Autobiographical

Greenpeace, or Red War?

Sitting in a shack in an eco-village in Mexico in early 2010, arguing with a German guy and a girl from California who grew up on a weed farm, I realised something sinister about Hippies. Some of them at least, I wouldn’t want to make outrageous generalisations (as fun as that is) for I myself am something of a Hippy, and always have been. I have long hair, partly with dreadlocks, partly shaved, I have been a life long vegetarian,  I am found of psychedelic drugs, and much of the music of the late sixties/early seventies.

But I am also, crucially, not in favour of the deaths of billions of the poorest people in the world. I just don’t think it would be that… you know, groovy, or whatever. Some of these Hippy types, though, with the long hair, colourful clothes and permanent fake grin on their faces, they actually do long for most of the human population to be wiped out.

That’s what this German guy was saying anyway. I was trying in vain to convince these people of why it was worthwhile and in fact vitally necessary to build a radical mass movement of the global working class to achieve the kinds of revolutionary changes necessary to save humanity from the effects of climate change.

The German guy said that he had already tried that and that it didn’t work. Now he had a smug and patronising expression, as if I were a naive child clinging on to foolish and outdated notions he’d long since given up on.

Some might find it hard to believe that this one man, in his early thirties, could have successfully rallied up a mass movement of 99% of humanity and led them nearly to victory before suffering some terrible defeat, and yet still be so unknown that even I cannot remember his name. But of course, this is not what he meant.

In fact, as he went on to explain, what he meant was that he had once worked for Greenpeace as a street fundraiser, and found that many people had simply walked past him. This he had taken as proof that the ‘masses’ were hopelessly unenlightened, a lost cause, and that true environmentalists’ role should be to retreat to the eco-villages on the fringes of society and simply wait for Gaia, the earth goddess, to do her work of killing off everyone else.

This was supposed to happen on the winter solstice of 2012, but of course it didn’t. I happened to be in the Atlas mountains of Morocco on that date with a bunch of other Hippies who believed in The Prophesy, and didn’t witness any apocalyptic events, just Hippies getting stoned, singing, doing yoga and trying to shag each other.

Fast forward to September 2016 and I am entering the Greenpeace UK headquarters in Islington, London, to begin my training as a Door to Door Fundraiser. Would I suffer the same fate as the German guy and become a cynical, patronising old bastard with no faith in humanity?

For years I had been banging on about the need for us radical activist types to get out of our own little subcultural bubbles and start ‘engaging with the working class’, but I had done very little to actually practice what I preached, being myself a middle-class Hippy, hopelessly removed from the everyday struggles of most working class people.

This was my big chance to finally get some experience under my belt of going outside of my comfort zone, talking to people who read the Daily Mail and other hate-filled rags spewing divisive lies for the benefit of millionaires, and actually try to win them over to progressive politics.

It’s true that I would only be talking about environmental issues, rather than those such as migration, social services and workers’ rights, which would have been much tougher to argue with hardened Tories and UKIPers about, but still, I was looking forward to the challenge.

One of the reasons I had never done much of the type of activism which leads you to knock on random strangers doors and to discuss serious political issues with them, was quite frankly because I was too afraid to. I am now no longer so afraid, which is something at least, and I even felt I had some successes in changing a few people’s minds.

I managed to get about 35 people to join Greenpeace, over the course of about 10 weeks. Keen mathematicians will note that this is an average rate of 3 per week, whereas the target was 6 a week, which is why much of this article is written in the past tense.

Unlike my last job, which I describe in the article ‘Betraying my Principles for Money’  this was not a job in which I felt my ethics were constantly at odds with what I was doing, but instead the ethical dilemmas I faced were far more complex. There was one the one hand a tension between being a good environmental activist and being a good Greenpeace employee, on the other a tension between being a good Greenpeace employee and a good class warrior, and on a freakish ‘third hand’ a tension between being a good Greenpeace employee and being an honest, compassionate person.

Charity fundraising is a highly precarious form of work, in which workers are often treated like complete shit. You can usually be fired without any notice (which is in fact what happened to me), and are often expected to work far more hours than you actually get paid for. As a socialist, of the anarchist tendency no less, and a member of the Industrial Workers of the World, I felt duty bound to do what I could to fight against these injustices from within.

To this end, I tried to get to know my fellow workers as best as I could, to develop as friendly relations as possible with them, ask what they thought about these types of problems, and encourage them to join the IWW with me. I thought perhaps the union might give us advice on how to start some kind of campaign for changes from below, and I would have kept on working on this if I’d ended up lasting longer.

Normally when I am working a job in which I feel the bosses are exploiting me and denying me my legal rights I react by working as slowly as I can get away with. On a charity fundraising job though, you have to meet targets, which you will not do without actually trying.

As someone who is genuinely concerned with the issues, I liked the fact that my job involved talking to people about them, and I had some really fascinating interactions with people. Some were people who didn’t know much at all, which meant I had to explain various things as simply as possible, which I feel I am fairly good at so long as people are in the mood to actually learn something.

Others were people who thought they knew a lot but had actually had their heads filled with nonsense by newspapers owned by shareholders in the very corporations responsible for destroying the environment. These were harder to talk to, as they often were quite hostile, having been misled into thinking that Greenpeace activists were all idiots hell-bent on destroying their way of life for no good reason.

A really surprising amount of people seemed to have confused Greenpeace for some sort of Terrorist group, thinking that Greenpeace had sunk ships, whereas in fact it had been one of Greenpeace’s own ships, the Rainbow Worrier, which had been sunk by the French secret service in 1985 in Auckland, causing the death of a Portuguese activist. Many others had simply mistaken Greenpeace for other groups such as Earth First! and the Earth/Animal Liberation Front.

It felt like I was betraying my comrades in these organisations to play along with the ‘Good protester/Bad protester’ divide and smugly reassure these people that Greenpeace was 100% committed to non-violence, when in fact I have often actively advocated insurrectionist tactics, but that’s what I did.

The third category of people I met were those who already knew about the issues and agreed with the aims of radical environmentalists, but who had simply lost faith in the idea doing anything about it. These were the people I wanted to speak to the most, because it meant speaking about the psychological barriers stopping them from taking action, which is now my favourite topic.

Why do so many people who already have left-wing and environmental views fail to go out and argue against the lies of the corporate media? There are millions of progressive people in the UK alone, but they are not organised into a movement that is capable of going out and convincing the rest of the population, despite the fact they have all the arguments and evidence on their side. This is a topic I have already written about and will probably continue to write about forever.

But the point is, I wasn’t able to carry on these conversations as long as I would like to. At the risk of sounding overconfident, I feel I could have convinced a lot of people to become more engaged that they already were, and to have set a lot of people straight on things they had been lied to about. But that wasn’t really what I was being paid to do, just something I wanted to do because of my silly unpopular obsession with the future survival of humanity.

What I was being paid to do was to convince people to join Greenpeace, and to do it then and there, on their doorstep. If people were obviously not going to do that, I was not supposed to waste time talking to them, but instead to move on to try and find others who would. This is the tension between being a good fundraiser and a good environmentalist.

Did I really believe that raising money for Greenpeace was more important than talking to people about the issues directly? No. That would be insane, but it’s what you have to tell yourself if you want to stay sane doing a job like that. You have to convince yourself that actually you were helping protect the environment more by raising money for this particular organisation than by talking to people in your own city, even though you knew how much the organisation wasted money on stupid bullshit.

I don’t want to slag off Greenpeace too much here, because they have achieved a lot, and are still actively campaigning on many issues which I really hope they are successful with. But the fact is that someone paying the standard amount of ten pounds per month would have to be signed up for a year just to cover the administration costs of signing them up.

On top of that Greenpeace pays it’s higher level staff far above the living wage, which to me is simply unacceptable for any organisation that claims to be progressive and to care about social justice. So many people are out their risking arrest and even death in order to protect the environment without getting paid for it at all, so the head of Greenpeace UK really doesn’t need to be earning 76 grand a year.

Frankly, I don’t believe in hierarchical society or class division at all, and think everyone should get paid the same, or better yet, just receive the basic necessities of life for free, and if we want to achieve that we need to live according to those principles right now, not reproduce hierarchical class relations in our own organisations.

Then there are all the tasty vegan treats, unnecessary travel expenses and shiny gadgets which the Greenpeace organisation spends money on. For me as someone used to the world of protest camps and squats full of broke unpaid activists eating food from bins, it was a joke.

This is related to the tension between being a good fundraiser and being an honest, compassionate person. I think that people who are successful at being fundraisers are doing something objectively quite good and morally correct in the sense that they are indirectly helping various organisations do good work (minus all the administration fees and stupid salaries of executives). However they are also clearly good at manipulating people into doing things they wouldn’t otherwise do.

You don’t convince someone with logic, that’s what I was doing wrong. You don’t try to actually get them to see the world in a different way, even if the way they see the world right now is terrible and likely to cause them and others suffering. Good fundraisers just somehow make people feel happy, and lure them into doing something using their natural charisma. If you are an attractive young woman, you can flirt your way to success. If you are an authoritative older man, you can tap into people’s unconscious fear of authority. You can do all kinds of shit. But I can’t.

Maybe some younger girls did sign up because they thought I was hot, and maybe some younger guys did too. Maybe some older women thought I was a loveable young scamp and some older men thought I reminded them of themselves. Who the fuck knows. They might have actually listened to what I was saying and thought it made sense. But whatever it was, I wasn’t good at bringing it out.

If people don’t want to sign up, but you feel like they are teetering on the edge, you are supposed to keep on trying different tactics until you get them to do it. Even if they don’t want to talk to you at all at the beginning, you have to somehow just ignore them and keep on talking till you win them over. This requires a lot of mentally blocking out whatever they are saying to you, and basically, not sympathising with their situation, just pretending to for the purposes of manipulating them into something they don’t want to do.

I am not trying to say that I was bad at my job because I am too nice, because a lot of the time I actually probably wasn’t nice enough. I tend to get annoyed at people for being stupid, apathetic and arrogant, which rules out most of the people you are likely to meet, and I am not very good at disguising my annoyance. But the thing is, I don’t really like to bother people too much, because I myself don’t like to be bothered.

When I heard people say they didn’t want to sign up right then and there but might do it another time, or that they didn’t feel they could afford it, a voice in my head said ‘fair enough’. This is not how you are going to win this game. You have to really believe that people all should sign up and that they are just giving you silly excuses which you will eventually be able to break down.

Basically, it means having a very poor view of humanity and a very arrogant attitude regarding your own organisation and abilities. When I heard other fundraisers talking like that, it always made me slightly disgusted, which brings me to the third tension: between being a good Greenpeace employee and a good class warrior.

It’s pretty hard to unite with your fellow workers in struggle against the bosses if they seem to either actively hate you or not consider you worthy of even a feigned interest. I am not talking here of the majority of my fellow workers, just the two who were ‘team leaders’ I had to work with.

To me the invention of the category of ‘team leader’ is such an obvious attempt to divide the workers by appealing to crass egotism on their part that I am shocked anyone would fall for it. But then again, I’m pretty shocked by most things. I have a type of brain which constantly attempts to order the universe I observe into rational patterns which the Universe seams to delight in proving false, which is both a blessing and a curse.

I had worked with team leaders in the past who seemed to get that their job was mainly just to keep their workers happy. When you deal with angry members of the public all the time and constantly feel emotionally drained as a result, you are much less likely to simply give up in despair if you have colleagues around you who you feel care about you and actively try to keep your spirits up.

Everyone I met in the interview and training was so bubbly, caring and positive, in true annoying hippy fashion, that I had assumed that this aspect of the job was something I could take for granted. The very first time I spoke to my team leader, however, this illusion was shattered.

Now, I am not going to launch into a big rant about this person, because I don’t have any reason to. I am a pretty anti-social person myself, and sometimes I am too caught up in my own head to pay proper attention to the feelings of those around me. I certainly can empathise with someone else being shit at social skills. It’s just that if that person’s job is to be good at keeping me motivated, I probably wont be very motivated.

Very often I would find myself spending most of the day trudging around streets completely by myself, gradually losing the will to live, and then when it would come time for a break or to meet at the end of the day to go home, would not be cheered up at all to find my team leader invariably in a foul mood and not seeming to be interested in how I was feeling, or indeed, anything about me other than how many people I’d signed up.

When I was struggling, it didn’t seem that my team leader felt it was their responsibility to help me, other than to the extent they’d been ordered to by the higher-ups. Rather, I seemed to be an object of contempt for not being as good at my job as they were, though they never said this out loud. It was all in the eyes.

Nonetheless I ploughed on with my attempts to build some kind of relationship of solidarity with them, listening to their various grievances against the management and patiently suggesting ways we could resolve them. Eventually they even joined the IWW and I set up a meeting with a trained representative from our branch to explore what our options might be.

On that same week, however, for three days in a row my team leader fell sick and without notice just left me and the other two employees, both of whom had only just started, to work completely on our own, and as the most senior person there, despite only having worked less than three months, I tried my best to encourage them and explain what they should do that day.

Then when the team leader came back, the first thing they did was berate me down the phone for not following their instructions to the very finest detail, which was the last straw to me, and caused me to do what I had been trying not to: tell the higher-ups the truth.

This is the tension between being loyal to your fellow workers vs being a good employee. I was fired the next working day, supposedly for my low scores. The team leader sent me a sarcastic text the next day accusing me of having lost them their job as well, which of course made me feel guilty but I later found out wasn’t exactly true: the managers had tried to find a solution but the team leader had just stormed out angrily at quit, being apparently unable to take criticism.

This made me not feel guilty any more, as I had not directly gotten them sacked, and had, after all, tried my best to be on their side against the management first of all. But it was not the only way in which working for Greenpeace created a tension for me regarding my views on class struggle.

For one thing, Greenpeace is not an anti-capitalist organisation, but one that works with transnational corporations on a case by case basis to try and convince them to destroy the environment a little bit less each time. This does not make Greenpeace part of the ‘Class Enemy’ in my view, though it might in some people’s eyes. I feel that the small victories that Greenpeace regularly has in influencing the policies of governments and corporations are worthwhile ones, which cause less animals, plants and humans to die than would otherwise. Saving lives is clearly more important than ideological orthodoxy, unless you have no empathy whatsoever and are some kind of Marxist robot.

These campaigns, however, do not on the whole help to empower the global working class in ways consistent with ecological ethics. It is clear that there is an urgent need for decentralisation of agricultural, electrical and industrial production if they are to become both ecologically sustainable and democratically controlled by working class people.

When electricity generators, land, greenhouses, factories and workshops are mainly producing for the needs of the local population, there is not only less need for polluting and destructive forms of transport, but also there is greater potential for the local population to be able to exercise power over them.

A shift to a global economy based on decentralised units producing mainly for local populations and only secondarily for those further afield, and then as locally as possible, is consistent both with Anarchist-Socialist and ecological ethics.

This shift can not happen over night, but requires decades of campaigning at all levels of society, but most importantly among the lowest ranks. Unless the poorest people of the world actively want such a society, to the extent that they will be prepared to protest, take direct action, and potentially risk arrest, violence or death, for decades, such a society will never come about because it simply cannot be imposed from above.

Therefore, it is my opinion that environmentalists must focus on political education and agitation among the global poor, to unite struggles for basic survival with those of ecological sustainability. It is a huge task and one which no-where near enough effort is being made by even the most radical environmentalist organisations, such as Greenpeace, Earth First! and ELF/ALF.

Trades unions, community groups, landless peasants movements, and other organisations of the global working class should be equally committed to this shift towards a decentralised, democratically controlled and ecologically sustainable mode of production. It requires challenging vested interests, including the multinational corporations and banks, but also the land-owning classes throughout the world. It requires class struggle.

Class struggle means saying to the exploiting classes “you don’t have a right to exploit us any more”, and to the land owning classes “this is not your land any more”. Monoculture farming would not be possible without the monopoly of violence by the state. Companies are able to use the land in destructive ways because the State lets them. The State has the power to let them or not because it has the means to inflict violence on anyone who disagrees with it.

When people try to take land away from landowners, they often get shot in the head. Sometimes mass movements are able to use non-violent direct action to achieve things. Non-violent direct action has achieved a lot of progressive change over the years. It has also led to lots of people getting shot in the head.

Sometimes when people take up arms and take the land, to collectivise it and bring it under control of the local people who will then use it in ecologically sustainable ways, it works. The Zapatistas for example, have been going for over 20 years.

Sometimes armed movements get repressed and everyone gets shot it the head. There is no catch-all solution to not getting shot in the head.

I advocate a diversity of tactics; use non-violence when it is likely to work, use violence when it is more likely to. Either way, you risk dying. But you also risk dying if you do nothing at let capitalists destroy the earth and exploit you to death.

The ‘Reds’ and the ‘Greens’ are still not united enough for either to be successful. If I want to help play my own little part in bringing them together, its not going to be as a Greenpeace activist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MDA – a crazy, crazy drug

So, it’s been over a week now and I am still not fully recovered from my injuries of the early hours of the morning of May the 1st. I guess the ancient cultures of the world saw Beltane/Mayday as a mystical time. It certainly feels like it when you’re tripping balls.

It was always gonna be a wild weekend as Kilnaboy were playing two festivals in a row. The first was Landed festival in the middle of Wales somewhere. It was a beautiful site, with lots of nice trippy coloured lights, beautiful views of mountains and lots of lovely people. It was also fucking freezing, as if the winter was making one final stand against the imminent dawn of summer.

Anyway, I managed to get through the set while wearing all the jumpers and coats I had, and then listened to some great goth party bands before going to sleep. One was a band called Monsterometer – well worth checking out, especially if you’re on acid or something. I wasn’t, bnut they were still hilarious and great.

The other was a band I didn’t catch the name of but they were just two people – a guy with a big beard who played awesome lead guitar solos, managed the electronic beats, and sang with crazy distortion over his voice, and a powerful female lead singer who also played bass. Their music was like an industrial metal dance party. My only advice for them is to say the name of the band more clearly, as when you distort the fuck out your voice its really hard to know what you’re saying. ENUNCIATE, DAMN IT. Good lyrics I remember though were : We won’t let our enemies lead us/ We won’t let them think they’ve won/ No privilege for the rich and famous/ Kill em all with a lazer gun’.

The next morning I met a friend I used to live with who was just coming up on MDA, and let me take some for later. I probably should have asked a lot more questions about what it was actually like, rather than just being satisfied with his description of it as ‘like MDMA, but without the other M’. I guess i just thought it would be exactly the same except weaker, like the other M was just something to do with quantity rather than quality.

I played an impromptu set of old Irish rebel songs at an Open Mic stage, and then we had to get in the van and drive to England to get to the next festival. Of course, it took the van about 4 hours to actually leave site, because the suspension air-pressure thing was broken and some old hippy guy (who seemed better qualified than the actual repair man who was sent out) eventually fixed it in exchange for some free CDs and perhaps some drugs. In the meantime I spoke to a women who’d spent a lot of time in Morocco about the migrant solidarity project we have down there, and hopefully did a good deed for the day by linking her into it.

In hindsight the fact it had taken so long to get the van started, and that it was only a two and half hour journey, should have led us all to be determined to make it in one go without any stops, just in case it couldn’t get started again if we stopped. Unfortunately though we passed a chip shop in a village somewhere in Shropshire. If people had told me they were hungry they could have just asked me for some of the bags of food i had with me, including some really nice olives, pesto flavoured hummus and other tasty food i can afford to take to festivals because I don’t spend all my money on booze any more. Just saying.

But chips it was, and with it a SIX HOUR wait on the side of a freezing cold hillside as the van of course failed to start properly yet again. For some reason we didn’t call the repair guy straight away, first of all trying all manner of bizarre solutions. We drove to a nearby petrol station, with the floor of the van scraping against the road, just to find their air pump wasn’t good enough to get the suspension working, so drove back to the hillside. Then of course, we realised that someone had left their hat back at the petrol station so we drove back again.

Back the hillside there were some interesting attempts to lift the van enough for someone to get underneath and look at what was wrong. People ripped of a big plank from a picnic table and balanced it precariously on some rocks to make a ramp for the van to drive up (I’m not making this up) but then no-one wanted to go underneath due to a quite well-founded fear of being crushed to death. A friendly Polish couple who happened to stop on the hillside actually had a proper jack to lift the van up, but it was too small. Finally, after hours of faffing, we called the repair guy, he came, he fixed the thing, and then we were on the road again.

By this point it was almost midnight, and we had been supposed to be on stage by nine. Luckily for us the people running the stage were really cool, and fans of the band, so they said that if we made it my half twelve we could still play for an hour. We had basically managed to get bumped up to the headlining slot! Seems like all the faffing was meant to be after all, though we honestly didn’t do it on purpose, as many later alleged.

Horsedrawn festival is probably the crusty-est festival I have ever seen – pretty much an entire field of vans, trailers and actual horsedrawn wooden caravans with just a few marquees in the middle and very little open ground to sit on. There was a road made of mud that was really just a space between various vehicles that we had to drive through to get to the stage, our hearts racing, thinking that every second counted and that we might still not get to play after all. The van’s wheels inevitably got stuck in the mud, so we had to all get our stuff out the back and run two hundred yards in pitch darkness through the mud to get to the stage, where in fact we spent at least twenty minutes just chilling out and watching the band before us.

It was a great gig, as it was a Saturday night at one in the morning with hundreds of punks and crusty hippies all well and truly riled up, drunk, high and crazy as hell. We could have just played a bunch of shit and they would have probably still loved it, but we actually did all right, I think. Horsedrawn is awesome.

I knew I stood no chance of finding a place to put up my tent in the dark without severely pissing myself off and I had this bomb of MDA burning a hole in my pocket, so I resolved to stay up all night. Luckily a friend who lives in a converted upholstery truck was parked nearby and she let me lock my bass and backpack in the front so I wouldn’t have to find the Kilnaboy van, which I had no chance of finding on my own through all the mud and the eerie fog that had suddenly descended.

There were a few people already partying in the truck when I arrived, and they were pretty damn wasted so I surreptitiously took the bomb of MDA quickly so that I wouldn’t have to listen to their nonsense while sober. I also took out my weed vaporizer and some girl immediately picked it up and threw it across the room. Not because she didn’t like me, you understand, or that she didn’t approve of weed or even know what the thing was that she was chucking across the room. It’s just the kind of thing you have to be prepared for when dealing with punks and alcohol. Luckily it wasn’t broken, so all was good.

Soon the rest of the band arrived and we started having an acoustic jam. Since I have been in the band we haven’t had many opportunities to do this, so I was looking forward to it as a kind of bonding experience, and also because a lot of the slower acoustic songs that they never play at punk gigs are frankly just way better songs which I had really liked on the album but never had the chance to see performed live.

Unfortunately though, this was about when I started TRIPPING BALLS. One minute I was normal, the next i suddenly had to vomit – and my friend whose van it was passed my a bag to throw up in, thinking it was a rubbish bag but which turned out to be full of food (sorry!) – and a minute after that I was full on out there – reading bizarre mystical meanings into everything anyone was doing or saying, visualizing all kinds of trippy shit and generally getting really confused.

It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it, it was amazing in lots of ways, and made all the music sound really fucking awesome, as psychedelics always do. If you are a musician then you also start to feel that the music you are playing yourself is also really good, which is of course not always actually the case. Apparently I played the song “When Doves Cry” about 6 times, though I have no memory of this.

It’s just that if you end up tripping when you aren’t prepared for it, it can make you get kind of paranoid for no reason, especially if you are around people you don’t know that well, especially if they are really drunk and not making much sense or behaving all ‘peace and love’ anyway. You worry if you are doing something wrong by tripping, and keep having to remind yourself that its OK to take drugs and have fun at a music festival, that I wasn’t in some serious meeting or something and bringing the tone down. In some ways I was more sober than a lot of the people there. In others, definitely the opposite.

For example, I seemed to be the only one who had forgotten that fire is hot, and human skin is not heatproof. I do remember someone saying something like ‘Hey Raz, you know that burner is hot right?” and seeing that my hand was right on the metal. But I didn’t feel any pain or notice the massive blister building up on my hand until the next day when I started to sober up.

Similarly, I only noticed around the same time the next morning that my lips were swollen so much that I looked like a racist cartoon caricature. I had chewed my bottom lip and the sides of my tongue all night, with apparently some ferocity, but had no memory of doing so at all and only noticed when someone else pointed it out. Looking in the mirror was a big wake up call. The inside of my bottom lip was all white and yellow and weird, and so were the sides of my tongue. It was gross.

The van was going back to Cardiff that day, so I needed to find it, drop of my bass, pick up my tent and somehow put it up so that I could try to sleep, all whilst still tripping and in the rain. I somehow managed it, pissing of the owner of a van who I’d put the tent up right besides and then had to listen to them drunkenly ranting about how much of a prick I was while half asleep. It wasn’t a great experience, and my hand and lip were getting more painful by the minute as the drug wore off.

I ended up missing all the music that night, only leaving the tent to piss and try and find water. I still had plenty of weed to deal with the comedown headache I knew was coming. So MDA is similar to MDMA in that respect, as well as in the fact it makes you chew your lips (or ‘gurn’ as we say in the business) but apart from that its way more like acid. Acid with a comedown and fucked up lip? No thanks. I shall stick to the real thing. At least with MDMA you feel all loved up and often drift into a nice happy sleep. MDA keeps you awake all night and then you can’t even sleep off the come-down even by getting really stoned.

I must have managed it though, because by the time I got out of the tent it was 18 hours later and morning was breaking. Early in the morning at festivals is quite a nice time with everyone either asleep or sitting around fires still drinking and taking speed, singing along to pop songs and talking absolute bollocks. I even found one guy who actually seemed like he’d gone to bed at a normal time and gotten up early to feed his baby son with cucumber he cut with an axe. Now that was pretty impressive.

I sat around a fire with some friendly middle aged punks from Birmingham for a few hours, having been led to believe that someone parked near there was driving to Bristol that day. eventually I found him in someone else’s van in a pile of people taking ketamine and he admitted that it was unlikely he’d actually leave that day, but that I could get a lift with him tomorrow.

I went back to where my tent had been and found a car going to Bristol in just a few minutes, but I could only go if the fiddle player from Kilnaboy gave up her seat for me, which she did as she is a fucking legend, saying my need was greater than hers. I didn’t want to agree, but I couldn’t deny I felt like utter shit and just wanted to be at home in bed with my girlfriend looking after me. A two hour a drive and a shot walk through Bristol carrying all my shit in the rain and it all came to pass.

I hadn’t eaten properly since we’d stopped for chips almost 48 hours earlier, and it hurt to eat or drink anything for a week afterwards. I spent at least 4 days lying in bed taking painkillers until I realised they were just making me feel worse. Bloody legal drugs, don’t trust them.

Apparently MDA is a ‘research chemical’. I hope my story is helpful to this research. My lips are pretty much back to normal now, 9 days later, and so is my hand, though both will probably take at least another couple of days until there is no sign of damage at all. So here’s my advice:

  1. Don’t take massive bombs of any powdered drug you haven’t tried before. Maybe start with a tiny bit and see how you feel.
  2. Don’t take psychedelic or hallucinatory drugs unless you are in a space and with people you feel comfortable with and at a time when you are mentally prepared. Psychedelics are not really party drugs, they can bring your conscious mind into contact with stuff in your subconscious that you might not be ready to deal with, at least not without nice supportive people around you to talk it all through with – in which cases they can often lead to powerful life-affirming experiences. Trying to process those kinds of thoughts and realisations while everyone around you is totally wasted or are people you don’t really know can lead to you feeling quite alone and alienated from people, which is the opposite of how ideally you would want to feel when taking MDMA or LSD and similar drugs.
  3. If you are going to take amphetamines of any kind, be aware that they can make you chew the fuck out of your lips, so make sure you have chewing gum or something similar to chew instead.
  4. If you are going to get really wasted, try and do it somewhere where there isn’t a really hot fire in an enclosed space with lots of people jammed into it who are all wasted as well, or there is a big chance of accidentally getting burnt. If you live in a vehicle or other place were it is normal to have a wood burner and have built up an automatic subconscious awareness about these things you may be OK. If not, like me, watch out.
  5. Warn your friends! MDA is not the same as MDMA. That extra M is more important than you realise. I’m not saying don’t take it, it was a really interesting and different trip form any I’d taken before, and I have taken many different species of mushroom as well as Yage, LSD, 2CB, 2CI and smoked lots of different strains of very strong trippy weed. But be aware that it is a powerful psychedelic and not just a stimulant.

Stay safe and party on x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Betraying my principles for money

After years of avoiding working for big corporations I suddenly found myself tricked into it, and even lying to myself that it was OK. Let my story stand as a warning.

I am a travelling musician and activist for social change. I have lived in many different squats, protest sites, and recently, a caravan painted in psychedelic colours and some crazy picture of a half-woman-half octopus. I’m not exactly used to the 9-5 lifestyle.

Don’t get my wrong, I tried it once, long ago, when i was young and reckless. I used to work for one of the worst companies in the world – The Royal Bank of Scotland, who are proud of the role they’ve played in creating the capitalist system as it stands today.

Call-centres are places i’ve always thought of as ‘work’ – ever since I realised it was better than having to stand up all day. You know, I’m pretty lazy, or at least reluctant to do physical work unless it really seems important. It never seems that important to me to make money for someone else, compared with, say, playing music, cooking, cleaning, carrying stuff around. walking to and from places, and really, most other things in my life.

So I’d rather have a job where I use to minimum possible mental and physical energy, in order to preserve it for later, in my real life.

I like a job where I get stoned in the morning, saunter in trying not to make eye-contact with anyone so they don’t guess how stoned I am, then sit down and play sudoku, read the news, or read classic novels on the computer system, occasionally taking calls to let idiots order over-priced coffee, complain about their over-priced coffee being late, or angrily huff and puff about how ordering it online isn’t as simple as they think it should be.

Well, when I say, I ‘like’ a job like that is a bit of an exaggeration because i have just quit said job in disgust, not only at the company and almost everything about the workplace, but also, and chiefly at myself.

I never actually applied for a job selling coffee. It’s not like I want people to buy coffee from big corporations. When I was 22 I travelled around Latin America and visited several coffee growing regions, learning as much as I could about the effect of the industry on the local people and wider eco-systems. It’s not great, let me tell ya.

Coffee is the last big addiction I am trying to kick. I don’t drink alcohol or use nicotine, but I am still constantly on either a high or a low of a caffeine rush, as I believe most of the modern world is. Capitalism requires workers to work harder than they naturally would, and drugs are a great way to achieve that.

Of course, some would say i’m also addicted to cannabis. But if so, I am not currently concerned about that. I believe caffeine has caused a lot more problems in my life than weed has. It makes me stressed out, irritable, nervous, paranoid, and quick to anger. Weed only makes me those things when it is combined with caffeine. The rest of the time it either makes me more creative, or at worse just more confused, and if suddenly i have to deal with something serious I am pretty good at cutting through the stoned haze and forcing my mind to concentrate.

A lot of people who aren’t able to handle weed don’t get that, but I was into meditation long before i ever tried psychedelic drugs, and it really helps.

So when I was sitting there at the call centre in a stoned daze, lost in thought about some bullshit or other, and then all of a sudden a beeping sound would come into my ear, sharply, followed by a guy with a Northern accent saying ‘Nespresso’, and then two more beeps, I would have just enough time to force myself into sobriety enough to deal with whatever inane bollocks they wanted to talk about.

Of course, it took a few days on the job before I built up the confidence to do it stoned, but really, a few days should be all it takes on almost any call-centre job. Did I mention it was Nespresso?

Nespresso was something I’d never even heard of until the last time I went to Morocco. I remember sitting in the cafe in Tangiers where they have the Senegalese restaurant, seeing an advert for it come on the TV, with George Clooney and Jack Black. I thought it looked ridiculous.

“Nespresso?” i’d said “is that like Nescafe but in an espresso? like an instant coffee espresso> thats disgusting”

But this Italian musician sitting next to me said ‘No! Haven’t you seen it? In Italy we have it everywhere!”

I guess before that I’d had some bizarre national stereotype in my head of Italians having good taste in coffee. No more.

Nespresso is owned by Nestle. Now, I have known about Nestle being fucked up for a long time. So has almost everyone. The thing with the breast milk. And the other thing with the child slaves? Come on now

So how did I end up there? It still puzzles me.

I went online and searched for recruitment agencies. The one that seemed most straight forward and lazy-bastard-friendly was Reed. So i put in some details, and then you just apply for loads of jobs at once my just clicking on them, and it would send your CV and cover letter to them all instantly. So I just clicked for about half an hour one day.

A few days later I am awoken by a phone call. Literally. Some totally different agency, called ‘Juice’, if you can believe it, has somehow gotten my phone number for the Reed website, or one of the things i clicked on, or who knows where. Perhaps they’ve been spying on me, or are just a front for the CIA.

Anyway, they offer me a job interview that same day. ‘Great’ I think, ‘this is even easier than I thought it would be’. The job interview is supposed to be for a call centre company that different charities use, so I would be calling people up who were already giving money to a charity and trying to convince them to give more.

Now, this is kind of shit, and I once had it happen to me when I used to give money to a charity every month, but at least I could have justified it to myself by thinking that maybe some of that money might actually end up going to make the world a better place somehow. So I went along with it.

But then ‘these’ Juice people manage to fuck up getting me an interview with the actual call centre, even though they already made me read the script for it, so I have to wait another 2 weeks until they give me an interview at a completely different call centre.

They say this one is going to be easy, just inbound calls for Southern Rail. This is kind of morally neutral in my eyes, boring as hell, yes, but not evil. I pictured myself half asleep for a few months answering calls with people asking about when the next train from Haywards Heath to Brighton was going to come and stuff like that. Sure thing.

So I go along to Teleperformance, the call centre company, for an interview, and we go through some practice worksheets all about Southern Rail, like what their policy on taking bikes on trains is and stuff like that. No sweat.

So the next day I get a call from Juice telling me I’ve got the job- at Nespresso. I should have just said no, but this was the only job I was being offered, and i’m a very lazy man when it comes to looking for work. Besides, they claimed (read ‘lied’) that it was not a sales job – I was just going to be asked questions about the product and take orders from people who were already going to buy it anyway.

So I convinced myself that this was also morally neutral somehow, and turned up for the two weeks of training, thinking that I could just quit straight away after that before I would have to actually do anything even vaguely of benefit to the company.

After the two weeks of training, which were mostly spent staring into space and occasionally watching powerpoint presentations so dull that I highly doubt anyone could actually absorb information from them, I was on the job. It took me about three days before I had mastered enough to just start getting stoned every day throughout the whole time.

But then my friend took my to see Saul Williams, who is GOD, and who reminded me of what I had been blocking out of my head for the past couple of months – capitalism is shit and must be resisted until it is ultimately destroyed.

The next day I quit my job. Thanks Saul. Seriously.

Dream come true

We sit around on sofas, and yes, we even smoke hash. Sometimes we manage to make it through a whole movie before someone calls us, or knocks on the door – usually a West African refugee, or a crazed Moroccan landlord. Sometimes we just hear a voice carried up from the street all the way here, to the top floor. Above us is the roof, which is of course a whole floor in itself. Not in England, but here it makes perfect sense.

Almost four years ago I had a dream in a treehouse in France about this city. I didn’t know it then of course. I had been here before that, but for completely different reasons. I would have no idea that the dream was about a real place until much later, after everything had started here. The Tangerine Scene Dream.

I have seen many scenes since the dream, and now it sure matches them all. There is in-fighting, people with dreadlocks, people who run around like crazy trying to do too much and others sitting on sofas smoking hash, sometimes picking up a musical instrument.

So I guess that’s what I wanted. Someone once told me that scenes were counter-revolutionary, in that same forest where I had the dream in a tree. Seriously.

But you know, scenes aren’t counter-revolutionary. The sofa-dwellers and the rushers-around are two sides of a beautiful coin that is worth more than money.

Later that same person who’d said that got healed by a reiki healer who told me she was just paralysed in her mind. I found this hard to believe- when I knew her she had to always be pulled around on a bike trailer she playfully referred to as a taxi. For security reasons, she never said what state she came from, and I don’t even remember her pseudonym, so I guess she won that round.

What I’m trying to say is that Anarcho-punks should come to Tangiers, and probably other activist types should too, but I wouldn’t know. Wouldn’t claim to speak for them.

If you are used to squats and grime, punk and arguments, then come on down, the water’s fine. I mean, I’ve never swum in the sea here, because I’m afraid of judgmental stares, but hey.

Not all Moroccans are conservative, interfering arseholes, just like not all Brits are Tory scum. You will fund dodgy characters offering a range of drugs and other illicit pursuits, very, very easily. So come on down.

If you can play a bit of guitar or some other instruments, then definitely bring it. We need to make some noise down here. If you have some recording devices, or cameras, or you like to make art out of things you find on the street, or dance, or whatever the fuck, just come on down. Even if you just want to get drunk and chat shit all day, you can definitely do that too.

The more of us there are down here, just hanging out, being punks, the easier it will be for the ones who want to be all serious and activisty about everything, as it will provide a sea of European nutters for them to swim in undetected.

They are already pretty used to freaks from Europe down here anyway. I know hustlers who have the whole psychedelic hipster con routine down, and are living comfortably, supporting their families.

It can be stressful here, just living day to day, when you are used to an easy-going squatter lifestyle full of queer circus artists and people like that. If you are a woman you have to put up with a lot of nonsense, and worse, all the time. But still, there is really a struggle going on, and it feels really important to be part of it when you’re here.

You just got to have solidarity with West African people here in Morocco, really, and with most Moroccans too. What the fuck did they ever do to deserve all this? The cops are fucking dickheads down here, seriously. There are informers all over the place too. But still.

Showing solidarity doesn’t really mean you have to get arrested and shit – if you don’t want to put yourself on the front lines you don’t have to, and cops usually just leave you alone if you seem to just be another European tourist.

The important thing is to SHOW SOLIDARITY with the people who don’t have a fucking choice about whether they get arrested or not, just because of the colour of their skin and what it says or doesn’t say on their passport. That means SHOWING YOU GIVE A SHIT about them and people like them, that you’re not just another evil colonising exploitative bastard.

Just hang out with people, listen to their stories, tell them some of your own. Help them out in little ways, so they see you’re real. Treat people to a meal, some hash, coffee, whatever. If you have some spare medicine or some shit you can give it. Don’t get hung up about it, just do it if you feel like it, not out of guilt.

That’s real shit. That’s the kind of real shit people can SEE. No-one likes to be treated like its their –unpaid- job to help YOU understand their situation, or work hard to get you pictures for your activist blog or whatever, just to go home hungry at the end of it while you fly back to a nice house in Europe where they wish they could be. So just be real, be generous, don’t be a dick, etc.

This is about LOVE, and RAGE, and STRUGGLE. We want to fuck up the system right? And we aren’t really doing much about it right now. The whole squatting and rioting thing is at a pretty low point right now in the UK, so come on down to the sun, and get some ideas from people who are in a struggle they aren’t just going to give up on when they get bored, because they have no choice. They can’t change the colour of their skin, and why would they even want to? The fucking racist cops should change their MINDS

If you want Anarchy in the UK, just remember that the UK was BUILT ON SLAVERY AND COLONISATION of African people, and a fuck load of other people too. If you want Anarchy in the UK you need ANARCHY IN AFRICA as well.

Morocco is an African country. Lots of Moroccans have figured that out, but some are still confused, and think somehow that people from countries on the other side of the Sahara desert are like, totally different from them. For example, you hear people talk about ‘those Africans’, or ‘those Negros’ or ‘Sub-saharans’ or whatever.

As if Morocco is somehow NOT just a PUPPET GOVERNMENT for the Western Imperialists. The police all speak French for fucks sake. Moroccan people have to unite with other oppressed people around the world to stand a chance, not just keep sucking up to Europe hoping for some spare change and fucking over their African brothers and sisters in the process – and it’s not like there aren’t a lot of Moroccans who already know this, and are in fucking jail just for criticising the King or some shit.

At least British squatters KNOW we aren’t Africans, except it the whole ‘everyone comes from Africa way’. But anyway, AFRICA UNITE, is perfectly consistent with FUCK ALL AUTHORITY, and NO BORDERS! NO NATIONS!

Africa Unite is not about bringing in some kind of crazy Super State 1like the FUCKING E.U. is trying to be. Africa Uniting means tearing down the borders, smashing all the States, in this whole MASSIVE continent which is full of REVOLUTIONARY DREAMS.

Why do you think there are so many refugees and so many civil wars going on? It’s because people aren’t happy with the way things are, and are trying to do something to change things. Lots of people just want to be free, and want justice, want to stop being so poor while Westerners are so rich, and know their god-damn history better than most Europeans know theirs.

So that’s it, basically. The Western Imperialist system is NOT dead, and in fact continues to be built on the backs of African workers who are oppressed and exploited to fuck, so if you are European revolutionary, you need to be supporting revolutionaries in Africa, not just in Palestine or Chiapas or Indonesia or Bolivia or Tibet or wherever else is popular, and NOT just staying stuck in a little bubble in the UK thinking you are fighting the system just by wearing patches on your jacket that most people walking past can not even read.

Tangiers is that place you can see over the water if you go to the beach on the South coast of Spain, near Gibraltar. You know Gibraltar? They have a Morissons there where you can buy cider and baked beans. Good place to stock up if you plan to go to Tangiers afterwards.

Tangiers is a place where you’re gonna find African revolutionaries from more countries you can count, hanging out in the same few neighbourhoods. It really isn’t hard to meet them in the slightest, as lots of the time they have nothing to do expect try to avoid getting arrested and driven out to the middle of a desert hundreds of miles away.

If they manage to avoid that for long enough to hustle up some money somehow then they can try and buy a shit boat to cross the sea with, and often get caught, or else they can live in a forest for a while trying to muster up the strength, courage and numbers to charge at the border fences around Ceuta or Melilla – which are like Gibraltar is British but in Spain, except Spanish, and in Morocco, and are each surrounded by two, really fucking high fences topped with razor wire and guarded by murderous racist bastards on both sides.

So yeah, the least we can do is come down and hang out with them, try and show that we give a shit. The most we can do is a lot more. Somewhere in between is a load of really powerful revolutionary network-building and important human rights and humanitarian work. We might even SMASH THE BORDERS!

And that’s all I have to say about that. For more see Interzonevoices.com and beatingborders.wordpress.com

PS – fuck all that ‘white people shouldn’t have dreads’ bullshit that’s going around the UK scene right now. It’s just divisive and ridiculous. I am a white person with dreads, with shit loads of African revolutionaries as friends, who nearly all have dreads, and have never said anything but positive stuff about white allies having dreads. So if you’re a non-black anarcho-punk sick of people criticising you for having dreads, come down here and actually fight racism, away from all the posers who think the struggle is just about how you fucking dress. NO BORDERS!

From spectator to participant to organiser – climbing the informal hierarchies of the Anarcho-punk subculture

Sometime in my teens I started reading Anarchist and Marxist stuff online, listening to ‘political’ bands, having conversations with friends about politics, going to raves in squats, studying the subjects at school and A levels, which allowed most discussion of radical ideas – sociology, philosophy of religion, history, and politics, and, crucially, wearing badges, patches, tee-shirts and hats that had the Anarchy A or hammer and sickle or Che Guevara on them. This was stage 1 – being a misfit teenager, talking shit, doing nothing. I went to a couple of the anti-Iraq war demos when I was 15, but that was it. After the war started I went back to just talking shit and doing nothing.

In my gap year I worked a shitty temp agency job in a call centre for RBS, and then Scottish Widows, causing me to think that Corporate bosses were even shitter than the bosses I’d had in pubs and stuff before that, and to think a bit more about how the whole financial system is evil and fucked. At the same time I was living with a load of migrant workers form all round Europe and beyond, seeing how our lives were different from the middle-class students my girlfriend at the time was friends with, and thinking more about how it was way cooler to be poor and having wild parties with crazy Spanish people than it was to go to stupid student club nights in taxis and spend loads of money all the time. I met musicians who took life less seriously, working to live instead of living to work, and generally being cooler than the people who worked in the bank. I also read a lot of Anarchist graffiti on the walls and thought hard about it’s messages as I worked at my shitty stupid job. This was the next stage – being an exploited worker with a rebellious spirit among others, feeling strong feelings, thinking deep thoughts, still doing nothing about it.

Then I went travelling in Australia, New Zealand and South America, seeing the massive disparity in living conditions between indigenous people and the European-settler colonialist-descended people, learning a bit about the brutal history of imperialism that created the modern globalised capitalist economy, seeing how it was still fucking the same people over, all for the benefit of rich corporate fuckers like those I used to work for at the bank, and also about the histories of resistance, rebellions and revolutions that have always emerged in response to that shit, feeling inspired and humbled by how awesome and inspiring these rebels and revolutionaries and just ordinary people managing to survive in the face of all those odds were. Stage 3 – learning how privileged I was and how fucked the reasons for my privilege were, but still doing nothing about it except being a poverty-tourist (as opposed to just being a poor tourist, as I would later become).

Next step was going to University to study International Relations and Development Studies in the hopes that by learning even more about how the global system worked and putting all the weird horrible things I’d seen on my travels into context I might one day be in position to do something about it, thinking something along the lines of working for an NGO or campaigning organisation like Amnesty International or some shit like that. But actually I just got driven into a total rage against capitalism, the state, patriarchy, colonialism, nationalism, racism, the destruction of the environment, and all the rest of it, being so overloaded with horrible depressing information that all I could do to cope with it was throw myself unthinkingly into whatever anti-capitalist activism I could find around me, which was loads. There were so many direct action groups, ‘revolutionary’ parties, radical discussion groups, queer groups, feminist groups, people growing vegetables, squatting, fighting fascists, protesting wars, camping out to save the environment, talking about Palestine, the Zapatistas, the anti-globalisation movement, so many books to read at radical bookshops and social centres and activist gatherings, so many different ways to get arrested for things, that I just tried to do everything at once, in no particular order. Stage 4 – doing lots, thinking lots, not really achieving anything

Then I was all like ‘fuck this!’ against the stuff I had put lots of time into which didn’t seem to lead to big revolutionary stuff happening, especially the whole year I had spent trying to do things in the student union of my Uni, and I felt like I had to make a real big change in my actual lifestyle, not just to live a consumerist life funded by student loans, but to actually be resisting capitalism with every fibre of my being, and I thought the way to do that was to become one of these mysterious anarcho-punk-squatter types who I’d seen around, stealing things from supermarkets, eating food from bins, living in squatted buildings or vans or tents and looking really scary, covered in black clothes and patches and shit, drinking loads of beers and taking drugs and smashing things up in the night, or whatever the fuck I thought they were doing. I guess I thought I was entering some kind of insurrectionary underground where people would be constantly planning actions that were almost terroristic in nature, and taking huge risks, achieving loads for ‘the cause’ or whatever, but really, no, not at all. Stage 5 – taking drugs, living an alternative lifestyle, feeling smug about it – still not really doing anything.

I went back to Latin America, searching for anarchist groups, and I found them, spoke to them in pidgin Spanish and sometimes in English, trying to figure stuff out, also while reading a lot about the history of the global anarchist movement, glorifying it more and more in my head, writing pure ideological propaganda, twisting the facts to fit whatever I wanted to believe the world was like, learning even more about ecology, meeting spiritual hippy types and being all dismissive of them, like I was some kind of Che Guevara in the making while they were just dumb gringos, yet really just acting totally the same as them, tripping on acid and getting stoned while indigenous people were working their arses off in dire poverty all around me. This was stage 6 – living in an ideological prison, divorced from reality, and therefore, of course, still not doing anything

I came back to the UK, full of FIRE and revolutionary optimism, thinking we could just start squatting land and building a free society on it, all in harmony with eco systems, and the masses of the poor and working population would surely overwhelm the forces of repression, but of course, the squat scene was MADE OF K in the words of a friend, and even worse MIAOW MIAOW had somehow taken off in a huge way while I’d been out of the country, and everyone was just being SO FUCKING ANNOYING and I had to babysit fucking munters all the time so how the hell could we organise a revolution? I realised so much that the hardcore insurrectionary anarchist lot who were the ones who actually did things instead of poncing around in universities like I’d been doing for years, were actually hopelessly ghettoised and divorced from the general population, and even from lots of activist groups who were at least trying to be in touch with the population, even if they were shit at it. I didn’t know all the history of how it had happened, with the ‘Nineties’ being this strange mythical time where, presumably, people felt like there was less of a divide between being a crusty-type in your lifestyle while at the same time working to mobilise the masses, before the State fucked it all up with Criminal Justice Acts and heroin conspiracies and whatever else that all the old crusties harp on about as excuses for why they’re mostly all alcoholics or dead. All I knew was, I had arrived about 10 years late for the party, and now it was just a bizarre scene of confusing nutcases. Stage 7 – being disillusioned and realising that the movement was in a big hole it would take a lot of work to dig ourselves out of before we could really hope to make a splash in wider society – finally starting to do something

We organised a squat crew of artists, musicians and activists, wanting to use squats to house whoever we came across so long as they abided by our safer spaces policy, to help contribute towards the homelessness crisis, and also wanting to get people with drug and mental health problems involved in creative and socially conscious projects, so they’d have something else to do besides take drugs. We organised small events at first and got better at organising bigger and bigger ones, squat gigs, raves, pop-up social centres and art spaces, and gradually expanded our circles of active squatters and supporters over the course of around 2 years, in the course of which the whole ‘student riot’ thing happened and we were trying to support that as well, and go to Dale Farm, and Calais, and support other traumatised activists, and fight against the squatting ban, and support striking workers, and help bring together different aspects of the anti-cuts movement, while still always fighting a day-to-day battle just to stay relatively sober with a roof over our heads. Fuck anyone who says we didn’t do a good job, especially anyone who never lived in a squat or knows nothing about addiction or mental health. Stage 8 – actually learning real skills, achieving a few things, small drops in the ocean, but real things nonetheless, and things you could feel proud of.

At the end of 2011 I was horrendously burnt out, feeling like I was put-upon and doing way more than my fair share of stuff while most people around me just didn’t take things seriously at all. Friends and comrades had killed themselves or died or developed terrible traumas and drug addictions, and the government was even worse than the one before, seemingly wanting to eat our brains and drink them down with champagne. They had come looking for me at squats where it was supposed to be a secret I was living, with a picture of me, like it was DEFINITLEY true that people very close to me were undercover cops and saw me as some kind of organiser, and yet lots of people were just drinking all the time and taking K even after all we had done to bring a positive vibe to the scene, and so weakening our movement and our potential to defend ourselves against this onslaught, much less agitate among the wider population for greater resistance against the policies that were chucking more people onto the streets and more mentally ill people into crazy lives of drug addiction and suicide instead of helping them. So I fucked off to the ZAD and stayed there for a couple of months eating mushrooms and chopping wood and being baffled by the French activists, mostly just because I didn’t speak French. Stage 9 – burning out, almost, but still hanging around the edges of radical stuff so it didn’t feel like giving up.

When riot cops starting attacking the place and I had to run from a barricade that failed to catch fire at the right time, away from crazy French fascist cops who I knew full well were capable of all kinds of teargas-flavoured ultra-violence, running across fields and nearly getting killed by a bull, I decided to move on, and it was gonna be an all-or-nothing, desperate-attempt-to-prove-something-to-myself journey into the unknown to try and start a new activist group in a country we knew nothing about with two close and trusted friends. A wild 6 months followed, full of hitchhiking disasters, alcohol abuse, staying in random punky squats or just sleeping rough in tents or abandoned buildings and getting woken by cops, all throughout France, Spain, Portugal, Spain again, Tangiers, Spain yet again, briefly Germany, and then back to the UK to write a pretty bizarre zine about what we had found out about the situation on the Spanish-Moroccan border, the conditions of life for Black immigrants in Morocco and the role of the EU in funding a load of violent, awful, racist, imperialist shit at it. Stage 10- breaking new ground, haphazardly, sometimes drunkenly, but still actually doing it, full on, to the max, both crazy rebellious lifestyle and actually something useful to a wider struggle, thinking on a bigger level than just the squat scene in southern England or even the whole class struggle in Europe, breaking paradigms in my own head and wanting to break them in others too, even if I didn’t know how.

Then after just chilling out in a squat in Bristol for a month with some really drug-addled nutters, I went back to Tangiers and ended up living there for 7 months, making friends with West African migrants who faced racist abuse literally every time they left the house, writing and recording songs with them, starting a blog to put up articles about it all and spread the news, and eventually moving into a flat with a bunch of them, and on the first day I lived there witnessing racist attacks where some drunk Moroccan youths burst into the house and just starting stabbing my friends, because they were black, and they thought they were Christian, even though they weren’t. Then I saw how the police didn’t give a fuck, the hospital was like some kind of really bad joke, and the UN and all the NGOs and charities were like, totally not what the migrants needed at all, not political, not trying to stop the violence, just being patronising useless fuckers, whereas the migrants were persevering and struggling and self-organising and having solidarity with each other in ways that made all the druggy squatters and self-righteous activists I knew back in the UK look like TOTAL POSERS, including myself. Stage 11 – realising that the anarchist scene is a joke, and the real struggle is out there in the real world, surprisingly.

But then I had to come back to this pisspoor joke of an ‘Anarchist Movement’ to find it in even worse shape than when I left, with all the squats gone except for like one crew in Brighton and the usual London madness which I always avoided, not being able to cope with it in the slightest. I was all like ‘Hey everyone! There’s this totally real, actual struggle going on down there in Morocco, that you DON’T KNOW ABOUT, and I want to tell you about it and get something going, because COME ON NOW ALREADY’ but even getting people to listen to it, or read anything, or help me organise a meeting, or anything, was crazy. Like noone gave a shit, noone wanted to know about something new, or help start something new, they were all burnt out, or were so convinced that they were awesome and knew everything that they would just pretend they knew what I was talking about, even though I knew they didn’t. Noone was like, ‘oh well done mate, you trekked across countless obstacles with NO MONEY and found out loads of shit we didn’t know about in order to help unite different struggles in different continents and expose massive scandals about how our taxes are paying for systematic racist oppression in other countries, so yeah, nice on, I’ll help out with that, got nothing better to do except sit around and get drunk so it’d be nice to do something real for a change’ NOPE. Some people did go down to Morocco of course, because they read things I’d written or heard me do talks, but NOONE, and I mean NOONE wanted to have a serious discussion with me about strategy, or aims, or basic principles, or how to fund it, or anything, they just rushed off on their own, and when I tried to engage them in serious conversations about it, they got defensive and lashed out at me, then took over the blog, email list, EVERYTHING I HAD CREATED, changing the passwords and locking me out of what I had built so I couldn’t even be part of it anymore, or contribute to the project that had become my whole reason for living, so I fell into deep alcoholic depression. Stage 12 – realising it ain’t so easy to get the anarchist movement to change its stupid, immature ways.

So I started being a benefit cheat, because I’d never done that before and figured ‘hey, I’ve been beaten by cops for defending people’s right to be benefit cheats, may as well actually make use of this stupid system while it still lasts’. Drank a lot of my housing benefit money, smoked the rest of it, till I was 4 months behind on rent. Spent a year trying to restart No Borders Bristol in the hope that I might find people who’d want to help organise talks and fundraisers for Morocco, but noone wanted to come to meetings, and when they finally did, they didn’t want to help the project in Morocco, because after all, it was OUTSIDE OF THEIR COMFORT ZONE, and I gave up in despair again, became an alcoholic again even though I’d temporarily managed to kick the booze long enough to do an English teaching qualification, and moved into a mad punk squat in Cardiff where at least I could get drunk in peace, except it wasn’t really ‘peace’ at all, just a maddening headfuck for about a year, living once again with a shitload of people with mental health problems and drug addictions and trying to just stay positive and help make sure really basic household issues got solved. Tried to be part of No Borders South Wales, again in the hope that people might help organise stuff for Morocco, with slightly better results in that one person actually did go there, and we organised a few benefit gigs, but then the people I felt most affinity with stabbed me in the back, making me homeless, just because I had criticised them for being too negative and they cant stand criticism. Stage 13 – dealing with being a post-traumatic stress kind of guy in a scene full of people who have no idea what the hell you have been through because they don’t want to educate themselves about the issue you are struggling for even though that’s all you really need them to do to make you happy and they claim to be your friends, but are all so fucked in the head an irrational that they just turn on you instead and make you even more traumatised.

So I got rescued by the Old Wise Crusties from the nineties, none of whom really wanted to know about Morocco either, but were at least nice, loving friendly people instead of twisted up burnt out activists who should really just stop and learn some basic things about being a nice person. I spent a summer of Love, Music and Pyschedelic drugs, completely gave up alcohol and tobacco, got into meditation, Zen, Tao, and stuff like that, walking in beautiful bits of nature and probing the insides of my own head, wanting to be less angry at everyone for not helping me with the project, or helping the project but just being really rude and shit to me, to learn how to forgive people and see those who fuck you over as just being damaged and in need of love and compassion, and trying to be able to be loving enough to have love for those I used to hate, just because it was better than being bitter and awful. Finally I felt like I could just go back to Morocco and contribute to the project directly, doing the things I wanted to see done myself, instead of being angry that other people weren’t magically doing them myself. Stage 14 – getting over trauma, a little bit, enough to at least be kind of happy, most of the time, and therefore be able to carry on being politically active in the projects you helped start.

So now I’m preparing to go there again, even though I’m still pretty fucked up, because I don’t give a shit any more, it’s better to do something positive that bitch about the negative all the time. There is a whole network of international activists going back and forth from Morocco now, and most of them are people I have never even met and don’t know who I am, so whatever, great, it proves that you can start something and still not be the leader of it, so long as you do enough to get it going in the first place and then remove yourself from the equation by being fucked in the head for 2 years, so they have to carry on without you and want to lock you out of it because you seem like a dangerous nutter. That’s how non-hierarchical networks get founded I guess. Viva la revolucion and all that. Stage 15 is yet to be lived through, I might die, or go insane, but whatever, what the fuck else is there to do? Get drunk? Nah.

Thoughts on entering the labour market

06 June 2015, Bristol, some squat like

Acquiesce to them for a while. It’s not like you have any other choice.

Are you an army? All by yourself? Don’t look like one, I have to tell ya. Hate to break it to ya, hate to, but you know, if I didn’t, what kind of friend would that make me?

They asked me questions today about the way to tell people about the future, or indeed how to tell people how to tell people about the future.

What I’m saying may not by clear to you know, but it’s all based on a true story. The story of Raz.

It’s not a story many people have heard. Maybe it never will be. It’s hard to know which to hope for these days.

So they didn’t want me for the job. I could see it in her eyes. It was a fascist coup. Some guy in the reception was talking in dark tones about something political and the receptionist young hipster was nodding along cheerfully. Fascists.

But then I just sat in a café dedicated to Princess Diana for a while, drinking coffee and reading the pirate journals of Ramor Ryan, whom I once met in Chiapas. He doesn’t say ‘whom’ though.

He doesn’t seem to give a shit about grammar and punctuation, or even typos, and nor do his publishers. Anarchy in action, unlike the bourgeois scum of west London. Like the posh bit I mean. Not like Hounslow and shit.

I must have walked for hours, maybe even minutes, to find an internet café for my next assignment. I stared into the camera. They could see me but in my world it was just a small robot eye with a cheerful voice asking me how to resolve disputes between teenagers.

I was seriously considering getting my caravan towed to Cambridge and living a weird life on the edge of town, going in to busk with a mandolin to get money from all the tourists who come to see where rich kids learn about things no-one understands.

It wasn’t about the money. Not this dream. But the question was, where would I get weed from?

This question has still not been answered. Not by a long shot.

Out of nowhere, just hundreds of yards away from the seat of power, the big clock itself where all the guys and gals in silly costumes decide how to commit mass murder for rich people far away, I found myself talking to a concierge at a swanky hotel.

I felt intensely paranoid walking in there. I was wearing a suit jacket, but the massive backpack, dreads and mandolin would have been a dead giveaway.

I could tell they saw right through my act, but hey, I wasn’t there to nick anything. I had a realistic alibi, that was even true, however unlikely.

I was there for an hour, resisting the urge to drink more coffee, still reading the pirate journals. I had pretty much given up on this woman ever meeting me and went around the corner to look for a toilet, when a woman called me ‘Joseph’.

Was she a cop? No. A teacher.

It might all turn out ok after all. But no-one will ever understand it. What it feels like. To be stuck in traffic for two hours.

Who else has ever suffered this fate? WHO?

If you are one. Then. JOIN ME.

Join me in destroying the car world. By buying cars. And vans. And caravans.

YES!!!

The workers shall control the means of production.

Even if it means weirdness for a few years.

A lot of storytelling. And lying.

A lot of not really sleeping as much as you might want. Or having time to think.

Crazy man. But then. Are you an army?

Shall we be one together?

I am riding out West tomorrow. To the land of the GAULS.

They spell things totally differently. Really.

It’s actually a whole different country over there.

You’d better believe.

In two more days maybe I will know what’s going to happen in the future.

But in the past I thought that maybe I shouldn’t worry about the future too much, and simultaneously that I should constantly see the present in terms of it’s relation to the future.

How do you explain that? Professionally speaking?

I dismissed the idea of living in the present in the past in favour of living in the prefuture.

The present was a means to an end, which was the future.

It’s unwritten and we are writing it now, whether we are conscious of it or not.

That is, unless there is actually no causality in the universe at all and every moment is completely randomly following on from the next one for no particular reason. Who knows?

If so, then should we live in the present, or still see it in terms of the prefuture, as a constant expectation of random delights or terrors that may arise?

I am trying to decide whether to live in the present.

Perhaps I will in the future. So then now is the prefuture of the time I will live in the now that will be then.

I met a musician on the bus. We had somehow just gotten lost. It was insane. These people are paid to drive from London to Bristol, two cities with a massive straight motorway connecting them. All you have to fucking do is drive straight.

But no. You have to drive around the West End for two fucking hours, YOU PRICK.

Arriving in Bristol, it was a brisk stroll back to the squat, stopping FOR AGES, to get some REALLY SHIT chips. Don’t ever go to that chip shop. Seriously. You know the one, or you will when you get there.

It’s like, every fucking place that sells chips, which is a lot of places really, probably tens of thousands in the country, maybe millions, they fucking just fry them up all day, and keep doing it.

You know why? I’ll tell you.

SO THEY’RE FUCKING READY WHEN PEOPLE WANT TO BUY THEM, DICKHEAD.

That’s how you get customers. By fucking cooking nice food and giving a good service. Come on now

So that’s it, I’m getting out of this whole fucking mess of England and Englishness and bullshit chip shops. Welsh people wouldn’t stand for this.

This musician guy got paid 700 dollars a minute. Literally, sometimes it took him all week. All of this is true.

Simon Panrucker? I think that’s what he said. Look him up.

I’ll see you there.

Why i changed my name again

I have been Raz Chaoten, on and off, for 7 and a half years now. The name ‘chaoten’ was taken from a caption underneath a picture of me in a German newspaper after i first got arrested. I have never actually been sure how you are supposed to pronounce it, or even if it makes grammatical sense. I just know it was supposed to mean something like ‘chaotic one’ or ‘rioter’ and i thought that was cool at the time.

I don’t want to glorify rioting or chaos though, that’s a very small part of what i am about. I think riots are inevitable under present conditions, and that given that fact we may as well try and use them to some kind of advantage by politicising them and using them as a cover for actual direct action such as occupying land or other means of production, but it doesn’t mean i think they are actually good things in themselves. They are sometimes exciting and empowering but also often traumatising, and i don’t really want to be seen as someone encouraging people to just rush into rioting and stuff willy-nilly.

Not because it is illegal or whatever, i don’t really give a shit what the government think about what i write on this blog, but i just actually don’t think rioting is in itself something worth going on about all the time from a revolutionary point of view. There are an awful lot of dickheads and undercover cops around in the activist scene who glorify violence and try and push people into violent stuff when it doesn’t actually make sense, and i am not one of them. I want people to THINK about what they are doing.

Anyway, i am mostly just a musician trying to raise awareness and funds for the Interzone Voices project and for revolutionary causes in general, and for that i need a stage name that people can remember and pronounce. Changing my name from ‘Meldau’ to ‘Chaoten’ was not a very sensible move in this regard, as they are both obscure Germanic words that most English speakers can’t pronounce, spell or remember.

I still use the name Meldau quite a lot of the time. It’s a perfectly good name and a perfectly good family. I’m actually quite glad to have a weird name, and i hope the Meldau clan goes on forever. My cousin Albin Meldau is actually a successful gigging musician in Sweden under that name, and good luck to him.

But, let’s face it, O’Connor is just easier for people to remember. There’s Sinead O’Connor. Des O’Connor. People like that, you know. It’s a name that’s out there already. When people hear it they just go ‘oh, yeah’, rather than ‘what?’ as they do with Meldau or Chaoten

Plus, it’s Irish, and i play a lot of Irish influenced music these days, so it makes sense. Also, talking about my Irish-Australian family history helps people to understand why i spend so much of my energy on campaigning against borders and in solidarity with people from formerly colonised countries.

The British ruling class fucked over Ireland. We all know that. There’s loads of songs about it, for one thing. Damn catchy songs too. And really, isn’t that what it’s all about? Catchy sing-a-longs about how the ruling class are bastards?

It’s what i’m about anyway. I have already played my first gig as Raz O’Connor, at the Bearded Theory festival in Derbyshire, last Saturday, the 23rd of May.

People say the number 23 is magic or something. Others say that’s just bollocks and there is no magic anywhere. I mean, which is it more fun to believe in? That’s my question.

The gig went well. I played the mandolin and sang some of my songs and some folk songs. It was the first time i had played a whole gig just with the mandolin by myself. I also ranted quite a lot, but in a way that the audience seemed to react to well. I guess it was the right kind of crowd.

Basically i talked about how if we don’t control the means of production we are slaves to others, and how we need to occupy the land etc, but that to get the confidence to do so we need love for one another and positivity. Nothing about rioting at all.

Afterwards i had some really nice conversations with people i”d never met, putting the world to rights. Some guy said i had reminded him to be more radical, which is pretty much the best thing someone could ever say to a radical musician after a gig.

So yeah. This new name thing seems to be working.

Please, please, if you like my music and can remember my name, get me a gig!

Cheers