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.

https://keepournhspublic.com/ 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).

Alice

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.
Alice

Love and Anarchy

Discovering an anarchist in your home can be like finding a ginormous, terrifying spider in the toilet- the kind where you can see it’s teeth and watch it blink. You might be alarmed at first, but, if you can tolerate their presence and don’t scream and throw shoes at them, you will soon learn that both anarchists and spiders are an essential addition to any decent household, and get rid of the really nasty creatures that might lurk nearby, such as mosquitoes and Tory canvassers.

 We have a reputation for being a pack of mad, radge bastards, ready to smash up the nearest Starbucks at the drop of a face scarf. And in some cases this is certainly true. But almost without exception, no matter how big or bad we may or may not pretend to be, lies a badly kept secret: 

We anarchists are hopeless romantics.  

This might be reflected in our politics sometimes- god knows the amount of times I’ve been told “yeah, it’s a lovely idea in theory, but it’ll never work”- but it is certainly evident in our relationships as well. People with the ability to dream of a better world have definite ideas about how we envision our lives. We are empathic. We can see horror and injustice but we can also see what needs to be done to make things better. 

Since for many of us the very foundations of anarchism is based on mutual cooperation we also have expectations of accountability not just for ourselves, but the people around us. 

And it is here, quite often, that our activism or values can bring conflict into our relationships, particularly if our partners do not share our drive. We take ownership of our actions and responsibilities and expect others to do the same. When there’s a problem, we immediately look to how we can fix things, which can lead to us doing all the work when we attract those that would take advantage. Activists of all kinds, not exclusively anarchists, often develop close relationships with other people that aren’t really like those in the rest of the population. Our world can take us away from home to plan, provide or just play and that means developing a deep sense of trust and camaraderie with our co-conspirators. They are pure friendships which can create jealousy with the wrong partner. The way we envision the world we want to see is reflected in the way we engage with others and society. Being led to believe we have to choose leaves us feeling torn between our passions and responsibilities, and accusations of neglect or distracted priorities abound. Sometimes love for so many beautiful things worth fighting for leaves you exhausted and lonely.

Core beliefs of both autonomy and mutualism can seem like a tricky alchemy to implement, but we must find the right balance in order for us to thrive and be happy. Personally I was surprised the day it dawned on me that everyone doesn’t think this way. We will never accept state or societal sanctioned versions of love. We don’t want to live in someone’s pockets, or be given dying flowers or blood diamonds on state designated days of the year. It’s not about being tied to someone through marriage, obligation or debt. It’s about freeing each other, and revelling in that, but for some reason it seems rare that we find others who share this. And why sometimes we are better off alone. 

We anarchists love differently to the rest of the population, I’ve never been so sure of anything in my life. That’s not to say we always love better, or more wisely, but it’s certainly unique. Because we will keep fighting fiercely for something or someone we love and believe in, even when we know we are sure to lose. This is our greatest strength but can also be our greatest weakness. We are like violets when we are in love. Saturate us and we drown easily, but in the right conditions we’ll flourish, and with that transform the environment for the better.

So please, don’t throw shoes at us. We’re not all that scary.

Alice

Have some Against Me and don’t treat each other like a Starbucks window. X

Credit for comic strip at the top goes to the brilliant Lise Myhre. If you haven’t discovered Nemi already, make sure you do.

Yoga Twat

Yoga. Let’s be fair, it either conjures up the image of some Indian master doing impossible things with their legs or some yoghurt weaving hippy who talks about chakras with the same hushed reverence that I use to talk about Nutella.

Then there’s me. A fatter, angrier Amy Winehouse filled with more venom than an eighties metal bar. But I’ve decided to try yoga. Why? Well, because I’m a horrible angry bastard, as I’ve just described, and I’d like to be a bit more chill. I also carry tension in my back and shoulders, and working for a charity underneath Tory austerity measures has resulted in me walking around with the grace and posture of fucking Nosferatu.

I’m not really wanting to go to a class right now. Money is a little tight and dark days sometimes mean I couldn’t motivate myself to get to one anyway. 

So I’ve decided to try some yoga exercises that I downloaded. This means I can do exercise in the comfort of my living room and not have to worry about witnesses when I start writhing around out of breath like Jabba The Hutt being choked out by Princess Leia after 10 minutes. It doesn’t look promising at first. Some of the positions I try to attempt I have only ever woken up in following a seizure or been forced into whilst being arrested.

What the fuck am I doing? I don’t look like this graceful, beautiful woman on the telly with the calm voice. I look like a fucking screenshot of the exorcism of Emily Rose. My internal dialogue is whipping itself up into a frenzy of self loathing. Just stop, you can’t do this.

But…. then I notice something. My back starts to loosen slightly. Sure it felt uncomfortable at first, but as I start to breathe into it, I actually feel the tension leaving my body. I also realise how shit I breathe normally and just focusing on it helps soothe away the anxiety and calms the constant whirring in my head. This is nice. I can do this. I can feel it working already. By the time I get to the ‘corpse pose’ at the end, I’m delighted. Not only is it relatively simple and conjures up vague memories of die-ins during the Iraq War, except in a more relaxed environment, its macabre name appeals to by cold, dead, goth heart.

Okay, I’m not going to be sitting with my feet round my neck anytime soon, but I’m sticking with this. I think exercise is a personal thing. Only you can figure out which one is going to work for you. And when things are tough, getting your shit together to make a start can seem like hell on earth. But give it a try. Say you’ll do five minutes of….anything. You’ll probably do a bit more, but it doesn’t matter if you don’t. The point is, it’s better than nothing, so take a deep breath, put on your favourite tunes and see what works for you. We deserve to be the very healthiest we can be, but it’s only us thatcan do the work. And as a nod to all those struggling at the minute, I leave you with a tune that has soothed me since adolescence and sang by a woman who has brought more joy to me than the nice yoga lady on the telly. Germ free Adolescents by X-ray Spex ❤️

Vegan Halloumi Nightmares 

Just to clarify, I’m not actually vegan. I’ve been veggie for around seventeen years and thought seriously a few times about going full Moby.
My partner did Veganuary earlier this year, decided to stick with it and I felt now was a good time to incorporate more and more vegan food into my diet.

I love it. There’s so much more available now and we’ve come a long way from the dark days of beanfeast and sosmix, which was the culinary equivalent of a Nickelback album and could turn an ordinary digestive system into a weapons grade incendiary device.

Vegan food nowadays is generally inventive and fresh and we could all do with more of it.

There’s just been one thing missing from it for me. Halloumi.

I love halloumi more than anything. I make sex noises when I eat it. Eating it is more satisfying than watching the gif of Tommy Robinson tripping up backwards over a traffic bollard.

So when I discovered Violife had brought out a ‘Mediterranean Style’ vegan cheese, I was simultaneously excited and suspicious. Could this really work? My experiences of vegan cheese have been mixed to say the least.

I got some immediately and decided to make it on The Vegan’s birthday. I’d read other people’s experiences of cooking it first. General consensus was that it tends to crisp up on outside and goes a bit gooey in middle. Okay, I can deal with that. Not entirely dissimilar to how deep fried halloumi sounds. This could work. 

I decided to pan fry mine. I don’t know if this is where I went horribly wrong. A lot of others seemed to barbecue or grill theirs. What I do know is that the minute it started to cook, despite plenty of oil, it clung to the bottom of my pan like a jealous lover. 

No amount of coaxing, cooling or brute force was gonna make this fucker come off. The bit that is supposed to go crispy outside stuck like napalm while the rest came off looking like mayonnaise that had been left out overnight.

But how did it taste? I can deal with it not being pretty, as long as it delighted my tastebuds. Sadly no. If you are after the taste of halloumi, this isn’t it. It’s salty, sure, but is more like cheap cheddar than anything else. 

Vegan halloumi destroyed my pan, my hopes and tasted like broken dreams. The outer layer lies in a landfill somewhere, still with the pan it took down with it and destined to be discovered by future archaeologists who will write entire theses about millennial vegan cheese.

I haven’t entirely given up hope though, and today’s musical pairing is ‘Slaughterhouse Rock’ by Dirt, to remind me of why I continue to try to find different ways of eating.