Mosque shootings were perpetrated by a vicious fantasist, not a warrior.

Yesterday morning many of us sat in horror, watching the news come in that a gunman had killed dozens of people around two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in a terrorist attack.

The 28 year old was quickly named as Brenton Tarrant as he live-streamed the massacre on 8chan, leaving the number of dead at 49 so far with more currently being treated for serious injuries. He first published his ‘manifesto’ online. I say manifesto loosely. Really it was some jumbled, egotistical pseudo-intellectual rantings to justify killing men, women and children for reasons that no sane person could understand. People who pleaded with him to live. People who were just trying to pray before he murdered them.

The attacks have received worldwide condemnation, including from Pewdiepie, who Tarrant referenced in his video while sat in his vehicle, encouraging people to subscribe to his channel. Pewdiepie is a video game YouTuber who has attracted controversy for the racist and anti Semitic terms he has used in his commentaries. He has been quick to publicly distance himself from Tarrant’s actions, but not every one has been so quick to condemn him it seems.

Fraser Anning, the senator for Queensland released a statement in which he said that the attack was an inevitable outcome of Muslim immigration policy and while muslims were the victims in this case, they were usually the perpetrators, that “muslims are killing people in the name of their faith on an industrial scale”. The sly suggestion that Anning hints at is that this was just retaliation. But here’s the thing: Brenton Tarrant didn’t murder muslims in some bizarre revenge fantasy. He killed them simply because they were there. He was quite clear in his intentions during his online activities beforehand and was a self described “eco-fascist” who felt that this was his duty. 

So what is an eco-fascist? Sounds like a deeply troubled hippy on a bad Mkat comedown. It’s worse. Really it’s a movement of ethno-nationalists and eugenicists using environmentalism to thinly veil their racist ideas and distorted notion of purity, promoting that returning to our geographical roots can save the planet. Which is odd when you consider that Tarrant was an Australian in New Zealand who had Scottish, English and Irish heritage.

Eco fascism has slowly seeped into environmentalist circles over a number of years, coming into conflict with left leaning activists when they are identified. Some of their accounts contain the hashtag #efds, meaning eco-fascist death squads. Intended ‘as a joke’ of course. Until lots of people die as a result. There also seems to be an obsession with Norse mythology, which was shared by Tarrant who told viewers he’d see them in Valhalla.

Typically the eco-fascists despise multiculturalism and often talk of a need to cull the population. Not white people though, just the brown ones. Because racial mixing is another hatred of theirs. Far right groups will often take crimes that have made the news that we are all rightly outraged and disgusted by- grooming gangs, sexual assaults and murders- but focus only those committed by people from ethnic backgrounds. Regardless of the wishes of the victims of those crimes or their families, they use the public’s anger to fuel their agenda, which doesn’t usually involve genuine concern for the safety of women and girls. For the core of the Far Right, the real source of their vitriol is not assaults on white women by immigrants, its racial mixing even in happy and consensual relationships. Over the last few years I’ve seen this belief become less and less concealed, referring to mixed race people as mongrels and half-breeds and to white Islamic converts as blood-traitors.

Tarrant talked about the decline in birth rates in white Europeans, believed that immigrants were taking over, and described his victims as “invaders who seek to occupy my people’s lands and ethnically replace my own people”. Invaders. Aliens. Mongrels. Vermin. Whatever slur is fashionable in a particular point in history, they have always been chosen to dehumanise a group of people that an individual or a regime wants to harm. For Tarrant it helped him imagine he was carrying out some sort of pest control on behalf of people who are repulsed by him.

I’ve used Brenton Tarrant’s name in this piece to avoid confusion as to who I’m talking about, but I will never utter his name again. He doesn’t deserve the notoriety.

Like many, I’ve shed a few tears of sadness and rage the last two days. To look at the face of three year old Mucad Ibrahim breaks your heart, but the image of one of the victims being carried out on a stretcher pointing his index finger to the sky also broke me.Because my grandad used to do this. It symbolises the unity of Allah, a way to say praise god. He did this when he won at the bookies, when I passed my exams, when he found out I’d been seizure free for couple of months and he did it one last time as he lay frail in a hospital bed moments before he died.

I’m not Muslim and never have been. He never minded that. He was as loved and as ordinary as all the people at the two mosques in Christchurch yesterday. Missing him is still so unbearably painful as it will always be for their families but at least I was able to prepare for it. I could accept that he had come naturally to the end of his life and it was simply time for him to leave mine.

The vile, hateful human who killed 49 people yesterday is not a soldier as he likes to imagine. He’s just a vicious fantasist who took their lives for no reason other than hate and ego. There was no purpose for what he did other than to make the world darker and scarier. It’s up to us to make it light again. Strange Fruit- Billie Holiday.

Because this song isn’t just a dark part of history. It’s also a dark part of the present.

Shamima Begum: Sad reacts only- emojis are not for mocking dead babies.

Yesterday it was revealed that Jarrah, the son of Shamima Begum has died at less than three weeks old after he contracted pneumonia.

You can’t have missed that she is the British Citizen who travelled to Syria aged 15 to marry an ISIS soldier after she and two other friends were groomed online. She made the headlines while still pregnant as she wanted to flee ISIS and was attempting to get back home.

I wasn’t going to read the comments when news broke of Jarrah’s death. I really wasn’t. But then I did, hoping I’d be proved wrong and found that things were far worse than I had feared. Even before he had been born there were comments saying that he should be killed, others saying that even he should not be able to come to Britain because he- a helpless infant- was a threat to our national security. Yesterday I saw laugh reacts flood in as rumours that he had died emerged and were then confirmed. Others, while not daring to speak outright hate on a baby have shrugged and muttered. “ Well it’s sad but what about the children killed at the Ariana Grande concert”. Exactly. We are angry and disgusted at their deaths, why are we not angry and disgusted at deaths of babies born in camps because of them? Why are we not angry and disgusted when ISIS operatives groom our children online, lure them abroad to be sexually exploited and murdered.

Several people remarked that she should be investigated for the deaths of her three babies as it was suspicious. I’m not sure where the internet have been imagining Shamima and Jarrah to have been living recently.Whether they have been picturing her in the Hollywood Hills rather than a refugee camp in Northern Syria . Aid workers at the camp where she and her child were living have said that conditions are dire. It is very cold and there are not enough tents, food or blankets. Other children have been dying there from lack of resources, malnutrition and disease and will continue to do so while the conflict rages.

What struck me as odd though, was there there were literally hundreds of comments implying that the child didn’t exist in the first place. There have been pictures and filming of Shamima with her son, and journalists who have interviewed her reporting that they had seen Jarrah when he was a few days old and had been healthy at that time.

So why would so many people be denying that he even existed? They were quick enough to believe him real and deny him entry to the UK when he was still alive. Because it eases discomfort and conscience to now believe he was figment of her imagination, a ploy for her to return home and further proof of her deviousness. It helps them to not have to admit that the media circus they were part of-that Sajid Javid pandered to- meant Jarrah was never given a chance and that was utterly cruel.

If Shamima Begum were to return to the UK I don’t think she’d be much safer than she is in Syria anymore. The Home Secretary and the media have seen to that. People who claim to despise ISIS and their brutality have actively expressed that they hope their soldiers find her and rape and kill her in their next breath. ISIS hate Shamima Begum and want her dead. If you do too, what exactly does that that say?

Happy International Women’s Day- We’re always going to need it.

It’s International Women’s Day, yay! Let’s burn our bras! Or not, because they’re fucking expensive and lots of us are just using tit tape these days. So how are you celebrating? Going to an event, listening to something by your favourite female musician or just telling your favourite lasses that you love them?

No matter. Whether you are going all out, or doing nothing at all, when the subject of IWD comes up you will inevitably hear “Why do you need an International Women’s Day now” or “Won’t it be great when we don’t need one any more”.

Well, here’s the thing: we are always going to need one.

If you enjoy relative freedoms you will be made to feel guilty for paying tribute to such days by a roll of the eyes and a “God what more do you all want”, or the obligatory “Make me a sandwich” (Fun fact. Sandwiches were invented by a male aristocrat, so why not try forcing the rich to make you one instead).

If you look around the world there are certainly marked differences in the emancipation of women. You could argue if you are in the west, like myself, that we have it pretty good compared to the struggles of our sisters around the world who could be imprisoned for dancing or killed for refusing to marry or because they were raped.

We still need it for them. For those who are the very most oppressed. We need it for the women in those places who are standing up alone and fighting it, regardless of the risk posed to themselves and their families for doing so. For every soldier in the YPJ resisting both Daesh and Erdogan.

We need it to celebrate the many battles we have won and recognise how far we have come and to remind ourselves of what we came from.

We need it for the same reason we still need our other days. May Day, Black History Month, Pride, and Miners Galas. Because no matter what progress is made or how much things change, there will always be those who seek t exploit us and try to take away the freedoms that have been won by us and those before us.

Look at the threats to the NHS and the human rights act here in the UK right now. Look at how we are making women who have more than 2 children through rape prove their trauma to the DWP so they can afford to feed them. Look how the rise of Christian fundamentalism in the US and how the Trump administration is currently trying to drag it into a Handmaid’s Tale style dystopia as it enables rapists and denies access to women’s health programmes through defunding. Look at the difference in Iran compared to how it looked before the Islamic revolution in 1979. We think when we win freedoms that they are ours for good. That we always progress. But fights like this are never over as history has shown us time and time again.

So happy International Women’s Day, here’s to many more where we recognise ourselves as warriors and not just as victims of oppression- Remember, it was lasses who kicked off the Russian revolution. There’s so much more to do.

Don’t let the #spycops inquiry go undercover

I have written about the ‘spycops’ scandal before, almost a year ago. If you are not up to speed about this, and you would be forgiven if you aren’t as there has been very little about the issue in the mainstream media of late, spycops are police officers who have infiltrated activist communities causing a catalogue of violations of basic human rights in the process. It made the news when one of them, Mark Kennedy, who was also known as Mark Stone, among others, was discovered to have been in a relationship with a woman for 6 years who had no idea of his identity. Several more officers were then also unmasked, some of who had married and had children with their targets.

So why am I revisiting now? Well because sadly not a great deal has changed in the last year with regards to the inquiry. This is by no means the fault of the participants and their supporters who are fighting fiercely for justice. But since the inquiry has been in the hands of Sir John Mitting who is chairing it, he has done nothing but stall the process and show unbelievable bias toward the police by refusing to allow basic information to be released which would allow the process to move forward under the fallacy that it would put the officers at risk with no care for the women who have already been harmed by their activities. His deliberate sabotage of the process by not allowing live streaming of proceedings as there is with the Grenfell inquiry, forbidding the cover names of officers to be revealed or even the full list of which groups were infiltrated means the inquiry will now not be fully underway until at least 2020.

Then there was the Lush campaign who tried to bring the public’s awareness to the inquiry and what it was about. Instead of being sympathetic to those who’s lives have been turned upside down, who’s hearts have been broken by their actions, it turned into a public backlash against Lush, fuelled by the police who stated it was an anti police campaign. Reactionaries everywhere took it upon themselves to leave negative reviews for Lush and harass their staff. When I went into my local store I was told by one of their employees that when she had went in that morning, she had an officer waiting at the door who told her that she had to take the display down. Which of course they had no powers to make her, but their intimidating behaviour meant they were not left with much choice. Imagine if the public had used that misplaced outrage to support the victims instead. Maybe we wouldn’t be where we are at now.

Andy Coles, another former spycop, who lied about his age and coerced a young and vulnerable animal rights activist is still allowed to serve as a Conservative councillor and the governor of a school as if we would find this acceptable if it were any other kind of sex offender. Now many people look decidedly uncomfortable when I say this and claim I can’t label undercover police having sexual relationships with the people they are spying on without revealing their identity as sex offenders. Here is why I absolutely can say that- It is written in law, in the Sexual Offences Act 1956;

You cannot give informed consent if you have been deceived as to the real identity of your sexual partner and it is ludicrous to suggest that you could.

Tonight at 20:30pm on BBC Wales investigates there will be a documentary, Undercover Cops- abuse of duty about this very thing and I would defy anyone to not feel utter revolt at the stories you will hear. One of the women, Rosa was in a relationship with an officer called Jim Boyling who she had two children with and eventually fled to a women’s refuge because of his abuse. It will be available on iPlayer afterwards, so make it your business to catch it.

There are few important points to bear in mind when talking about this issue with others, particular with respect to some of the things that were said during the Lush campaign. Firstly, this in not a case of a few bad apples who took advantage of their position as is often made out. They didn’t abuse their power, it was entirely tactical and given approval from higher up. Andy Coles even wrote a manual on how to manipulate activists into relationships. Secondly, talking about undercover police abuse is not anti police. For starters there are former spycops who are assisting with the inquiry who are prepared to give evidence. It is about the tactics used by the National Public Order Intelligence Unit and the Special Demonstration Squad, not policing as a whole. I often hear people say we need undercover work to catch organised criminals and child abuse networks. No one is denying there needs to be an element of this to catch such people, however these two units were not involved in that. They were specifically there to target activists, mainly from environmental, animal rights and anarchist groups. Many of who had never committed any crime- which brings me on to my next point. It doesn’t even matter if they did. Some activists may have been breaking some state laws- Social change has never ever happened without it, but it was surely low level. This doesn’t justify what has happened to them in the slightest. Be aware of your Just World fallacy. If you don’t know what that is, look it up. It’s something we are all susceptible to on different levels. It’s a psychological phenomenon whereby when we see suffering or injustice we believe that the victim is on some level responsible or did something that caused it to happen. It’s not always outright victim blaming that we fall into, but studies show we consistently believe that we do this as a way of self protection. Because if it can happen to someone else for no reason, it could happen to us. I saw this a lot last year, with people saying that activists “shouldn’t break the law” (even when they didn’t) or suggesting that the activists must have known about their partners true identity.

It’s important that the people affected by state abuse feel heard and held. Imagine how it would feel to find out your partner, or your best friend was being paid to spy on you, for simply caring about environmental and social problems. Imagine that person fathered your children. We can’t really. We can’t fully understand how isolating and devastating that must be, so we need to be as invested in this as they are. If it is not scrutinised now, it could be someone you love, or even you next. It should never have happened to anyone in the first place. The message we will give is that we accept this abuse of citizens. Share everything you see on the subject and comment to keep it current in a world with a 15 minute attention span. Keeping it in the public eye is important.

Also visit for more information about how you can get involved, be that campaigning or donating to legal costs. We owe it to them and to ourselves to defend civil liberties, fight for the truth to be uncovered and accountability to be applied.

A pill to make you numb, a pill to make you dumb….

We frequently cite the horror stories of the insurance based health care system in the US when we talk about the need to defend the NHS, but the problem that most of us haven’t realised is that it is no longer a philosophical debate about something we might one day ourselves face- it is already starting to seep under the door. I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced it, but needing health care or medication and not being able to get access to it for any reason is a terrifying experience. However, this is a reality that is playing out for an increasing number of people in the UK today.

Last year it emerged that the NHS was to cut free prescriptions for many over the counter medicines. They pitched it to us that ‘wasteful’ prescriptions such as homeopathic remedies were being scrapped to pay for things like cancer treatments, but the list included medicines for conditions such as conjunctivitis and cystitis which can be serious if not treated properly at the earliest onset. Cutting access to medicine is not a new idea. It is already here and has been for years. What this will do is merely embed the policy, normalise it, and lead to further sanctions in the future. I have both epilepsy and asthma. Currently in England, I can receive medication for epilepsy free on the NHS if I needed it (which mercifully I don’t at present), as can diabetics. That isn’t the case for people with asthma, even though all three of these conditions can become life threatening in a matter of seconds. Three years ago a 19 year old woman called Holly Worboys died from an asthma attack as she struggled to afford inhalers on a low income. In a survey by Asthma UK it was found that three quarters of diagnosed asthmatics struggled to pay for their medication. Holly’s death isn’t an isolated one. Over the last few years, the news has been filled with countless stories of people who have lost their lives as a result of benefits sanctions, all with names and loved ones who’s lives have also been ruined from grief.

As with all atrocities committed in the name of austerity, further cuts will only ever affect the people that need it the most, and the latest move is sure to have an immediate, direct impact on the health and wellbeing of thousands of people. Lack of access to early treatment will also lead to more serious long term medical conditions, which ultimately leads to bigger financial implications later on. This is why I have never understood cuts made to early intervention services, be it medicine, domestic abuse, homeless prevention, or mental health. These schemes have always proved to save costs in the long run as they lessen the impact on hospitals, policing, courts and social services.

But I’ve come to realise that this government’s weaponisation of poverty is not just real, it is entirely deliberate. A tired and sick population doesn’t fight too well against the violence they continue to inflict on its citizens and land. Police forces in Manchester and Lancashire police have admitted that they have given intel on disabled people involved in peaceful protest, including the anti-fracking demonstrations which serves no purpose other than to intimidate. We are told constantly how grateful we should be to have freedom of speech, but how free is that when the authorities threaten to remove our means of survival either via benefits or wages if we step out of line? In the age of welfare sanctions, people already living well below the poverty line are being charged £20 in many parts of the country for doctors letters giving them the proof that they need to claim. It was estimated in a 2017 that 120000 people have died as a direct result of austerity, yet still the government ignores this and continues to put further impositions on those who have the least.

Then there is Brexit. The toxic, massively self-destructive drunk uncle who tells increasingly ridiculous stories about his non-existent achievements that you are dreading coming to your wedding. You can’t do anything to stop it because your mam invited him and now no one in the family is speaking to each other through arguing about it. Brexit is set to massively disrupt our access and import of thousands of medicines. But before you put your fingers in your ears and yell “project fear” at me, as indeed I myself might have done a year or so ago, have a look at how the currently system works. Ingredients sourced in India are then transported to factories in Europe to be made into medicines, which then go to wholesalers for distribution. They are not something we can grow in our back gardens in whatever Dig For Victory fantasy Boris Johnson is trying to sell us. If anything it would look more like a Breaking Bad style meth lab in your kitchen as you desperately try to make penicillin from a YouTube video while the kids cry about having to eat nettles for tea again.

At the moment, a prescription costs £8.60 in England. It’s been over a year since I was diagnosed with asthma and I have only just been told about the prescription prepayment certificates that are available by my pharmacist after the medicines I required due to a bad chest infection that nearly put me in hospital came to over £40. The certificates cost £104 a year or £29.10 for three months, but that will cover all the prescriptions you require during that period and is worth getting if you have regular or multiple prescriptions. Some respite maybe, however even this reduced rate is too much for people who are struggling and we are seeing an increase of patients on low incomes admitting that they are going without vital medicine in order to be able to pay for other essentials. Saving it only for ‘emergencies’ as Holly Worboys was trying to do with the last dose of her inhaler. Her family and charities are calling for asthma medication to be made available for free. This I fully support, as no person should lose their life so needlessly. But all prescription charges should be scrapped as they are in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. More so, politicians should be made criminally accountable for creating a situation where supply chains could be halted or delayed because they lied about having any plan that could be actualised effectively. With Brexit it doesn’t matter if you voted leave or remain, no one voted for the catastrophe we are currently facing. Let’s stop with mechanically repeating learned soundbites like “Brexit means Brexit” and “project fear” whenever someone points out facts with obvious concerns that need to be addressed. None of us voted for what is coming and reluctance to admit that the outcome of the referendum is going to be a disaster because we feel it makes us look bad is not a good enough reason to blind ourselves to the facts. The only people looking to benefit are the ones who should be truly ashamed of themselves: The rich politicians and CEO’s who didn’t want to be made to pay more tax and made a catalogue of undeliverable promises to get what they wanted. They will never starve or be denied medicine, because they’ve already created strategies on how to save themselves, but not the rest of us.

Safety is one of the most basic requirements in our hierarchy of needs. It’s not something we should be allowing the state to vote on or health bodies deciding for us. On who is allowed to get well and who doesn’t. Who gets the latest, more effective treatments and who can’t. The health of us as a population is something we should all be concerned with.

Sickness has ripple effects on us all and it is in our interest to look at health collectively. Don’t enable self serving, obnoxious incompetents who couldn’t switch a kettle on by repeating their piss weak catchphrases for them. Hold your representatives accountable, don’t keep calm and stop fighting with your mate who voted the opposite to you so you can direct your anger where it’s needed.

Revolution Time- Liberty

MP’s just voted to give themselves yet another pay rise and we’re just about done with them.

So, for the fourth year in a row, MP’s have voted to award themselves another pay increase. I know I shouldn’t be surprised, and really, I’m not. But each year that they laugh in our faces like this, I do find myself getting angrier. The increase means they will get an extra £1368 a year each from 1st April. This is after the massive 11% rise they gave themselves in 2015, the 1.3% in 2016, 1.4% in 2017 and 1.8% last year. An MP’s salary is now £79,468, a massive £13,730 increase since 2010, and that doesn’t include expenses and allowances on top of that.

Many moons ago, I was a waitress. Scratch that, I was a terrible waitress. Particularly when it came to silver service. One afternoon, aged 17, we had a very large and wealthy party come in, and as I was serving Sunday lunch, I dropped a large piece of broccoli into the open Louis Vuitton handbag of an elderly lady who was dining. Rather than doing the mature thing and admitting my mistake, I simply pushed the bag further under the table with my foot and prayed the woman would blame herself and assume she knocked it in herself.

I was never caught for the misdemeanour, but if I had of been, how do you think my conversation with the owner would have gone?

“You can’t just cover up a mistake like that and blame someone else, it’s bang out of order”

“You’re right. I’ll resign”

“Good. How about I offer you another position instead. Maybe restaurant manager”?

“Sound, yeah. Do I get a pay rise”?

“Well that’s entirely up to you Bandita, what do you think”?

“Aye. We’ll make it a good one too. Those moats don’t clean themselves.”

It sounds ludicrous, but it isn’t a far stretch from what happens in the House Of Commons. In no other employment in the country is it acceptable to drink on the job while making landmark decisions that affect the entire UK and beyond, fall asleep on the middle of meetings and scream abuse at your colleagues from across the room. Nowhere else would you be allowed to employ your spouse for doing absolutely fuck all in order to squeeze more money out of a public purse.

George Osborne would roll in looking like that one kid you used to find trying to lick their own eyelids on the morning of the after party and you and your mates would all realise that not one of you actually knew him and had no idea how he got in. Yelling , jeering and deliberately loud laughing to drown out the opposition’s words is standard behaviour, yet if you did that anywhere else you’d likely be sacked for gross misconduct or a written warning at the very least, while they in the blink of an eye will demand that us proles be ‘civil’ if we dare get ideas above our station and challenge them.

Westminster is the only workplace where they will think nothing of kicking off when cuts to their champagne is suggested, yet will vote in cuts for the disabled and the nations poorest people. Last year taxpayers paid £2.7 million to subsidise bars and restaurants in the House of Commons last year.

A few drinks clearly gives them enough Dutch courage to then look us dead in the eye and say “All in this together”. If they are public servants, why can’t we see their annual performance reviews? Why has Michael Gove had so many roles that we are half expecting to see him in the next Oasis line up? Wouldn’t he have just been deemed unemployable in any other universe by now?

It would be funny if the rest of us weren’t having such a hard time at the moment trying to navigate a very unsure future for the UK. It would be funnier if a homeless man, Gyula Remes, hadn’t died outside Westminster not three months before.

So next time someone at work suggests a dress down Friday or Christmas jumper day for charity, suggest a “behave like an MP in the House Of Commons day” instead. I can’t guarantee you won’t end up slapped or in court for what ensues, but it may hit home what an easy ride we are giving a spoiled kids club with too much power.

Shamima Begum and the trial by media.

Sounds like the weirdest instalment of the Harry Potter series, doesn’t it? Like most of the country I have been following the story of Shamima Begum over the last few weeks, with my take on the issue changing several times over the duration. I’m not here to try and change anyone’s views, but several aspects about the decisions made about her and the public’s reaction to her story have left me deeply unsettled.

As most of us are aware already, Shamima travelled in secret to Syria from London in 2015 when she was 15 years old after she was radicalised online and is now trying to return home. She left with two other students, Amira Abase and Kadiza Sultana after communicating with Aqsa Mahmood, a woman originally from Glasgow who was now living in Syria after also travelling without the knowledge of her family in 2013 when she was 19 years old. Kadiza Sultana is now dead after she was reportedly killed in an air strike aged 17. Kadiza was known to have been trying to escape IS before her death and Amira’s whereabouts are currently unknown.

They are not the first teenage girls to have been recruited to IS, and almost all appear to have met a similar fate. In 2014, two Austrian teenagers, Sabina Selimovic and Samra Kesinovic also traveled to Syria in very similar circumstances. They appeared in Islamic State propaganda websites wearing burkas and carrying machine guns. The girls were reported to have married jihadist fighters and not much more was known about them until a report from a Tunisian woman who had managed to escape IS disclosed she had been kept in sexual slavery with the girls in a house in Syria, to be abused by newly recruited soldiers. Samra later tried to escape but she was caught by IS forces and beaten to death with a hammer aged 17. By this point Sabina was also dead after she was killed during fighting in Raqqa. She was 15 years old. There has also been Sally Jones, who was older when she joined IS and like Aqsa Mahmood was also involved in the recruitment of other young women, as well as encouraging converts in Britain to carry out ‘lone wolf’ attacks on home soil.

On paper it makes no sense why these girls would have left their homes and travelled in secret to a literal war zone in an unfamiliar country to marry unknown fighters in an organisation known for their murderous brutality and horrific treatment of women.

One of the most common arguments I hear is “well I knew right from wrong when I was 15”. That maybe true, but you definitely didn’t always care. Can you say that you never once defied a parent or authority, did something you knew that you shouldn’t and did so in secret? Of course you did. Teenagers are naturally secretive risk takers. It’s a normal part of our development as we’d never leave our families or caretakers side otherwise. I don’t know what you did. Maybe it was underage drinking or sex, maybe you took a bunch of drugs or got yourself an absolutely mortifying tattoo or a bad boyfriend. Who knows, maybe you did all of those things. Now you could argue that none of those things are in the same category as joining a militant terrorist organisation and of course you would be right. But take yourself back to that age for a moment, and throw in some highly sophisticated groomers in there who know just how to manipulate your desire for excitement and belonging, to be a confidante for all your worries and tell you how are amazing you are and far too special for a mediocre life in a materialistic society that hates you. If you think that wouldn’t have worked on you at such a young and vulnerable age, then you are lucky enough to have never encountered such people in your life. They won’t use a head carrying soldier covered in blood to do it. They’ll find someone who looks like you. In Shamima and her friend’s case, that was Aqsa Mahmood. They would have been told how great it was there, how respected by their men they were, free of islamophobia and safe to walk the streets in Islamic dress. They will have been told it wasn’t a bit like the corrupt press made out. “Trust me, I did it. I was scared just like you, but look at me now. My life is beautiful and has meaning and yours can too if you’re brave”.

The next point in Shamima’s trial by media was the disgust at her lack of remorse about the death she has seen, stating that she “wasn’t fazed” by the sight of seeing heads in baskets. Her lack of emotion has the nation outraged, unable to understand how she could be so callous. Out of curiosity, how many heads in baskets have you seen, because I’m twice Shamima’s age and I have seen precisely none. But I have seen trauma, and felt it too, and I know a little bit about how it works.

On a daily basis I have people disclose to me the very worst things that they have seen and experienced. The kind of stories you thought only existed in the very worst of nightmares. Very rarely are these tales told to me with tears and histrionics. The vast majority of the time they are relayed with a blank expression and a deadpan voice. Laughing while they tell you isn’t all that unusual and I don’t care how long you have been in the job, there will never be anything as unnerving as watching a young woman giggling in front of you as she recalls dozens of episodes of physical and sexual abuse. Does she find it funny? Of course not. It’s a nervous reaction, a defence strategy, because when you are repeatedly subjected to trauma your fight and flight responses become rewired. You will react in a way your brain tells you will ensure your survival. Again, how many heads in baskets have you seen? I’ve seen precisely none. I don’t know how I would react if I did, and you can be sure that you don’t either.

If Begum didn’t give you the x-factor style tears and heart wrenching monologue about every single horror she has seen or been subjected to-all the gory bits included- before you will even consider mercy for her or her baby, then I have some bad news for you about how you will view others who don’t fit your criteria of a ‘good victim’. Maybe you scan homeless people for track marks and bottles of buckfast before you consider sparing a few coins because you’re not giving money to a fucking junkie. You demand their story. You want to see war medals and an honourable discharge certificate to make sure they are the right kind of deserving waif to receive your generosity. Maybe it’s the victim of domestic violence that you will condemn for refusing to leave the man who beats her senseless every day, resulting in her terrified children being taken into care because she “chose a man over her bairns”. If I’m wrong, I apologise for my assumption because I’m glad you could show those people compassion and understanding. It’s those out of our comfort zone that need it the most.

Because her interview in the refugee camp in Syria where she is currently is too much to digest, let’s consider her before she ever traveled there. At the point Shamima had communicated knowingly with a notorious IS member, she was already condemned. If she had engaged in conversation that could even slightly be interpreted as dangerous, and her groomers would have ensured that she had, admitting it could have led to the arrest not just of her, but potentially her family and friends too and undoubtedly being put on a watch list. Who exactly could she have gone to for help in those early stages if she had even the slightest doubt about what she was getting herself into. By that point IS had done what all abusers of children do. They had shackled her to them with a secret she could never tell anyone, because she’d already done wrong, she was one of them.

With Shamima, there is no suggestion that she has actually committed any of the atrocities she has witnessed herself, though you’d never know that from reading any comments section of articles about her. So far I’ve seen calls for her to be executed, the Tower Of London appearing to be the preferred venue for this to take place. They asked she was tortured slowly, this while she was still heavily pregnant. Her baby who has since been born, elicits slightly more sympathy, though not as much as you might think looking at the dozens of comments stating that “it” will always be a threat to our country even at a few days old and should never be allowed to step foot in the UK. I’m always baffled by those who call for a slow and sadistic death on people they hate because they inflict slow, sadistic deaths on others, but this unflinching hypocrisy is always present in online conversations where IS comes up. The same people who scream that we shouldn’t allow muslims into the country on a piece about immigration because they want to bring in Sharia law are the same people who will happily call for the hands of thieves to be cut off in the next article down about an old lady being mugged with no sense of awareness whatsoever.

But actions do have consequences. I wouldn’t suggest that Begum should be exempt from this and I haven’t seen anyone else put this forward either. But it’s complex, as we have seen in the grooming gang cases like the one in Rotherham, where girls already in the clutches of the gang will be used to befriend and lure other young girls to the organised parties, some being present while those victims are then subsequently abused and doing nothing to try and stop it. Some do face criminal charges when they play such a part, but it’s not quite as simple to label them innocent victim or ruthless monster is it? If Shamima Begum has not committed any other crime other than membership of a banned organisation, what punishment should befit her given that there is a clear case of grooming?

It’s not that I believe all women who get radicalised like this are all naïve, innocent flowers who cannot be held accountable. Some will know exactly what they were getting themselves in to and what they are trying to get new female children into. I have particular contempt for Sally Jones who I mentioned earlier. She was quite a bit older when she decided to travel to the area, but she also took her small 8 year old son Jojo with her, and it is this that I just cannot get my head around. taking a little boy to such a known, dangerous area when he could have stayed safe with the rest of his family. Since then, pictures of who is believed to be Jojo show him in combat gear with weapons and adult hostages and he was believed to have already been fighting alongside IS militants until his and his mother’s reported deaths by air strike in 2017. Reports that have since been disputed, with some claiming that Jojo or Sally or both could still be alive.

We desperately need to know more about the tactics and resources of IS recruiters and Shamima Begum is a rare chance to gain some of that understanding given that most IS brides who travel from western countries to join them in Syria tend to end up missing or dead pretty quickly. I don’t claim that there are any easy answers. What I am sure of is that everything about this case is less about national security and more of a test about what restrictions we will cheer being put on liberty. It’s easy to do this with Begum. It’s extremely hard to have sympathy for her, with her at best coming off as an entitled clueless brat, and at worst as something dangerous.

How is it that the Home Office can revoke a citizenship in minutes without a full investigation but it can refuse to grant it to windrush citizens who have been living, working and contributing to the country for half a century? Brexit is upon us and we already know that there has been government talk of ‘reviewing’ or repealing the human rights act once we have left the EU, which would no longer be able to enforce it. The implications of that are dark. Despite what right leaning politicians or tabloids the human rights act was not born to protect criminals, rapists and terrorists. It was there to protect ordinary citizens from being abused by those who seek to exert authority over us. Before you applaud its potential repeal, make sure you would be happy for your rights to be stripped away. Because it could be you next much more easily than you think. Anti terror laws that we welcomed after 9/11 have already been used against non violent nanas for sitting in the road in anti-fracking demonstrations and hunt saboteurs, who are actually upholding the law against using animals to rip apart other animals for laughs and social status.

Shamima left the UK at fifteen and is now nineteen. She has just had her third child since leaving, her other children are dead, and she has been pregnant for most of her time in Syria, which gives you some idea of what her life has been like there. Hate her for her perceived indifference to the victims murdered by Islamic State both here and abroad if you must. But if you truly despise IS for their fanatical views and utter disregard for human life and liberty think carefully before you celebrate the government showing you just how easily they can strip you of legislative protections if they see fit and making you a little less free and a little less safe than you were in the interests of their national security.

As I was writing this, this song came on my playlist. I haven’t heard it for years but the lyrics seemed to take on a different meaning in respect of the subject content: – Part Of The Process by Morcheeba

Prime Minister life hacks: How to misunderstand the young and climate change in just two sentences.

“But it is important to emphasise that disruption increases teacher’s workloads and wastes lesson time that teachers have carefully prepared for. That time is crucial for young people precisely so that they can develop into the top scientists, engineers and advocates that we need to help tackle this problem.” Theresa May

When it comes to getting the point, Theresa May is an absolute storm trooper. In one short statement, she not only managed to miss it once, but several times over in her cringingly embarrassing response to the school strike for climate action that took place in 60 towns and cities across the UK yesterday in a coordinated action that has also been seen across Europe.

As well as demanding immediate action to the imminent ecological disaster world leaders have been ignoring or denying for decades, the students are also demanding that the voting age be lowered so that they can actually participate in the processes that are effecting them.

Sat watching the footage this morning I was both inspired by protesters as they sang and blocked roads, as well as being appalled at their treatment by the authorities as we saw teenagers arrested, kettled and manhandled by police.

What the prime minister and many others don’t seem to understand is that there isn’t time for what she appeals. Her suggestion of staying in school, studying hard and getting good grades so you can grow up and become a scientist and save the planet is utterly ridiculous, not to mention a weapons grade level of patronising. They will not protest quietly or orderly or on a Saturday when it is convenient for you, and nor should they. Doing so has only meant they have been ignored.

Not one rational person on Earth, especially those currently in the field, believes that funding for environmental sciences will be anything other than as visible as the thousands of species we make extinct every year by the time these kids are adults. More worryingly, leaving it till then will be too late for the planet. We already know we have less than a decade to get our act together or the damage to Earth will be irreparable.

I’ve been involved in activism for longer than these kids have been alive, and I’m ashamed to say that in that time I’ve let myself become defeated and cynical. The school strike gave me a glimmer of hope that I didn’t believe was still there. They are self organising, vibrant and determined. The young are so often painted to be self absorbed entitled brats who can’t do anything themselves that their energy, their passion and their articulate words have taken the world by surprise.

It’s become apparent just how stupid Mays comment was, and many MP’s across the board, including some in the Conservative party are now tweeting support for the young protesters including Claire Perry, Caroline Lucas from the Green Party and Labour’s Rebecca Long Bailey, all declaring how their party is the one that will get them out of this mess and imploring them to all follow them. Which shows that they aren’t getting it either. For a start, most of these kids are quite a way off voting age and they are not, quite rightly, prepared to wait around until they are. This generation has been let down by the false promises of governments, while radical political organisations have grown bitter with constant infighting and online identity politics. It’s us that should be following their lead and not the other way around.

Stop trying to recruit this amazing generation to ideologies and agendas and actually let them teach us something. We have a situation now where the corporations who buy our politicians, the ones who block effective legislation against climate change, are seen as the visionaries, the ones who talk about creating a new, better world. While we know this is another example of their marketing doublespeak because their new world will only benefit them and is sure to destroy the planet, it is us, the once hopeful revolutionaries, who are now the cynics unless we find our fire again. We all grew so tired and weary with all of the hate and suffering that we see in this world that we make jokes about wanting to see it go up in a big white nuclear flash. We need to become the dreamers again. The ones with the daring and the creativity to fight against the rising damp of defeatism with beauty and with bricks. We need to believe in ourselves and in magic again. Thankfully, we now have a whole new generation to remind us of that.

To every environmental activist out there, be you young, old or immortal, thank you. You forever have my heart, and to the striking school kids, thank you for setting a new standard. We see you.

Your Next Bold Move- Ani DiFranco. Because she also reminds me of who I am again.

Tidying Up: The Activist Edition

Or: Things I Found While Marie Kondo-ing my house And What They Taught Me.

I try hard to not be a bandwagon jumper, I really do. Whenever some new craze sweeps our nation, I am almost always stubbornly cynical, refusing to participate so I can maintain my position of standing out from the crowd. I’ve been like that since I was very young. When my fellow pupils were all putting bottle tops on their boots when Bros came onto the scene, I abstained, declaring them to be ‘plastic’, my smug 8 year old face never dreaming that 30 years later I would be sat in my pants transfixed watching the ‘After The Screaming Stops’ documentary trying to figure out what spirit realm Matt Goss comes from.

Then, this Christmas, I got ill. Really ill. You too? Yeah, we’ve all had it I think and so you’ll know what a bastard it has been to shift. What started off as a normal cold turned me into Slimer from Ghostbusters if he’d looked a bit more disgusting and listened to The Smiths. I’ve had steroids, antibiotics and had an inhaler attached to me like a hookah pipe for a month. I’d never heard of Marie Kondo, ever. Then her name came up in a group chat with some friends with a mention that she had a show called Tidying Up on Netflix. Not really being able to move from the sofa anyway, I decided to give it ago so that I could snort in derision at how twee it was. I watched the entire series in a day and a half. Begrudgingly, I loved it. Then all of a sudden, she was everywhere.

If you are not familiar with Marie Kondo, though I’d be surprised if you hadn’t heard of her by now, she’s an organising consultant who has written books and methods of how to declutter our homes. Tidying Up has been somewhat of a surprise hit here in the UK.  Thanks to her, you will now not be able to find a tiny box or basket in the whole of the land as thousands of us have rushed out and gathered them so we can store all of the t-shirts that we fold to the size of postage stamps now, smiling smugly as we do it.

 With the popularity of Marie Kondo, has also come criticism of her. The main one was the misconception that she has told people not to have more than thirty books.  Bibliophiles everywhere lost their shit over a statement that had much lost in translation. The thirty book rule is a personal preference of hers, based on her upbringing in Japan where the humidity means that having a lot of books will only leave them severely damaged and unable to open. She also faced some criticism about gender and the unfair distribution of work in the home, which may be true in society as a whole, however the families featured on the show were fairly diverse and can’t say that one 34 year old woman is responsible for the imbalance of unpaid domestic labour. 

I don’t look like the type of person who would be a convert of hers to be fair, cobwebs are incredibly goth after all, and I’ve never taken any joy in housework, seeing it more as a thankless but necessary task. For a long time also, I never had a fraction of the amount of possessions to constitute clutter. At one point everything I owned fit in two small bags, having lived a fairly transient lifestyle in my late teens till my twenties. Probably in my circles, being a fan of Kondo and her method isn’t considered very cool. I literally spent Saturday night folding tea towels and tucking them into a little basket. It might be pretty, but it ain’t punk and I’m gearing myself for a bit of piss-taking and accusations of selling out. This doesn’t concern me as such, as the way I see it, all I did was make my life lighter and easier. It was something I have needed for a long time and I reject the idea that we are the scummy, scruffy riffraff we are portrayed as, some of the squats I have stayed in being the cleanest most organised buildings I have had the pleasure to reside in, dispelling the myth that without authority all would fall apart. But after watching the show it’s also safe to say that the kind of items I found in my home wasn’t typical of the families on Kondo’s programme. Below are samples of the clutter and the treasure that I unearthed, which taught me more about myself than I was expecting.

Dead people’s hair– There are several collections of this, all in little grey velvet pouches and none with names on, so determining whose hair you are holding is tricky at times. Keeping little locks of hair after someone passes is something my family have always done, and I was in my teens before I realised that this is not usual practice in the families of everyone I know. It became apparent when a mate of mine asked what was in the pouch of my dressing table and when informed it was hair belonging to an absent relative, she had slowly backed away. Her family don’t keep hair. I asked around. No one else’s did either. I refuse to believe it’s just us though. Someone makes these pouches for this purpose, so there must be a demand. Please get in touch and tell me all about your familial hair collections. I don’t want to have to go back into therapy.

An Anarchist  sex zine– This delighted my cold, dead heart, not least because of the pangs of nostalgia over the fact that no-one makes zines anymore, thanks to the internet being able to reach much larger audiences and the fact that every dickhead with an opinion  has a blog these days… making a zine entailed literally copying and pasting articles, poems, pictures (typed or handwritten)- whatever your zine was about- onto paper, making it look like a cross between a scrapbook and a magazine, then photocopying all pages as many times as needed, taking care to get them in the right order if your zine had one. I never had the patience to make them myself but they were a valuable source of information away from mainstream media in the days before the internet. I’d get them from gigs, meetings, squat parties, anywhere I could eager to learn about sexual politics or how best to d-lock myself to a building. If it all goes tits up after Brexit and we end up living in some isolated backwards enclave, we’ll find a way to communicate and organise still. There’ll just be less memes.

Mr T-Doll– Give me a break okay, I barely even remembering ordering this thing. eBay was pretty new in this country, and following a very messy night with some friends where we’d been on a nostalgia trip talking about childhood toys that we loved, I vocalised a lament for the loss of my Mr T doll that I’d had as a child. A few clicks and a fast lesson on being wrecked in charge of a computer later, this arrived a few days later. I’d forgotten all about it and it took a while to figure out why I was holding what looked like a tiny Mr Motivator. Us activists always like to think we are not susceptible to consumer culture, but his very presence proves otherwise in my case and he is currently stood on my bookcase as a reminder not to be seduced by impulse buys and also that the A Team never went out to buy a tank if they needed one. They just built one out of a dropped box of safety pins they found  on the floor.

Lots of mix tapes–  There are literally teenagers who have no idea what these are. I remember seeing something on twitter recently where someone’s kid had found an old Lynyrd Skynyrd tape in the creek and had asked if it was from the civil war. They will never know the pain of a snapped cassette tape caused by constant rewinding to a favourite song. They will never know the labour of love and anxiety that went in to making one for someone else. Most in my collection were made by my best friend who would send me them as gifts after I moved away to help me still feel connected to them. I didn’t own a lot of music at the time either, so each one was like manna from heaven, packed full of memories and in jokes in the form of punk, grunge, nu metal and indie. They still play too, but certainly make me realise how fast time and technology moves.

Class War stickers and other political curios– During any archaeological excavation of my youth, there was always going to be a box full of reminders to my political activity, mainly flyers for fundraisers, arrest cards which we carried in case we got nicked and of course some class war stickers which were always good for a laugh and outraging the masses. Twenty years of it has left jaded and disillusioned with left wing political movements than I used to be. You can see the beginnings of this in a furiously typed rant created on my typewriter with a ribbon on it that was probably older than I was. I thought I’d fallen out of love with anarchism, but realised years later that this  wasn’t the case when I stopped thinking of her less as ideology and more how I chose to be.  What I had really fallen out with was never ending, solution-less debates. Of in-fighting and egos and usually more rules, agendas and strategies than a game of Risk. Anarchy is the flowers that grow in the cracks that with nurture and light will bring down the whole building. It is already everywhere, in nature and communities and in people that will never ever call themselves an anarchist, which is more beautiful than I could ever have hoped for. I’m still in no shortage of things to be furious about but the stickers, along with the zines reminded me that although my knowledge has grown and politics have evolved a bit over the last few years,  my core principles have stayed more or less the same.

Terrible teenage poetry– When you use the KonMari method, you save the sentimental items till last, the idea being that by this stage you are more attuned to yourself to better decide what you feel you need to keep and what you are truly ready to let go of. Whilst going through the process, I always knew there was a large box under the stairs I knew was waiting for me, ready to make my toes curl all the way up with the sheer cringe of what I knew I would be sifting through. I wrote a lot of poetry when I was younger. I have written precisely one in the last ten years, much preferring sticking to prose nowadays. Now Im not saying that 15 year olds can’t be good poets. I’ve worked in arts based programmes with young people and there are some amazing teenage writers out there. I’m just saying that I maybe wasn’t one of them. But their credibility was never they reason they were made, because they were never for public viewing. Very few other people have seen them. They are in a box stating that only my best mate is allowed to open it in the event of my death. Much Iike keeping a diary, it was my only outlet to vent the horror of adolescence at one point. Something to tell secrets to that could be locked away and hidden afterwards. If it wasn’t for this, I wouldn’t still be writing now and I have always found solace in it. It’s easy for us to be down on ourselves about the things we create. Think about what it is you do. Do you draw, knit, dance, cook or code? Do you sing, but only when everyone is out the house and you know the neighbours are on holiday? I’m guessing you don’t do it for public recognition, however nice it is to receive sometimes. You do it because something inside drives you to and satisfies a part of you that you can’t even describe. Whatever you and your muses like to do, be that embroidery, playing the harp or computer hacking, we can be sure that there is an art for all of us and you must endeavour to discover which one will choose you.

My last psych report– This was something I involuntarily took a sharp intake of breath when I realised what it was, dropping it like a horcrux, convinced  my hand would become withered and black like Dumbledore’s from having touched it, never able to rid myself of its curse. It was written following…. While not the worst, certainly one of the weirdest periods of my life, when I finally realised that the past will catch you up as you walk faster and decided to get proper help and literally face my demons. The report was written at the end of my three year engagement with an NHS mental health service. It is strange reading a short biography of your life and the events that lead up to you becoming involved in such a service, along with details of what has occurred since then, written by someone else. I’d expected to find it deeply unnerving and upsetting, when in fact, the opposite was true. What I learned was that I’ve come a long way. Sometimes, on bad days, it’s easy to convince yourself that things will never get better. What reading this taught me is that it already has and that my circumstances, support networks and coping strategies are a thousand times improved from the dark days. Our NHS is massively under threat right now and I’m very aware how lucky I was to receive the quality of care that I did, and less and less people are getting access to this now. Mental health and addiction services are stretched way beyond full capacity, meaning people are in support for less and are usually much further down the road of self destruction than they should be before they get to the top of the waiting list. We fought to receive this and need to protect it with the same energy before we become hostages to health-insurance companies.

Documents revealing my ownership of an unknown quantity of camels in Somalia– These belonged to my grandfather and appear to be legal documents made when he left there. In what must have been his early twenties. My granda never liked to talk much about his life in Somalia, stating England was his home now and he wanted to leave it behind hm. I respected this, but was always desperate for stories, so when I was given a box of some of his belongings after he died I was ecstatic to have some glimpses into his earlier life. There’s some old passports and papers relating to his travels with the merchant navy. I was touched to see he’d kept almost every card I sent him from being small, always worrying that he was maybe secretly disappointed I never became the good Muslim girl he hoped for after a failed attempt to spark an interest in Islam in me. It wasn’t his fault. I think he’d heard I’d started wearing black veils and didn’t know what goths were, and our relationship remained as good as ever after I politely rejected it. I don’t have much to remind me of him; a few photos, this box of treasure and a recipe for ‘Somali soup’ which was our name for the weapons grade curry he used to make. I have a jar of homemade xawaash (a Somali spice mix) which smells so much like his kitchen that it makes me cry happy tears when I open it. But back to camels. It’s unclear how many camels  there were. I don’t know what a normal amount of camels is, and certainly he was never a rich man so I can’t imagine we are talking a huge number here. The documents stipulates that the camels are divided up between his own clan and ally clans and that some are to be cared for and given to descendants when they come of age. Even though camels can live an incredible 40-50 years, given the date on the document, it is unlikely that any of those camels are still around. Still I am hopeful that a legal clause means I will be able to claim any offspring of those camels and am converting the garage into a stable as we speak.

It took over a week for me to complete everything and go through the house as much as I can. There is still a little bit more that could be done, but doing this has given me more than just space back. My home is back to being the haven it used to be. My thoughts are usually disordered and utter chaos, the inside of my head looking like an Atari Teenage Riot song. Having a house that doesn’t mirror this makes life easier and I am rediscovering the non-material items that spark joy in my life. I am writing again for a start. For someone who is easily distracted, having a house full of stimuli is never going to be conducive to a creative process. I’m spending much longer cooking again with music on loud and eating better as a result. My neighbours are now welcoming the return of the days where they have to listen to me belting out strange mixtures of anarcho-punk and show tunes while baking pies. Because believe it or not, it was that activity that instigated this blog. Punkfoodbandita was meant to be about DIY food on a low budget and food politics, but a cluttered kitchen in need of repair meant I’ve been spending as little time in there as possible over the last two years, meaning you’ve all been subjected to my politico soapbox rantings ever since. But screw it, there’s lots of bloggers doing that other stuff much better than I would, so this is what  you’re stuck with.

Overall I’ve learned that I have everything I need and demonstrate much more gratitude for that. My 14 bags of donations to give to the charity shop were a stark message that I am as susceptible to consumerism as anyone.  Instead of buying more stuff, I’m remembering what I already have and using it. If something I really like or need is broken, I’ll have it repaired rather than “get a new one because they are cheap”. One of my resolutions this year was to not buy any new clothes, due to the impact on the environment and the realisation that I simply don’t need them.  If there is something I really require this year, I’ll hit the charity shops first…. And thanks to Marie Kondo, they are all jammed packed with the really good shit at the moment. 

This is playing a lot in my kitchen at the moment, I hope you like it too. Punks With Clean Kitchens by Evan Greer

Happy Christmas (Austerity is over)

At 6:30am in the morning I am not the most stable of personalities, my fringe normally doing its best Don King impression as I sip tea with the cold, dead eyes of a serial killer while I overanalyse my dreams, the most recent one being about giant flying squirrels the size of otters, leaping from the trees and devouring what appeared to be a ruling dynasty in a strange backward, medieval world.

Yesterday morning was no different and as I was going about this normal routine and grimacing my way through social media, my eye caught the story of a harrowing phone call received by a charity worker in Dorset. Originally posted on Dorset Eye, the worker from Humanity Torbay told how they had got a call from a nine year old girl asking how she could get work. The child’s mother had died and her father was raising her and her two siblings alone. After her father was made redundant the girl was worried about how they’d make ends meet and wanted to ensure that at least her younger siblings would have a nice Christmas. Pretty soon I was doing my worst ugly cry into the empty shell of a boiled egg, both heartbroken and enraged for what was happening to this kid while also remembering my own childhood.

For we should never underestimate the love and tenacity of little girls. We forget sometimes, how much our children worry about money, believing childhood experience for the majority to be a magical carefree time, only becoming aware of how cruel and unfair the world can be once we come of age. Even I’m guilty of this, and I’ve been the child of a brilliant single father and I was very aware of how he struggled to pay the bills all by himself and hated it. He did well for a good few years to keep me blissfully oblivious. But as a family growing up poor in an affluent area, another, wealthier adult once took it upon themselves to inform me of our dire economic status at a very young age. After that I worried regularly about what would happen if we somehow became even poorer and was made to feel embarrassed that we never had a holiday together like all the other kids seemed to. Not because it bothered me particularly, for he always made sure there were fun things for me to do, but because I was so conscious that other people had thoughts about it. I was also that child that wondered how I could make money at a young age so things weren’t quite so hard. Adults on the outside had lots of opinions about our situation but didn’t seem to have any solutions very often. My dad, like so many other single fathers was either treated as a saint- as if it was so unusual that a man would want to take care of his child that it became noble- or with suspicion, society having an ingrained belief that a man does not have the first clue as to how to raise a girl child all by himself. Fathers even now are still often portrayed as aloof or as some sort of overgrown manchild who the matriarch of the family has to patronisingly take care of too, as they can’t be trusted to handle basic domestic tasks efficiently. This all came flooding back when I read the story over breakfast as I have a good idea of some of the things this family are going through.

Because single parents are always cast as the villain in someone’s eyes. They are criticised if they work for neglecting their child, but heaven also forbid that they aren’t in active employment, for how can they just sit laying about like that? It is always presented as a situation they put themselves in rather than acknowledging that sometimes circumstances find you, and the strain our society puts on people plays a large part on this.

My dad did work consistently, long and hard hours, with a crippling stomach condition. It was many years later when I realised just how serious it had been, because he hid it so well. I remember a period of a few weeks where he was barely able to leave his bed, but this sticks in the memory precisely because it seemed so unlike him, who had always been so energetic and active. While we may not have had much, there was always food and a warm house and he always strived to make sure I had access to as much as possible. Because of him I don’t feel I was deprived, but it shouldn’t have had to be that hard all the time for him and it shouldn’t be even harder for parents and children now.

As a professional I still see how difficult this time of year in particular is on our kids and how often they have to grow up far too quickly because of the decisions of other adults. For parents too, the pressure and competitiveness of Christmas increases each coming year. There has to be presents- oh so many presents- to be photographed and posted online. There has to be Christmas Eve pyjamas and festive experiences so you can ping ‘making memories’ on fucking Facebook to prove how good you are to everyone on your friends list or the whole of mumsnet. But if you can’t do these things, you will be made to feel terrible. Sometimes deliberately. One child in our service acutely sticks in my mind as I watched her become overwhelmed with gifts we had provided thanks to members of the public. Naively thinking that she might still believe in Santa and being careful not to say who her gifts were from she then told us she knew there was no thing as Father Christmas as she only usually ever gets one present at this time of year, and that is from her social worker. It had been that way her whole life. It’s not a unique story.

In the case of the phone call highlighted by Humanity Torbay, it is the voice of the child that has made the story spread far and wide both on social and mainstream media. Immediately it has made people ask questions about the state of our welfare system as it was revealed that after being made redundant, the father was left potentially waiting weeks and weeks before his claim for universal credit was processed- a standard reality for thousands in a similar position today in the Age Of Austerity.

Oh but silly me, haven’t you heard? Yes, austerity is over apparently. There was an announcement and everything. You might not have realised on account of people are still killing themselves over no longer being able to meet their or their children’s basic needs. It might not be obvious as all your vital local services to help vulnerable people are still having their resources slashed. Or you might not have realised because that ludicrous statement is yet more political gaslighting from this insane government. As I sat and watched Theresa May gleefully announce that indeed austerity was over at the Conservative party conference, my jaw fell open. Never had I seen such a preposterous misrepresentation of anything since Emilio Estevez tried to convince us he was high on weed in The Breakfast Club and instead of eating every carb within crawling distance, he bounced around a library like Sonic the fucking Hedgehog .

No one even falls for it any more, but we somehow accept that politicians lie to us time and time again, and where anyone in any other profession would be sacked for the levels of deception and incompetency they subject us to, they either go unchallenged or simply resign and get shifted into another well paid job role that they are completely unqualified to do.

Maybe instead if they were faced with a two month wait to get Universal Credit while their anxious child rang strangers asking if she could get some work sweeping floors they would be less flippant in letting us down time and time again. There are lots of schemes around the uk that allow people who are able to donate Christmas presents or essential items. Your local ymca, or domestic violence refuges along with organisations such as cash 4 kids who distribute to those in need in their local area. As someone who has seen the delight of toddlers and relieved cries of exhausted parents as they are delivered, I promise you these little things do make a difference to those that receive them. But while no accountability is put to those who make these decisions, their numbers will only increase. Some giant flying squirrels with an appetite for the ruling classes would be a timely intervention right now.

Here is Daisy Chainsaw with ‘Money’, because fuck every Tory and the capitalists who stole Christmas.