Hamburg, Germany – 8th June 2015 Uebel & Gefährlich, 8pm
Feldstraße 66, 20359 Hamburg
Reading and discussion: Laurie Penny & ZEIT-journalist Marie Schmidt Information Tickets
Köln, Germany – 11th June 2015 King Georg, 8 pm
Sudermanstraße 2, 50670 Köln
Reading and discussion: Laurie Penny & activist Rehzi Malzahn Information Tickets available at the venue
Frankfurt am Main, Germany – 12th June 2015 Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, 8 pm
Adickesallee 1, 60322 Frankfurt am Main
Reading and discussion: Laurie Penny & ZEIT-journalist Marie Schmidt Information Tickets
Leipzig, Germany – 15th June 2015 UT Connewitz, 8 pm
Wolfgang-Heinze-Str. 12a, 04277 Leipzig
Reading and discussion: Laurie Penny & Christine Koschmieder Information Tickets available at Buchhandlung el Libro (Bornaische Str. 3D, 04277) or Culton Tickets
Berlin, Germany – 17th June 2015 SO36, 8 pm
Oranienstraße 190, 10999 Berlin
Reading and discussion: Laurie Penny & Missy-Magazin-publisher Stefanie Lohaus Information
Tickets available at the venue
Zürich, Switzerland – 18th June 2015 Literaturhaus Zürich, 7.30 pm Limmatquai 62, 8001 Zürich Reading and discussion: Laurie Penny & WOZ-journalist Noemi Landolt Information and tickets
Don’t let the bastards get you down – choose action over despondency when coming to terms with the general election result.
Hours after the Conservatives were re-elected, the government looked at cutting access to work schemes for the disabled. You’d think they’d at least have the decency to bring some flowers before shafting the vulnerable, but no. Not these guys. Not today. Today is not yesterday. Today, David Cameron does not just have the political will to slash welfare and widen the wealth gap: he has a mandate.
I have spent much of the past 48 hours lying in bed staring at the ceiling, reading despairing, four-letter posts on social media and trying to work out how on earth this happened, as if anyone with half a brain doesn’t know. The political elites closed ranks and capitulated to a politics of fear, first in Scotland, and then across the nation.
The muddled, equivocating voice of what was once the party of the left could not compete with the merciless message of austerity telling us we got what’s coming to us. We know what that is. More cuts to public services. More inequality. More lies. More of the old Cameron doctrine with no pratting about pretending we’re all in it together. The same great taste, now with zero liberals.
A lot of people are very depressed today, and with good reason. I think it’s important to talk about that depression. Talking helps. I read that in a pamphlet somewhere.
Depression is a physical and emotional illness with a profound sociopolitical component. It’s also a total bastard. Depression tells you that you’re lazy and worthless. That the bad things that may happen to you and your family are all your fault, and if you feel like dying, you’d better do it, and decrease the surplus population. Sound familiar?
There’s a reason depression and its precarious cousin, anxiety, are the dominant political modes of late capitalism. This is how you’re supposed to feel. This is how you do feel, if you accept their logic. You don’t need a nasty little voice in your head telling you you’re useless and deserve nothing. You’ve got Iain Duncan Smith. For five more years.
The Tories prey on the politics of despair, and I think we’ve let them do it. It’s not our fault. Depression is still a source of shame, especially in a country like this. When everything feels awful and out of control, it’s paradoxically easier to blame yourself and your neighbours than it is to direct anger outwards.
When things are getting worse very quickly, when society is getting meaner and more expensive, when your work is precarious, your housing is precarious, and precariousness itself has become an anxious daily reality, it’s somehow comforting to think that you and your community could have changed it all by making different choices. That it’s your fault for being lazy and sick. It may not feel good, but it feels safe – safer than facing the idea that so many decisions about your life are being made without your input, by people whose interests are so alien to your own they may as well be on a slab in a base in New Mexico.
The psychiatrist M Scott Peck is one of many experts to observe that depression is just anger, defanged and turned in on itself. That’s as true on a social level as it is on a political one. An angry population is hard to govern. A depressed population is easy. The new Tory government would really prefer it if our collective political position was “prone”.
It is no accident that, of all the public services that have been cut to the gristle by what we must now think of as the first five years of Tory austerity, the already-underfunded mental health system suffered most. The crisis in mental health in Britain is profoundly political.
The politics of the modern right are the politics of depression, and right now they are winning. What remains of the British left is flat on its back, staring at the ceiling in a mess of unwashed sheets, and shouting at it to get up is not going to help right now.
“Something in the Water” is a 21st-century reply to The Little Mermaid. That film came out when I was five, and it set the standard for the way women could rebel: sweetly, silently and always on someone else’s terms.
Sirena and her gang are people I know in real life. They’re the weird queer kids who don’t fit in, making a new world in the wreck of the old one. There’s a magic to that, and I wanted to celebrate it.
That’s all for now, but there’s more in the works. In July I’ll be returning to New Statesman as Contributing Editor, writing columns and features. I’ll be continuing to work on fiction stories at the same time. This is a new stage in my work, and I’m excited to see where it goes.
‘He’s ready to see you now,’ says the well-dressed receptionist. I find myself wondering what she gets paid. Some people seem to get off on the constant presence of servile flunkies, and I make a note to actually talk to some of them later in this story. Meanwhile, Christian Grey, superstar billionaire, is waiting for me in his office.
I have no idea why he has agreed to this interview with Red Rag – he must have had his people research our political leanings, and he knows we’re looking through his financial records, which are murky and confusing, just like Grey Holdings itself. Nobody’s ever been sure what the company actually does. They prefer to focus on Christian Grey’s tight abs and storm-grey eyes. But I can’t get excited over someone whose precise methods of profiting from the alienated labour of god knows how many low-waged staff still need investigating.
They’ve got a point, though – Christian Grey is incredibly hot, and also really rich and successful, like Mark Zuckerberg if Mark Zuckerberg were incredibly hot. Also a bit like Edward Cullen from Twilight, although not enough to constitute a copyright violation, because he’s wearing a business suit. Just another bloodsucker.
“Miss Gold,” he says. His voice is deep and growly like a sexy vacuum cleaner. “Please sit down. May I call you Emma?”
“Let’s keep this professional,” I say, turning on the recorder.
“You’re a very sweet girl,” he says “And I’m sure you’re just waiting for someone to sweep you away from this mundane life of entry-level journalism. It’s a collapsing industry, you know. Don’t you want to know what I do to relax?” Christian Grey runs his fingers over the back of my chair.
“I’m going to take a wild guess that you like to tie up submissive young women and beat them to a pulp while you sob about your mother.”
Christian Grey looks out the window broodingly. “Okay, fine,” he says, “Let’s talk about finance.”
My inner goddess puts on a necklace of men’s skulls and starts doing a war dance of victory.
After I send in my preliminary report, Christian Grey turns up at my work unannounced.
‘I can’t stop thinking about you, Emma,” he says, “I feel like you really see me. Like you know parts of me nobody has ever known before.’
‘That’s because nobody has ever taken a detailed look at your overseas tax holdings before.’
‘I’d like to take you to dinner, but first you have to sign this non-disclosure agreement.”
“I’m signing nothing,” I say. “Come back with a detailed breakdown of your payroll and we can talk.”
Christian Grey fixes me with a penetrating stare, like he wants to beat fifty shades of shit out of me.
“Stay away from me, Emma,” he says, “I’m dangerous.”
“Alright,” I say, “Get the hell out of my office, I’ve got work to do.”
I’m back at my flat when the package arrives. Christian Grey has bought me a priceless first edition of my favourite book, “On the Origins of the Family, Private Property and The State.”
Five minutes later, the phone rings. It’s Christian.” I can’t accept gifts from a source,” I say. “Honestly, though, have you even read this book?”
“No,” he says, “I just thought that if I gave you very expensive gifts you would stop hounding me with FOI requests and then let me fuck you.”
“Jeez,” I say, “You need to go away and sit and think about commodity fetishism and the compensation of emotional labour. Also your obvious issues with women. By the way, how did you get this number?”
“I run a tech firm. Of course I’m tracking all your communications. I’ve also bugged your laptop.”
“That’s called corporate cyber-stalking. I’m going to set Democracy Now on your ass.”
“I love it when you talk dirty, Emma.”
“Great. My safe word is “restraining order.”
Alright, alright, so I had sex with Christian Grey. What can I say? I was bored and horny and my hitachi was broken. Great body, but he lurches between ranting about his childhood and trying to play out his virgin fantasies, which I was having none of.
When the suit comes off, Christian Grey is like every self-involved controlling man-child I’ve ever fucked, except with more money and a bunch of scary dudes with guns on his payroll. Also, he keeps nagging me to sign an huge weird contract with all the things he wants to do to me. Among other things I get to cede complete control over my reproductive rights. Not for a fleet of helicopters, buddy.
“Holy crap,” I say, “I have never seen a contract like this before in any of my extensive experience within the BDSM community. This isn’t about sex. This is about controlling every aspect of my behaviour. This is the work of a disturbed person with a team of lawyers enabling his abusive tendencies. Nobody in their right mind would sign.”
“I’ll buy you a Lamborghini’
“I’d really prefer a tank.”
Christian gives in and shows me around his creepy home dungeon. It’s all decked out with douchebag sex-toys, every one of which costs more than my flat. I’ve been to more interesting parties in Brixton.
“My desires are…unconventional,” he admits
“So are mine,” I say. “I want to overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation and destroy the male sex.”
Christian goes off to sulk in his helicopter.
When he comes back he’s still in a mood. “Look,” I say, “I don’t think you’re really a ‘dominant’ at all. I don’t think you know what that means. I don’t want to police your fantasies, but the way this is playing out is deeply problematic. You’re just an entitled sociopath and misogynist in a nice tie, and there are plenty of people who might find that sexy, but I don’t.”
“You need to learn to manage my expectations. I am not a patient man,” he mutters.
I pull my tampon out and throw it violently at his head.
“Alright. Here’s the deal,” says Christian, wiping the blood off his face. “I’ll give you everything you ever wanted, as long as I can control you completely.”
“Shut up and call me Melinda Gates,” I say, buckling on my strap-on.
My FOI requests have come through. And I finally got the receptionist to talk, girl to girl. Pretty soon there’s going to be a big expose on the activities of Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc. I imagine Christian won’t be a rich man for very much longer. I’d tell him, but I’ve got to keep my personal and professional lives distinct.
So, so distinct.
“Say it again, bourgeois scum!”
“The history of all previous societies has been the history of class struggle!”
He’s so freaking hot when he’s quoting Marx. “No,” I say, tweaking Christian’s nipple-clamps, and I smile. “Say the other thing.”
“SAFE, SANE AND CONSENSUAL!” He screams.
My inner goddess sprouts a thousand tentacles and demands blood sacrifice.