West Yorks in a Nutshell (no, Triangle!)

West Yorkshire in a nutshell (no, in a triangle!) 

+ more on the 4th Psychogeo. Congress 2017!

This time around, i.e. on this trip, West Yorkshire revealed itself as a triangle to me! This is because I only went to a small area, and it was an alliterated one at that! The alliteration was: H, the triangle was: Huddersfield, Halifax, Hebden Bridge! So that’s not all of West Yorks by any means, or any Leeds, but it was a nice triple-destined journey.

When you look on the map, you find it’s not a regular triangle, it has two little sides between Hudders and Hali, and Hali and Heb, and then a long side between Hudders and Heb, so Hali is kind of in the middle! So that’s as far as the shape goes!  This long-triangle shape then, acquired a tail as well, of which I will tell: the Todmorden-tail.

From shape to text! The text behind the ‘H-code’ was this: to visit and present at the Fourth World Congress of Psychogeography, staying overnight in Halifax, and then going out to visit Hebden Bridge. And here, on my last Heb-leg, I added another excursion: Todmorden – not an H, but fitting into the trip-logic, because it’s a kind of ‘twin town’ to Hebden Bridge, as it has the same character of being an community/alternative/ecological/arty/feministy town, turned into this, along with Hebden Bridge, in the 1970s and 80s by hippies and feminists, seeking a kind of self-organised space.

It started with the Psychogeography Congress! But then it started everywhere, because on the 7th September, as I was travelling up, I went to Halifax first, to my B and B, and as I arrived there early, and I had the rest of the day to myself, I did a little trip to Hebden Bridge right there and then! As soon as you arrive, you might get initiated, as I did, in the ‘project’ of Hebden Bridge: to be cuddly, friendly town, with ecological awareness and an alternative to consumerism-capitalism. It’s great that this exists, a community built around caring and commitment! I know,  this is not the only ‘text of the town’, but it’s bigger than it is in other towns. It’s kind of centre-stage here, and that feels liberating.

Then, arriving back at Halifax, I loved it as well, and admired the woolly Piece Hall, telling of sheep- and weaving history and industry, with a Spanish outlook! – the Piece Hall is a massive building, where woven pieces used to be sold, it’s a three-story building, including a square inside, and somehow looks like a Spanish bull-ring, with the only difference that the circular bullring built has been ‘reproduced’ as a square. How to square the circle!

Now the Psychogeography Congress. That was happening for the next 3 magic days. It was amazing, ground-breaking, eye-opening, net-working. Drifting, radical walking, interesting presentations. Everything was inspiring and had revolutionary potential (or actuality), and what especially resonated with me, was the presentation before mine, about the simulation solar system in West Yorkshire! That was ‘Walking at the Speed of Light’ by Annie Watson, which I loved, and which recreated distances between the Sun, Mercury, Venus, our Earth, and so on, around Sheffield. Because it’s so interesting, it has been re-created at the Documenta festival in Kassel as well! The only thing that’s missing in the project, I think, is Pluto -I know Pluto was temporarily contested, but it has a whopping five moons!

There were lots of interesting discussions too. And the next-most fascinating thing I remember was – and I don’t know if it was a presentation or a discussion (I thought it was a presentation but now can’t find it on the conference programme!) – the walk around the twin-towns! That was Graeme Murrell, who linked West Yorks with the Ruhr Valley in Germany, because Leeds is twinned with Dortmund, and Huddersfield is twinned with Unna. So there’s an echo there, and it’s an equivalent echo at that because the distance between Leeds and Huddersfield equals the distance between Dortmund and Unna.

I like these transpositions and positions, this town- , path- and landscape-twinning, because they remind me of my own! I have similar things around language-symmetry, and map/geography-language co-relations, or triangulations. They have a (mutual) purpose, as they enhance adventures in (inter/cultural) translations, and thereby enhance understanding, friendship and exchange – discovering similarities and possibilities for synchronicity between and amongst us.

I also like these kind of transpositioning things, because my favourite field within maths at school was geometry: the idea of joining dots and coming up with producing shapes and outlines, always appealed to me.

And here I was, hearing about Murrell’s Leeds-Huddersfield, corresponded with the Dortmund-Unna walk, whilst relishing my own West Yorks triangle of HHH: Huddersfield, Halifax and Hebden Bridge (should we add here: Hamburg, Helsinki, Haifa, Hebron, Harare, Hull, Halle, Hammerfest…).

There is still more to write about that land-mark (well, literally land-marking!) Psychogeography Congress, but I’ll do this in stages. Conceptually, after all, this was more than a triangle, but a shape with so many angles that I wouldn’t know what to call it! If you have any ideas, let me know.

Huddersfield itself is beautifully sided by the mountainous Castle Hill, a bit like Halifax is beautifully sided by the mountainous Beacon Hill – both of them town-side hills, which could almost be mountains!

Huddersfield also excels with its missing platform number 7 at the railway station. I think my train, ironically, took the place of number 7, because it was always the second train on platform 6! So actually I think I can say that my train was the ‘missing platform train’.

After the conference, and before home, I came back to Hebden Bridge, with the additional excursion to Todmorden. I then twinned Heb and Tod in my mind, as they both underlie the same ethos of ecology, art and revolution. A lot of this is communicated on public noticeboards, and it made me realise, how important noticeboards are for a sense of both community and revolution. The idea of communicating not just privately on social media, but publicly, physically, out in the open, is much more participatory and immediate! And then again, this corresponds with a psychogeographic method as well: the idea in the psychogeo. classic: ‘The Revolution of Everyday Life, by Raoul Vaneigem centres on communication and participation as well! For me, there were echoes of the old feminist Silvermoon Bookshop in London too, as I remember this as containing lots of notices, as you made your way from the ground floor to the first floor.

Keep going up!

As a postscriptum I came up with yet another figure when back in London: Hebden Bridge also reminded me of what arty alternative Walthamstow would be if it was outside London (or had more space!), and the surrounding city replaced by hills. Todmorden, then, would become Leytonstone (due to its nearby location and similar arty/alternative life!) and Mytholmroyd would become Blackhorse Rd, because it is hardly separate from Walthamstow, but has its own tube station on the same line – just like the ‘real’ Mytholmroyd is hardly separate from Hebden Bridge, but has its own train station on the same line.

This also makes Heb., Tod. and Myth. (!), another triangle, echoed by the Walthamstow, Leytonstone and Blackhorse Rd triangle.

Ok I’ll stop here for now, I think the next text from here could take up Mytholmroyd as a site for mythogeography (a branch of psychogeography)!

 

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Offshore Writer’s Delight: Psychogeography

Offshore Writer’s Delight

I’ve just returned from the Fourth World Congress of Psychogeography in Huddersfield, and it was a big thing! – and felt like both a revelation and an initiation. So here is my very personal/political story about what psychogeography means to me, and how I arrived at it, via and with postcolonalism by my (possibly hidden) side.

Revelation:

The Congress was a revelation for me because it kind of confirmed my intuition and my work, that what I do and what I write is just in the middle of psychogeograpy! For me, psychogeography is about the whole of myself, too, and so it’s a space where I can express how my personal is political, and all: so it becomes a feminist, and cultural space, immediately, as it becomes, too, a landscape-, hidden-urban-, and/or abstract space!

Yes, it’s all about space, spaces, and questioning, walking, dissent, drift,  desire for social change, anti-structure on structure, and about new invented lines beyond repetition, around the edges of new consciousness, edge-land-liking and moving, walking, thinking further, thinking other, thinking far-off the repeated beaten tracks of consumerist-infused association and status quo, static quotes and stingy quotas.

And so: quo vadis? Quo vadimus? Quantum-phsyics, quantum psycho-geo-poetry? Quickly. Quirkily. Quite so, but that’s just the q. corner! So let’s add a question here too!

As a kind of Other in this society, there are fields of enquiry that, if analysed, respond to issues that are at the heart psychogeography (as it is in postcolonialism, for my point of view and experience): space, displacement, drift, edge. So in this way, psychogeography is about all the aspects of topics that happen to me conceptually.

At the same time, my background, in large part, due to my Otherness, is postcolonialism, inter/cultural studies, black and critical race studies too. There’s ‘critical whiteness’ in there too, though I find this a tricky and in some constellations a misleading word, because I am othered due to my accent: a dimension that critical whiteness doesn’t consider, and so it is as if my difference – and therefore myself! – doesn’t exist! Interrogating whiteness is highly important if you have not considered it before, or if you are not embedded in or a product of multicultural identities, but my location demands of me a different, wider project. The starting point of this project has to be the hallmark of my experience/location/position, which is my accent and its consequences: my life-world! And this marker for me is erased in the critical whiteness analysis (and not only here, by the way, but it is very pronounced here, due to its illusion of ‘serving me’), and therefore closes its avenues of reception, before I can even ‘come in’ to explain my situation. This process is a painful repetition, and thus excludes opportunities for conceptual – and as a result, real – progress!

Initiation:

I also felt initiated at the Fourth World Congress of Psychogeography, because now I had come to an officially existing forum, which declares itself as ‘psychogeography’. And, as it is what I had been doing for a long time, it feels like I’ve now ‘joined the club’.

My presentation was on ’Walking over Edges’ and I had once again passed and surpassed another edge with it somehow. At the centre of my presentation – as a totally liberating and space-making starting- and some kind of mid-point, is my life-world, my edge-world, because I come from across the edge. And this is my desire. To ‘bring myself in’, to explain my life-world as ‘geo-political psycho-sociality’, and so come back to the postcolonial always as well.

In explaining who I am, in terms of identity, as a foreigner and a writer, I have been looking for names for myself – and of recent, ‘migrant writer’ has felt for me to be the best description. ‘Foreigner’ had been, and is always true too, but I like emphasizing the ‘writing’ side of myself too. And ‘foreign writer’ sounds too static somehow.

The thing is that me and my writing reaffirm each other, by both coming from over the edge: I am from it, and I write about it, so everything is ‘edgeland’! – and edgeland writing.

This is not because I write ‘about abroad’, but because my writing, even if dealing with ‘here’ (as it usually does!) has another edge to it: the surprise that ‘here’ is my topic, my reader’s confusion: ‘but isn’t she a foreigner?!’  So, when I write about ‘here’, i.e. this country, there’s always more involved on the side of me (more or less, sometimes), and my ‘readers’ (almost always). For me it would be the insertion of an extra-dimension, more space, if I do so, for my readers it’s the confusion (how can she talk about here if she’s not from here…). So all these texts collapse into each other, not disappearing but becoming a conundrum. The conundrum: my drum-call.

And in this, whilst ‘foreigner’ and ‘migrant writer’ are labels I agree with, and make use of, too, I came up with the term ‘offshore-writer’: a writer from beyond the shore, who had drifted in, via inshore waters, and who is interested in unravelling the complexities in, around and behind the shore/the edge.

Bringing in/bringing out, othering

It’s a relief to be able to talk about my otherness! There is usually no concept for this, in academia, but I find that there is so much to explore there, so much to say, and to inscribe into theory too! I had so far articulated this within the postcolonial, and spent many years upon arriving in this country, dialoguing with, feeling safe in, and performing in and among multicultural and black audiences. Here was this, to most people unknown, synergy based on our (me and the multicultural) common otherness/outsiderness, which made being with each other more meaningful than entering the mainstream world. Most of us had to mix with the mainstream world too, of course, but it was often limited to work-settings. And for those of us working within the performing arts, mixing with the mainstream world was more optional. We, as multicultural (performing) artists developed a kind of resistance-philosophy, or resistance-existentialism, building on the civil rights movement and black liberation movement that had already taken place, and of which we were a part.

As the years went by, however, our ‘common otherness’ was increasingly questioned, and increasingly my deep belonging to the group of ‘the othered’ I ended up not being understood! In a weird way: rather than acknowledging my outsiderness as a foreigner – which the mainstream society certainly always curiously notice –what became more of an issue was my white looks, in terms of skin-colour. And with that the assumption that whiteness runs contrary to Otherness. In reality, it does and it doesn’t: it’s a really interesting field to explore, analyse and theorize, but the space for that was not there because blackness creates more pressing issues too:  police intervention, undue school underachievement despite high knowledge, hard injustices endured. All this didn’t apply to me but it didn’t make me English either. The questioning carried on regardless as where I am from and when I am going back, is my family back home, whether I go to visit my family a lot, whether I like England etc. Unendingly, unnervingly, the mainstream! Questions received as a result of not being identified as belonging.

There was an anticipation of the lack of knowledge on both sides. On the ‘other’ side: would i and could I possibly know, and feel, the significance of Africa as the – if displaced – centre of civilisation. Yes! But would you, could you, possibly imagine! The sensitivity gained on this is largely due to my exposure to knowing about the extreme difficulty of dialogue, the hurdles of understanding. As I am routinely exposed to this, on a conscious level, in an interracial context too, I have extensive knowledge of it.

This knowledge is the conceptual centre piece of my position in a gap between blackness and whiteness, a blind spot position which yearns for analysis in order to make its spot less blind. To withhold this knowledge, and thereby come closer to conceptual whiteness, would mean being a traitor to myself.

A little mystery is here that other foreigners have often chosen not to remain conscious – and consciously – inside this gap, but rather assimilate into Englishness (at least in terms of accent, so that foreign origins /outer spaces are hidden) in order to match whiteness in this locality. I cannot bring myself to perform this exit from the gap, because a) I want to be myself and not pretend to give a false picture of myself, and b) doing this would mean to withhold the knowledge that my gap-position yields for me, and so, assimilation would mean to pretend not to know what i know.

It’s all so big, the conundrum of issues, it’s like a walk that’s constantly drifting. And here ‘walk’ and ‘drift’ come in. If we connect the dots not simply with straight lines, but with ambling, rambling, perhaps looping, loitering, interrupted lines, we find more terrain, more landscapes – divided or undivided as they may be – to describe, and as a result, more to be written and to be said!

In psychogeography then, I don’t need to pretend, withhold or compartmentalise, I can just drift into the issues via the facilitating forums of space, drift, edge, off/shore, and weave identity politics and postcolonialism into them, so as to contribute to social change, racial equality, understanding, anti-capitalism, inclusivity and communication. Maybe this is unusual too, to bring in oneself in this way, but this is also a feminist practice (the personal is political!), and I just consider this to be truthful and useful methodology – especially if ‘othering comes into play too, and needs to   be explained. There is more to say here, theorists and practitioners to mention, but I’ll elaborate on in another piece. This is just the beginning, just the outline of explaining what psychogeography does for me, and how this excellent Congress in Huddersfield enabled my participation on a more visible level. I’ve not even said much about the Congress itself, which isn’t really fair, but I thought I’ll start by stating where I am coming from, what the Congress has done for me, and how belonging here has opened up possibilities for articulating observations, practices and experiences.

mobilepicsEightyFour ut 092

 

 

 

Universal Greetings!

Universal greetings to you all in multiple forms! This photo I took at the stunning Crawick Multiverse (at a railway station and pretty wee town called Sanquhar, between Dumfries and Glasgow), which is an amazing landscape architecture park, where the universe is represented in the form of stone clusters and so on: a stone cluster for an

astronomical super cluster, another one for Andromeda, and of course our own galaxy! The park is the brain child of Charles Jencks, who has also made the Northumberlandia park and sculpture. Then various phenomena are explained and expressed on earth, such as the Sun Flare / Earth Shield, my favourite, and the one in these first couple of pics, and the third one being its explanation. The park is so fascinating, it’s like a place of

pilgrimage! In the sky itself stars represented here ar e only visible at night, the darker the sky,  the more stars in sight! And I had a look at the stars after my visit here, when I went to the Galloway Astronomy Centre. It’s amazing how kind of neolithic it looks like as well. So, wait for the darkness and you will see! As did the once famous astronomers (and now too often forgotten), the Dogon in Mali, Africa, so do we now! Not only are our continents that are connected – have a look at the pic below, which tells you how heaven and earth, too, are connected. We have to take our unity more serious!

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Updates and Onwards

We live in weird times. In less than 10 days we’ve gone from a revolutionary moment in politics (hung!) to a tragedy fire, we’ve lost a tower! And a tower means a lot, it means people!

In these weird times, also within the last 10 days, I’ve been making inroads about writing out loud! Been shortlisted for the Northumbrian Writers Association Award, and been the runner-up of the Sappho Poetry contest, which came about to celebrate the revolutionary statue of the great Sappho in Letchworth, Britain’s first Garden City. It’s been a socially progressive town ever since its inception, that’s why. And since 1907, a statue of Sappho lives in Letchworth. So she’s seen the Suffragettes and all! So I called my poem Sappho-gette: that’s me then, I am a Sapphogette!

Then the Northumbrian Writers Association Award shortlist! Totally pleased! With my poem ‘Way Up North’, as I got inspired when I was travelling up and around there. I feel connected quickly generally, and Newcastle in particular always reminded me of Bielefeld, near where I grew up. Bielefeld isn’t by the sea, but it’s got that worker’s heritage and the very high buildings, where well above your head bridges would come out of buildings and connect them up. It’s quite thrilling.

So, so far, Newcastle and Letchworth are my most lucky places! Many thanks!

Upcoming slightly biggish performances (that is, apart from the wee ones) are as follows: at the Cricklewood Festival on the 1st July (there’ll be a rally to press for a Grenfell inquest on that day as well, so my suggestion is, start at the rally, then go to Crickfest), and at Leytonstone Arts Trail on the 9th July.

Notting Hill later, etc.

I end with a poem published in May in Fountainhead, the amazing magazine of the Black Berlin Film Festival. More info under black-international-cinema.com

Circular ritual insight

We forgot to hold hands

When we migrated out of Africa

For otherwise we would have remembered

Who we are

Down the line and the lines

Of our different colours

And our far-away places

From the original source of life

 

We forgot to hold hands

When we migrated out of Africa

And out of all the other places

That came after

All the countries

That had been inhabited

Before we got to Europe – well those

Who got there, those who lost much of their

Colours and their memories of Africa

 

If we had only held on to the old pagan ritual

We would have moved and walked in and out

Of circles we make whilst holding hands

We would have danced and walked

But not left

Without remembering who we were

 

If we had held hands

When we migrated out of Africa

We would have remembered

Who we are

Our spiritual link

Wouldn’t have just disappeared

In the way that it so painfully did

And created much havoc and misery

Colonialism instead of compassion

Impoverishment instead of empowerment

Death and destruction instead of life and laughter

 

If we had only held hands

When we migrated out of Africa

We would have remembered

Who we are!                                   © Ursula Troche, 12.15 (published in Fountainhead mag.) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Springster

 Where some people may be hipsters, I am a springster, because i love spring! That’s the

word  that occured to me last night, which we who love spring, might love to use. When I

leave my house, I often can’t walk fast, because I can’t resist taking yet another photo of all that grows by the wayside, the little countryside on the pavements. And moving on from there and into urban oases such as my local Woodberry Wetlands, a top biotope!

Everything grows and the sun shines! It’s like all of us enjoy this, so we are all pagans now! And then there’s Easter, how do we celebrate that? There are the chickens and the church, and then there’s the chicken and the eggs!

I’ve got some Easter Chicks and some Easter eggs and I don’t know which came first! I know they came before the church though! That doesn’t mean the festival has no meaning. The most truthful celebration of Easter I have ever done was in 2009, when I went to Aldermasten, the annual peace march, which the CND and CCND has organised since the 1950s. This used to be a big pilgrimage, but now has become very small. But I think it’s the best way of celebrating Easter, because it’s about showing your commitment to what religion should be: to take action for peace.

I don’ think the peace pilgrimage to Aldermasten is still being organised though, but it’s a good to spread the word about what is possible if we were serious about peace.  So let those budding flowers which we all admire, and the sunshine that we all enjoy, inspire us to come out for peace, so that we may all live happily ever after one day. I think this could be a good definition of being a springster – to admire spring for a good reason and a good cause, to spread blossoming and growth, to do like the flowers do!

 

Opposing Dangerous Divisions

Brexit, Blackness, Whiteness, Duality, Identity, Hybridity, History… 

The 25th March 2017 was an interesting day of confluence and coincidence. It was the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, out of which developed the European Union. And as Britain’s membership of this is currently under attack, it has coincided with our anti-brexit marches in London and Edinburgh. The marches were quite massive, as we were both celebrating with the rest of Europe, and protesting the breakaway from Europe. We are hanging on for dear life here, to be able to remain in the club.

I’ve been worried about division before, I’ve known the feeling before of how a dialogue does not arise because divisions are too hard, borders and boundaries too entrenched, as well as taken for granted, and therefore division is seen as ‘normal’: those ones in the mind, inside, and those ones further afield too. I’ve been concerned about this all along but now it’s all getting more and more dangerous in some way.

Since the referendum and the American elections our divisions have taken on a new dimension. The result of the referendum in itself was testimony to the desire for division. Of course it was, on that particular day, only a slight majority of those who did vote, desired division, but now this is haunting us. And now there’s a double issue, a double division looming: that from the EU and that in the UK.

Yet more and deeper divisions: ‘race’

And there’s more: interestingly, this very day, the 25th March, also is the UN Day to Remember the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade! This has traditionally been an issue of understanding race relations and Black History, issues that often slip from the minds of the inhabitants of countries that were once engaged in colonialism. There is a hidden Holocaust here, also called Maafa, of millions who died. The slave trade did not only kill people, but it also gave rise to structural racism and the horrendous split between black and white people, a split enduring until the present day, and from which a dangerous dualism has settled at the heart of our societies and our world.

There is a split, in everyday life as well as ontologically, between “blackness” and “whiteness”, the coloniser and the colonised. Though colonisation as well as some aspects of the slave trade also happened beyond blackness and whiteness, the split has always been at its most pronounced, far-reaching and painful between black and white. It’s an economic thing, but also a life-world thing, due to the spatial distribution of the duality, which has pushed blackness into the margin and whiteness at the centre – which, in turn, had the knock-on effect of generating consciousness of this at the margin and ignorance of the same at the centre. This is how the structures have evolved, but within those structures have always been overlaps, due to our multiple heritages. If awareness of this survives, then blackness can survive even in ‘whitened bodies’, but access to this is often a spiritual question as well, because it calls on the intergenerational transmission of feelings related to suffering and survival, memory and experience of this particularly insidious system of injustice called colonialism and slave trade.

Convergence of issues

Now these two issues of the transatlantic slave trade and that of Europe coincide on one day! Historically, it’s a weird thing, and it has even confused some in the debate on brexit, but this is where we are: at a time of confluence and coincidence!

Brexit will not reverse Britain’s colonial legacy, it will increase it, as it fuels division and racism! And so we have to pull together now, be a part of Europe and at the same time acknowledge Blackness as a major source of knowledge and learning – and find it, perhaps and more or less, within ourselves too! It is a time of acknowledging our shared history. Even if some of us were on opposite sides in history, there must now be a peace process. It’s ironic, perhaps, but it’s the only way because we depend on it, otherwise those of us at caught off-centre will always suffer and injustice will be perpetuated!

There are, in fact, two margins at least. One margin is the one that has been created by the black-white duality in itself, and another margin is one of people caught between blackness and whiteness. We who are caught between margin and centre, even if more privileged, we are hidden too!

So, for the sake of ourselves, we must unify. But the point is that this is only possible with awareness and respect. It’s also a matter of developing a ‘double consciousness’, as W.E.B Du Bois suggested. Maybe some won’t see the need for this because on the face of it, it doesn’t seem necessary for white everyday-life, but if you look deeper under the surface, it is important to every one of us to develop a double consciousness!

Courage to talk about experience

To some readers, this might be difficult to get your head round, to others – literally to ‘Others!’ this might be a description of everyday-life. It just goes to show how different our experiences and our life-worlds are. Writing this can be dangerous because it might come across as heavy or a bit of an accusation, but does that mean that those of us who do experience this reality, can’t mention it? (I cannot imagine a future in hiding of my experience).

It might come as a surprise too, that the experience I describe is so structural and so much based on ‘race’ – which is especially surprising for me, as I don’t look physically black, so I don’t experience the margin and the marginal in this visual way. Yet I do experience it otherwise, ontologically, which is much safer because it’s like as if I have my cake and eat it. But it’s my personhood, my selfhood, my self, who encounters the social duality-game, the dots that are not being connected, the ‘impossibility of whiteness’ due to my experience, insight and interpretation of events, which mark me Other and remind me of Other heritage within me. I cannot give up myself or fool myself that whiteness corresponds to the interpretation of my world, even in the face of all-too often-ignored visual signs of otherness on my skin. My inner life is in a different world, and notices the black-white division constantly, gets stung by these structures constantly, feels surprise and anger at the not-noticing of these structures frequently, and hence wants to talk about ‘race’.

It puts me in a difficult position in so far as I am not physically divorced from whiteness. So I have no visible constituency of my own, which is also challenging, even if under a sign of privilege. It thus generates constant unsettlement and self-questioning: “why am I different?” And indeed, this is a pattern I grew up with, my class mates had asked me the same question. We agree, therefore, on this question. So this pattern (of being able to see/be otherness) is part of my self. It’s the most overt manifestation of ‘race’ outside whiteness within me, and moves on from there (there is the traceable ‘race’ of otherness within me as well, the Sephardic line, but I haven’t reached the end of that line yet! – or the beginning, rather, the prehistory of that line or the line before that line).

It would be great if we could just flow like rivers and grow like forests and experience liquid instead of lines, but there’s an earthquake to address, the tremors of which still occur to us – with the latest tremor being brexit.

Divisions: Silence, Opinion-Making, Class, Era

And here are some other issues that contributed to the brexit-vote (and languages of activism – or call them discourses if you like): the issue of silence, the issue of opinion-making, the issues of class and era.

For some (such as the house I grew up in) there’s a problem with opinion-making and with opinion-having: and some of it has to do with calling silence a virtue (a somewhat dangerous tradition), and some of it has to do with class, and some of it has to do with both.

So I noticed some of these issues whilst growing up. The house I grew up in was quite opposite to the school I went to: school was a good thing – home wasn’t really. This was because, unlike at home, at school we were encouraged to form an opinion and to discuss, critical thinking was valued. School was doing its best to go against the tragic tradition of silence and not having an opinion, which homes like mine were partly encouraging.

Then there’s the era-thing: in the hey-day of second-wave feminism, the civil rights, the anti-apartheid and the peace movement, it was encouraged to have an opinion. Society was flourishing with activism. Community was valued, and collective action. Again this was a good thing, and conducive to civic values.

In this era, however, we more often withdraw, individualism has encouraged division, social networks broken down and replaced by social networking. And at the same time this picture is too bleak, there’s a massive irony here too: the younger generation has been more positive about the EU.

So it’s not a generation thing, it’s more of an era-thing. It’s strange to understand how some of the erstwhile hippie generation would now be in favour of brexit. It goes to show that, firstly, not everyone was ever caught by the hippie-spirit of peace and love, and, secondly, that some have changed their mind, and yet again some didn’t notice the contradiction between being a hippie/being left-wing and voting brexit. So there are various reasons: though in the end an overall trend against collectiveness and towards division is manifest. And this is what’s so dangerous!

Still oppose division

There are, thankfully, many of us who oppose the trend of division, which has been seen by the massive protest against brexit, so this is a very good thing. And on top of this there are yet more divisions amongst ourselves to address – such as how the issue of ‘race’, and its colour line, its duality with its spatial suffocation. Unlike brexit, this has been a very old and long-standing issue, but we have to address this too, for our liberation, understanding and togetherness.

So these are some of the issues brought up by the 25th March. Let’s see what happens by the 29th… (the expected begin of official brexit division).

 

The Omen with a W.

 

The omen with a W, that’s us, women!  We aren’t just wo-men, we are w-omen as well! So there’s a lot in us, and our wor(l)d!

Are we then, also a phenomenon which can foretell the future, with a view towards change? We are, already, “phenomenal women”, to quote Maya Angelou.

There is a branch of social science and philosophy called “phenomenology”, could we claim this? Probably very much so, as it’s the study of consciousness and experience, and this has always been central in the women’s movement! Feminist phenomenology!

Then the foretelling: we – or some of us – can perhaps foretell the future, many healers and shamans in history have been women, so much so that they called us “witch” in the Middle Ages and burnt many of us – written about famously by Angela Dworkin and others.

On the other hand, though, the ‘omen’ is also between us and the men, literally. It is inside our two words, as follows: w-o-men: we are in front of it, the men behind it, we could say. Is the ‘O’ that’s between us, our exchange space, the circle that brings us together? Or is it a trans-space?

In an ideal world, the former may be so. But as long as there is patriarchy, connections between  us are disturbed and overlooked.  Group analyst W.G. Bion uses “the simple and single ‘O’ as a concept and a theory of infinity and transcendence but he never detected gender there. There is, then, the typical omission and disturbance. Buddhism, of course, has the ‘om’: the juncture between ‘women’ and ‘men’ – but this is a word from another language of course… this is, perhaps, the true transcendence, which may have inspired Bion with his ‘O’.

Mmh. Om…

And right now…

This year, there’s a curious oddity on International Women’s Day: the Governments Budget will be announced on International Women’s Day. A strange choice! If it was good news for women’s progress, then it would make sense, but otherwise the budget is at risk of overshadowing the aims of the day it has chosen for itself.

Secondly, Radio 4, which I otherwise love (it’s by far my favourite station), has declared this week to be ‘Mars week’: so it’s about planetary exploration! This too is odd, considering that Mars is supposed to be ‘male planet’, whereas Venus is traditionally woman’s planet. Again there is a chance here, which is to challenge gender stereotypes in the stars, but if it’s not doing this, then, like the Budget, it is at risk of overshadowing the aims of International Women’s Week – and it risks to take no notice of International Women’s Day!

Women’s Organization

Our Women’s Organization faces new challenges. In a time of extreme upheaval, organizing a Women’s March, just because it’s Women’s Day, and we are traditionally supposed to have a march then, can fade into a routine and thereby insignificance.

It’s easier, too, to have a women’s march, then, say, a march against Brexit. Clearly, a march against Brexit is more controversial than women. Brexit, unlike women, is not a topic that has been around for a long time, but it’s now acute, so organising against it has to take place now.

Of course not all women voted against Brexit, neither does it affect only women: so it’s a different type of topic.

So, given that not all women against Brexit, would a march against Brexit be divisive? My argument is that if it is, then it should not deter us from organising against it. After all, what would be the use of accommodating all opinions if we are demanding things, such as our rights? To be revolutionary is an act of courage as well, but then this is precisely the point of standing up for our rights! I think this is why Second Wave feminism was more successful than our movement at the moment. Back then, they were prepared to demand specific things, whereas nowadays we are so involved with inclusivity when it comes to opinions, that it threatens to weaken our impact. There has to be some tolerance of variety in opinions, otherwise this would not be democratic, but if there are too many different opinions under one banner, our overall message becomes too broad, diluted and too general to have much impact. We need more courage nowadays!

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