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Creative Direction by Joseph Dobbyn and Tate Marn-Yi Tsang

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Editors’ Letter In Spite of Everything, Think of Your Hands the Children Mukahang Limbu & Cia Mangat Eliott Rose Rita KimijimaArt by Sasha Lopatinsky Art by Joseph Dobbyn Dennemeyer

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Uncle Benji Sophie Dunsby Art by Bee Everleigh-Evans

Sasha Lopatinsky

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A Love Letter to the Glasweigan Dialect Sophie ‘Sunny’ Parke

Diet Democracy Nat Cheung Art by Alisa Musatova

A Very British Rise in Conspiracy Theories MatildaHouston-Brown Art by Joseph Dobbyn

Boss Bitch Sasha Lopatinsky After Inge Hørup

Parting Faith Wong

Hildring (n): A supernatural, unreal or dreamlike sight Maya Thapa Music by Patrick Renehan

Sad Girl Poem Annie Fan Art by Alan Sulaivany

A Boys’ World Lauren Shirreff Art by Nat Cheung

Instructions for Idleness Jigyasa

In a Taxi Claire Ion Art by Elizabeth Tiskina

Tom Outside My House Aaron Hammond Duncan

Grief and Memory Ben O’Brien Art by Liv Fugger

Homeward Bound Bee Everleigh-Evans

Growler Bee Everleigh-Evans

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44 45 48 49 Allistaire Bee Everleigh-Evans

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Hiding in Plain Sight Sara Hashmi Art by Ayna Li Taira

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Two Women in Anau, Turkmenistan Emma Rath

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Fragmented at Best Kiana Rezakhanlou Art by Natalie Hytiroglou

Flamin’ Front Cover by Tate Marn-Yi Tsang

Charoset Kate Greenberg Art by Bee Everleigh-Evans

Ditch Lilies Margot Armbruster Art by Nat Cheung

Bitchin’ Back Cover by Nat Cheung


Editors’ Letter

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t’s been a while since Boris said we could have Hotpot together. After a year spent in and out of national lockdowns, in exile from college, and away from our loved ones, we have found ourselves drowned in lethargy, unable even to articulate what it is that we want when things return to ‘normal’. In these unlikely circumstances, we take comfort in the little things – the warmth of sunlight through an open window, your best friend’s voice over the telephone, the feeling of hot soup resting gently in your stomach. Hotpot is a mishmash of playful musings on everyday life and longing for times past and times to come. Within our pieces, there is both anxiety and comfort, trepidation and boldness. The Isis has always strived to provide a space where a range of voices can leave a record of their thoughts, creations and experiences, and we hope this issue is no different. Like our writers and artists, Hotpot refuses to be pinned down. It is a reflection of the dedication and resilience of an emerging, diverse generation facing ‘unprecedented’ (We love you Louise xx) challenges and main-

taining love for their craft despite it all. Making this magazine was Hotpot, cooking raw ingredients, thinly slicing prose and vegetables over boiling broth around the table. It was washing lettuce, chopping sentences, balancing textures in the sauce and poems, deliberating line-breaks like measuring water in a rice cooker. The pieces have been brewing for seven weeks, and are now ready to be served. We would like to thank our talented-brilliant-incredible-amazing-show-stopping-spectacular-never the-same-totally-unique-completelynot-ever-been-done-before team of editors and contributors who have made this term such a pleasure. We are so excited to finally share what we have come up with, and we hope that Hotpot will bring you the same warmth we felt throughout the process of creating it. A special dedication to our beloved deputy eds, Ayna, Eleanor, Kalli, Nat, and Shaina, cus y’all are Boss Bitches, and this in no way would have been possible without you!

Mukahang & Rita

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IN SPITE OF EVERYTHING, YOUR HANDS CIA MANGAT


in spite of everything your hands still in my hair still unscrewing the bottle of oil open still ringed with gold staining green your hands memorising the backs of my ears think of your hands folding sheets think of your hands cutting tomatoes i think of your hands smacking the comb against my temples when i turn to look up at you why else would i let you hold me like this again fingers kneading my scalp into new ripeness while your eyes go glassy staring at the tv my head in your lap your hands in my hair learning to swim slicing through the dark your hands in my hair like my hands learning new muscles in your back why else do i put towels down wherever i sleep if not to dream of turning the whole world bright green foam in the shower rinsing your hands out of my head to watch the drain gurgle with applause?

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THINK OF THE CHILDREN ELIOTT ROSE

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“The mechanisms of moral panic… lead to the emergence of an imaginary solution - in tougher laws, moral isolation, a symbolic court action... its victims left to endure the new proscriptions, social climate and legal penalties.” – Jeffrey Weeks, 1985

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hose who have transgender people in their lives will know about Bell v. Tavistock. A seminal case in transgender medicolegal rights, it centered on the administration of ‘hormone blockers’ to under 18s at NHS Tavistock’s Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS). Keira Bell, the claimant in this case, in an interview with The Guardian stipulated that, by sometimes prescribing these blockers after several appointments spanning at least a year, GIDS pushed the concept of Gillick competence (defined in law as the capacity for those under 16 to consent to medical treatment without parental permission) “to its breaking point.”1 This decision was undoubtedly influenced by her own detransition and previous treatment by GIDS. It was said that the “misleading” information given to children meant they could not fully consent to treatment because they were not aware of its “full effects”. After months of deliberation, the December 2020 judgment ruled in favour of Bell: 16- and 17-yearolds must prove their mental clarity and win a court order to receive treatment while under-16s are entitled to nothing. As a young trans person myself, this case is not a debate. This is my life and I don’t have the privilege of being able to take a side. Bell does not

represent the diversity of transgender children and their experiences. Trans children have been forced into being their only medical advocates against an uncaring nation, a nation that actively denies us life-saving treatment. The aftermath of Bell v. Tavistock has forced me, a fierce critic of GIDS, into defending them because the alternative is neglect. With the current flurry of trans discourse, most people will know about the horrific wait times to access services, the years it takes to get a first appointment, the further time it takes to qualify for medical help.2 What is less widely discussed are the appointments themselves. Aged 16 at my first GIDS appointment – which I only got so quickly because of a serious suicide attempt – the psychologist watched me cry when she stated I was unlikely to get hormone blockers before my nineteenth birthday. I was then asked for explicit details about my sex life, masturbatory habits, and the intimate relationship with my body – a 16-yearold, sat with his mum, interrogated by a stranger. I’ve been dehumanised by GIDS for half a decade. In sharing my personal history, my aim is to show how Bell v. Tavistock is between a rock and a hard place: trans children pick between dehumanisation or neglect. Tavistock failed me, it has failed others, and it needs urgent restructuring – but I also know that shutting down operations entirely is the most destructive thing one can do. In the wake of this case, young trans people are begging for the return of the barest minimum. Much has already been written about this case – in particular, how it twists the narratives of trans peoples’

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lived experiences. A 2020 study by University College London showed that only 2% of children treated with hormone blockers decided not to progress to hormone therapy. 98% of children go on to further treatments, feeling more secure in their trans identity and in themselves.3 Yet the BBC misconstrued this as evidence of children being forced onto a clinical pathway that they are too naïve to stray from. The 98% of children progressing on to hormone therapy are portrayed as failures – proof that GIDS forces medication onto unwitting children. It is impossible to convey how frustrating this is: if this were any other treatment, hormone blockers would be celebrated for its 98% success rate. But it isn’t, because trans children becoming adults is considered problematic, and the transgender child cannot receive positive media coverage. Whilst this frustration has been readily explored and documented, there has been scant analysis on how the focus on children affects the manner in which this case is reported. Underlying Bell v. Tavistock is a disgust that no one was protecting children from this new ‘gender ideology’; the child is an inactive agent that the trans bogeyman preys on. In 1985, Jeffrey Weeks – influential gay academic and a personal favourite historian – noted the cyclical nature of moral panics during the AIDS crisis: every generation has its folk devil, posing a threat to civilised society with its evil intent, and this pattern repeats ad nauseum. Beginning with the problematic construction of the ‘child’ to the paradoxical conclusion of enforced court action, and fin-

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ishing with Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists (TERFs), children have been used as emotive propaganda in the trans moral panic. Because these tactics are not new and will be used again, it is imperative to recognise them. Bell v. Tavistock is symptomatic of the current anti-trans moral panic which weaponises childhood innocence as justification for pathologising, policing, and controlling queer individuals. The December 2020 judgment dedicates itself to preserving childhood naivety to the point where the transgender child’s psychological wellbeing is considered expendable. Statements from “highly vulnerable” children undergoing “considerable distress” because of gender dysphoria are not convincing enough when compared to the long-term effects it could have on their fertility and sex life. The child’s fertility is valued more highly than the child themselves. This case is a perverse paradox: it is deemed necessary to legally dissect the genitalia and future reproductive capacity of transgender children to ensure their continued innocence. While giving evidence, American psychiatrist, Professor Stephen Levine states that young people mature through “social and personal experiences.” Accordingly, hormone blockers force children to “miss a period of normal biological and social experience [...] that can never be truly recovered or reversed.” He paints the child on hormone blockers as spiritually bereft – even unhuman – for failing to develop “correctly”. The hormone blocker interferes with a predestined, natural childhood. This argument is unspeakably dangerous. It pathologis-


es the trans child as inherently broken, discredits transgender adults formerly prescribed this treatment as developmentally stunted, and flirts with eugenic concepts of ‘normal’ and ‘abnormal’ child-raising. This framing of transgender people excludes them from the ‘normal’ population, constructing them as freakish, dangerous, even threatening – they need to be controlled. By not challenging the testimony, the judgment proudly shows that it values children’s reproductive organs over the children themselves. The trans child is thrown against court walls and abandoned while the very architects of this violence celebrate – they have protected the fool from themselves. There is the illusion of a better deal for 16- to 18-year-olds. The judgment ruled that they can apply, fight, and win long court battles to receive timely treatment. Older children are given the opportunity to beg the same courts that abandoned the young for crumbs. This is the decision, despite open acknowledgment of such court action as an “intrusion on the child’s autonomy.” And yet, their argument rests on the belief that removing hormone blockers restores autonomy to the child and protects their imagined futures. The choice to settle for a decision that openly states its insufficiency in protecting children’s autonomy proves it was never about protecting the best interests of children – it was about controlling their identities. A young person on hormone blockers is considered more destructive than the act of forcing that same child through the court system is. The judgment is self-aware of its flaws yet cannot see another al-

ternative. It reads like a foreshadowing of failure, as if the mere acknowledgment of risk is enough to hide behind when, inevitably, it emerges that this judgment harmed the mental and physical wellbeing of children. Here lies the paradox of this entire case. The motive is, supposedly, to protect children’s innocence, yet children are constantly referred to as inevitable collateral damage. A child killing themselves because of this medical abandonment is more palatable to the judges than that same child on medication. Acknowledgement without action is not good enough. Transgender children can no longer be viewed as expendable. That is the situation as I see it: ideas of childhood valued over lived experience. But when discussing Bell v. Tavistock you cannot just talk about the judgment: the cultural impact has been unavoidable, warping public perception of trans children and what they actually go through. This has created an atmosphere so toxic that an SNP minister attempted to remove “criticism of transgender identity” from the Hate Crime Bill.4 Trans people, children and adults alike, are seen as a threat. Bell v. Tavistock has been reported without including the voices of those it attacks, and the impact of that reporting has greatly worsened social attitudes towards transgender children. The case has stoked the fires of TERFs: a small, but very vocal minority who view the existence of trans people – trans women in particular – as a threat to cisgender women. I have rewritten this point on TERFs so many times: I have poured through misinformation, fearmongering, bigotry and seen how

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their arguments draw society’s focus away from transgender children. I will not spend any more time reconstructing the arguments of bigots. TERFs are not feminists – their main priority is not to liberate women but to remove the trans community. Bell v. Tavistock is thus the perfect attack point for them. Attacks on the child lay the entire transgender community open, and the fanatical hatred against trans children legitimises hostile attacks seeking eradication of all trans people. Most recently, the government reworded gender neutral terminology around pregnancy to deliberately exclude trans and nonbinary parents: these government restrictions are made possible by the vitriol of anti-trans activists.5 They are complicit. The transgender child’s body is the battleground for a manufactured culture war, violated by judges in the courtroom and TERFs in national newspapers. Jeffrey Weeks demarcated the birth, life, and death of moral panics back in 1985. The same structure is seen today. The symbolic court action of Bell v. Tavistock, the imaginary solution of revoking medical care, and the “victims left” to attempt to survive in an increasingly hostile country demonstrate how transgender children are continually prevented from speaking. Children’s rights cannot be subject to public opinion, and their voices must be amplified. Bell v. Tavistock is just the beginning of the battle against transgender children. Already, Keira Bell has called for a medical model which “reconciles” gender-dysphoric children with their “birth sex” – in other words, conversion therapy.6 It was never the

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end goal to halt children’s treatment: the goal is instead the complete denial of trans people altogether. The pace at which trans rights are being questioned is relentless, but it is imperative to realise how trans children are played as pawns in this hyper-emotive rhetoric, used to disguise transphobic ulterior motives. Transgender people cannot, and will not, be excised from society. References 1. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/jan/05/high-court-to-decide-ifchildren-can-consent-to-gender-reassignment 2. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-51006264 3. https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.11 01/2020.12.01.20241653v1.full 4. https://www.pinknews. co.uk/2021/01/27/scotland-hate-crimebill-humza-yousaf-transgender-criticismamendment/ 5. https://challengingjourneys.wordpress. com/2021/02/25/erasure-of-pregnant-people/ 6. https://www.pinknews. co.uk/2020/12/10/keira-bell-pubertyblockers-high-court-ruling-trans-youthsex-gender-critical/ Further reading S. P. Hier, ‘Risk and Panic in Late Modernity: Implications of the Converging Sites of Anxiety’ British Journal of Sociology 54.1 (2003) A. Meyer, ‘The Moral Rhetoric of Childhood’ Childhood 14.1 (2007) K. Robinson, ‘In the name of childhood innocence: An exploration of the moral panic associated with children and sexuality’ Cultural Studies Review 14.2 (2008) J. Weeks, Sexuality and its discontents (1985)



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ncle Benji stops his alarm before the fourth ring. It’s five minutes to six. Every day except Sunday, his alarm goes off. Yet even on Sundays, Uncle Benji wakes up at the same time. I wake up just as early, as if my body is waiting to hear it. I don’t know much about Uncle Benji. But I know the hoard of newspapers and dried foods he stores for his shop, their musty smell, how it seeped into the sofa and my blanket. Since I’ve lived here, my clothes smell like this too. He keeps them in the second bedroom, where Mum once woke up, yelling. “It’s too claustrophobic,” she said. She never had problems sleeping before. After Dad, it took a long time before I could hear her heavy snores again. Uncle Benji’s flat is above his grocery shop, selling food you can’t usually get in England. SARAP SARAP FOOD!, reads the faded and discoloured sign that sits between the windows of the flat and the grocery shop below. Uncle Benji lives on a street in Oxford that has a lot of shops like SARAP SARAP, with foods from distant homes. Turkish. Syrian. Polish. A Jamaican barbeque restaurant is just opposite Uncle Benji’s shop. When Mum finally wakes up and prepares breakfast, I ask her: “When d’you think I’ll go back to school?” “I don’t know, my dear.” She sounds tired of me, or maybe tired of everything, so I don’t push it. I can see the other kids from the school not too far from Uncle Benji’s shop. Their uniform is bright purple. Sometimes they even come into the shop. The ones that do are Filipino kids, and they talk to

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him in Tagalog. One of them asked him a question once – I think they asked who I was. I wonder what he said to them. Mum uses the leftover rice from Uncle Benji’s breakfast, and passes me a plate along with some sausages that look different to usual. A bright red. They taste different too: sweeter. I like them more. Mum doesn’t eat this. She has fish for breakfast. It stinks of vinegar and fish sauce. We eat together in silence. Mum is more willing to talk if Uncle Benji is here too, because she can talk to him in her own language. I want to tell her that I wish I could have someone to talk to. Mum leaves the house soon after breakfast. I don’t know where she goes. But she always comes back in time for dinner. I only join Uncle Benji in the shop if Mum is with me. Otherwise, when I’ve been in the flat for too long and all I can think about is Dad, I wander onto the fire escape stairs. I’m in just my shorts and my favourite t-shirt, which is getting too small – especially where my boobs are growing. When Mum brought me here it was still summer, so most of my clothes are t-shirts and shorts. I thought we’d be back home by now. It’s October. If I stand atop the stairs, I can see the rest of the shops along Cowley Road. Across the street, I watch the Jamaican restaurant. As they open the shop, a ribbon of smoke travels up. For the rest of the day, it fills the air until it disperses into night. Sometimes, the man who works there spots me and raises his hand to wave at me. When I go to the toilet I find spots


of blood in my pants for the first time. It’s time for dinner and Mum hasn’t come home yet. I hear Uncle Benji closing up shop. Below, the muffled noise of the tinny speakers, which often play music sung in Tagalog, has shut off. He soon finds me. For a moment, we stare at each other – unsure of how to talk to one another. He can feel Mum’s absence as much as I can. Still, Uncle Benji prepares dinner for the three of us. I don’t know what most of it is; the only thing I recognise is rice. Mum usually leaves my plate with some meat and some veg that hasn’t got too much sauce on it. Sometimes she just cooks instant noodles for me. Uncle Benji pours the fish sauce over my food, and I wonder how I’m going to be able to eat it. He looks over to me, and gestures to me; pointing his fingers to his mouth. He starts eating, and I stay where I am by the window. I’m scared of moving. I’ve changed my pants twice already, the blood staining through to my first pair of shorts. Soon enough, my stomach starts to growl. “Eat,” he says. “I’m not hungry.” “Eat,” he says, again. He’s not using a strict tone, like Mum would if she were telling me to eat. He is just saying the word, as it is. Eat. I wonder if this is as far as our conversation can go. I join him at the table, and I stare at my food. “Eat.” Hesitantly, I start with the rice; pretending the taste of the fish sauce is just salt. “What is this?” I ask, using my spoon to point at the pink-brown paste

near my rice. “Shrimp paste.” I look at Mum’s idle plate before I start with my own. I’ve scraped off what I can of the shrimp paste. I can tell that I’ve disappointed him. Later, we walk out into the streets. It is the first time I have stepped outside of the flat for a long time. Once, I left with Mum and Uncle Benji to go to church. Mum has never driven before, and Uncle Benji didn’t own a car, so we took three buses to get there. I didn’t have any church clothes, so I wore one of Mum’s dresses. I’m nearly as tall as her, but the dress hung loose on me, especially around my chest. We pinned it back, and hid the clothes peg with a cardigan. Everyone there was Filipino, too. None of the kids were like me. A lot of the adults came up to Mum, chatting and laughing with her like they hadn’t just met. I could tell they were talking about me. I started to count the number of times Mum said my name. A lot of them came up to me and tugged lightly on my curls. “So cute!” One of them said. They asked if I could speak Tagalog, and I said no. ‘No’ was the only answer I could give them. “You don’t even speak your mother’s language?” No. “Have you ever been to the Philippines, Laura?”No. They said my name like it was Lara. I didn’t go to church again. Uncle Benji always goes on Sundays. Mum stays at the flat with me. She is okay with leaving me on my own on any other day except for Sunday. I start to worry we won’t find her before tomorrow. As we walk along the street, Uncle Benji is on the phone, trying

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to call Mum’s number. I’ve brought a big cardigan with me, the same one I wore to church, in case I bleed through my shorts again. My legs feel numb. The streets are quiet, but all of the restaurants are open. I can still hear the boom of the Jamaican restaurant from the other end of the road. “Laura,” Uncle Benji says. Lara. I think it’s the first time he’s ever said my name. I can feel blood trickle down the inside of my leg, and I watch it as it falls down towards my ankle. I don’t know where else to look. He hands me a tissue from his pocket, and holds my wrist as he leads me into a shop. I try to remember what they’ve said in school, about starting your period. Tell your mum. Or an older sister. We are as lost as one another, when we stand in the aisle with all the feminine products. I don’t even know the difference between tampons and pads. The harsh, fluorescent light of the convenience shop feels like a spotlight on my red face and my bloodied shorts. Uncle Benji picks something up from the shelves, though I don’t think he knows what it is. When we arrive back at the flat, my heart sinks at Mum’s plate still untouched on the table. I rush to the toilet with the pads that Uncle Benji bought. I don’t know how to use them. I end up throwing two away because I’ve messed them up, somehow. Before I know it, I’m sobbing. Sobbing more than I have the entire time that Mum and I have been here at Uncle Benji’s, even more than I did when Dad died. I start to think that Mum will never come back.

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That she’ll be gone, like Dad, and I’ll be left on my own in Uncle Benji’s flat. Uncle Benji is sat on the sofa – my bed – and I can see he’s on his phone again, trying to reach Mum. “Here,” he says, handing me folded clothes and a towel. They’re his clothes: a pair of pyjama bottoms, and an old white-now-grey t-shirt, with faded text: It’s more fun in the Philippines! I calm down a little bit after I’ve showered. Uncle Benji’s clothes are large on me, the pyjama bottoms barely stay on, even when I pull them tighter with the string. They smell like the flat; like the bags of rice and musty newspapers. For a few moments, we both sit in silence. I look down at my t-shirt. “What’s it like?” I ask. “Beautiful.” That’s all he says, and even though I know there’s more, I don’t know if he knows how to tell me. We hear the rattle of the chain downstairs. I sit up, and so does Uncle Benji. He gets up to open the door, soon revealing my mum as she appears from the stairway. “Laura, I’m so sorry,” she says, out of breath. Mum runs towards me, pulling me into a tight hug. I can feel her tears soak a patch in my t-shirt. She looks down at my t-shirt – holds me back so she can read the slogan, and laughs through her tears. She looks up to Uncle Benji. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, manong,” Mum manages to say. “It’s okay,” he smiles. “It’s okay.”



A LOVE LETTER TO THE GLASWEIGAN DIALECT SOPHIE ‘SUNNY’ PARKE “DJ Fuckin Badboy here Steamin as Shite Am ’boot ti tell you a story ’Boot ma Friday nite…” This is how DJ Badboy’s ‘Friday Nite’ opens – a track well-familiar to anyone who spent their teens at sweaty Glaswegian house parties. I once made the error of writing about ‘Friday Nite’ for one of my university essays, resulting in a tutorial where my highly respected Oxford professor asked me with deadpan sincerity to explain what it means to be “steamin as shite”. How was I supposed to convey the sheer culture imbued within these lines to anyone who hadn’t grown up in Glasgow? That these lines were as well-worn into the psyche of the modern Glaswegian teenager as the works of Shakespeare: to be, or not to be steamin as shite, that is the question… After I gave an abridged explanation (“It means getting wankered, Professor”), it left me thinking: how do you explain the love affair that Glaswegians have with their own dialect? After all, it’s a dialect near unintelligible to the outsider. Urban Glas-

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gow English (GE), characterised by a thick regional accent spoken at rapid pace, is primarily composed of slang and dialectic phrases, and is densely expletive. Particularly fond of expletive infixation, Glaswegians effortlessly cleave their lexis to insert “fuck” at every opportunity, creating words like “de-fuckin-stress”, “abso-fuckin-lutely” or “fan-fuckin-tastic”.1 Yet, for all its incomprehensibility, GE is beloved by those who use it. There are entire books written in GE, and a Glaswegian section of Twitter where tweets are written using spelling that mirrors regional pronunciation, such as “ahm”, “baws” and “shite”. A brief foray into Glaswegian Tinder confirmed that there’s Tinder in GE as well, with a few particularly memorable bios including the lyrical: “Am the specky cunt, no looking for a relationship the now, just want ma hole” and “Who’s wantin pumped?”.2 In fact, much of the appeal of GE for Glaswegians is precisely just how difficult it is to understand. GE acts as a linguistic tariff on Glaswegian identity since only the privileged few who can comprehend it are able to fully par-

Expletive infixation is regarded as a part of polite conversation and is therefore appropriate for professional contexts such as school and the office, or during medical consultations and job interviews. 2 These examples were selected as they displayed the highest degrees of sentimental value. Other Tinder bios such as ‘If you’ve got rona you can fuck off, am no wanting yer germs’ were considered somewhat less romantic. 1


ticipate in the inner workings of Glaswegian culture. As someone who grew up abroad but went to high school in Glasgow, I’ve experienced being both a linguistic outsider and insider. At first, GE appears to be an entirely new language rather than a dialect, with translations required for everyday objects such as a stairwell (a “close”), groceries (“messages”), graffiti (“menties”) and tobacco (“snout”). Some pieces of vernacular even have long lists of alternative translations, as I soon discovered when trying to learn the many different words that Glaswegians have for getting drunk, also known as, “getting mad wi’ it”, “muntered”, “reekin”, “rubbered”, “blootered”, “pished”, “goosed”, “oot yer tree”, “steaming”, and “ratarsed”… an impressive linguistic plethora which shines a spotlight on what Glaswegians are most passionate about.3 Or, as my weary dad who works

in Glasgow’s A&E department would drily add, one could say the same for the multiple words meaning ‘stab’.4 However, once you familiarise yourself with the dialect, the door to Glaswegian culture swings wide open. You enter a world of extremes, where everything is “top class” or “fucking pish”, and everyone is either “absolutely buzzing” or “totally raging”. You break situations down to their bare essentials (“Covid? Shitemare”). After memorising key chants such as “here we, here we, here we fuckin’ go”, you learn that a concert can never truly begin until thousands of you have yelled it till your voices are hoarse. You recognise cultural movements such as “Taps Aff” where one removes one’s shirt “most often in the event of warm weather” but occasionally for reasons of “simple antagonism” (as defined by Urban Dictionary). You learn about important

For readers interested in the means by which Glaswegians reach a ‘ratarsed’ state, one could do some research into Buckfast Tonic Wine, also known by locals as ‘Wreck The Hoose Juice’. 4 In 2005, the W.H.O. named Glasgow the murder capital of Europe. We have since lost our title, but it would appear that we are doing our best to reclaim it. 3

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anthropological phenomena unique to Glasgow, such as the attribution of “specky” to an individual – one of the last places in the world where it’s still considered a legitimate insult. What is more fascinating is that you don’t even have to wear glasses to be considered “specky”, as it has more to do with having a “Specky Aura” than whether you are visually impaired or not. All jokes aside, the maintenance of GE forms an important resistance against Standard English (SE). If Glaswegians were to wake up tomorrow and begin speaking SE, we would lose so much of the culture, history, and humour that identifies Glasgow. Hang onto your local slang – it holds the key to your city. I’ve come to realise this more and more during my time

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at Oxford, a university renowned for its wanky old-school propriety. In protest, I find myself using more Glaswegian dialect at Oxford than I used when I actually lived in Glasgow. Full to the brim with hometown pride, it brings me great pleasure to holler down the corridors: “Let’s get steaming the night!” – albeit in a slightly Kiwi accent. This is my love letter to the Glaswegian dialect: I love you, and when I am away, I miss your constant effing and blinding, your directness and your enthusiasm. I hope that it won’t be too long until I’m back in a grotty nightclub with my pals and hear a familiar distant rumble… it will start quietly, and then it will grow louder, and louder, until it’s unmistakeable… Here we… Here we… Here we fucking go…



Diet Democracy

Nat Cheung


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n 2019, Lung Mun Cafe and Hung Hom Cafe stood side by side on Cameron Road. Both were typical chachaanteng diners, serving charsiu spaghetti soup and other edible remnants of Hong Kong’s colonial era. There were always long queues in front of Lung Mun; Hung Hom went out of business by the end of the year. By June 2020, Lung Mun started getting less footfall too. A few blocks away on Hau Fook Street, another diner, Kwong Wing, was dishing up plates of their specialty to crowds: steamed rice topped with three fried eggs, their sunny yellow yolks staring back at you. Yellow is the colour of the pro-democracy camp in Hong Kong, originating in the yellow umbrellas used to block out tear gas and rubber bullets at the 2014 protests for universal suffrage. On the other side of the political colour spectrum is blue: pro-police, pro-government, and, by extension, pro-China. It comes from the colour of police uniforms. As companies started firing employees for protesting against a contentious extradition bill in June 2019, the yellow camp issued a call to arms to support allies in affected industries. An intricate boycotting system, whereby businesses are col-

our-coded into the yellow and blue ‘economic circles’, was thus born. As the pandemic and the new National Security Law (NSL), which criminalises acts of protest against China, have brought demonstrations to their cessation, the market has replaced the streets as the site of protest. Money has overtaken Molotov cocktails, rubber bullets, and tear gas as the weapon of choice for both sides. The restaurant and retail industries – with their large number of small, independently run players – are the main sites of this proxy war. Without having to worry about offending investors, these small businesses can express their political stance more freely. Before the NSL, yellow shops generally liked to show that they were yellow to attract customers. There, you would find posters, pamphlets and resistance mascots like Pepe the Frog and LIHKG pig (an emote on a local online forum). If they’re ‘dark yellow’, staunchly pro-democracy and unafraid of police inspection, these shops might even have a ‘Lennon wall’ where people write encouraging messages on Post-it notes for fellow supporters. Since state media accused the yellow economic circle of promoting treason, most of these decorations have been torn down. Now, consumers rely on mapping apps like Wolipay, which indicate the ‘colours’ of shops, to navigate their choices. ‘Wolipay’ is a play on the Cantonese term ‘wo lei fei’, an abbreviation of ‘peaceful, rational, and non-violent’: a slogan for democratic protest in Hong Kong. More noteworthy still, ‘wo lei’ is a homonym for ‘with you’. Companies are expected to

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fight alongside customers: the creator of Wolipay stresses that his two key conditions for labelling a restaurant yellow are that they have participated in strikes and have given protestors free food during demonstrations. Business boomed for Lung Mun Cafe after they did both. By contrast, after the daughter of the co-founder of Hong Kong’s biggest catering company, Maxim’s, condemned protestors in front of the UN Human Rights Council in June 2019, there was a mass boycott of all restaurants and brands operated by the firm. Maxim’s sales went down by 29%, and they lost 50 million USD in the first half of 2020. Although yellow restaurants may have put a dent in blue earnings, the effectiveness of the boycott should not be overestimated: they are, after all, fighting against big restaurant chains backed by Chinese money. The restaurant and the retail industries accounted for only 4.2% of local GDP in 2018. Hong Kong’s four key industries – finance, tourism, trading, and logistics – remain largely unaffected by the boycott. What is truly radical about the yellow economy is that before its existence, there was only ever a blue economy. Reliance on China and the city’s pro-Beijing establishment for material and financial

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resources was very much a given, and still is. But this wild ambition of financial freedom, of a profoundly ‘made in Hong Kong’ economy, is fairly novel. Even after the 2014 Umbrella Revolution, which first divided the city into blue and yellow, there had barely been any bottom-up economic action manifesting the same spirit. It’s not common for Hong Kongers to be so optimistic. The yellow camp’s ostensible optimism arguably comes from a place of defeat. By June 2020 the prospect of universal suffrage was extinct. Moreover, the creation of the NSL meant that crimes of “secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces” became punishable by life in prison, with Beijing yielding the power to interpret the law. Its deterrent effect has certainly worked – there have been no major protests since. Some businesses, including Lung Mun Cafe, have since quit the yellow circle. Concerned by the clampdown on civil liberties, some foreign firms are leaving Hong Kong altogether, with major financial companies like Deutsche Bank relocating their Asia operations to Singapore. “We’re closer to China,” says Stanley Wong, an ex-banker turned finance columnist, “but we’re further away from the world.” This is a shift which has ironically heightened the anti-China sentiment


in Hong Kong. The NSL seems to portend the loss of the city’s status as a global financial centre, and the livelihoods that come with it. This sentiment means that, however implausible it may be to break away from China’s financial hold, many people are now indifferent to the pragmatic possibilities still on offer. If, or when, their businesses get shut down, yellow entrepreneurs can at least say that they stuck to their guns while it lasted. The majority of dissidents know that buying a ham sandwich from a yellow cafe won’t make Hong Kong democratic, but the visceral intensity of their political defeat, coupled with the COVID recession, has translated into unmatched levels of collaboration in this hyper-capitalist city. To the majority of its partisans, ‘yellowism’ is a moral cause. The yellow brand of ethical c o n s u m e rism stems from what its followers identify as Hong Kong’s core values as laid out in the region’s constitution: freedom of expression and judicial independence. Compared to the blue economy, comfortably propped up by rich Chinese corporations, smaller yellow businesses urgently need extra financial support. Consumers

are therefore mobilising their spending power because they believe in the goodness of those values. For business owners, defending those values is their corporate social responsibility. Unsurprisingly, the blue narrative denounces the yellow claim to a moral high ground, and instead interprets the boycott as an unethical project depriving blue business owners of their livelihoods amidst a global recession. Although the boycott is a non-violent form of protest, it has spawned numerous cases of vandalism, or to use a popular euphemism, the ‘refurbishment’ of blue shops. When the coronavirus first hit, Kwong Wing Catering banned all Mandarin speakers (which to them equalled Mainlanders) except for the Taiwanese. Patrons had to show their Hong Kong identity card and even recite a protest slogan (often in Cantonese couplets) at the door to be allowed in. The government’s favourite argument against the yellow economy is its potential for division and discrimination, and here Kwong Wing serves as a perfect example for t hei r rhetoric.

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Vandalism and outright discrimination hardly help the yellow cause, especially when it wants to be an ethical one. In the eyes of the militant sect, drastic measures have to be taken if a democratic society is to be constructed. In contrast, since over ten thousand protestors have been arrested, and almost every candidate who ran in the 2020 democratic primaries charged with subversion, the ‘wo lei fei’ majority feels the need to keep the boycott a purely bloodless operation, preserving what appears to be the last battlefront of the movement. Yet the oddity and even chutzpah of the yellow circle is that it is as anti-corporate as it is anti-blue – it is scarcely interested in easy targets like small blue businesses, and so they are rarely the victims of these attacks. Especially since the yellow economy was originally founded to hire protestors sacked from banks and airlines for their political activities, the initiative is partly revenge against the corporate world. Independent blue shop owners have less to do with it. Yet, the yellow label has itself become commercialised, at times nothing more than a marketing niche. Democracy sells: Maxim’s, driven by profit, has quietly created a number of new restaurants, refraining from endorsing them on the back of the firm’s name to masquerade them as neutral, even yellow, enterprises. Anxieties about the commodification of democracy have made the public’s criteria for yellowness more and more trenchant. Every day, online forum users pump out gossip on shops’ political leanings, often with the intention of revoking their yellow label for something as trivial

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as staff having a poor attitude towards yellow patrons. At the same time, political scientist Simon Shen argues that there’s no need to fact-check the leanings of businesses and certainly no need to witch-hunt fake yellow firms. Ultimately, such businesses are promoting the pro-democracy brand, adding to the pressure that the economic circle seeks to put on the government. He encourages the acceptance of “twofaced” individuals who are privately yellow but work for blue enterprises, as they can still make use of their rivals’ resources to bolster their own by putting their income back into the yellow economy or donating to protest funds. Protestors are pressed to look past these inevitable ambiguities and focus their energy on ensuring that money goes back to fund the democratic cause in the cycle. Beyond the restaurant and retail industries, it seems as though the future of the yellow economy rests on whether it can widen its scope to Hong Kong’s lifeblood sectors like finance. Last August, supporters boosted shares in the pro-democracy media company Next Digital by over 340% on the day its founder got arrested under the NSL. Stanley Wong was one of those who profited, before donating his earnings to student protestors. He tells me, however, that he has little faith in a yellow finance circle: “I can’t even think of a first step, to


be very honest. You wouldn’t be a very good banker if you weren’t conservative.” For Wong, the establishment has an untouchable hegemony over all property, resources, and networks that lead to social mobility, by which the city’s four main industries are safeguarded. “Without a purely yellow supply chain, the economic circle cannot claim legitimacy.” The only other realm that the circle could viably access, though not without facing powerful Chinese competitors, is manufacturing. But as the “made in Hong Kong” label is still hard to come by, the yellow economy remains static, unable to stretch its radius. Despite his general scepticism, Wong has some confidence in the resilience of yellow restaurants. He calls the government’s draconian COVID measures against the whole catering industry a “scorchedearth” policy that resulted from their inability to clamp down on yellow joints whilst also keeping the pandemic under control. “The policy might kill off some players in the short term, but entry barriers in the food industry are low, especially since the pandemic has pushed down rent prices.” He predicts a rebirth of yellow restaurants after the lockdown, whilst tourism, airlines and logistics, industries equally hit by COVID, cannot be repaired so easily. Nonetheless, they will be reborn in a post-NSL Hong Kong, where

the main issue will be survival rather than ideological expression. “The old concept of the yellow economic circle has collapsed, but people still remember which ones donated to funds and which ones helped them through protests. The circle only really exists in people’s memories these days.” As it stands, the yellow economy cannot prove to big companies that Hong Kong and its democratic allies might be a more lucrative market than Mainland China. Yellow businesses still operate in a legal grey area, and they are fully aware of the implications. Regardless, the phenomenon has sent a resounding message to the government, as well as Beijing, that protestors are persistent, and always adapting. As the introduction of the NSL has spurred a new wave of emigration, the yellow economic circle has spread with the diaspora, finding new hubs overseas. Colour-coded maps for Hong Konger-owned businesses have surfaced in major cities in Canada, the UK, and the US. Risking accusations of “foreign collusion”, a number of yellow online shops and food delivery services have moved their backend operations to Taiwan so that they can hire exiled protestors. The bigger the circle, the higher the possibility of a total crackdown; but with every new restriction also comes new forms of protest. Dining on Kwong Wing’s fried eggs is not the same as occupying the city centre for three months, or marching on the streets with two million allies, or storming the Legislative Council, but it is a show of solidarity paid out of one’s own pocket. It’s almost a standin revolution for what it cannot be.

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A VERY BRITISH RISE IN CONSPIRACY THEORIES

I

MATILDA HOUSTON-BROWN

t is 5 September 2020, Oxford Street. A woman holds a sign declaring ‘STOP CHILD E X PL OI TAT ION #SAV EOU RCH I LDR EN’. Jostling protestors are chanting outside the Disney store, screaming at the bright red logo. It is 17 October 2020, Trafalgar Square. ‘NO TO MANDATORY VACCINES. SAVE OUR CHILDREN’ reads one sign. Piers Corbyn, conspiracy theorist and COVID-19 denier, speaks to the crowded square: “Bill Gates wants vaccinations to control you and to control women’s fertility to reduce world population. That is his game and he’s going to get loads of money off it, and you will

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pay with your money and your life.” It is 2 February 2021. In a video uploaded to BrandNewTube, Vernon Coleman (an anti-vaccination advocate) leans back against a leather chair and claims: “We still don’t know what’s going to happen to people who have the vaccine, or what might happen to any children they might manage to have.” Entitled Doctors and Nurses Giving the Covid-19 Vaccine Will Be Tried as War Criminals, the video has 150,000 views. QAnon, a far-right conspiracy theory born out of a 2017 anonymous message board post on 4Chan, centres around the presumed existence of an elite cabal of child-trafficking (and sometimes, child- eating) paedophiles. Widely considered an American phenomenon, QAnon often identifies supposed paedophiles as members of


the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Donald Trump is frequently positioned as the saviour who will carry out ‘The Great Awakening’ (the day of supposed justice). When Trump supporters stormed the Capitol on 6 January 2021, not many people considered the riot a British issue. After all, Trump fanaticism is American – it’s about “Making America Great Again”, not Britain. These rioters waved ‘Q’ flags alongside the red, white, and blue. Britons can be forgiven for neglecting to think that this ominous letter signals the same conspiracy here. Even though UK accounts had been producing swathes of QAnon content since that fateful post in 2017, most people wouldn’t have known it. The ideas and lexis espoused was often deeply American, and a theory with US-centric heroes and villains held little interest for a wider British audience. Then the UK went into lockdown. As Britain’s time inside skyrocketed, so too did our time online, and the UK population’s relationship with misinformation changed drastically as a result. Annie Kelly, a UK correspondent on the QAnon Anonymous podcast, which tracks the spread and rise of the conspiracy theory, noted a growth in discussion around figures such as Prince Andrew and Jimmy Savile – the villains became British. “The tenor and the content of the sort of QAnon posts that were being created changed,” explains Kelly. “It became much less of a sort of identikit QAnon content, hitting all of these familiar themes about the DNC and the deep state.” Over the summer of 2020 many might have come across these

falsehoods without realizing it: #SaveOurChildren was everywhere. At a time when sourceless infographics with colourful aesthetics were being shared to Instagram stories, inaccurate statistics about child trafficking bloomed. This ‘new face’ of the conspiracy theory, dubbed ‘pastel QAnon’ by experts, led to several protests across the UK and around the world claiming to be against child trafficking. These protests were governed by a nebulous fear for ‘our children’, a fear so visceral that it resulted in chanting and screaming outside a Disney store and even Buckingham palace. Kelly was in London in August when thousands marched: “I definitely got the sense [that] it was a mix of people. Some people had signs with #TheGreatAwakening, all of this sort of stuff. But quite a few of them I think had that familiarity with the name [QAnon], but not much more than that. I got the sense that quite a lot of them came from a slightly more New Age background, talking about energy and transcending. All of that stuff was just very, very new to me when studying alt-right movements in the UK and the US.” Especially in the UK, an awareness of QAnon is not necessary for one to start believing in a QAnon adjacent conspiracy theory. In fact, it is more often than not

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seemingly innocuous and trustworthy accounts that spread the most misinformation. The British anti-vaccine Instagram account, @mrs.r.sullivan, has 11.8k followers, and a feed full of selfies with her own children, inspirational quotes, and screenshots from articles surrounded in frantic red circles. Her bio declares “Naturopathic and holistic health” and contains the CND (peace sign) symbol emoji. She is a “freedom fighter”, a “truth seeker”, and throughout her content she shares a need to protect individuals, especially children, from danger. Under a photo with her child where she mentions treating her daughter’s chicken pox with honey, one commenter jokes: “Are you gonna cook her.” @mrs.r.sullivan’s response: “hahahhaa I’m not into eating kids like all these celebrities and politicians…. [sic].” This narrative of child-eating elites is one of the more extreme beliefs of QAnon followers. In another photo, a child in a plastic tiara looks through a heart made from her hands. Not only this, but many of the UK’s anti-lockdown campaigns are proponents of conspiracy theories that frequently overlap with QAnon. Stand Up X, a British anti-lockdown organisation (which had 24.8k followers before the account was deleted by Instagram on the 26 February 2021), organised a multitude of anti-lockdown protests in Britain and has another planned for March. The language of Stand Up X is aggres-

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sive, but most notable is the organisation’s structure, separated into a multitude of local branches – according to the Stand Up X Telegram Channel there are 41 regional chapters in the UK alone, everywhere from Manchester to Shropshire. Often these regional accounts expose the layers of misinformation and theorising at the heart of anti-lockdown rhetoric. @StandUpSurrey, an account with 21.3k followers, claims there is a “plandemic” and references #SaveOurChildren as well, acknowledging on 6 February that they “can’t [hashtag] [Save Our Children] because it’s banned.” In a video from the recent Dublin anti-lockdown protest posted to the account on 28 February, the location tag is “The Great Awakening”: the QAnon day of reckoning taking on a resolutely British flavour. There are multitudes of flourishing British Instagram accounts meshed in a web of conspiracy theories, often manipulatively over-emphasising a nefarious danger that children face – whether it is from paedophiles, vaccines, or lockdown itself. Alarmingly, these accounts aren’t difficult to find. Though Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter claim they have made recent crackdowns on misinformation, a search on Facebook for “covid hoax” leads immediately to a public profile of a British man sharing conspiracy content. In less than a minute, you are watching a video claiming that the nefarious “they” have murdered Captain Tom with a vaccine. Even post-Capitol riot, after the whole world saw the potential result of this fringe extrem-


ism, a few carelessly chosen words in a Facebook search bar are all that is needed to fall down a rabbit hole. Conspiracy has slipped into people’s lives. Social media platforms are all too willing to stand by and let these lies fester. The Centre for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) has carried out numerous studies detailing the failures of social media platforms to combat this rise of fabricated propaganda. In a recent report entitled ‘Failure to Act,’ CCDH showed that from one thousand COVID-19 misinformation posts reported in August 2020, social media platforms only acted on 5%. “It shouldn't take campaigners and researchers telling Facebook for years about a problem for them to fix it only when it blossoms into full social issue. We’re always looking at how good they are at enforcing their own content policies. It’s early days but we’ve seen perhaps a very, very slight improvement in their enforcement, but we were starting at a base of only acting on 5%. So, it's still incredibly poor,” explains Callum Hood, CCDH’s Head of Research. “And as a researcher, one of the things I find most frustrating is they will regularly design features into their apps and their web platforms which make the problem worse. In reports dating back to March last year, I've written information to highlight the fact that if you go onto a page on Facebook, it will recommend you three further pages all of which generally promote either the same or some new variety of conspiracy, or misinformation or hate you've been exposed to.” At the time of this article’s publication, that feature is still there.

Whilst platforms stand by, profiting off divisive content which keeps people scrolling, the uncomfortable reality that individuals find comfort in being told lies becomes clearer and clearer. Figures such as the anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist David Icke have rarely been considered reliable sources – yet, increasingly, you can stumble across suggestions that “they laughed at David Icke years ago they are not laughing now the fools [sic].” In a climate where people are continuously frightened and unsure, figures such as Icke are increasingly appealing to those who seek a collective community. “You have some very clear baddies and you can focus on who's in the baddies’ club and who isn't. In a way that is a comforting worldview, where all of these problems can be attributed to a group who are just plain evil,” says Kelly, expanding on the interest in the conspiracy theory over lockdown. “And you don't have to think about the complexity of life and what structures our environment. You just have some clear evil cabal who commit the most horrific crimes any human being can think of.” Deplatforming campaigns have had some success in combating the rise of this worldview. Icke was growing at a momentous rate before his platform was removed in May 2020 (partly due to pressure from organizations such as CCDH). Though these individuals can move to new platforms – BrandNewTube, Parler, Gab – they rarely pick up the same following as before, combating the sprawl of their theories. The

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debate should not be about “freedom of speech,” Hood points out, but “freedom of reach.” How far can we allow lies to spread before we learn to do something about them? How many people storming the Capitol building on 6 January 2021 were parents who had stumbled across a hashtag that summer and thought that they were protecting children? It’s important to maintain perspective when it comes to the spread of conspiracy theories. Over 80% of the UK population are keen to take the vaccine. Even if a video of a man storming Specsavers and shouting that vaccines contain “nanoparticles” has 60k views, it does not mean that this is a widely held belief. And, as Kelly points out, it’s almost comedically absurd to see groups of people chanting “paedophile” through the gates of Buckingham Palace: “You can be thinking, it’s a bit much but it's essentially harmless, and you know it's not as if Prince Andrew is in any physical danger from them anytime soon and I think that's true.” However, we should not forget that people who are increasingly afraid do increasingly dangerous things. Telegram channels are full of violent threats against whoever is ac-

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cused of obstructing the ‘truth’ – and though these are not likely to result in action, conspiracy theorists are often willing to sacrifice their family and friends, and perhaps even their lives, for the sake of their perceived reality. “One thing I think we are particularly at danger of in the UK is of some of these sections of QAnon here radicalising further, becoming more and more disillusioned with the idea that there are proper legal channels to deal with what they're talking about. Because the people they're talking about are so powerful that rule of law just simply doesn't apply,” cautions Kelly. There is, she feels, a rising possibility of vigilantism, a growing panic that will boil over to threaten not the powerful but vulnerable minorities. Throughout this misinformation, venom in comment sections, bile in YouTube videos, subtle references to Q, and less subtle cries for violence, what is continually striking is the sheer scale of horror QAnon followers associate with the enemy. The vaccine will ruin fertility, the trials will kill your children, the government has a depopulation agenda, the elites are kidnapping your sons and daughters: line after line of terrifying lies, often situating children in life-threatening danger. It is easy to dismiss conspiracy theorists as wacky idiots, but after ingesting more and more of the poison, it becomes clearer to see just how easy it is to feel you are finding out the truth. After all, if you really believed that children were in danger – how far would you go to save them?



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? 32


Sad Girl Poem

Annie Fan

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Sad Girl Poem march -- september, 2020 sleeping1 at 4am2, waking3 at noon: propranolol 20mg, sertraline 50mg, crying4 / crying5 / crying6. [ 7]

was the wrong june, even this heat / electric, stinging / bitter-scented -- i want to specify the dream intrusions: whirling burrs, sunspots digging into eyes, no darkness in sight -- mercury-drunk 1

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stranger than drowning: how the light shards into blades & the night is as wide as the ocean / a terrible

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impossible / smog-like and choking / stranger than the sky, drowning in blue --

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[how soft everything sharp

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how strange we become in the dark

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the air a memory of smoke]

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i, too, am prone to lightning / appearing when least wanted // girl/phenomenon/ghost.

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“I

f you’re a woman, you will earn less than a man.” This is what Theresa May had to say about a woman’s position in Britain during her first speech as prime minister. Sexism is a safe, even fashionable issue for party leaders to be seen tackling, but action is harder to come by. Flipping through Balliol College’s annual records, I noticed Richard Jenkyns - Balliol alumnus, now Classics professor - recall his undergraduate membership in the socialist Leonardo Society: “In those days it was easy enough to believe in the triumph of socialism,” he writes, “but I cannot remember anyone pressing for the College to admit women. It was a boys’ world.” Fifty years on, leftist politics is still the “boys’ world” Jenkyns described. In February, after three women councillors had been shortlisted to

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replace Liverpool’s mayor, the Labour party announced it was reopening the selection process without any explanation why. Labour Women’s Network believes the decision was motivated by sexism, and for good reason: only three out of ten directly elected Labour mayors, and just 24 per cent of Labour council leaders are women. Half of the current Labour MPs may be women, but the left’s exclusion of women from local and regional government is still felt. No woman has ever won a Labour leadership election; women candidates have placed last every year since the party was founded. There is still a big red glass ceiling over women in Labour, and a lack of young, motivated women isn’t to blame. Sexism on the left became a mainstream issue in 2017 with #MeToo and the ‘Pestminster’ scandal. The first woman to speak up about the behaviour of a senior party official was


Labour activist Bex Bailey, then 25 years old. Bailey stated that she was seriously sexually assaulted at an event as a teenager but was advised not to come forward as it could potentially “damage” her chances of future political success. In the aftermath, thenleader Jeremy Corbyn called on those who had experienced sexual assault in the party to come forward. Large numbers of women spoke openly about their experiences of sexual abuse in local Labour organisations, but direct, on-the-record accusations only fell on one Labour MP: Kelvin Hopkins, Corbyn’s close ally, whose indecent behaviour had been widely known and discussed in Westminster for years. Ava Etemadzadeh was an undergraduate at the University of Essex when Hopkins sexually assaulted her. She invited him to an event at her society for Labour students after which he hugged her “very tightly” and “rubbed himself against [her]”. Hopkins then brought her to London for lunch where he told her that, had his staff had been away, he would have taken her into his office. Two weeks later she received a text from Hopkins saying he would have liked her to be his girlfriend and lover “were [he] to be young”. Etemadzadeh kept her exchange with Hopkins private for over a year, but was furious watching Corbyn promote him to the shadow cabinet in 2016 despite knowing about the accusations against him. The situation was worsened by accusations levied against

Etemadzadeh which maintained she was conspiring against the party’s left. In response to her interview with the BBC, one commenter called her an “obvious liar”, another a “Blairite femme fatale”, asserting that “Kelvin Hopkins was framed…because he is a close associate of Jeremy Corbyn.” Here, the pejorative “Blairite” not only means a supporter of the former Labour leader Tony Blair, but a betrayer of the left. To another viewer, she’s “a young woman manipulated by The Daily Telegraph.” On Twitter, she’s praised for “daring to accuse one of Jeremy Corbyn’s leftie mates.” It is impossible for women in the Labour party to speak up about sexual assault without being used by


factions within Labour to make a deliberate point of their own. But the point wasn’t that the factionalism made it difficult for Corbyn supporters to believe Etemadzadeh – it gave them an excuse not to, leaving sexual violence against women on the left an open secret. Labour is meant to be the party for gender equality, as Etemadzadeh put it to me, but speaking to young women who campaign for Labour in their local constituencies, it’s obvious that not every male party member practises outwardly feminist principles. According to Louise Leslie, a student at Leicester and former policy officer, to experience sexual harassment in local politics is a common occurrence: “It’s a deep-rooted issue. I have to play a man’s game and have others take advantage of my body to prove that I am worth something in politics.” Leslie was sexually assaulted by a policy officer from a neighbouring constituency who “grabbed [her] thigh and attempted to force himself” onto her. Now more than a year has passed since Leslie lodged her complaint, yet the Labour party still has not taken any formal action. Leslie has heard rumours of the officer’s suspension but wouldn’t call that justice: “Labour is ignoring what victims need, and that is reassurance from the party.” Cambridge University Labour Society co-chair Elizabeth Castell was only seventeen when she experienced sexual harassment at the hands of two adult Labour Party members who exploited her youth and sexual inexperience. One of them, her constituency’s party secretary, “slapped [her] friend aggressively on the arse” after plying

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them with alcohol. Labour has now expelled the man in question, but the process has been long and drawn out, with Castell having to chase up developments herself to get a response. Castell has never felt more let down by the party: the incident was reported nearly two and a half years ago, but only within the last month has any action been taken. Like Etemadzadeh, Castell was accused of conspiring with the right wing of the Labour Party to see the man expelled: “I was forced to confront the reality that I would have to choose between telling our story, the truth, and voicing my political opinions without being called a liar.” Despite her consistent dedication to the left wing of the Labour Party, she chose to tell the truth “even if that meant being called a Blairite.” While sexual violence is a reality for women in politics, Labour insists that it is the best party for women. This claim means that survivors brave enough to come forward are exposed to uniquely pernicious accusations. An outward dedication to women’s rights and an inward atmosphere of suspicion between the party’s warring factions enables abuses of power against young women on even a local level. Any


woman who makes Labour look bad by exposing the behaviour of its male members can be dismissed as a “Blairite”. Etemadzadeh invited Hopkins to Essex’s event to engage with the party’s left, despite being a moderate herself; Leslie and Castell are both self-described socialists, ideologically aligned with Corbyn. But none of these true positions matters to those who would rather not believe survivors, taking any opportunity to look away. The structure of Labour’s national constitutional committee (NCC) hearings does not allow complainants to choose their own legal representation. Where cases are escalated to the NCC, the party provides the complainant with a lawyer. Etemadzadeh says that Hopkins’ lawyers put emotional pressure on her by drawing out their first session. She was cross-examined by his team for a whole weekend, with sessions running to midnight; she was called a “liar” and a “fantasist”, and was asked if she was part of a conspiracy against Jeremy Corbyn. Etemadzadeh feels that the party’s power to appoint her legal counsel caused a significant conflict of interest, and that

the lawyers the party provided did not properly protect her from attacks made by Hopkins’ legal team. After the hearing had finished, the NCC decided that the trial could not be concluded and the panel would need to reconvene, but Hopkins’ team failed to propose any dates for the trial to restart. When the case was finally reopened in January, just two weeks before the trial was due to take place, Hopkins quietly resigned. It is no secret to Labour women that if they pursue justice, the personal consequences will be severe, especially if their accusations fall on a big name. Etemadzadeh has even heard from an MP that, according to Keir Starmer, the way her trial was conducted would never stand up in a real court of law. Etemadzadeh’s mental health was severely affected by the procedure, as was her professional life: she had to quit a job after her manager became “difficult” about her accusations against Hopkins. Labour’s procedure damages complainants’ chances of progressing into higher party roles, and deters survivors from coming forward, furthering a culture where authority figures are able to freely misuse their power without being held accountable. The whole procedure seems rigged against survivors. In 2017, Labour commissioned Karon Monaghan QC to investigate sexual harassment within the party. The party has since updated its complaints procedures to anonymise cases and provide a helpline, but campaigners say this doesn’t go far enough. Ann Black, who currently sits on Labour’s National Executive Council (NEC), says one of the biggest problems is that “the number of complaints far ex-

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ceeds the capacity of party staff and the NEC to cope.” In Black’s opinion, the party “has to find some way of ‘triaging’ complaints so that those involving sexual assault are dealt with quickly and effectively.” Black says that levels of online abuse are increasing, only adding to the workload of NEC members. Without an overhaul, delays and conflicts of interest will remain problems for years to come. Grassroots work towards these changes is ongoing. Last year, Leslie founded the STOPIT Labour campaign group. By September, she hopes that the party NEC will have passed a motion to update its procedure. However, this update can only happen if people realise why an independent process is so important. “If we imagine the Labour Party as an office it’s clear as day to see why many people disregard their sexual assault. Not wanting the hassle, they just want to carry on as if it didn’t happen. Deep down, I felt it was easier for my position in the Labour Party to just forget it. It’s horrible that the structures we have built have made it easier to deal with things quietly.” It is said that change has to come from the bottom up. But in this case, the responsibility falls on the party’s leadership to revert the damage done to Labour’s unity over the last few tumultuous years. When Castell was asked whether she thought her experience could be blamed on a longlived history of sexism on the left, the

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response went: “I think the Labour Party and other left-wing circles have a very unique relationship with this culture. The [CLP secretary] was a self-proclaimed feminist, and because of this absolved himself of the reality of his own harmful actions.” Castell stresses the need to challenge men whose abusive behaviour is hidden behind a feminist persona. “Self-identification as left-wing is pointless if you use your power to manipulate and belittle women within your movement.” Sexism and sexual violence are not problems specific to Labour, yet in no other party are survivors expected to give up their right to justice for the sake of the ‘greater good’. The party in its current state does not have women’s best interests at heart. Etemadzadeh says that Starmer has asked to meet with her, and that he wants to change things for survivors in the party, but words can never be enough. When asked what the Conservative party does for women, Theresa May replied that it “keeps making them prime minister”. Labour’s success in increasing the number of women in parliament through all-women shortlists proves that leaders can make huge strides towards remedying sexism in their own parties. But in the “boys’ world” of the left, things will only get better for women when those at the top listen to them and implement the meaningful structural change they are asking for.



IN INA

TAXI TAXI CLAIRE ION

D

ong-gu is trying to keep his face shielded by the overhead mirror, but the bright light keeps hitting his eyes. He squints, accentuating the wrinkles that begin in the corners and sprawl across his face like route lines on maps, and his view is momentarily dimmed. He opens them wide again to watch the road in front of him. As the sun makes its slow, late-afternoon descent, it bounces off Seoul’s business district, briefly casting the grey metal of the skyscrapers in an orange glow. It is many shades softer than the standard bright orange of his taxicab. He is headed for the airport, and has switched the lit-up sign above his head to “Reserved”. He can hear a faint humming sound; warm, pulsing, expectant – a city on the brink of something large. Or just his exhaust system. The other cars on the road swarm and disperse, like the little black beetles that scuttle past when he swats his rolled-up newspaper on his kitchen floor. The thwack! sounds break the stillness of the mornings. He is going to the airport so he can pick up his daughter. Her name is Eun-kyung, but in America, it is Frances. He can’t understand why this is. Her first summer

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back home from university, she had explained it to him. It was softer, gentler, easier on the tongue. Whose tongue? His daughter’s birth name lay between them on the faux wood floor as his lips fumbled to accommodate the foreign object in his mouth. Pren-sih-zeu. It sounded ugly. A smirk had played across her face, vanishing almost immediately, and he


had felt a stinging in his chest. Why can’t you teach them how to pronounce “Eunkyung”, huh? She couldn’t answer him. He would joke with his drinking buddies at the neighbourhood pocha about how an American girl had come home in his daughter’s place, chuckling as the soju slid bitter down his throat. Afterwards, he’d sit on the floor at home, half-drunk, watching women in blouses make static movements to Lee Sun Hee songs across his faded TV screen. He’d whisper his daughter’s names to himself over and over again in the dark. Frances. Fran-ces. Eun-kyung. Fran-ces. For a moment, his car is engulfed by a school of fish, with headlights like glazed eyes and grilles like gaping mouths, guzzling hot air, exhaling hotter air, propelling themselves forward, darting past him one at a time. The speed limit on the highway is eighty kilometres per hour; they can’t all be going faster than that, surely. He wonders why it feels like a race. He certainly didn’t set off from the right starting point, and his vision is too poor for him to see the finish line. His car ambles along. The city does not pause. It waits for no-one. Especially not for old farts like Dong-gu, whose taxis trundle along highways a few beats slower than the others. Who sit and drink packets of Maxim instant coffee with their breakfast on the front steps of their houses as the sunlight spills across their empty yards. Who wait for their daughters to call home. The people of New York – that other city – always seem to be busy. His most prominent impression of

America comes from the Home Alone films. He remembers seeing a young Macaulay Culkin scurry up and down big menacing streets, and how he’d cover Eunkyung’s eyes whenever she flinched at the sight of the burglars. When she clapped her hands at the end, delighted that the little blond boy had been reunited with his parents, he asked her, Eun-kyung-ah, you wouldn’t just run off on your own like that, would you? No! Never! Oh, that’s such a relief for your appa to hear! How worried you almost made me! Dong-gu glances across the empty passenger seat as the Han River comes into view beneath the overpass, rippling in little wavelets as wind blows against it from the west. He remembers the stones he clumsily skipped across the water’s surface as a young man, half-awake, after conversations over black night that entered blue dawn and slowly dissipated upon pink morning. He sees a past version of himself showing off, standing precariously on a rock, his wife’s laughing voice telling him to be careful as she holds their daughter. He remembers the echoes of Eun-kyung’s infant laughter at the sight of his arm taking aim, a knee bent forwards, wet fingers grasping slippery granite, counting the number of bounces before the final plop. There had been an argument the last time she’d visited him as an adult. Eun-kyung was standing in the kitchen she had played in as an infant, giving

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each of her bags a once-over as they lay at the foot of the dining table set for three. Dong-gu was reclining a few feet away from his daughter on the sofa, watching an outdated drama series, when she told him about the white man who she planned to marry that year. He had twisted sideways, turning his back to her for the rest of the evening. It was an uncomfortable position. She told him he was being unreasonable. She’d asked, then pleaded, then begged him to accept her choice. After a silence, he spoke to her in a low voice as he stared at the wall. Who are you to leave me behind? He continued to strain his back muscles until he heard her feet shuffle out of the living room, accompanied by a sniffing sound and a door closing softly. Then, and only then, he silently turned around, massaged his aching spine, and put his head in his hands, rocking back and forth until he fell asleep. He had never met Chris, but had come to distrust him in spite of it. He had decided that the only thing this man was good for was a green card. Upon hearing that the two had split up, his first thought had been, there go her chances. Then, after a few moments, I hope that bastard hasn’t upset her – but he had laboured to form this thought. He was shocked

at his own apathy. How had compassion come second to reproach? Yet here he is, driving to meet her. He is making towards the edge of the city, after which he’ll listen to the navigation lady’s crisp tones offer him one-sided conversation until he reaches his destination. On the days he makes airport journeys, she is his only company. He glances to his left as a message pops up on his phone. Eunkyung has just landed. She is safe. He reaches the Terminal One car park, pulling a hot flask of Maxim coffee from the cup holder. At the arrival hall, he waits for Eun-kyung, leaning against the wooden railing. He scans the quickly forming crowd as people straggle out of the doors every few minutes, some running, some walking, into familiar arms. He spots his daughter, and she looks back at him, taking in the worry-lines that have settled deeper into his forehead in the time she’s been away, and the shabby windbreaker he’s been wearing since she was in middle school. She stops in front of him and he presses his flask into her hands, watching her face as the steam wafts up towards it. He asks her about her flight, and they exchange the usual greetings. “You didn’t have to come, appa.” He remembers waking up on the sofa with a sore back, driving her to this same airport in silence, wondering how much would change. He has his answer now. “No, no,” he says. “Of course, I did.” They don’t say much more to each other as they walk towards his taxi. They don’t need to. The feeling in his chest is warm. He loads her bags into his boot, and together, they set off for home.


Tom Outside My House

Aaron Hammond Duncan Winner of The Isis Photography Competition HT21

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&

MEMORY

GRIEF

BEN O’BRIEN

L

ast summer, I went to a birthday party for my girlfriend's two-year-old niece. The whole family was there, blowing out candles, taking pictures, and eating cake. But while they were celebrating life, I was busy thinking about death. In between smiling for photos and making polite conversation, I got a WhatsApp message from my parents telling me that our family dog had died. This message was sad in itself – Jakey was a great dog with an excellent sense of humour – but not unexpected. Rather, what hit me was the realisation that his death meant another lost connection to my brother. It was the closest I’d come to feeling the way I had eight years earlier, when I first listened to that voicemail from my parents. It felt like my brother was dying all over again. The sudden sensa-

45

tion of not quite being able to picture his face as clearly as before, the way a photograph suddenly looks like it’s from a different world altogether. I pictured my brother asking me not to forget him. I sensed, however, that this wasn’t the right place to talk about death: I knew it would make everyone uncomfortable if I talked about my dead brother at a children's birthday party. So, I pressed on with my photo duties and tried to make it seem like I was enjoying the slice of birthday cake on its disposable plate. But later I asked myself: why shouldn't I have said anything? Everyone experiences death at some point in their lives, so why are we so reluctant to talk about loss? I didn’t really bring my brother up in conversation for the first three or four years after he died. This wasn't because it felt too painful or because I refused to accept the reality of his death. He was constantly on my mind. I just didn’t feel the need to talk about him, not even around my closest friends and family. I found it more comforting to be alone when I thought about him. Soon after he died, I developed my own little rituals, paying homage to him by wearing his unwashed Arsenal shorts, or going into his cold, dark bedroom, turning on the lights and the radiator, to sit on the corner of his bed. My parents, on the other hand, used every social setting as an opportunity to talk about the son they had lost. They made toasts to him at every meal. They dug out old photos of him and left them permanently scattered on the kitchen table, always there to provide some particular memory to reminisce over. They would find ways of


directing any conversation, no matter how tangential, back to my brother. I remember thinking that they were in denial. It was as if they thought speaking about my brother would keep him alive – as if talking about his life in Barcelona meant he was still there, his silence the silence of a normal son forgetting to return his parents’ calls. I’ve since come to realise that my parents do it not to keep him alive but to keep his memory from dying – not speaking about my brother was to risk forgetting him entirely. But at the time, I thought: how could we ever forget him? How could we forget the memories of him and I taking mum’s tights to dress up as ‘Tight Men’, or the times we performed our carefully choreographed duets of Bohemian Rhapsody to the extended family at Christmas? Having a brother – or a sister, or a husband, or wife, or son, or daughter – is a part of who we are. I didn’t just have a brother, I was a big brother to a little brother. I still am. I spent a lot of time with my friends just after he died. Many of them grew up with me and knew my brother almost as well as they knew me. But it was as if grief had changed all the rules. Nobody, including some of my closest friends, knew how to act. Were they still allowed to make jokes around me, let alone jokes about me? What were they supposed to do and say, beyond hug me and tell me they were sorry? In this strange new situation, their awkwardness was made worse by the pressure they felt to say the right thing, as if they were expected to find a phrase that would somehow remedy all our grief. Some tried to talk about my

brother but couldn’t quite bring themselves to do it. A friend that I hadn’t spoken to in years sent me a message telling me he was “no good at talking,” that instead he’d gone to church and lit a candle in my brother’s memory. Another phoned me to say how sorry he was to hear what had happened. I started reminiscing about the three of us playing football. He froze when I reminded him of how we always made my brother go in goal, wearing oversized gloves that made him look like a tiny clown: “I just don’t know what to say.” Now, though, nobody other than my parents really mentions my brother anymore. As we all go on living, filling our futures with new memories that have nothing to do with him, he remains in the past. Since he died, I’ve gone to Oxford and studied subjects he never liked, in places he never knew, full of friends who have no idea he ever existed. In many ways, I sometimes think he would hardly recognise me now, even if he somehow did come back. When I’m not in Oxford, I live in France with my girlfriend. She never got to know my brother. The closest she came to meeting him was hearing his muffled voice when I was in another room, speaking to him on Skype. No matter how much she hears about him, there is no way she can really know what he was like – how he laughed, how he made me cry with laughter, the sound of his voice, the way he crunched his cereal too loudly. My new second family would never know my brother. This is the paradox of mourning. I don’t want to forget my brother, but I want to go on living my life. Yet the more I do, the more the memories

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of him are crowded out. I tell myself that, surely, this is only natural, but I’ve come to realise why my parents see the act of remembering as a necessity, not something that happens naturally. When people used to ask me if I had any siblings, I’d say “no” and leave it at that. Now I always say that I had a brother, but that he died. Bringing him into our lives, even in such small ways,

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might be uncomfortable, but it’s ultimately necessary. My solitary acts of remembrance no longer seem quite up to the task. I still wear the Arsenal shorts, of course, though now they have been washed. I still have his number saved on my phone. I still have the last emails he sent me, full of his familiar jokes. The difference is that now, I sometimes talk about him at birthday parties, too.



KATE GREENBERG

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not ch like chocolate / the kind of ch that gets stuck in the back of the throat & stops you from crying / the kind you throw together once a year / but like the moon it never sets / and stays behind & washes up / i wonder how many miles per hour do her daydreams go / roughly / when she places her ring on the counter / do they fall asleep on the wheel and land up in this poem / or does she crash into her first kiss when she’s peeling the pink ladies & suddenly there’s nothing left / and when she smooths down her apron does she catch her flat chest & feeling nineteen again / the parting seas, the calendars of new year’s eves / everything to lose / does it hurt to know the recipe off by heart now, to fold in the dry fruit like a face burying itself into softness / & sleeping there / some things are easier to pass over, like what we badly want / & the keys for a different song i heard once / and some doors we are always softly knocking on but like the fridge they must be closed at a stroke / before something melts away / when my clay pot cracked inside the oven, she broke the news / like laughter / her hands were shaking / i cried / it was meant for you / for when an evening hardens on its own / & this night is not different from all other nights / for whom does she make pyramids of napkins / is it for the children / or just out of chutzpah / you take it with matzah / & bitterness / and it tastes of the first glimpse of an old city / & a wall / & everything you would write into its cracks / it tastes like next year in jerusalem! / & everything else you would say to god, if you could / i think it means this can’t be a broken home / no / this / can’t be it

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S

tep through the grand doors of any college at the start of the academic year, and excited freshers dressed in branded shirts will be strewn across the quad. Chatting about “formals”, “hall”, and “matriculation,” they familiarise themselves with the Oxford jargon, slowly beginning to build the community that will support them throughout their degree. For most Oxford students, this scene has echoes of familiarity. Yet, for some students with disabilities, such as wheelchair users, this narrative is far removed from their first experience. For them, the very first obstacle is hidden in plain sight: how do they take the first step? The difficulties in accessing college entrances are one of a myriad of issues wheelchair users face when coming to Oxford. While battling the physical limitations posed by a historic city, students with disabilities must also face a lack of awareness on the part of colleges and the student community about the meaning of accessibility. Accessibility does not just include physical access to various facilities, such as accommodation and social spaces, but also staff and students’ attitudes towards access and ability; these attitudes shape the disability community’s experiences of Oxford. An accessible, supportive environment helps students with disabilities partake actively in college and university life, but a lack of accessibility can have a detrimental social and emotional impact, widening the isolation gap between students with and without disabilities. Up to 85% of

young adults with disabilities battle with loneliness, and inaccessibility is a significant factor in this. The Equality Act (2010) identifies disability as a “physical or mental impairment [which] has a substantial and long-term adverse effect” on one’s ability to carry out day-to-day life. The Act mandates organisations to implement “reasonable adjustments” to prevent people with disabilities from being disadvantaged. Colleges and Permanent Private Halls (PPHs) fall under this jurisdiction. However, the law offers reasonable adjustments for organisations, which include telling people with disabilities to simply avoid physical buildings that cannot be modified. The use of these stipulations provides a variety of routes to meeting legal requirements, so organisations differ broadly in their approaches. As a result of the ambiguity in the legislature, accessibility for wheelchair users at Oxford varies widely. Some colleges, such as Wadham, have well-equipped accessible accommodation, with six accessible en-suite rooms in college and a further six in the Dorothy Wadham Building. Similarly, St Catherine’s has seven wheelchair accessible rooms, with fully equipped laundry rooms and kitchens. Certain colleges also have far more accessible social spaces, such as St Peter’s, which has accessible entrances to both the Junior Common Room (JCR) and the bar, or St Edmund’s Hall, which has wheelchair access to the college bar and both floors of the JCR. The significance of accessibility on college selection is clear from an early stage, with one St Anne’s fresher noting: “one

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of the reasons I picked St Anne’s was because they had [accessible] facilities.” The college was able to facilitate her needs with ease, providing her with an en-suite and close kitchen access. However, most of the 33 colleges and PPHs that admit undergraduates have limited facilities for wheelchair users. Hertford, for example, has one wheelchair accessible room within college, with access to a laundry room and kitchen. Similarly, Christ Church has only two accessible rooms on site which can cause issues when students move every year; students may have to live in the same room isolating them from their peers. Christ Church responded to this article to reiterate that “Christ Church is committed to ensuring the College and Cathedral are accessible to students, staff and visitors.” In addition to the two “fully-adapted rooms” on the main site the Liddell Building on Iffley Road has a “three room accessible flat… which [Christ Church] will shortly be modernising.” Other rooms in the St Aldate’s Building are “wheelchair accessible with a lift and no-steps and [a] lift to make the historical Hall accessible to everyone.” Additionally, the “new Visitor Centre in the Meadow and the main Lecture Theatre and Exhibition Space in Blue Boar are also fully accessible” and the college is “currently in the process of reviewing accessibility across Christ Church [by updating the website] to ensure that it complies with the most up-to-date accessibility requirements.” Despite efforts, isolation continues. This sense of isolation is exacerbated by a lack of access to social spaces. College bars, especially those that are underground like at Exeter, are often inac-

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cessible. Lack of access to social spaces can deeply impact the way students with disabilities experience student life, leading to a sense of detachment from the college community and potentially contributing to declining mental wellbeing. Though some colleges may be physically restricted in the adjustments they can make, their willingness to help disabled students can make all the difference. The fresher at St Anne’s notes that her college reached out to her first, making the process of accommodating her needs “convenient and easy.” Similarly, her JCR has been a welcoming community, with the Disabilities Representative organising social events and aiding students with any issues they may come across. A student at Pembroke described how, during her first week at Oxford, her wheelchair broke, losing a bolt. Fortunately, the JCR banded together, tried to locate the missing piece, and ordered meal deliveries for her the next day. Here, the JCR’s attitude was imperative in helping the student, reassuring her that the community was welcoming and open to making the necessary adjustments. Unfortunately, some disabled students have faced issues with colleges’ attitudes towards disability. A second-year wheelchair user at Jesus explained how last year’s room ballot left her uncertain about whether she would be able to live with other second years. After a conversion project last summer that aimed to make the Stevens Close Annexe accessible, she still found that the annexe had significant issues. The gate was not made automatic until her seventh week of living in the building, preventing her from leaving freely.


Upon being asked about her college’s building conversion, she said: “it felt very much like they hadn’t logically thought about how a person in a wheelchair would actually go about living there.” This lack of adequate accommodation occurs due to the ambiguity of the Equality Act. Despite its professions of equality, it leaves room for “reasonable adjustment,” allowing organisations to interpret “access” differently. These discrepancies in accommodation highlight how, for students with disabilities, college choice deeply influences their freedom in terms of where and how they live and socialise. At some colleges, staff perceptions of ability are an additional hurdle. The student at Jesus describes communication with the Accommodation Office as “very poor”; she needed her Disability Coordinator to advocate on her behalf in order for the college to acknowledge her concerns. Poor communication led to uncertainty for the student and her needs were never fully met as she continues to struggle with her laundry. The Jesus student also mentioned how limited the support from her JCR was. All this goes to show that although a college may have the facilities for accessible accommodation, they also need to provide a cooperative and caring atmosphere to allow students with disabilities to fully utilise these tools. College accommodation policies similarly affect disabled students’ experiences. While most colleges have balloted accommodation, some colleges also divide their rooms into various price bands. In this case, en-suite rooms, rather than those with shared

bathrooms, are converted to be wheelchair-friendly. As a result, students’ choices are significantly limited, and they must often pay higher rent rates to have rooms that meet their needs. For instance, at Merton, both of the accessible bedrooms on the main site are en suites costing £231 more per year than rooms with shared bathrooms. The increase in rent works to exacerbate the financial constraints on students with disabilities. These students already face daily living costs which are 25% higher than those of non-disabled people. Thus, not only does college accommodation influence where prospective students apply, but once students have matriculated at Oxford, they may face a lack of choice and a higher bill than non-disabled students. Rather than narrowing the achievement and mental health gaps between students with and without disabilities, the isolation and costs of accessible accommodation only serve to widen it. Yet, despite ambiguity and variation, there is an ever-present desire for change. This demand for change is largely driven by volunteer-led grassroots organisations, such as the Oxford Accessibility Project (OAP). Founded in 2016, the OAP aims to create an online College Access Guide providing a comprehensive overview of accessibility at every college and PPH. By collating this information to make it easily accessible, the OAP hopes to empower students with disabilities and illuminate the barriers they face. In this respect, the project has been immensely successful, gathering detailed information on no less than 19 colleges with the help of over 150 volunteers.

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The OAP has also successfully incited change across the University. The College Access Guide has been integrated into the University’s Access Guide and renewed a push to assess the accessibility conditions at each college. As part of this rejuvenation of interest, in 2020, the University hired Janet Higham as the inaugural College Access Auditor. The importance of detailed online resources cannot be understated, especially for students with disabilities, who need to be aware of what they can and cannot access even during the application process. As the Pembroke student says: “I live by the Oxford Access Guide.” The demand for sufficient online resources has been noted by Helen Mountfield QC, Principal of Mansfield College and Chair of the Conference of Colleges Disability Group. Mountfield says that the College Access Guide can help “students, applicants and visitors see how accessible various colleges are, so as to ask for adjustments to be made.” Mountfield also believes the audit “will give every college the information its governing body needs to take an educated and proactive view of what reasonable adjustments must be made to accommodate people with physical or mental impairments.” This endeavour has been supported by the Student Union’s Disability Cam-

Two Women in Anau, Turkmenistan

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Emma Rath

paign. The Chair of the Campaign, Tiri Hughes, welcomed the audit and noted how “it allows students to make informed choices about which colleges may be best to apply to, as well as helping current students with day-to-day activities.” Open access to this information helps students with disabilities tailor their decisions to their needs, ensures their lives aren’t hindered by a lack of access, and provides everyone with the adequate information to lobby colleges for physical change. Nonetheless, it is evident that college accessibility remains profoundly inadequate. Colleges must take urgent action on this issue if they hope to ensure that students with disabilities have the adjustments they need for their wellbeing. There is collective hope, amongst both university officials and the student body, that the audit will be instrumental in this process. The information in the University Access Guide will provide disabled students with the tools necessary to make informed choices. The illumination of accessibility issues acts as a wakeup call for colleges and PPHs to prioritise access, especially if they want to succeed in welcoming a diversity of applicants. Only with greater emphasis on the importance of accessibility will disabled students be able to take a meaningful step forward.

T

wo women cleaning after a traditional celebration in the ancient city of Anau in Turkmenistan. Anau comes from the Persian ‘AbuNau’ and means ’New Water’. Specked with the buildings and vestiges of ancient civilisations, it is a city which traces its history back to 4500 BC.



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What look pinto sunt res eiur maionestiam earitiam el ex ant offictae voluptatium el however, ex et quas event pubut Classics Twitter does best, is new quae. Nemque dolore esci odis leicat es erorest sim ressent at be omion r pe ors.er bicker. For emporesequia all our lovevolum and reverence sapit ut raeped et autqui dolorpo sunt. The es otatia insame essim odis iducipsae q u i dequia ici for the discipline, a reptas day never blasAgnimint landios molupid eostiam sim ress il invelitio. Ucipidunt, que volorem passes without discourse over teach- p h e m o u s repernatem volut facide ent otatia poreicius enduntium doluptae nis review m a x i mu s cin it ing methods, philological rigour or con the plicimpore prehend andentur si in essim estium quam in in eumthevolupta quiatur? vero tewasqui vit dubious figures subject’s past. question of sinciditatem andi emporat Corem apedi vel inctiorae mos ulleseque e i cbook i a t eiducipsae m am It is a microcosm oftendunt a scholarly com- aodis onq ufragdelest alitawhich illaut alis mi, samus. il invelitio. officim lam que quae mented, num eos munity;olorem one usesdolore tweets instead incomplete Sequatu sdamus, qui nesciae dolor Ucipidunt, que volorem plignis conseque non retonus, enti intiae dita nusAncient vellant. of targeted footnotes make snide objects of the World, ma nim harchil iquam, natur? Quid poreicius enduntium prerferes consequae pra sam in edited Ci rerabyvelluptatae con re nis aut comments – not surprising for alis a sysscholars S.doluptae Martin and qui cus maio. Nequid mos ut et dolor estium quam in eum volupta periaep tasperferum ad ut a commodi et explati Langin-Hooper. onseque sit autquiatur? lab reaint tem which seeks to internally criticise Stephanie The sum eaquibusam, am ut earuptatemos Corem apedi vel inctiorae blab intiore hendissunt, vit, nienim aperepro ipsae ni ommo beaque before anyone outside gets a chance. son for such a vehement rejectionmos lies aut et od there qui cus milit aut in ulleseque officim lamullecto que atendentur ma volum sit aciatias ent ipit volenimet lab in netolorem So, when is an almost unanithe review’s style: itexceptur, was written not rectur aute sin comnis demquaepudit dolore mi, quae plignis conseque non re offictaque quid elescient vollaut as volupiducit qui resequas quam mous train pore of thought on the classical a conventional academic esti review but ut aut autaspe riamus, vollandis sit nus, enti intiae prerferes consequae pra porunt, utem quian quid ea acescia dolorrum ea timeline, one landita cannot ecestet help butomniatis notice. as experiment in poetry. As a fragatempor eruntia quodis eosanda sam alis in periaep tasperferum ad ut alici omnit laborero molupta cumet suntiatur?Ivit oca nium inpra, ompl. The cause of this unifying up- mented approach to a book on broken ecullan digenet a in cum nos mi, atur? sunt. aNos commodi blab intiore hendissunt, vit, aut quamus, ommodit eumqui noxim rendet vid roar? A book review the December edi- material culture, the public review was aceps, a styLit ma dit quamenet facersp eroribu nienim atendentur ma sit aciatias ent ipit Id ofmoditas simusdam tali in ilnesilium tatebus.between Maribus tion the Bryn Mawr Classicalnonsequi Review listic attempt at a dialogue –

FR AGMENTED AT BEST

I

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in the author, C.M. Chin’s own words – “very small (and very large) objects, material and intellectual.” Yet crucially, the dialogue managed to forget its role in bridging the gap for the as-yet uninformed reader; to even the brightest of Classics Twitter, the association of the Punic goddess Tanit with “a woman’s restroom icon” was baffling without further context. Chin fashioned a verbal display so impenetrable for the reader that it seemed like a performance of and for himself. Written in a state of wilful ignorance as to whether others could understand his ‘genius’ or not, he put himself and his esoteric words at the heart of a review of a book which was not his own. Most egregiously perhaps, comes a genuine confession of ig no - rance, meant either to be deep or humorous (I am yet to decide which): “-I liked the part about Gordon Matta-Clark, even though I don’t know anything about Neolithic holes. -Nobody does, that’s the point. Or what holes even are. Any holes, what they are. I don’t know.” What could very well have

been a mightily poetic response to the beautiful and complicated remains of the Ancient World was metamorphosed, or more precisely, repackaged, into a review of a genuine scholarly work, one of whose authors was up for tenure assessment. A book review for an Early Career Researcher (ECR – someone within eight years of having submitted their PhD) is not the place to be edgy or obscurantist, especially when that scholar relies on the review and journal platform to reach a wider academic audience. And perhaps that also informed the outrage: scholarship cannot exist without scholars, and scholars cannot exist without being assessed by their peers. The review took centre stage when it was at best meant to be a supporting act to the main gig, the original book. Academia can be thought of as a heated tug of war for the baton or microphone just as easily as it can be the “pursuit of research, education and scholarship,” as the Oxford English Dictionary so docilely puts it. There is a hierarchy of who is allowed to speak and when; ECRs such as Langin-Hooper are not high up on that list. They instead rely on the words of others to affirm their academic roles. The review stood out to me as highlighting two age-old issues within Humanities scholarship: the precarity of the enterprise, and the question of why academic writing is as it is. I took fault with the review because of just how incomprehensible it was, but sensed that for many others, their great attachment to traditionalism (not necessarily what a review should achieve, but what it should look like) immediately denounced its experi-

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mentation. As it stands, this domino effect of needing to be both regarded and analysed by your academic peers implicates risk for the scholar wanting to push the envelope as well as for those around them. It is a system of publish or perish in which many seem overworked, underpaid, and by nature overly critical. On Twitter, amidst memes about Odysseus’ infidelity or how useless Aeneas is, you’d be hard pressed not to find witty remarks on just how tempted people are to leave academia, telling younger aspiring scholars to run for the hills. More broadly, Humanities academia wishes to distance itself from the critical epithet of the ‘ivory tower’ levelled against it: the idea that the Humanities possess little relevance for the outside world, that they make up overly intellectualised academic problems for their own privileged few to ponder, and verbalise through a disingenuous style at that. To live up to this stereotype would be for the Humanities to put a nail in its own coffin. On the other side of scepticism, there is the accusation that Humanities scholarship is dwindling in quality and purpose. One hears a constant lamentation on the death of the Humanities by an often right-wing crowd in op-eds for Quillette or UnHerd, convinced it is the academics themselves br i nging about the bitter end to the precious study of (usually ‘Western’) civilisation. The argument follows that these academ-

ics are digging their own disciplines’ graves by giving into the political correctness of a left-wing mob. Surely, we have fallen from Humanistic grace when the Oxford Classics faculty is considering removing the Iliad and Aeneid from its syllabus? This hysteria in fact proved misdirected at conversations about moving, not removing, these papers from the degree’s first half to its second. Postmodernism and overly radicalised professors are the bogeymen for this avowedly anti-intellectual yet purportedly pro-humanities stance. Against such accusations, can we blame Humanities academia for its distinct aura of self-justification? There is cause to think that the Humanities are suffering a kind of death – just not the kind which the op-eds would have you believe. It’s becoming more and more common for university administrations to slate their Humanities programmes as an economically-driven choice. Illinois’ Wesleyan University, whose president is, bizarrely, the classical scholar S. Nugent, recently announced its Classics department is headed for the guillotine. Leicester has chosen to cut posts in medieval literature under the disingenuous guise of “decolonisation”, when it’s really a gross attempt to justify widespread redundancies in the English faculty. For subjects like Classics, holding a specific cultural importance in certain milieus of society is no longer enough to combat growing institutional insecurity. In light of this, it can seem strange to hone in on academic writing style, but the two are inextricably linked when the former takes on a pro-


tective aim. Academic writing is meant to be the most cooperative display of information, both effective in presentation and learnedly informative to its initiated participants: surely it makes sense that not everyone can understand a mathematical proof or Old Norse passage? Granted, there are certain features of acceptable incomprehensibility which are understood by those within a field. Yet, when we analyse what counts as informative to even this restricted audience, academic writing fails to meet the standard of communication. For a review, the writer’s intent should be to summarise the main points and claims of the book in question – in this respect, Chin evidently failed. His indulgent use of dense jargon and textual polyglossia, not an uncommon feature of academic writing but amplified here, rendered his article deliberately uncooperative. This inaccessibility emerges especially when his writing is assessed through a linguistic theory of conversation, the cooperative principle, as coined by philosopher-linguist Grice: you and your interlocutor want to achieve the same aim by your verbal interaction, and for that, the information provided is done in a truthful, relevant and clear manner. Chin’s text violates the principle of being as informative as is required “for the purposes of its exchange” within the BMCR, as Grice’s cooperative principle states. Though not a typical style of academic writing at all, Chin’s self-gratifying review is an excellent representation of how frequently this corpus discards assumed communicative goals. Sometimes, this academic exclusivity is unintended, but when it

comes to prized e x c l u s i v i t y, Classics as a field – or at least, anglophone Classics – uniquely protrudes. Harry Mount, the British author and key player in the Homer-Virgil-Oxford complaint crowd, mentions the self-importance classicists bestowed upon themselves, in part owing to the perceived burden of being a “self-selecting bunch”. A wry anecdote of the no-smoking sign in the Oxford Fellows Room speaks to the degree’s (former) linguistic exclusivity: written only in Ancient Greek, it was an exclusivity Betjeman found endlessly amusing, and which Mount now realises showed “the worst kind of classicist snobbery”. That insistence on learnedness has been reflected in Classics’ writing, in its idealised expectation of the reader: a reader for whom the swathes of untranslated Latin and Greek, liberally sprinkled French terms, and chunks of quoted German scholarship are no matter. “Now. How to decentre Augustan Rome, re- focalise The Age? Not my way, obviously! I.e. to read through Georgics ~ Aeneid and Horatian lyric, parse Propertius’ oeuvre, give Tibullus his due, track Ovid urbi et ubique. (Yes, I do know. Poesie gets at most 2/19 here vs. 4/16 in Galinsky.)”

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“Russell and Hillard cross perspectives on the dynamics of Augustan politicking over the versions of the pater patriae melodrama in Suetonius and Dio: ‘consensus ritual’ kultchur ~ ‘self-infantilization’ tr*mpery.” If you’re looking for who to thank for yet another strangely written BMCR review, look no further than esteemed Cambridge classicist John Henderson. The Life Fellow at King’s College came under similar, if more subdued, Classics Twitter fire a few months prior to Chin for his stream of consciousness reviews. For as many as there were who called him “self-congratulatory”, “obfuscating”, “opaque”, others deemed the head-banging required to “get it” worthwhile. ‘Proper’ scholars appreciate Henderson’s style amidst an increasingly and disappointingly innocuous approach to scholarship seen elsewhere, or so the argument went, though I’m not sure where his peppering of schoolboy “tally-ho”s feeds into that. Analysing Henderson, it tran-

63

spires that he, like Chin, fails to abide by a cooperative principle: one need only look at the semantic leaps in “kultchur ~ ‘self-infantilization’ tr*mpery”. The biggest betrayer of his self-indulgent writing is the constant reference to other scholars. Otherwise known as metadiscourse, this tactic is used by academics to situate themselves within their field amidst predecessors, but cloaked as a signposting technique beneficial to the reader. Uniquely, however, Henderson’s metadiscourse broadly features names, not arguments; the mention of “Galinsky”, “Russell”, and “Hillard” doesn’t really reveal much, unless one is clued up enough to understand the meaning of 2/19 or 4/16. There is a certain arrogance to older kinds of writing, a kind of name dropping, polyglottic approach which is amenable to some researchers and students today but certainly not all. Yet, when a certain few are characterised by, and even lauded for their ostracising quirkiness, as Henderson often is, response takes the form of “oh, that’s just X’s style”. Henderson’s verbal obscurity is protected by its sense of tradition, written in an intellectual air of the past, and which admittedly shaped its author’s academic career. Perhaps here is not the case of writing to inform, but writing for a select few, and quite pointedly so as to not inform others. Academics talking in code is the ultimate form of a protected and protective communication. This is not a use of technical speech at its most semantically precise meant to convey efficiently to a certain academ-


ic audience, and thus rendering incomprehensibility to the layman an unfortunate side-effect. Instead, obfuscation is the goal. Exclusivity becomes a defensive strategy by which the Humanities can both lock out criticism and give more fuel to their own academic heft. Like fortified cities under attack, humanities departments are having to fight to avoid closure, and resist rife anti-intellectual sentiment. How high must academia build its walls? My answer would be, high enough to protect its integrity, to avoid the constant scepticism about its supposed uselessness. However, despite increasingly institutional insecurity, departments must not build their walls so high that they become a place of stagnation, devoid of youthful excitement and the ideas of an incoming generation of scholars. Academic writing is a specialised discourse and ought to remain that way, having rightly created its own language off the back of a vast intellectual corpus. But a unifying factor in any given field should be the case for its existence and future; the current and historically maintained conventions of academic writing serve to undermine both. There is room for tradition, room for protection, and also room for growth in academic writing, all at the same time. A degree of exclusive learnedness is an innate feature of any specialised discourse, to be sure, otherwise its academic study would remain unjustified. Uncooperativeness with the reader-speaker, however, is not. Chin and Henderson’s reviews, in their exaggerated forms, point to a trend of inaccessibility in academic writing which need not be there, and which in fact

acts negatively against their field’s future. Though the marriage of learnedness and accessibility is not necessarily easily won, a ‘kultchur’ of academic obscurantism won’t help get us there either. In a world of Chins, Hendersons, and arrogant Betjemans, perhaps the best future-forward route to take in academic writing is that of the benign interlocutor, the clear writer, if only – for the time being – to avoid being the weekly debate topic for Classics Twitter.

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All across the yard, false peach. Elm trees spitting shadow on their heads. Like an ocean, he says, thumbing the brim of his cap, like lilies. The golden in them. We’re far away from ourselves, her ashes dusted in a field, your voice still scattering my dreams. The pastor blesses vacuumpacked communion on the porch. Consider the lilies. She planted them, he says, too weak to stand for long by then, him holding up the pot through that last spring. Life at the end of life, the March light grey and rare. Her soap-smell sticking in the house. He sleeps at the desk till I wake him. Will this make me good. Does the hunger fade. Will I grow old in love like theirs. Her jewellery heavy in my ears. Dear future I can’t see the ending. Dear future I can’t find myself in you. Can I say now I am these flowers, floppy and proud, blooming only for a day?

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