All posts by Laurie

The Tsolakoglou government has literally wiped out my ability to survive, based on a decent pension which I paid for myself over 35 years with no help from the state.
If one Greek had taken a Kalashnikov into his hands, I might have followed him and done the same but because I am of an age that makes it impossible for me to take strong action on my own, I can find no other solution than to put an end to my life before I start sifting through garbage cans for my food.
I believe that young people with no future will one day take up and hang this country’s traitors in arms in Syntagma Square just as the Italians hanged Mussolini in 1945.

The suicide note of 77-year-old Dimitris Christoulas, who shot himself in Syntagma Square, in protest against the austerity policies hitting Greece.

Women, activism, anger, and other things I’ve been up to..

I write and publish a great deal these days, and sometimes, like this week, there’ll be a publication run where pieces I’m reasonably proud of will come out almost every day. Not only do I not want the hard work I put into these articles to go to waste, you can get a better sense of where my politics are and what I’m interested in right now from looking at what I’m writing all in one place. So here are this week’s offerings, which appear to be about feminism, trolling, the state of the left, personal and political revolution and Rush Limbaugh’s terrible face.

  • So, it turns out that feminism is a CIA plot to undermine the left – blog for New Statesman. In which I encounter the American dudeleft and pull some strange faces in a New York bookshop. Video editing by Willie Osterweil.
  • Eating disorders and the White Strike – when youthful dissidence cannibalises itself – column for New Statesman. This was quite a personal piece and harder to write than I thought it would be. I could write a whole book on the topic, so getting to the point in 600 words was a good exercise .
  • A report from Occupy AIPAC – for The Independent. In which I go to Washington DC and watch peace activists pretend to be doing something new, and learn more about lobbying. 
  • Sugar Daddies – for Salon.com. A report on the trend of older, rich men looking to pay financially desperate, ‘non professional’ women for sex, affection and maybe a bit of tidying. In which I troll the hell out of some creeps on the internet for fun and feminism.
  • Rush Limbaugh, Sexist Shit and the Art of the Decoy – a blog for New Statesman. Written mostly in a rage-fuge in the back of a friend’s play, having just drunk some absinthe by accident (I can’t have absinthe since that night in 2005 of which we do not speak). Features a metaphor about arses I’m quite pleased with.
  • Deeds, not Words: a column for International Women’s Day 2012 – For the Independent. The effervescent Molly Crabapple did an illustration to go with this piece, which I am stupendously excited about, and you should all go to her Kickstarter and get involved in redefining gallery art for the 99% or some aesthetic revolution or other, I don’t know, I’m all tuckered out after this week and should probably have more coffee absolutely right this minute.

Ciao, L

A love letter for London

In some ways it was the first place I ever knew. Seventeen, sick and living in a box-room belonging to an octogenarian friend of the family, every day once I was just about well enough not to have to sleep in hospital overnight I would wake up at five and tiptoe down the street and go underground. I’ve always thought of the London Underground as not quite of this world. It has its own newspapers and its own weather, its strange warm winds blowing from tunnels deep in the groaning belly of the city. Step out of the tube and you are older, by twenty minutes or a whole lifetime; you are different; you have left something of your old self, your anxious, night-time, dreaming self down in the racket and thunder of the trains and the harsh bright never-dawn of rolling rubbish and advertising hoardings.

I was born in London, and though my family moved away when I was small, I grew up longing for the city. Some of us do. The rabbit-bitten fields and sun-kissed cycle paths that my parents were so thrilled for their daughters to grow up with held no interest for me. I wanted the smell of diesel and the rain throwing up soot on the pavements. I wanted lights that never went out and streets to swagger down. I went to sleep in the owl-hooting dark, dreaming of the syphilitic rattle of urban pigeons.

More than anything, I wanted the tube. Every time we went to London for a visit, I could happily have ridden the underground all day. I wanted to lose myself in the dark and mouse-running scramble of crammed-together humanity and come up again in the light. I liked being one of the sardine people, even in rush hour, even at my height, which was and remains about armpit height on the average commuter. Late at night, the platforms echo with the memory of thousands of city dwellers huddled together for shelter with the bombs of the Blitz overhead. Catching the last Bakerloo line home, you can almost see them, out of the corner of your eye, through the cracks in history: propped against one another, mindlessly tired.

The tube is London’s psychic sewer system. The somatic debris of life in a late capitalist megatropolis drifts through and drains away here down tunnels garish with adverts for car insurance and cosmetic surgery. Knackered commuters grip their seats or cling to the upright poles, avoiding one another’s eyes. And yet it’s also the one place in the whole county where the power of organised labour can and does bring a city juddering to a halt on a regular basis, the one place where workers, by and large, expect to be treated like dignified human beings. Tube strikes are as regular and marvellous and irritating as the yearly snowfall which turns London into a hushed, glittering white fairyland of treacherous ice and broken transport links and adults freaking out like excited toddlers, turning up their faces to catch the fat flakes before they soak into the grime.

London is a place of contradictions.

The process of living here is one big game of unseeing. I have not visited another world city where different lives mesh and interweave so intricately without ever touching, rich and poor. In China Mieville’s novel ‘The City and The City,’ two cities occupy the same physical space, and citizens must avoid ‘breaching’ the psychic gap at all costs. When the book came out in 2010, there was much speculation as to what city it was supposed to represent – Belfast? Jerusalem? Berlin as was? – but for me it’s clearly about London, consciously or unconsciously, the city of parts which breaks into all of Mieville’s work, as it does with any writer who lives here for very long.

London is more than two cities. It is many cities. It is the city and the city and the city and the city, a delicate, dirty palimpsest of history layered on history. A city where kids with hoods and hopeless eyes can start burning police cars and looting the high streets and the question on the lips of the broadsheet writers and politicians who live and work a few streets away can still be: where the hell did these people come from?

They come from London, just like you.

I have been in love with this city all my life, and it has taken me on marvellous adventures and it has come close to crushing me. No lover has ever betrayed me like London. Being poor and homeless and despairing here is not like being poor and homeless and despairing anywhere else. I have seen this city swallow friends whole, chew down its young for the meat and life under the skin and spit them out old and traumatised. London does this. You plonk your youth like an offering on the steps of Liverpool Street Station and you just have to hope the city will leave you a life worth living as it slurps up the marrow of your dreams. I will never forgive it. I will never stop loving it.

But it’s all got a bit much lately, what with the total policing and the hysterical run-up to the Olympics. I need a break, and I’m fucked if I’m going to the country. London and I need some time apart. I’ve saved up some money and I’m leaving today tooff to see other cities for a while, starting with New York, which is a great floozie of a town with a far inferior subway system. But I’ll be back, because it’ll take more than godawful tea and all-night cupcake shops to make me forget where I come from. I come from the best city in the world ever. I come from London.

Books

I write books! Here are two of them, published by free-range, radical small presses which were raised without the use of antibiotics. If you buy one, both or some of these books, I may be able to keep myself in gin and ribbons. Thanks.


Meat Market: Female Flesh Under Capitalism

Published by Zer0 Press, 2011. Cover design by Kate Pocklington.

The blurb:

“Laurie Penny hones her every phrase to a razor’s edge. She is absolutely surgical in her anatomising of a mad world. MEAT MARKET is the kind of cut you learn from.” (Warren Ellis, author of TRANSMETROPOLITAN, CROOKED LITTLE VEIN, RED)

Modern culture is obsessed with controlling women’s bodies. Why? Our societies are saturated with images of unreal, idealised female beauty whilst real female bodies and the women who inhabit them are alienated from their own potential. Why? Under late capitalism, women are both consumers and consumed. Meat Market offers strategies for resisting this gory cycle of consumption, exposing how the trade in female flesh extends into every part of women’s political selfhood.

The short version: short feminist pamphlet, written when I was 23. Lots of angry fun.

*

Penny Red: Notes from a New Age of Dissent

Published by Pluto Press, 2011. Cover design by This is Star.

Shortlisted for the inaugural Bread And Roses prize for Radical Publishing, 2012

The blurb:

In the space of a year, Laurie Penny has become one of the most prominent voices of the new left. This book brings together her diverse writings, showing what it is to be young, angry, and progressive in the face of an increasingly violent and oppressive UK government.
 
Penny Red: Notes from the New Age of Dissent collects Penny’s writings on youth politics, resistance, feminism, and culture. Her journalism is a unique blend of persuasive analysis, captivating interviews, and first-hand accounts of political direct action. She was involved in all the key protests of 2010/2011, including the anti-fees demos in 2010, and the anti-cuts protests of spring 2011, often tweeting live from the scene of kettles and baton charges. An introduction, conclusion, and extensive footnotes allow Penny to connect all the strands of her work, showing the links between political activism and wider social and cultural issues.
 
This book is essential for understanding what motivates the new generation of activists, writers and thinkers that bring creativity, energy and urgency to the fight against capitalism and exploitation.
The short version: a collection of the best columns and reports for The New Statesman, The Guardian, The Independent and elsewhere from 2009-2011.

Articles from around the web

Here’s a small selection of my work for The Independent, The Guardian, The New Statesman, The Nation, Salon, BoingBoing, The New Inquiry and others:


Culture, Media and Cartoon Politics

Journalism versus Activism – Warrenellis.com

The Future, Probably – William Gibson review for The New Inquiry

Th Return of Radical Chic – Salon

Dignity in Life and Dignity in Death – New Statesman

Buns, Bunting and Retro-Imperialism – New Statesman

Facebook, Capitalism and Geek Entitlement– New Statesman

Poppy Day is the Opium of the People– New Statesman 


Reports on protest, politics, riots and resistance

Lost boys and girls on the Occupy Battle Bus – The Independent

A Run on The Bank of Ideas: Occupy 3 months On – New Statesman

In the Shadow of Wall Street – The Independent

Cyberactivism: from Egypt to Occupy Wall Street – The Nation

Panic on the Streets of London: the August Riots – Jezebel/Sydney Morning Herald

An Afternoon with the English Defence League – New Statesman

Occupy Wall Street: fencing the Bull – New Statesman

Inside the Millbank Tower Riots – New Statesman

Inside the Whitehall Kettle – New Statesman

A Right Royal Poke – The Guardian,

Radical Squatters – The Guardian

The Occupy Movement: from Liberty to London – The Nation


Feminism, Queer Politics and Troublemaking

The Sugar Daddy Recession – Salon.com

In Defence of Cunt – New Statesman

Vajazzled and Bemused – New Statesman

A Woman’s Opinion is the Short Skirt of the Internet – The Independent

Say it again: it’s our right to choose – The Independent

Rihanna, Slut-Shaming and Farmer Graham – New Statesman