Here And There

Back from England a week and only just catching up with myself. Books and posts and poems to read, feet and words to put one in front of the other, papers to file and do lists to shred; but it’s high summer, and inertia beckons so seductively.

Especially when it can be pursued lying next to a tree-fringed lake which allows wild-ish swimming.  Summer bathing in the networked lakes which ring the city is such an entrenched part of Berlin culture that it’s not quite of the same order as plunging solo into an icy rock pool on a moor (a singular pleasure that still awaits me). Schlachtensee, though, which I headed to yesterday upon a friend’s recommendation and official report of excellent water quality, is wilder than many. All free and informal, much of the shoreline lending easy access to the water, no cordoned-off swimming area so you can strike out as far as you please; even a tree to climb and swing in on a rope from, if you’re feeling strong and exuberant. Plus boats to hire and a café bar for those without other means of cooling their beer. I don’t remember dying, but this sure felt like heaven. Continue reading “Here And There”

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The High Water Mark

Have spent far too much of this week pondering a fresh wave of reactions to Uncivilization posted last weekend – the two week high water mark. There was Dire Mountain, the blog of the festival’s angry man whom several attendees have mentioned, and I have very little memory of, despite evidence pointing to the fact that we were at several of the same workshops. He didn’t like Uncivilized because it didn’t do what it said on the tin; I’m not the person to try prising that open with him. Continue reading “The High Water Mark”

Wandering Around Words

“So, civilitas, civilisation. Etymologically, the word contrasts with barbarity: the civilian with the soldier, civil law with criminal law. The problem with it, and thus our need to consider ‘Uncivilisation,’ comes about when the term gets co-opted by various forms of domination. That doesn’t make civilisation bad. It only affirms the badness of domination masquerading as civilisation. We should remember that our civil rights and civic duties are also part of civilisation. So is the duty to civil disobedience in the name of upholding a more civil sense of what is civilised. I don’t think we need to engage too much in the displacement activity (displacement from the urgent imperatives of action) in fussing about how we use these words. People who fuss overmuch about words rarely get much done. Let actions speak louder.”

Alistair McIntosh, ‘Popping the Gygian Question’, Dark Mountain 1 (my italics in the last three sentences)

As a writer who is constitutionally incapable of not fussing (endlessly) about words, I bristle whenever I’m told, as by those three sentences, to shut up and just act. Now I can grasp what McIntosh is bothered by here, and sympathise with his frustration. Pedantic sparring over the roots and meanings of words can often, in an insulated academic context, work as displacement; undermining and muddling the strength of motivation and belief that action requires. But to silence all conversation and enquiry around words, to set action up in opposition to words, even in an off-the-cuff remark, creates a loss. It throws a heavy tarpaulin over a predicament and hopes it will go away. If I were to go along with what this quotation asks of me, that would mean silently accepting that barbarians = soldiers = criminals. But predicaments like whether, or when, such an equation holds true, never go away. I’d like here to unwrap these bundled predicaments of words, turn them around to consider their different sides;  redress them in fabrics, ribbons and twine to enhance their shapes and expressions. In order honour them, to listen more closely to the stories they might have to tell. Continue reading “Wandering Around Words”

Going to Croatan: A Line Disappearing Into Imagined Sand

This post draws a line in imaginary sand, which will obey the nature of real sand by disappearing very quickly.

Croatan is one of Hakim Bey’s historical templates for the Temporary Autonomous Zone (TAZ): an energised fillip in spacetime which succeeds in escaping, for / by means of a spell, the controlling strictures of mainstream western civilization. Kids in the USA learn in elementary school that the European colonists of Roanoke disappeared, leaving behind them a mysterious message: ‘Gone to Croatan’. The official version is that they were massacred by local Native Americans. The other truth is that they went native: moved inland, rejected the impending horrors of the imperialist social contract, and became absorbed into the Croatan tribe. Continue reading “Going to Croatan: A Line Disappearing Into Imagined Sand”

Beyond the Looking Glass: Further Thoughts on the Dark Mountain Experience


More happening to me in the wake of last weekend, more worth recording.

I notice that if I get angry and react to something angry out in the world, my heart really starts hurting.

Example: there was an anti-DM opinion piece published in The Ecologist which really pissed me off. Partly because it’s still trotting out the one about DM being pro-apocalypse and anti-doing anything about it (doing being narrowly equal to traditional activism). Partly because its rhetoric was so tired and gimmicky: ‘get down off your gloomy old mountain and do some work!’ Partly because, while at least George Monbiot (when not wound up in point-scoring mode) is a well-informed, astute and worthy adversary for the project to have, 5th rate dilutions of some of his criticisms of DM are worth next to nothing. Continue reading “Beyond the Looking Glass: Further Thoughts on the Dark Mountain Experience”

The Wild Ones: Scattered Thoughts After Uncivilization


When I was trying to decide whether or not to go to Uncivilization, the first Dark Mountain festival held last weekend in Wales, I asked the tarot; using a spread which, allowing for certain limits and caveats, will give you a yes / no answer to your question.

The answer I received was a fairly strong ‘yes’, but the two cards which delivered it are among the more difficult and painful members of the minor arcana: the Three of Swords and the Five of Cups. The graphic image of the Three in the Rider Waite deck gives it to you pretty straight: a heart run through by three swords, under a stormy sky. The Five is the card of grief and loss; being mired in these emotions, eventually seeing them as a necessary stage in growth. The black-clad figure on the Rider card mourns three overturned cups, but has not yet noticed the two standing cups behind them, nor the bridge in the distance that will carry the mourner onward. Continue reading “The Wild Ones: Scattered Thoughts After Uncivilization”