UPDATE at 3:45am: I wrote the below before found out tonight the rioting and looting has now moved all over London including Walthamstow, where I live. It appears to be focused on stores on the high street, but it seems as if it's just going everywhere in London, so that's scary. So far my corner seems quiet enough. But whoever is doing this also looted a school, which is truly low-rent behaviour.
As riots raged last night in Tottenham, a couple miles west of me in Walthamstow, I wondered why they did not move east towards us, when I realized that perhaps I had Ramadan to thank for the relative peace of our neighborhood. Tonight, there are riots in Enfield apparently and the ceaseless sound of helicopters continues.
The helicopters used to be closer, their search lights glaring into our back gardens in the aftermath of the suspected terrorist arrests the same year I moved here. These supposed terrorists had lived and worked around the corner.
I am struck therefore by the interesting role religion plays in this area. Also, I should add, there are not only mosques, but Hindu temples, Jehovah's witnesses, Quakers, Buddhist, Spiritualists, some African religions I don't understand what to call but seem to exist, the Anglicans, Baptists and Catholics, spiritual healers from Sri Lanka, Evangelical Brazilians and that's just the ones I can figure out within a mile of my house.
Why this corner of Walthamstow? Such a convergence of a multiplicity of religious fervors. And I mean these folks are religious, these are not Sunday Christians or Friday Muslims, but they are at their various meeting places a lot. And I think, actually, that this may insulate us from the riots.
This does not insulate us from the all male Muslim rallies, that are, frankly, a little scary. Or the wild parade of fervent Hindu devotees rolling down the street or with hooks in their skin. Or the Jehovah's at the door a lot. And on and on.
I have such a divided feeling about religion, and this state of affairs kind of sums it up. On the one hand, religion can lead people to incomprehensible violence in the name of that religion (that includes most all organized religions, by the way, including the Buddhists back in the day in the East - who were kinda like the Christian Crusaders were in the West...look it up, it's true). On the other hand, when dealing with something like the Tottenham riots, which are in response to a confusing police shooting, and has an irrational, looting, burning kind of thing going on, the chance of that breaking out here is relatively small.
I do, by the way, get Zizek's levels of violence and understand that the kids lighting fires and looting in Tottenham are the visible response to more systematic economic violence, but Still when you live a couple miles away from it, trust me, you don't want it coming too close to your wheelie bin (Americans: trash can), car, house, garden shed, bus, etc. I would love to be cool enough to put on a balaclava and fight with the people, but I'm not. I'm a single 48 year old female in a relatively poor neighborhood so feel quite vulnerable to this kind of violence whether intended for me or not, and no matter how left of Mao my politics might be.
So what does this have to do with religion? Well, I suppose if there is a framework, no matter how flawed, that at least attempts to live in peace and along spiritual lines, there can be a more peaceful atmosphere on the streets. On the other hand, that's true of Mafia controlled areas in the US too, so you see what I mean by double-edged. (I also lived in Greenpoint, Brooklyn in the early 1990s in the mob-controlled Napolitan triangle that time forgot - police cars 'escorted' young black men out of the neighborhood - I once was woken up by the sound outside my apartment of a guy begging for his life before being shot, the slam of the car door and screech of it speeding away - when the police came, I was relieved to say no, I had not seen anything - when it was clear they had no interest in knowing Anything but were checking if we did).
I suppose ultimately, I tend to be more pro than anti the religious groups in my area because there are so many of them seemingly coexisting peacefully. On the other hand, my first step-father George was a minister and quite abusive. And I had a weird time as an Evangelical Baptist in my early teens (see earlier posts about this). But I've spent peaceful times in Quaker meetings, Buddhist and yoga retreats. I've met some amazing people who are religious or work within religious frameworks. I have met nightmare people who do the same. But they are no more or less nightmarish than smug fundamentalist secularists.
So, I think what I generally have a problem with (as is obvious from my play The Jesus Guy) is with fundamentalism itself, the stubborn believe that one's system of belief is the One and Only Way and All Others Are Morons and/or Evil and/or Sick and/or Delusional...etc...But even when dealing with someone in that framework, can I judge? Or do I then devolve into a form of relativist fundamentalism?
You know, the funny thing is, I wasn't going to write much of anything tonight, but like fat chance, right?
My daily life today consisted of getting a politically incorrect yet highly enjoyable pedicure, eating some nice fruit, walking between rain storms and meeting up with friends. The day started in inconsolable amounts of tears, mostly in response to feeling so scared and alone last night during the riots down the road. But I survived, of course, thanks to the River Lea (which divides Tottenham and Walthamstow) and Ramadan. Today, after letting me cry for a while, my friend Jennifer insisted gently that I do things that were good for me, and so I did (toenails, fruit, walking). I am on that knife edge now between feeling OK and despair, but that's just the way it is right now. I am not doing anything to numb the pain and that's what's important for me. Eventually it will pass and I will be stronger. Even when I don't know that, I know that...if that makes even the tiniest amount of sense.
I will be in NYC next week and for that I am deeply grateful. Hopefully no one will decide to start rioting there. Meanwhile, here, in Tottenham, I hope that the police commission does a real investigation into the shooting and resolves the issues. The amazing thing in London, for someone from the US, is that most police have no guns and indeed most people have no guns. So, the fact that this happened - a police shooting - is a Huge Deal. There is little trust between a lot of people in Tottenham and the police, so it makes it hard to believe that there will be an easy resolve here. The issues of economic and racial oppression are real and this always creates havoc.
On the other hand, the stories that predominated on Twitter last night were about people looting hair weave, which just made me laugh. And right now the sirens are wailing and the helicopters whirring away again tonight.
It's the 1980s all over again - not just hairstyles anymore - we got yer riots and yer Tories and yer long hot summers. London's burning. The Clash anyone?
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.