’t.

This links to the writing I have been doing recently about owning, and what it means to be an owner together with others. I long since realised that many people are scared of working with others in the absence of a boss – it raises too many problems, the solutions to which they are unsure of because they don’t fit within the narrative of their lives. The truth is, most people will need a major shift in how they see others and themselves in order for it to work.

A tree is not what you think it is. That structure of wood and leaves is only the shell of a tree. The tree is also the endophytes growing on its leaves, the insects that inhabit it, the nematodes and worms that turn the soil, and above all the mycorrhizal associations that anchor it in the earth, that feed it, connect it to every other tree.

The analogy makes itself, I hope. It’s easy to say, but the implications of it run deep.

13th September 2017 

8th September 2017

I left the city by train for the Southern Moorlands today. The clouds and the light were breathtaking as I left Londres behind. Arrayed beneath were the fields and woodland in full summer green. I found myself dozing off within minutes, then waking half an hour later and happy to simply watch the countryside roll by.

While the natural world was calming, the housing with which it was interspersed was less so. I was reminded again how absurd it is that someone on an above-average salary and with savings in the bank should find it so hard to obtain property. As though there was some genuine scarcity, rather than the manufactured scarcity of a landlord’s market. Shelter is such a basic human need, has taken so many forms over the years, and is so simple compared to our more sophisticated technologies, yet one of the richest countries in the world is pretending it is difficult to do. I feel some anger at the people who have engineered our current plight, and I’m quite happy with that feeling.

Earlier this week I helped run a meeting for the renters project. It went more slowly than we had planned, and slightly changed direction from that intended. But the work done was useful, so afterwards I feel good about it. During the meeting I felt somewhat tense, watching the meeting move in ways I hadn’t considered. But I thought about how much easier it is for me to deal with collective working than it used to be. I used to see compromise as a bad thing, and often felt it personally. It took me a while to realise I needed to embrace compromise, not with the people above me but with the people around me. I often say this to people, and the response is often puzzlement, so I know my former confusion around it is common.

8th September 2017

4th September 2017

I’m back in Londres after a week in the south of the continent. The end of summer is in sight, but what a summer it has been. The weather in Londres has been as good as any summer I have ever seen. I have been on two excellent journeys, one north and one south, and finally got to a festival just before this trip. As for the journey south to the City of Arcades, it was a pleasure to be in a warm climate in a different culture, meeting people from around the continent and beyond. Like Londres, the City has its problems, is part of a culture declining into fear and paralysis. But there were bright lights too: a huge reclaimed space in the very centre of the City, complete with its own arcades.

I was in the City of Arcades with the Red Flash, Killer Kiss and a few others. It was good to spend time with them, but also to meet a large group of people more conservative than ourselves. It’s easy to spend time only with people who share your views, and easy to forget that more conservative views are in the majority. I like to think we all honed our arguing skills over the course of this week.

An interesting conversation that arose was whether it is possible to effect wider, systemic change through small, localised actions. It is a question I’ve thought about tangentially from all sorts of directions but have never formulated a one-line response to. The answer, I suspect, is that it depends on what else is going on in the world. If you are acting with a current that is growing in force everywhere, then becoming part of that increases your power. If you are truly a lone voice then the chances of effecting wider change are very low, though never quite zero. Whether or not you are pushing for changes along with a current – or perhaps undercurrent – that goes beyond yourself may just be a matter of luck. You happen to be interested in something that a million others are interested in at the same time.

But does it have to be just luck? Is it possible to read the currents, to try to work out how others are moving? Is it possible to pick the right moment and add yourself to a bigger stream, and so achieve greater influence, achieve good things? Perhaps. Of course this only works if there are points of connection between yourself and the currents springing up around you. And then there’s a question of which currents are going to come out on top; only time reveals the winners. So to some extent luck will always be needed. But if there were a network of secret cells dedicated to taking over the failing world, creating its own currents below the surface, empowering the many over the few, that might also make a difference. No reason I bring it up.

4th September 2017