Big up the riots

I think already I’ve become more self-conscious than I’m comfortable with about this blog. I’m not totally self-conscious, only a bit. And it’s not that I lack confidence in writing or committing my inner world to paper or anything like that; it’s more that I’ve become aware that if I post this to Facebook people will read it, and because my Facebook for the most part comprises people I care about, I find myself caring what they think when they interact with it. Obviously it’s nice when people say nice things and I’m not being negi about that (though my first thought when posting the first of this series a couple of weeks ago was “If I’d known people would read it I would have made more of an effort”), it’s that already I find myself chasing the dopamine hits of validation post-publication when the whole point is meant to be that the thrill is in writing something for myself and no one else.

I guess the right thing to do is simply to see the blog as an experiment. An attempt at authentic writing or even just personal reflection in a public space. It’s hard when after almost two decades online it often feels impossible to read anything online as anything other than posturing, especially when written by politicos. That’s not strictly true, of course. I know that really. But social media has felt like a strange place lately. There’s such grief and emotion everywhere you look – unbridled authentic consciousness raising. It is incredibly moving. Yet reliably even that collective expression is shot through with competitive hot takes and, this week in particular, white people trying to out-ally each other for the benefit of other white people (“post a black square – post a black square AND educate yourself – please don’t use that hashtag – actually take the black square down” all within a day, what a trip). I don’t particularly have a view on any of these actions, much less any grand wisdom. It’s the continual desire to be performing better than other white people I don’t understand. It manages to be both earnest and disingenuous at once. Maybe I’ll regret saying it sometime, but it’s hard to feel like it isn’t just another form of white saviour complex.

I’ll readily admit that the week’s juxtaposition of massive transatlantic expressions of Black power and solidarity with outpourings of both solidarity and guilt from white people have made me think about my own take on current events. It basically boils down to this:

Big up the riots.

That’s it really. I don’t have answers for everything, but I’m happy to let everything flow from that principle. You shouldn’t have to be an expert in African American history to know that you can’t even talk about it without talking about an unbroken history of racist violence. If white violence was thought of as war, as well it might be, the USA would literally never have experienced peacetime. It’s fucking Sparta. So I figure the least any would-be “ally” can do is have a bit of fucking respect for a history we’re still living through and not make their solidarity conditional.

I’m sure it’s crass but I feel like people’s views on property damage in political struggle are essentially questions of taste. I’m just not going to make my solidarity conditional on taste. I think about how it must feel to take part in a riot, to make those first steps towards a building, to look at the first stone in your hand, to face rubber bullets and police fireworks. How angry and upset and consumed you would have to feel. I sit with those thoughts, and I imagine how I might feel. Afraid, uncertain, maybe even powerful, at least after the first strikes on a reinforced window. The knowledge that you’re committing a crime in public in full view of the police. Not like the other crimes everyone does all the time that people like to pretend are less harmful than breaking windows (or graffitiing cop cars or stealing TVs) – speeding, driving on two pints, recreational drugs. A public declaration of your refusal to take it anymore. I respect that.

Fuck statues, too. Naturally, British onlookers like to imagine they’re superior to America in every way. It’s not that white people in the UK actually think racism doesn’t exist here. White British people know Britain occupied foreign lands and bent them to our will. They know racial profiling and stop and search are used to keep Black people “in their place”. Moreover, they have all felt their own racism pang in their heart at some point in their life. I will never believe the person who insists they “don’t think about race” hasn’t ever gripped their phone a little tighter when passing a young Black man in the street. It’s that we’re supposed to collude in the fantasy that because we invented capitalism and Mo Farah won four gold medals at the Olympics we’ve got the most advanced fucking “tolerant” society going. If that was even remotely true the least we ought to be doing is pulling down monuments to racists and throwing them in the sea. I suggest the Thames would be a good fit for Churchill: it’s closer and contains more shit.

What I’ve been watching

Highlights this week have been 13th, Ava DuVernay’s formidable documentary essay about racism and crime in America, and Let the Sunshine In, a beguiling take on a rom-com by Claire Denis starring Juliette Binoche, who I think I love.

Prompted by Tom Watson’s dig at Novara on some irrelevant old fart podcast, I went back and reacquainted myself with the infamous video of that podcast’s host, John Sweeney, formerly of the BBC, disgracing himself while pissed up (always good to be familiar with your betters, eh). I’ve become kind of fascinated by this little man with a bit of a Napoleon complex (his channel is called “hard2hurt” lol); he posts a lot of videos about street fighting, but in this one he makes a homemade double-end bag which I was quite impressed with. A much better channel I’ve also subscribed to is Paige Mariah, a young African American woman living in London who presents really well and posts a really good range of videos. I’ve also been watching loads of videos on scientology and comparing some great video essays on my favourite film, LA Confidential. I think this was the best one but an honorable mention goes to the one that mapped core sociological ontologies onto the central characters. It’s funny that it always gets remembered for the Ed Exley/Bud White pairing, but increasingly I think Jack Vincennes is perhaps the most interesting character. Ah, who am I kidding? I can’t choose.

I hate reading

Sad by Design has sat dutifully in my bag all week, but I did dig out Capitalist Realism the other day because my sister is reading it and we’re going to start a bit of a reading club together, which I’m looking forward to.

I’m beginning to think that whereas most readers post “what I’m reading” to impress people, my spin is to constantly update “what I’m reading next” rather than ever finishing anything.

Keeping me company

It’s been an unsatisfactory week for podcasts. Judith Bowman was on Wittertainment again; I hate to say it (especially about a woman working in public) but I really do just think she’s quite dim and exhausting.

Craig Charles is starting to annoy me too – for the last few weeks talcum time hasn’t even had anything that passes for northern soul, and while I’m partial to some of the tracks he has on rapid rotation if I have to hear one more damned remix of Superstition I think I’ll burst. LEAVE STEVIE ALONE!

I’ve been dipping into The Daily a bit more than usual for US coverage, and I’ve started listening to Today in Focus every few days – the episode on Anfield and Cheltenham was very moving. But I feel like I’m really missing a good podcast hug and no one is updating their feeds promptly enough, with the exception of the New Statesman, which I always feel a big grubby listening to, like having a tactical wank for no other reason than to get it out of the way. It truly is la petite mort of political podcasts.

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