Friday, 19 May 2017

RiotRiotRiot

I travelled to Cheltenham to play in a Brasserie on the basement level of a (relatively) posh hotel.  It wasn’t the sort of place I often played, or ever went, but I’d been asked by someone I knew who often put on really good gigs in ‘Nham (as the locals call it), in a variety of venues.  He was trying this place out for a couple of gigs and booked me in.  So, y’know, why not?  It’s only 40 minutes on a train.

Cheltenham is one of those places where all the creative people know each other.  Which is good.  But the reason they all know each other is that there’s not that many of them, venues for good live music are also few – and venues that will give unknown and/or unusual local bands a chance are fewer still.  It’s also a posh spa town, traditionally dominated by the old-school land-owning class, but with a significant proportion of very non-posh residents.
So, here I am in a basement restaurant under a hotel in ’Nham, being fed and watered in preparation for an odd gig.
Naturally, I decided it would be the perfect time to do my intimidating/charming opening: walking through the crowd singing, occasionally stopping to whisper in someone’s ear.  It’s a bold gambit, and it does grab attention, even in a bar/restaurant where everyone is sitting down and no one is there to see the music.  The year is 2011, and This Is My Life. 
Well, I say no one is there to see the music.  There’s actually a few people I know from Cheltenham, who’ve seen me play before and have made the effort to come to this unusual venue to see me again.  There’s also a youngster from Gloucester, who I have met once or twice before. 
The first time I remember meeting The Youngster was on Corn Street in Bristle, where I was sound-checking for a gig.  The show was an after-party for a demonstration in town (I don’t remember what for, it was a long time ago and I’ve played a lot of these types of things).  But that’s a story for another time.
Anyway, he says Hello and we speak briefly and he mentions he has come from Gloucester for the gig and I thank him for coming.  (Probably.  I don’t remember exactly, it was a long time ago and I’ve played a lot of gigs.)
So, I play the gig and it goes ok.  My Promoter mate is a wee bit apologetic about the venue, the lack of interest shown by the punters and the general unsuitability of the venue.  I poo-poo the idea, waving his apology away.  It’s fine, I assure him.  (I may have said “pish-posh”.  I can’t remember.  It was a long time ago, and I’ve used a lot of odd and/or archaic phrases.)
Anyway, speaking to The Youngster after, he asks if I’m going back to Bristol.  I am, of course, it’s where I live/d.  You may remember a time of rioting in the summer of 2011, in London and several other major cities of the divided kingdom.  Well, this is before all that – but there had been a riot the previous Thursday night in Stokes Croft in Bristol, with two tenuously-linked (but also proximate) flashpoints: one, a squat eviction attended by hundreds of police (including many from Wales), for some reason; the other, a newly-opened mini supermarket just opposite, the kind that tried to replace every local corner shop in the world. 
This particular supermarket had a particularly dubious history, involving some highly selective interpretation of planning laws and some serious popular opposition in the local area.  If opening a shop can be considered a political act, then this was one of the most provocative political acts of the time, and had the predictable effect of provoking people.  One might even say, inciting them.  (If one were at liberty to make such an allegation.)  The events were documented at the time – not well, mark you.  But that’s a story for another time.
This being the following Thursday, a demonstration was planned to protest, specifically, the Police violence of the previous week – as well as, more generally, the politics and economics behind it.  Those who would argue the Police are not a political organisation have, presumably, never seen them in action.  But that’s a story for another time.
Needless to say, it is a strange, and (for some, at least) worrying time in our city’s history.  But it is interesting.  The Youngster certainly thinks so, and tells me he is heading to Bristol to “check it out”.  I’m not sure what he means by this, but he adds that his sister lives in town so he is planning to meet with her, having assumed she will also want to take part in the demonstration, or at least “check it out”.  (He may not have used this phrase, to be honest, but it was a long time ago and I’ve told a lot of stories.  It conveys the true spirit of the occasion and personalities involved, even if it’s not empirically true.  If you follow.)
So, being on my bike, while The Youngster was on his feet, I raced down to the train station after the show.  Eventually he turned up and we got on the train.  We chatted on the way home, with him interrupting the conversation intermittently to send one of those “text messages” that the children of the time enjoyed so much.  He is At That Age, bless him.  He also speaks to his Mum on the phone, and she and I exchange “Hello!”’s. 
The Youngster does not, however, manage to contact his sister.  We arrive at Temple Meads and he still has no word.  Not wanting to leave him alone in a (relatively) unfamiliar city, I walk with him towards Stokes Croft, with The Youngster being at best vague about his plans for the evening.
We get to the St James Barton roundabout to find Stokes Croft completely closed to traffic, as indicated by police vans parked across the road on both sides.  We hear the noise of a crowd, but there is nothing much to see.  We press on, with me assuring The Youngster that I can find a way through, as I knew all the wee side streets and that, and him still making a show of trying to text his sister, who I am starting think doesn’t exist. 
We bump in to Ratman, who is surveying the scene.  “I just wanna see what’s goin‘ on.  It’s in my neighbourhood, but if you don’t see it, all you get is all the shit people chat about it innit.”  (He may have said that, I can’t be sure.  I think my paraphrasing is a fair summary of his point.  But it was a long time ago, and I’ve done a lot of summarising since then.  And not a little paraphrasing.)
We hang about with Ratman for a time, chatting while bottles (“projectiles”, they’d call them on the news) flew around.  And then we press on, The Youngster and I.  We have one dodgy moment when suddenly the wind changes and we are caught up in a surge by the police.  We duck down a back alley with other youths, try to get round the lane, before realising the police are closing in from the other end, and so head back up to the main drag to find things have calmed a bit, although the battle lines seem to have moved closer to us.  (I think that’s what happened.  It was a long time ago, and I’ve done a lot of rioting since.) 
Eventually, we reach the real flashpoint, which is, as the week before, at the junction of Ashley Road.  So, here I am, with my bike, my guitar, and a minor in tow.  In the middle of a riot.  I’m thirty years old.  How is this my life? 
The atmosphere is febrile, but seems to lack the chaotic urgency of the previous week – if the accounts of that are to be believed.  Which, as Ratman had wisely counselled, they are probably not.  I have several excitable accounts to go on, as well as the surprisingly sober, calm reflections of a friend who had taken a bit of a pasting off an officer of the crown who was most keen that my friend not find his way home.  The Friend, not being familiar enough with the area to know any alternative route, pleaded his case and inquired politely as to how he should get home.  The officer was apparently in no mood for a discussion, and put his training in intimidating young people into practice.
A riot is somewhere between a massive brawl, a tense stand-off and a carnival without the rides.  In political terms, it’s somewhere between a public meeting, a picket line and a party conference without the big speeches. 
The Youngster’s sister is still apparently off-grid.  My housemate Dez texts to say “Whoops: Riot Town’s kickin off again…fancy a pint?” (I think that’s what he texted; but it was a long time ago, and…).  I put it to The Youngster: “Let’s get a drink with my mate Dez, and then you can crash at ours, yeah?”  The Youngster seems happy enough with this, and I look at him to try to guage whether following me home from Cheltenham had been his only plan all along. 
No matter – we have a riot to get through.  The Youngster, by this point, seems less intent on getting involved with said riot, now that he’s seen it close up.  I’m not about to tell his Mum he’s been hurt in my company, so I bid him follow me and we make our way around all the backstreets I know so well.
Now we have a plan.  The world makes some sort of sense again.  We weave through the backstreets I know like the back of my hand, always able to see the action down the sidestreets that run parallel to each other, linking the one we’re on to the one where the action is – and come out at The Arches to meet Dez.  We tell him about the riot, about which he has the relaxed, almost blasĂ© attitude of a seasoned campaigner.  “I grew up in West Belfast.  This is fucking nothing”, he tells us cheerfully.  (He may have told us this, and he may have told us cheerfully.  I don’t remember exactly.  But it was the kind of thing he might have said, and says something of the situation and his character/background.  So, it’s true in a sense.  If you follow.  But it was a long time ago, and he and I have implied and understood each other a lot since then.)
In the more convivial atmosphere of our local cafĂ© bar, we assess the motivations of the rioters of that and the previous weeks and parse potential gains of This Type Of Thing.  With Dez quietly wondering what The Youngster is doing here, it emerges his sister actually lives waaaay out of town and there was no chance of him getting there tonight.  But that she therefore does exist.
So the three of us walk back to the house and round off a nice evening of restaurants, gigging and rioting.  Everyone asks me (very discreetly) what The Youngster is doing here.  I know by now, but don’t really want to admit.  (At least, I think I didn’t.  But it was a long time ago, and I’ve not wanted to admit a lot of things since then.  But this feels like a substantial memory, one that says something in the wider context of Memory and its place in our consciousness – both collective and individual – as well as managing to take in a discussion about history and rioting, with asides about police-community relations, opaque planning laws and the city council, the politics of shopping and the journey of a young man following his favourite Folk Rapper home.  If you follow.  Which you may not, since you (presumably) didn’t ask for my life story.  But that’s a story for another time.)
In the end up, no sinister motive was revealed on The Youngster’s part, despite all the jokes The Lads made about me waking up with…..well, you know what The Lads are like.  We all get up the next day and have a cup of tea and The Youngster skips off to whatever it is Young People do These Days, and I get on with whatever it is I do These Days.
And The Youngster?  Well, that little boy who followed his hero home for some reason, turned out to be…..
A Friend.

The End.

 

Friday, 12 May 2017

DBH/Ell Sol/Swir PodReview April/May 2017

I don’t like being interviewed, but I like conversing.  I’m not much of a fan of interviewing either, but I really like conversing.  The PFR podcast has given me the opportunity for lots of talk with people I know and like, and some people I don’t know but do end up liking, so that’s good. 
In this month’s instalment, you can hear me talking to DBH and Ell Sol, ahead of their performance at Roll For The Soul in Bristol…


The lads arrived in Bristol and headed straight to Studio 1 (Tom’s house), fresh from the Manchester leg of their tour.  DBH is known to the PFR crew as Dan (Big Dan if you’d like to add some character, flesh it out a bit) – Ell Sol was unknown to us, but was touring with Dan.  (Ell Sol is known to his mother and the government as Joan (pronounced a bit like Juan, but with a slightly harder ‘J’.  Not properly hard, as in ‘job’, but not like an ‘h’, as in Spanish.  Somewhere in between.  Maybe.)  I probably didn’t manage to say it right once, but I tried.  It’s Catalan, if you’d like to know.)
We (that’s FryDog and I, the podcast presenters, and our tech maven, PJ) recorded the lads playing a song each, and then I did a sort of interview that I hoped would be more like a conversation.  I thought it went alright.  Both performances were lush.  It’s always a great with live music atmosphere in a small room like that, and the lads sounded beautiful.
On the way to the show, I tell Tom that I hope lots of people come – and then qualify this by adding that I hope some people come and are very quiet and respectful of the fact that these are two extraordinary artists who should be heard, with “should” used in both the practical and moral sense.
I needn’t have worried, it seems.  The night began with support from Swir, who sings in (at least) five different languages, at least some (perhaps all) of which, she doesn’t speak.  She likes the idea of singing words she doesn’t understand, and I rather like it too.  Swir sings these multi-lingual pieces accompanied with electronic swirls and samples, and I asked FryDog aobu it.  He has experiences of using this kind of equipment and I don’t.  We agreed that there’s no difference in skill between making/playing music that way and the more tactile feel of an acoustic instrument, but I opine that it’s more difficult to see what the player is doing.  I always wonder what people are doing with those machines, but the best bet is just to listen to the results, I suppose.  Everything is judged by results, isn’t it?  (Except elections AMIRITE?! #satire)
Anyway, Swir’s set was the kind of pleasant surprise you can only experience by leaving the house and seeing live music, so, even though I would never ever presume to tell you what to do, or even suggest what you should do, you should definitely do that.
After that opening set, we also discuss the phenomenon of easily-available music, and the absolute torrent of new stuff that can be easily accessed on, um, torrent sites and the like.  I admitted to FryDog that I have been listening to a lot of new music (having spent previous years not making the effort), the kind people have heard of, and that I find most of it disappointing (or worse).  Especially a lot of new rap.  I really really don’t want to be one of those people that says things like “Hip Hop was perfected around 1992-4, everyone since is wasting their/our time”, but….I have no way to finish that sentence.  (Everyone becomes what they hate eventually, don’t they?)
Some of the rap albums of this century that I’ve checked recently are alright, mind.
Next up is our man DBH (Dan The Man, if you’re looking for some standard introduction schtick).  He plays instrumental guitar pieces.  His fingers are long and dextrous, his demeanour charactreristically quiet and laid-back.  The sound of the nylon-string guitar is beautiful in the right hands, isn’t it?  Dan’s hands. 
There is so much melody, so much more than you would have expected from acoustic guitar instrumentals, played on a battered old classical guitar.  (I would know better.  From experience.)
At one point Dan (Big Tall Dan, if you like) mentions that all the new songs he’s playing don’t have names yet.  “So, if anyone’s got any ideas, come and speak to me afterwards – not you, Clayton.”
I feigned the necessary outrage.  (It was a reference to my proclivity for song/album/band names, which is famed through the interland/countrynet/webside.)
FryDog finds the whole set very moving.  The performance is moving, especially the climax – a sumptuous version of Tracks Of My Tears, a track which has me…well, you know.  Close, at least.
After Dan’s set, FryDog and I engaged in a spirited discussion about my A Thousand Brilliant Band Names art project (famed throughout my brain).  He contended that they are definitely not all Brilliant, and wondered aloud about the purpose of the thing.  I countered that they bloody well are all brilliant and that there’s a kind of logic to the flow of it, and that anyway, that’s not the point.  And that it’s art, maybe the point is ineffable/unknown.  (So, basically, I refused to be drawn on what The Point actually was/is.)
It went roughly like this:
“But there’s a sort of rhythm to it, it waxes and wanes….”
“It doesn’t wax.”
“MotherFUCKER!”
We’re still friends, it’s fine.
Having met Ell Sol earlier that day, I knew what to expect from his set, to some extent.  From our conversations in/before/after the podcast recording, I knew that he treats the microphone as a non-essential focal point.  I told him about my old pal Men Diamler, who does the same, sometimes going as far as to ignore microphones completely and stomp around the room, taking the game to the opposition in spectacular fashion. 
Ell Sol means “The sun” in Catalan, a language outlawed in Catalunya as few as forty years ago.
So, his set would have been illegal, sung as it is entirely in Catalan.  (Yes, that’s right.  Illegal to sing in Catalan in Catalunya.  Bloody colonials – who’d ever be so oppressive as to outlaw the native la – oh, right.)
The set itself was enjoyable – it wasn’t as wild as it might have been, but it was full of passion and some experimentation, as well as lush melody. 
Considering how much I enjoy words, it’s cool to see a whole gig with virtually no words I understand emanating from the performances – instrumentals, and songs in languages I can’t understand.  (Yo no hablo idiomas, por que bengo de un pais ignorante. Perdoner me.)
At the end of the night, as we waited for the lads, FryDog asked how I will vote.  I rambled without revealing, then told him I will probably vote the way he probably thinks I will.
On reflection:
Childish Gambino’s album Camp is pretty good, especially the last song.
FryDog accepted the artistic value of the 1000 Band Names Project.
I will probably vote the way FryDog probably thinks I will.
I could perhaps be more clear at times, take a position.  It probably wouldn’t kill me.  As such.
Having studied The Headmaster Ritual, Dan (Dandandancerman, if you like.  I do, as it goes) accepted that Johnny Marr “is a god after all”.
In conclusion:
The podcast is available now, here.  Have a listen, won’t you?  It’s jolly good fun.

https://www.mixcloud.com/pfrcollective/

Friday, 5 May 2017

Un/Helpful

Most people just want to help, don’t they?  Yes, they do. 
So, below is a list of things that are helpful right now.  At the very least, most of us don’t want to be actively unhelpful to our fellow humans, so I’ve also included a list of things that are not helpful. 
I’m not saying you shouldn’t do these things, but maybe just be aware that they’re not helpful…
 
Things that are not helpful
Using the word “sheeple” in any context*
* other than maybe mocking the use of the word (and even then, proceed with caution).
Slogans
National flags
Reading headlines
Casual dismissal of large sections of the population, including, but not limited to:
Suggesting that a whole class of people will do whatever a newspaper tells them to.
Saying that it won’t make much difference because it won’t make much difference to you.
Commenting on the opinions and psychology of people you know nothing about
Condescension (see above)
Being very angry at supporters of political groups
Relying on anyone, other than yourself, to make you free or happy
Telling everyone that voting is a stupid waste of time
Telling everyone that voting is the only thing that allows them any say in anything, or that they can’t complain if they don’t vote (they can, they will and they should)
Political purity (ie, not engaging with a process because it is fundamentally flawed and/or rigged in favour of those who run it)
Nihilism
Apathy
Conflating not voting with nihilism/apathy
Tautology
Defeatism
Articles in The Guardian saying a particular party can’t win
Describing a poor choice as “no choice”
Abstaining, instead of choosing “the lesser of two evils”
Opinion Polls
Assumptions/predictions based on opinion polls
Confident predictions of any kind
Making the personality/dress sense of party leaders a political issue
This blog
Tony Blair’s opinion/s.  On anything.
Things that are helpful
Knowing your history
Knowing that you matter – specifically, that your words and actions matter, however unpredictable the results may be
Knowing that unpredictability is not a reason for inaction
Respecting people with whom we disagree
Working/discussing with those with whom we broadly agree, despite some differences
Working together to avoid the worst excesses of the current system, and/or their effects on those least able to defend themselves – especially sacrificing ego/ambition for the greater good
Reading the whole thing
Critical thinking – applied to everything
The considered, rational opinions of people you don’t already know
Collective action
Helping others to register to vote, especially those facing obstacles to registering (those with no fixed abode, for example)
Open mindedness
Empathy
Realising that an election does not make you an expert on politics, media, psychology and culture, or anything else
The knowledge that THERE IS NOTHING INEVITABLE ABOUT ALL OF THIS and that WHAT WE DO AND SAY MATTERS
Admitting that there is no reliable way to predict the future (including looking at the past or present)
This blog
Making policy a political issue.  (You know, like the government policy of spending £100billion on a nuclear submarine whilst telling everyone that people should be forced into destitution because of a lack of money.  Or the policy of cutting public spending to save money and managing to not actually save any money.  Or the policy of transferring public money into private hands.  Or the policy of making citizens destitute and homeless.  Or the policy of using more violence in an apparent effort to stop more violence.  Or the policy of degrading public services until calls for privatisation are grudgingly accepted.  Or the policy of smashing unions to help precipitate decades of neoliberal consensus in which almost everyone is encouraged to vote against their own interests.  And then acting like that’s the best thing that’s ever happened and anyway you can’t do anything about it and anyway what else is there and anyway what are you gonna do about it and anyway no one else agrees with you or will support you and anyway powerful people are against you and anyway rebels don’t go to heaven and anyway we only want what’s best for you difficult decisions must be made what’s that?  What, that, over there?  Don’t look at that, it’s a secret it’s classified it’s not your business it’s top secret you wouldn’t understand. That type of thing.  You now, Politics.)
 
Most people just want to have fun, don’t they?  So, here’s a bit of popular fun from this week:
 
Ten Things – one of which is a lie!
- Democracy
- Animation
- Love
- God/s
- Altruism
- Documentary
- Elton John
- The Media
- The economy
- War
 
Most people who are eligible to vote will vote, won’t they?  Some might even like it, although there doesn’t seem to be much enthusiasm from anyone in particular.  Not voting is an option, of course.  Here are some lists of considerations for the option.  Not exhaustive, of course, just a list of things worth considering when deciding whether to vote, and for whom.
 
Things voting is like
- going to the funeral of a work colleague
- signing a birthday card for someone you don’t particularly like
- seeing a film everyone else thinks is brilliant, which you think is rubbish
- being asked what you want and then being told it is all impossible
- [FLAWED, INCOMPLETE, INADEQUATE] democracy
Things voting is not like
- freedom
- stopping capitalism killing you/us/everyone (on its own…)
Things not voting is like
- refusing to clean the toilet because the whole flat needs re-decorating.
- refusing to wipe your arse because you need a shower anyway (and then not having a shower). 
- supporting a football team, without ever going to see them.  Even though they play in your town.  And you can easily afford a ticket.  And they rarely sell out of tickets.  And you’re free most Saturday afternoons. 
 
Things not voting is not like
- freedom
- democracy
- a genius tactical move that proves an exceptional level of political insight
- an admission of guilt
- helping vulnerable people
- stopping capitalism killing you/us/everyone
 
Things voting can achieve
- changing MPs
- changing the government
- minor change for the better (mostly, historically, but not only, for middle class people)
- smug self-satisfaction when things go wrong (“Well, I didn’t vote for them, so it’s not my fault”)
Things voting will not achieve
- stopping capitalism killing you/us/everyone
- drowning Boris Johnson in a lake of fire on live TV
- anything much, on its own.
 
Things not voting can achieve
- major change for the worse (mostly for working class and poor people)
- smug self-satisfaction when things go wrong (“Well, I didn’t participate, so it’s not my fault”)
Things not voting cannot achieve
- stopping capitalism killing you/us/everyone
- anything, on its own.  (So, if you’re gonna not vote, maybe people will expect a high level of practical help…not saying they should.  Just letting you know that they will.  And that living with the consequences of not voting is not significantly different to living with the consequences of voting.  And that neither is a reason/excuse for inaction/defeatism.  And that because something is not for you, not designed by you, and is mostly made to hurt or ignore you/all of us doesn’t mean it can’t ever be used to help you/us.  And that voting, as a historical process, is not nearly that clear-cut anyway, but involves different forces in competition/conflict.  As you will probably know if you have thought about it at all.)
 
 
 
 

Friday, 28 April 2017

Democracy: Now

The first person I see in the sparsely populated room tells me she recognises me, suggesting quickly that maybe I have one of those recognisable faces.  She is eating salad from a tiffin container.  I recognise her as well, but don’t let on.  I don’t even make my classic “all white people look the same to me” joke.
Then the woman sat next to her mentions to The Convener of the meeting that we could use the local church for subsequent meetings, that it would be “good for the church”.
The first woman snorts and asks pointedly: “Do you go to the happy-clapper church then?”
I wince slightly, as the second woman pauses before answering in the affirmative, without regard to the “happy-clapper” epithet, other than a sideways look, and the hesitation.  I’m not sure if the question was borne of provocative derision, or dismissive ignorance.  It could have been both, I think to myself.  Although, judging by the innocence of the ensuing conversation, I suppose ignorance rather than deliberate disrespect.  (I regard either as good reason to pretend I don’t know her.)

There are not many people at this meeting, but the convener suggests that more will come.  Still, there are far more seats than bums, so we all draw in nearer, in a small circle. 

As we begin, The Convener is proved right, and more people arrive, precipitating the usual shuffling of seats and whispering necessary to accommodate the new arrivals.  By 6.30 there are twenty-six people in the room.  I am no ethnographer, or anthropologist, or sociologist, or fashionista, or cultural expert, but…..all twenty-six are white, and most look middle class.  There is an even split between men and women (once again, judging solely by appearances.) 
Ten of the twenty-six people in the room will make no audible contribution to the meeting.

The Convener introduces the agenda: it is to be discarded immediately!  Dismissed, out-of-hand!  As is the way with this most postpostmodern of times, events have overtaken us.  There are rumours; everybody knows the details of these, but no one is saying.  But everyone knows.  You know?  You know.  You know.

A softly-spoken gentleman with a grey beard talks about communal ownership, with a quiet passion.  He knows that some people do not care for his passion, or his ideas, but he is sticking to his principles.  He tells the meeting that, without wishing to be dramatic (this would not fit his idiom at all, and he is too honest even to try it rhetorically), he sees this as a watershed moment for us; if we allow corporate interests yet more control, yet more space, over the most precious remaining parts of our communal wealth, it will not be wrested back.  Not in this generation…

Someone argues with the softly-spoken gentleman with the grey beard, calling for pragmatism and realism.  I thought that the softly-spoken gentleman with the grey beard was being pragmatic and very realistic.  For the record.  But everyone has a different view of realism, don’t they? 
I like Magical Realism, myself, although Social Realism can be politically effective (and entertaining, if well-executed.  (Which it usually isn’t.))

The objector/interlocutor/comrade to/of the softly-spoken gentleman with the grey beard says we mustn’t let go of our toe-hold.  This seems eminently sensible.  Of course, we got a toe-hold to do something useful with (ie, climb a bit higher), so we also need to keep that in mind.  A toe-hold is merely a means to an end, after all.  The woman in question also points out that We have been recognised as Stakeholders, which in itself constitutes Progress.

When Powerful People pay Us lip service, we can still hold them to account on it.  They know this, and that’s why they are careful about their pandering….it’s easier than ever to hold people to account for the things they say in public.  So, perhaps it’s more important than ever to pay attention to what people say in public, as counter-intuitive as it seems amid the rushing torrent of bullshit We face daily.

The meeting generally agrees that we will be nice to everyone until someone gives us a good reason not to be.  This is nice.  “Working with us will be easier than working against us – hurrah!  In this room, “compromise” is a far cleaner word than in other meeting rooms….(it doesn’t mean We actually should/will compromise, mind you.)

The counterpoint to this is that we quietly, while Being Nice, assume that anyone in a position of Power will be at best wary of Us – and at worst, contemptuous.  We will most likely prove them right, one way or another.  This seems eminently sensible to me.

The Attendees are jovial, after a fashion.  It’s a classic sort of middleclasswhite occasion.
The Local Residents give the meeting a seriousness, an urgency (especially given their impending court date) it might otherwise lack.  Support is offered, and gratefully received by the Representative of The Local Residents, who gets legal advice and offers the perspective no one else present could have.  The Local Residents are not required/expected to be jovial about the situation, but their Representative strikes a very good balance between joining in with some light-hearted comments and elucidating the sobering seriousness of Their situation and Their struggle.

The same people speak several times, but the room lends legitimacy to the discussion – it’s a public forum.  If the same people were having the same discussion in a pub, without audience/mute witnesses, the pressure would be off, the stakes lower, no actions would result.  This is Democracy.
Towards the end of the meeting, there is a vote, and it is unanimous.  This allows the ten people who have not spoken to have their say.  Turns out there is a value to voting, after all. 

The softly-spoken gentleman with the grey beard is likeable, and has made some good points.  But he is part of the group.  Even when representing this group outside this room, he is not quite in charge of it.  This is Democracy.  When he speaks for this group, outside this room, he will be expected to represent it honestly, without merely repeating his own views and pretending this is the same thing.  That’s what This is.
Nobody at this meeting could, with any honesty, say that the softly-spoken gentleman with the grey beard is the only hope for this group, or for anyone else.  Equally, no one here would argue he is perfect, or that he is perfectly useless.  He is part of the group.  There are others.  Without the group, he would not be here.  Without him, the group would still be here.  He, like most in this group, has little or nothing to gain from shouting at leaders/members of other groups.

Elections will have their unpredictable impact on this group, as on all others.  The only certainty is that, whatever the results, whatever their impact, this fight, this discussion, these meetings, this real, grassroots work…….the Democracy…will continue.

It has to.