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Engels, Chomsky, Zizek and the rest. Avital Rowell, walking and talking her way through Central Park in Astra Taylor’s brilliant and highly accessible collection of philosophical street seminars ‘Examined Life’ observes that ‘the responsible being is someone who doesn’t think they’ve been responsible enough.’ As with anything its meaning is open to interpretation and my perception of these words is this: when it comes to the relationship between how we consider, reflect, appreciate and have empathy for our surroundings, exchanges and behaviours, satisfaction is not a justifiable reaction to a charitable act. In Rowell’s words ‘a good conscience is worthless’ as she quite harshly dismisses and shames any resulting contentment, smugness, disinterest or calm as a result of a single or number of good deeds a person might make. Pretty unrelenting stuff but still, through knowing how stressful abstaining from selfcongratulation is, her point about self-awareness and accountability is a well-intentioned one.1 You might be feeling pangs of either guilt or rebellion so let’s lighten things up. My intention isn’t to inspire radical Guy Fawkes-style extravagances; my ambition isn’t one above simply discuss ‘pleb power’ on an immediate community level. I’m not suggesting people should torture themselves because they haven’t donated every copper coin they have to a cause; that would only create more anxiety in us. Instead a continued warmth and consideration for situations outside your own, engaging with them and acting within your means in cases you find a compulsion to do so. A smile at a stranger or giving away your day-rider bus ticket to someone in the queue as you alight for the night. Offers of anything, whether instinctive or considered to link us up and feel less alone, suspicious and confused. A proposition conflicting with the British stiff upper lip but that’s not something 4_TheLeedsDebacle

I’m convinced is anything other than an unnecessary self-fulfilling prophecy anyway. One of false comfort based on blind servitude to an unfixed mindset rather than pursuing what really fuels and ignites your spirit. This year marks the centenary of WWI, could we realistically start to move on from the undue deference to authority, aristocracy and the hierarchal ladder, the subservient model so dominant in the era we’re soon to commemorate? To no longer blindly follow orders with squashed assertiveness and curbed confidence, even in our own little ways. Our species has the potential to be unified by difference and respect for discussion and liberty in the interest of peaceful cohabitation, co-operation and co-dependence, whilst still maintaining and celebrating individualism. All earned rather than assumed and inherited, trades in services and all that. When it comes to identity, mental health, ‘alternative culture’ (daft terminology), support and collaboration replacing helplessness and alienation is portrayed as being difficult to achieve which isn’t true and I’m hopeful we can start cleaning this running stream of unspoken powerlessness and low selfesteem. I remember some suggestion in Parliament and the press a few years ago of a national policy whereby students indulge in a day or two of community service. Aware of the susceptibility and dangers of providing free labour (which, yes, could lend itself to councils taking advantage), I loved the idea. An easy way to meet people, to learn from and about them as well as connecting with the streets, buildings and community rather than taking things for granted as we all do. Everyone else hated it. My few attempts at explaining any enthusiasm and positive outcomes fell on deaf ears; an offering of ‘know-thy-neighbour’

noodles received with only turned up nostrils. But why can’t we have more self-stimulated and stimulating projects? There are already some out there; I’ve seen it in the US and some cafes, pubs and other adult dens in smaller communities and city suburbs of the UK. For a long time people have been pitted against each other, sheep-dogged into their pens and ushered into hutches by reassuring whispers that the fewer people you rely on, the less complicated and easier to manage this unnecessarily exhausting life can be. Aware I could run the risk of coming across like a guilt-tripping, hysterical soapboxing know-it-all I actually sit comfy with Plato’s ‘I know one thing; that I know nothing’ philosophy. I reach out and absorb with an appetite for the development of and connection to my surroundings, from my place both as an individual and member of a cultural coalition with a desire to replace alienation with fusion between people. Not one to read from Mary Whitehouse’s dusty and stubborn hymn sheet, mine is rooted in an appreciation and respect for flexibility, humility, self-awareness and fluidity in attitude of any individual or group as long actions are made with compassion and contempt for those who are impacted on. In the words of author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (look up her wonderful TED speech): “Culture does not make people; people make culture”. I’d love for us to be able to rely on the culture I’m a part of a bit more rather in the spirit of cooperation and trust rather than being ‘blanketed by the warmth of ignorance’. I’ll never commit to being a bloodsister of any land on the basis that I find the concept of elitism uncomfortably disconnecting, creating unwarranted tension of varying levels depending on context, circumstance and consequence. As much as it causes me slight discomfort to say this based on the previous sentence regarding postcode lotteries as

THE LEEDS DEBACLE  

Issue 15 of The Leeds Debacle

THE LEEDS DEBACLE  

Issue 15 of The Leeds Debacle

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