Yes, when I came back to the mean streets of Walthamstow tonight, there were Afro-Caribbean rappers in the main square (well actually it's more like the pebble dash trapezoid) and they were taking back Walthamstow for Christ, with the lyrics "No looting, no knives [something something I could not understand] for Christ" and hundreds of young people were hooting in agreement.
Meanwhile, the cafes on Hoe Street (my 10 minute walk home) had Muslim folks hanging out after breaking their Ramadan fast (their Iftar). There were still metal gates rolled down over store fronts, but most of the restaurants were open and everyone seemed just fine.
I come home to check the Twitter feed to find out the Walthamstow respite center is working overtime, feeding ambulance, fire, police and outreach workers with homemade muffins and such.
So, I wasn't feeling in much danger.
But even so, underneath everything there is an unease. I don't know why. Maybe it all feels too good to be true, or maybe the religious tint to it is something I can appreciate but not entirely embrace, or maybe it's the endless rhetoric on radio, TV and news about harsher policing tactics that are needed, and the too-easy demonizaton of those that have committed the violent acts and the looting.
When anyone demonized the bankers in this way, they were accused of fomenting class warfare or of being resentful. But say that anyone caught looting should lose their council house and welfare benefits because they are scum, and you are A-OK. This bothers me.
Why is class warfare only when poor or working class people are angry at wealthier people? Why is it not class warfare when wealthier or more educated people are demonizing poorer people? I saw an apt Cornel West quote recently that said something along the lines of: wealthy and powerful people have successfully characterized working people as a special interest group.
In other words, monied interests are normalized and anyone else's interests are marginalized.
But, am I glad there is no violence here tonight though? You bet.
And here is where it always gets tricky. I don't want my house burned down anymore than the next person, nor do I want to see the local Turkish shop torched.
On the other hand, I still can't bring myself to demonize the people rioting.
Maybe cultures are like individuals. We all have our darker and lighter sides. If we demonize or repress any part of ourselves, we are doomed to act out on it one way or the other. Somehow this seems the same. If we try to just shunt aside all this violence and the people perpetrating it and say they are Other and Not Like Us, etc., are we not shunting aside a vital part of who we are and what we have become and are becoming? Are we then not listening to something about the culture we have created?
I am aware that not everyone involved is young and underprivileged. I don't know the total make-up of this group of people, none of us do. But the fact this violent outburst happened and continues to happen means at the very least: something is wrong. We can disagree about What is wrong, but we can't look at all this and think, oh well, then we're doing everything right and these are just a few 'bad apples' who need a more disciplinarian upbringing and then presto all will be well again.
The disciplinarian approach is gaining favor here now. You can feel the desire for the whip. There are many petitions to Downing Street to bring back the death penalty. Someone else was talking about how "on the Continent the police take thugs down the alley and give them a going over." The talk show host on BBC Radio 5 laughed nervously and said "Surely you're not advocating-"... and of course yes that is precisely what he was advocating. And it is precisely this attitude that sparked the whole riot in the first place, namely, the fatal shooting of a suspect by police, that so far has no adequate explanation.
That spark over the slow gas leak of cuts of over 25% in social services, etc., etc. and you can see where this is all going.
Meanwhile the stock market is plummeting as the band-aid bailout in 2008 has finally fallen off the festering wound, and I must say I am kind of astonished at the renewed relevance of my play We live in financial times, Part 1: Blackberry Curve (written in October 2008) and which you can now read on Indie Theater Now. Now not only the shell game of the financial system falling apart but also the Voice that comes in to remind the two guys Mike and James that their little game has not benefitted a huge underclass. This Voice is then embodied and makes Her presence felt. So, if you like my writing on this blog, do check out the play. This play has not yet been produced beyond a staged reading, so like, contact me if you're interested.
OK, so that was self-promotional, so sue me. A girl's gotta eat at some point, and we all Know that experimental (political) theater is the best way to make a living. [cue laugh track...]
So, that's probably enough for tonight. I am feeling less scared and hope tonight to sleep before 4am consequently. I felt less scared last night but when I hit bed could not sleep for fear of wheelie bins being set alight and such. No reason for that in this area, but it had happened near by the night before and the sirens are kind of relentless. That has a lot to do with living off the main road not very far from the police station, though.
Ah, another thing I did today that was good: meditated before checking email and such. However, all I did was cried most of the way through because feeling the separation from my husband. I will be glad when this is not the first feeling that hits me in the morning. At some point I know that will pass, but I am emotionally drumming my fingers on the table waiting for it. Loss sucks.
However, here's hoping that peace prevails another night here in the Stow and all round London. And whatever Christ means that is good, that that can prevail, too. Or Whatever or Whomever you believe in can prevail.
There are many ways through a big mess like we're in right now, and I do pray for the most non-violent one, but non-violent in all the meanings of that world - meaning: justice, access, food, shelter, health care and a voice for all, not just those that look like us and speak in a language we already understand.
My prayer tonight: that we listen harder to and look more deeply at others and ourselves.
Welcome to my blog..
"We struggle with dream figures and our blows fall on living faces." Maurice Merleau-Ponty
When I started this blog in 2011, I was in a time of transition in my life between many identities - that of Artistic Director of a company (Apocryphal Theatre) to independent writer/director/artist/teacher and also between family identity, as I discover a new family that my grandfather's name change at the request of his boss in WWII hid from view - a huge Hungarian-Slovak contingent I met in 2011. Please note in light of this the irony of the name of my recently-disbanded theatre company. This particular transition probably began in the one month period (Dec. 9, 2009-Jan. 7, 2010) in which I received a PhD, my 20 year old cat died on my father's birthday and then my father, who I barely knew, died too. I was with him when he died and nothing has been the same since. This blog is tracing the more conscious elements of this journey and attempt to fill in the blanks. I'm also writing a book about my grandmothers that features too. I'd be delighted if you joined me. (Please note if you are joining mid-route, that I assume knowledge of earlier posts in later posts, so it may be better to start at the beginning for the all singing, all dancing fun-fair ride.) In October 2011, I moved back NYC after living in London for 8 years and separated from my now ex-husband, which means unless you want your life upended entirely don't start a blog called Somewhere in Transition. In November 2011, I adopted a rescue cat named Ugo. He is lovely. As of January 2012, I began teaching an acting class at Hunter College, which is where one of my grandmothers received a scholarship to study acting, but her parents would not let her go. All things come round…I began to think it may be time to stop thinking of my life in transition when in June 2012 my stepfather Tom suddenly died. Now back in the U.S. for a bit, I notice, too, my writing is more overtly political, no longer concerned about being an expat opining about a country not my own. I moved to my own apartment in August 2012 and am a very happy resident of Inwood on the top tip of Manhattan where the skunks and the egrets roam in the last old growth forest on the island.
I am now transitioning into being married again with a new surname (Barclay-Morton). John is transitioning from Canada to NYC and as of June 2014 has a green card. So transition continues, but now from sad to happy, from loss to love...from a sense of alienation to a sense of being at home in the world.
As of September 2013 I started teaching writing (composition and rhetoric) as an adjunct professor at Fordham University, which I have discovered I love with an almost irrational passion. While felt blessed for the opportunity, after four years of this, the lack of pay combined with heavy work load stopped working, so have transferred this teaching passion to private workshops in my own apartment and working with writers one on one, which I adore. I will die a happy person if I never have to grade an assignment ever again.
I worked full time on the book thanks to a successful crowd-funding campaign in May 2014 and completed it at two residencies at Vermont Studio Center and Wisdom House in summer 2015. I have done some revisions and am shopping it around to agents and publishers now, along with a new book recently completed.
I am now working full-time as a freelance writer, writing workshop leader, coach, and editor. Contact me if you are interested in any of these services.
Not sure when transition ends, if it ever does. As the saying goes, the only difference between a sad ending and a happy ending is where you stop rolling the film.
For professional information, publications, etc., go to my linked in profile and website for Barclay Morton Editorial & Design. My Twitter account is @wilhelminapitfa. You can find me on Facebook under my full name Julia Lee Barclay-Morton. More about my grandmothers' book: The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick & Jani
Recently, I started a website Our Grandmothers, Our Selves, which has stories about many people's grandmothers. Please check it out. I will be blogging there, too, now. You can also contact me through that site.