The state of sexual violence.

In the latest instalment of ‘1000 new and creative ways to starve children’, or, as it’s more commonly known, ‘The Conservative Manifesto’, the Tories have unveiled a new level boss of cruelty. Not content with the disaster that is sadistic benefit sanctions to adults, cuts to money for children who have lost a parent and changes to free school meals, they have now implemented their two child policy in the ‘child element’ of universal credit. This means that the child benefit that was in place previously has now been capped to two children per family. There are a few exemptions: Those who are adopting, those involved with kinship care and multiple births. The final exemption, dubbed ‘the rape clause’, means that a claim can be put in for a third or subsequent child who was conceived as the result of rape, which involves the victim filling out a form to essentially prove that they were a victim of sexual assault.

The Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey, demonstrating about as much charm, sense and sincerity as an entire album’s worth of Nickelback lyrics, said that the idea would potentially get victims of sexual assault “double support”. Now, I was never great at maths at school, mainly due to a preference of skipping off into the woods for a cigarette rather troubling myself with equations, but I’m pretty sure I remember being told that 1×0 was nothing. You see ever since the Tories ascended to the iron throne they have been systematically destroying care services for those experiencing sexual and domestic abuse. Everything from charity funding to policing, court and health services have been stretched to breaking point through austerity cuts and the disaster that is the introduction of the police and crime commissioners. Even the most tireless and dedicated services are finding themselves being forced to do more with less and less resources.

Her absolutely abysmal crack got even worse. I don’t know about you, but personally my favourite bit was where McVey claimed that applicants would not be “asked invasive questions”, as if questions demanding ‘proof’ of the rape that you were subjected to could be anything but invasive, as well as triggering, humiliating and with the potential to cause further trauma in such a situation.

Then today Theresa May and her band of chinless, braying twatrattles further defended their monstrous policy in the House of Commons by insisting that the tax credit claims would be handled in “as sensitive a manner as possible”. Really? And who will it be handled by? The same people conducting disability assessments who were asking people with Downs Syndrome when they ‘caught’ the condition? Or the ones who were sensitively asking mentally ill claimants why they hadn’t killed themselves yet?

One thing that we can be certain of is that it is not going to be handled by trained counsellors or independent domestic/sexual violence advisors who have the skills to care for survivors of sexual violence. The DWP have said it would operate a third party model, so survivors did not have to make disclosures to the job-centre staff and would instead talk to other professionals such as a social worker or an approved rape charity. However some bodies who may have been designated third parties have condemned the policy. The Royal College Of Nursing Scotland stated that it did not believe that it was appropriate for nurses or midwives “to arbitrate if a woman’s claim is consistent with rape”. In addition, Scottish Women’s Aid and Rape Crisis Scotland have refused to co-operate stating that third party processing is not compassionate. And those like myself who support victims of domestic abuse know that these forms will not help those who are still in a relationship with the person who raped them, or those who were attacked by an acquaintance or stranger, rather than within an intimate relationship.

Theresa May once smugly said “What do the conservatives do for women? Keep making us Prime Minister”. As if any man or woman would ever consider her or Thatcher something this country could be proud of. They are proof that this party does not have the interests of ordinary people at heart and are hell bent destroying the progress made by feminists over the last 100 years. The rape clause is not double support. It is an attack on vulnerable women and children, and watching two women in such a position of power stand and attempt to justify their actions is an insult to survivors.


As there is a Tori Amos song for every kind of intense emotion, I will reach as I always do for one of the most beautiful, Playboy Mommy.

Reclaim The Beats

A little bit of history today, more so for those who have grown up with social media. Once upon a time, in the not too distant past, we lived in a world with no facebook, whatsapp, signal or instagram. Finding out about protests was usually from stickers on lampposts, or from over photocopied fliers and zines filled with intricate DIY art that you picked up from squat parties or punk bands.

The nineties was a pretty interesting time as far as protest and politics went. Various battles were being fought by different groups with the authorities around the country. Then in 1994, the conservative government brought in amendments to a piece of legislation that changed us forever. The Criminal Justice Act.

The CJA was an unnecessary and oppressive piece of legislation that ended up creating the very movement that it feared the most. It essentially made a criminal out of anyone who voiced dissent or sought to live in a way that veered away from the status quo. We had a government who were still rattled by the ferocity of the poll tax riots four years previously and feared more resistance from different pockets of society.

There were several changes that were significant. One related to ravers and free parties as it made a disastrous attempt to essentially ban rave music, which it defined as “sounds wholly or predominantly characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats”. It also made it a crime to congregate on land with more than 20 or more persons. A Shoreham MP named Michael Stevens wanted to define an illegal gathering as 2 people or more, which would have made sex rather difficult for those concerned with obeying the law if he had his way. Make no mistake, criminalising gatherings such as raves and free parties that weren’t sanitised to fuck by legislation was not for the sake of our health and safety. It was because they were afraid. When the police descended on Travellers in 1985 as they made their way to the Stonehenge Free Festival, it was not because they were dangerous- it was because they were afraid of a growing vibrant movement based on subversive thought and rejecting modern consumerism. They called it Battle of Beanfield, but ‘Battle’ suggests there was some sort of fair fight involved, rather than the horrific, violent ambush on peaceful adults and children which occurred. Nowadays, people don’t even have to get out of bed in order to interact with billions of people around the world, so inevitably their target now is the internet, instead of the sabotaging unregulated public gatherings.

It also ended our four hundred year old right to silence when being arrested by the police (though through working for a charity, I’ve seen how entirely possible it still is for a detainee to nearly reduce a tired officer to tears after answering only “nee reply, pigeon pie” throughout four solid hours of questioning). The bill also changed the right to protest, gave police more powers to stop and search you without just cause, and quickened the process for evicting squatters.

Like any decent poisoned chalice however, what the bill managed to do, much to politicians horror, was unite the punks, the ravers, the hunt sabs, Travellers and anti road campaigners who found themselves targeted by a police force and government that had new powers to arrest, beat and imprison them. New ager environmentalists were literally D-locked to formerly law abiding middle class middle Englanders to save the woodlands they both loved, protecting each other from the blows and violent spite of security guards or the Tactical Support Group.

Direct action was colourful and creative as activists found new ways to resist. During one Reclaim The Streets party, protesters hid under the large hooped skirts of carnival dancers to use drills to dig up the road and plant tree saplings. It would be massively naive to think there were never problems within the movement, but they were challenges that were overcome by explosions of colour, music and spontaneity, with no long soulless marches filled with boring chants. And no one ever, ever asked for permission. There was huge resistance to the bill, including a massive demonstration in London which was supported by Jeremy Corbyn. In fact many of the opposition had concerns about the bill, with an exception of the shadow Home Secretary at the time- Tony Blair, who I still dream may one day live out his retirement in The Hague like a sort of politico version of Last Of The Summer Wine.

Regretably the pressures of CJA did eventually wear people out with constant arrests and violence and no doubt assisted by the presence of the National Public Order Intelligence Unit- a spy cop group who’s most ‘famous’ employee was Mark Kennedy that were known to be targeting activists around this time, the full extent of which is only very slowly starting to come to light now.

Fast forward to today and we can see some similarities in the world we are living in. We have found ourselves still with an increasingly sadistic Tory government. The mainstream media still smear activists as unclean, lefty ‘do-gooders’, despite their predictions about dubious legislation always coming true. We have more communication technology and access to information than we ever have before and yet in some respects we are more fragmented than ever, as reasonable conversation is abandoned and becomes a germ filled ball pool of identity politics in which we all fight like angry children inside while clambering to get out. We can learn a lot from these times by realising that there is more that unites us than divides us. That the state views us all with total disregard and treat us like guard dogs that are to be starved, then thrown the occasional treat for appeasement with no care if we turn on ourselves for their attention once in a while.

It has been too easy to spend hours and hours ‘debating’ on line. I’ve been guilty of this very thing before . I’m in no way some technology hating Luddite. What we have now is amazing and I love it- I just think we need to use it better. All this results in is a bunch of passionate people wearing themselves out of precious energy trying to get other people to completely agree with everything they’re saying. This is not only impossible, it is also unnecessary.

Nothing should be uniform, especially our ideas and the way we think. Our attempts to do so bleach out the vibrant colours of this world into a hundred shades of grey. Our heartbeats which once raced with the love we had for Earth and our fellow humans and drove us to make meaningful change, slow down until the day they stop completely.

Close your laptop, open your eyes and heart, wave at the clouds as time goes by so quickly and go out and cause some trouble.

Love Alice

Today’s soundtrack for my rantings is Flutter by Autechre. It was released in September 1994 in response to the CJA, programmed so that no bars contained any identical beats.

Title artwork by Kate Evans, taken from some old copies of Schnews, a publication which opposed and exposed the CJA and its minions. See more of her stuff at I’m struggling to find out who did the others, so if you know, give me a shout so I can give due credit!

Why aren’t we talking about #spycops?

Back in October 2010 a news story broke involving a rather shady division of the police called the National Public Order Intelligence Unit, where it was a revealed an undercover police officer named Mark Kennedy- aka Mark Stone- was sent to spy on various environmental groups and had been having sexual relationships with female activists who were oblivious to his identity. One woman who was in a relationship with Kennedy for six years and described him as the closest person to her, told how they would go on holiday together, cook meals, and spend time with family. Something she later discovered he was paid ‘overtime’ for doing so. When her father died, he was the one who held her, attended her father’s funeral, even travelling with her in the mourners car. His real identity was discovered only after he left the police, though suspicions were first raised while she discovered a passport in a different name while they were on holiday in Italy as part of a trip he was undertaking to- unknown to her- spy on animal rights activists. She has since learned that he had been married and had two small children.

Since then, other similar operations have been put under the spotlight, including the Special Demonstration Squad which was part of the Met from 1968 to 2008. It has been confirmed that over a 1000 groups have been spied on since the late sixties, though it could potentially be much more. The vast majority have been men, but a few female officers are starting to be identified, including Christine Green who still lives with the man she targeted, despite him now knowing her true identity. Their other tactics have been subject to scrutiny also, after it was discovered they stole the identities of dead children in order to create these personas and used them to infiltrate activist circles. A small few of at least 144 infiltrators have been identified, but countless more revelations about their activities are revealed every week. Andy Coles who spied on animal rights campaigns deceived a 19 year old girl with a history of mental health issues into a sexual relationship. He told her he was 24 when he was a married 32 year old police officer. He then went on to be a Tory councillor in Peterborough. Coles also wrote a manual about undercover activities in which he describes the people whose lives he violated as ‘wearies’ and referred to stealing documentation of dead kids as “claiming squatters rights over unfortunates identities”. Bob Lambert was another SDS operative whose manipulation of a 22 year old activist resulted in the birth of their son. Lambert disappeared when the child was 2 years old, while the boy’s mother needed to seek psychiatric care when she learned of his true identity. The Met issued a statement apologising and declaring that they never had a policy saying “that officers could use sexual relations for purposes of policing”. In 2015, the Met issued a formal apology to 7 of the women:

these relationships were a violation of the women’s human rights, an abuse of police power and caused significant trauma…. relationships like these should never have happened. They were wrong and were a gross violation of personal dignity and integrity… sexual relationships between undercover police officers and members of the public should not happen. The forming of a sexual relationship by an undercover officer would never be authorized in advance nor indeed used as a tactic of a deployment. If an officer did have a sexual relationship despite this (for example if it was a matter of life or death) then he would be required to report this in order that the circumstances could be investigated for potential criminality and/or misconduct.

Personally I don’t think there is no way that the officers superiors would not have been aware of the relationships. This statement is also discredited in another part of Coles’ manual which recommends that relationships with activists be “fleeting and disastrous”.

Currently there is a public enquiry underway which has been constantly hindered by the police’s delaying tactics and left us no further forward as we approach the end of the initial three year deadline. 12 officers involved with the SDS have applied for anonymity for fear that their human rights will be breached if their identities are revealed. They are even having the gall to cite Article 8 of the Human Rights Act to plead their case- which is the right to privacy and family life. The SDS was also recently shown to have links to the blacklisting scandal, and that -as well as environmental and animal rights activists- trade unionists were also targeted and had their union activities and political leanings compiled, which was then used by construction companies to vet potential employees on sites.

We must always remember that while these units class the people they spy on as ‘domestic extremists’, from what we’ve seen so far, we are not talking about the Baader Meinhoff gang here. It would be hard to argue with the infiltration if it meant preventing awful attacks on innocents. But many of the groups who have been spied on have not been violent or massively subversive. Many have been revealed to be peaceful and non violent. Even if some had engaged in tactical direct action, does that justify the level of violation and abuse shown by the state? No. Remember that in a recent interview, Andy Coles tried to imply that the people he targeted were dangerous, and that simply is not true. We must know why so much public money was spent violating people who pose no threat to us whatsoever. Out of the victims who have so far been identified, they all appear to be mainly environmental, animal rights and anarchist groups, though it has been confirmed that some right wing groups were also targets, including the BNP. Police have also revealed that there were more spies hired by private companies than there were police officers involved in undercover work, as if this statement somehow made their actions less abhorrent and the situation less terrifying. An officer named Peter Francis who spied on anti racist groups, but has turned sort of whistleblower criticised the practice of surveillance on certain groups recently stating there was no evidence to suggest many of the people he was asked to infiltrate were dangerous. He has also condemned the decision to allow officers who have had relationships with targets to remain anonymous, seeing anonymity as a privilege rather than a right.

The existence of these police units doesn’t shock me, though it does repulse me. What has stunned me about this whole situation is the silence of the activist community. Every time new information around this issue comes to light, I wait for the outrage and am left watching tumbleweed blow through social media. And I don’t understand. Our refusal to speak about it makes us bricks in walls of silence which protect the state and trap the victims into spirals of shame and paranoia. Forty years at least we have allowed our governments to sexually abuse and mentally destroy those who dare resist them. Our complicit silence teaches those who have fought tirelessly for the rights of others that when the shit hits the fan, they’re on their own and very few will stick around to defend them.

The lack of interest within our own ranks is astounding. Even the most stridently feminist campaigners against sexual abuse and violence are saying very little. The #metoo campaign and international women’s day went past without so much as a whisper. Maybe from this someone can tell me what is going on. I have a couple of theories. One is the good old “that would never happen to me” school of thought. Just as we believe that we don’t have friends who abuse their partners or rapists in our ranks, because we think we can spot them a mile off, so too do we think that we have some infallible built in bullshit detector that would allow us to identify an imposter, when statistics tell us that simply isn’t true. Most of us have a great story involving plain clothes coppers coming into clubs or pubs when we were teenagers and trying to buy drugs, but were always inevitably spotted a mile away. In Manchester, when members of the local force would come into the goth club we literally haunted, all looking like jocks from a bad nineties high school movie asking people for tack, us spooky kids would immediately shift to the opposite wall and glower at them until they fucked off. But we have to take into account that the SDS officers were not your usual plod. They were highly trained manipulators whose sole purpose was to infiltrate people and exploit them for no real purpose.

Another theory is that some of us believe very much that we may have had our lives invaded already. There’s been that friend, or that lover, who appeared out of nowhere, caused absolute hell on, then vanished into the wind again leaving a trail of destruction in their wake. Imagine saying out loud: I think my mate/my boyfriend/my child’s father is really a police officer sent to spy on me and report everything I do back to the authorities. Sounds mental, doesn’t it? One woman who also found out her partner was an undercover officer said “No-one believed me. Everyone thought I was mad. People didn’t know about this”. This is political gaslighting on an unprecedented scale. And even now that we are starting to scratch at the truth, it perhaps provokes a terrifying discomfort that people cannot bring themselves to talk about for fear it may bring their own world crashing down around them.

Which is how they win. We have to remember that the SDS’s sole intention was not just to detect illegal activity and bring the perpetrators to court. It has been about disrupting the groups and causing discord and mistrust among political communities. One SDS officer known only as Officer A at the time (later revealed to be Peter Francis) confirmed this when he said “Once the SDS get into an organisation, it is effectively finished”. Tactics include smear campaigns and rumour spreading about certain individuals, finding the cracks in relationships within groups and chipping at then until they fracture completely. And it’s happening on a global scale.

Kennedy’s name was in the news again last week in connection with the start of the trial of a small anarchist group in France involving a rail sabotage that occured over a decade ago, allegedly by the group he was paid by French police to spy on. In fact, Kennedy travelled internationally and was involved in political actions around Europe, used by police forces in different countries. How many is unclear- Mark Kennedy told the Guardian it was 22, but given that his job was to literally lie to people, we should take this with large pinch of salt. But considering that officers were known to travel considerable distances sometimes it is hard to imagine how far this thing might go.

The enquiry is quickly turning into a shambles, due to Sir John Mitting who is chairing it being about as suitable for the job as Katie Hopkins on a Samaritans helpine. Today the victims and their QC walked out in protest of his handling of it. If you have the slightest care and concern for this situation, share everything you see about it. Engage in conversation. It is important to let them know that we are watching them this time and that we have the victims’ back. If your silence is motivated by thoughts of “if you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve got nothing to fear” you will one day find yourself on the receiving end of state interference with no one left to defend you. The same will happen if we also allow fear to cow us into only showing our indignation using the Facebook angry face emoji. I’m no longer naive enough to believe that public outcry or outright kick offs will stop similar things from happening in the future. But I do believe we need to be more present for those affected and less convinced that it will never happen to us.

For more information please have a look at, which contains more information about campaigns, legal actions, and the impact the spies have had on people’s lives.

Corrupt from the bottom to the top, and you tell me it’s the law. Here’s Dirty Davey by The Levellers.

That girl, Anarchy

A very different blog post, but it will be back to the usual stuff very soon.

Earlier in the year, I did a spoken word piece to music at an event we did about the Grenfell fire and fire safety in tower blocks in general. A few of you asked to see a written version of it, which I promptly forgot about until this New Year when I made a resolution to be kinder after a few months of feeling a bit hardened to the horrors of the world and being afraid of losing my compassion. So here it is.

That girl, Anarchy.

Beauty is in the street and all the forgotten people are marching to repeat of anger down to number 10.

This is what happens when governments lie again and again to cling to power.

austerity is petrol poured on the poor, corporate manslaughter is the spark that ignited and illuminated the total disregard they have for all our lives.

Children died, a nation cries, while politicians wait around for fucking goatskin to dry.

And in the meantime, the people, they organise. they donate, they feed, rehouse and heal, while the media scapegoats them and conceals the truth.

Mrs May runs away from her accountability like she’s in a field of wheat. And we see her fear and instability and realise just how obsolete this state is.

They’ve done nothing but divide us, they’ve done nothing but remind us that control is an illusion.

and when you have that fusion of outrage and solidarity, that is where you will find love and Anarchy.

I first met her aged 14, as I watched bulldozers on TV lined up to teardown trees.

That is when Dysnomia was born in me.

As I watched people like Ewoks in the trees running amok and fighting with caterpillar made At-Ats to save their Endor.

And I grew more angry every day as I watched police use the CJA to lock up the hunt saboteurs and earth protectors.

They waived our right to rave and to remain silent, they made dancing illegal and tried to say that we were violent.

See when you think of an anarchist, you think of riots and flying bricks. instead of someone like me, who just can’t relate to the idea that we have to legislate taking care of each other.

That we have to have laws,that we have to have borders, that only with a government can we have order.

We are indoctrinated into thinking that the state is there to protect us. that we can’t be trusted to play our part, that decency comes from rules and not from our hearts.

And you tell me that I will not see this utopic dream of Anarchy and yet, I see her everywhere.

To me Anarchy is not just being out there raging against the machine.

She’s jumping naked off jetties marked no trespassing into a lake.

She’s every time you make something, she’s the defiance of the fear that stops you dreaming, she’s every time you fall in love.

She is when you feed someone starving in the street, she starts the revolution in your own self to get things done and not beg for help.

She’s the twinkle I get in my eye everytime I defy an authority that tells me to hate destitute people for having a television.

She is my mission. To be kinder. And a reminder that we can have a better world if only we dare to take it.

ACO’s are the price of life.

A couple of weeks ago I attended a public lecture at Newcastle University titled ‘Is US style healthcare the future for England? It was held by Allyson Pollock a doctor who is a consultant in public health medicine and director of the institute of health and society at Newcastle University.

She was joined by Professors Steffi Woolhandler and David Himmelstein, two doctors who were advisors to Bernie Sanders and have been long involved in the fight in advocating non profit national health insurance in the US and have travelled to give us a real life dystopian glimpse of what we can expect if we allow this system to be implemented here.

The message all of them gave was clear. The move towards US health care provision is not hypothetical. It is already happening. It’s been a gradual move and one which the government is trying to sneak in without us noticing. They’ve adopted a similar stance that I did, when, aged 14, I wanted to dye my hair blue. I was forbidden outright by my dad, but when I discovered he is so severely colourblind that he could barely differentiate between different colours, I went ahead and did it anyway. He had no idea until one of the neighbours grassed me up, by which time the damage was done. He demanded an explanation and I just flat out denied I had blue hair, despite the evidence of my ears looking like a smurfs and there was a ruined towel stuffed at the back of the airing cupboard that I was praying wouldn’t be discovered.

But this isn’t a bottle of blue hair dye they are trying to sneak into the house. it is accountable care organisations, without it being discussed in parliament and without any consultation whatsoever. And the funny thing about accountable care organisations is that they are anything but accountable.

In fact ACO’s are only accountable to the health insurance company that holds the treatment budget for the population it covers. They dictate what treatments are available and who can get them, which is usually determined by who is cheaper to treat and more likely to recover enough to keep earning money to pay insurance to them. If they come in under that set budget, they get to keep it. What better incentive do they have then to cherry pick their patients and deny treatment to those in need who they deem unprofitable?

There are other signs, too. The NHS act 1946 placed special duty on the secretary of health to provide health care for all. No one could be left out. This duty is no longer in place. We are seeing care services dismantled and hospitals closing, or ‘merging’ as they like to call it as they honestly believe we are that fucking stupid. Here in the north east there is a fight to save South Tyneside hospital A&E, maternity and acute stroke services.

And yet the government tells us that these things are nothing to worry about. That we will still be receiving our healthcare. That this will make the ‘failing’ NHS better (plot twist: it is failing deliberately so we will welcome any odious changes they try to make).That we are over reacting.

Nothing to worry about.

At the moment, 30 million Americans do not have health insurance. This has been reduced from 50 million since the introduction of the Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare as it was nicknamed). In 2016 36,530 Americans died from preventable deaths due to no insurance.

American patients delay seeking help for suspected heart attacks and skip care more often. Patients insured through Medicaid- a state and federally funded insurance scheme for low income individuals and families- are denied or delayed care significantly more than those with private insurance.

And even if you do have private insurance, you’re rarely in a better position unless you happen to be really wealthy. You still have to pay deductibles when you have private health insurance and many of those who have it say deductibles are making their health insurance useless when they are having to pay sometimes thousands of dollars upfront before the insurance kicks in. 60% of those who are medically bankrupt became so despite having private health insurance. Medical debts account for 52.1% of items sent for debt collection.

Americans are now dying younger, life expectancy is falling, the gap between the life expectancy of the rich and the poor is becoming larger, and the US has seen an unprecedented increase in maternity mortality.

But the profits are huge. Health insurance salaries are between 17 and 47 million pounds a year- that’s over $100,000 a day which comes out of their patients pockets. People are dying because they can’t afford medicine while drug company profits hit $67.7 billion a year. David Himmelstein joked that as a doctor he was here to stop the spread of disease. The disease being the greed of private healthcare systems. And he knows a lot about this. In 1996 David was fired by US Healthcare, Inc for speaking out about how doctors are paid more for providing less care and can find themselves unemployed if they don’t. Health insurance companies write gagging orders and the right to fire without any reason into their doctors contracts.

He told us about the Tenet healthcare corporation (formerly National Medical Enterprises) who have found themselves in court for fraud and their horrifying treatment of patients, including unnecessary open heart surgery and electro-shock treatment and for literally kidnapping psychiatric patients, holding them without due reason until the day their insurance expired and then kicking them out on the street.

65% of US hospices are for profit businesses. And we are going the same way, rapidly. Listening to what was being said was nothing short of terrifying. Have a think about the people you love- how many of them have or have had health needs which, if not treated, would lead to an early death? And what would happen if you were told you had to pay thousands of pounds in order to save their life, even if you had insurance?

The NHS is something many of us take for granted. We aren’t angry enough or defending it enough because most of us don’t truly believe that the move towards the US model is something that could ever happen. But it is, it has started. The accountable care organisations are the evidence of it. Civil liberties have never been given to us, they have been fought for and protected by us. The government has already begun its cull of the poor with welfare reforms and sanctions. Now is the time to get involved. It’s not enough that it is left to the usual few activists. It doesn’t matter if you don’t see yourself as being ‘political’. Most people don’t until something happens that makes them realise it is really down to us to look after each other. is a good place to start to find out where your local MP’s stand and what events are happening in your area, but don’t be afraid to start your own campaigns. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it’s the only thing that ever has” (Margaret Mead). We still have time to protect the NHS. It is not free health care. It is funded and paid for by us and it is not theirs to sell to the highest fucking bidder or to the company they hold shares with. Do you think our taxes will go down if it is removed altogether? Of course not. It will be spent on MP pay rises. On sprinkler systems for parliament while the rest of us burn to ash.

The government attacks on our NHS is a disease. But we are the medicine.

Too many Me Too’s.p

Me too.

We all know what those words refer to by now. A simple idea started by an activist, Tarana Burke, to highlight the scale of the sexual abuse and harassment of women.

The campaign has been around for a decade, but went viral several weeks ago, parallel to the Harvey Weinstein revelations, a real life Jabba The Hutt who has been sexually abusing women for decades in the guise of a Hollywood film producer. Now his survivors- Rose McGowan and Asia Argento among them- are choking him out with his own chains and calling out anyone who has been trying to minimise or feign ignorance of his actions. He’s been allowed to fuck off abroad to get counselling to help him through the trauma of being a serial rapist though, so it’s okay.

I chose not to use the hashtag. For many reasons, none of which I’m obligated to explain to anyone.

I know of several people that the metoo hashtag has been unintentionally but horribly triggering for, and for all those it has given the courage to speak out, there’s those who it’s too much too soon to find their voice yet.

It’s revealed some horrifying stories and some inspiring ones.

It’s been witness to beautiful expressions of solidarity between strangers.

As with most of these things though, it has also been a rock, in which the very worst of humanity crawled out once it was lifted.

There’s the usual, boring trollish memes and comments, mostly implying that women falsely use the hashtag just for ‘attention’. Because of course, recalling the very worst things that have happened to us is exactly the kind of attention we all strive for. Like dyeing our hair or screeching out Meredith Brooks’ ‘Bitch’ on karaoke every time we’re pissed.

There’s the attacks on men using the hashtag. Look, I get that the intent of #metoo was to show that the sexual assault/harassment of women in their lifetime is not just common, it’s inevitable, but if you are honestly attacking male survivors of sexual abuse for using metoo then you need to have a word with yourself, stop being an arsehole, and understand this isn’t supposed to be a race to the fucking bottom.

Then there’s the likes of Peregrine Honig, an American artist who allegedly tried to copyright the metoo slogan and has been selling baseball caps with the words embroidered on it… caps which also happen to look suspiciously like the Make America Great Again hats, that I’m sure Peregrine thinks makes her a controversial edge lord artist, but really just leaves a sour taste in your mouth when you think people who have survived sexual abuse will have to suffer seeing it (note: Honig now claims all profits for the hats are now going to Madi Apparel, a lingerie company that also provides underwear to women who have been raped and have had theirs taken as evidence after examination).

Metoo has angered me. Not because I disagree with its aims. But because it’s the end of 2017 and this shit is still endemic everywhere. Talking about it is still relatively taboo and victims are still blamed, while perpetrators are protected.

We still have a situation where most reported cases don’t make it to court. Here in the UK the government is still slashing the resources of survivor support services, despite the need for them. The Tories introduced a fucking rape clause in Child Benefit claims where women are expected to disclose rape to someone completely unqualified to deal with it in order to feed their children. We had a Home Secretary who ‘lost’ 114 files concerning child abuse allegations within Westminster and then made that person the fucking Prime Minister.

Anyone else fucking furious?

Yeah, me too.

But we can use our fury wisely. Anger can be fire that burns away shame, fear and apathy and have strength grow in the ashes. We can each become beacons who expose the monsters hiding in the shadows and give warmth and light to those who have spent too long in the dark. And to all those who have suffered, whether you found solidarity in being able to publicly say #Metoo or whether you just whispered it under your breath when you were sure no-one was listening- we’ve got you, you are braver than you will ever know, and stronger than anyone who dared to hurt you.

A bit of nineties grunge in the form of Hole for you. Not only is this song, Asking For It sadly relevant and was pretty much top of my playlist in my late teens, their front woman, Courtney Love, was shunned for years by the CAA (Creative Artists Agency) for daring to speak out about Weinstein 12 years ago (see second link).


Let them eat cake

Jacob Rees Mogg stated that he thought that foodbanks were “rather uplifting”.

Jacob Rees Mogg. If you haven’t heard of him, he’s a Tory who looks like a Victorian marionette that came to life after a witch placed a curse on the workshop of a toy maker who wouldn’t give her a cup of water.
JRM has never been hungry in his whole life, with a wealthy family and a weirdly doting nanny who made sure he was never in short supply of fresh unicorns blood to sustain him. Of course he loves food banks. Right now his party think nothing of continually taking from the poor, safe in the knowledge that in the rest of the country, compassion prevails and we will step up to help each other. In his world there is always lashings of ginger beer and four plucky children and a dog who can catch all the nasty criminals for you.

The existence of foodbanks tells us two things. One, that this government is hell bent on destroying the ordinary people of this country and has implemented policies that they know will actively harm them. The second is that humans are exceptionally good at organising at grassroots levels to meet each other’s needs and do not require a government to take care of us.

Here in the North East of England, food bank usage is among the highest, with numbers doubling in the space of a year between 2011/2012 and continuing to rise thanks the roll out of Universal Credit. And bear in mind that not everyone who is going hungry is using a food bank. Many people cannot access one due to transport or disability and many more are just too proud so are going hungry and using cheaper, poorer quality food when they do eat.

Parents of children who qualify for free school meals are also struggling to put food on the table during the holiday.

In a survey by the National Union of Teachers published earlier this year, a third of respondents stated that children were returning to their schools after the holidays showing signs of malnutrition.

This is happening in 2017.

At what point do we stop normalising food banks and hungry children? One of my favourite anarchist writers, Emma Goldman, said “Ask for work. If they don’t give you work, ask for bread. If they do not give you work or bread, then take bread.” And thanks to inflation rising faster than wages and zero hour contracts, they can give you work and it still won’t make a difference. Sports Direct employees wonder if they’ll get enough work to meet the rent while Mike Ashley swims in a pool of money in his mansion like a morbidly obese Scrooge McDuck, swilling champagne from one of those giant mugs.

The tireless work of volunteers and the generosity and compassion of donators gives me some hope for the world. But here’s the thing that really bothers me about food banks, besides the fact that there is a need for their existence: Supermarkets and large corporations are profiting from them. Of course they are happy to put a collection bin in their stores- it has less to do with charity and everything to do with the fact that they know their customers will happily buy extra to put in. 

 In recent years there has also been a huge financial crisis in Greece, and anarchists in Athens have organised to create social centres, which-among many other things- provide food for the poor stocked by ‘dumpster diving’ or expropriating it from supermarkets. Maybe if we take back what is being taken from us, the state and corporate view of food banks would not be as favourable if we stopped allowing them to profit from poverty and suffering.
We have demanded that the government cease starving our most vulnerable. Large and vibrant anti austerity demonstrations have been rife in the country for years and we have not been listened to. What more has to be done to us before we stop complaining nicely along police approved protest routes and signing endless petitions that get us nowhere. 
We need to be angrier. That is not ‘politics of hate’ (a nauseating liberal handwringer phrase I keep hearing uttered of late to describe any kind of resistance that involves something more energetic than a Facebook status saying how “cross” you are and have complained to your MP). It’s not about violence. It’s about refusing to listen to lies promising change. To get furious and then use that fury to stop begging them for help and start taking it. Civil disobedience works. Why aren’t we occupying buildings, blocking roads, organising large scale general strikes? Every single civil liberty we have was born out of anger of injustice. And we will continue to lose them if we refuse to defend them, and more children will go hungry.

Listen to your old friends Conflict. It’s time to increase the pressure.