London. 13th August, 2012

Paint peeling in grey-brown tenements— Satellite  dishes—
No Ball Games— Green prison cages  designed for public
hangings— Students with upward  mobility slum it to tell
friends they’ve seen life from 
the bottom of a shoe—  The
boy downstairs no mother wants their child to hang out with—
Upstairs too— Religious-freakery unpeeled in unwanted
soggy 
pamphlets— Market-stalls sell half-price-knock-
around-in-trainers that get you laughed at in school—
Weeds survive between cracks in paving—

Weed: n.  1. a. A herbaceous plant not valued for use or beauty, growing wild and rank, and regarded as cumbering the ground or hindering the growth of superior vegetation.

Felix Ortiz-Szewiel

 

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99% of the problem

I would like us all to talk through a problem, one that adversely affects most of us, (say 99% of us), however, before we discuss this ‘problem’ let’s all agree that there is one.

For the first time in the history of Capitalism as a socio-political structure, a majority of people now agree that it just isn’t working. Of course, I don’t presume to have a statistical breakdown of all opinion on the matter, but I think it is safe to say most agree there is a crisis. If there is one good thing that came out of the occupy movements that sprung up immediately following the financial meltdown it has to be the dissemination of the term ‘the 1%’, a term that essentially describes a narrowing of competition within global markets that has left control of much of the world’s wealth in the hands of a fortunate few. The rich get rich, whilst the poor get poorer. It’s an age old story. The Victorian Dickens was obsessed with it, even Shakespeare recognised it within his youthful proto-capitalist structure. We are at the apex of the capitalist mountain, and the triumph of the occupy movement has been to impress upon as many people as possible that capitalism no longer works for the 99% of us that can’t fit on the summit. Unfortunately, the initial spark of adversarial idealism was unable to ignite the touch-paper of revolution for one simple reason: it could offer no viable alternative, and therein lies the crux of the matter.

I was an ardent advocate for the movement during the occupation of St.Paul’s. I lived and worked not far away from the cathedral and often passed the encampment. It was an infectious outbreak that seemed to spread like wildfire, but like most wildfires the weather changed and it eventually fizzled out. Through social media I have since followed the progress of a variety of these movements, from the U.K to Germany, to New York, to Boston, etc, etc, and although I still agree with the broad view I find myself at odds with vast swathes of the message. It seems in order to oppose the current Capitalist system, you must by default be a confirmed and unwavering Socialist. It seems like the cure for massive internal bleeding is a round of leeching.

I opened this post by suggesting we should all talk about a problem, one that adversely affects most of us today. Unfortunately, the problem is not a simple case of the shining light of Socialism vs the all encompassing evils of Capitalism. In fact, the real problem is that we are still all desperate to buy into a false dichotomy that serves only to imprison us within four walls of our own making. This is the ‘problem’ we all need to talk about, and until we do so; thereby shedding some of our ideological baggage (myself included, don’t think I’m not aware of that); we will simply keep circling that drain.