When I see a beat up pair of shoes, a jacket or any old piece of tat laid out on the roadside, my mind flips into Survivalist Mode. I become one of that handful of folk left after the world's been devastated by nuclear war. Because it's hard for us New Age Sewer Rats to get basic stuff like food and clothing, anything we find becomes valuable. Even that oversized pair of trainers - heels frayed, lace missing - could be life-savers. Struggling to shake myself free of this morbid, sentimental fantasy, my eyes are drawn into the pathetic vortex of tat.
Having spent much of my late twenties on campaigns against nuclear weapons, I suppose these Survivalist Tendencies comes from then. Not that it was politically OK at that time to think anyone would get through an atomic war and the nuclear winter that followed. In the Peace Movement, the party line was pretty much against such talk, but I was never one for conforming – even as a non-conformist peacenic, I preferred to think my own thoughts. In fact, I never really believed that humans would be so stupid as to actually destroy themselves anyway.
I held onto my private view whether I was talking with other anti-nuclear campaigners or in banter with the opposition. I believed it was because people like us were protesting that the descent into total madness would be stopped. And whenever someone on the right accused us of siding with the Warsaw Pact and - as they frequently did - asked us why the Russians were not free to protest as we were, I wouldn't be drawn. Too often, we relished the eastern European TV camera crews that followed us around and took more interest in us than the BBC or ITV. I felt the act of protesting was not to persuade anyone that we were right and the other side were wrong. I suppose it was an existentialist thing, a piece of theatre.
Nowadays, living as an exile, I have to be objective in other parts of my life - not able or willing to get too involved with local issues. And on a personal level, I take some responsibilities more seriously than they deserve, and others I just shirk; such as when I know it's time to lighten up, I might still turn moody or bloody minded. Conversely, I can also let things slide and just coast along while the coast is clear. As an exile, I can just say to myself, So what? - as if I don't give a damn (though, of course, I do care). This is a kind of objective corollary.
As a result, I believe in recycling ideas to no obvious, immediate end; read old books and review them as though they were just out (click on, "Tatty Old Reads" above). To compose long narrative verses in outdated forms that hip Poetry Magz will but rarely accept. The act of doing is all that counts. So, let's hear it for CND!
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