Leaving London

It’s never very personal, this blog. No everyday details, no small defeats and great achievements. I am breaking from form. I remember the days when I was so worried I would forget where I came from.  Looking for work now, these days it is more of a panic that perhaps I am being dragged back into poverty, and that  I might not have actually escaped. Bad dreams. Sudden awakenings. Worries about everything. Such a big change, that shapes everything I write I think, especially when I am reading so many things written by people who have only an intellectual stake in things. Nothing personal.

I know, of course, that everything is personal. When I think about it, I value this. Of course we should care about what we write, of course it means something, all this theory we produce.

But I know this is not valued.

I want to shout that this is not just about a career. This is about erasing exploitation and poverty and racism,about  joy in what we have created as well as critique, this is life and death, hope for the  future or our own descent into global-warming peak-oil drought and famine horror. This is about change. A career is what is needed to carry this struggle on, to send money to my mother, to live simply but with some decency. So many people seem to just want the career. They are incomprehensible to me.

In a week and a half, I am saying goodbye to London. No job? It makes no sense to cling here. It is perhaps a forever goodbye. Tonight I was out with some of the people I love the most, and I can’t quite believe it is a forever goodbye. It doesn’t feel possible. Again, a goodbye. There are so many of them. Goodbye Tucson. Goodbye L.A. Goodbye London? I will go wherever will hire me, and I have preferences, but in this academic world you can’t want too much.

Since the banks took from us the home I most loved, the home built by my parents, the home in the desert, the mud house nautilus house adobe house, since then I have never fully loved a place. Never fully felt at home. A violence that I have not forgiven, and will never get over. A human violence that makes no real sense in the face of the universe, in the face of what matters. That makes every sense in the face of profit and the reality human beings have created for themselves.

I always worried that I did not understand human beings the way I understood the desert.

But I have loved people since then, communities. They are what I mourn now, what I miss now, the holes in my life where love and wisdom and caring should be. People to tell me I am fucking things up, people to go on adventures with, people to stay up late talking about everything and nothing with, people who laugh with me and who will take care of me when everything goes wrong. I think of them every day but too many of them live thousands of miles away, so I hold them in my heart and wish every good thing for them and all the good they are trying to achieve in the world. Beverley and Jose, Gilda and Gary, Maria and Chris and Jonas, Monic, Gloria and Reina, las dos Marias and Aracely and Manny and Norberta and Bobby and Davin and Lydia and Gerry. Patty and Irene. Leonardo. Don Toñito who has already gone ahead. So many more.

Leaving London will only create more holes. This place full of history and wonder and struggle. This place where you can take a bus or walk home at 3 am and not worry. This place that has transformed what I hope for from a city — local markets and cheap good food, safe streets and no catcalling, good public transportation, friendliness, an incredible mix of people and culture and language, police without guns (though I know some of them still have guns and kettling is no joke), a lack of guns generally, concerts and theatres and free museums and pubs and conviviality and perhaps there’s no country or rancheras on the jukebox or mariachis when I am sad, but there are some places with amazing Mexican food. This list seems paltry, I know I can do better. London is so much more.

I already miss South London, I already miss the East End.

This city is too expensive, for so long I paid as little as possible (still too much) to live in a terrible place and was miserable. Now I live in a very imperfect place that is still my own, a refuge yet I pay so much that everything else in life is out of kilter. I know the political economy of London, know the ways it is eating itself, forcing out everyone who loves it most, killing creativity and joy. I know it is killing itself. It is not an academic example of a city that is bent on destroying everything that makes it what it is. It is a personal example. It has beaten me. It has stripped me once more from a community that I love.

Rationally I know too that it is not London. It is developers, banks, politicians, the financialization of capital and real estate. Yet the soul of the city seems bigger than they are, so in the end I can only blame London itself. I still haven’t quite worked out what that means.

We lobbied to save libraries today, Lambeth council incompetently selling things gifted long ago to their constituents, turning libraries into gyms and paying for the pleasure — I missed the lobby, walked miles, long story, but we ended in the pub. The Railway Tavern, Tulse Hill (Tulse Hill still isn’t quite home the way Brixton is, I hope to have an Effra reunion next week). Sean and Ruth, RMT stories and high fashion librarians and struggle and what the working classes can do to win…about the meaning of books, the losing of spontaneity through high train fares and all the joyful possibility of adventure now gone, being priced out of football and so many other good things. About the way that privatised railway lines got a clause that allowed them charge the government (us, really) for their costs incurred by ‘lawful’ industrial action to the tune of over £20 million pounds. Unbelievable. But still we fight, and all of these fights we are losing. I am not one to say it doesn’t matter as long as we tried, but it has been an honour to fight in this company, and this was another night among so many I treasure — remember that night we occupied the town hall? Hopes were high then. I have no words for the sorrow I feel…

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