For days I am slipping in the mud, literally at first as the ground is saturated, and the rain, the melted snow are falling rather relentlessly and I am walking the drains cutting briars for the goats : the soft mud, my wellies get stuck in, and it is difficult to climb out.
Slipping in the mud all day, not falling, nothing dramatic that may get tears of despair, or anger, something tangible to bounce back from, no, just a lack of grip on anything, lacking the ability to see anything to grip. Some days planning while wearing my farming clothes that when I would go into the house I would have one of my short naps on the sofa under the heavy blue Chinese coat. Truth be told I rarely allow myself the lie down, perhaps in the fear that the fragile lust for life allocated for the day that’s in it may not awaken after 13 minutes of sleep. I did try to convince myself that there was something to be said for that squishy state, that if I went with the wobbling for a while I could allow my body to stand up in a newfound position when the ground would decide to feel firmer.
When the light decide to break out and greet me on Wednesday I am grateful to say the least. It is February, still hedgehog-under-moss time of the year, hugging oneself tight in order to be strong in the long run.
In response to the call to host a reading in support of Poet Ashraf Fayadh, from my remote rural location I read three poems that you may wish to read or listen to in order to stand up for freedom, life, poetry.
Ashraf Fayadh, from Instructions Within: ‘A Melancholy Made of Dough,’ translated by Tariq Alhaydar, and then “A Space in the Void,” translated by Jonathan Wright. Also, Youssef Rakha, “Listen Ashraf“, translated by Robin Moger.
update 3 February, a move in the right direction yesterday : Ashraf Fayadh’s Death Sentence Repealed; New Ruling Sentences Poet to 8 Years, 800 Lashes
Dating back from 1979 (thanks to Kitchen Counter Culture) this poster from Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Still on the programme—after the rather long and unpleasant interval—as far as I am concerned.
On the way back from my pottery class, in the car, I am unexpectedly handed back a chunk of my life I had put away perhaps, almost forgotten. Two men are discussing Echo and the Bunnymen and they play a chunk of All my colours. It is late when I get back but it is eerily easy to find the 1981 song online without having to dig up the vinyl or plug the record player that lives under the sofa. In a breath the person that I was then is sellotaped back to my present being : it is easy now to look up words that I had not then managed to make out—I was pretty French then—but I do not really need to know.
Beyond words this speaks to the depth of me as it did back then. This was a time when I was much closer to the edge of my sanity. I had not yet known the feeling of home or of safe. I may have seemed arrogant and proud but I was hiding. At times—with loud music or in books—I would have felt nonetheless on top of the world living with an intensity that could threaten all understanding, I did not need drugs to flirt with that kind of dangerous dimension, and I instinctively knew that I needed to hang on to myself as no one would pull me back if I stepped out too far.
I was a teenager then and I am getting close to being 50 now. I am potentially even more of a rebel now. Even more alive I’d say. I have managed to get to know myself pretty well in the meanwhile and I am quite happy to be me which is—considering where I come from—a fucking miracle.
Here is to you too enjoying all your own colours now or whenever you are ready.
From Sebastian Budgen, senior editor at Verso books : “This is perhaps the moment to take a step back to review the brilliance of West’s counterrorist strategy, which we can then admire in all its strategic and tactical coherence:
1) Combat the bombing and random murder of civilians with the bombing and random murder of civilians;
2) Combat the attacks on civil liberties and freedoms with attacks on civil liberties and freedoms;
3) Combat the jihadists’ attempts to promote the perception of two irreconcilable and antagonistic camps – Islam and the West – with the promotion of the perception that there are two irreconcilable and antagonistic camps – namely Islam and the West;
4) Combat the jihadists’ propaganda regarding the rampant Islamophobia in the West by promoting rampant Islamophobia in the West;
5) Combat the propagation of a reactionary form of political Islam by doing business deals and constructing political alliances with those states most implicated in the propagation of the most reactionary forms of political Islam.
6) Combat the perception that Western powers act like neocolonial and self-interested powers by supporting the most authoritarian, corrupt and venal states in a neocolonial and self-interested manner;
7) Combat Daesh’s projection of itself as a legitimate state that is at war with the western powers by declaring that the western powers are at war with a state known as ISIS;
8) Combat Daesh’s propaganda that the West is a decadent, soulless and projectless zone characterised only by its attachment to sybaritic and hedonist activities by putting forward the defence of sybaritic and hedonist activities as the characteristic feature that distinguishes the West from Daesh.
9) Combat the jihadists’ claim that reformist Islamist currents are naive if they believe they can come to power through elections, by supporting a coup against a reformist Islamist president who came to power through elections;
10) Combat the radical Islamists’ fake anti-Zionism which draws its strength from the argument that the West maintains a double standard on Israel by showering it with money and arms regardless of the treatment of the Palestinians by maintaining a double standard on Israel by showering it with money and arms regardless of the treatment of the Palestinian.
Put like that, what could possibly go wrong?”
To learn one has to admit that one may have been wrong in the past. Wrong to me is for instance war. Using violence to make a point. Wrong is machism. Wrong is capitalism too… To learn demands humility and that’s not something we in the West tend to be very fluent at, certainly not at the level of governments. It demands the ability to take the time to listen to those who may not be the loudest. It also demands to have an open mind and a faith in humanity, that also seems to lack at the level of governments. There is fear, there is greed, nothing worth putting energy into.
Hope is somewhere else.
Not ever in my name : The war, the bombs, the realpolitik, the absence of compassion, the apparent complete lack of humanity of those in power, the putting of money before people, the commodification of what is necessary for life, the contempt for Mother Earth, the exclusion of the more fragile, the fear mongering, the violence as standard media fare, the gnawing at democratic values, the endemic everyday sexism and racism and bullying that we do not seem to be aiming to raise our civilisation (?) above.
I was born in France, I hold a French passport, I live in Europe. I am a feminist, a tractorless farmer, a woman. I do not condone the actions of those I may or may not have voted for. There are a lot of people who I could stand with in the name of common shared values. I have hope.