English Paradise

English Paradise
Image: “Heaven’s Gate”, mixed media. Banksy (2017).

The essence of extremity is a paradox. When humiliation is piled upon humiliation, the result is desolation. And amid that desolation, there appears an escape door, the option of grace. For example, in prison, I have nothing that cannot be taken away from me. At any moment. I can get moved without notice. My detention can be extended. Recently, when I went to court, I returned to find a new inmate had been put in my cell. When the prison officers realised they’d made a mistake. They moved him out. And he took all of my food, clothes and bits and pieces. When I found out I was really mad for five minutes, and then I realised I had an escape door from my materialist determinism, as I would call it. I could see the ridiculousness of my situation, even the humour, what the fuck? How much worse could things get? Something had revealed itself to me.

I started taking my notes for my ‘Designing the Revolution’ podcasts (link in the comments) to court with me. I realised though, I would have to force my rage if they were taken away from me. I knew I had the option to “do nothing”, and to just start writing out the project once again.

It’s like when something annoying but small happens to you. You can’t help but be mad. But if things continue to go badly that day, you have an exit option. You throw up your hands and just accept the fuckedness of that day. You are strangely free of attachment. Not always of course, but more often than we admit. Particularly if you are aware of this paradoxical potential of misfortune and injustice, the exit door phenomenon.

The exit door leads to a new world, a paradise, a realisation that all you have is your consciousness and this present moment. That’s it. You don’t ever genuinely “have” anything else, nor can this baseline ever be taken away from you. The idea that you have a “thing” is a materialist myth. This house is “my house”. Really?

There is a limit to earthly power. Opposed to it is another power beyond hope and calculation. This is the power that brings down empires. Because when you have nothing, nothing can be taken away from you.

The English Gulag, which I wrote about a while ago, miraculously gives birth to the English paradise. Not despite the Gulag being horrendously bad, but because it’s horrendously bad.

There is a certain part of the contemporary left-wing culture that cannot handle this paradox. Its materialism likes things in black and white. Ambiguity is “false consciousness”. The notion that prison can be a space of spiritual revelation is heresy. That the oppressed can find a certain community in their fuckedness. Something that is denied to the progressive bourgeois classes; something that does not fit into their script.

I have been to prison Seven times now and as a social scientist, I can vouch for ample evidence of ambiguity among prisoners’ states of mind. When prisoners say “fuck” in every sentence, they are retrieving some agency from their powerlessness. When they talk together, they often enact a deep humility and empathy with each other’s fuckedness. There is no pretence. This does not mean that they will, therefore no longer fuck up or be fucked up. Just that there is something, a power rarely seen in people outside who are “okay”.

The paradoxical consequence of the imposition of leftist materialism is the suppression of this complexity. The imposing of a denial of the existence of the exit door, the denial of a type of power which has enormous emancipatory potential.

In my view, the power and community, which comes through humiliation, are our secret weapon. “do as you will, you cannot touch me because I’m already free”. “I will disturb your injustice as I and I fear not for consequences”. This is the magic we are searching towards. The paradox is that the only way we will save this world will be when we transcend this world.

Sort of makes you laugh…

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