I’m back in Leicester now, having spent the past month mostly in Oxford, along with an extended week in France. My parents have moved house, from Summertown to Jericho. The new place is much smaller, but more central.
I’ve written two essays. One on postcolonial knowledge production, and another on social nature. If the postcolonialism essay looks familiar, that’s because it’s a longer version of the previous essay I wrote.
I also wrote a ‘reflective essay’ - reflecting on the past term, and on my research in general. I found that one the most difficult, I’m not linking it here because I’m not too proud of it. Thankfully it’s quite difficult to fail this sort of essay - your reflections can’t be wrong, they’re just personal thoughts.
Through the course of the past 4 months I’ve gradually refined and built upon my LaTeX template. I’ve adapted to the workflow, I’m comfortable writing in it, and it produces readable articles. I have more to say about LaTeX, but I’ll copy what I have into a separate post.
At the very beginning of the year, I attended the Oxford Real Farming Conference. In the past, whenever it came up it was already sold out or too late to get a place. This year I planned ahead and got in well ahead of time.
I went to several sessions run by or featuring the Land Justice Network, and picked up this cool poster by Nick Hayes:
Here’s Michael Gove addressing the conference in his role as Minister for Agriculture (Secretary of State for DEFRA).
For the last session of the conference, I went to St Aldates church and we sang songs of rural rebellion.
Here’s ‘the World Turned Upside Down’.
And John Ball - I just really enjoy this song.
I introduced the parents to a french comedy film - le Retour du Héros.
The setup is that a military captain (Jean Dujardin) is engaged to a young lady from a rich country family. However, he gets called away to fight, he promises to write to her from the frontlines, but he never does, and the lady is left heartbroken. Her sister (Mélanie Laurent) consoles her by pretending to be the captain and writing her letters in his name. Of course, eventually the captain returns, and he has to play along as the fictional ‘hero’ that the sister has created.
Dujardin plays more or less the same character from OSS 117, the loveable fool, arrogant but in a funny way. I like him and he’s a good fit for the story, but the standout role is Laurent; whenever the captain does something stupid, the film sort of turns to Laurent for a ‘reaction shot’, and seeing her expression is almost as funny as the joke itself.
The film plays on the relationship between the captain and the sister. It’s ostensibly a romantic comedy, so while the sister is single, there’s an unspoken expectation from the audience that she might fall in love with the captain. There’s a moment when this almost happens, and she turns around and says something along the lines of ‘oh how stupid do you think I am, I wouldn’t fall for you’ - and it works as a subtle nod to the audience to say ‘we’re not doing the traditional romance thing here.’ Later on in the film, it does actually happen for real, which is ultimately disappointing, and makes me wonder whether they didn’t know how to finish it. It seems like the first 30 minutes are very compressed, with the story moving forward rapidly, and from then on it seems to drag out, almost as if they’re just filling out the running time.
The OSS 117 films never quite got the critical attention they deserve, and hopefully this one redresses the imbalance.
I went to a protest last saturday, called by the People’s Assembly, for a general election. The protest organisers used the imagery of the yellow vests movement, and many people there were wearing the hi-viz jackets. I think it’s useful to claim this movement for the left, to physically hold a rally, in yellow vests, along with all the red flags and trade union banners.
I’ve noticed that imitators of the yellow vest movement outside France definitely tack to the far-right. However, ultimately if the economy is a zero-sum game (as Macron insists it is), you can’t raise wages without reducing returns to capital in profit.
The right refuses to reinstate taxes on the rich or push against the power of capital, and so they have no solution to a cost-of-living crisis. At risk of sounding like a cranky old trotskyist here: these problems can only be solved through a socialist order.
Also, I think the character of the Yellow Vests movement relies on the political context in France, much more than the situation in Britain/Ireland/Belgium etc.
Here’s another picture of the protest going down Regent Street, taken by Robert Streader:
The second interesting thing about the protest is the centrality of a second general election, raised in contrast with the demand for a second referendum. The Labour Party drove its message through the protest to push for a parliamentary election, because for Labour, the crucial struggle is to become the governing party. For the People’s Vote campaign, the crucial struggle is to remain tied to the EU (and its rules), regardless of the administration in Westminster.
I think this neatly reflects the attitudes and priorities of either side. There were not many EU flags on the Yellow Vests march (I counted… one, only one EU flag). However, there were lots of people concerned about cuts to public services, low wages, cost-of-living, etc. I think the Labour Party approach recognises that there’s this whole other arena of political conflict which does not immediately revolve around the leave/remain question.
Here I am, saying things on video.
“More better” - oof.
Daoud was interviewed too, he’s (currently) unemployed and he talks pretty eloquently about his experience of Universal Credit.
I also got a chance to catch up with some cypriot comrades.
That’s the flag of Proodeftiki - the progressive student movement associated with AKEL/EDON.