Wednesday, 30 March 2011

more about money

money, yes it's one of my favourite subjects. As a staunch anti-capitalist i seem to spend a lot of hours thinking about money: where it's coming from, where it's going to, who's money it is, how i can get them to give it to me, what im willing to do for that money.....and how much safer i feel when i am holding onto some of the nice folding stuff.

I'm certainly one of those people who tends to say 'fuck money' and roll my eyes, or possibly 'i hate money' - because i don't have any - yet there was certainly a moment last week when i had one hell of a good run and was holding more cash in my hands than i had seen in a long time when i felt a surge of relaxation (yay! i know how to pay the rent!) and i though 'lovely money!!'.

of course that was very morally uncouth of me because we all know that good activists live on fresh air and good deeds.

now here's the funny thing, because there is this common idea that activism should always be done for free ....but what that usually ends up to mean in practice is that individuals PAY money to do their activism. It's something i can tend to get a bit pissy about, as all around me i see so many people struggling to survive and at the same time doing so much 'free' activism that their own ability to earn the basic money to live on is affected.

its something that in queer beograd we started to talk about a lot, especially over the past couple of years when we were forced to look at how to make our work sustainable. you can only spend so much of your time running away from fascists, working, organising, taking risks, before the wear and tear starts to show. we began to look at this from a very basic level: how do we eat, pay the rent and bills and also manage to maintain our health? Because for many of us we work so long and at such an edge that this really begins to have a heavy impact.

in the collective we began to ask some very big questions about how 'activism' functions, how burn out occurs and how this culture of having to work extremely hard for no money - and for most of us for many years - is a very strange phenomena. One which in many ways ignores the basic facts of our lives.

of course no one is going to pay you to organise the revolution, for myself i would say i have been working as an artist/activist for around 20 years now (at least) spending thousands and thousands of pounds/dollars/euros which i have earned in shitty jobs - and also giving up on having any better job - because i love and am solidly committed to creative rabble rousing.

when i began with queer beograd the first few times i went to serbia i would give up my job and the place i had to live, as there was no way for me to travel there, do activism and pay the rent at the same time. each time i returned to london i would be homeless and unemployed and begin from square one again. its certainly a way to get into a lot of debt i can tell you that. >insert sad theme music<

but from a certain point with our collective we decided that we would try to treat each other better than this, to work with fundraising and funding applications (which also involve a lot of 'free' work) to make sure that we were not all the time putting ourselves into this base line poverty of financial precarity. and for myself i also started to ask that when i toured with shows, when i did workshops, when i worked....(unless i was helping some one to raise funds) to be PAID or just to have my costs covered. travel,food and shelter please!

to me its a important political issue. and i realise there may be cries of indignation but i do find it very strange to create a template for 'radicalism' based in the idea that because we don't like capitalism then people who do activism should bloody well shut up about how difficult it is to balance that precarity.
if we want to build a different society then why deny there is a cost involved?

if we value the work of those who build new structures, then why can we not also build new structures which support of that work?

(i do realise this is a bit of a mystical rant but ive had several situations lately where the glamour of activism and art has been so blindingly glorious, i just had to get it off my chest.)

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Not afraid to say forever

It's been a long time since i posted, and the discussion about class has paused - at least in this form - as i have been so busy simply trying to make the rent. It occurs to me that most of all i am cramped for the luxury of free time.

In the midst of all this i have again come to know the incredible joy of sharing in self organised groups, those moments of real contact that make life more meaningful and that get me thru the day.

I wanted to share a text i wrote long ago, as it sums up so much for me in terms of the stories i wanted to tell at that point in my life and my battle against the isolation of capitalisism, those things that can break us, and of my desire to move towards the possibilities for building our hearts strong enough to live real in this world.


'Not afraid to say forever'
Serco, gsl -global solutions limited, wakenhut, sodexho, group four faulk
These are the people they are the ones,
Running the detention centres, running the private prisons, providing the security guards, making the escorts on deportation flights.
Hand in hand with the state, doing their dirty work
Taking away your freedom, that’s there business.
Fight back fight back
Do the damage, let them know…
We know who they are.

I’m not afraid to say forever, I’m not afraid to say forever, I’m not afraid to say forever,
Here in my longing, I watch people come and go, those you fight with side by side, up against it all, each step marking out the beat of our hearts.
Why does everything slip and slide, people come and go, crews form and then dissolve?
I want something to count on, I want to look back and be able to say, ‘we made this! Look at what we did. We made a difference!’ I want to build something that lasts, that can hold us when we don’t feel strong.
I’m not afraid to say forever.
As we tear everything down in this world with so much wrong. I want you to be there in this new kind of love that we keep on talking about. Where we can count on each other to make a space that lets us grow into something more than cattle for the next consumer fad, the next shopping trip, the next cool thing.
I want a world where rebellion doesn’t end at age 25, a flash of youth. I want to keep going, to know I’m not the only one, the stupid one, chasing an ideal. The only one who fails to give up believing, unable to stop up wanting.
While everyone else gets a real life and a real job, their radicalism shored up with a little insurance. Well hey you’re lucky if you’ve got the choice, but take a good look at the choices you are making.
I’m not afraid to say forever, I’m not afraid to say forever …. And this is how it is done, with the ultimate stupidity of a longing in the heart, …a raw energy to live this life as it deserves to be lived, all body and soul thrown into it. I’m not afraid to say forever.

Can I see your papers? is this your photograph? document checks, cameras everywhere, gets so its hard to move hedged in by the nanny state on one side and the 9-5 world on the other….get a ticket to the straight world…its not that fucken easy…even if you try.

Join the jots, wrap it up…no borders, no nations, what does that mean? Follow it through…no neat divides, no boxes, no fixed thinking…no comfortable way to fall back on… the model keeps breaking……how we gonna work it out. Better figure it out cos its happening. This is not a new story it’s just speeding up.

It’s a queer kinda politics- No borders, the collision of all the worlds forces, people driven from that place by weapons sold from here, labour moving to this market cos of poverty there, economies squeezed tighter, racism ramped higher…all the time all the time were told to believe in the separations, see the divisions, how we gonna get along how we gonna start seeing each other as people, better figure it out, better build the links now, cos its happening.

Welcome to the prison industrial complex, crossing all borders with ease,
-‘Security, the growth industry of the new millennium’.
Our containment systems are trans-national, we build everywhere.
Give us your poor, your needy, your dispossessed, those seeking refuge,
We will contain them. Welcome to the prison industrial complex.

Welcome to the prison industrial complex here is your shopping trolley, as you travel our supermarket aisle feel free to choose from our branded merchandise, we have several special offers this week, bargains, shipped from across the globe, manufactured in free trade zones. Bigger better faster cheaper, we bring it all to you for your shopping pleasure, your shopping leisure…

I wanted to dream, I was afraid to dream. I wanted to dream, I was afraid to dream
…But I would not, could not believe that this was all there was.
Street after street of suburban housing, a factory job, day after day of repetition. The goal: to find ‘the one’ to fall in love, to marry, to have children…to begin the cycle all over again.
I failed, by not wanting the life I was offered.
I refused, with no evidence to the contrary, to accept that this was my lot. No idea what any other life would look like.
Then by insistence, seeking blindly, I found others like myself. Who had fallen through the cracks and burst back up like weeds growing through asphalt, those who succeeded in hearing the desire in their blood.
And as I awoke I began to dream of a life that could be lived, all of us creatures of our own imagining.
Listen, trust your desire, Imagine the way; build a path where there is no path. Place the stones build the path. Build the path and walk upon it. Let strength of your dreams pull you forward.

Sitting in a refugee camp in the Ukraine, the Supervisor has changed his story several times as he slowly realizes were activists, not officials. He says ‘I know what it is to live behind the iron curtain. Many years of my life I have been made a criminal purely by my desire to learn, using false papers to cross the border to have access to libraries that contained forbidden books. Now Europe is trying to create a new iron curtain, this time its not to keep us in but to keep us out...I know what it is to live behind the iron curtain.'
‘In June 2002 the Council of the EU adopted guidelines on the possible development of a Visa Information System.
Taken together, the Schengen Information System and the Visa Information System will introduce the surveillance of the movements of everyone in the EU - citizens, legally resident third-country nationals, visa entrants and irregular migrants. These systems will be used for speculative surveillance and general intelligence gathering, but more importantly, individual records will increasingly result in coercive sanctions, such as the refusal to travel, the refusal of visa or asylum applications, the refusal of admission at external borders, detention pending extradition, and deportation.’
(Ben Hayes, ‘Statewatch analysis – From the Schengen Information System to SIS II and the Visa Information System (VIS): the proposals explained’ 2004)

I call H again; I’ve been calling every couple of days to see how the Ugandan women are...they’ve been on hunger strike in the Yarlswood detention centre for over 30 days now. When she answers the phone her voice is faint, I ask her how she is, she answers 'I’m not so good today, I feel very weak, I stopped breathing several times during the night. The doctors say there is something wrong with my heart. I have problems from when I was tortured before I came here. You know why they are doing this to me, its because I know what is right and I stand up for my rights’
I want to cry, I feel cold...is this all I can do, to sit on the phone and listen as my country does this to another person. How can this be happening?

These borders for our ‘own protection’, how do we separate one from another? Internal and external wars, keeping ‘them’ out…who ever they are, while our economy runs on the exploitation of cheap labour, cheap resources.
The freedom of capitalism, the freedom say what you want, to be who you want to be as long as you keep working, we don’t care who you are, we can assimilate you. Keep spending, keep consuming, get a mortgage, get a credit card chain to the bank a direct line direct debit your wages to our account. Buy our goods and services with the money you earn from us, you never earn enough to buy back your freedom.

Everyday I fall in love, Everyday I fall in love, with the strugglers, the fighters, people who have the courage to demand meaning in a world where its so easy for any sense to slip away.
To work to make this world, that is what I want, …., to be with others who fight for something different. This is all I want, to be living this life, making it happen now. I can’t wait, I wont wait for some one else to make it for me, Everyday I fall in love. And its not all hope and glory, but the slow process, the grinding work of building the ways to really make this happen, building the networks, organising the structure, sorting our shit out, and making the connections to everybody, everybody!

Sometimes when we’re together I glimpse freedom.
Leaving the campsite the police in the car that tails us must be confused; we're the only action block meandering along singing Madonna and stopping to smell the roses.

As we approach a big round about we realise we’ve reached the first police check point, where the police are conducting a section 60 stop and search on anyone trying to pass through, it’s a standard tactic- harassment and delay.
The police try to divide us into boys and girls to make the search and there’s a lot of confusion, with a crew of camp boys, butches, gender queers, trans people…we don’t neatly divide in anyway they understand, the police are starting to regret this encounter.
The Gender police frisk us and quickly send us on our way.

We walk and we walk and we walk through the night, it’s raining. Our map is starting to disintegrate, we get lost and we keep running into more groups of cops asking us where we are heading.

Every road we turn down they’re there blocking our path, we head cross-country running through fields…. and make it onto a motorway bridge…
Standing on the bridge we look at each other. …What now?
…We haul out our banner, tie it onto the bridge and drop it over the edge it unfurls to hang just a few meters above the road, a beautiful rainbow of colours …we climb down the embankment and onto the road…. its quiet…early morning light… We get out another banner … ‘No deportations’ that has accompanied us on demonstrations outside detention centres, reporting centres and even on a sodhexo run river cruise. We stretch it out across two lanes and start to walk up the motorway. Its crazy….the sense of freedom
Up ahead we can see lines of riot cops and vans, It’s a stand off. Then from out of the fields black clad anarchists start to emerge, running down the road towards us shouting ‘you’re beautiful’, more and more people start to turn up as news of the blockade spreads, what started out as twenty of us queers is now 60 or 70 people, building barricades out of fallen trees and pavers from the motorway bridge. This is magic

Fuck the borders between sexualities, between genders, between our abilities to live as we want and the blockades imposed by the state, this society always marking someone as 'other' by race/sexuality/gender/class/legal or not legal…. refuse to accept this condition of nations and borders, the containment of people by walls that serve only to profit those in power. Be a border fucker this is not a new story, its an old story speeding up. Time to open our eyes wide enough to see each other.

So where is the divide on the inside? What happens when our hearts break, promises lost, when things grow cold between us? What happens then? No borders …that’s the damn shitty fact and the power, its up to us to sort it out…not some bureaucracy, some government decision, some business deal…these are our lives, our hearts. Its up to us to make our hearts as strong as we can stand and to let them keep on breaking.
Yes there are edges in this world; sharp edges…but cuts can heal…

And what if it was sure that we couldn’t change anything, would I give up? Fall into despair…sit back and enjoy the ride into oblivion? Sink like so many have into the dull apathy of greed, cheap thrills and television. I’d rather die
I want to fight to know that I’m alive,

Is the world too tight for your fit, can you grasp it in your hand does it love you back, mirror mirror on the wall who’s the most oppressed of all? It’s not a fucking competition my freedom over yours. Link it up, break the box, get out of the ghetto Dorothy. …..Take a good look at who’s standing next to you. It’s not just about your liberation, join the fucken dots it’s a pretty simple if ya choose to see it.

Not doing what we’re told has consequences, but people change the world by being what they truly are. Build your heart strong enough to stand the breaking, build your heart strong enough and keep on letting it be broken.

I’m not afraid to say forever, I’m not afraid to say forever, I’m not afraid to say forever.