The Descent of Man by Grayson Perry is not a forensic study of its subject and so doesn’t lend itself to a particularly academic review. However, it introduces a couple of phrases to the lexicon that are well worth contemplation.
The book is premised on the notion that ‘upgrading’ men to improve their ‘adaptability’ to the modern world would be of huge benefit to men, women and the planet. Grayson Perry’s premise is well understood, and his opinions which fill the book are intelligent and apt.
Ample ink is spent pointing out male domination of various aspects of human affairs, something of a stream of consciousness, sprinkled with empathy for the position of men in 2018 and heavy dollops of ridicule of boorish male behaviour. Perry is knowledgeable without going the extra mile, and as a result The Descent of Man is as valid a review of masculinity as any well-intentioned and considered opinion on the subject.Continue reading →
When a moment of knowing cuts through the mental chatter of depression, emotional pain or a turbulent time, it is a relief.
At that moment I receive a reminder of a place already known to me and I’m taken home again, where it’s warm, where there is always good company because when I am home – emotionally, mentally, spiritually – I am good company.
There’s sense and order – everything is in flow; the material world is abundant and interesting directions open up.
What takes me from one state (heavy, Tamas) to another (light, Sattwa)?
Usually something simple and deep. Meditation; exercise; a realization – simple acts. Deep too, because each contains so much personal history, work and thought. It is the culminating moment containing many more moments within it. They’ve merged and manifested something rich – a temporary state of satisfaction that propels me forward, energised.
But while this knowledge accrues, satisfaction dwindles eventually. Boredom, agitation, anger, pain…the ego dog is on guard.
But the way back home will present itself again soon enough and it will be simple and deep – just like us.
This week, everybody involved with Baraka Community Association will be marking the anniversary of the tragic fire at the Grenfell Tower, which saw our community in West London lose 72 members, including a number of children known to us. Those who survived the fire and many people living nearby are suffering the ongoing effects of trauma at having lived through such a shocking and horrifying event.
This week in North Kensington a series of events will be held in the community to remember those that were lost, to show solidarity with those that have suffered so much and to enable community members to provide each other with moral, emotional and practical support.
North Kensington is a special area, with rich diversity and a vibrant spirit. This spirit was on display in the aftermath of the fire and has kept the community strong ever since.
Last year, Baraka was part of the grassroots response to the tragedy, providing direct assistance and volunteering on the ground to provide disaster relief.
As well as recognising the incredible efforts of local people, we would also like to pay tribute to the support that came from people outside North Kensington who played such a necessary role. We would like to share with you one particular example of spontaneous kindness and generosity from last summer:
Following the fire, there was unprecedented demand for places on our annual outdoor adventure trip to Hindleap Warren in East Grinstead. Two of the children who were booked to attend were Firdaws and Yahya Hashim, aged 12 and 13, who tragically died in the Tower.
A private school from outside of London was at Hindleap the week before our trip, and when they heard that two of the group from North Kensington had died in the fire, they asked the staff if there were any plans to do anything to commemorate Firdaws and Yahya. The Hindleap staff told them they were thinking of buying and planting a tree as a memorial.
The school children got together and decided that they would all give up their tuck shop money for the week and use the money to buy the tree, which was then planted at a ceremony for the North Kensigton children the following week.
At this time of great sadness and remembrance, the staff, trustees and volunteers of Baraka Community Association wish to pay tribute to those that were lost in the Grenfell Tower; the survivors; and the countless people near and far whose acts of selflessness and kindness we recognise as the true meaning of Community.
Baraka Community Association, June 13th 2018. First published here.
Our community has been painted as work-shy immigrants, sub-letting; it could not be further from the truth; we were eloquent, hard working…we deserve to be respected
Urban Dandy is a North Kensington-based blog. It was born on the Lancaster West estate where the Grenfell Tower still stands. That estate, North Kensington and all of us who live here were forever changed on June 14th 2017. Our articles and poems from the aftermath of the fire can be found by clicking urbandandylondon.com/tag/grenfell-tower/ . We hope that all of our pieces on Grenfell convey some of the heartbreak experienced here in North Kensington, provide some context for the reader as well as serving as a tribute to the community we are proud to be a part of.
The Limits of Politics in the Shadow of Disaster
At al Manaar last week, Jeremy Corbyn focused on his ‘Another World Is Possible’ message. The visit to North Kensington was part of the strategy of taking Labour to the heart of communities to build grassroots support and pick up campaign volunteers. On both these macro and micro levels, Corbyn is underestimated by the media.
But in North Kensington, these are not our primary concerns. World peace and another world being possible don’t seem that important when there is no sign of justice for the crime at Grenfell Tower, when the Conservative council easily won the local election and when the survivors’ treatment has been appalling, surreal and bureaucratic.
Corbyn’s speech at the mosque was pleasant enough, but whoever wrote it failed to linger on the any specifics about the community response to the Grenfell Tower fire, the only positive in the nightmare. Where were his personal recollections? What are the implications for how another world could be moulded based on the collective efforts we saw here last year?
The situation in North Kensington is not one that powerful politicians can pay lip service to before heading back to the Commons or City Hall. It asks fundamental questions of how we deal with an appalling man-made disaster and how we see the future of this society.
Perhaps the words of Sadiq Khan, like Corbyn’s, are a tacit acknowledgment that London is over for many people who cannot thrive in a punitive property market. Nowhere is this more stark than in North Kensington. Where are the fresh ideas, beyond a call for survivors to be treated a bit better within the failed system?
The Labour leaders should feel free to use their power to speak and act against the Conservatives and their deadly policies. Unlike the community, these politicians have a platform and a voice, but if Labour cannot seize the moment in North Kensington, then rather than creating false hope, they should leave it to the locals and focus elsewhere instead.
We were abandoned…
It was the community that offered sanctuary to us
Ed, Grenfell Action Group
Big green hearts are in contrast to the derisory RBKC Council, the TMO, Theresa May and Sajid Javid. A desperate, grasping, corrupt political elite and their bureaucratic quislings.
What can be said about those whose symbols are on every lamppost, estate entrance, whose dead eyes stare out from the free newspapers? The Tory council just a human shield for Theresa May, the TMO likewise for the council.
How do we tell our children that their rulers are hateful? It might be better to tell them: ‘Look at what you did last year, at how you supported each other’ or ‘Look at the community you are part of’.
Naughty schoolboys, written off by the system but handing out water to distressed people long into the night, kindness everywhere. The purity of children – their big hearts in contrast to their presumed superiors. Unity not an empty slogan to be manipulated and used as a tool for power, but as real as it gets…
“Men aren’t gonna talk about it. They want to fix things, so they’re repressing their emotions.”
Rajaa Chellat, counselor for the My Shepherd therapy service.
Women led us on June 14th 2017, at Acklam Village and some of the other centres for relief, women led and men followed
We men want to fix or protect, but we can’t bring back 72 people, we couldn’t protect them…
On June 14th 2018 in North Kensington, just like last year, all we’ll have is each other.