Jessie Jones looks at the current political climate, outlining ways in which we can remain hopeful in a time of uncertainty and upheaval.
In his recent Thump article about my friends’ night Brudenell Groove, Tom Glencross described it as ‘nakedly political’. These two words resonated with me more than any I’ve read for a long time. What did this mean? How is politics naked? I took it to mean honest, raw and stripped of all the usual bullshit that adorns it. Something ‘nakedly political’ is removed of its pomp. Removed of its frills. No longer dressed up in false promises and statistics designed to coerce and seduce a vote from the public. It is unhidden.
This is something that we all need to cling to in modern society. The rhetoric permeating the media, whether printed or social, is of dogma, control and, most dangerously, fear. This is something the people can’t afford to succumb to. This is not a bodily fear, pumping our systems with adrenaline, readying us for ‘fight or flight’. This fear is psychological, permeating our collective systems and clogging us up, robbing us of an ability to fight and chase.
It’s difficult to be actively political, to enact real change, within a system that is inherently flawed. The frustration of acting within this framework is incomparable. A system that, in light of suspicions of voting fraud and the election of hateful and crushing faces, backed by hateful and crushing corporations, has proved itself far from functioning. Never mind perfect. It is indeed time for change. A time for action. But it is the ‘nakedly political’ that must rouse us.
When the Brexit result was announced, the general atmosphere on social media was anger directed away from those in charge. Instead it was thrown sideways to the general public. To neighbours. It was you that had voted for this, the consistent war cry ringing out as ‘it’s all your fault’. Similarly, after Trump’s “victory”, the knee jerk response from some people on Facebook was to give in to a tide of division, focusing on how voting had separated us and placed us into seemingly concrete categories. This is the dangerous fear I was talking about. Equally of course there was a fear of those in charge, and of what these shifts with them at the helm would have on the people.
I admit it’s easier for a white British woman to cling on to remnants of hope. It’s not my religion, skin colour, citizenship or human rights that are so directly in jeopardy. But that doesn’t mean that there is no hope at all. It just means now is the most critical time to nurture it. Now we need it more than ever.
Another series of events unfolded recently to counteract these tumultuous and fearful times. Masses swarmed to cinemas to thump their compassionate fists and weep in empathy at the starkly realistic and harrowing I, Daniel Blake. Thousands stormed the streets of Edinburgh and New York among other cities, hand in hand, arm in arm, brandishing ‘love trumps hate’ placards. These are examples of just that. Love trumping hate. That may seem wishy-washy, hippy-dippy drivel at first glance. But those are just some examples of the nakedly political. In Liverpool there are growing homeless initiatives including the tying of scarves and hats to lampposts for homeless people in the winter months. Following in Leeds’ footsteps, Liverpool also has increased its care for homeless women by providing sanitary products in care packages to distribute throughout the city.
This is people united, despite imposed and reinforced divisions, to redirect ‘it’s all your fault’ to those above rather than aside. The raw human kindness of smiling at somebody who might have had a shit day cannot be discounted as insignificant. The small but generous offering of a cup of tea and a sandwich to a homeless person cannot be called ‘too’ small. These are the remnants of hope that persist. For if enough people make these small, seemingly insignificant, gestures, then that transforms into a societal wave. That turns into love, beginning at least, to trump hate.
Another friend of mine runs a queer night called ‘Love Muscle’. This space, like Groove, is a place where boundaries dissolve and differences are diluted. This is a space where queer people, in a safe, loving and glittering environment, can stomp away oppression with never-tiring dancing feet for the night. If hope was gone, if love couldn’t win, these microcosms of beauty and unity would not exist. These shining, precious gems would not dazzle away the surrounding shit we tentatively call a ‘system’.
The system is malfunctioning. Because its weakness is the power of people united. By no means am I saying that dancing to disco and buying a scarf for one homeless man will suddenly transform the landscape of society. But I’m also not refuting its ability to do so (eventually). If enough people engage in compassion, if enough people focus on the humanity that connects us, rather the ‘official’ politics that divide us, then real change can happen. In the wise words of Shelley: ‘rise like lions after slumber, in unvanquishable number, shake your chains to earth like dew, which in sleep had fallen on you, ye are many – they are few’. Though centuries old, these words are as poignant as ever. They, the powers that be, the rulers of the world, are indeed few. And though its easy in these times to feel equally small, we are in fact, when united and driven with compassion, absolutely unvanquishable.