Sunday, 29 April 2012

Won't somebody think of the rich, white children?

Today on Twitter I made a joke. Well, it wasn't really a joke, since it wasn't that funny. But it was said not-in-full-seriousness. What I said was "I saw a group of Hare Krishnas in town yesterday. They really shouldn't let white people who've 'found themselves' join. It's embarrassing".

Maybe I shouldn't have put it that way. Twitter's 140-character limit really can be a bitch. Had I had unlimited characters I would have added "...because the appropriation of deeply-held spiritual beliefs, the othering of the 'exotic' and the fetishisation of poverty that accompanies these gap-yah twits is embarrassing".

Anyway, people jumped down my throat because the State is putting surface-to-air missiles on the top of residential blocks in order to protect some stupid overblown international Sports Day that we didn't even want but thinking about that sounds hard and y'know, THINK OF THE RICH WHITE CHILDREN HERE, FOLKS! This is the real scandal.

So now I'm going to explain myself even further, in the hopes that some people will read this and realise that life really is too short to moan about how I portray some of, if not the most, privileged kids in society.

People who go on gap years (see caveat) are usually terribly dull, well-off children who decide that the best way for them to experience life before university is to go off to far-flung places and patronise foreigners for a while on their parents' dime. Sure, that's not true of all of them, but in a world where the price of an education is rising exponentially for each year you don't go, plus the ridiculous debt once you have, plus there being no fucking jobs, and when they are, they're either ridiculously intense so demand all your time, or don't provide enough hours so you're still living at home eating beans on toast, I would suggest that there's not that many people paying for their own 'spiritual experience'. 

And this is what really pisses me off. This is the crux of the matter. The idea that getting pissed and stoned on a beach in India is somehow totally different to doing it next to Filey Brig because it's 'totally spiritual, man'. When I hear things like that I give so much side-eye that I can see in to next week. Why is it more spiritual? Oh right, because you were surrounded by those 'mystical' 'exotic' foreigners with their deep, innate spirituality, instead of Karen from above the chippy. Can we see why I think this is bullshit? How about the idea that living on rice and beans for a dollar a day to be, like, in touch with the locals, is more 'spiritual' than someone who's living off ASDA smart-price noodles because they can't afford anything else? 

So bollocks to them, and bollocks to anyone that's going to be disingenuous enough to suggest that I'm propagating systems of discrimination by mentioning that 99.9% of these over-privileged younglings are white. I somehow doubt that one tweet from me is enough to buck the status quo and lead to them being arrested unfairly, denied jobs or housing, or being attacked in the street. But nice try, I bet you really feel you made a difference.

(caveat: VSO placements and the like are not, for this purpose, 'gap years')

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Brighton Punx Picnic 2012 - Review and Rant

Last weekend saw the second annual Brighton Punx Picnic, a three-day long gig featuring around 25 bands from all over the country. This year the event was raising money for the Squatters Network Of Brighton, Brighton Hunt Sabs and Brighton Anti Fascists.

It was a really good weekend, and massive props have to go to the organisers who managed to make the weekend go smoothly and made sure it was accessible to as many people as possible by implementing a strong Safe Space policy and installing wheelchair ramps in the venue (The Hydrant). YAY THEM.

There was also great vegan catering from members of The People's Kitchen and The Catering Arm Of The Revolution (if you're in Brighton and need something like that you can get in touch with George on 07707 559649 - highly recommended), and awesome distros from the likes of Schnews (including a great selection of DVDs from their offshoot, Schmovies) and Smash EDO. The weekend was unmarred - and perhaps even improved - by the chance to embarrass a load of racists on the Sunday.

There were too many great bands to give them all a mention, but there were a few who really stood out for me -

Richie Blitz - Anti-government folk punk. Basically like Frank Turner except Richie's really good.

Cop On Fire - Belgian anarchist dub-punk featuring members from The Usual Suspects.

Matt Black And The Emulsions - brilliantly energetic four-piece from Brighton who mix punk and hip-hop with politics and Buckfast for a great result.

Headjam - a long-running South London based dub-group with some metal bits and one of the best female vocalists I've heard in a while.

Primeval Soup -  Brighton band who sound like AOS3, Citizen Fish and Propagandhi had a vegan orgy in a squat and they were the baby that resulted.

Spanner - militant anarcho-ska punk from Bristol with a great message and sound.

The Sporadics - bouncy ska-punkers with a bit of dub from the South coast.

Inner Terrestrials - another dub-punk group (but trust me, they all sound different and they're all really good!). Probably the biggest genuinely DIY band on the UK scene.

They all played stonking sets, you can follow the links for their music.

Right, that's all the good stuff. Now it's time for a rant.

I was seriously pissed off with a few people this weekend. A minority of people, thankfully - but way more than I'd want to deal with. I'm talking about the 'up the punx' types who don't give a shit about any of the politics or helping the scene in any way whatsoever, just proving how 'totes punk' they are. The thing is, it's not just not giving a shit - it's one thing to not be interested in politics, it's another entirely to actively try to ruin the work of people who are. It's one thing to not be able to/want to put gigs on or get involved in the legwork of the scene, it's another to act like such a fucking arsehole that the promoters who do put gigs on might not be able to in future.

I'll illustrate what I'm talking about with a couple of examples - on Saturday a woman turned up wearing a jacket with a fox head on the hood and a tail on the back. Like, from an actual literal dead fox. To a huntsab benefit. There were people there who have dedicated their lives to stopping bloodsports, and she just blithely turned up like it wouldn't be a problem - even going so far as to act offended when people told her that it was sick, and claim that she was being 'attacked'. I mean, what the fucking fuck did she expect? Everyone to coo and tell her how lovely it was?

There was also the guy who wasn't even attending who started complaining on Facebook about the safe space policy. The reason he wasn't attending? His band were kicked off the line-up last year for having a song that promotes rape (link to article about it, not the band/song). He then also pulled the 'it's much worse to say that we have a song that promotes rape than for us to actually promote rape, what about our safe space?'. OH POOR BABY.

There was also the massive problem of people not respecting the venue. I'm not saying everyone should tiptoe round being quiet and well behaved - get drunk, put some stickers up, scrawl a bit of graffiti in the loos, that's not a problem. But for fuck's sake, don't break things just because you can and DO FUCKING NOT stuff a loo full of beer cans then piss and puke on them. I know you think you're totally edgy (body fluids! Ha!), but someone has to fucking clean that up. I tell you now, when you're being paid minimum wage, the last thing you should have to do is clean up after some snotty wanker who thinks they're better than you. The Hydrant is pretty much the only venue in Brighton for punk shows now, and if they get sick of us, what are we going to do?

Here's the thing - be angry, be destructive, be snotty. But do it to people who deserve it, not the ones who are working their fucking arses off to keep you entertained and make the world a better place while you sit on your backside drinking Special Brew and joking about poo.

As I said at the beginning of this piece, it was a great weekend and everyone involved deserves massive credit for it. I'm really looking forward to next year - I'm just hoping some people get a clue in the mean time.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Creeping Stupidity (the day the racists came to town)

This post was written with Chris from Good Lookin' South. It was a busy day yesterday, so we can only report what we saw. This article from Schnews mentions some things we didn't see.

The day started bright and early yesterday (by a Sunday's standards) when we arrived in Brighton city centre at half eleven in order to counter-demonstrate against the 'March for England' (who are basically the EDL in a bad wig). We met up with some like-minded anarchists and assorted anti-fascists at our tactically chosen meeting point of The Clock Tower at the bottom of Queen's Road, decided upon for its difficulty to kettle and central location meaning it was easy to quickly reach any of the possible routes the march was due to take, and were disappointed to only see about 30 anti-fascist demonstrators there. We had a quick sit down and a cigarette while we shared updates and sightings of police and fascist activity with some friends in other locations around the city and found out what was going on. While we were doing this, a very suspicious-looking woman with a long lens camera started taking pictures, ostensibly 'of the [police] horses', but unless any of us had police horses on our faces, I remain doubtful and await my imminent debut on Redwatch. A few minutes later some friends passed us, trailing some known Portsmouth EDL faces. The EDL (about 3-5 of them) squared up to our friends when they realised, then settled down in the Wetherspoons on West Street, presumably to defend cheap lager and bacon butties from any roving Muslamic Ray Guns.

When we regrouped, we decided to go meet up with some more people we knew who were further up Queen's Road (closer to the fash's starting point of Brighton Station), and were heartened as we turned the corner to see about 400-500 counter-demonstrators lining both sides of the road, with UAF (bless 'em) kettled right next to the station. We went as far up as we could without hitting police lines and waited for the racists to start their shuffle against Islamacism.

Just before 1pm, with knuckles scraping gleefully on the floor and sunlight glinting off their heads, the March for England finally set off considerably later than they had intended. With the patriotic zeal that can apparently only be mustered by the imported lager they were swigging, around 90 of them came lurching out of the station, determined to defend our shores by wearing stupid 'English Flag' hats and trying to subtly sieg heil. This is not an action that lends itself very well to subtelty, incidentally.

When they set off, groups of anti-fascists ran into the road to try and block their path. In what can only be described as disgracefully heavy-handed facilitation of racists by the police (quelle surprise), mounted officers began chasing individual protesters with horses (video from slightly further along than we were, showing just how bad the police were). One guy we met later in the day was chased by a horse then dragged aside by four cops who twatted him in the face with a baton, leaving a deep gash right next to his eye (see right - click picture to make it bigger and see just how bad it is).

Those of us lining the road managed to get pretty close to the fash, so we were able to call them arseholes to their faces, which was nice. They were in a moving kettle, protected by a double line of police (including officers from Kent, Surrey, Thames Valley and the Met). We shouted 'racist scum, off our streets' and followed them along the route while they grinned and tried to rub two braincells together to come up with a chant of their own (I didn't hear them chanting once, all they were doing was telling anti-fash to 'fuck off' and grunting a bit). At one point on Queen's Road their lot were throwing bottles at counter-protestors, while officers with their back to them were threatening me for giving racists the finger.

The march was unexpectedly re-routed down Church Street, which is about halfway down Queen's Road, to avoid the rest of the counter-demonstration. Thankfully, that area of the city is built in parallel blocks, so we were able to run down the next road and meet them. Church Street is fairly narrow, and again we trailed them, shouting and taking the piss out of them, while they showed considerable bravado from behind their publicly funded protection. One of their 'security' was trying to stare me down while his 'brave lads' sieg heiled behind him. He couldn't explain what nazism has to do with 'English pride', but I also doubt he could tie his own shoelaces without a map.

All of a sudden, there was a bit of confusion, and we realised that a load of our lot had run ahead and had spontaneously constructed an impressive barricade of recycling bins and barriers across the width of the road. Which we were on the wrong side of. After some quick fence-hopping we had rectified this problem, only to face the hairiest part of the march. The police and the fash reached the barricade and started trying to push through it. The police put horses at the back of us, and seemingly their most thuggish, clearly-spoiling-for-a-fight officers at the front of us who started pushing us and hitting us with batons to make us move back. Into the horses. Presumably we were supposed to levitate away? All the while the fash were throwing glass bottles at us and the walls we were being pushed into so we'd be showered with broken glass. Some of the anti-fash were throwing things too, while the anti-racists were taking care not to cause the horses any more discomfort than the police already were, the facists had little concern for animal welfare and were happy to throw broken glass in their path. We finally reached a side street and escaped down it, doubling back to meet the rest of the demo further down the road. Their march continued in the same manner the whole way down Church Street, taking about an hour to cover what would normally take five minutes.

When the racists and the police (although the two terms are not mutually exclusive) reached the bottom, they turned off into Victoria Gardens, where the Eddles were put in a pen which, embarrassingly, they only filled about a fifth of. There were at least 600 counter-demonstrators in the rest of the park (although various sources have put our number anywhere between 500-2000, so it's anyone's guess. We outnumbered them by at least 5:1 at any rate). The cops formed a ring around the fascist's pen, so we couldn't see them any more (thank fuck), but we carried on singing 'We don't give a fuck where you're from' and 'If it wasn't for the coppers you'd be dead'. We had also cut them off from the provided portaloos, which they required a police escort to access, and if the advertised speeches took place we certainly didn't see any of it, since they would have been drowned out by non stop oppostion. After a while we got bored of taunting the 'master race' and it was sunny so we went to have a dance with the Punx Picnic sound system. There was a beautiful moment where a big group of us were dancing to Bastard Coppers by The Filaments in front of a line of riot cops who were clearly fuming at their inability to take action because they had to defend the scum. It brings a tear to my eye just thinking about it. Anyway, we had a really nice time listening to music and sitting in the sun while the fascists just stood around looking nonplussed (more so than usual), and we showed them how a demo should be done. They didn't even bring anything that makes noise, for crying out loud! All they had was a couple of flags and some kind of papier mache affair on sticks, which was clearly constructed by the EDL's Red, White and Blue Peter division. At about 3pm it was clear our work was done as the police were preparing to hastily escort the fascists back to the train station so they could return to wherever it was they came from, a lot of counter-demonstrators had left and we could sense the police closing in to try kettle us in order to facilitate the scum's escape, so the punk bloc made a getaway to go put on the final day of the Punx Picnic.

Later we heard reports of three people arrested, but have no idea who they are or what they were arrested for, so can't comment on that. We also heard from reliable sources that the racists had been allowed in The Marlborough and Belushi's (two more pubs for the Shit List), but were chased out of The Fishbowl by the great regulars there who didn't fancy sharing a pint with nazi scum.

All in all, it was a good demo, for a great cause. Racism has no part to play in our country, and the sooner that the fascists realise they don't speak for anyone apart from them and their tiny-minded group of mates, the better. These streets are our streets, and they don't belong to bigoted scum like them.

The Eddles have also provided their 'uniquetakes on the days events.

Finally, I've got to give a big shout-out to Leon McCreery - known fascist with terrorist connections who's been repeatedly arrested for his violent actions on demos and away from them - for making me laugh more than I have in ages by trying to report me to the Sussex Police Twitter account because I'd been tweeting about the march, and then accusing me of 'racism against police' because I'd used the hashtag #ACAB while tweeting about the police trying to push us into the path of horses. Oh, and he also called me a 'violent moron'. Genulolz.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Help a sister out! (INTERSECT update)

Time flies - INTERSECT is now less than a month away! As expected, planning has gone into hyperdrive. There's loads of stuff to be done - and here's how you can help us out:

1) Do you know any BSL interpreters in the Bristol area who might be interested in donating an hour of their time? Travel expenses will be paid, but since INTERSECT is a non-profit event, I can't offer anything more. This would really help us to be accessible to a lot more people.

2) Could you volunteer to work the door for an hour or two? You will get free entry if you do! I'm looking for 3-5 people to do this, as I will need to be in the conference room organising things.

3) Do you want to buy advertising space in the programme? It's now only £10/half page - email for more information.

4) Would you or a group you're affiliated with be interested in telling your story about feminism and intersectionality in the programme? I'm looking for written pieces around 300-800 words long. Get in touch at if you are. (Contributions may be anonymous/pseudononymous.)

5) Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and tell all your friends about how good it's going to be! 

6) BUY TICKETS - we need YOU to make this awesome!

Thanks to everyone who's offered help/donations/advice/a patient ear so far, you're all brilliant and I couldn't have got this far without you.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

National Stalking Awareness Day

Before starting this, I'd like to apologise for not writing anything for a while. I've just moved house and had a lot of family stuff to do recently, and I've not been feeling particularly inspired about anything enough to write about it. I've also been busy because it's the INTERSECT conference in a month's time (yes, this is a hint for you to go buy a ticket).

Today is National Stalking Awareness Day, and so I thought I'd tell my story. I'm hoping that telling it will help show people how easy it is to be stalked, and how horrible and scary it can be. I'm also going to tell you about the reactions I've had when I've told other people, and hope that this will show you how not to respond to people who go through it.

*wavy lines*

It all started at the end of 2010. I had split up with my ex-boyfriend, who I'd been with for 5 (horrible) years, and started going out with friends again. About six weeks after the split, I met J. J lived around the corner from me, and was unemployed, while I was working odd hours at a pub. We started hanging out together almost every day, going out for a few drinks, chilling at mine listening to music, going shopping... you get the idea. I knew he liked me, but I made it very clear that there was no way I was going to start dating anyone so soon after getting out of a half-decade long relationship.

People warned me about him. He was an alcoholic with a history of breakdowns and lots of other problems. He was fucked up. I didn't care, because I was fucked up too. He was nice to me, and when you've been told every day for as long as you can remember that you're the scum of the earth and never shown any appreciation, you cling to that. For a short time, he was genuinely helping me deal with my breakup.

Anyway, after the first couple of weeks, J started to get really clingy and repeatedly asked me to be his girlfriend. I repeatedly told him no, and after about three or four weeks, I told him I didn't want to see him for a while if he couldn't accept that I wouldn't go out with him. He 'accepted' this, and I didn't hear anything from him for a couple of days. I went to a pub we used to go to together, where it turned out he'd told everyone that I was his girlfriend. Needless to say, I was Not Pleased. That night he texted me asking if I wanted to hang out, and I replied telling him I didn't want to see him at all any more, because I couldn't trust him to respect my wishes about the nature of our relationship.

That didn't go down too well.

For the next six weeks, I couldn't escape him. He'd text me between 100 to 300 times a day. He'd call 20 times a day. I'd maybe respond to 1/60 texts, but only to tell him to leave me alone. It was utterly incessant. Every few days he'd start sending messages purporting to be from someone else worried that J was going to kill himself, trying to guilt me into replying. I remember going for a meal for my nana's birthday and all I could concentrate on was my phone vibrating literally every two minutes for the whole time we were there. He turned up at my house repeatedly, demanding to 'talk' (funnily enough, my ex had a habit of doing the exact same thing at the same time. I do not like answering the door now). I can't go into much more detail than that, because it's a period of time I try not to think about too much. It's like your life isn't your own any more. You can't have fun, or do nice things, because the moment you start to enjoy yourself, you get a reminder that they're thinking about you, or watching you. You worry yourself sick wondering what the next thing will be. It seemed to take forever, but his contacts finally dwindled away.

During the whole time, I barely told anyone. How could I? Pretty much everyone I knew had told me not to go near him and that something bad would happen, and now it had. The people I did tell tried to offer help, but it was always with an air of 'I told you so', so I stopped telling them, or only made jokes about it and never let on how scared I was. I didn't tell people who genuinely could have helped, like my family, because I felt stupid for 'getting myself into that situation'.

Eventually, I told the story on a forum I was a member of, and the responses unanimously blamed me for 'leading him on' and basically implied he was just a 'Nice Guy' or a hopeless romantic, and I was a stuck up bitch. But hey - at least he hadn't actually committed a crime, right?

It took me a long time to get over that and to know they were wrong. I mean, a LONG TIME. I still have doubts now.

But fuck that shit. He was not 'entitled' to any of my time, attention or affection. No person is, and to suggest that putting a woman in fear just proves how keen you are on her is fucking disgusting. It's wrong and it's just another example of a pervasive culture where the victim must always be at fault - if the victim is a woman, at least. In a way it's almost like an abusive relationship. You think they will change. You think you must 'deserve' it. You're too scared to tell the people who can help stop it all because you don't want them to think you're stupid or weak. Your whole life and your movements are controlled by the other person and what kind of mood they happen to be in.

This does not need to happen. No one who truly loves you or cares for you will stand by while you are scared and judge you because someone else decided to scare you. If anything like this is happening to you, PLEASE tell someone you trust or get in touch with the National Stalking Helpline (details in link at the top). The thing about behaviour like this is you never know if it's going to escalate until it does. I was lucky. It doesn't matter whether the person has 'broken the law' or whatever - if a person is making you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, tell someone. You are not being over-cautious or stupid, and more importantly, you are not alone.

Remember, other people choosing to do something to you is NEVER your fault.