Thursday, 9 April 2020

From the March 2020 Chaotopia Newsletter Covid Special

I thought I'd republish this in my blog, so it's there for those who don't get my newsletter.

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Welcome to Chaotopia in the season of plague. And thank you, all you readers, for signing up and reading these newsletters. It's gratifying to know that people find them worthwhile.

In this issue you'll get more than the usual one-paragraph intro, and the lower sections cover things from more than two weeks ago, that are already part of another world. Here are some thoughts and a few resources I've gathered.

I'm no youngster but this is a new and unique experience for me. The other plagues I've lived through, such as the early stages of HIV/AIDS, affected friends tragically, but this is the first one that's threatened everyone. Things really have changed; there's no going back to the old world.

PLAGUE WARTIME

When I was a child my parents used to say how much they missed the solidarity and community spirit of the war years. I asked, do you prefer war to peace? They said no, of course peace is better. But I was impressed by their nostalgia.

Now, for the first time in my life, I feel like I might just be starting to understand what that felt like.

I think I first noticed this when I went to a music gig at a friend's place less than two weeks ago, pretty much the last social event I attended. The people there seemed to be appreciating each other more than usual. Eye contact was longer and with warmer smiles. We were valuing each other's company more.

Then there was the delivery man who brought a parcel I had to sign for to my door, the most cheerful delivery person I've ever met. I started to notice that people on the streets were smiling and saying hello more than they used to. And in fact that I was getting more sociable myself. I even overcame my dislike of Facebook and started using it for lighthearted socializing, rather than for just publicizing my writings and events.

Of course, not all behaviour has improved. The other day I asked the owner of our well-stocked corner shop if there was anything he was having difficulty getting enough of. 'Just toilet tissue,' he said. So that's the sector of the population whose thinking runs along the lines of 'I may die, but at least I'll die with a clean bottom.' John Higgs lampoons this with his usual elegance in his newsletter, which I strongly recommend you sign up for:

'In the twentieth century, the isolated individual was seen as a heroic, romantic figure. Now, the isolated individual is a fat guy with 72 rolls of Andrex and only one arsehole, which is his primary focus of concern.'

Which I think hits the nail right on the head and leads into:

A NEW DAY FOR POLITICAL THINKING?

For 40 years there's been just one political philosophy running everything. The world's idea-space has been throttled down to so-called Neoliberalism, the idea that the only form of organization which can possibly work is extractive capitalism, where everything is up for grabs by the greedy and powerful. The philosophy behind this is that we are all just selfish individuals struggling against each other to grab what we can before we die miserably in a pointless universe.

I'm old enough to remember a time when most people thought that the government's first duty should always be to its people rather than to big money.

As we see with the present crisis, the most valuable workers are those that are paid and respected the least, and that many of the best paid are worthless parasites. As David Graeber puts it:


Graeber wrote an excellent book called Bullshit Jobs. I'll be reviewing it soon, but basically it demonstrates that around half of all paid work, and maybe much more, is unnecessary. He also shows that, with few exceptions, the more important the work, the lower the pay and status it carries. Being a decent anarchist sort of chap he is also giving the book away here

This idea is followed through by Azrya Cohen Bequer who writes in his 'What Psychedelics Told Me about the Coronavirus':
'I see a tremendous extinction of the nonessential sweeping across our economy'

Other resources for thinking about the future include this, which suggests that the time has come for governments that will actually take some control again and rein in the lethal effects of unrestrained capitalism.

And then there's Universal Basic Income. A few centuries ago, the commons were stolen from the people with the Enclosure Acts, leaving a large proportion of the population with the choice of starvation or wage-slavery. This process continues with companies such as Nestle stealing water supplies. As automation reduces the need for human labour, we need to demand support for all. Do they owe us a living? Those old punks Crass would answer thus.

Once the temporary version of UBI is in place, maybe people will want it to stay there. Here's a petition to that end. 
Just learned that Scotland is considering UBI. It's no longer unthinkable.

One appealing suggestion is to just stop worrying about 'the economy' for, say, three months. Give everyone UBI, freeze rents and debts and just make sure essential services are maintained. After all, governments are quick enough to notice the Magic Money Tree when banks are in trouble, and they produce nothing. This will of course not happen, because it would basically give the whole game away, showed that the emperor of 'the economy' is not clothed in anything from the real world.

Another lesson we're learning is that current governments are incompetent and that we are therefore on our own when it comes to important matters such as survival. So we have to practice:

MUTUAL AID

All sorts of organizations have sprung up or extended themselves to help those more vulnerable to covid-19. On my street, there's a WhatsApp group called Here to Help. We're leafleting the street, so people who are more vulnerable have someone to talk to and maybe get help with their shopping dropped on their doorstep and so forth. Then there's Sheffield's local alternative magazine Now Then, which link will lead through to a Facebook group Mutual Aid.

THE MAGIC 

So how do we live and how do we feel during all this? Only total morons and scumbags hypnotized by money are suggesting we ignore the pandemic and get on with life as usual. On the other hand, it makes little sense to panic about it. Use this time to do something special with your life. Maybe even connecting with people in ways you've not done before. 

Lockdown gives us the opportunity to work on what kind of world we'll emerge into. Magical writers are coming up with some great stuff. Julian Vayne has written three covid-related posts on his excellent Blog of Baphomet. I suspect he's not the only magician who's suggested framing the isolation experience as a magical retirement or retreat. That's certainly how I'm looking at it.

These posts include a superb suggestion for coordinated workings, with this sigil:

And a tune composed from the DNA sequence of the coronavirus.

My partner's and my spin on this is at the bottom.

Gordon White has a few suggestions in Prescriptions for the End of the World. One of my favourites is: 'Remember a brave thing you did'.

So get enchanting, people. Don't waste a good crisis.

A FEW OTHER THINGS TO DO

Connected Breathwork:
All my breathwork coaching is online for the duration of the pandemic. I've been coaching breathwork via Skype for years, so I know online coaching works great.

Free classical music concerts in your home
OK, Classic FM do run golf adverts, which gives an unflattering picture of their core audience, but forgive them, this is good.

Breathing, Biofeedback, Group coordination:
Just before the pandemic reached here, I met Kira Zhigalina, an artist who has had this made:

'SYM is a light biofeedback device for deep diaphragm breathing entrainment. It is for everyone from mindfulness and meditation practitioners to anxiety sufferers, and anyone who is looking for tools to tune in rather than tune out.' 
'It is an offspring of Symbiosis, - an interactive art installation. Using sensors, the participants' breathing is visualised in moving LED lights. Having the capacity of 8 active participators, the LED filled dome is an immersive magical environment that people can walk into. Once inside they sit on benches equipped with sensors. The installation is designed to guide participants to use slow diaphragm breathing, through the location of sensors and software response.'
Check it out here and here.

I've had a go with the single use version and Kira is now putting an online option together.
This will be perfect for getting people into synch for doing group magic. And very much fits the time of plague.


And of course there's always the Virtual Pub; why not (not) go to the Staying Inn?


And while you're in the Staying Inn you can listen to folk singer Nigel Pennick's new song about the coronavirus - Never Say Die.


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