Tuesday, February 20, 2024

"Because I ain't gonna play chords"

.... Because to transform states into moods is already to strike a blow against them, and the question of whether or not the mood itself is justified is kind of beside the point; we are dealing with the construction of a form of language in which the mode of existence of everything that is there is being re-ordered or re-determined----and the corresponding accession of possibility for speech or thought is the thing to be emphasized. The more perishable the moods, the greater the area in which it is possible to move.----Because as states dissolve into moods we feel ourselves to be liberated, we are suddenly able to -move- again, and this has an inevitable knock-on effect on the tone of our language, and through language on life as well. Because the most expressive forms of political certainty (f.e.) themselves tend to come from the repetition of simple musical forms, with tonal or rhythmic motifs as gateways to corresponding emotional states. So that eventually it all starts to fit together----the transitions at the simple level of the intentionality of what is said are existential and not moral transitions, and when I say that after this transition it is possible to say anything I am expressing a truth of feeling and not a moral truth, having to do with the actual overcoming of subjective blocks and inhibitions. The point is to define the approach to language that corresponds to the minimum of unnecessary subjective aversiveness and constraint. This is a practical attempt to counteract some of the objective constraints that turn language into a painful knot of self-clarification, in which subjective energies congeal into personal and political despair (=inertia at a higher level). Everything that is carried out at the level of 'form' or mode is done so in order to establish a terrain on which the poet -feels- powerful and free, in the understanding that this is turn controls the tone of the work being produced, the aim being to establish the foundations for a poetry that runs contrary to the dominant minimalist abstraction (=self system); a system of merely logical extremes (of judgement) that rapidly metamorphose into interiorised rage; a complete breakdown in the capacity to deal with this. And the important thing to remember is that this doesn't have anything to do with -states-, with hope or despair or hopelessness etc., but instead has to do with the relation to the -meaning- of those expressive states and the primacy of whatever procedures or elements of the language prevent us from being locked into them.

... Because what I have realised is that it's only using a style in which the principle of development or progress is a means of perpetual negation or dissolution that it becomes possible to say anything at all; because it's only then that the register of the statement ceases to be determined at the same time as its assertion. I wanted to write a poetry in which even the worst slurs and attacks of rage could appear with an almost tragi-comic fragility, as the most exquisitely delicate lyrical moods, permanently at risk even at the moment of their first onset of dissolving or flowing away, as if all the brutality of our experience and our failures of responsiveness were to appear or reappear inside the thinnest and finest shell of ice, and to disappear alongside of it. Lyric poetry defined as:

'an unbelievable, horrendous existence that purchases the beatifications of grace through a shocking helplessness in absolutely everything that is of use, the happiness of a permanently bleeding wound, for which no medicinal herb on this earth blooms.' (Emil Staiger)

I wanted to take all the worst experiences, the crudest thoughts and to make them as fragile as lyric poems, not because the desire to hurt someone weak is legitimate if it is ephemeral -but because this is a method of reducing the constraints that we feel when we relate to language as a medium-. When we feel no constraints, we feel no desire to lash out. 'Morality' as downstream from compositional orientation and not vice versa.

... to expand the domain of that horrific, unbelievable existence

Saturday, January 6, 2024

New Year's letter to R, R, J ('Paper is my weakness')

R, I'm writing back to you on my penultimate day in London, it's just past 6 p.m. and I've been staring at a blank screen for more than an hour. I'm not sure whether or not I'll have time to finish. Thinking in broad or abstract terms has felt painful for me during the last months, and over the last three weeks, during this end-of-year 'holiday', the feeling has gotten worse: everything seems out of sorts, out of sync, the contrast between the enforced celebrations of the season and the knowledge of what continues to unfold is jarring, hurtful; the thoughts in my head seem sterile and dry.

I feel as if we've been talking about myths a lot. Sometimes it feels like the entire media space is filling up with nothing but them: the myth of Israel as the lonely liberal democracy in the shatter space of the 'authoritarian Middle East', the myth of immemorial Biblical Judea and Samaria, of Romantic Palestinian peasant indigeneity, of armed liberation struggle and Fanon and Algeria and the 1950s, a kaleidoscope of myths, the snake and the eagle wreathed in flight, Shelleyan Good and Evil, Violence and Non-violence, Meaning A and Meaning B. All of these culminate in the conflict between the ideology of zionism (/liberal democracy) and the ideology of anti-zionism (/national liberation), which confront one another not as a history and a counter-history but as mass communication spectacle, a thing that has never existed before that is played out in a language already brought to perfection more than a century ago. Here's a passage from Yeats that I just came across, from 1909:


It's a good description of Twitter isn't it. I've been reading Yeats during this whole Xmas period. He's an interesting case study on 'myth'. His work exists in the empty grey undefined space between anti-imperial nationalism and National Socialism: the 'myths' that he chose in place of the 'machine logic' of political argument are self-consciously *racial* myths, his images are racial images, the dream of another reality becomes the febrile anti-Semitism of volkish nationalism, fears that the abstract Jews are behind it all, 'pulling the strings': YOU THROW YOUR MONEY ON THE TABLE AND YOU RECEIVE SO MUCH CHANGE. The poetry is important to me but it also suddenly reminds me of Adorno, the idea of the dialectic as the anti-image, the imageless image of words and things that transform into their opposites: images that emerge silently out of the practice of abstraction itself, Schoenberg and 12-tone, Beckett, the Bildverbot, all those philosophy seminar room words that I haven't thought about in years. And I read Yeats' Irish mythography and I see the motives for that movement of aesthetic thought in a new light, as a poetic problem, not just as a hostile reaction to Jung, the 'collective unconscious' etc. The question Yeats poses to himself is: where do images come from? His answer is, from the 'blood' of a specific national tradition, rooted in a landscape, geography, social formation. The problem with this as a concept of the visual in language is of course principally that it is wrong; images can come from anywhere, the identification of the diasporic with the 'abstract' and 'logical' is obviously false, or so it seems to me; and the limitations of the inversion of this wrong idea can be seen in the existence of a veritable miniature culture industry in the German-speaking world, the entire reason for existence of which is to re-hash, in increasingly lurid and hierophantic terms, the essential elements of Adorno's own polemic against the mythical element in art and politics: as the aesthetic expression of a form of racial nationalism (see: anti-German criticisms of the 'post-colonial'). Is it a measure of my confusion that I think Yeats' comment about 'political questions' at the 'Arts Club' is prescient and true, and that Adorno's suspicion about mythical images is true also? At this point both tendencies, or both elementary programmes, are equally politically untenable, equally artistically incoherent. Can the incoherence of both somehow become a virtue? When I think about public political speech, I think about Shelley's snake and eagle wreathed in flight: a dramatic and significant clash of ideologies that nevertheless takes place many miles above the heads of actual speakers; a hypostatisation, or a spectacle of estrangement. I also think about the word 'structuralism'. As we know, the structure defines what can and cannot be said. It feels kind of sick to try to talk about this, while people are being wiped out 30 or 50 at a time, every day, as a result of targeted aerial bombardment, but isn't this also the implied reality in the old cliche about moving deckchairs around on the deck of the Titanic? The deckchairs are possible positions within a structure. The deck is the structure itself, or perhaps it is conceptual language as such, the entire static ensemble of available moods and registers in language as we live within and perceive it. The ship is the unperceived or imperceptible: the catastrophe as noumenon, or vice versa. (The only difference between this and the standard idea of the numinous as an object of poetic or 'artistic' knowledge is that, in this case, the numinous is *sinking*.)

Yesterday I went with M to the Anna Mendelssohn exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery. The exhibition is all in one small room on the third floor. Blue walls, three vitrines in the middle of the room, which is divided in two by a glass screen, on one side of which is the Whitechapel Gallery reading room. It felt a little bit like walking into Mendelssohn's head. I mean it feels intrusive to access the work like this, which is so private and often so anguished, a corpus that existed for decades only in holograph manuscripts that no one except Mendelssohn herself ever opened, and people wander in and out of it and take a quick look round and then walk back down the stairs to the bookshop or the cafe, or the blockbuster Nicole Eisenman exhibition for which you have to pay £15 or something to get in. No one really cared about Anna Mendelssohn's work while she was alive, but now at the Whitechapel Gallery you can just stroll right into her skull, no one even asks you for a ticket, the door is open and then it's just blurs of yellow and red watercolours, confusions and disappointments, and yearning, angry little line drawings that feel like polemics about something, perhaps about space itself, perhaps about -- it's really impossible to tell, because the drawings don't have any words in them, because they're just frameworks for words that didn't come, because the community that would have had to exist in order for them to have done so never arrived; and so everything exists in a state of incompletion, as a 'framework' in more or less the way that Yeats's fifteen apparitions -- 'the worst a coat upon a coat hanger' -- were a framework. They are like sketches for statements in a language that hasn't been invented yet.

There are also at least two or three actual invented alphabets, one of them filling up an entire sheet of paper with tiny a-semantic ideograms, spilling out to the far limit of the page: a private language.

I feel as if two spaces face into one another. One is the space of 'a debate in the Arts Club on a political question': a structure in which every imaginable position 'was just used by somebody or other', and in which the language speaks the speaker *and not the other way round*, and the other is a blue room in the Whitechapel Gallery, containing the inside of the head of the dead poet and visual artist Anna Mendelssohn, slightly simplified to fit within a space approximately 60 sqm, in three glass boxes and on three walls. The first space is compulsion, intellectual aridity. The second relies on a sort of prurient psychic taxidermy. 'yet i'll tell you something' (this is Mendelssohn speaking) 'when i slept over in the spare room in newnham, the hell on the right side of my brain disappeared, last night, i heard cello music'. So that to walk into that blue room and to peer into the glass boxes at the hell on the right side of the brain amounts to a kind of complicity in human experimentation, in sadism, even as walking around the hell in Anna Mendelssohn's brain makes the hell disappear in my own, so that suddenly for the first time in weeks I can see clearly the hold that the 'first' space had over me, the days spent arguing in an Arts Club debate in my own mind fade to black, and it's only because Mendelssohn's brain has been preserved and displayed like this that I am able to write to you about being in a blue room in the Whitechapel Arts Club ('Art Gallery') on 2 January 2024: that I am delivered back into my own life as a reality of colour and perception and not only of abstract analysis.


I spent a lot of time at the whitechapel gallery looking at the first mendelssohn poem, which is printed on the wall next to the door to the exhibition. 'you who had a lady in your house / priding yourself on your distant discontent'. the poem is surrounded by an enormous amount of white wallspace. her words compete with that space: 

you who had a lady in your house
priding yourself on your distant discontent
are not going to be satisfied by me
not now as then you will not be given
the pleasure of the power of your deceit
on oath or affirming

it's a poem of accusation written about a male poet, a judge of her work ('on oath': trials of the seventies), almost a curse or a prophecy. this is obvious, right? the grammar is clear until the beginning of fourth line: 'not now as then'. this is obvious. 

but the abundance of white space on the wall is respectful, auratic, a crown of unused possibility. mendelssohn herself is like yeats: she is obsessed with possibility as negative wealth, negative crown, negative aura. the work says: this is the art that takes the place of the art that i would have made *if* my life hadn't been ruined. and that i am a ruined version of myself, that i stare out at myself as i would have been, into the empty space that surrounds my work as the annulled possibility of who I am, which is always pushing its way back into me with its webbed feet like some monotonous, Yeatsian swan, a predator in the guise of who I was (to be), is itself the central lesson of the work: a lesson that its situation here automatically annuls. when i went to sleep in your spare room, the hell in the right side of my head went away (white space, dead palestinian poet, respectful silence, rain outside the whitechapel gallery, quick bus ride to the vietnamese restaurants on the kingsland road, street, light, awkward fumbling conversation, hell) 

the phrase ambiguously suspended. the paintings and poems she wanted to paint and to write (and that she might have painted and written) occupy the empty space around the poems and the paintings that she did. when a.m. draws the characters of an imaginary alphabet, she makes sure that the characters go all the way to the furthest margins: the existence of auratic empty space is pushed away, fought off, kicked against, -- 'you ... are not going to be satisfied by me' is the dialogue of this ruined self speaking in ambivalent tones of acquiesence and defiance to the annulled and perfect self it couldn't be, growing together with predatory empty space like leda with the beautiful swan, tasteful, annihilating, we are reliant on the philanthropy of our family of donors, 

'... when i slept over in the spare room in newnham, the hell on the right side of my brain disappeared, last night, i heard cello music. when this happens, as it has done with both piano and orchestra, the space filled amounts to /' then the manuscript breaks off. 

imagine a wall in a different kind of exhibition space, call it the MEANING of the first one. the empty space is not white and auratic, but instead has been somehow siphoned out of you. 'possibility' here is not WEALTH but terror, predation, dereliction; not who you can become, or what you might make (which could both filter back into substance of what you have made, and are), but the threatening encroachment of what you could have done and might have been. as this 'auratic' space expands, so too do you dwindle and decrease, you fold up into ever smaller and smaller versions of yourself, a sheet of A4, a postage stamp, a fingernail, nothing, pure possibility, an empty exhibition blazing into a head: its title: *this is the language of a person who is not what they were meant to be*. worthless nugatory scum, having sustained damage here, here and here, having been irreversibly and irretrievably delayed. having wasted years in a prison during what should have been your twenties. black blot, spilt ink, 

let me step back a bit. In his email from a few weeks ago, R. said, about the symbolic dimension of the global palestinian solidarity movement, that 'there’s been a long, very long investment in education, in symbolism, in weaponization of this conflict; because there’s been decades of encouraging people to read it as their struggle, as an infinite number of struggles'. this is one reason, though not the only one, why the attack on gaza has a different resonance 'in the west' to the civil war in ethiopia, or in sudan. 

The first way of opening this statement up is to say that the investment has to be an investment *of* something. We can talk about this investment using the conventional 'Marxist' vocabulary, in terms of expenditure of human labour, or the conventional mythological one, in terms of expenditure of blood:

For Patrick Pearse had said
That in every generation
Must Ireland's blood be shed.

Which is Yeats again. In either case, we're moving away from a language in which 'meanings' can be adjudicated by means of logic. The words scab over and rot and grow evil flowers: political statements are no longer capable of being limited to a fixed number of logically permissible 'ideas', which can then be organised (as we habitually organise them) on a neat spectrum, with a centre and two opposite 'extremes'. language no longer suggests a closed system of reference: this is what R. indicates when he says that Palestine 'has a MEANING', that we are entering into a new system of signification, different to the one that we usually inhabit.
And this is close to what I meant earlier, when I said that being in the whitechapel exhibition space is like being in mendelssohn's skull. anna mendelssohn is sacrificed and inside of her dead head with its blue walls her works are put on display. the works go from being private manuscripts to the furnishings of a kind of mausoleum. and as death grows over their surfaces everything that was not lived + not expressed + not achieved in them is changed, poem by poem, by means of a kind of mutant alchemy, into MEANING. 'The question' (R. asks) 'then becomes what we do with that, with the knowledge that truly the masses are on the streets because palestine has MEANING, i.e. it’s been imbued very deliberately with a weight of a thousand incontrollable signifiers'. and for me the answer is about potential in this specific sense. if you treat the potential as a possession whose 'symbol' is a gratuitous expanse of auratic white wallspace, then the WHITECHAPEL goes back to being the whitechapel, the terrifying space around and within a.m.'s poems goes back to being the kind of sentimental deadzone that its Arts Council funders want it to be, our own irreversible ruination disappears as a creative element of the work and the mausoleum becomes an art exhibition again, a beautiful and respectful one, an act of love performed by the living for the dead; and it seems to me that palestine and PALESTINE have a connection that could be thought of in almost the same way:

'we all know implicitly that our 'private thoughts' are only half inside of us, half a spectacle of violent mythological conflict taking place in the sky above our heads. This is what most of my recent writing has been about, my poems as well as my garbled contribution to this discussion: just a basic an attempt to come to terms with this reality, to admit it to myself. MEANING is not something fenced off in a little garden of 'literature' that we go to water, after we've gotten back from work at the rational explanation factory. It is the rational explanation itself.'

anna mendelssohn is refaat alareer. 'not now as then you will not be given', but in another sense. until we see what isn't meant and what can't be as a part of what is,

happy new year,

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

"Because I ain't gonna play chords"

.... Because to transform states into moods is already to strike a blow against them, and the question of whether or not the mood itself is ...