Narrative

Ideas #3 (maximising edge)

DEEPLY SUST: sustainable events management. Don’t you think it’s a good name? Use it if you like and please feel free to credit me. This is just a vague idea I had for a company. Festivals, even the most ecological ones, have dubious sustainability credentials. They involve the transportation of materials and people from miles around, sometimes even from abroad, to all converge on one poor overburdened location before being transported all the way back again. A truly sustainable events management company would look at how different festivals and events could better network with each other and share infrastructures and materials. It would also advise events and festivals within a given region or even nation on how to organise and synchronise calendars for maximum efficiency, skillshare, custom and positive ecological impact between all. Additionally, lasting legacies for all local communities that hosted festivals and events would have to be looked at. How about that for sustainability?

*

‘REAL BOYS’, ‘REAL GIRLS’ and ‘TRANSREAL’: Where are the magazines for real girls and real boys, and for that matter, trans kids and the genderwild? When I walk into a big newsagents and look at the magazines sections for children and teenagers, I want to throw up. They are full of damaging stereotypes, plastic toys and the usual bullshit obsession with celebrity. I know that isn’t what every child wants, but somehow, because it’s what most children have been convinced they want, this vacuous culture revolving around Barbie and Action Man -like stereotypes still dominates. Apparently there are no risk-taking entrepreneurs in the children’s magazine industry. Where is ‘Real Girls’ magazine? ‘Real Boys’? ‘Transreal’?

*

CO-OPETITION: My idea for a co-opetition is a competition that rewards co-operation over competition at every step of the process. I understand this is a paradox. It would take some clever designing to create motivating and sustainable co-opetitions with prizes. I know there are people doing this already, and maybe I / you can join them. We need innovation to save the world from ourselves, but innovation does not just happen in ruthlessly competitive contexts, as the hyper-capitalists would have us believe. Innovation happens in regenerative community contexts, indeed it must if society is to survive.

*

POSITIVE SCENARIO MATHEMATICS: Where are the software designers and mathematicians working together with ecologists, permaculturists, alternative financial analysts, energy experts and complex systems theorists to design scenario planning apps for the lay person, and the activist or business organisation, ensuring the greatest positive ecological impact of all our trajectories, in ways which reflexively weave as many human life-paths as possible into well defined mutually agreeable outcomes? Come on people, get to work!

*

ECOMOVES: Where are all the companies that offer to clear houses and bankrupt business premises in the most ecologically sound ways possible? Including the recycling and ‘upcycling’ of objects and materials and selling for profit, using the timing of moving to new homes and premises to introduce more sustainable practices and materials as standard? These companies could build up databases of sustainable clients and businesses with which to woo their customers, providing much more than standard removal and installation services.

*

PSYCHEDELIC CARE-HOMES: Where are all the psychedelic carehomes? I mean the ones playing 60’s and 70’s music, the ones with space hoppers, magic mushrooms, meditation, radical politics and all the other signs of the counter-cultural revolution? I haven’t visited any care-homes for the elderly in a while, but the people who turned 18 in 1960 are now aged 76. Are the more alternative and radically left wing elderly types being catered for? Are they being catered for enough?

Jin-ku #1: 13/9/18

Jin-ku is my own invention. It is an adaptation of the haiku form: the traditional Japanese poem that is comprised of 17 syllables in three lines of five, seven, five.

In haiku, one tradition is to tell without telling (a Zen-sounding phrase, and haiku are influenced by Zen), especially in relation to the natural world. There are so few words to express what you want to say, but this restriction is transformed in the challenge and the beauty of alluding to a season or natural event obliquely, sparsely, carefully and with great focus. It may be wasteful in such a short poetic form to use the word ‘summer’, when you can write about the blackcurrants that only fruit in summer.

Here is a haiku by the Japanese master of the form, Matsuo Basho (1644-1694):

In the twilight rain

these brilliant-hued hibiscus —

A lovely sunset.

So what is a jin-ku?

A jin-ku is even more restrictive than a haiku. (It is important that the ‘jin’ is strongly pronounced.) ‘Jin’ is the Kurdish word for ‘woman’. ‘Ku’ is a slang word for ‘friend’. ‘Jin’ resonates strongly with me as a feminist, as Kurdish women are leading the way for women in the Middle East. See my earlier post on the revolution in northern Syria.

To make friends of women means, not to oppress them, and to become as self-aware as possible about strains of patriarchy that exist within us even as the most enlightened of men and women.

The jin-ku form is comprised of only 13 syllables. 13 because all the haiku masters were men. They had the relative freedom of expression of 17 syllables, whereas the women of their time are relatively obscured. Thus by ’13’ -also representing the 13 moons of the year; the banished natural rhythms of Earth and of women; that number made ‘unlucky’ by patriarchy -women, gender rebels and male allies can show that beauty in poetic form can flower under even stricter conditions than the haiku.

Just as women have been forced to express their truth in highly restricted circumstances throughout much of history, so the highly restricted jin-ku form can bear the most telling and profound fruit, and be a site of poetic resistance to patriarchy.

Women, gender rebels and male allies are free to write jin-ku, but a jin-ku (the singular and the plural use the same description) to be truly a jin-ku must:

  1. allude to patriarchy and / or the liberation and self-governance of women
  2. continuing the tradition of haiku, be rooted in nature

The 13 syllables can be divided into various forms. This is something to play around with. In my first public jin-ku, I have gone for a 5,7,3 structure:

By the wild river

still reaches God machines’ noise 

-drown Him here

If you would like to write some jin-ku and send them to me, I will publish them here on my blog on the 13th of the month. I reserve the right to offer editorial suggestion before publishing.

I hope that together we can build a tradition of jin-ku that will one day overtake and supersede the haiku tradition that has been dominated by men.

The Women Who Have My Heart

They are scattered around all over

When I bump into them

I remember worlds that were set in motion

Moving within me still

But now alone, I had forgotten

Who helped create them

Until I briefly see their faces

Or stop to chat awhile

I never intended strongly enough

Or always wanted their freedom, first

These women that I never began with

Yet I cannot deny the sorrow

That wells up like liquid nitrogen

Love is something I recall

In the recollection always warmer

Warmer in my dreams

Than ever it could be for real

Square in The Face and The Voice in The Night

Square in The Face

Rise For Climate is an international movement that today will see over 850 rallies happening around the world to demand climate justice from governments and corporations.

This is a great initiative, but will it be enough? Extinction Rebellion goes one step further. As members of XR we are employing mass civil disobedience (for instance, road blocks) to demand action NOW.

Sometimes I get accused of being miserable, of not knowing how to have fun, even of being ‘square’. But these people don’t see when I’m dancing around my flat or in a trance playing jazz dance on my electric piano. I may be square to some, if square means wanting to live meticulously in a way which improves the suffering lot of the species -including humans- on this planet. A lot which it is very reasonable to project will worsen due to climate breakdown in the coming decades.

I only appear square at face value because I am looking civilisation square in the face. You don’t face me by calling me names. If you dare face me, look at the dying civilisation reflected in my eyes.

 

The Voice in The Night

A few nights ago, in the middle of the night, a man’s voice stated to me plainly,

‘I didn’t know about it. Nobody told me.’

He was referring to climate breakdown and he was referring to the Extinction Rebellion.

I think this man has a job which involves some manual work. I think he works in engineering, but in some kind of assistant capacity. He is fairly switched on about trends in society and politics, but he knows next to nothing about climate breakdown (or what he would call ‘climate change’).

This man is indicative of the massive problem we have around climate breakdown -that most of even the most intelligent people in society are not aware of it.

This man’s voice was a warning to me. He was calling to me from the future. He was asking me to try my hardest to get through to him now, even though the whole machine of industrial civilisation wants to prevent our meeting and our communicating.

 

Activist Diary #4: Out on a limb

A few days ago I returned from a short trip to the wild west of Cornwall, where I had given two talks on Extinction Rebellion, the activist campaign run by Rising Up! of which I am a member.

Talking first at Penzance, and then at Porthtowan, I was really out on a limb, geographically and psychologically. I had never given the talk alone, and had only once before delivered it (with a co-activist).

It turned out that the whole two-day experience was productive but intensely draining, including a fair degree of psychological exposure and vulnerability, and some criticism absorbed because I wasn’t robust or clear in my thinking enough to rebut it. Criticism that would not have been forthcoming, I feel, if I had been better prepared.

Knowing something of the workings of my mind and the human unconscious in general, even as I was going through the whole experience I understood that I had engineered the situation to be a difficult one for myself, as a toughening experience on the extreme western edge of the UK to prepare me for the campaign ahead.

Even before the first talk which I gave in The Lugger Inn in Penzance, I walked right to the far edge of the beach, away from the shops, and literally ran across the boulders piled up there. Slipping could mean a serious injury or worse, but at the time it was imperative to maintain the highly strung mind-state that I had cultivated for that first talk.

Sat on the far edge of the boulders, I delighted in the company of juvenile gulls and cormorants, and practised the talk a little, reading to a brick wall.

Thankfully the audience at The Lugger turned out to be much more engaging than the wall, but they had a toughness to them; perhaps it was their Cornishness. I knew my talk was successful when a few people walked out during the early minutes of the second half of the talk. They hadn’t disagreed with the science of catastrophic climate breakdown, but when I started talking about the necessary solution of direct action to force governments to enter war-time level mobilisation, to reduce carbon emissions to zero within just a few years, in heated frustration they claimed ‘it can’t be done!’

I was glad to get the sign-ups for the campaign at the end of the talk.

The second night didn’t go so well. I was over-tired, and didn’t manage to give the audience much eye contact. I think this led to a lack of trust, which contributed to the break down of the talk before the end, with interruptions turning into a discussion at the wrong moment i.e. before I had a chance to fully explain myself. I got no sign-ups this second night, but at least we were all in agreement that ‘something needs to be done, and soon’. (I can still maximise the Facebook interest that this event generated).

Getting a lift back to Redruth from the venue with the owner of the Vegan Cornish Pasty Company and her partner, was the highlight.

The Cornish experience overall reminded me that Extinction Rebellion and the science and principles behind it, occupy the extreme edge of intellectual thought in this country, even though our contention is that they should occupy the mainstream of intellectual thought, such is the climate breakdown emergency that we are currently facing.

I was also reminded of the human need or drive to express underlying emotions and preoccupations in unconscious behaviours, which can become more conscious if we let them. Personally, I am becoming increasingly aware of a momentum inside me that wishes to act out the extreme, the wild edge of thought and emotion and behaviour. This need to act out the extreme is a reflection of the generally unexpressed urgency of climate breakdown that I see in the denial of the eyes of the people that surround me.

Covey’s 7 habits in activist contexts #1: Be proactive

I know many of you will be familiar with the best-selling personal development and business book by Richard Covey, ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’.

I have enjoyed reading, studying and acting from this book, even though I haven’t yet fully digested every section. I am also aware that a book like this, culturally very American, is a product of a neoliberal capitalist culture which emphasizes personal agency in making change (change for self and community) at the expense of systemic forces of oppression which work against some individuals, for instance those in marginalised minority groups.

Nevertheless, the genre of self-development literature, often overlapping with entrepreneurial and business literature, can be utilised to serve activism and the overcoming of systemic oppression and injustice in society. At least as a privileged white, middleclass, (sort of) male activist, I can utilise and subvert lessons from self-development literature which afterall, on a personal level (the level of the author) often comes from a very noble and empathic place (we can say this much about Richard Covey). We can still acknowledge that there are unexamined prejudices and privilege dynamics in any author, including myself.

In Covey’s book he argues that we must make traits, attitudes and behaviours of personal excellence habitual, if they are to have any effect. For this post I would just like to concentrate on Covey’s first habit which is deceptively simple: ‘Be proactive’. The most ‘successful’ people (successful personally, in community, in business etc) Covey argues are ‘proactive’.

Covey explains this proactivity in various ways, including the suggestion to ‘always choose a positive response’ to a situation, including stimuli which are part of cycles of addiction. In the context of addiction this amounts to strengthening neural pathways by engaging in creative alternative behaviours in response to stimuli which usually bring about the addiction response. Thus we can see that fundamentally Covey believes in free will -our ability to choose to be better, to choose to grow and change.

The proactive person, Covey argues, has a large circle of influence and a small circle of concern, the latter being the arena of things that we worry about but do nothing to change; whereas the reactive person (that one who is always complaining) has a small circle of influence and a large circle of concern. I have found this model useful but it is simplistic and says nothing of the systematically oppressed person, for instance the drug addict who needs help but is criminalised, who has a small circle of influence, but may also have a small circle of concern, or may have a large circle of concern but because of systematic oppression linked to her gender, colour and background, finds it especially difficult to widen her circle of influence by ‘being more proactive’, as Covey would suggest she do.

Nevertheless, as a privileged activist I can be proactive to raise awareness, campaign and engage in direct actions, in ways which help to reduce the systematic oppression of others, not least by challenging moment by moment the complacent and sometimes addiction-forming responses I exhibit to certain stimuli which may reinforce my own privilege in an unhelpful way.

In a wide sense, we are a culture of addicts. In fact, addiction is at the core of neoliberalist capitalist economics: addiction to greed, addiction to wealth, addiction to status, addiction to beauty, addiction to materialism and addiction to power. Addiction to ‘making a name for onesself’, addiction to ‘being heard’ (by whatever media), addiction to the craving of acceptance by the prevailing society and its norms. Our addictions are fed by the marketing and advertising industries.

‘Proactive people make “love” a verb’ says Covey, whilst ‘reactive people make “love” a feeling’.

As activists, how can we develop the strength and consistency of active love required to raise awareness in ourselves to the height of understanding all our impulses and attitudes, and root out that which distances us from, by culturally raising us above, those that ‘the systems of our types’ (whether white, male, or comparatively wealthy or educated types) routinely oppress, including every non-human species upon this planet?

Breaking chains takes loving awareness, moment by moment.

 

 

Post-Earth psychology and the first Arts festival on Mars

Maybe Elon Musk should be sticking to Tesla and forgetting about SpaceX, but the way things go / are going, it’s likely that a colony will be built on Mars.

As much as I like I can bemoan the state of ‘technological progress’ which seems to be at the expense of life on Earth, whether that technology is on Earth or off it. However, once this dire state of affairs is acknowledged, there is no reason not to accept it and temper it appropriately towards more sustainable ends, however desperate that may seem. And some fun can be found in the despair.

As some human beings strive towards Mars, how can we make sure that any Martian colony does not become a place of privilege and prejudice? It is bound to happen to a degree, but if we lobby Musk from now onwards, surely we have a chance at ensuring that appropriate diversity in the colony is maintained. Not that he won’t have thought of this, but history has a way of falling into old habits.

The first Arts festival on Mars will be crucial. How diverse will it be? How will it reflect a united Earth, back to Earth, potentially making a purifying mirror of Mars, if only temporarily and artificially? Ideally, Mars could become a microcosm of the best of humanity on Earth. But…it could also become many other things.

For the first time, once babies are born off Earth, we will be able to truly speak of a post-Earth psychology. We will be able to observe and discern those elements of human psychology that are dependent upon us living on Earth, and those elements which are not so dependent. How fascinating will be the development of post-Earth psychology!

We should not be distracted from the task of healing Earth and ushering in the next stage of civilisation, post-capitalist, post-globalist, post-communist, post- most of what we are used to in contemporary human politics and culture.

Neverthleless, if Mars is happening regardless, let us go with the flow, as permaculturists, as environmentalists, as followers of the rivers of life. How can we use Mars to the advantage of Earth? It is guaranteed, there will be hidden paths opened up by the colonisation of Mars that although rocky and red, could paradoxically lead to a greater reparation of our dear Earth and the human culture within it. I don’t say this is likely, but it has to be possible. Because so much is possible.

When will the floodgates burst?

When will the floodgates burst? When will the barriers that have been built up between our godly games and our true Nature, be overcome? When will these dams of damnation be overwhelmed by the waters of a globally united ocean of human beings, a final swell of justice to meet the final swell of injustice that is man-made climate breakdown?

There is nothing to unite us like a common enemy, and that common enemy is the fear and greed at the heart of our ruling institutions and entrenched interests which allows climate breakdown to continue unabated.

As activists and knowers of the truth, we must suffer the disparagement of our peers for our long-sightedness. Worse, we must suffer abuse and ridicule by those that we are fighting to protect and save, because they know no better. Politically, most people are in pushchairs, and so us activists who are more advanced, must suffer the tantrums of the masses, even as we are trying to put out the worst fire in human history.

Imagine trying to put out a house fire, with toddlers screaming in every room, and every time you move to pick one up to remove them, they punch and kick and bite you, because somehow they cannot see the fire or feel it, even as it is burning them alive.

It is my intention and belief that the cool waters of justice will soon begin to flow, that a tipping point in the climate of understanding of the UK public will occur this autumn as a result of Extinction Rebellion. The UK public will irrevocably wake up to the reality of global climate breakdown in a way that they haven’t yet woken. Most will feel incapacitated even as they wake, but a precious few -enough- will wake up enough to take action.

What action? The only appropriate action is to hold the government to account right now on global climate breakdown. Holding to account means obtaining practical measures right now for the reduction of carbon emissions to zero by 2025. If the government doesn’t listen, the only appropriate action is civil disobedience.

Please support our campaign. Please support Extinction Rebellion.

hopeful polyromantic #1

The other day I was waiting outside a community centre before hosting a meeting about climate breakdown, and into my celibate life, that is to say across my line of vision, appeared one of the most strikingly attractive women I have ever seen. She reclined on a sturdy rustic bench on the finely cropped grass, in just such a position that the sun shone full on her. I walked up to her and handed her one of my cards -promoting the activism I am involved with. I’m glad she asked ‘what is it?’ as I shyly handed it to her. I’m glad I had a chance to strike up a conversation and observe her gorgeous face in animation. She said carefully, no, she didn’t know anything about climate breakdown but, she thought she should know a little more. This pleased me. I explained the danger in terms related to my worry for my three year-old niece i.e. for her future. The reclining sensation informed me she was just about to see her niece, as it happened.

Her face was full of piercings -very rarely have I seen such piercings against skin so black. Yet the metal was subtle for all its ubiquity about her features, and the effect was beautiful. I invited this young woman (I guessed her to be anywhere from 17 to 22) into the meeting I was about to hold, but she couldn’t make it. She said she might come on another Monday. So next Monday, when the group is actually to meet somewhere else, I have made the meeting time later, so I can be at the original meeting place earlier on, waiting for this stunning woman to appear again.

The way things seem to go with me, I probably won’t meet her again, even though she has my number on the back of a card. But that’s okay. I don’t need to attach to her. She may already be attached to someone else in any case. I think it was on the same evening back at home, that I celebrated this chance meeting with dazzle and cool vivaciousness by writing a song for her. Well, it was just a few chords and a bass-line, a jazzy sequence as is my wont.

So my delight did not turn into bitterness. Instead it was exorcised into my fingers and into melody and groove -melody and groove all hers. I now have another tune, or the beginnings of one, to add to the other two about women I briefly met -one of them so gorgeous and full of Spirit as to change my mind about not wanting to have children. I will build up a whole catalogue of songs, songs full of sexy groove, soulful melody and chords struck deep with me. These women are all better free of me anyway -probably better free of anyone. I wish them all the glory in the universe.

Activist Diary #3

A few days ago I attended my first anti- badger cull rally, in Exeter, SW England (my nearest city). We marched from Belmont Park and through the town centre, with police escort. We ended up in the central pedestrianised zone of Princesshay.

I enjoyed the badger masks and the painted faces. I enjoyed the feeling of comradery on the march, although I felt a little on the outside. I despaired along with everyone else at the complete lack of science behind badger culling, which has been going on for fifty years. It is not disputed that cattle pass TB (tuberculosis) on to badgers, but there is no evidence that it happens the other way round. One of the speakers at the rally said that if the currently apathetic public knew the truth of what was going on, the truth of the government’s scapegoat policy towards badgers, it would be enough to end the reign of the Conservatives and trigger an emergency general election.

The problem is, the public generally have an ignorant trust of the people in power, whoever those people are. There is a cognitive bias in human beings, myself included, of trusting authority. Whoever is in power, most of us trust that they would not dare to implement a policy of genocide of native species, on no scientific basis, just to keep safe the votes of the farming community as a whole, not all of whom believe the lies they are told about the effectiveness of such culls. The culls are a cynical ploy to unite farmers in favour of the Tory government, and show that the government couldn’t care less about the actual problem of bovine TB, which is better treated by vaccinating farms and introducing stricter hygiene procedures.

For me though, the larger issue has to be climate breakdown. As this article shows, methane from livestock is a contributor to climate warming and thus the climate breakdown that is beginning to reach disastrous levels around the world. Additionally, inefficient farming practices result in nitrogen being released as nitrogen oxide and other greenhouse gases, further contributing to global warming. The use of artificial nitrogen fertilisers is most associated with livestock farming. (Of course, nitrogen is naturally occurring everywhere, but that is not the issue. The issue is an artificial increase in greenhouse gases). Moreover, if we, as a species, ate less meat and dairy, and cared more for the livestock that we did keep, not concentrating them in industrial complexes where diseases like TB spread more quickly and affect more animals, then quite probably the extra inhumanity of badger culls would not be resorted to. The badger culls are a ‘face saving’ measure, hiding the gross effects of industrial farming on animals and the planet.

So I handed out my cards to the cull protesters, for the non-violent direct action (NVDA) I will be engaging in this autumn to pressure the government to act more radically and immediately on climate breakdown. As I did so, I couldn’t help but feel a little frustrated. Badger culling is obviously a horrible practice, but surely the best way to stop it, along with so many other practices damaging to our environment, is to address the umbrella issue of climate breakdown. This wasn’t mentioned by any of the speakers at the rally. One of the demands of Extinction Rebellion of which I am part, is that the government reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2025. This would necessarily involve the decline of industrial livestock farming, as well as many other environmentally destructive practices.

I admire the passion and commitment and moral force of the cull protesters I marched with, and how much more of a force for change they would be if every one of them also campaigned, just as strongly, on climate breakdown.