I take care over my words and I hate to think that they are disappearing into empty cyberspace, so if you've read it please say something, even if it's just "Hello!" or "Get a job!"

Monday, 12 October 2009

Fash on show: Manchester EDL Rally and Counter-Demo

A disturbing and confusing day, the first time I have seen a fascist rally. This lot take political irrationalism to its utmost - it's not so much believing an irrational ideology as having no ideology at all. The theoretical basis of the English Defence League is barely sufficient to produce a few pathetic slogans - "Engerland, Engerland, Engerland," "EDL! EDL!" and once, "We want our country back!", a little surreal in the middle of an ordinary shopping day in the centre of Manchester. Looking at their website it is immediately clear that their ideology is so flimsy and preposterous that no-one could possibly believe it after a moment's thought.

This leads me to suspect that the whole thing is a cleverly constructed media campaign by a few fairly intelligent, though not very wise, leaders. The aim seems to be to create a discourse in the media of a confrontation between Muslims and white supremacists, by a series of carefully manipulated media stunts in various cities. I presume the leaders hope that by doing this, the media constructed discourse will become a nightmarish reality in which they will have the chance to take power. The strategy closely follows that of Hitler and Goebbels in the early days in Berlin - a small bunch of despised cranks creating publicity for themselves by causing confrontation on the streets.

The mainstream media functions by creating pseudo-concepts within its own discourse and repeating them until they become established as background facts, upon which further discourse can then be constructed. The pseudo-concept of Islamic fundamentalism or extremism is one of the clearest examples. A totally meaningless phrase, not least because any belief system is fundamental and extreme when seen from a certain perspective, it has been repeated daily for the past few years until everyone seems to tacitly agree that it exists, which then allows endless discussion on what to do about it, from the liberals who carefully make a distinction between nice Muslims and naughty Muslims, to the likes of the EDL, who use the pseudo-concept as a pretext to try and create racial tension on the streets. The point is that whatever position someone takes within the discourse, they still implicity reinforce the pseudo-concept. So the aim of the EDL leadership appears to be to create another pseudo-concept within the discourse - a concept of escalating racial confrontation.

The fascists on the streets of Manchester - a disturbingly large number of them teenagers - didn't seem to know what they were trying to do or what they believed in. A friend told me that one of them said he was marching against women being raped. Very few seemed to be aware of the existence of left-wing political organisations - the 'Reds' of traditional fascist demonology. In the fluid and confusing situations of the day, I frequently had the strange experience of rubbing shoulders with small groups of swaggering skinheads. Rather than immediately jumping on me or even insulting me as one of the 'Reds', there was a strange ambiguous stand-off, a kind of awkward politeness. Even when I jumped a railing to avoid some over-excited riot police and found myself alone in front of a large crowd of EDL supporters, all that happened was a couple of those nearest to me half-heartedly shouted 'Scum!' as I made a dignified exit. Earlier, a small group of EDL youths were being forcibly de-masked by mounted police. Remonstrating with the police, they seemed to look at me in appeal against the unfairness of it. Far from recognising me as a deadly enemy in front of whom they were being humiliated, they apparently had not the slightest idea of what I was doing there.

It was unfortunate that the police interfered with the anti-fascists' ethical duty to physically prevent the fascists from marching. Because of the police, what would have been an overwhelming anti-fascist victory was turned into a frustrating stand-off where the main bulk of both sides was contained in police cordons in Piccadilly Gardens, leaving small mobile groups wandering around aimlessly. At one point a large group of fascists rampaged pointlessly up and down the street for a bit until they were dispersed. Anti-fascist groups outside the cordons were too small to be effective. However, at some point fairly early in the afternoon, there was a confusing incident that appeared to be, possibly, a half-hearted attempt by the EDL to have a march. The police had to use vans and dogs to move the surrounded EDL supporters through the jeering anti-fascist crowd, bringing them a couple of hundred yards down the main street and then back to Piccadilly Gardens. It wasn't at all clear whether the police or the EDL knew what they were trying to do.

Although it was not possible to physically block the fascist march, there was a certain satisfaction in seeing them surrounded by hundreds of people expressing their contempt in no uncertain terms. The hardened NF veterans may easily dismiss it as the expected behaviour of the Reds, but maybe some of the new recruits will have to wonder why everyone hates them so much wherever they go; though having seen the intellectual quality of the far Right's new generation it's difficult to imagine them thinking at all.

It did make me idly wonder where the cynical grizzled recruiting-sergeants find their baton fodder. Perhaps a little feverish after little sleep and seven hours on the streets, I imagined them wandering Britain's urban wastelands with large nets, searching for bands of swaggering dysfunctional feral teenagers, herding them into vans and driving to various cities where they open the van doors and stand well back, possibly after a bit of drilling on the way - "Engerland, Engerland... Enger... um... how does it go?"

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Kingley Vale

Kingley Vale, north of Chichester, has been one of my favourite places since I moved to Brighton. I have spent the night up there several times, one summer solstice keeping vigil with the movements of the moon and stars. Recently I went for the first time in a couple of years.

I took the train to Chichester, which has shockingly increased to £10 each way. There is a bus, but it takes several hours. I arrived mid afternoon and walked up the Centurion Way cycle track from the centre of Chichester. The beginning of the track is slightly difficult to find and would benefit from some more signage, but once on it I was safely away from traffic and supplied with plentiful juicy blackberries. I had a pleasant conversation with a local chap on his walk home from work. From the top of the cycle track I took a slightly different route from usual, taking the bridleway along the east edge of the beginning of the Kingley Vale environs, rather than walking along the road to the car park at West Stoke. There is little to choose between the two routes and the entire area smelt strongly of anaerobically fermenting slurry.

Crossing the boundary into the Kingley Vale nature reserve, there seemed to be a subtle but palpable change in the air quality and the nature of the landscape. I felt a sense of relief, nourished by the healthy greenery, and remembered just how beautiful this little enclave is. The sun was descending as I made my way through the woodland paths into the start of the ancient yew tree grove. I had a quick break for one of my home-made energy bars before the difficult climb through the woods to the hilltop at Devil's Humps.

The Devil seems to have been particularly active in Sussex, leaving humps, jumps and dykes all over the landscape. The Humps are a set of three tumuli on the high South Downs at Kingley Vale, disappointingly not laid out on the pattern of Orion's belt. They are fairly large and collapsed at the top, presumably where they have been raided at some point in the past. I am informed that round barrows like these are Bronze Age in origin, while long barrows, also appearing at Kingly Vale, are Neolithic. That's about the limit of my historical knowledge on the matter. The view from the top of the tumuli extends spectacularly in three directions, over Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight to the South, and across to the North Downs in the North. The woods behind the tumulus in the above photo are where I rough camped that night among the ancient yew trees.

I went to bed early but got up later to look at the stars, reading my star chart by the light of my mobile phone as my head torch had failed. I took my camping mat and lay on my back in the dip at the top of a tumulus. I am beginning to try and learn my way around the constellations. The stars in almost half the sky were not visible due to the light of the moon, so I could not find Ursa Major, which was the starting point for the first beginners' star chart in my book. I recognised Orion, and a very bright object I guessed was Venus. Even without knowing the constellations, it was fascinating to look at the celestial objects. I probably spent about an hour there.

I got up early, after a night of the strange deep dreams I often experience in the yew forest. I had planned to walk down to the coast but vacillated about my route when I realised the one I had chosen was too long for me to enjoyably walk with a full pack. I spent a slightly frustrating day walking through second-rate scenery, frequently changing my mind about where I was going. I soon realised that Kingley Vale was by far the prettiest place in the area and I wouldn't find anywhere better. My mood was improved by frequent foraged meals of plums, blackberries and yew berries (yes, just spit out the seeds). Finally I headed towards the coast, attracted by a National Trust area marked on the map at Bosham Quay. The tidal areas were quite interesting, including a great crop of marsh samphire which I joyfully sampled. However the coastal track to Bosham Quay was closed by the tide. I decided to head back to Chichester via the Roman palace at Fishbourne, which I did not actually visit as it turned out you have to pay to see it. Next time I think I'll just spend the day at Kingley Vale.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Zeitgeist 2: Technocratic utopianism

In a slightly desperate search for a new perspective on things, I recently watched Zeitgeist 2: Addendum. I had little objection to the first half of the film, mainly devoted to a further explanation of the fractional reserve banking system and its far-reaching implications. However it might have been useful to set this in the context of the longer term history of capitalism and imperialism in general. From the anarchist point of view that I hold, power is more important than money and has preceded it historically. So, while I agree that the mathematical instruments of financial speculation are a basic mechanism of power today, it would be useful to see the current speculative economy in historical perspective against other forms of power and oppression. There were occasional dark hints about 'the bankers' and their long-term plans, reminding us that we are on the territory of conspiracy culture. Not that I have any definite opinion on whether there is a great millenia-old conspiracy or not - how would I know? - but perhaps it should have been made clear what exactly the narrator was talking about. It was gratifying to see a film coming from conspiracy territory talk about the workings of the IMF, World Bank and 'economic hitmen' - topics that are often too tediously mundane for serious conspiracy heads in comparison to the intergalactic drama of Sirius, Draco et al.

At about the halfway point, the narrator states that the mechanism of fractional reserve banking is only a symptom of a deeper problem. My ears pricked up at this, but the diagnosis of the deeper problem seemed to be a slightly facile statement that stupid forms of religion are stupid. Amongst the quantity of Krishnamurti footage, I did not see a clear distinction made between the naive propositional beliefs supposedly required from followers of mass organised religions (a stereotyping of religious 'believers' questionable in itself) and a genuine spirituality in which the higher faculties of human consciousness are developed and explored. This argument seemed to be a form of crude rationalism in which the only way to understand the world is to question one's conception of it in a discursive way. Of course rational questioning of received beliefs is necessary, but this must include questioning the received belief in materialist rationalism, and in my opinion the recovery of the human faculty for non-discursive spiritual knowledge is one of the most essential tasks in building a sane and compassionate society that can live in at least relative harmony with nature. I understand that the dogmas, repressions and persecutions inflicted by the Catholic Church and other such political organisations have given a bad name to any mention of non-discursive knowledge, but that is no reason to replace them with rationalist dogmas which are arguably even more harmful in their effects, not least because rationalist dogmas are presented as anti-dogmas.

This leads me to my main point, which is that the second half of the film consists almost entirely of an advert for a naive technocratic utopian future. The argument, very similar to that of Marx, is that technology is essentially or potentially liberating but has been used as a tool of enslavement through the creation of artificial scarcity, and so in a high-tech society free from the profit motive, technology could finally free human beings from earning our bread with the sweat of our brows (or someone else's brows). A series of sci-fi animations are shown of space-age cities with efficient rapid transit systems and other impressive looking devices.

There are many obvious problems with this vision of the future apart from its crass, wide-eyed naivety. Firstly, if we look at the history of technology, especially industrial technology, we can see that in fact it has almost invariably been used to enslave people under the claim of liberating us. It seems highly dubious to claim that a phenomenon, in this case high technology, is essentially or potentially different from what it has actually been in almost all cases. E.P. Thompson provides documentary evidence in The Making of the English Working Class that the introduction of weaving machines - a crucial first step in the early development of industrial capitalism - was done for conscious and explicit reasons of social control. The introduction of machines allowed capitalists to bind the previously relatively independent hand-loom weavers into a regular factory timetable, to reduce wages and striking power by reducing the level of skill required, and to bring in lower-paid children and women. The number of hours worked by weavers increased, their earnings decreased, and the imposed discipline of the factory system allowed the factory-owning class greater control over the workers' culture. Far from being irrationally obstinate or Romantic stick-in-the-muds, the heroic direct-action revolutionaries of the Luddite uprising understood all of this, which explains both why they enjoyed such strong support from their own communities, and why machine-breaking was punishable by death. Now it seems odd to theorise a difference between what these weaving machines meant in actual historical fact, and what they could have meant in their ahistorical essence. This is not an odd example but an absolutely fundamental historical step in the development of capitalism. Nowadays, some critical thinkers celebrate the function of the Internet in spreading their ideas. This is to miss the fact that the enormous majority of electronic communication is within corporations. Whatever power it gives to us, it gives exponentially greater power to our enemies. We might also reflect on the sad circumstance that we can communicate electronically with someone hundreds of miles away, but are often unable to talk face-to-face with our own neighbours.

Secondly, all current high technology is dependent on the exploitation of natural resources through violence against ecosystems and indigenous people. Perhaps it is true, as the narrator claims, that technocrats have the know-how to make intercontinental maglev trains run at 400 mph, or to produce all the energy we need from solar power. Impressive and convenient as such marvels would be, they are all dependent on supplies of minerals torn from the Earth at the expense of the unfortunate people who live in mineral-rich but economically powerless parts of the world. Versions of high-tech devices that do not depend on rare mineral inputs are pure fantasy. What will the post-capitalist technocrats do if indigenous people object to their ecosystems being destroyed to mine rare minerals for the hyper-gadgets this film claims are so important for human freedom? How do people who live in low-tech societies in relative harmony with nature fit into the utopian vision? Will they have to be strongly persuaded of the benefits of the global technocracy, as they are now being persuaded of the benefits of global capitalism?

The focus on heroic high-tech solutions to our problems also obscures the many problems that cannot be solved by technology. The narrator speculates that robots will be able to carry out surgery. Perhaps. But heroic technological interventions are far from the only aspect of health and illness. Drugs and surgery may be able to save people from critical illness in certain cases; they cannot make us healthy. Only low-tech or no-tech approaches such as wholefoods, mental relaxation, exercise and holistic disciplines like the internal martial arts can lead to vibrant health. The heroic high-tech approach also seems to downgrade the crucially important art of food production. Will food in the techno-utopia be produced by machines? This is demonstrably inefficient and ecologically destructive. The high-tech standardisation, mechanisation, processing and transportation of food has been disastrous in many ways, and not just because of the profit motive. The only way to produce fresh, nutritious food in relative harmony with nature is by hand on a small local scale, using crop varieties locally adapted for micro-variations in conditions, saving seed, and growing mostly for consumption not exchange. Or will an army of small organic food growing serfs be left in the shadows at the fringes of space-age megacities as the spinning flying disks and supersonic maglev trains zoom over them?

Finally, high-tech inevitably means centralisation. Mind-boggling hyper-gadgets cannot be made without enormous investment - whether of money or of time, effort and organisation - in materials, equipment and specialist skills. The large scale and complication of the infrastructure needed to produce such items would be beyond the reach of any community small enough to make decisions at the face-to-face level. In a technocratic world, it is inevitable that some people will have more knowledge and therefore more control over the technology than others. It is inconceivable that everyone can be an engineer, metallurgist, materials scientist, and so on, all at the same time. A technocratic elite would inevitably have more power because they would control the technology. Even the most exciting and inclusive space-age domed megacities would have to be planned and that means telling people where they must live. Who's doing the telling? What if the people don't want to move? In my opinion, political freedom requires economic self-sufficiency. I and my friends cannot build a maglev train but we can grow food on an allotment or build a house from locally available low-tech materials, given the necessary skills, which are relatively simple. The skills of self-sufficiency at the community level provide independence from centralised economic structures, whether those structures involve money or not. A striking life experience for me was staying in a beautiful 250-year old house in Southern France that was built by a peasant family from the natural materials to hand - rocks, earth, rough-finished timber, straw and hay. To me, those are the kinds of skills and values that will allow humanity to build a future in which we no longer destroy ourselves by destroying nature, and they would not be promoted by submitting ourselves to the expertise of a technocratic elite on whom we would depend for our survival. To me, an ecological future must be low-tech, decentralised, largely self-sufficient at the community level, and based on a recovery of non-discursive spiritual knowledge - what we might call the technology of consciousness.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Impossible Playground

Walking with my friend Jo through a park in East London, we came across a children's playground. We have a habit of playing on playgrounds, which started one night at the Level in Brighton a few years ago. A couple of weeks previously we had found an excellent wooden play apparatus in a park in Hackney, which included a very difficult wobbly bridge and some chain walkways that reminded me of the marvellous and terrifying high-level polyprop walkways of tree protest sites (comment of fellow protester as I'm trying to work out how to remove dead trees from the path of a walkway: "Why don't you hang off the walkway and cut them?" My reply: "Why don't you hang off the walkway and cut them?". I then discovered that if you try to saw something while hanging in space, the friction from the saw is greater than the friction in the rope, so you just swing unless you apply opposing force holding the tree with the other hand - quite strenuous). Sharing the obstacle course with some small children, we were gleefully shown how a wobbly bridge is a lot less wobbly if you weigh 1/3 as much as me and scamper unhesitatingly across it.

This time the children would not have been gleeful. The first thing I noticed approaching the playground was what I called the 'Dali slide'. It was roughly the shape of a slide, but almost vertical and made only from two paralell steel tubes. Was it a slide? Was it for climbing up? I made the most of it by trying to climb up feet first. The grip was slippy on the shoes and uncomfortable on the hands. On another side of this structure was a roughly rectangular steel tube frame, again almost vertical, slightly folded about 1/3 of the way from the bottom edge, with a swivelling hinge at the top and bottom. The result was that when you try to climb up, it swivels round and you fall off. Frustrating, uncomfortable and perlexing.

The final bizarre challenge was the monkey bars. Again steel tube, surely too wide for children's hands, and for some reason arranged in an arch shape so that for the first half of the climb, each bar is higher up than the one before it. This required repeatedly lifting one's entire bodyweight on one arm in a dynamic fashion, a feat attainable by an average gibbon but certainly not by an average, untrained homo sapiens (our self-awarded title sapiens, meaning 'wise', proved to be sadly over-optimistic by this odd structure) who is not a professional circus performer. Jo, a trapeze artist, was unable to conquer the challenge.

I could only conclude that the playground was built for a little-known naturalised population of gibbons or other brachiators, or that it was designed by some perverse and sadistic bureaucrat to induce a sense of despair, bewilderment and failure in the local youth.

Monday, 11 May 2009

A lovely day out

Yesterday I went for a walk near Seven Sisters Country Park, just east of Seaford, East Sussex. With my friend Sophie, I got the bus to the stop outside the Golden Galleon pub (whose slogan could be "not that great but in the right place") at the Cuckmere Estuary. We walked to Litlington, mostly on the South Downs Way, where I had been told I could find wild garlic (not found around Brighton probably because of the dry chalky soil). I didn't find any wild garlic but it was a lovely walk. We stopped in a meadow just before Litlington for lunch. Then we decided to continue to the Long Man of Wilmington, a giant chalk figure on the South Downs escarpment. It is ancient in origin (thought by some researchers to date back to Neolithic times) and was almost lost, visible only as a different shade of grass in certain lights, until it was restored and made permanent in recent times. The restorers may have got one of the feet wrong, giving it the 'walk like an Egyptian' look. Some people think the giant is holding two staves or spears; some think he is opening a gateway to the Otherworld. We found it slightly elusive (which may seem unusual for an enormous chalk figure, but in keeping with the nature of archetypal symbols) and walked right past it a couple of times, as it's not really visible from above unless you walk right out over the steep slope, until some friendly local walkers told us how to find it.

Out of much plant and animal life, I particularly noticed the following interesting species. They're not excitingly rare but also not species that a city dweller sees in town from day to day, and each rather charming.

Early Purple Orchid
Grey Heron
Jackdaw (interesting as I learned more about distinguishing the British corvid species today)
Yellowhammer (my favourite of the day).

I don't mention skylarks in my list because, although they are wonderful, I see and hear them frequently in the excellent semi-wild areas around Brighton race course.

Another enchanting phenomenon was seeing sycamore seed cases (flurrying around like snow at this time of year) apparently floating and spinning in mid-air, stuck to single strands of spider silk that were streaming out from a line of alders.

CORRECTION: thanks to Sophie for finding out that they were actually elm seeds floating on spider silk attached to a line of elms. With the elm so scarce in England, how much more sad that so many of those thousands of seeds fall on concrete and tarmac.

Quote: "One of the most prolific of deciduous trees in Britain before the onset of Dutch Elm disease. It grows in hedgerows and sends up many suckers to form lines of trees. The tree can be identified by its rough surfaced dark green leaves which have one side longer at the base. Until the number of elms crashed after Dutch Elm Disease, the English Elm supported a greater variety of wildlife than any other British tree species."

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

What's new?

There has been a considerable outbreak of middle-class hypocrisy in the aftermath of the demonstrations in London at the G20 conference. The word 'kettle' has entered the public vocabulary and suddenly the pundits are commenting on the phenomenon as if it only started two weeks ago.

As far as I know, this particular tactic for collectively punishing a group of people who are committing the offence of expressing themselves politically in public was developed for Mayday 2000 in Trafalgar Square in response to the unqualified anarchist victory against the City of London Police on June 18th 1999 (a solidly grassroots protest that preceded the more celebrated Seattle event by which time more compromised and authoritarian organisations were involved). Obviously I'm not saying that Mayday 2000 was the first time mass police violence has been used against protesters. But I think it was the first occurrence on a large scale of the tactic of holding a crowd in a cordon for several hours as the main form of punishment. Please correct me if I'm wrong. It was terrifying as we were being forced into the middle of Trafalgar Square by several ranks of fully kitted up cops with no idea why or what was going to happen. Having grown up during the miners' strike seeing images of horse baton charges into crowds, I feared that we would be driven into the square and mercilessly beaten. This time, however, it was punishment by boredom and sheer overwhelming sour-faced ugliness.

The tactic quickly became standard and almost every demonstration of any significant size I attended was treated in this way. A particularly unpleasant feature of this standard procedure is that anyone who decides they'd rather leave than stand in a police cordon for several hours is viciously shoved or thrown back into the crowd. I have seen a police briefing document where it is specifically stated that this is not to be done! I have been assaulted in this way countless times. The main aims of the police are: to surround the demonstration with yellow-jacketed thugs so that no passers-by can see what it is about; to demoralise and intimidate the protesters, making the experience so thoroughly unpleasant that only the truly dedicated would put themselves through it; and to control the location of the event so that it can be prevented from reaching its target, i.e. to protect the state or corporate target audience from public criticism.

Since 2000, to attend a demonstration (apart from a few state-approved Democracy exercises) is to be pretty certain of being filmed, searched, questioned, ordered, pushed around, insulted, glared at, and possibly struck, pepper sprayed, punched, batoned, manhandled, and locked up. What has depressed and frustrated me most about this situation is not the behaviour of the State - after all it is the function of the State to repress people - but the fact that no-one seemed to give a flying shit except for a handful of despised and ignored anarchists.

I know that this time the police killed someone. I know a lot of the media attention comes from that. But it was only a matter of time. Similar assaults on unthreatening people to force them to comply are a standard feature of the policing of protest. And media attention is not focused only on the killing but on other assaults that fortunately had less tragic consequences.

So what's changed? In the words of a close friend: "More middle-class people are involved in the environmental movement." How long will the press attention last? Another friend: "As long as the economic downturn lasts."

Of course it is shocking that people have been subjected to mass assaults by police officers for daring to express themselves politically. Of course the liberal press should be shocked by it. But, as with anal sex, we politely ignore the slight smell, in this case of hypocrisy. Where were the liberal press when the police broke my hand last year to force me to comply with their orders? Where were they 3 years ago when an 80-year old man was pushed to the ground for playfully stepping off a kerb and his daughter arrested for trying to help him? Where were they when I was wrestled to the ground, arms wrenched behind my back, dragged headfirst into a Land Rover with my hat pulled down over my face and locked up for hours for giving out leaflets in the street? My point is that long ago we reached the shocking situation where these kind of things are normal experiences for people who attend protests. It is extremely frustrating to see frivolous columnists jumping on the protest bandwagon when for the past 10 years there has been a total blackout in the national press on the repression of protest. It is bitterly ironic that people I know who have not been involved and would never listen to a word I said are now discussing these issues in shocked tones because they have read about it in the press. Yes, it's good that these things are coming out. But the sinister silence about the past 10 years of repression has the effect of invalidating the experiences of people who have been on the receiving end of it for a long time, and it makes me sceptical of the motivations for the sudden change of tune.

A most despicable hypocrisy of the liberal press is that they have participated to the utmost in the demonisation and repression of the animal rights movement. Every national newspaper without exception has printed only police propaganda against animals rights campaigns. They have cheered and smeared when campaigners receive 8 or 10 year prison sentences in political show trials. They have participated fully in building the propaganda climate for the arrests and show trials to take place, by constructing a background of lies and distortions from press releases provided by police propaganda organisation NETCU. Everything that the otherwise uninformed member of the public thinks they know about the animal rights movement comes from NETCU via the press. The background was successfully set for the terrifying repression of AR campaigns using specially drafted laws and mind-bendingly dubious legal arguments.

The other side of this phenomenon is the dilution of ultra-radical movements by middle-class personnel and ideas. The continual bleating about 'peaceful protest' is a case in point. Who decided that protest should be peaceful? Did I miss the debate about that? Do individuals not have a moral right (and a legal right, for that matter, if you care about that) to defend themselves if attacked? If I am trying to walk along the street and a group of people block my path, brandishing weapons, and strike at me if I try to walk past them, is that not a clear case for self-defence? Maybe there are some people who claim not to believe in the use of violence, even in self-defence. But I'm afraid that playing the Simon Says game with the police does not count as radical pacifism. It's an axiom of pacifism that giving in to violence is an act of violence. Thus, submitting to a stop and search or agreeing to 'move over there' because it's more convenient is an act of violence. Being jokey-matey with armed agents of state repression who will beat you with a metal bar if you step out of line is an act of violence. For that matter, so is walking around with a pocket full of documents with pictures of the monarch on them. In my experience, the rare few who do practice radical pacifist techniques of absolute non-compliance tend to be criticised as 'violent' (or negatively as 'not peaceful') by the same sanctimonious people who claim the pacifist ground for themselves. I am aware that these issues are being negotiated to some extent especially around the Climate Camps but I fear the agenda is being set by compromised middle-class ideas, always appearing as the 'voice of reason', which is why I tend to feel extremely alienated from such movements.

It will be interesting to see how the police behave at the forthcoming Mayday Carnival protest against the EDO MBM arms factory in Brighton, after all the national publicity about police repression. I've noticed they are already preparing the ground in the local press for another bout of repressive violence. As I have maintained, we are moving towards a new and perplexing form of totalitarian state and a short-lived series of newspaper headlines will not make much difference unless a lot more people draw some fundamental conclusions from it about the nature of state-corporate power.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

It's worse than we thought: Conversation overheard on London Underground

"I bought a bottle of wine but I took it back to the shop because it was too expensive."
"I'm surprised they let you take it back. You could be a terrorist and have injected it with something."
"Nah, terrorists wouldn't buy a bottle of wine, it's against their religion."