DAY 168: Friends

May 15th, 2016 § 0 comments

You can’t avoid them, can you? You friend them, you unfriend them, they have birthdays, they have hangovers and need to tell you… In a situation of extreme distress the other day where most of my friends were upset, angry or simply not speaking to me or to anyone else, I popped over to Muswell Hill to my local meeting of the Quakers – or Religious Society of quakersFriends, as they call themselves in their more pompous moments. What, I wondered, sitting in silence in a circle of sixteen oldish people, many wearing sandals (not that I’ve anything against that), waiting for the Light, has friendship got to do with religion or vice versa? More conventionally one associates religion with loving God or one’s neighbour; and if either God or your neighbour is your friend, that’s a bonus. I hoped that the Spirit would tell me what was eating my friends (not Friends). But when you ask questions like that, you normally get a sort of Delphic (see below) answer, and I did.

Well, talking of friends, I and a gang of my friends are planning to run a minibus over to Calais next Sunday with blankets, tents, red beans, lentils,… Sound familiar? The process goes on and on relentlessly, as if I and at least some of my friends (those who aren’t being broken on the wheel of the ghastly SOAS exams machine) go through the same motions we’ve been doing since last September; collecting goods, packing them up in warehouses, piling onto minibuses, driving merrily off to Calais, and distributing the goods in the camp.

Of course the camp has changed. Back in January, despite the horrible weather, I could sometimes look at it in a rosy way as a community with its nations, cafés, mosques, schools,… The demolitions of February and March changed that completely. Yes, the camp is still there, and indeed it’s growing. The activists, the idealists – Liz Clegg, lizcleggZimako, Chiara – are still at work. How could they not be? The work’s there to be done. In Liz’s case, the situation is worse, since the demolitions scattered children, many of them unaccompanied, to unknown places. If possible, they have to be found and accounted for. And we who feel some relation to them, and to each other, try to bring support and solidarity to the increasingly grim situation in some way which fits in with lives otherwise clogged with birthdays, friends’ birthdays and…

I interrupt these musings for a startling observation. (It may only be startling to me, but still…) WHAT IS THE POINT OF FACEBOOK? Don’t tell me of places in the Middle East where social media started revolutions which in any case never got off the ground. Look instead at your friends (them again); who, when they should be agitating at the union whatsgoingonbranch or arguing the toss with the cops, or indeed jumping into coaches and bringing supplies to Calais (you thought I’d forgotten it) are updating their status or changing their cover photo. How many of your friends did you wish a happy birthday today? How much do you, or they, care? How much time did you spend reviewing your memories of 2013? Never mind that you were on a demo on that day; where are you now?

The point of Facebook: it shouldn’t take a genius to see it, and I’m certainly not one, is to keep the young and potentially active away from changing the world and fixed on changing their profile. To an extent, it seems to work; I’m currently applying for a grant to finance a study on ‘Depoliticization linked to Facebook Use: A Comparative Study in Brixton and Billericay’. (I couldn’t resist the alliteration.) I was a bit narked to find there were already 600 papers on the subject in refereed journals, but I’m confident I have a fresh approach.

These reflections are beginning to give me the feeling of going round in a circle. In a sort of crowning irony, Facebook has reminded me that three years ago today, it closed the accounts of Palestinian Israelis who were using their pages to commemorate the Nakba of 1948. I have at least learned something. But I, and my diminishing circle of friends must secure our places on the coach and head back into the jungle. I hope I see you there.

At he Movies

I can’t tell you how intoxicating was the sight, at the Whitechapel Gallery, of my oldest friend auteur Laura Mulvey at a showing of her seminal avant-garde film Riddles of the Sphinx. (How’s that for a name-drop?)  After thirty or more years, I’d completely forgotten the abstractions, riddles-of-the-sphinx-1977-008-green-screenthe 360-degree pans, never mind Anna’s struggles to combine feminism, childcare and work or the visits to the British Museum. Why don’t they make them like that any more?


Here, continuing the Palestinian theme for a while, is a bit of dabkeh:

while for poetry, another YouTube video of Kurdish poetry duelling at Calais. Don’t complain that the blog is getting monotonous. Isn’t that the point?

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