Fascism and Self-Care
Getting steadily drunk on Ukrainian vodka (one of a number of gifts from a proud and resilient cleaning lady who works with Woodstock), I spoke animatedly about how fascism has gone mainstream, not only in Britain. This was the end of the evening of that unluckiest of days, Friday 13th December. We will return to it, but, sat here hungover, I will begin at the beginning and set to making a handful of notes from the day.
I had been nervous and depressed throughout the previous day, election day. They say this was the biggest election of a generation and that seems true enough, though for various reasons we may already and perhaps long ago have had the last one that counted in the sense either that there was a chance of it going the way the propertied classes may have most feared or where there was a chance of actual change. I worked fitfully on a web application I have been putting together for a year or so, starting with a handful of hours' worth of Python experience, and talked periodically about the election. Woodstock had been irritable in the morning and I had returned what I got with interest – I had been making breakfast when she came in, checked the washing machine and discovered I had left a wash in the thing the day before after she had gone out annnouncing she had put it on – and then I had been preoccupied and depressed at her friend's place where I have an office in a spare room. The two of them were out at a Tata Bojs concert in the evening and so I was left to myself, smoking a pipe in the kitchen, watching a little of Michael Winterbottom's film version of Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine, reading and periodically posting on Mastodon, and generally failing to settle into anything or find any way to reliably relax.
Woodstock had rang at lunchtime and discovered me to be irritable and edgy. I told her this election would leave me as good as stateless. Already I had thought it unlikely I would ever choose to go back and live in Britain. We live in Prague, where I will have been living for seven years at the beginning of January, and just after I came back, Miloš Zeman was elected as the Czech Republic's third president and its first directly-elected president. He was re-elected two years ago and, though he has a more liberal and nuanced approach behind him, he has been consistently pro Russia and pro China. The Czech Republic's current prime minister, Andrej Babiš, is a Slovakian former secret police collaborator who owns the lion's share of Czech media including a portfolio of newspapers and a radio station. Foreign Policy dubbed him Babišconi. The historian Anne Applebaum counts him and Zeman both as among a number of powerful agents of influence for Russia. The Czech Republic is one of the states involved in China's controversial 17 + 1 initiative sometimes viewed as a way of dividing the countries of Europe. Chinese president Xi Jinping visited Prague in 2016, with key thoroughfares prominently decked out in Chinese flags. I sometimes hear or read that at this moment the Czech Republic is experiencing something like a Normalisation 2.0, that is, a closing of the Central European mind that echoes the period following the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 in which Marxist-Leninist norms were reasserted. Normalisation was a purely Czechoslovakian affair and, whatever is to be made of the Russian backing behind the current wave of “populism” in Europe and elsewhere, I find this argument compelling in its succinct encapsulation of an atmosphere it is possible to feel in the air here and which differs so much from the residual optimism and openness when I first lived in Prague for two years from the end of 2003, a period when the Czech Republic joined the European Union.
As I mentioned in the preceding post, I was barely capable of speech when Woodstock returned. The results were not yet in and it would all be decided overnight, but the exit poll had been announced, and it looked bleak.
At various times in my life, I have suffered from depression. I have also tended to find social demands gruelling and have always been underemployed. If I had regular readers, they would know I have, in familiar contemporary terms, Asperger's syndrome and ADHD. Consequently, I have worked hard to develop habits of self care. Sometimes they work and sometimes they do not. Some days it feels as if you have to get everything right to merely exist; the work you have is primarily work on yourself, getting yourself into the right frame of mind to function. For a couple of decades this was all I could do. I went to work – a variety of jobs I found demanding, boring, and unrewarding – and then cooked, did exercise, and involved myself in various cultural and intellectual activities to quieten my mind. More recently, I have been working on my own project, involving writing and programming, and though I have not been earning any money, and though I rarely permit myself to switch off, I have been functioning as a human being, expressing myself, and living for the first time since I was a child. A week from the day I will describe in this and another post or two, I will turn 41. I am still trying to find myself a place in this world, and this election, and the current political climate in general, does not help.
If you want to sum up where I am at at this point, and where I have been, you could do worse than to listen to a song by Liz Lawrence called None of My Friends Are OK. I won't link to YouTube, though the video is apt, but if you wouldn't go out to buy it in a shop, you could always look it up, and the title gives something of it away. To summarise, life for many of us has been so shallow, so lacking in meaningful contact, and we have not always been coping and sometimes it has been too much for us even to catch up with the few real friends we have in the real world. I heard it on BBC Radio 6 Music on election day and had to listen to it over and over.
I'll book end this for now with my morning and carry on in a second post. I woke up, groggy and tired from what I call, and what may be, Candida die off. Woodstock is making breakfast and has left me in the dark to sleep but I open my laptop and check the results. It's worse than I had feared, and much worse than I had hoped. Then I closed the laptop and set about planning my day. I was going to have to put in a lot of work to turn it around.