When Everything Is Broken

Everything has gotten a little bit out of hand, hasn’t it? The EU is broken. America is broken. The economy is broken. The Labour party is broken. The Conservatives are miraculously unbroken, which means that everything else in the UK is likely to be broken very soon. It feels like the past month has been a constant cycle of bad news layered on bad news layered on bad news and it’s hard not to feel as though everything is spinning out of control.

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I don’t know how to fix this level of broken. I really don’t. I don’t know how we get back from this, although I’m sure we will, somehow. I don’t think I’m alone in feeling helpless or powerless, and for the most part, I express this by turning into a giant howling ragemonster. But that’s not totally sustainable. And I’m gonna be honest with you guys, I’m tired. I am rage overtired and it’s making me want to melt into a little despondent puddle on my living room floor. Here’s what I’m doing to stop that:

I’m Surrounding Myself With My People

My Twitter is something of an echo chamber, filled with people who broadly share a lot of my beliefs and values. There are good and bad things about this, but right now, it’s exactly what I need. When it feels like the world might be populated exclusively by terrified, hateful people, it’s quite wonderful to be reminded that there are kind, soft, brave, generous people out there too. My entire Twitter community has banded together, some organising action and protest, some sharing sweet, fluffy news stories among all the chaos, some just offering a much needed hand squeeze. I purposefully surround myself with people who inspire me and god knows, I need a bit of inspiration right now.

I’m Doing What I Can

When you’re fighting a mess as big as this one, it’s easy to feel so paralyzed by the enormity of it that you end up doing nothing at all. When the entire world seems to be crumbling around you, where on earth are you supposed to start?

I’d say, start anywhere.

When the Conservatives won the general election last year, I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t let their brutality turn me cold or cynical. I promised that I would respond to their cruelty with kindness. I’m trying to do the same thing now. I give a tiny amount each month to the Trussell Trust and Centrepoint. I buy the Big Issue whenever I have enough change in my purse. Last week, I took a huge suitcase of supplies to the amazing Sisters Uncut, who are occupying an empty council house in Hackney and running free breakfast clubs for local kids.

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Realistically, not one of these things is going to fix all the things that have been broken. Realistically, I probably haven’t made any difference to the big picture. But maybe, somewhere in the UK, someone is eating a hot meal or sleeping in a warm bed or a child is going to school with a full tummy because of me. And that’s no small thing. Among all the headlines and the statistics and the political turmoil, people are hurting. Change can be slow and while we fight for it, people are hurting. There is nothing insignificant about reaching out a hand to someone who needs it, if you can. I can’t fix this mess. I’m not powerful enough or brave enough or clever enough. But I’m lucky enough to have things to share. So what I can do is be kind. And I intend to keep doing that for as long as I possibly can, hoping that some day, all of our tiny baby steps might add up to something bigger. How do you eat an elephant? One damn forkful at a time. Maybe we can eat the Tories the same way.

I’m Giving Myself a Break

More than once in the last month, I have felt like I was drowning. More than once in the last month, I have lain face down on my living room floor because I didn’t know how else to express the hopelessness I was feeling. It is so, so important that we are all fighting the good fight right now, but my darlings, you are of no use to anyone if you’re completely burnt out. I am giving you permission, right now, no matter how grim things get, to switch off. To turn off the news and binge watch a series of Pretty Little Liars. To do a happy dance in the street because you caught a Pikachu in the local park. To go see Ghostbusters and furiously tweet about how much you fancy Kate McKinnon. Just because there are bigger, more important things to worry about does not mean that you don’t get to be happy. Not allowing yourself to be consumed by all this badness doesn’t make you selfish or ignorant. It looks like we might be fighting this fight for a very long time to come, so we need you strong, my love. Take care of yourself. Feed your soul as well as your anger. Keep that little light inside you burning, whatever it takes. Take my hand, and we’ll fight together.

The Broke Folks’ Guide to London: Disobedient Objects

Today, I decided it was time to get a bit of culture, what with living in a city entirely filled with art, music, fashion and theatre. So I headed to the V&A to check out their Disobedient Objects exhibition, an exhibition of everyday objects that have been used in protests across the world. Suck it, man who assumed I was there to see the wedding dresses.

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This is what a feminist looks like.

In Scotland, September basically might as well be January, so I foolishly wore the world’s biggest cardigan, only to take it off 10 seconds after leaving the house and cart it around all day. My life is so hard sometimes.

Anyway.

The exhibition is amazing. Genuinely breathtaking. My advice would be to shut down your computer right now and go see it yourself. But if you’re too far away, or can’t be bothered, or just want a little sneak preview, you cheeky thing, you, read on.

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The exhibition takes place in a small barred room, accessed underneath a security gate – a little nod to the use of barricades in protest since whenever barricades were invented. A soundtrack composed of music, chants and speeches from various protests is broadcast via a revamped Bike Bloc – an old discarded bike, with speakers welded into it, used to breach the security cordon at the COP15 Climate Summit in Copenhagen in 2009. I fully regret not taking a photograph of it, it’s quite a contraption. Banners in every colour and language stripe across the ceiling, messages of hope and anger strewn through them in equal measure. And then, there are the Disobedient Objects themselves. I couldn’t take photos of all of them, so here are just a few of my favourites.

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After Hurricane Sandy hit, independent movements were set up to provide aid and assistance to those who needed it, as well as to criticise the lack of national response. When the National Guard did arrive on the scene, the immediately reported to the volunteers for training.

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Text reads “This season’s well dressed blockader may choose to carry -“. Because who says fashion and protest can’t mix?

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Legal advice for gay people in case of arrest, including the credit-card sized bust card advising them of their rights. Also, an excellently intimidating gay rights banner and a somewhat fabulous blockader’s guide.

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One of my favourite installations at the exhibition, this video showed a newsreel detailing the escapades of the Barbie Liberation Organisation. In 1993, the BLO switched the voiceboxes of around 500 talking Barbie dolls and GI Joes, before returning them to the shelves to be sold as normal. Serious props to the little girl who, when asked by a newsreader if she was disappointed when her Barbie started making explosion noises, said “I thought it was hilarious, so I just started laughing”.

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These are arpilleras, artworks made by women using appliquéd textiles. The practice originated in Chile, where the pieces were sold through solidarity networks, providing income for the women and their families. As powerful men are wont to do when it comes to poor women, the leaders of the country dismissed the pieces as simple “folk art”, blind to the frequently subversive messages they were disseminating.

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Oh, my mistake. How did a perfectly ordinary photograph of the Sun get in here?

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A museum sign which definitely was not in any way encouraging you to commit acts of protest against seriously fucking unfair income growth in the UK.

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Placards, stickers and billboards supporting causes still going on throughout the world. There was even a little hint of home…

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This is a seriously amazing collection, and I feel thoroughly honoured that I got to see these objects, and thoroughly grateful to the people who used them to improve the lives of myself and those like me. Stay disobedient, folks, it’s how things get done.