Friday, December 8, 2023

On filing (BM/ES)

When I left the migrant centre I missed my pile of files. It lived to the right of my computer in the office in the Old Fire Station: each file between four and about thirty double-sided A4 sheets stapled together inside a plastic wallet, at any one time there were usually about twenty of them in the pile. A questionnaire with personal details made up the first five or six pages of each file.

Volunteers would fill this in when ‘triaging’ first-time visitors to the drop-in. Name, address (some vols would write ‘NFA’, others were less euphemistic and put ‘none’, ‘staying with a friend’, or ‘street homeless’), immigration status (again, sometimes roundaboutly put—‘working to regularise her status’, sometimes not: ‘refused’), monthly income (‘ca. 80/month from doing hair’, ‘£0’, ‘ZERO’), Hardship Given (Y/N?). Later pages were made up of case notes, written in long-hand by me, the office volunteers and sometimes the immigration advisers (though they mostly typed their advice, which ranged from the gushing and hopeful (A– from the commercial firm) to the laconic and dis-illusioning (M– from the law centre).

Time-travel-feeling-analogue: printing off a new ‘additional case notes sheet’ = putting your hand up to ask for more paper during the last half hour of your A Level history exam.

Some people had slim files, the slimmest were the no-hopers. I always wrote something like ‘signposted to Akwaaba/social-needs’: ‘giving them a biccie’, my therapist calls it. Yet some no-hopers had thick, worked-over files, with pages torn and Sellotaped back together, stapled and re-stapled in the top-left corner and hard to fit back in the plastic wallet after you’d written in them. They were the ones who’d sparked something in D–, my manager. Gnarly single-homeless types like O—, an old Nigerian dude who dragged a shopping cart round after him and took his glass eye out the first time L– volunteered. Leveraging his cavity. She came home and cried.

Every Wednesday morning D– would fill a shopping cart of his own and wheel it from the Old Fire Station to St. Mary’s, where the drop-in happened. I got to keep ‘my’ destitution files but had to email him a list of the ones I was holding onto so they wouldn’t be missed. As manager D– got to/had to keep/feast his eye(s) on the totality, the biggest pile of all.

I liked closing files but preferred opening new ones. A constant throughput made me feel at once productive and needed. (Affective dimensions of the Homelessness Industrial Complex…) Only now writing this do I realise how my pile of files = the piles I used to make of birthday & Christmas presents when I was a kid, to the right of the fireplace in the lounge = the lists I used to make in my head of my best friends in Year Six (Kevin Hung, Stefan, Alex T, Chanwit, Jack W…) = the spreadsheet of women accompanied by NELMA to Section 17 appointments = the stuff I gather round me when I’m sick in bed: tissues & eardrops, my phone & Macbook & ereader, vitamin D3, in-ear headphones, the Bluetooth speaker, Melissa (‘the calm balm’)…

Even when supposedly ‘organising’, I always gravitated to the bits that were more like service-provision. Tasks that involved keeping an eye on things and people that were already there rather than creating or disrupting anything. Planning meetings, writing the agenda, facilitating meetings, sorting teas and coffees in the break. Subvertising I thought a bit frivolous, & I was never in the direct-action working group.

How did you feel when you left the Manna? Is there anything you’ll miss?

If there’s one thing I won’t miss, it’s the papers. The Manna was supposed to be paperless at that point, but there had been no official transition or formal demarcation between hard files and soft digital records, so a black market persisted of exchanges of dog eared papers between case workers and clients. The papers had nowhere to go because there was no official home for them...ahem… so they lingered around and accumulated in odd corners. I would open an old filing cabinet and find stacks of printed out PIP appeals, heavy as bricks. I would open my office drawer and be jump-scared by a council tax bill as if it was a spider that had crawled out of a dark crevice. I think the fear value was one reason people insisted on giving them to me. I would say, I don’t need it. I have nowhere to put it. You keep it. Bring it next time. And the person would more or less beg me to take it. Terrifying capitalised red font headed debt letters, housing benefit calculations that looked like algebra. Take my fear and put it in your own head. And all the other stuff I don’t want in there too. Having them all around the place added to the sense of the constant danger of missing things, or forgetting things. Things sneaking up on me. This is a familiar feeling, of something being just outside my peripheral vision. The signal anxiety. The papers were the Big Bad signalling its approach. You have to keep it in view.

I tried to keep all the ‘important’ ones, the ‘live’ ones, related to tasks I needed to keep in my view on my desk beside me, weighed down with a stone so they couldn’t escape. The stone had a sunshine on it and a happy message. It was a little gift from a woman who painted stones and sold them in the street. It was my good object, my little talisman which had a mystical binding power over the immense hostility of the state that the papers stood for.

And all my shredding I kept in the bottom drawer of my desk, pushed down, all the intensity they represented, the moment in someones life of spinning out of control and all of the representations of it that were made to me about it, pushed away, displaced by new people, new ‘clients’, new fresh distress, swept away by this agitated river of relentless onward movement and forgotten about. We didn’t open and close cases. People drifted away of their own accord. Some didn’t, sometimes there was a swell. We relied totally and blindly on the organic movement, the tide of people and their problems advancing and receding according to the laws of nature. In this way there were no endings. When there were endings it was in the form of giddy news, a house, a shelter, money, some kind of relief. There were ecstatic phone calls. I will miss them. We would be so pleased with ourselves the two of us, me and the client. We have made fire, conquered death. Even then, there was a fantasy of an eternal mother; you don’t need me now, but perhaps you will again. We don’t close cases! We always used to say, proudly. I will always be here. Only I won’t. Others simply gently and silently gave up on us. We were not the only show in town. They faded out. Their ghosts sometimes lingered. I even had, in the top drawer of my desk, a set of passport photos, the face pale and unhappy. The real face it represented – who knows? What to do with such a thing? The last thing I did before I left my office and locked the door for the last time was all of my shredding. I felt like if I did that at least whoever picked up where I left off wouldnt somehow end up mired in it all. But maybe I also wanted to make a clean break. Shredding, annihilating. Violent destruction. The violence of the ending I couldn’t really face up to. Leaving home(lessness).

Conscious that I first found myself volunteering in a day centre for homeless people not long after my mother died, finding solace among people adrift. Finding a place for myself among the placeless. In that place I used to enjoy being included in conversations between guests as they bitched about the management. Little middle class white girl identifying with some feeling of being shut out. Though I hadn’t been, in all the ways that matter. Hungry for identifications. Perhaps sometimes only the raw edge will do.

I also feel like in activism I like to do the ‘containing’ work. Filling in the gaps, making sure everything fits together nice and snug. Propping up whoever I think is actually doing the work that I think should be done.

Friday, November 17, 2023

'Human Rights' (DH)

ITS REALITY is economic, not political. Invocation of ‘rights’ and ‘laws’ at a time like this is just the celebration of the state that defines itself with reference to them and the hereditary or secular aristocracy that controls it, the livery of the modern ‘citizen’ consumer who mistakes their instruments of class socialisation for something that actually means something for the lives of the oppressed. Contempt of life and of living humanity is the only hallmark of this form of vicarious consumption that masquerades as democratic politics, a cruel and mirthless comedy in which our very real desire to pursue a limited programme of demands, a purely negative programme
in which
for example   
our associates are not raped by security forces with
is built up into this enormous
ritual of vicarious consumption, in which all subjects 
are required to participate,
a sort of grand medieval tournament, a Brueghelian Babel, in which the place of livery is taken by certain magical terms, laws, elections, courts, the right to self-defence... and many earlier forces, from quite a different below, are beginning to slip between the gaps of these words, and this will remain true for a long time, as long as the different reality we experience does not shift towards tomorrow

(and their depiction of ‘terrorists’ who are ‘beyond the bounds of humanity’ and who can be hunted in Gaza and around the world, in sanctuary houses and sanctuary cities, who can be eliminated above the ground and below, in the south and in the north, and from the sky or by means of targeted assassination

by murder squads formed for that purpose, and who operate under the banner of annihilation (‘NIHI’)

is another archaic element that has twisted its way into the meaning of most of our political language.
Because the communication of feelings and ideas must be blocked and impeded by all possible means. But it’s also a metaphor, the whole passage above is a simple metaphor for how we are forced to speak and think right now, in a situation like this. Because beyond the stars where an inhuman and anti-divine power hunts and claims ownership of our most basic human needs is the realm of the unknown god and its graduated worlds, and the sphere of the eighth and the realm of the twelve signs belong under the same category as the tyrannical planets, but they also provide a transition to the kingdom of light. Never let the system of their wealth find you.)

Saturday, November 11, 2023

Be Wary of Buildings (AS)

It seems appropriate to have written and thought about this on borrowed time from work. Now I'm finishing it and I am sticking to the injunctions about writing fast. I'm not sure there is a cohesive point here, and if I stop to try and form one, I'll collapse into self-doubt or contradictions or infinite regress. Just come a few steps down the road with me, and we'll see where it takes us, I can't promise it'll make sense or help, but everything on the news is making me feel sick right now and I needed the distraction.

I remember Jow and I discussing my work, my actual work, and the ambivalence I felt towards the business of working for a public sector body. Jow told me that if I remained clear-eyed about what I was taking from it, I'd probably be okay. I've finished with local councils for now, so this is a first stab at something.  

One long-time lesson I learnt from being in local government was people really care about what happens to buildings. Less so what happens in them. 

Prime examples are hospitals - crumbling Victorian buildings will see people out with placards protesting closure. Obsessives get wrapped up in whether there will be less beds or more beds, more spaces or less spaces. Never mind that the whole point is to get you treated, out and away from hospital - it's a place where people mostly go to die. I remember a chief executive of a hospital in Surrey telling me once that no-one would argue for taking funding away from hospitals to earlier intervention social care, as hospital was the place everyone "went to in the end". 

For balance, the same man also told me he had been involved in the closing of a cluster of antiquated psychiatric hospitals that ring greater London, one of which was the one my grandfather spent time in. The shift to "care in the community" had failed, in his view, because the issue of long-term disabilities and mental health conditions had gone from being one collectivised in big institutional buildings to one where individual need and destitution are largely concealed within the community. It is notable that experiments with collectivisation and communal living seemed to emerge out of the psychiatric movement in the sixties and before (for instance, take a look at The Man Who Closed the Asylums by John Foot). He didn't actually say anything about that last bit, just that the whole thing had failed.

The closure or defunding of services, more abstracted than a building, will rarely garner the same groundswell. In 2019 the child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) in north east London declared they were not taking any more referrals for six months, unless it was the most "acute" circumstances. By which they meant serious hospitalisation due to self-harm or attempted suicide. It was an open secret in schools, who had received an email to that effect, but only the most diligent reader of trust board papers would have spotted the reality on the ground. Its impact was hidden by a RAG rating, that was marked amber, not red, because they changed the performance measure at the same time as closing the doors.

That's not to say don't fight for the right to have local services, or preserve communal spaces and what they represent, it is more that you need to guard yourself against that being the totem on which everything hangs. Boris Johnson's popular promise to build 40 hospitals, or whatever the hell it was, only worked because the building forms the simplest representation of investment. There's not much point having a new hospital if you haven't got the workforce, equipment and services they require.. There's not much point putting care in the community without a serious consideration of what that care entails, how it is funded and how we don't lose that spirit of collectivised, mutual support that occasionally fosters in  long-term hospital care settings.

I don't know what I'm saying. I don't know what I learnt. All I am trying to say is be clear eyed about what you are getting in any given circumstance. Don't become too attached to the shell of a feeling, at the expense of its interior.

With love,

Saturday, November 4, 2023

(We felt that we will not permit them to crush us) / Notes on a question

‘Never to think of a thing or being
we love
but do not have
before our eyes
without reflecting
perhaps this
has been destroyed, or is already dead.’
is reduced
to two
dimensions, becomes
flat like
a dream
Gaza does
not exist
in the same way as created things
the defence of its
now equivalent in the West to ‘racial hatred’
onto a
the colonised
who are
to use force
to defend themselves
are forced to
discover all meanings
inside of force, they cannot be deprived of
higher meanings
but only of a
higher language in which to
express them.
As the old
only in the light 
of the new
the meaning
of the
past is 
our eyes
a dream is
to two dimensions 
it is flattened 
into an 
of the
it is still possible to stop this. the 'culture' in which you can’t even say
is just an 
anamorphosis of the border fence       that was partly destroyed on 7 October:
a tactic of social control of the domestic population
appearing as freedom only by contrast with the direct practice of warfare elsewhere.
we understand
supposed ‘hypocrisy’ of ruling classes and their ‘liberalism’
is not a
moral failing
but a
tactic based on an assumption about effective means of social control;
just as traditional
colonial counterinsurgency
rebuilds the oppressive apparatus of the colonial state
with the personnel
of colonised peoples,
so does domestic liberal counterinsurgency
rebuild the apparatus
of liberation struggle
in its own image

the state becomes
the liberator
of the oppressed
from the oppressed;
Jews as the
of intra-
European genocide
are enlisted
as a kind of ‘local security force’
they exercise their
police powers 
those who speak
in their name
by appeal
to a
genocidal patron that has taught itself to speak in the language of
ment anti-
and the subsequent
double vision
the creation by
of parallel armed liberation movements
in opposition to the activities of those who received funding
from the USSR.
There as here the aim is to create
fusion, demobilisation and stasis,
intellectual counterinsurgency,
in the first
by the
combined use of professional and moral
has doubt

and not conviction as its desired effect     ‘Foundation to insert itself when it cannot add to the   
With all things   
it is only what
comes to
us from outside
as a
that turns us
into humans
and perhaps the Palestinians, even the ‘savage’ militants of Hamas and Islamic Jihad
were surprised
to discover
that the
could die as easily
as themselves,
that when you shot or
stabbed them they turned into human beings and perished
like the Palestinians
killed in waves
struck with live ammunition
in the abdomen,
or in the head,
or walking on crutches
across a sand dune, or in the neck
or upper back
or from teargas inhalation,
or launching a stone
from a
in front of the same fence in 2018
fights to be
more than
the colonised
‘his world receives a fundamental jolt’
Fanon said
he meant that
the killing
is always
duplicated, since along with the coloniser dies the image of a person    who they never 
the image that dies with the vulnerable                                                were
is itself a cause of the ‘savagery’ of the violence that is exerted against it,
a cruelty that makes no sense unless inflicted
on the idea of an
is the only
thing that grows
under constant aerial bombardment;
of the
is that they
lead immed-
to efforts to reproduce exactly the same image of invulnerability – a dream that can be approximated only through racial violence against Palestinians beyond all conceivable proportion
murder must be
of its
ment of surprise,
what comes to us
from outside            
‘Resistance is itself sacred,
a way of living’
and Hamas is a part of
that resistance
likes it
or not
the effort
to insist
the murders can only be identical
to themselves
is an attempt to promote civil war
as the only possible
outcome of
political violence.
When liberation movements are accused of genocidal in-
tent by state
armed with formalistic
to produce
that outcome,
the state denies
the very
of social conflict
other than
the inter-
ethnic struggle which
was always
to provoke,
the power
of this state itself      Une aube affaiblie / Vers par les champs. your
the liberal state
speaks through
‘the Jews’
as the colonial counter-
insurgency speaks through
its native police force,

the tactic is a kind of ‘Ulsterisation’ brought about at the level of communication in the cultural do-
main, enforced
by professional sanctions
instead of arms
its essential tendency
is not ‘objectionable’
because it is
it is
its one dimension
is the dimension
of inter-communal racist slaughter;
a petrified zone that is more dead than alive, in which the masters of reality crouch in frozen
of airless              stutter            ‘I des’
and all struggles against injustice are
a prelude to a snuff film screened by the IDF to a cinema of hand-picked journalists. Sorry 
The spectacle of                                                                                   baby, I don’t think
those murders
establishes the supposed
relation of force,
in which
one side is
of committing
and the other is only
capable of representing it,
a symmetry
within difference which denies
and justice
because the hierarchy it creates
an imperial
vision of ethno-biological difference in which killings 
come to be known as
‘communal work’
‘pulling out the roots of bad weeds’
‘bush clearing’,
a natural process that is as simple as picking up a fork, or mowing the lawn.
do not
they are
part of
administration of genocide

In the war within the war, the death of the image of Israeli invulnerability
was a
the revelation of the vulnerability
of the fragile human bodies
behind the image
was painful,
a lesson in equality
that the ‘liberal’ state reaction
with its talk of human
now endeavours to annihilate.
The murdered will not
become invulnerable
however many
more are
now killed
‘on the other side’;
the equal vulnerability
of those
who are now dead
is already
being plunged into a
zone of forgetfulness
so deep
and so inaccessible
as to
make it almost
impossible to
recover the trace of that shock
in the face of which it was impossible not to feel
‘in the depths of ourselves’
some aching,
flashing like lights
against the grey
on cement
it is already fading into.
And we seem to
something else,
something else
that was
beneath it,
not our own
but something more precious
and harder
to understand,
the surprise
of those who are made
to submit
to the statement
that all
lives are
in the same
they are made
to dig
cement dust
on their
through the
of their homes:
the surprise
of those whose
own deaths
are never supposed to be surprising.
To understand
that we are parties
to a process
of state warfare,
and not citizens with ‘rights’
bound to get on our knees
before any and all invocations
of ‘international law’

does not mean that
we accept
the inevitability
of murder
the task now
is to define
the war within
the war;
the state terrorism of Russia
and a genocidal
on the
most appalling acts of extermination
is the
of meanings
the two dimensions
of force
as soon as we see this,
certain problems
fall away
and others rise up in their place;
we exist in a zone of defence.
That this liberalism is a weapon used against us of a particular kind
means we have no ‘rights’
are under no corresponding ‘obligations’
the obligation
to extend
the borders of this zone
to those who are currently trapped      in what counterinsurgency doctrine continues to
as a ‘high intensity
the endless massacre
of Palestinians
is not a cost in
an alliance
system that produces
civic rights
‘for us’,
it is
a part of the war against us
at an incomparably higher level of cruelty.
We see we are caught in a rotten routine in which everything is rotating in time with the motor of a single machine from which all apparent opposites emerge
with this
the genocide used to justify
appears in a new light
as the Old
appears Old
only in the light of the New,
for the first time
the whole
genocide appears before us
it is
it had been waiting for us all along
the ones
who can discover all meanings
inside of force
the present
the past
(the international lawyers were chortling at the stars, but we didn’t care about the stars)
To those who ask
we condemn all violence
against ‘civilians’
the correct answer is
that we
are at war
with the system that poses the question.


and as I was finishing writing this you came in and pointed a gun at me. It’s you, I said. It’s me, it is indeed me, you answered, and your eyes were like two cockroaches frightened on a rainy day. You fired and the blood spurted. After that I can’t remember a thing. The room was brilliantly lit. Slowly, calmly, the human animals came to feed at the pool of my empathy

Friday, October 20, 2023

More notes

I’ve been trying all morning to say something and I’ve gotten to the point that I can’t even remember where it was that I was trying to start. I wake up each morning and read the German-language papers too, which fill up with denunciations of leftists who have failed 'to clearly denounce’ Hamas. And I keep coming back to Butler’s invocation of poetry and the unsayable at the end of their piece in the LRB. We all know that what is really unsayable is a clear statement of support for the ruling forces in Gaza, that the language that cannot be spoken -in the countries in which we live- is a specific language that takes clear positions in an asymmetric armed conflict, and not a speculative language of special feelings that we are compelled to wait for, like true believers waiting for angels to come to take us to heaven. It feels absurd to talk now about the ineffably latent and unarticulated without talking first about the blatantly censored and the suppressed. And of course many Palestinians in Gaza do feel pride at the fact that ‘their’ army succeeded in killing as many Israelis as it did, and that too is something almost unspeakable, but it is something unspeakable about a reality that we have produced and that we collude in reproducing now and not something unspeakable in the sense of not-yet-available within the existing system of meanings. ‘Now we feel sadness, fear and pride’, says a Gazan civil liberties activist in this. ‘A spirit of defiance burns in our hearts’.  

And the construction of the community of feeling in the West -is- domestic counterinsurgency. Every managerial group in every publicly funded body in Europe puts out a statement saying that the institution it runs ‘feels’ like ‘horror’ or something equivalent about the 'terrorist attacks' in Israel, and everyone knows this has nothing to do with how anyone actually feels, and none of that even matters because the point is to conduct a pedagogical exercise on the topic of what can and cannot be said, and because being emotionally gaslit by managers speaking through the puppet-mouths of shocked and astonished cultural institutions is the special privilege of liberal citizens of liberal democracies whose governments try to reserve their coercive and penal powers for migrants and special occasions.

‘Now we feel sadness, fear and pride’. And I suppose that like Judith Butler I too would wish to believe in the healing power of the unsayable. I would like to believe in ‘poetry’ as well. But I’m not sure whether it is possible for those things to mean anything unless we can first understand what it might mean to feel pride at news of the deaths of so many unarmed and ‘innocent’ people. I am not yet aware of any western museum, cinema or theatre that has asked people to try to think about what this means. That there are people alive who are more ‘moral’ than you, who have experienced more hurt and sadness than you, who have been abused more than you, and who have felt more convulsive relief than you, who nevertheless have felt astonishing pride at the sight of a mound of corpses, might if only for a second give the big institutional feelers of Western culture pause for thought, if only they were capable of thinking, or the pain of loss, or anything besides the reinscription in a coercive rhetoric of spontaneous emotion of the exact boundaries of what is and is not acceptable to say.  

I woke up this morning from a fitful sleep in which it was impossible to dream anything at all. I sat for hours at my computer in physical pain, uncertain if I had anything to put down. I am not a moral institution. I want to be able to feel what I am not able to feel. I want to understand what it means to live in a reality that is unspeakable, that makes people feel pride at unspeakable things, whether there are any poets to dream about it or not. And I couldn’t care less about trying to shock, or to scandalise, but I cannot see a path to that which we are presently unable to say that doesn’t lead through the middle of what we are presently told not to think. 'Love is also the need for presence in its miracle'. '
They are not asking'.        

Update from Berlin (DG)

A quick update from here. My version of the news or something. I mean the level of silencing of speech just beggars belief. I guess what happened when you were here, with the documenta situation, was a first stage in the rolling back of possible, if gradual and small-scale, rearticulations of the de facto position that had been taking place in recent years--the coming together of the white left and of young kids from migrant backgrounds organising themselves against fascists, in solidarity with Palestine, etc, the presence of Palestinian or pro-Palestinian art in galleries, etc etc. Over the past week the cops have banned any and every Palestine demo, every university and cultural institution has put out out blanket pro-Israel statements, you'll have seen what happened with the Frankfurt Book Fair, etc. The white left seems to have totally evaporated and just merged with the de facto position of the government. So no possibility of big, cathartic, or even just effective expressions of mass outrage at the ongoing ethnic cleansing. Just the streets as normal, tourists coming and going, hypocrisy hanging heavy on the streets like a knife. "Sonst sagt niemand etwas" says Bachmann and it feels like we're living through the truth of that line. On Sunday I did manage to go to the demo on Potsdamer Platz after hearing someone shouting about it on the train. There were a fair few people there gathered in the square. The cops were broadcasting a statement through a megaphone telling people the assembly was illegal and to go home. Occasionally about thirty of them would single out and arrest one kid and pepper spray people around them. Obviously they were filming and you could see plain clothes talking to them occasionally.  The people in the crowd were families, teens and pre-teens, up to old people. Very few white leftists that I could see. The newspaper coverage across the political spectrum is racist like nothing I've seen. Because of the level of the suppression, at the moment the demos are mainly, it seems, kids in Neukölln assembling on the street. Leftists/liberals are either liberal/apathetic, openly in sympathy with the de facto position, or--particularly in the case of those who are not white and/or European--worried that they will lose their jobs, be targeted, or deported. (Clearly this latter is going to be used as an excuse not just to arrest and imprison people but to deport them, and fits very clearly with racist and anti-migrant practices of the state). The pattern in Berlin at least is of the police using support for Palestine as a way to target migrant and post-migrant communities, Palestinian, Turkish, Kurdish and so on, particularly in schools, where wearing a keffiyeh or displaying any kind of Palestinian symbol is banned: you'll have seen the video of the teacher punching the kid in Neukölln. In that sense I guess it has parallels with Macron's rhetoric after the stabbing in France, but it's very specific to Germany and much more extreme than anywhere else in Europe, as far as I can tell. The total effect is that any position other than unconditional support for what is becoming ethnic cleansing is effectively a thought crime. (Imagine the contortions and defensive manouevres that you identify in Judith Butler's piece, L, multiplied by a thousand.) 

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Clearing away the slime of righteousness (WR)

Hi Danny

thank you for your letter of 31st May. What you write poses some very difficult questions about emotional pain and politics. I find it important to say that, for myself, trying to reflect on them involves pretty much everything else. That, in part, is why it’s taken me a long time to respond. the other part is to do with what has seemed like reduced capacity for thinking these recent weeks—it would have been good to be at the recent MDR meeting.

I can bring the understanding of class to some particular kinds of psychic damage shared among the family I grew up in. But there’s a part of that which persists in present time. It’s not unalterable but it is very difficult to penetrate despite always having been there in a certain layer of memory. Nothing special about that, obviously. If I had lost a finger in a factory accident, I think I would—in spite of understanding the political context of the event—still imagine complete restitution, something which I guess is portrayed in the miracles that occur in the New testament but which is more meaningfully conceived as a final afterwardsness in which justice is brought about.

But do these thoughts get us anywhere if there’s a market for victims and wounds which has been expanding in the last 20 years or so. It’s tempting to say that the idea of justice overcomes the effects of exchangeability. But does saying that actually mean anything, right now? What would justice look like in the face of irreversible destructions of environment, not to mention wars that create the cover of a difference emergency. I can’t imagine a Last Judgment as Benjamin did. Nor is there any figure of revolution hovering over present grinding antagonisms.

I am not making an argument for melancholia but a call to cite the writing of non-redemption. I think of César Vallejo and Paul Celan, both of whom set in motion a dismantling of melancholy, of its temporality in Vallejo and in the case of Celan of the adjustment to loss that it seeks to produce. Vallejo presents the pain that is outside of and prior to individuation, pain as belonging to the commons; class in this case comes after. Is that approach useful for political decisions? I don’t know, since I’ve not been in a situation where it’s been put to the test, but I ask myself whether it takes us outside politics as it currently exists. In Celan there’s a deep desire for redemption, but inside the texture of the poems—their weaving of present time and space—there are almost no images of redemption, only larval stares of light and materials riven by historical disaster: ‘grass, written asunder’, ‘The world is gone’ (141 & 275of the 1995 edition). I can’t join the two things, political analysis and a terrain divested of hope, except to say that the naked earth and pain stripped of image seem necessary forms of thought and writing. Rather than find a compromise, e.g. in the limited gesture of saying that damage caused by work calls for the abolition of class society, I prefer to hold to class analysis and understanding of damage to mind and body at their maximum non-conjuncture, without abandoning either of them. Maybe I’m saying this to try to clear away the slime of righteousness. But that would still be a start.

On filing (BM/ES)

When I left the migrant centre I missed my pile of files. It lived to the right of my computer in the office in the Old Fire Station: each f...