Friday, 12 December 2014

Eminent Domain 2


The funeral  took place on a Saturday, a beautiful, mild April day and afterwards a group of friends and associates returned to the family home to eat and continue to extend consolations. For Julia Tyler this was all, in a way, and in a way she felt conflicted about obviously, Manna from heaven. All these ancient Communists shuffling around, with their grim, craggy faces, hairy ears and impenetrable northern accents. Despite her years of studying and listening there was still something in a seventy seven years old ex-miners voice at full tilt that she found hard to process.

She feels bad about being so pleased to be there, especially given the tragic circumstances, but in a way she couldn't have hoped for more from her first week in Britain. Out of respect for the family they are staying at a hotel in the centre of Birmingham near the famous Bullring and she has already taken about three hundred photos of it from every angle on her phone. She’d send them to her mom except that she can't get access to US infospace at the moment or at least hasn't found a provider that will allow her to send information between the two, well she almost said worlds to herself, perhaps sphere would be be a better word, countries perhaps, to speak in the old way.

The older men are drinking and one she half recognizes from books on the period of the British Autarchy from 77 to 82, but exceptionally wizened now, is asking her a series of polite questions about America and her interest in Britain and the Post-Capitalist world, how had the arrangements to visit gone? Smoothly he hoped. She had  explained, suspecting that he was having as much trouble understanding her as she was him that it had been reasonably easy, she was a phd student in European History and it was accepted that as such she would visit the area, perhaps spend many years here, though yes of course that meant a lifetime of surveillance both overt and covert, carried with it a degree of danger, that one would always be viewed as a potential subversive, a possible domestic extremist. And why Britain and not Russia? he asked. Russia’s the place you want to be. Marvelous what they've achieved.

I have kind of a romantic interest in Britain she explained with a laugh and gestured across to David, who nodded back at them both.

The old man chuckled. How was she dealing with the locals, could she understand them?

Two countries divided by a common language? she asked.

He smiled. The divisions are bit more than those of a common language these days lass, he said.

Oh yes of course, she said, oh my god, of course. She actually blushed slightly and wondered whether she might not have a shot of the vodka that was going around. She was in danger of embarrassing herself, ridiculously, getting all fangirly over some British Communist pensioners. Calm down Julia. Keep it cool. Don’t be the hysterical American.

Can I get you a drink? she asked the gentleman. Aye he said, I will have another. She pressed through the group around the table and got the vodka, poured herself a large one. It was tough, Britain generally being so dry and the horrible warm beers. All of Europe really, even Russia they said had strict controls on the alcohol supply and now one of the highest levels of longevity in the world, up there with Japan and achieved partly through studying the Japanese diet and collaborating with nutrition specialists at the University of Tokyo. Meanwhile back home they were in the throes of an obesity and meth epidemic.

Though actually they had the Japanese to thank for the meth too. Andrew caught her at the table. How’s it going he asked quietly, his hand touching her lightly on the elbow. Well I worry I am making a fool of myself, she said.

Don’t worry, we all worry about that. Remember me in San Francisco. It was a shock.

Oh my god! Suddenly she realised who she had been talking to. Is that Charlesworth? she asked, her voice down low. David glanced over and nodded. The first head of the Republican Workers’ Committee of 79.

She took a sip of the vodka. Really? Charlesworth? I asked him what he did and he said he was an ex-miner,old trade unionist and supporter of the workers’ cause.

David leant in, adopted an exaggerated Yorkshire accent .He’s no airs n graces that un.

Yes, there was no denying that America had come as a shock to him, as an exchange student he was granted every courtesy of course and was the object of much discreet and some less than discrete even openly hostile questioning as a representative of the British state. At one point Amy took him out on a drive past the Windsor family’s massive estate in California, He had seen photographs of course. the attempt to recreate features of the ancestral piles and palaces that had been raised to the ground, to remodel the vast estates that had been reclaimed and returned to the commons. Private property. He was astounded and offended by the grotesque, wasteful excessive luxury of some homes and the squalor and dilapidation of others, by the obvious colour and ethnicity bar, by the levels of obesity and drug addiction, by the scale and frenzy of the consumption and he immediately pined for the starkness and simplicity, the radical equality and the sobriety of the North and Scotland, of his old university town Aberdeen. He felt that he had stepped back into the past, he had read about in numerous histories of the States, back to the gilded age, as though America, instead of progressing, instead of pushing forward on some of its gains after the second world war had collapsed back in on itself, imploded, a wormhole sucking in technology and resources out of the future, the endless phones, computer tablets, 3D vast TVs, the desperate dependence on oil, the dirty technology the tar-sands and natural gas, the nuclear power stations, the monumentalism of the buildings, the craziness of the cultures’ nihilism, its glorying in destruction and ruin, in death. All the feverish nightmare forms of Capitalist left not just to run its course but elevated to a religion.

Strangest of all of course was the appearance of money and the whole bizarre, barbarous ritual of standing in a line and handing over pieces of paper in exchange for goods, pieces of paper one received from an employer in return for “selling” ones labour time. extraordinary to think that such a system still existed in the twenty first century and in one of the most powerful nations on earth, and he supposed that Anne of course was experiencing equal difficulty with the European system in which there was neither compulsory work nor money, nor private property. Picking her up from Birmingham international, the austerity and functionalism that to him seemed beautiful would strike her as severe, cold, too visually plain, the peoples’ dress and manner, sober, yet for him there was a glamour here far beyond the childlike obsession with shiny things and outsized, cartoonish commodities.

They were from such different cultures, had taken as peoples, as nations such different paths and yet, here they were, in love.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014


When she arrives at The Enclave, Derren Jones is talking about the inconclusive, finally ambiguous Spanish pre-Crisis social movement Pinchar la Burbuja, inspiration for their own Burst the Bubble campaigns after which Andrew Gillingham will be talking about the crisis of the Seventies and the series of overlapping unresolved crises that have been circling the world since the dot com collapse of 1999. They are in Enclave 4, the art space down on Resolution Way. After the meeting they will assemble at the station, summoning forth, from phones and across networks of friends and fellow activists, sympathetic groups, a wildcat demonstration, point of protest, the Shard.

There are a lot of familiar faces, some people she knows through Laura, others she sees all the time, standing around outside the Bird's Nest, or drinking Flat Whites in Kwofee, but dare not speak to yet, sure they are too smart for her. Lewis skulks around at the back of the room waiting for Laura, her hood up, looking scowly, feeling excited, awkward, enthused, ashamed, exposed.

She wants to go on the Demo, but she has promised her mum she will be back in the flat at 10:30 to answer the land line. She doesn't mind, she wants her mum to go and have fun, to relax and in the end it was the only way she could get her to agree. I will be home safe and sound, no I won't sneak out later. Just go, go.

A nu-step remix of Hot Money by The Derivatives has come on and a couple of drunk girls next to her start ironically twerking and laughing, passing a bottle of Lambrini back and forth. This is why some people don't like this crowd, these art-kids, some people think they are the problem. but she knows, of course there are some idiots everywhere, everyone acknowledges that, these are the people, these are the people among whom she belongs

She wanders about looking at the paintings, picking up fliers, fiddling with her phone. Laura assures her she is on her way. People around her are talking, saying many things she doesn't understand or half understands. She skulks and eavesdrops, swigs nervously at a carton of black coffee.

….every life is a series of unresolved overlapping crisis, why would the aggregate effect of our lives not be chaos...

Yes well that's the kind of liberal humanist line isn't it, all of this is due to incompetence or unintended consequences no-one can possibly control or foresee.

Yet, y’know, there are these remarkably stable continuities in terms of land and wealth, in terms of ownership of resources, class position, power, generation after generation, amazing consistency and stability in the creation and maintenance of structures and institutions that allow for such continuities.

There's a very beautiful, tall pale boy with a coronet of jet-black tumbling glossy curls and heavy stubble wearing a very baggy blue Nylon blouse, top button fastened, talking animatedly to a shorter Asian guy with a mullet, holding a can of Stella. She loops their way pretending to look at the paintings. These are the guys with the weekly net radio show, aren't they? The one's whose friends John and Jo do Left- Wing Workouts.

It's a banal observation, a theoretical commonplace that the formula for money and that of desire are virtually identical, money’s aim is more money, desires aim is not its object but more desire, this isomorphism is central to the way in which finance Capital specifically and liberal capitalist world views are inter-constitutive as long as you are a desiring subject, that is to say a capitalist subject, that’s all that matters

Isn't it more that post capitalist mean a post desiring subject.

Someone else leans in. What is with the Post-capitalist meme anyway. It's an article of faith that post-capitalist must somehow be better than capitalist, it's just historical materialism 2.0

Jake groans at the already antique use of 2.0.

But seriously why can't post capitalist just be worse? Why must it be more egalitarian or more democratic?

She loops away again. Someone is talking about Lizzie Borden's Born in Flames. Another the role of women within Nepalese Communist groups. The floor is sticky, her coffee carton drained.

She heads toward the door to get a breath of fresh air. There’s a guy there she recognizes, in his mid-forties with steely gray hair, a suit and a nervous manner talking to two women in their twenties dressed in what she can only think of as some kind of Sixties style militant Sci-Fi boiler-suits. One of them she knows is Jessica Durham, a lecturer at Goldsmiths, she has seen her speak a few times and has a massive crush on her that she angrily denies to Laura, though Laura probably has one on her too.

The other girl, young maybe her lover, with a sharp face and very soft blond hair. looks nervous and seems brittle and edgy, all her energy focused on saying brilliant, unforgettable things.

Just out through the doorway, there's another group, looking grim and tetchy, texting away. There’s Dan she nods, he smiles and nods quickly back, looks distracted. Already several people have been arrested, dawn raids or pinched on public transport, in supermarkets, swiping their claimant card or passing one of the million chipped bins, windows, lamposts that grid the city, swept up either under the massively expanded powers of the USG’s Welfare Enforcement Division or in straight busts by the Met. No-one knows where they are now, in cells somewhere, detention centers, holding- pens, being deprived of sleep and food, lent on, intimidated. It’s only a few months since the last hard stop fiasco left Lewisham shopping centre gutted and the police station across the road pocked with flying bricks, and so the crackdown continues. Water cannon, rubber bullets, expanded powers to detain, reclassification of the term terrorists, the legal redefinition of the idea of violence, the extravagant sentencing.

The latest mayoral campaign poster has the incumbent in a black and white poster posing at a a window and peeping through the blinds, holding a taser, a parody of the famous image of Malcolm X and the later recreation by KRS-One.

Keeping London open for business. By all means necessary.

Someone behind her is saying the point is that reclassification of laws is not a discursive practice and therefore can’t be countered by one, it’s a recomposition of the relationship of power, access to space, freedom of movement, political agency. we are not fighting fire with fire, that’s the mistake i think, to fail to understand the legal framework.

Lewis leans against the rail and looks up and down Resolution Way.

maybe you should write a book on it, give another fucking paper on the need to understand the problem more fully.

actually the voice says I am I am focusing on performatives and how we can

Where is she?

Isn't the problem that the requirement for theoretical novelty for a niche and brand is the logic of biopoltics. If we just say, ok it has all been said basically, we are all, I mean academics, out of a job. But we want to be out of a job right, we want everyone out of a job, the problem is we can't conceive of ourselves as non-productive subjects, we can't defy the demand to produce the new, in more and more contrived, inessential increments.

Lewis checks the time on her phone

So we should just abandon thought?

And suddenly Laura has arrived, sashayed in out of nowhere on stiletto heels, sidled up beside her.

She runs her hand up Lewis’s back, says hello gorgeous.

No that's not what I am saying at all, I am saying we should aim at our own abolition. And if we are too invested in our position we must accept that others, less so, will abolish us.

She looks spectacular, she’s late but it was worth it. Sorry I'm late, took ages getting ready.

Stay using the mesh network. I don't trust that guy . I think he's a Jake. No not Jake! A cop, A fed. Five-O.

Laura kisses her, her lips taste of nothing but her own delicious lips, her hair smells uniquely of Laura herself. Lewis goes up on tip toe. Lauras’ breasts push against her throat and her whole sublime heft strains against the black satin suit she is wearing. She grips at Lewis’ arms through her tracksuit top feels the knotted muscle, runs a hand over her shaved head and gazes into her eyes.

If the state is so useless, so impotent why have the right spent so much time and money trying to co-opt it,

You are so fucking hot, Lewis says and runs a hand up between her legs, watches Laura's nostrils flare, a smile tickle at the corners of her mouth as her knuckles bump softly to a stop. Laura squeezes a little on her Lewis' fist with her thighs and bites her lip.

Well equally if protest is so useless why do they spend so much time trying to ban it

Oh my stars, she is ridiculously hot. That eye makeup and the insanely thick false eyelashes. She moves her hand. Not here, not here. But really. She wants to breathe her in, be enveloped by her, to both be subsumed and to incorporate her on some atomic level. Flesh of my flesh, molecular integration, any sense of separation or remove, and distance dissipated.

Yes but that's an atavism, a kind of formal game played out between the state and the public, it’s there for the right to keep their voters onside, in fact you play into the rights agenda by protesting

but we also make it visible to the left

Visibility is in some ways the problem. the spectacle.

Lewis is half tempted to just pop back to the empty flat right now but suddenly the buzz in the room subsides and a series of Presi slides are being projected against the far wall, images taken from property websites Yourhome, Zoopla, Rightmove , others from what is increasingly being called the Shadow Housing Sector, a nice euphemism, the boy in the sky-blue blouse, standing at the front of the slowly assembling crowd says, for slum housing: more specifically he wants to address the overlap between the two and the increasing discursive legitimation in the popular press of price gouging, overcrowding and the construction of ad-hoc and improvised “accommodation” in gardens, abandoned sites, garages, jerry built extensions, the accelerating subdivision of existing housing stock into smaller and smaller spaces, into capsule and, informally, “coffin” accommodation, the government's restriction of planning and tenancy laws in order to prolong the housing crisis from which they and their supporters benefit. He concludes with a critique of the Alter-housing movement, the wigwams and Yurts and wagons snuck away in outlying fields or sympathetic friends gardens as mirroring the logic of rentier capitalism under the guise of libertarian Leftism and concludes by explaining that their own Burst the Bubble campaign differs from the Spanish Pinchar la Burbuja in that the latter attempted to collapse the bubble from below by mass refusal to take on mortgages, whereas they see the necessity of making property itself subject to attacks to send a clear message that property is not a global asset class and that any attempt to use it as such will be met with concentrated attempts to occupy, confiscate or radically devalue that asset.

By any means necessary? Some one in the crowd asks, to laughter.

Burn baby burn someone else shouts out. They are all mindful of the undercover police who are certainly in the room, all mindful of the comrades given seven years for unfurling a sign saying “this property is condemned” on one of the new Hypervillages in the process of being constructed by Singaporean magnate Jensen Foo, photographing it along with a number of activists in balaclavas brandishing petrol bombs and comedy dynamite and clock bombs posing on the only half constructed seventeenth floor of Three Bridges Tower, studios starting from six hundred and fifty thousand pounds. They hacked into Throwbridge's Singapore Property portal and posted the images up over the original pictures of the development. 

The list of charges was insanely long, including the newly implemented Threats against Property and Violence against Property, the existing terrorist classification being extended to those who would “subvert or seek to prevent through means of intimidation the lawful transaction of business.” Housing terrorists. Reification at its purest, someone shouts when the recent conviction gets mentioned. People are property, property is a person.
The final image left hanging up on the screen is an advertisement for the new build around London Bridge. The slogan: Shard apartments, not shared apartments, because you were meant to be apart. A picture of a benignly clean cut young couple gazing down onto a crowded street and across to what looks like a crumbling Victorian slum.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

nick again

And besides. Work.

New sets of protocols to familiarize himself with, new forms of psychometric assessments, ways of assessing risk and assigning people to the most appropriate Giveback programmes. Just this last Saturday he had lunch with one of his colleagues from the Dover branch, Chloe, a very pleasant girl in her late twenties who he met on a training course and immediately struck up a friendship with, front line at the local Claimant Centre and thoroughly demoralized.

She had spent the whole of the workshop on new assessment processes, Claimants: Evaluating MIndsets and Mindtypes with her jaw set tight, almost audibly grinding her teeth, bad body language, dead give away, Nick as usual neutrally poised and alert, pen and pad at the ready. After a few role plays in which she seemed reluctant to participate and a long Prezi presentation on forms of psychological assessment that front line staff would have to carry out on claimants, in which such words as populate, migrate, colonize, terraform, deforest and re-wild were used to describe the entry of figures and the deployment of ticks (not crosses) circles (not lines) and lines (not circles) on a new flotilla of forms they retired to the kitchen to eat some Pret sandwiches and bond.

Now we have to make psychological assessment of claimants. I am not trained to do that.

Well, Nick said with gentle irony, you will be after today’s three hour lecture and the follow-up webinar.

She gazed out of the window. Our office now, she said, looks more like a detention centre, security guards on every floor, no phones, no computers for the claimants to use, the slightest discrepancy and we sanction people, really complicated forms to fill out and job search diaries to fill out, and if you don’t sanction people and it’s discovered you have been too lenient, then. I wish they would just make me redundant.

Nick nods. Every new government has to introduce.

Now I have to assess people’s what? Their character, their mental health, their attitude and assign them to motivational therapy or sanction them? She has the handouts rolled up into a baton, clenched tight in her fist. What does that mean “systemic inability to act entrepreneurially”, “clear problems of dependency”, what does “psycho-social neoteny” mean?

That they haven’t grown up to.

I know, she snapped, I know what it means.

Nick paused, took a bite of salt beef and guacamole on seeded dark rye.

Don’t take it personally he said. This is the new compliance regime, we will all comply, then it will all change again and again.

We need to take a stand at some point though. This is. This is people dying. Vulnerable people. I had someone last week. She breathes out heavily shakes her head.

Well me too, we all have. If we don’t do it, someone else will. Better us than someone who relishes the role right?

Even if we are powerless to stop or change anything?

Well, within the limits imposed on us we can try and treat people with courtesy, with some recognition of their humanity, I mean.

The human face of an inhuman system? she said under her breath then glanced around nervously.

He shrugged and smiled. The humane element within it, maybe.

I used to be scared of being on the other side of the desk. Now I can’t see much difference. USPG. Except the money.

How badly do you need the money?

I signed up to an agency, I work through BettaTemps.

Nick pulls a tight smile and nods. Ah.

I didn’t know that any future employer, they don’t make it clear to you, would have to buy me out of my contract with them. You know. When there's so many people out there looking for work, why would a company take on that extra expense? I could buy myself out but it’s thousands of pounds and I am already..

I know it’s.

It’s indentured servitude. Her voice tailed off as the programme organizer mingled his way toward them, face a mask of bland solicitation.

Hi, he said, I am Tony and I just want to share with you my excitement about the prospect of us all working together to really get this project momentumized going forward. my digital door is always open so to speak, we really welcome your input. You are the key element, the client-facers, the implementators, the faciltationers.

Nick coughed on a rye crumb, half wished Jerome were there.

What exactly are the purposes of these tests that staff have to take? I don’t quite get it.

An older lady, a fellow trainee, had joined them now, discretely removing a spot of creme-fraiche from the side of her mouth with a napkin. Psychometric testing has been used in the corporate sector for years, Chloe, she said. This facility for remembering everyone’s name at a glance, something Nick still struggles with. It’s a way of ensuring that Clientfacers don’t have or aren't developing a claimant mentality themselves.

Empathy can be a powerful conduit for infection, Tony says.

So it’s a way of weeding out the compassionate ones, you mean? Chloe asked. Nick smiled. Aha! well now she is going to get herself sacked.

Goodness no, Tony said, he was short with a beaming, bright red face, a shiny bald pate and fleecy banks of soft white cumulus moored above his ears, avuncular, unthreatening. Compassion and empathy are what we need more of, what we build our relationships on, collegiate and empathetic co-creativity. What we want to check is that the empathy doesn't become


Ah. Nick winced. Don’t do it Chloe. Don’t get sacked.

A form of interference. A block on full implementation of USPG protocols and practices.  Empowering through Empathy. That’s the phrase, he said with a chuckle, eyes twinkling.

Making sure empathy, he said with an upswing in his voice and raised eyebrows, a beatific smile, doesn’t become; grumpy face, furrowed brow, big no-no! Compassion.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Resolution Way

Deptford High Street.
 Lewis is skulking outside the White Horse watching the TASTEE£ sign get fitted up by where the White Horse sign used to be, two paint spattered guys on a ladder, the rooms above it being converted into flats. They can't boast spectacular river views but they are at least moments from Deptford’s vibrant High Street with it’s host of amenities. She knows her mum was involved in a group opposed to the sale, but that it went ahead anyway, as has the clearing out of the estate, the redevelopment of the docks, local people priced out, all that sorry litany of complaints.

Dan arrives a little late. He has been in Deptford library, helping out a friend of his older brother, Min, who took out some bizarre mortgage ten years ago and is suddenly getting hit with massively increased payments just as his job’s on the line and can't understand why, panicking, not really sure what he signed up for back when he was eighteen and his mum and dad were urging him to get on the ladder, sinking their own savings into the place too, so that now he feels that he will be letting everyone down, ruining everyone’s life if he can’t keep up the payments.

 Dan, for all that he has a degree in International Economics can’t quite figure out the fine print and has advised him to get more sound, legit legal advice, but Min can’t afford that and so he is thinking that well, he could sell now, get enough to pay off his debt, probably, but they have got another kid on the way, need more space and where will they live? They could get somewhere with three bedrooms outside London but then, where will he work? Dan has no answers for him, there aren’t any, no smart strategy, no moves that haven’t been countered in advance, everything has already been priced in and beside he is tired anyway from his morning stint at Heart of Chicken, called in at 6:00 again.

He sleeps now, Dan, with his phone in his hand so he will be the first one to answer, he knows they have systems that send out work requests to up to a hundred phones simultaneously. He has even found himself, perhaps precisely because he is asleep, if he is ever really allows himself to fully sleep these days, and his consciousness isn’t there, veiling or compromising his pure autonomic response, answering the phone slightly before the call comes through, almost as though he senses the intention to dispatch the message the same way they say dogs know when their owners decide to set off and come home, rouse themselves to go and wait patiently, mysteriously by the window, gazing out at the road, panting softly.

Phone buzz, his thumb automatically increasing the pressure on the accept button that has appeared beneath it, eyes opening, squinting at the illuminated screen in the dark hoping he hasn’t agreed to something too far away or that starts too soon. What time is it now? Forty minutes to get up and dressed, bike it to Heart of Chicken up in Woolwich, no breakfast, it’s raining outside, thirty minutes there and back for two hours work but he knows that Heart Of Chicken’s parent company share information with USG anyway and that if he refuses three offers in a row it will impact on his Viability Rating a full spectrum assessment protocol; run by USG’s Human Capital Division, and even though he is violently ideologically against the system he still can’t bear the idea that his treasured AAA triple plus rating would be lost especially as it will impact on all other kinds of ratings, his credit rating especially, and then slowly they will start to put the squeeze on him for repayments.

 His student debt is one of a tranche that the government has agreed can be retroactively Abondized and his ability to roll over his repayments on his loans depend on that rating staying high. He has seen people a year or two younger than him, the guinea pigs for the new system, fuck up, misstep, take a negative hit somewhere on their Viability Index often in areas they had no idea were open to assessment and see other areas start to recalibrate in response, find their performance related interest rate going up and up from week to week, then day to day, hour to hour in a vortex of accelerating, uncontrollable, mutually reinforcing algorithmic panic. A few weeks ago he sat in the square next to Wavelengths with Will, looking at his phone and in the end laughing at the insane, exponential increase in Will's P.I.R. and the conversion into an equivalent number of Giveback hours, several lifetimes’ worth and still rising. Your work life just went parabolic across about five generations.

They laughed at the insanity of it, there seemed to be no other response, but here it is and just as with Min who, probably, can only keep his repayments down by signing up his kids to his mortgage, intergenerational, possibly endless, for the ex-council flat at the back of Deptford Broadway he thought he was buying Dan has a dark inkling of what the inevitable outcome is for friends like Will who have got caught in an upward spiral. The term of the debt extending until a default line is reached and then they are bankrupt, unable to ever pay it back and are bought out by USG and funneled into Permanent Giveback. Dan imagines that they will be obliged to have children in order to have someone to pay back the debt, the cost of raising them added to the multigenerational bill stretching on into infinity.
They have got you for life, not  just you, your kids too. Down all the days.
Dan wants a pint, a simple pint of beer, just one, or maybe two halves and a little bit free getting a taster of the different cask beers on rotation in the Jobcentre. That closed down a few years ago and was squatted for a while before it got converted into a bar. Now anyone local has to report to the Catford Centre. Lewis went up there once on a school trip, mandatory introduction to the kinds of programmes on offer from USG and the place looked like a prison, security guards on every floor, touch screen computer terminals covered in grease or not working at all, no chairs or desks, seemingly no staff. The corporate video in the big windowless room showed people picking fruit or hurrying through warehouses or pouring coffees accompanied by a semi coherent explanation from a dazed looking man in his twenties, reciting a script about the numerous ratings levels that would apply to them by the time they reached 18 as part of the the Government’s Universal Human Capital Assessment Index a one stop rating system that incorporated everything from levels of body fat and eyesight tests through to exam results, work experience, psychometric tests and character evaluations and would be phased in as a more comprehensive alternative to the only recently introduced Viabilty index

The pub is full of students from Goldsmiths and Greenwich Uni, she has always refused to go in as she knows there is an unofficial door policy about keeping the wrong people out, but in practice this never needs to be explicitly enforced, already there is a powerful hex of wealth and white privilege, a magic threshold that means that people stop and glance in through the window, hear the music, see the faces, the decor and understand. She heard Laura and her friends talking about this just the other week, gentrification, the way wealth and poverty coexists, one on top of the other, the same streets, the same spaces yet seem to be two radically separate realms, people negotiating in and around each other, screening things out, being buffeted and directed by sets of unconscious pressures. Lewis wants to smash it to pieces, break down the invisible barriers, really see, but she knows how hard it is, how hard it is. The Jobcentre, everyone’s white, at least down in the Wetherspoons in Greenwich, by the DLR, you get a mix of people, but this has become a separate space, yes she is struck by the fact that on Resolution Way the art space she has been going to for meetings is called The Enclave, yes, she sees how this place floats on the high street, connected in a line of power, a shared dimension of futurity, to the rest of the Antic collective’s pubs, in the way the flats above TASTEE£ do, the building bifurcated on a horizontal temporal plane, the way that Canary Wharf, just across the river, always visible, floats outside the space-time of Tower Hamlets, London is itself outside the rest of the country. These multitemporal spaces, worlds within worlds, she hovers in the doorway of the Jobcentre, you can no more cross those thresholds, breach those barriers, than step into the past or future.

She feels the moment of resistance, it must come from within her but it feels as tangible and real as some physical barrier itself. Then she is pulled in behind Dan as he surges in, settles for a pint of Gunner Smith, a 9% IPA, sips it, settles back on the tastefully shabby settee, a pint mid afternoon with nothing in his stomach but a bit of vale muesli will go straight to his head, good value for money. Have a siesta then tonight he can work on the paper he’s going to give in the Enclave on Saturday, part of Burst the Bubble’s ongoing series of workshops.

Will Lewis be there? Yeah she says, of course.

Laura coming too?

She nods.

How’s your mum doing? Lee?

We are getting ready to leave, I guess, she says. Lee’ s alright.

What about you. She has asked Dan if he will help her out with stuff she’s studying, things she is not sure she has understood, but he looks too tired, she doesn’t want to put pressure on him.

She worries about Dan. He has always been like a brother to her, close, was always the smart one, went to Uni, got his degree. He could be across in Canary Wharf now, making his fortune, except he said when it came to it he just couldn’t do it. He knew straight away more or less, going to Uni, the life this might get me isn’t for me. Of course he worked hard, he did well, but if he ends up in Heart Of Chicken through USG’s Just in Time Temps programme what hope is there for her? Still no, she mustn't think that way. Dan says it, her Mum says it , Laura says it, it can change, it’s a set of decisions, a way of arranging the world, we can change it. Yes, we can, if we are not too exhausted, demoralised, depressed, half starved, drunk, messed up, focus so scattered, lives so unpredictable that any cohesion has gone, that even the smallest obstacles seem insurmountable, the most trivial challenges impossible to meet. She read something or did someone tell her, that slave owners always faced this delicate balancing act. You need to feed the slaves enough for them to be able to perform the work, but not so much that they might start to have surplus strength that might be directed elsewhere.

How to maintain the optimum level of starvation, that’s the trick, that’s the art.