Just over a year ago, my friends and I travelled to Kurdistan in northern Iraq. It was January 2012 and we had just spent two months in Iran. Imagine our surprise when we reached Sulaymaniyah and were greeted with Christmas decorations on the streets of this predominantly non-Christian country, and imagine our confusion as we saw huge 4×4 cars rolling past expensive hotels. Within ten minutes of being in Sulaymaniyah, it was clear that the corporate takeover of the region’s resources was well under way.
Three days ago, at 5.30am on the tenth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, myself and two others ran up to the security fence of the EDO arms factory in Brighton and locked ourselves onto the gates, using d-locks around our necks, ensuring that the gates would not open when the workers came in for their shift at 5.45am and stopping deliveries from arriving. The other two activists superglued their hands to the gates. We remained locked there for six hours until the police removed us, and we were given support by other anti-war activists, who stayed by our sides.
Since moving to Brighton, my second home has become the Cowley Club, a collectively-owned non-profit base for activists to meet each other, hold meetings, stage events and eat vegan cake! I have become involved with Smash EDO, an anti-arms campaign against the local weapons factory, EDO MBM. Admirably, Smash EDO has been campaigning constantly since 2004, holding weekly demonstrations outside the factory, as well as organising many mass direct actions, rooftop occupations, peace camps, critical mass bike rides, blockades of the company’s phone lines…the list goes on. And in January 2009, when more than 1,400 Palestinians were killed in the Gaza Massacre, a group of activists broke into the factory and caused hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of damage. In court, the activists were found not guilty, as they were trying to prevent a greater crime. Despite all this, EDO remains in Brighton, protected by police at every demonstration.
I have returned to England after spending most of the last three years in foreign lands. I want to keep an open mind and try not to let past prejudices cloud my judgements about England. Whilst travelling, I was pretty critical of the land where I am from, but was I being unjust?
On my return, I discover that the obsession with consumerism, celebrity and image is as prevalent as ever, that the media is just as untrustworthy and sexist, and that the government is just as horrific. But I discover two amazing things: that England’s nature is beautiful, and secondly, that people are friendly! As I walk through the streets of Brighton, people smile at me! Some even say hello. People like to chat here. I realise that a decade of living in London had given me the wrong impression of people in this country.
The anti-capitalist journalist, John Pilger, says that politics in Britain has one meaning:
“The replacement of democracy with a business plan for every human activity, every dream, every decency, every hope, every child born.”
And Chris McCandless quoted in the film, Into The Wild, that “careers are a twentieth century invention and I don’t want one!” With these two quotes in mind, I will carry on experiencing life without conforming to people ‘s expectations. It has amused me (and irritated me, too) that in Germany and in England the first question that people ask me is “so, what do you do?” I have come up with all sorts of amusing answers to that question since I gave up my “career”. To me, it is ridiculous that a career (probably producing consumerist-tat that no-one needs, or working in a brain cell-killing office job) is seen as the benchmark in monitoring human worthiness.
Because I live without much money, two things are essential to me: hitchhiking and dumpster diving (or skipping).