Dakota Access Pipeline

Dakota Access Pipeline

“Upon suffering beyond suffering; the Red Nation shall rise again and it shall be a blessing for a sick world. A world filled with broken promises, selfishness and separations. A world longing for light again. I see a time of seven generations when all the colours of mankind will gather under the sacred Tree of Life and the whole Earth will become one circle again. In that day there will be those among the Lakota who will carry knowledge and understanding of unity among all living things, and the young white ones will come to those of my people and ask for this wisdom. I salute the light within your eyes where the whole universe dwells. For when you are at that centre within you and I am at that place within me, we shall be as one.”

– Crazy Horse, 1877 (four days before he was killed)

Do not stand by.

Stand up.

I have good people

Words of encouragement from people I call friends:
  • “Let me know when you’re in town, for a work day or just hanging out? Sorry to hear work [is] so utterly balls and soul-destroying.” – EH
  • “[I] do understand how isolating it can feel.  Heck, the most lonely I’ve ever felt was aboard an aircraft carrier, surrounded by 5500 people, lol.  It isn’t really about being around people in general, is it? Rather, I think, being around the people with whom you share a history, understand you….there is some comfort in that, I suppose.” – BG
  • “It’s a testament to your spirit that despite the distracting emotional and physical aches you’ve successfully been able to assess your situation and needs – incredibly difficult to do when surrounded by support but especially so when flying solo.” – LC
  • “Brilliant that you’re comfortable enough to write it all down. Not brilliant that you’ve been feeling this way. I can understand some of the frustrations and pressures of starting in a new place but […] glad you’re getting to a place where you can feel on top of these anxieties.” – KD
  • “But as you stated, acknowledging self resilience is a strong step in rebuilding and understanding who you are” – SL
  • “Change is not easy.  You are not alone.  Opportunity looks upon you.  You are smart, determined, beautiful, and kind.  You will find your direction in that unique Becky Dale way.” – JB
  • “You are such a wonderful, honest, funny and bright person. Last year, you truly amazed me with your way of thinking and approaching things. I hope that you remember these things about yourself.” – LS
A few doses of reality from my fellow Millennials:
  • “I empathize with you. Different circumstances and different times, but depression, anxiety and lack of purpose all the same.” – AG
  • “I have spent the last few years trying to retrain myself to find the maximum I can do between feeling productive and like I am doing something that matters, and just exhausting myself (which may explain my retreat from many parts of my life as I learn what I can manage). I still spend entire weekends in bed sometimes, and I think we have to learn that it is ok to do that!!” – KP
  • “[M] went through sort of a post-student life depression and what helped him a lot is that he really focused on himself, whilst being active in doing things that he at least used to enjoy. Plus, he uses […] the ABCD Method. Where A stands for activating event (what has happened that caused you to feel bad in that moment),  B for beliefs (how does this make you feel/think), C for Consequences (how do you act upon this) and D for Dispute (what can you do about this feeling/thought/belief).” – LS
  • “I think you might be one of the few people who could love this Twitter account as much as I do. My heart swells with joy and appreciation every time they tweet. And every time it reminds me of what a nerd I am, but also that I am capable of deep feeling and appreciation” – AG
Fortunately, I will always be housed:
  • “…if you feel like you need a weekend in London you’re always very welcome to invite yourself over! The door is always open. (Having said that, I’m in Nicaragua at the moment so I might be a bit useless for a month!)” – AT
  • “You can always come over [to the Netherlands], call me up just to chat or to be upset or to have a laugh. And I can also always come over to stay with you for a couple of days. Or help you move, really anything you need Becky.” – LS
  • “In fact, if you ever need a vacation or extended sabbatical, you are so welcome to come stay with me in Brooklyn for a couple of weeks or months. I have an extra bedroom with your name on it and it’s filled with all of my favorite books. This is an actual invitation.” – AG

 

I feel so known.

On female Millennial burnout

In my exploration of my current state of unwell, I drew particular attention to a 2011 article by Forbes writer Larissa Faw. She writes about the unrealistic expectations that Millennial women hold regarding their post-graduation employment

It’s not as if these women expected their jobs to be parties and good times, but many underestimated the actual day-to-day drudgery.

Yet Faw includes a particular quote by Kelly Cutrone of People’s Revolution PR that has bothered me since reading it:

“College is nothing more than a baby-sitting service. These students are totally unprepared for the real world. The reality for women who want to work in PR is that they are going to be working with 24 catty [women] who will backstab and compete with them. No one will say thank you. You will eat lunch at 5 p.m. It sucks and it’s hard work,”

Respectfully I disagree, and with a certain degree of feeling.

I believe that the primary pool of people to which Cutrone refers are the elite Millennials, be they male,  female or otherwise. She refers to the ones who enter university without having ever held a paying job, or else already well-connected enough to have scored a post above-the-drudge. Perhaps that is the reality for those Millennials who enter the PR field. That is not my reality, nor that of most of my generation.

Recently, I observed a Facebook trend in which a person posts a list of his or her first seven jobs. Most participants seem to be under the age of 35 and most of their jobs to be pretty drudge-worthy and thankless. It is worth noting too that most of the listed jobs required a proper application process and self-motivation, only to be rewarded with a wage at or below the legal minimum.

For those elite who did (or do) live the luxury to which Cutrone alludes, I assign blame to the parents or guardians, who shelter their children to their own detriment and to that of society. And on that, Cutrone and I do agree.

Yet to generalise an entry-level job in public relations as representative of any position in the modern workforce is not just narrow in its focus, but equally debunked by the social media fad I mentioned above.

Many of my online friends’ jobs were in the world of service provision – working in their local hardware shops or restaurants. One friend had the job of wheeling patients around a giant hospital and cleaning bedpans. Another was a valet at a golf course. My sister (who, incidentally, does now work in PR) worked reception for a tanning salon. At least six filed reports in giant cabinets. Full time.

Yes we Millennial men and women did view these entry-level jobs as temporary, for they were, but we remained enthusiastic employees all the same. We did not whinge and moan about Faw’s “drudgery” because in fact we largely found the work fulfilling. It gave us purpose. We were entrusted with a set series of tasks. We received a regular paycheck and learned about the system of taxation, pension, etc. We were cheap and expendable labour and we knew it. That did not matter.

Unfortunately, we were simultaneously being fed the lie that a university education is compulsory and that it must immediately follow high school graduation. At 16, 17, 18 years old, most of us had no idea what we wanted to do. Many were even content to carry on working these entry-level jobs for a bit longer in order to buy some time on making a decision. That is the purpose of an entry-level job, is it not?

Yet parents, who only wanted the best, encouraged their little princes and princesses to follow particular courses and to look at future career prospects. We were consistently told to look ahead, to strive for perfection or better. Success would be measured first in letter grades and second by the acquisition of a post-graduation offer of employment. Nothing less.

Of course, that was before the recession hit.

In the pre-recession era, pointing fingers at unrealistic (or even irresponsible) parents and teachers may have been sufficient. Many overenthusiastic parents actively engaged in their students’ education, debating a professor’s gall to assign a beloved son or daughter a less-than-perfect score. And yes, whilst an overabundance of praise clearly does not prepare the student for a highly-critical and competitive industry, such as PR, it was only half of the problem.

Because with recession, the job market flattened.

Millennials found themselves competing with seasoned and suddenly jobless professionals. As the reality of a harsh hiring market registered, both groups were forced to set aside ambitions of immediate greatness and accept any lower-level job that came their way. The Millennials’ dissatisfaction was less to do with the work itself, and more with the jobs’ irrelevance to the degrees they had just worked so hard to achieve. I agree with Faw that this burden of irrelevance fell more strongly on female Millennials than male, although I have naught but anecdotal evidence to support it.

Faw continues:

All of this unhappiness has left young [Millennials] struggling over their next move. Simply quitting or changing careers isn’t an option because the education for their professional jobs has burdened many of them with substantial student debt.

I keenly support higher education for all, but I disagree with undergraduate degrees serving as the minimum requirement for entry-level jobs, or even for unpaid internships. Earning a degree should be, and indeed was at one time, rewarded with a higher level role with greater intellectual remit. The practical skills – and even the means of combatting the cattiness of Cutrone’s PR firm – can be learned on the job.

I also disagree with the belief that a university degree is the sole path to “success”, narrowly defined. I believe a Millennial wishing to work as a Wall Street trader deserves greater societal shame than one who wants to become a gardener or a plumber or a baker or a construction worker. Physical labour and craftsmanship is equally as important as teaching, as fire-fighting, as any number of other professional jobs. The heavy focus on higher education is a product of the generations before mine, those who rejected their own parents’ professions as too low-status or otherwise inferior.

That said, a university education can benefit any person. There is a curious trend in the hipster communities in which university graduates can end up whittling luxury wooden spoons for a living whilst also speaking authoritatively about Descartes, the Colombian Revolution and the best soil conditions for coffee plants. I think our skewed society may have inadvertently produced a highly beneficial sub-culture, ridiculous though it may be.

Yet the prevailing culture of student loans and deep individual debt is symptomatic of economic mismanagement at the highest levels. One should be allowed to earn relief from a student loan by engaging in jobs that directly benefit society – building roads, for instance, as opposed to strictly civil or military service. The cost of education should be subsidised, and reined in to allow all people to benefit from a broad liberal education and then to pursue any career they choose. Including spoon-whittling.

As it stands, the world has attached too great an expectation on the graduates of higher education institutes. And furthermore, we now have too many graduates for the number of traditional post-degree jobs. And it is worth noting that a majority of these graduates are women. Thus Faw’s attention to the newfound independence of the Millennial woman becomes relevant:

Also, while earlier generations may have opted out of the workforce through marriage or motherhood, these paths aren’t viable for these self-sufficient women, who either are still single or unwilling to be fully supported by men.

I take her sentiment a step further to claim that so long as the glass ceiling remains intact, Millennial women will find almost any workplace difficult.

In my own place of employment, male supervisors do often view their female underlings as competent employees, but I doubt many consider us competition. It takes additional effort and ingenuity to find an upward path. Although my field is more competitive than most, I also find that the illogical structure of my department deliberately hinders upward career progression. The complete separation of my unit from the rest of the company also means that networking options are limited so even lateral movements are a challenge.

What options exist for a young female to build (or even envision) a future career in this business apart from hard work, their only tried and tested method?

Instead, Millennial women are tapping into their Type-A personalities to combat this fatigue. “It’s important to analyze what is causing the dissatisfaction,” says Purdue University’s Teri Thompson. “[…] Often we leave a job because of unhappiness and in our zeal to get away, we fall right back into the same traps, the same situations.”

I see this tendency in myself. For many years I have been labelled a “runner”, someone who works hard, hits a wall and then flees to the next challenge rather than finding a way to circumvent the obstacle. However, I would argue that despite a hodge-podge of past positions that render my CV mottled and possibly portray me as an unstable employee, I am actually less impulsive where my employment is concerned. I have never left a position due to dissatisfaction with the job itself, but rather only when forced out by the dismal modern job market.

In my early career days (if such things as careers even exist anymore), I had no student loans, and I possessed unmitigated zeal for work experience that could help me gain the requisite skills for career development. I wanted to build a CV, to discover what I liked and what I did not, to make mistakes and toughen my skin in order to work towards something higher in future. (Note the traditionalist mentality lovingly imparted by my baby-boomer parents.)

But I was barred from the start.

My applications were passed over for candidates with higher levels of education, greater work experience and a willingness to take a dismal salary that (traditionally) did not correspond to the merits that set them ahead of me in the first place. I the fresh graduate was only offered short-term placements, usually internships, many of them unpaid. A longer-term or salaried post required a Master’s degree at the very least.

Five years later, after a string of short-term internships and now with those MA letters on my CV and a world of student debt hanging above me like Damocles’ sword, I finally achieved that entry-level job. It is an easy role, made challenging by the sheer magnitude of responsibility and by its lack of personal product or service provision. The former results in duty prioritisation, leaving lesser tasks unfinished; the latter results in employee demoralisation. Combined, the psychological effects build into complete job dissatisfaction.

Nonetheless, I had every intention of riding through the role for several years. I was determined to build a career through grunt-work and trial and error. I desired purpose and personal development; I possess, after all, a Millennial approach to my employment. I worked on creating products in my spare time. I forced my expertise for which I was supposedly hired upon my colleagues. I was not concerned about the drudgery or thanklessness of my work, but after years of effort towards those same goals, the physical and emotional demands have become too much.

And now, that position will soon be revoked.

So I return to Kelly Cutrone’s comments. Yes, Millennials (of any gender) are unprepared for the real world. We are unprepared because the higher education system, our parents and mentors continue to promote traditional career progression models that largely do not exist in the modern workplace. However, that does not make university a “baby-sitting” service, but does perpetuate some of our naïveté in the post-university years. We are unprepared because the global economy is unstable and the current job market, originally fuelled by capitalist growth, has plateaued or even declined. That does not make us resistant to competition, but rather overwhelmed by the scale of it.

And so I ask Ms Cutrone: what incentive does the young Millennial female have to suffer through a difficult, catty and defeating work placement if there is no higher position to work towards? Or if that job is perpetually temporary? Or if the role does not actually allow for skills to develop over time? Or if male colleagues continue to view them as the help, the intern, the sex object or worse?

The Millennial women I know are all capable and impressive employees. Several have already struggled through not one, but two university degrees or more in order to enter the slim job field. All have earned their stripes in a series of short-term, low-level jobs and have spent several years continuously applying to the next position whilst continuing to finish the contract of the first.

And they are tired.

As Faw mentions, Millennial females burn out early in their so-called careers because they have expended too much energy over too long a period of time trying to land that career in the first place. My international circumstances may be unique, but I trust that my experience of chronic fatigue is not too dissimilar from that of Millennial women working in their home countries.

In the end, I perhaps find more commonality with Kelly Cutrone than difference, but I still hope idealistically for a change in the workplace that can more suitably accommodate the Millennial female. That hope is tempered by an intellectual grasp of the realities, of course. I do not believe that change will come anytime soon. Moreover, it will likely occur with the promotion of Millennial women themselves. I just hope that change occurs before too many of us burn out and lose our “naïve” positivity.

 

 

 

Finding the words

Finding the words

Ah 2016, the year from hell.

It has taken me seven months to acknowledge that this year is likely the most challenging I have ever faced. Recognising that truth is perhaps at first not obvious to the external observer. Indeed, I myself adamantly denied it for many, many weeks.

Yet denial is not the same as dismissal. Denial is simply a defence mechanism – I was wishing away my troubles, whilst simultaneously tallying them up one by one until they had become overwhelming. My 2016 challenges only I can see.

In January, I felt building tension in my workplace, which became increasingly toxic.

In February, I identified my own physical discomfort. An inability to stay warm or to wake up without minor aches and pains.

In March, I repeatedly expressed to dear friends that I felt tired and out of control.

In April, I recognised my state of depression. I acknowledged my loneliness and a need for a release, an escape. I began to withdraw from the few people and activities that had previously given me joy.

In May, I re-established a routine to give myself focus. I recommenced volunteering on weekends. I became a regular at a bright and friendly pub in town. I assigned myself creative projects, hopeful that I could rediscover my own sense of worth.

In June, extreme anxiety set in. I could not relax. My body showed clear signs of wear. I attempted to reposition my attitude, to view the immediate changes in my life as positive developments and therefore worth the amount of work I was expending.

In July, I began shutting down. I could not rest. Everything seemed to go wrong. My healthy habits vanished. My body deteriorated further. My presence at the office and in my flat became strictly physical as my humour turned dark and sour. I truly feared a mental break on the horizon…

It was in July that I began to weigh my long-term options, because the life I was leading had become unsustainable.

I had known since April that I needed a holiday. A real one. The kind that involves lying on a beach for hours, listening to the waves crashing on the shore as the sun beats down and the wind tickles my bare skin. I needed full and complete separation. But also and perhaps even more importantly, in my daily life I needed constancy. A buoy at sea. A lifeline. Something to cling to when the rest of my world collapsed.

No longer did I consider my desires simple whims or luxuries. They were, and remain, fundamental human needs:

I need companionship. I need a friend to lean on, to listen to my struggles, to offer small words of encouragement. I need that friend to be physically present, not separated by a screen or telephone. I need to feel the embrace of welcome and support that only a true friend can provide.

I need to feel a sense of purpose. I need to arrive at work each day motivated and excited to learn and develop, to test new ways of doing things and to feel usefully occupied. Overall, I need to contribute to the creation of a product or the provision of a beneficial service.

I need security. I need freedom from the fear of a looming end of a contract. I need to trust that I can stave off the foreseeable possibility of eviction and deportation.

I have had none of these reliably since leaving London one year ago.

Yet however clear these needs were to me in recent months, in my haze of fatigue and stress I could not find the words to describe my condition until now.

I am burnt out.

In the uncomfortable words of Larissa Faw, this may be more true for Millennial women than any other demographic, particularly in the workplace.

It seems relaxation is something Millennial women have never experienced. One reason that women are burning out early in their careers is that they have simply reached their breaking point after spending their childhoods developing well-rounded resumes. “These women worked like crazy in school and in college, and then they get into the workforce and they are exhausted,” says Melanie Shreffler of the youth marketing blog Ypulse.

Many also didn’t think of their lives beyond landing the initial first job. “They need to learn life is a marathon, not a sprint,” says Kelly Cutrone, president of People’s Revolution PR and author of “Go Outside If You Need To Cry.” Ypulse’s Shreffler adds, “They expected things to be better now that they’ve arrived and made it. But instead they are starting over on the bottom rung and still striving. You can’t see the end of the tunnel because they are so many twists and turns. It’s impossible to see what life will be like in 20 years these days. It’s hard to look just 3-4 years in the future. They don’t know what they are striving for, which makes it really hard to move forward.”

Even at the best of times, I could see no upward mobility in my job. I have nothing to work toward. My work is highly competitive and incredibly demanding on one’s time and energy. The physical isolation of my workplace is a further barrier to professional development and the demeaning attitude towards my specific team is utterly demoralising. Yet if work itself were the only issue, I still may not have found myself in this position so soon.

I am unsurprised to learn that burnout and a number of related diseases are all products of the mind, of stress. According to the wise words of Maria Popova and Dr Esther Sternberg, for one to experience “elements of PTSD”, one need not suffer through the predictable traumas of death or divorce. Sternberg also considers relocation a potentially traumatic experience and compares death and moving:

“One is certainly loss — the loss of someone or something familiar. Another is novelty — finding oneself in a new and unfamiliar place because of the loss. Together these amount to change: moving away from something one knows and toward something one doesn’t. […] An unfamiliar environment is a universal stressor to nearly all species, no matter how developed or undeveloped.”

Over the past year I have moved twice (only twice – a record!). I have relocated from London – the only city I call home – to two new cities, one I hated and one I loved, but both of which were new and where I knew nobody. Although I thrive in unfamiliar places and thoroughly enjoy exploration, the process of settling and building a social network, is long and exhausting. Between my two moves, I have had five consecutive flatmates, which has destroyed my sense of stability and amplified my loneliness and insecurity.

To top it off, as of 5 July, my office is now undergoing its largest restructuring in its 77-year history. My role is being outsourced to Kenya and I stand at risk of redundancy. I have not yet finished processing the psychological impact of that change, but at the end of this year I may well find myself unemployed and unable to remain in the UK. To leave would be a grave disappointment, after working for three years to arrive and to build a life for myself here. Moreover, the fear of not knowing where I would go next is frightening as I have no real alternatives.

Additionally, the pressure of meeting monthly student loan payments has made financial security a constant, throbbing strain. I can neither do what I’d like with my minimal expendable surplus income, nor save it for future emergencies. I cannot afford a pause in employment, as doing so would mean the almost immediate evaporation of the reserves I have carefully built up. The uncertainty is overwhelming.

But if this year has taught me anything, I have learned that I am stronger than I realise.

I am resilient.

Reflecting from the languid luxury of my much-needed holiday, I am amazed to have withstood such a high level of battering for months on end, not all of which has been detailed here. However, such a realisation does not give me license to return to work next week with the same zeal and single-mindedness with which I began one year ago. This is my wake-up call.

I am using this time to become comfortable with the idea of not “taking full advantage of the place where I live” and instead focusing on resting. For the first time this year I am actually achieving that.

It will take longer than this week to feel like myself again.

It will take more than a few brief visits from friends to feel comforted and supported.

It will take more than a holiday to give me back my enthusiasm.

It will take a complete reprioritisation and redirection of my energies.

It will take a physical relocation to environments that I consider safe and welcoming.

I do take small comfort in the fact that only four months remain in this year. Although I do not enjoy wishing the passage of time, I do look forward to the end of this era. I have a list of non-negotiables ready and a new appreciation for my current state of well-being.

Only four more months before my life is forced to change, and I would like to think that change will be for the better.

Longform #Brexit reactions

Longform #Brexit reactions

Having vented my immediate reactions, a more structured response to recent events is due.

Feeling unwelcome: 

A number of people, Europeans chief among them, have acknowledged the novel sensation of feeling like foreigners in their own neighbourhoods. I confess I could not sympathise immediately. Most complaints against foreigners – bar those founded on outright racism – have centred on the economic situation of this country. Jobs are the rallying cry and anyone who looks slightly different (read: darker) is a scapegoat. However troubling this phenomenon, it is certainly not new, nor is it exclusively English and Welsh (as per the glaringly divided map of UK voters). The bigotry remains inexcusable, but on Friday morning I failed to feel differently simply because the Brexiteers had won.

I do have several facts in my favour: I am Western, white and educated. I live in a fairly liberal, cosmopolitan town. I work in an office dominated by staff of international origins. I have no dependants and no one to answer to, save myself. I am too young to remember how working class towns allegedly “used to be” and I have not fought a single war for this country. My job may not be considered overly prestigious, but neither is it one that Brexiteers are clamouring to “take back”, lest it produce a flood of people deemed less “desirable”. I work for a solidly British institution, after all.

Yet still I am an immigrant. Discomfort eventually did set in. I noticed it as I walked home Friday evening, and I rediscover it at irregular intervals. Passing people on the street, I catch myself wondering, Did she vote Leave? Did he?

The passions of the Brexiteers I feel as well. I, too, am frustrated and angry; but my feelings stem from my utter powerlessness. I had no say in this outcome. I had far greater faith in the people of this country.

The failure of the Remain campaign

Like many others, I hold a profound faith in the average, tea-and-biscuit Britisher to vote with balance and graceful determination. This is the country that keeps calm and carries on in the face of adversity, when the alternative is too gruesome to contemplate. I suppose that is precisely what they did.

The economic warnings had been fired. The European Union had pleaded ardently through political statements, media articles and public symbolic displays. Not to mention, the threat of Scottish withdrawal came two years early with EU membership as a clear non-negotiable. Prime Minister David Cameron spoke of the uncertainty we would face by leaving a system so integrated into our legal structure. He pleaded in favour of the status quo.

But I question how the Remain campaign could think that the status quo argument had sufficient merit to deter the public. What ever happened to the sales pitch? Where were the infamous empty political promises of a better future? Were the Remainers so sobered by the thought of Brexit that they could not muster the inspiration? Or was it, perhaps, that their campaign itself embodied the very same problems that Brexiteers loathe?

The divide of the Labour leadership from its voter base has never been more apparent. The party’s late and almost reluctant entry into the Remain match translated to swathes of lost ground. Not to be outdone, Labour’s strange-bedfellow Conservative partners are largely seen as the group that designed the current state of affairs.

Some would argue that the implementation of austerity measures last year was unavoidable; yet it was also the final bell tolling for the working class. Having made his bed, David Cameron had no option but to campaign personally and vigorously for the maintenance of his administration’s efforts. The subsequent rift within the party as ex-Mayor Boris Johnson jumped ship to the Leave campaign I consider little more than political opportunism. But it revealed an inner party rift that did nothing to inspire confidence in voters.

If the Leave vote was at its heart one against the status quo, then Remain really never stood a chance. The trouble is, neither Leave nor Remain has provided a viable alternative.

Should we have seen this coming?

The shock I feel is not in the outcome itself, but in the personal feeling of betrayal by the British people. The emotional vote of the Brexiteers was always a force to be reckoned with;  Brexiteer grievances are very real. Yet I had not expected, coming from my relatively comfortable boroughs (every constituency in which I have lived voted Remain), for the sentiment to be quite so overwhelming.

As I see it, their claim of love for country is for a country that only ever truly existed in their minds. But the roots are far deeper than fantasy. The backlash against EU regulations on fishing, for instance, is understandable. If fishing is your livelihood, it is difficult to accept that you are restricted to taking your boats out only on certain days of the week, and confined to certain areas. Romantically speaking, regulations in such a case have dismantled the craft of fishing – of understanding and reacting to the movements of the fish themselves. Yet although that may in part be true, modern fishing looks arguably different than a father and son outfit, bobbing in a dingy on the North Sea.

Yet equally, the Remainers’ image of a united Europe is fantasy, too. As Laurie Penny puts it in her article in The New Statesman, “a Britain where hope conquers hate; where crabbed, cowed racism and xenophobia don’t win the day; where people feel they have options and choices in life” is no more real than the supposed Heimat of the Brexiteers’ imaginations. Even the idealists working daily to achieve such a state of peace and love etc. have ignored or, more accurately, have felt utterly incapable of addressing the fundamentally biased system that would and will always prevent its realisation.

A vote against the modern Western system

The sheer level of inequality in the Western world is shameful. Our society is designed to allow the elite population to exploit the working class, to plunder with impunity at great expense to the lower rungs of society, and to do it all within the structure of benign democracy. It’s what the people want, ‘they’ say.

The hyper-consumerism that I find so objectionable, so repulsive, is not just a manifestation of human greed; it is the clever manipulation of a public that simply wants to live life reasonably comfortable, reasonably happy. The tragedy is how this same social state is built to systematically ensnare the working classes into a cycle if not of abject poverty, then of continual shortages.

For years I have bemoaned the status quo, have said that the only way forward is to have a proper shock to the system. But like my fellow ideologues, I supported Remain – the status quo. Is this vote to Leave that very shock I said was needed? I honestly hope so. For if this moment does not force sufficient positive, progressive and reconciliatory change, then I greatly fear what may be required instead.

It is humbling to admit that I, too, am human and concerned with short-term self-preservation. The tragedy is that Brexiteers voted Leave for the exact same reason, and neither of us has won.

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Part II: Scene-setting

Part II: Scene-setting

So it’s been a while (she says non-ironically).

In fact, it has been nearly four months. And unless we categorise the passage of the days against that blasted phrase “time immemorial”, then by any account four months is indeed, quite comfortably, “a while”.

And naturally, over the course of four months rather a lot of life takes place.

The truth is, I have largely enjoyed my life in that while.

I have gone on adventures and met new friendly faces. I’ve tasted enough good food and drink to make the soul sing. I’ve held long, spontaneous conversations about politics and literature and philosophy and cultural curiosities with dear friends as well as with complete strangers.

From an external perspective, I have truly soaked up my Oxford minutes.

What has been less apparent, though, (to anyone but me) is the underlying struggle that has raged alongside. Like a shadow lurking in the cupboards or a chill rising from the floorboards. Always there, but wilfully ignored.