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Back in the SF Bay Area for a few weeks

April 21, 2017 1 comment

I walked to the bus station through the pre dawn light, pack on my back, with enough time to stop off for newly baked morning rolls in my local 24 hour corner shop. The freshness of the early Glasgow air adding to the euphoria I felt just for being on the road again. Its been a hectic and demanding month. I’ve had to organise and run 2 events (anniversary for Rachel Corrie and I hosted a passover seder for 10 people) which I’m finding really stressful lately. And had lots of housing issues to do with building work and incompatibilities in how my flatmate and I deal with things and prefer our household to work. Some of that was resolved the night before I set off, and all the events are over for another year.

There’s a peace I feel when I’m travelling. Contentment. Relief. Awareness of surroundings and mindfulness. The physical movement and momentum is happy food for my brain. Tensions lift.

And the early morning air, the songs of the birds, scent of slightly damp ground, all full of freshness and openings and new energy. A whole new day beginning. Happiness also at my life that enables me to do this, to head off on a new journey. That I purposefully live somewhere enabling me to bracket trips with 20-30 mins of walking between home and the mainline bus or train stations. I can breathe in and feel Glasgow during the transitions between home and away.

Both the planes from Edinburgh to Heathrow, and then the transatlantic to SFO were very empty, explaining why I got such cheap tickets. When the people in front tried to strike up conversation with me after I helped them with food and then displaying skymap for them, I tried to be polite but I couldn’t totally hide my irritation at them interrupting my precious alone traveling zone out. They were intrigued by my life – a home/work system that allows regular traveling and polyamory – which reminded me of how much of a bubble I normally stay in where neither are so unusual!

Last trip to Berkeley, in February, I enjoyed being somewhere that felt so progressive and safe for that. Last Saturday racists, alt-right and Trump supporters exploited their growing numbers and confidence to descend on Berkeley precisely because it is “enemy territory” for them and violently claimed both the university and the downtown. Obviously I never thought Berkeley was some utopian, anarchist stronghold, but this successful invasion by the rightwing underscored how powerful they now are. I guess it felt more intense for me because of being here so recently and feeling like there was some glimmer of light in the darkness that is rapidly overrunning the world.

I am primarily in Berkeley to visit a honey, and to get some R&R, rather than focusing on making political connections or participating in activism. However my sweetie and I will be on tomorrow’s march for science, and I will be visiting local spaces and collectives, and hopefully doing a bit of volunteering in the background. I’ll probably blog more, both about being here, and to catch up on last year’s trips and events.

Categories: diary, politics, travel

When I feel you have my back. From an antizionist Jew to the left on challenging antisemitism

March 30, 2017 2 comments

17436035_1218953451550743_7199866630498237987_oOn challenging antisemitism by the left. What it means to me as a Jew with progressive values when Jackie Walker and Gilad Atzmon are being hosted in Glasgow this week.

Couple of things have happened in past few days in Glasgow to prompt this post. I actually found out about these in reverse order, but I’m starting with the easiest one to write about, Gilad Atzmon. My discussion and feelings about Jackie Walker being hosted by SPSC are down below.

Last night Gilad Atzmon played a gig at Tchai Ovna : a hippy/lefty tea shop in Glasgow. A friend casually mentioned it, after the gig had started. I was pretty wtf?! But by this time there was nothing to be done. So I’ve informed the venue of Gilad’s antisemitism and am, until told otherwise, assuming that they didn’t know of this beforehand. However they know now and if they book him again I will be more active against it.

I have only met Atzmon once – I went with a friend to a gig as he’s a really good saxophonist. My friend introduced me to him afterwards, and I was initially very happy about this, not just because the gig had been great. I like to meet other antizionist Jews as it can be a lonely path. At most Jewish cultural/religious events I avoid talk of Israel as I won’t lie, but also I hate confrontation and turning a spiritual occasion into a heated political argument. Jewish practise nurtures and calms me. Like doing yoga or whatever works for you. I feel at peace and nourished at this deep down level. I don’t know why it has this effect, but I don’t need to understand it to value it in my life, as it harms no-one else. I tend to have a separation between my different hobbies, interests, and choices. Those who also straddle intersections I often feel a connection and bond with as its exciting and useful for me to be able to discuss issues that relate to our shared intersections and I find helps me understand whats going on for me.

However the initial joy at being invited by Atzmon to sit and chat with him turned to confusion and then revulsion as he began denouncing what he sees as typical Jewish tribalism, as a superiority complex of being Jewish, and how Jews have brought centuries of persecution onto ourselves. After arguing for a short while (I have confrontation and find heated/aggressive verbal dialogue deeply unpleasant) I left. Subsequently I’ve discovered how antisemitic he is. To find examples I had a quick look at his blog and here are some recent examples:

an  arrogant yeshiva boy is subject to a historical continuum of harassment. Seemingly, Alliel didn’t bother to ask himself why is he chased and abused time after time by so many people in so many places.

Source: http://www.gilad.co.uk/writings/2017/3/16/alliel-a-window-into-tribal-arrogance

“If I were a Jew,” [David Irving] said, “I would ask myself why it always happens to us?” At the time, I was a still Jew but I took up Irving’s challenge. I looked in the mirror and didn’t like what I saw so I decided to leave the tribe and I stopped being a Jew.

Source : http://www.gilad.co.uk/writings/2017/2/16/exactly-who-is-it-that-is-in-denial

Although discovering that this alternative/lefty venue is hosting him shocked me, I don’t feel utterly powerless to challenge it. And that’s because over the years I have felt that many within the left will have my back when it comes to challenging antisemitism. It’s really moving to me to feel this. That especially within the Palestine solidarity movement but in the wider left I am not alone facing those prejudiced against me. It gives me a safety, and a courage. It gives me strength to fight alongside others against their oppressions knowing that they also have my back when it comes to antisemitism. It feels like we really can stand all together and be strong and united and beautiful and really bring about meaningful change to a world where all are liberated and free and safe.

So I feel deeply inside that if Atzmon again is booked to play this venue, that if I ask of it, others, not just Jews, will join me in publicly condemning them for giving this racist a stage. I feel secure in that and its incredibly moving to have that surety. Its just so beautiful and affirming and powerful and empowering.

Jackie Walker

[EDITED TO ADD : I have been told that she actually said she hadn’t heard a definition of anti-semitism she agreed with in the context of a particular workshop which was stating that criticism of israel was anti-semitic. Will update the text within this post when I know more but wanted to clarify that this is in contention as early as possible]

Sometimes antizionism is labelled antisemitism. Jewdas have a really cool primer on how to criticise Israel without being antisemitic and a longer piece discussing what antisemitism is and isn’t.

Last year Jackie Walker was in the media for being expelled and then reaccepted into the Labour Party on the basis of several comments she has made, in different formats, that many (including me) find problematic about Jewish people (which she identifies as also)

I consider “no platforming” an extreme tactic that should be kept for extreme cases where it is likely that a speech by someone will cause harm to another. In the case of Jackie Walker I disagree with her on very many things, and I do feel a bit threatened by her assertion (originally from known antisemites Louis Farrakan’s Nation of Islam) that “many Jews (my ancestors too) were the chief financiers of the sugar and slave trade” (source: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/anti-semitism-row-momentum-organiser-jackie-walker-readmitted-to-labour-party-following-racism-a7053966.html ) as this is the kind of language that supports and promotes anti-semitism. However I am not calling for her to be no platformed.

For a wider discussion of things she’s said try hope not hate. In brief she has joined predominantly antisemitic calls for Holocaust memorial day to focus on other genocides, however it already does. Antisemites seek to minimise the Nazi holocaust and so she stands in particularly bad company, as well as being ill-informed in making this call. She has also said she can’t find a definition of antisemitism she can work with, which again is kinda weird – jewdas have a couple of good ones (linked above) and its really just a basic antiracist stance with basic knowledge of the historical and current slurs, smears and falsehoods used against Jews.

Again, to be super clear, despite this I am not calling for her to be no platformed.

I do find it hard to swallow though that the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) are hosting her in Glasgow tonight. They claim she is “Accused of anti-Semitism for her anti-Zionist position” (source : https://www.facebook.com/events/376828286014487/ ) Which is just the inverse of zionist claims that all criticisms of israel are antisemitic. I am not in any way against her anti-zionism. Dismissing objections to her as coming purely from a Zionist standpoint is ridiculous and hurtful.

There are hundreds of excellent speakers about Palestine in the UK who are not tarred with her associations with antisemitism. It was not necessary of the SPSC to host her. It is provocative and divisive.

I have had over a decade within the anti-occupation, Palestine solidarity movement and I know that antisemitism and dismissal of such is a minority view. As I stated above I have felt that people have had my back. But what about someone new to challenging the Israeli occupation of Palestine? What if this is what they see – that being anti-occupation means supporting someone who has said what Jackie Walker has said only last year? She has not meaningfully retracted any of it, as far as I can tell, and I did go to look.

If this was more than an occasional one-off event I don’t know how welcome or comfortable I would feel within progressive movements. This kind of behaviour reinforces zionists’ narrative that we need a strong nation state because nobody else will be there for us. It chases Jews back into the hands of Jewish nationalism. Plenty of Palestinians are ready to condemn antisemitism and the movement purporting to support them should do the same.

ct-muslim-and-jewish-fathers-protest-with-their-children-video-20170131.jpg

Habits, priorities and trying to work out why I don’t ensure I get out onto my bike camping more often.

March 15, 2017 2 comments

An interesting read on habits and priorities has coincided with the end of winter and me feeling the call of the road.

As the air is warmer and there is more daylight the wind feels to pull me even more incessantly. “Come fly with me” it sings. Oh how I want so much that freedom. I feel it whichever way I travel. Just being on the move gives me calm and contentment. Hiking through mountain passes. Flying. Train journeys. Hitchhiking. And since lejog bicycle is now my favourite method.

On my bike, with my camping gear strapped to the pannier rack, is as close to independence as I can currently get. I always have enjoyed minimising the amount of money I need to use – I can and have fed myself for nothing. When I had a (98cc) motorbike that wasn’t so bad as I could travel tens of miles on very little petrol, and always wheel it around. Cars for me feel clumsy and, though offer some liberation, require a lot more upkeep and input. I have to plan more for a car. On my bike there’s not many places I can’t take it. I can lift it up steps or over gates. I can wheel it over foot bridges or onto tiny foot passenger boats. I don’t need to spend money on special fuel for it or to take it on ferries or trains. And I feel this connection to the geography of a place – the contours and bends and flows.

I love feeling my legs gain seven league boots, that my noble steed is carrying my camping gear without difficulty. Its so frigging exuberant to pump to the top of a hill and then fly down the other side. To find a few square metres out of plain sight to camp for the night. To know that the next day I’ll pack up my things and set off somewhere new. To explore new places.

The connection to the “habits and priorities” link above? Just that I was hungrily looking at my calendar for the months ahead, desperate to at least find a few days I could go for a trip on. Living in Glasgow makes it pretty easy to get into the mountains with minimal money/planning. And yet I can only see a few days possibility until the end of May.

I don’t prioritise this. And yet it is the time I am happiest, fulfilled, at peace, joyous. I can almost breathe the fresh air just thinking about it. The sun on my skin. The wind in my face. The endless beauty of the unknown world ahead. The challenges and satisfactions of life on the road.

Partly I allow myself to be booked up because other things do require more advance planning than taking myself off into the countryside. Visiting other countries requires flights and visas. There’s large-scale camps, festivals, conferences, gatherings which all have dates set in advance. And so my calendar is filled with all these things that I definitely want to do, and am excited about. But none of them are quite as great as being on my own, or with 1 or 2 special companions, out in the natural world on an adventure.

I have a really great life. I can’t believe how lucky I am. 14 year old me is delighted! I work one day a week and have a home in the sky. I have wonderful connections, friends, lovers, family. I go dancing and to gigs and to fascinating public science talks and museums. I have secure work and housing. I am relatively healthy and able bodied.

I’m not really moaning. I guess I’m just documenting that I need to prioritise keeping my calendar less full, reduce my commitments, increase my free time. And then I can take advantage of the blessings I have and get out on my bike, tent strapped to the back, spontaneously and frequently. I do only need to work a Sunday to cover my rent and bills.

The nagging doubts, the guilt I have are all about how yes this is nice for me. But I am in such a minority to be able to live such a charmed life. That whilst I am having my jollies war and borders and racism are destroying lives. Austerity rips life sustaining benefits from those that need them. Carbon dioxide levels increase in the atmosphere. Capitalism immiserates.

But then what am I doing about any of those things really now? I struggle to even write an email or organise a meeting about politics or activism. I have this big block and I’m not very functional around politics at the moment. Haven’t really been since I was in Bhopal. I’m at a very low efficiency. Things that would have taken me an hour now take me a whole day and a lot of mental energy. Going to meetings fills me with dread. Maybe I should just accept that I’m not really making much of a difference in the world and give up and be selfish?

Oh I don’t know. I’m sure its all just balance and all. This has gotten way deeper and introspective than I planned. I guess this is my journal so its ok. Sorry if anyone else is reading this expecting something less navel gazing!

Have some pics of my bike to finish. How could that not cheer anyone up? ;)

Categories: politics

Homecoming – Last day in SF bay area (JVP netanyahu demo, and /official/ new friend). Bus ticket drama. Glasgow returning – spontaneous outing to The Lost Boys at amusement park.

February 18, 2017 Leave a comment

JVP Netanyahu demo and Official New Friend

Wednesday. Chilled day with Y. He was working from home. I was lazing about and got snuggles during his breaks. Then I headed into SF for Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) demo protesting Trump’s meeting that day with Netanyahu and their shared values of racism, wall-building and hate-mongering. Was cool to be with other Jewish progressives, though a little disappointed there was only about 40-50 there. It was a 2 hour demo and I was only there for last bit so there might have been more attending in total as folks were coming and going. I liked the connection between zionism and to USA rhetoric and policies on migration and borders, which was expressed in chants and handmade placards.

After the demo a couple of Bay Area friends I had originally connected with from Gaza (from my trip in 2003) met me and I really enjoyed how easy and grounded in affection these relationships are. Partly I think it might be that usa (partic west coast?) culture is more emotionally demonstrative anyway, so i might just be experiencing that and feeling it as “ooo these people like me, its safe for me to open up to them too”. But regardless I’m starting to really value these other reasons for being in bay area besides Y, and this works well as both Y and I like spending time with other people too when we’re together.

I had this waffle/diner food craving, and as this was my last opportunity for it for a while, we headed to Mel’s. Mel’s is both fun, and cliched/OTT, but I’m a tourist and I kinda enjoy the OTT so I love sitting in a Happy Days set! We even used the booth side jukebox! Excitingly someone joined us who I’ve only before met with when I’ve been also meeting her partner who is an old friend of mine. We both agreed that meeting without him made us now Official Friends. She was also excited to be in SF itself, as she does the common Easy Bay resident thing of hardly ever coming over into the city.

Y joined us, and then a bit later New Official Friend, Y and I decided to go for Mexican food in the Mission – hey its my last night! I’m totes allowed 2 suppers! Then we went for a wander and ended up at the top of Dolores Park enjoying the view over the city before grabbing Indian deserts on our way to the last BART back to the East Bay. For I still needed to pack and then get up at 6am for my flight home!

Bus ticket drama

At SFO I was probably over excited by the TSA dog – so cute, though it looked pretty skinny. Luckily the excitement was not reciprocated so I got through security uneventfully, though the same was not true about getting from Edinburgh airport back to Glasgow…

So I’d managed to lose my purse containing my return bus ticket and debit card at Reykjavik airport on the way out. Pop quiz: a) I did the responsible thing and phoned lost property about it as soon as i realised, or b) I procrastinated making the scary phone call and then decided I’d just see them when I transited on my way back home only to find out that the lost property office was only open at 8:30am, was after my 4am-7am transit time? Ooops! Of course I had a chain of backup plans in case my purse wasn’t even in the airport:

1) pick up return bus ticket with bank card in iceland.
2) use debit card stored in chrome to buy bus ticket online and choose sms ticket option
3) use Y’s credit card to buy bus ticket online
4) convert $20 at edin airport (and take on chin the double commission whammy of both converting a small amount and an airport booth – I just need £11:60 for the bus ticket…)
5) once am in uk and time is more respectable (i landed 9am) start calling round friends to either buy me a bus ticket online / rescue me from airport
6) hitchhike – lots of Glasgow folks use Edinburgh airport and I was due to land at peak time (9am)

Ok, fine, so I couldn’t get my bus ticket or debit card… i just drop to option 2. After all I’ve used my card online so often I never even have to look at the CVC anymore. It turns out that my memory of that 3 digits is perfect unless its 5am and I’m on dodgy airport wifi with no way to just look at the back of the goddamned card! Fine, I’ll use Y’s credit card – he’d given me one that was about to expire anyway in case options 1 or 2 fell through. Except it turns out the citylink website doesn’t accept non uk billing addresses. Argh! More time passes and I’m like, bugger this, I need coffee[0] and then realised i could get citylink tickets on megabus website too. So off I go but now I’m struggling with the verified by visa password and Y is busy.

However the coffee was def working – some more googling and it turns out you can buy bus tickets at edinburgh airport’s tourist information booth! They’re bound to accept card payments, and Y’s given me his pin so i’m sorted! There are buses at 9:30 and 10:00 and I’m desperate to just get to my own bed by this time.

[09:00] Luckily our flight lands a bit early and I race through immigration and to the booth (in post coffee alertness at Reykjavik I’d pre-memorised the route from the online airport map)

[09:15] Possibly over sharing I tell the v friendly “welcome to scotland” person that i’ve just arrived back from travel abroad and so don’t have cash yet and so want to buy the bus ticket using my credit card and am hoping to make the 09:30 bus. She says she’s going to make sure she can give me the ticket before taking my money and then has to boot the computer an go through the complex online system. “I don’t think we have to waste time filling in your phone number and email address. I’ll just tick that you refused to give them to me”

[09:18] The printer is jammed and after several minutes she gives up trying to fix the feed and goes to another machine which thank the universe spits out the ticket.

[09:23] I put Y’s credit card into their card reader, but instead of asking for the pin, it says “payment accepted. signature required” and directs me to remove the card. So she prints the receipt and asks me to sign it. I squiggle “Praveen Kumar”[1] and hand it back.

[09:24] She flicks over the card (d’oh! of course she was going to do that! i’d forgotten that was even a thing. when was last time you signed for a card payment???) and the signature panel is blank… “Do you have any other ID with you?” Me, feigning calmness but running lateness “Oh no, I don’t have an other ID with me!”

Lets recap : 1) I’ve told her I’ve just landed off an international flight. 2) As far as she’s concerned she’s addressing a white female with an English accent. 3) The card is for an American bank with an Indian male name.

“Well I think you’ve been kept waiting long enough trying to get it printed. Turn right and then right again to get to the bus stop”

I LOVE BEING BACK IN SCOTLAND!!!! And I am very appreciative that I have bucketloads of white privilege which I am benefitting from – doubt this would have been so easy had Praveen Kumar been trying to use a card with a white chick’s name on :(

Friday – Spontaneous outing to The Lost Boys at amusement park

I arrived home at about 11am. Obviously first thing I did was put the kettle on. Ah tea, now things seem more reasonable. Ok, so I’ve had maybe 6 hours sleep since Wednesday, and I should probably change my clothes, but all I need to do today is stay awake til 8ish, go to the bank to get cash out across the counter, and get a few groceries in for the weekend. Then I’ll sleep like a baby and wake up some time tomorrow, go to the LGBTQ boxing club, and my timezone should be all fixed ready for 12 hour shift on Sunday. By 4:30pm I’ve done bank and shop chores and have cash and am planning a quiet evening and then sleeeeeeeep.

img_20170217_194454517.jpgAnd then, this being Glasgow, a friend invites me to a Glasgow Film Festival screening of The Lost Boys in a secret location, buses leaving from the GFT in 90 mins. So much for the early night plan! Accompanied by motorbikes revelling as they rev their engines to full blast we are transported to M&Ds amusement park. We bump into another friend and play on the rides opened up specially for the occasion, the park packed with excited adults in vampire/hunter dress-up squirting holy-water-pistols at each other on the big wheel and maximal audience participation through a favourite teenage movie. Much glee!

Walking home from the bus, much sleep deprived but very content with how lucky I am to come back to Glasgow, where being “cool” means showing your exuberance, participating to the max. Not sneering, but rather thrilling at and cheering on others’ dorkiness and throwing themselves into the spirit of whatever hijinks is going on.

 

 

[0] food and drink seems to feature a lot in today’s blog… To add more, as wow air doesn’t give any food on the flight I’d packed another really good picnic; hard boiled eggs, oranges, humus and veg wrap (didn’t taste good on the flight though – i know taste buds are supposed to be different on flights), smoked tofu and jerky. This time didn’t have the conveniently under 100mls water-tight containers i had last time, and the liquor store seemed confused about why i’d want a *small* bottle of alcohol (merkans and their super-sizing!) so decided to buy booze in duty-free as obvs you can carry that onto the plane. Except then I realised once aboard that i wasn’t sure if i’d be allowed to carry it onto my second flight if i took it out of the heat sealed duty free bag and opened it. so i relied on snoozing and copious pre downloaded star trek to get me through instead. I’d turned down a pal’s offer of a “medicated” jelly bean which given the TSA doggie (such cute eyes!) was lucky!

[1] Name changed to another Indian male name for privacy reasons.

That awkward moment you realise you’re in a Maoist cult meeting but don’t want to appear rude (Berkeley day 14)

February 15, 2017 2 comments

Once talking politics might have been considered not for polite company, but these days its foregrounded in almost every encounter, be it in a shared taxi, on public transit (an unknown fellow passenger commented, in a conversation about where to get beer, that he’d just bought a pack of Budweiser in support of “the ad”), the grocery store…  95% of interactions that last longer than 10 secs have at least some kind of explicit nod to the political context.

Keen always to meet Anarchists as I travel, I was especially eager to see what they were up to given the attacks and protests going on. Last year I’d done a bit more research and seen there were 2 anarchist bookshops in the Bay Area, but only visited the one in SF, having seen there was also one in the East Bay. So yesterday I looked up “anarchist bookstore” on google maps and not only did a result show up just over a mile away but they had a meeting on fascism a couple hours later! Score!

Arriving shortly before the meeting I saw bookcases filled with radical titles and was especially excited by sections for graphic novels and children/young adults books. Another blue haired person came up (its normal for us blue hairs to want to greet each other) and was happy to hear I was from Glasgow as she’s seen that we had Trump inauguration protests, though she seemed strangely unexcited when I said I had come because I’m an Anarchist and wanted to learn more of what people were doing here. I went back to browsing the kids books.

Another person approached me asking how I knew about the meeting. He seemed friendly, and we casually chatted about Scotland and politics. At some point though he got intense and started recommending a book that was on the main display just inside the front door promising “The New Communism”. Now its not unusual for me to encounter those defining as communists who have libertarian politics, so this wasn’t a red flag to me, unlike his explanation that “since Mao died we haven’t had socialism in the world”…. Woah, wait up a second! I politely, whilst also trying to back away slowly, said that I had some issues with Mao, but luckily just then we were called to sit down for the meeting and I assumed he was just some random lefty who was also interested in fascism.

newc-book-cover-largeIt was only once we were sat (in *rows* with the speakers at the front! yes i really am this dense!) that I looked above the bookshelves and noticed that the walls of the bookshop were *covered* in large posters featuring this one dude “Bob Avakian” with the distinctly un-libertarian sounding title of “Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party”!

But by this time the talk had started and it felt like it would be rude to just get up and leave. So I sat through half an hour of unsophisticated pontificating, slowly sinking in how I’d proudly informed these authoritarian leftists that I was an Anarchist expecting them to connect with me on that! Finally I pretended i’d just got a message on my phone and suddenly had to leave smiling as I legged it out the door. Later I looked up Bob Avakian and found out they’re a legit personality cult. Absolutely no idea why google maps thought they were an anarchist bookstore, unless its a conspiracy to redirect potential radicals into something so bizarro that they retreat to capitalism sharpish! Next time I’ll do my research before merrily waltzing into a Maoist den!

Categories: diary, politics, travel

Berkeley days 0-2 i) WOW air flight ii) arriving to #SFO protest iii) politics on the streets

February 2, 2017 3 comments

i) WOW air flight

Yesterday I flew WOW air from Edinburgh to San Francisco airport (SFO) via Reykjavik. The seats were pretty spacious, unlike the baggage allowance. Measly even compared to ryanair, the free carry-on was only 42x32x25cm! I decided to refuse to pay for a “large carry-on” in addition, so packed into my day pack:

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Top row: laptop, power adapter, menstrual pads and cup, glasses case, torch/battery pack. water bottle was in side pocket and i refilled it in Rekyavik airport (water fountain is downstairs next to the toilets, below the duty free shop).

Middle row: toy bag, spare hoodie, mirror for applying eye drops, kindle (was in other side pocket), micro USB cable, headphones (were around my neck prior to eating picnic, then fitted in bag), toiletries/meds in poly bag

Bottom row: 3 * luggage cubes. 1) a gift, pair of shorts, a dress 2) underwear for 8 days plus swimsuit. 3) 6 * tshirts.

I brought a plane picnic with me, but by time i took photo (when i unpacked today) i’d already eaten it all. It was inside the bag as well so i optimised for filling/protein/fruit per volume : 2 scoops of huel in a sandwich bag (i used the water bottle to mix it in after drinking half the water), 6 cooked fishfingers, 2 hard boiled eggs, raisins and 2 apples. meant to bring nuts as well but forgot. i bought a sandwich at reykjavik airport. Only just managed to finish it all by time i landed at SFO! Will definitely do similar flying again as even on a normal flight the provided food is insufficient whereas this actually had me content. I also had 2 small containers of whisky

The seats were pretty spacious. On the trans atlantic flight they had european plug sockets to charge from. There was no tv screen at all, and it was surprising how much i missed  knowing our position as we fly, and those stats such as speed/altitude/eta. if i’d had a window seat i would have been able to turn gps on and at least know something of where we were.

ii) Arriving at #SFO to arrivals protest

I was actually more nervous about USA immigration this trip than ever before, although I thought (accurately) that my white skin and “western”/high income country passport would see me through, and they did. I looked around for the doors that those deemed unworthy because they were born in the wrong country, of the wrong skin colour were bustled off through but this was hidden for those of us who were allowed in. Fingerprints and photo was taken by the biometric systems at the immigration desk.

Walking out of the doors into arrivals was fucking awesome because from the bleak banal horror of the immigration system I walked into cheers and colourful handmade signs reading “Muslims welcome here”, “This Native American wants you in her country”, “We are a nation of immigrants” and “No ban, no wall”. Was such an upbeat, vocal, cheerful protest, although this was Monday, the day after the big callouts and airport presences of the weekend. And a dozen lawyers had a makeshift legal space set up nearby. Was so beautiful to see a diverse, courageous, visible demonstration of opposition to the white supremacy being enacted by the state.

iii) politics on the streets

Walking around Berkeley there are signs of resistance everywhere. Antifascist posters, stickers, even conversations in the grocery store. People talking about the airport protests with pride and some kind of determination to stand collectively together. Communities of resistance and solidarity to me are like the mother spider plant, nurturing and allowing baby plants to be sent off in all directions to spread this defiance and better way of living afield. I’ll write more about this as days go by.

Categories: politics

Hanukkah and finding hope at end of 2016

December 31, 2016 Leave a comment

I like it when Hanukkah coincides with Christmas, as it did this year. I tend to do ALL THE HOLIDAYS, especially given how grim 2016 has felt, and coming into the misery of winter (I do try and look for the positives, but when its grey, rainy, cold and dark outside so much of what I do to cheer myself up and enjoy life – spontaneous bike rides into the mountains or seaside, hillwalking, wild camping, exploring highlands and islands – is less available/fun (Scotland is rainy rather than snowy so far) and so I need to work harder at keeping the glums at bay) I go fullout tinsel, pretty lights, christmas foods (3 batches of homemade mince pies this year!) and annual trip to the forest to fetch in an evergreen tree to decorate for solstice. Plus Hanukkah – my spiritual practice reflects my dual roots of family heritage and geographical home; from the latter I take christmas, hogmanay and solstice.

Last year for Hanukkah I focused each night on inspirations that lit up the darkness and spread hope and possibility for change. This year I didn’t feel that so much. So I read some  mainstream Hanukkah reflections and this particularly touched me:

“[W]hat was the miracle of the first night? The light that should have lasted one day lasted eight. But that means there was something miraculous about days 2 to 8; but nothing miraculous about the first day.

Perhaps the miracle was this, that the Maccabees found one cruse of oil with its seal intact, undefiled. There was no reason to suppose that anything would have survived the systematic desecration the Greeks and their supporters did to the Temple. Yet the Maccabees searched and found that one jar. Why did they search? Because they had faith that from the worst tragedy something would survive. The miracle of the first night was that of faith itself, the faith that something would remain with which to begin again.

(from http://www.rabbisacks.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/8-Short-Thoughts-for-8-Chanukah-Nights.pdf )

And so it is with the spirit of resistance, the spirit of  that is one of the things I mean when I speak of G-d in prayers.

What did I hear again and again following brexit and then again after Trump was elected? “Lets get to work” I’m sure you all did too. An *upsurge* in people looking to respond to darkness with action. People did not give up, despite all the racism and nationalism… no, *because* of the racism and nationalism. I have witnessed more and more people, previously unwilling to take action, now wanting to stand up and be counted, to pin their colours to a progressive mast and to counteract this apparent rightwing lurch. Just a quick example because I have it to hand – neveragain.tech.

“We have hope. Rebellions are built on hope!”

There was no reason to believe that any hope would have survived the systematic desecration Trump, BoJo, Farage and their supporters did to ordinary people. And yet I did not have to search at all to hear hope and inspiration pouring from all sides.

In many ways progressive movements are almost in a stronger position now than at the start of the year. In no way am I happy that Trump/Brexit happened – I grieve for the lives already affected by the emboldenment of racists, by those fearing their lives will be uprooted due to national borders, to the set back climate change action is already seeing. But all this is in a context of an existing white supremacist society. #BlackLivesMatter arose in response to racist attacks during the Obama years. The Paris climate accords that Trump is about to rip up were never enough anyway. Inequality, injustice, poverty, oppression, inhumane treatment of refugees – these are rampant and have been for years. Our political and economic systems continue to prove how unsuited they are to providing for safe, meaningful and sustainable lives and communities; given that they were never designed to do this, perhaps not so surprising.

But now, now with the dual shocks of brexit and trump demonstrating that business as usual is not just shit, but full on accelerating full-pelt to hell catastrophic, I see, unexpectedly, candle flames of hope, resistance and solidarity lighting up one after another wherever I look.

***

Hanukkah is also this slow build up. Its not a one day thing – you have to keep lighting night after night for 8 days. And so it is with creating a better world – you start by lighting the one candle, finding that one flame of hope, but you need to keep going; day after day, month after month, year after year, generation after generation we need to keep lighting new candles from the ones already burning.

And just as the Hanukkah story is that a meagre amount of oil lasted far longer than was expected, so too must we sustain and nourish the hope we see around us to last us through the upcoming dark days through to the light ahead.

***

Here is my Hanukkah blessing. I say the usual orthodox blessing in Hebrew, but here is the intention and meaning I imbue it with:

Blessed are you, spirit of resistance, who sanctifies my life by showing me how to make it meaningful, and inspires me to kindle the Chanukah light.

Blessed are you, spirit of resistance, who wrought miracles for those who struggled for a better world, in those days and at this time.

Blessed are you, spirit of resistance, who has kept me and the wider working class alive, sustained our hearts, bodies and minds, and brought us to this season.

And then I take a minute to remember how impossible the odds must have felt for those who struggled before me, and how victory would have seemed to require a miracle at the start, for those fighting colonialisation, slavery, dictatorship, and yet now so much of that is in the past*. One day let future generations say the same about these dark times.

 

* for inspiring stories of how much people have overcome through collective struggle, courage, solidarity and hope try https://www.facebook.com/workingclasshistory/

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