Sunday, October 20, 2013

Anarchist Bookfair - London 2013


     When David and I got there, the campus’ streets were already full of anarchists of all denominations. Young, excited punks, grey-haired intellectualists in corduroy suits, serious feminists with dogged determination on their faces, dread-lock gurus giving speeches about Middle East and oppression of the State. I loved it.
     In the corner there was a lonely Socialist Party stall, with a sad, bit embarrassed girl standing next to it and trying to hand leaflets to uninterested passer-bys. It was interesting to see how the grudge on the Marx-Bakunin line is still alive. Like touching the history.
     We got into the building to look for Maria. We were planning to meet there from our last meeting. Also she wanted to meet David, who may move to her place in December.
     It was pretty stuffy inside. Or maybe it was the hangover. David didn’t feel good either. The yesterday’s jam session was going for almost the whole night, I was in bed at 4 AM, and not in the best shape.
     There was no sight of her to be seen anywhere. I called her. She got a terrible toothache so she couldn’t make it.

     David and I decided to go out for a moment to grab some fresh air, coffee and maybe a small beer to shake off the stupor. We sat on the bench in the park and went through the Bookfair program to decide what to do. Eventually we made our mind. We’d start from “Libres” – talk and performance by Pilar Lopez about 1936 Spanish Revolution, then “Anarchism & the Middle East” and to finish, “Sexual Consent Workshop”.

     The lecture theater was roomy, and had very comfortable chairs. That was a good start. The audience was dark-haired, olive complexion, the Spanish language resonated around. The girl who, I supposed was a lecturer struggled with the computer and projector. She didn’t really succeeded so it was going on and off for the whole hour, stuck on one slide (a ten years old boy drinking wine from the wine skin). She spoke very quietly, so the audience leaned forward and hardly breathed, trying to understand almost inaudible words. I realized that it was going to be very basic presentation on Spanish Civil War and the things that led to it, and I studied the topic in depth, so I let myself to drift. In the semi-darkness I was looking at the listeners’ faces. Maybe I’ll sound too idealistic, but it struck me how many nice, beautiful and interesting faces were there. Thoughtful eyes, kind smiles, openness and forthrightness. You don’t see it every day on the street, where people are usually very self-involved, careful, distrustful and distant.
     The talk was varied by songs from the Civil War. The lecturer had sweet, sonorous voice, very attractive. “Anda Jaleo”, “En la plaza de mi pueblo”, “Si me quieres escribir”. Love those songs.
     We didn’t go to the second talk we planned. Instead we went to get some food. There were veggie burgers sold outside for a donation, but the queue was so long and moving so slow that we decided to go to a shop. Got some veggie curry and bread, and sat outside.

     I was approached by a guy I didn’t know, but he seemed to know me. He spoke Polish and I realized, he must be D., the Polish anarcho-syndicalist I was writing with since I’m in the UK. He brought me the latest issue of Inny Świat (anarchist magazine) that had an interview I gave last summer (about my music, songs and general ideas about life). Then he invited me for a direct action next Sunday, but I think I wont go. I need some positive engagement, not sabotage initiatives, however justified they might be.

     I was little bit shy when we got to the “Sexual Consent Workshop”. I’m not used to talk about sex in a nonsexual situation, with strangers. I find it little awkward. Still I thought it could be an educational experience, and it’s good to break free from our own limitations. David said that he was ok, relaxed. I guess he takes things easy much easier then me.

     And the workshop itself? I have mixed feelings. I was expecting something more general, like setting the boundaries, maybe talking about experimenting even, but it was very abuse orientated. You could see that many people there (girls mostly) were abused in one point of their life or another, and there was a weird tension in the air. Lots of guilt, resentment...don’t know. I guess it is needed to do this workshops, there are people that this issue is very relevant to, but I think for it to work it has to be more objective, neutral and even-tempered. Ok – there was nothing inappropriate or weird in that workshop, I can’t really criticize  it, but it wasn’t my cup of tea.

     I know what put me off in the very beginning of it. The girl who led the workshop asked everyone to introduce themselves and say what pronoun they want to be addressed by – he, him, she, her. It was very artificial and I don’t see how exactly is it suppose to help in promoting tolerance, understanding, etc. There was an Arab man, older gentlemen and he just couldn’t understand what they are asking him to say. He looked embarrassed, like a child in a classroom, not comprehending what the teacher wants from him.

     And basically that was the end. We wandered for some time amongst the book stalls, my heart bleeding for not being able to afford any of this great literature. We collected all the free stuff we could and left.

     We finished the night with a long, slow walk through the crowded streets of London. Munching on a piece of bread and talking about meaning of life, love, fear, harmony.

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