Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Misandry: It's a Big Deal. Not.

Spot the victim: almost all of the above images are from mundane, every day ads on magazines, billboards and news sites.  Some are indistinguishable from images of true violence against women (bottom, center).  Ads like this tap into the misogynist's fantasy life and whether we share that fantasy or not, we have to admit it's riddled with violence and hate... which means that society is, too
I've been reading about the recent Gamergate debate(s) on Twitter - which I've still not got my head around, and am unlikely to, now that the number of tweet accusations flying around has reached critical mass.  But one thing that stuck with me after reading a few threads was the shocking blitheness with which guys on these threads bandy the word 'misandry' about.  They seem to have decided that the word 'misandrist' can be used to refer to any woman who says or thinks negative things about men. 

Is being negative about sexist men such an innately wrong behaviour that is somehow amounts to a real, actual prejudice, though?  And are men such super special beings that they never make mistakes or bad judgements that need to be criticised?  I don't think so. Any man who would suggest such a thing probably needs to get over himself.

When feminists criticise a man's behaviour as sexist, it's like when a colleague says to him at work , 'Just because you're good at your job doesn't mean that you can ask me to make coffee for you.'  The man in question may be doing well in every other respect, but if his behaviour is unconsciously and unfairly burdening another person, then that other person is entitled to criticise. This also applies to misogynist women, by the way.

But even if there are women out there who are just saying unfair, nasty things about men for the hell of it, I don't see how that is in any way as bad as beating up on men; yelling at them in the streets because they're not paying enough attention to us; rubbing up against them on crowded trains; raping them; tailgating them because we assume that their entire gender doesn't know how to drive; paying them too little or no money for their work; trafficking them; renting or buying them like commodities; refusing to treat their illnesses because it's 'all in their head'; and otherwise preventing their ability to live full, equal and safe lives, using the power that an unfair system has granted us over them. 

Let's face it: misandry simply lacks the same opportunities to manifest that misogyny has manufactured for itself, over the last dozen or so centuries.  If misandry exists on a large scale, then it mostly exists in the heads of females who hate men.  Misogyny, on the other hand, exists right out in the open where everyone can see it, where its random targets cannot avoid it, and where bystanders are desensitised by their exposure to it.  It even exists in the system.  That's why women cannot expect protection from misogyny, ironically enough... it's too ubiquitous. 

The restrictions misogyny places on us changes from country to country but they're ever-present, the deadening weight of prejudice embodied in flesh, steel and stone.  Sometimes, it just seems safer just to stay home, quit our jobs and squish ourselves into whatever tiny role the misogynists condone for us.  Indeed, it takes a force of will not to do that, even nowadays.  Any man who'd equate such immediate, physical oppression with the effect of some poorly-chosen words, is only showing how out-of-touch with women's reality he really is.  He would do better to stop and think about what the reality behind a woman's words is actually like to live in, before flinging the word 'misandry' out there as a defense against his wounded pride.  Misogyny is not just another virtual debate in which words are the only component; plenty of actions are involved in it too.  But maybe this point is lost on people who spend more time online than they do in the real world.

If feminists don't want to fight for the man who feels he isn't getting all the respect he deserves from every woman on the planet, it's just because they're already embattled on that front and many others.  They might feel that man's pain, sure, but their own pain is a bigger threat to their immediate existence.  All feminists, and the vast majority of women, do know how it feels to be shamed and snubbed and condescended to... but they also know how it feels to be threatened, groped, injured, shouted down and ridiculed by men who have too much power over their lives. 

So if you think that you're a good guy who doesn't deserve to be tarred with the same brush as all the other sexist guys out there, then that's great.  But it doesn't mean that you have the right to ask feminists to make sure your feelings aren't getting hurt. We have our own work to do too, you know.  

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

A cause with 100,00 faces

With the Flood Wall Street protests filling the news and Twitter feeds today it seems like a timely moment to reflect on climate movements through time.  Reclaim the Streets, Climate Camp and Occupy were the three big ones that happened in my lifetime.  I suspect that these urban invasions of green-painted, animistic protestors dancing to drums all owe their existence to London's Stop the City protests (1980s) and before that, the Reclaiming movement (1970s) and possibly even the Peasants' Revolt of 1381.

All were omnibus movements that brought together countless small, grassroots groups and individual activists from the countryside and suburbs, and took to the big city streets to confront the real sources of pollution and corruption head-on, in its faceless inner-city fortresses. 

In the extract below, you can read what the scene was like at one such demonstration in London in June 1999.  Called J18 it was part of an international day of action aimed at ending environmental, financial and social breakdown, similar to the international day of protest last Sunday that aimed to send a message to the UN Climate Conference happening in New York City today.

But first, here are some great images taken from famous pavement-stomping marches around the world... 
 
Climate Camp staged a never-ending sit-in in.  London 2009


Reclaim the Streets 1995: demonstrators bought this car & trashed it

Idle No More (above/below) marched on Canadian capitals in 2013



Solstice demonstration by Reclaiming movement in San Francisco

Seattle's N30 protest against the WTO in 1999





Stop the City in London 1983.










The story is taken from my new novel Vote Tekno Party - and you can read more of it by following this link!
Occupy protestor in NYC in 2011

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Berlin's Urban Monsters - A Virtual Tour

You may not realize this, but the human residents of Berlin don't just share the city with rats, wasps, sparrows and dogs. They also share it with a raft of fantastic and frightening creatures; quasi-mythical beings that lurk on secluded walls throughout the city. Born out of the primordial soup of artistic imagination, they silently broadcast sinister visions to the world without any input from it. Though they're made of the same stuff as other street art, they creep up on the viewer or shock him in a way that ordinary grafitti does not. They are the city's urban monsters.
Berlin's most famous urban monster, Molecule Man, is a metallic colossus that juts out of the Spree near An den Treptowers bridge, like a knife pinpointing the spot where art breaches the mundane surface of the city.
Yesterday, I found out that the area around An den Treptowers is a veritable wildlife sanctuary for other forms of urban monster too. While walking along the water below it, I spotted several deformed creations creeping along the abandoned shell of an old park WC.
Next to it, a small shed was wrapped in Gothic line drawings:
As I kept walking I came across a red-faced troll waiting under An den Treptowers bridge ...
...and a two-headed troll guarding the rail bridge.
It wasn't long before I realized there were urban monsters all around me. If you were just passing through, you would never know that there are monsters living on the flipside of the bridge's blank facade. They have to hide from their natural predators: grafitti removers, builders and city planners.

I have come across other manifestations of Berlin's subconscious since coming here. There was the abstract crane in Landsberger Allee...
...plus this complex mural in Friedrichshain...
...neither of which still exists today. The area around An den Treptowers seems to have been a safe haven for urban monsters for some time, if the age and complexity of its works is anything to go by. But that time may almost be up. When I was there yesterday, the air was full of the clanging and crashing of construction work which was taking place all around these buildings. If you look closely at the building below...
...which has had most of its facade stripped away for demolition / renovation purposes, you can see the sad remains of yet another painting in the centre.
This maimed urban monster is a stark example of what happens to art that finds itself in the path of people with more money than imagination.

It's possible that new urban monsters will be born and flourish on the new buildings but once the old works are destroyed, the gene pool of the previous art generation will be lost forever. A city which wipes out the old to make way for the new without connecting the two things can't hope to evolve. It can change but it can't evolve. I think that city planners the world over confuse the meanings of those two words.

Any act of creation deserves respect. If the city is a mechanical entity - like a body - then street art is the voice of the spirit at its helm. The phrase 'soulless metropolis' isn't just a figure of speech, it's a distinct possibility in any culture that doesn't treat its art with proper respect. A city without creative outlets is one where people only exist to serve the city's needs: efficiency, development and profit. Ironically, urban monsters are one of the things that can save a city from becoming a nightmare to live in.

It looks like those urban monsters are here for a limited time only, so if you want to view them in their natural habitat, do it soon!

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Swapping one warzone for another: the refugee rights movement in Berlin


"Politicians do not just want to evict buildings like the school in Ohlauer Straße or the house we squatted. In our opinion they want to evict movements, they want to evict the possibility of free decision making and self-organization. They are sneaking out of their responsibility on the cost of marginalized people." Indymedia

August 27, 2014: Oranienplatz, Kreuzberg.

They all had different skin colours, and different accents.  But whether they were fat or thin, short or tall, young or old, they all shared a certain calm, resigned strength.  Their eyes, too, shared an intelligent gleam that had been dulled to a persistent, smouldering glow.   

A few words with any of them reassured me that these people - refugees, mostly male - had not come to Germany just for fun.  Their absolute certainty in their reasons for fleeing their homelands didn’t even need to be expressed in words; it just sort of emanated from every pore.  It was just a matter of fact.

I looked around Oranienplatz.  It was almost entirely encircled with police.  Close to a hundred officers of the law were circling, hovering at a safe distance, eyeing the mixed group of 30 or 40 activists and refugees who were clustered around a bowed-but-unbeaten info stand located near the center of the platz.  With tight jaws and grim faces, the police seemed to be on high alert: constantly, inconspicuously maneuvering themselves to cover every angle of Oranientplatz, like members of the SWAT team on field operations.  They were mostly male, too, but hulking and towering over the rest of us, padded in black, armoured uniforms.The kind of uniforms that they’d normally put on to face down stone-throwing rioters.   Many were staring at us with open expressions of contempt and disgust; some looked like they could barely stand the sight of us and yearned to erase us from view.

As I watched, a group of eight or nine police suddenly splintered off from their ranks and marched toward a group of black men sitting inconspicuously in the grass, off to one side of the square.  Six-foot tall officers surrounded a painfully-thin man with Somali features who was sitting on a low metal fence.  They waded through his friends and started hustling him to his feet with brute force.  The Somali man was almost a foot shorter than the officers and made no attempt to get away; he didn't even try to move.  His face crumpled with despair and physical pain, though, as one gorilla-like cop locked each of his arms in the crook of their elbows, with biceps tightly flexed. It looked like his arms might snap in half, they were so thin. He was frog-marched in this humiliating fashion toward the road that cuts through Oranienplatz.  On the other side of it sat a flotilla of parked riot vans.  The cops were moving so briskly that the refugee was lifted up off of his feet, clamped between these hardened, robotic beings that seemed like they were made of flexed brawn.   

He didn’t make a sound as he was dragged away and vanished into a van. 

“This is a police state," cried an older activist at them as they passed, looking visibly shaken.  A blonde-haired, muscle bound cop standing near the street laughed.

“Welcome to it!” he jeered.  

I ask one of the organizers of the Oranienplatz protest - a show of solidarity with 108 recently- rejected Berlin refugees - what was going on.  Had that Somali man just been arrested?  She was a nervy young woman with long dreads, her hair shaved at the sides.

 “They have a list of the people who are to be deported,” she said.   “They recognize them from and pull them out.  They have pictures beside the names.”

“What happens to them then?”

She shrugged.  “They take him in the van and tell him what will happen if he does not leave the country.”

Apparently, one of the refugees was held in a van, a kind of mobile intimidation chamber, for eight hours yesterday.   Presumably he was beig browbeaten the entire time by military-style police, threatening him to leave or else.  No one really knows, though.  Everything that happens to Berlin’s refugees happens in isolation, without witnesses or accountability, by design.   Is this Germany's idea of transparency?  If so, then it should consider painting the glass dome on the Bundestag black. 

August 26, 2014: Gurtelstrasse, Friedrichshain.

I spent the night outside of a hostel in Gurtelstrasse where 64 refugees were moved a couple of months ago, after being evicted from the abandoned school they'd occupied in Kreuzberg’s Ohlauer Strasse.  They'd squatted the abandoned school as part of an ongoing protest against the German refugee system.  Activists call this system the lager.  Lager is the German word for a basement or storage room.  It’s an apt term for the policy, which sees refugees confined to a single neighbourhood and residence, under close watch - not unlike inmates in a compound.  
While they’re waiting for their cases to be decided, refugees in the lager are subject to a curfew and must show their I.D. every time that they go in and out of their residence. Apparently, they're not even allowed to have guests visit them.  They have no right to work or move freely in the country and few chances to socialize.  Basically, they exist in a state of suspended animation for up to six months, where only the bare minimum of basic human needs stand a chance of being fulfilled.  The need to integrate and acclimatize, to learn the language, to socialize, to be productive?  They aren't included on the list. 

Out of sight is out of mind.

After they were evicted from the school, there was a brutal and un-photogenic standoff.  It made it into the mainstream media, despite an attempted blackout; police denied the press any access to the school and its occupants.  Despite the fact that nearly a thousand (that's right, a thousand) armoured police were present at the eviction of Ohlauer Strasse, they failed to evict the refugees, in large part due to public pressure to let them stay.  One hundred and eight of the refugees remained at the end of the standoff, and those were offered a settlement by the Berlin Senate: they got free accommodation in two hostels in Friedrichshain and Mariensfelde and an allowance of three hundred Euros per month to live on, while their asylum cases were being evaluated.   

It seemed like baby steps were being made towards meeting the refugee's demands, and they were finally being treated like human beings.  

Then, on Monday, the agreement was suddenly and inexplicably broken.  Scores of armoured police turned up in force at the hostels where the refugees now live, and they were told that their applications had been rejected en masse.  They were to be evicted on Tuesday, the following day.  According to one activist who I spoke to in Gurtelstrasse, the police were carrying deportation orders for some of the refugees when they arrived.   

The  eviction of Gurtelstrasse and the Mariensfelde hostel appear to violate the Ministry of the Interior's own guidelines for handling deportations.   The Bundesministerium’s website states: 'Asylum seekers are notified of the decision in writing and given information on legal remedy.'  There’s no mention of same-day evictions being executed by armoured police carrying deportation orders.   It seemed like this was a stealth attack, calculated to get the refugees as far away from the public consciousness as possible, as quickly as possible, without any opportunity for the decision to be appealed or the tactics questioned.  

The activists that I spoke to were understandably suspicious.  One of them told me  that asylum cases are never assessed that quickly, so something must have been done wrong.   There have been other unethical moves by the Ministry of the Interior, too: a number of refugees have been threatened with deportation before the minimum six-month period of temporary asylum has passed. According to the site Contra Info, quite a few applications have also been rejected without even being assessed.  Trust in the system’s fairness is at an all-time low.  Both the activists and the refugees that I spoke to seem to feel that these applications were turned down, not because they didn't meet the necessary criteria, but because the refugees have put city officials on the spot and embarrassed them with their protest movement.  They see the evictions as an act of revenge... and the behavior of the police at Oranienplatz did suggest a sense of resentment and hostility toward the refugees.  

Photographer catches snaps of would-be deportees, to be passed on to the police
The people I've spoken to in the last couple of days have all been unanimous in their belief that the refugees’ mistreatment by German authorities all boils down to one thing: the colour of their skin.  They may have a point.  During my years in Berlin, I've seen the police handling all kinds of difficult situations: hustling an aggressive, mentally ill homeless person  off of  a train; containing unruly groups of city drunks; clearing Skalitzer Strasse after an outbreak of violence on Mayday.   In all those situations, they seemed to follow a standard protocol: they approached the (white) offender from a cautious distance and informed him what he was doing wrong or what  they were going to do if he did not stop.   After repeated warnings, they escorted the offender away with minimal physical contact and force.  But when it comes to the refugees of Oranienplatz, those boundaries don't even seem to exist.   They are denied formalities; denied personal boundaries, and their emotional and mental boundaries are treated like they don't even exist.

One of the refugees who I spoke to at Oplatz (I’ll call him 'Thomas' to protect his identity) told me that he came to Germany to escape from a vendetta campaign against his family, back in his homeland.  The country that he came from was not technically at war, but it has been recognized as being impoverished, underdeveloped and politically unstable.  Blood feuds can carry on there, generation after generation, with impunity.  After seeing his father and a friend murdered in the same night by a rival family, Thomas fled.  He eventually ended up in Germany. 

Blood feuds are much more common in destabilized nations.  So is the murder of young boys who come from the ‘wrong’ faction.  

“They take the baby boys by the feet and swing their heads against a tree to smash it,” he said, graphically.   When I asked him how many babies he'd seen killed this way, he shook his head mournfully and said, "Too many."

I suppose that goes a long way towards explaining the disproportionately high number of men on the run from homelands that are going through any kind of civil strife.   Thomas explained that in his village, women usually stayed behind because they were not targeted for revenge killings in blood feuds.  That's not to say that the women have an easier life -  they just aren't in such immediate danger of being killed.

Stories like this explain why the refugees I met at Gurtelstrasse and Oranienplatz all share a kind of dogged pacifism.  As Thomas said, “I didn't come here to make trouble [...] but I don’t want to go back and be caught up in a fight.  Then I might get caught up in a fight and kill someone and then, their family will kill me too. I just want to live.”  But instead of helping people like Thomas escape the bullies a Germany has taken to bullying them in its own turn.   

One does get a sense that what's happening here is not the routine assessment and administration of refugees, or an orderly dispersal of people who’ve been deemed ‘safe’ to return  to their homelands.  One gets the sense that a campaign of terror and intimidation is  being allowed to go continue just because it can.  Refugees in Berlin are treated like their being here is due to some sort of failing on their part.  To me, and any other compassionate person who drops into Oraneinplatz today, it’s obvious that the only failure is on the part of the German administration for treating them that way.   

I asked one activist what the average Berliner could do to help these refugees.  His humble reply: "Just come here and witness, have a look at what is going on."  It seemed like a humble request at the time, but now I understand why.  The German activists involved in this movement are being run ragged as they try to just be there for these refugees as they are isolated and picked off and moved around, shifted like so many props on a stage, under the direction of the German government.  By just simply being there, these activists are able to prevent the worst abuses happening because it turns the spotlight on the short cuts being taken by the authorities, instead of letting them go on behind the scenes.  

On Wednesday afternoon, there were only enough 'witnesses' like me there to catch the overflow of helplessness from the refugees and suffer alongside them; it will take hundreds more of us to actually repel it. So I'd urge any one reading this to go down to Oranienplatz and, if nothing else, make a visual statement of support that drowns out the officials’ condemnation and contempt.  It seems like the only way that this situation is going to change.   

Find more actions using the hashtag #oplatz on Twitter 




Tuesday, 26 August 2014

No Future (or, How To Succeed in A Dystopian Workplace)

This isn't the cover for my book... it's an artwork by David Holtek of creativedisease.com

The story below is taken from my new book 'Vote Tekno Party'.  And yes, that is the same book that I spent the last seven months working on instead of blogging!

Vote Tekno Party is a collection of stories written from the point of view of Selene, a 24 year-old expat living in late-nineties London.  She is pushing herself to live what she considers to be a totally independent, DIY lifestyle.  Throughout the book (which mostly takes place in squats, underground clubs, illegal parties and riots) she keeps on running into unexpected obstacles to that goal.

In this chapter, Selene gets fired for drawing and daydreaming while at her desk job instead of "pretending" to work, like all of her colleagues seem to be doing.  I wrote it to show the reader how out of touch Selene's expectations are with what's going on around her.  While I was writing it, though, I started to think about the difference between what people 'expect' to happen and what they think is 'meant to be'.  Good example: almost all of the artists, musicians and writers that I know 'expect' to make very little money, even though they mostly believe that's not the way that things are 'meant to be'.  Where does expectation become acceptance?

Read on to find out how Selene's answers that question, and feel free to share your own experiences and viewpoints after reading it!



https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/455815

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Paying the Troll Toll

Corporate Puppets -  from Eurekastreet
I don't know if it's just because Saturn is transiting Scorpio but recently, I've been experiencing a growing sense of unease about the Internet.  I'm not talking about the simple suspicion that it isn't as benevolent as it paints itself to be, but an active concern that it may actually be damaging the mental health of people who are using it. Part of this can be put down to my own natural state of paranoia.  The internet is so benign, so effortless and ever-present that there has to be something wrong with it, right?  If it's too good to be true then it probably is, and so on.

Then, I stumbled upon some research indicating that Facebook can be physiologically addictive; and then I learned that its designers are seemingly aware of that addictive potential and use it to their advantage, regardless of the psychological problems they may be creating.  And then the NSA scandal broke.  More recently, there has been a deluge of threatening comments sent to female writers and politicians which has led to me to look deeper into the phenomenon of right-wing trolling on the net.    While the people recently charged with threatening to rape and murder female public figures were tweeting their own views, I suspect that they felt encouraged to do so in part because there is so much right-wing trolling on the internet.

Most of you will be familiar with the existence of trolls - yes, those horrid people who continuously spout abusive, right-wing views on forums and comment threads.  Until recently, I think I assumed that they were all backwoods yahoos with unformed, uninformed opinions.  Their comments tend to be riddled with spelling mistakes, bad grammar and profanity.  They tend to be vehement promoters of false 'facts', disproven research and phoney statistics.  Very little of the information posted by trolls on the net would stand up to the scrutiny of a drunken pub debate, let alone a court of law.  And yet they seem to have vast amounts of conviction, and time, to push their dumbed-down views on us from points all across the web, creating and discarding an endless number of fresh aliases on an endless number of forums and comment boards; waging war on moderators who seem to have their hands full deleting their streams of abuse.  It's almost like being a troll is a full-time job.  Or like they're getting paid by the post.  This may be closer to the truth than you realise.

In 2011, the Guardian's George Monbiot wrote that he'd been contacted by a whistleblower who said he was, "part of a commercial team employed to infest internet forums and comment threads on behalf of corporate clients, promoting their causes and arguing with anyone who opposed them."  Sound familiar?  It will do, if you've ever participated in an internet forum.  This particular whistleblower told Monbiot that he posed as up to 70 different individuals at a time... which probably helps to explain why different trolls' posts are often nearly identical in tone and content.  Bear in mind that this whistleblower was just one employee, from one company providing 'social media management' services to corporate clients. Doubtless there are many, many more out there.

The practice of paying people to post supportive comments for a specific interest group online is said to have originated in China in 2004, where such posters are known as the '50 cent party'.  As the name suggests, these posters are paid 50 Chinese cents for every pro-government or counter-dissident post that they write.  In 2009, Datamation.com wrote that: "China’s 50 Cent Army is everybody's business.  With 300,000 people, you can see how the CCP could easily determine what makes it onto the front page of Digg, and what gets shouted down. They could use Wikipedia, YouTube and Slashdot as their most powerful tools of global propaganda."

That's true if China is the only country that hires right-wing commentators, but it isn't.  Throw in the U.S.A., Russia, Canada and Israel - to name but a few of the countries whose governments have hired 'online supporters' in recent times - and the potential to skew public perceptions becomes overwhelming.  In 2011 it was revealed that the U.S. military's Central Command, or Centcom, had signed a contract with a company known as NTrepid to 'manage online personas' for its staff.  NTrepid's software would enable every serviceman and woman to create and use up to 10 fake online aliases worldwide.  The Guardian reported that:  'The Centcom contract stipulates that each fake online persona must have a convincing background, history and supporting details, and that up to 50 US-based controllers should be able to operate false identities from their workstations "without fear of being discovered by sophisticated adversaries".'

Presumably, the phrase 'sophisticated adversaries' is used here to refer to anybody with an intelligent counter-argument, or an awareness of insidious propaganda machines!  Centcom, predictably, has stated that it cannot reveal what these fake online personas are being used for.  They say it's classified.  In these post-NSA times, that is not a word that inspires confidence.

NTrepid has also run surveillance to keep tabs on anarchist organizations in the past and, as the PrivacySos website points, out that, "The DoD is therefore paying a company that monitors the internet use of anarchists and radicals in the United States to actively interfere with and inject pro-military propaganda into online conversations about politics."  How that is any different from China's 50 cent party?  Although Centcom claims that its online tool will not be used in English-speaking countries, one is invited to view that claim through a skeptical lens too.

The practice of 'astroturfing' (creating fake grassroots groups to make a fringe cause appear more popular than it is) has also entered the online world, where it's become virtually untraceable.  In 2010, Canada's CBC News reported that the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade had hired a Toronto-based company called Social Media Group, "to help counter some information put forward by the anti-sealing movement."  There doesn't appear to be any record of what this hired help got up to online.  Were they clearly identified as government employees?  Were they abusive?  Did they cite misleading studies or facts?   Why do I get the feeling all that information's probably 'classified', too?

The biggest problem with these hired commentators is that they are in a prime position to skew public opinion in favour of groups which already wield a great deal of influence - people who have lots of money or some other form of control over the masses.  If these groups are also using 50 cent parties to 'influence' the public opinion, then they are crossing a line into mind control.  Governments do not exist to influence our opinions after all, but to represent them.  Just as corporations do not exist to tell us what we want, but to listen and provide for it.

If you regularly read any forum that discusses left-wing issues, you have probably witnessed how quickly a troll's reactionary tirade can shut down intelligent debate on any subject.  Regular internet users know how to recognise and avoid trolls but for the casual users - those who go online just to read an article or two - the mass of vitriol out there can be disturbing.  I wonder how many casual internet users come away from their computer feeling that intolerance is the new norm.  And yet it isn't - at least some of that online vitriol is being manufactured by the powers-that-be.  You have to wonder what their endgame is in doing so.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

195 Mare Street: Un-gentrifying Hackney

The days of Hackney being the 'most squatted borough in London' may be in the past now, but that doesn't mean that the odd occupation can't still be carried off when needed. In the case of 195 Mare Street, the 'need' they are responding to is that of offering a community meeting space, with services that locals whose presence predates the gentrification, can actually afford. Since the government is currently refusing to keep up its end of the "public taxes=public services" equation, centers like 195 Mare Street really need your support and probably your hands-on help too. Why not drop in and see what they can offer you & vice versa?

The centers blurb (from Indymedia):

"A new squatted social space has been created in Hackney - 195 Mare St. The space aims to be an active and inspiring hub for local individuals and community groups.

The current projects being are working on are a language school, bicycle workshop, library, free shop, screenings, hack lab and a vegan cafe. There will also be workshops and info nights. Everything will be either free or for donations.
However, there is scope for so much more. If you have any ideas or projects that would suit the space please get in touch.

There are many ways to get involved, and people are very welcome to contribute.

If you are able to donate materials, the following would be very useful:

building / decorating tools and equipment
kitchen equipment (especially cookers and large pots)
computer parts
bike parts
clothing for the free shop
heaters
books for library
art equipment

Please email us of feel free to drop by between the hours of 3-6pm on Sun - Tues and Thurs.

The 11th October will be our official opening night, with live music and other entertainment. Well worth a visit!

 http://195marestreet.wordpress.com/