Colston versus Lenin – Using the Right Channels

Protesters taking down Colston statue. Bristol, UK / 7 Jun 2020

A statue of slave trader Edward Colston was torn down during an anti-racism protest in Bristol. The incident opened an ideological war in my household. We go over the pros and the cons of public disorder acts, we discuss the moral arguments which might justify or condemn these acts, while the Home Secretary, Priti Patel stands in Parliament reproving the thuggery committed by the Bristolian mob. Mayor Marvin Rees takes to national media to disapprove the protesters’ acts of violence during the past weekend. Social media is blasting. Opinion is split. Some ask for prosecution of violent mobsters, others express a sense of connection with the symbolic point made by protesters.

In Bristol, Colston’s statue went down in a matter of minutes, with the authorities’ disapproval. I remember that it took Ukraine 27 years to decide the removal of the infamous statues of Lenin from all its towns and villages. In 2017, all 1,307 statues went down, quietly and slowly, as a sign that Ukraine was finally ready to condemn its pro-soviet past, and to move on. The Ukrainian government went further and renamed streets, urban areas, parks, schools, in a national attempt to heal past injustice and loss of lives during the Soviet Era.

Ukrainians witnessing Lenin’s statue being taken down by local authorities. Aug. 2017

At my dinner table, the conversation is about the role of a peaceful protest in well-established democracies, as the Home Secretary carries on with her speech about the peaceful dialogue which needs to happen in our society. I’m reminded that we have structures in place to make peaceful changes under the common law, and following policies and procedures that safeguard equality in this country. There is a well-known corporate jargon about ‘using the right channels’ which is invoked on occasions when discrimination and inequality are at the centre of disputes between people, groups, societies, organisations.

Each private, public, voluntary, religious organisation, each workplace, each adult, teenager and child knows at least one principle of equality.  And yet, the more we know, the wider the social divide feels to those who have been, at least once, at the receiving end of inequality, of discrimination or injustice.

If we were equal, we should not need to be taught equality by the Home Secretary, as it would be an inherent quality of our social actions. Yet, Power teaches equality lessons using the boot of law against ‘thugs’, ‘criminals’, ‘mobsters’. A sign that we are not ready to recognise the injustice and its roots, nor to break free from past mistakes.

© Maria Stadnicka, June 2020

Fruit Season

Gloucestershire, Midlands, UK / May 2020

I figure out that if you live by water and feel hungry, it takes an afternoon of chewing yesterday’s leftovers to feel mud on your tongue. And if a passer-by gives you a bad apple, you ought to be thankful, appreciate what you’ve got, watching others dying of starvation. But when you hear that the well-wisher was God, which happened to be running late for a meeting in the nearby mansion, you wish you had spat the rotting fruit back at Him. God could have done better. By then it is too late. The meeting He was rushing to would be running on and on for years. For as long as your lifetime.

© Maria Stadnicka, May 2020

Rite of Lockdown / Week #7 / Midlands / United Kingdom

 

Rite

 

Sunday lingers on scent of paint,

tobacco and spring. Our kitchen-war

sprouts from a conversation on books

about people we both know. I say

 

I’d met doctor Zhivago queuing

at Nero’s, heard him asking a barista

about the fate of taiga-trees

at the height of a mining season.

 

You think they are cut short then stop

growing. I lock my paperbacks

in a cupboard; they remind us

of all the ink twisted in verse, seeded

 

in layers of gravel. Our verbs reach

the pit of a quarry, and seal over.

Snow forests shoot up in tears,

we trip over extension cables in our flat.

 

© Maria Stadnicka, May 2020


Photography: © John Stadnicki 2020

If hands could talk, what would they tell me?


Photography: © Nikoletta Monyok, 2019

Further information about Nikoletta Monyok’s work can be accessed here.

Rite

Sunday lingers on scent of paint,
tobacco and spring. Our kitchen-war
sprouts from a conversation on books
about people we both know. I say

I’d met doctor Zhivago queuing
at Nero’s, heard him asking a barista
about the fate of taiga-trees
at the height of a mining season.

You think they are cut short then stop
growing. I lock my paperbacks
in a cupboard; they remind us
of all the ink twisted in verse, seeded

in layers of gravel. Our verbs reach
the pit of a quarry and seal over.
Snow forests shoot up in tears,
we trip over cables in our flat.

 

© Maria Stadnicka 2020

Published in ‘Stride Magazine’on 26 Feb 2020.

 

Binaries

© JStadnicki 2014

With the Doomsday Clock adjusted to one hundred seconds to midnight, it seems that the scientific community points a finger to the inevitable end which could engulf the world any day now. It is a narrative we are used to from history manuals and our recent past. Textbooks are full of numbers and data.

Unifications and destructions, wars and peace treaties, revolutions and resolutions. The collective conscious, mapped by dichotomies, makes better sense of realities when they are placed in opposition. It is a cultural binary thinking, focused on good-better-best and bad-worse-worst. It is easier to make meaning of things in conflict, as it is easier to understand war better than peace.

History always takes a closer look at how cultures come into being and how they are destroyed, and takes less time to look at what happened in between. The complexities of development entail, besides time, a higher level of engagement and perception. The consistent preoccupation with the specifics of our apocalypse is not just the measure of our own selfishness, but a fundamental thinking flaw, characterised by fear and apathy.

Looking at how communities got to meet their ends, without taking time to reflect on solutions, is bound to bring the finale even closer. Fear and adrenaline rush end up in apathy. They have done so for thousands of years, and brought us where we are today.

© Maria Stadnicka 2020

Hermit Age

© JStadnicki, Paris 2019

Technology and I are not on good terms as of late. Due to limited memory space, mobile apps keep freezing. Vodanex contacted me a few times already with updated offers then with sound advice which I politely requested to have mailed over. The experts suggest that my memory clutter is most probably coming from the BooksApp; too many pages left open in standby. The longest kept on the waiting list has been Is God Happy?* I flick through an essay on socialism which Leszek Kolakowski started at page fifty-eight and finished at sixty-four. My phone pings: Congratulations! Time for a break! You now reached your daily reading goal!

© Maria Stadnicka 2020

[From ‘Hermit Age’ sequence published in International Times on 25/01/2020.]


* Kolakowski, L. (2012) Is God Happy? Selected Essays, London: Penguin Modern Classics.

Duende

© JStadnicki, 2020

It looks like a lorry’s parked outside, just by a flower pot. I am arguing with online friends about class differences, ideologies, lack of revolutionary zeal, young-black versus white-old. Reversing over the pot, the lorry crashes into my neighbour’s house. I pause the argument to look for a quote from On Disobedience in the pile of books due to go to charity shops. Police and fire brigade should be on their way. There might be questions needing answers about circumstance, and whether anybody tried changing the course of events. My neighbour and I, maybe the driver, would have. The writer of this account would have too, by swiftly changing the lorry’s position from here, to somewhere at the far back of the landscape. Yet some would argue that for centuries barbarism solved all our problems by force and violence, proving to be such a success.

© Maria Stadnicka 2020

Gallery

Edinburgh 2019

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© Maria Stadnicka, November 2019.