An Accidental Manifesto

My thoughts are always the most restless when I wake up. I don’t really no why. Maybe because it’s before I take my ADHD meds. It’s both a blessing and a curse because it tends to make me anxious but it’s also when I get my best ideas.

I was having such a morning the other day when I suddenly felt the urge to write down my own political beliefs. Not as a statement anyone else was going to read but rather to clarify them to myself. I grabbed a pen and some paper and wrote down this:

Nothing is mine. There are the things I use and the things I do not use, but nothing in this world exists solely for me. Only I am entirely my own.

As I am entirely my own, so do every other person belong solely to themselves. I shall not bend them to my will through force or exploitation any more than I would strike my own flesh. I expect in return that they will respect me in the same way.

If you see me in bounds then will you help me, my friend? Whenever it will be in my power to do so I will help free you from your own chains. I will not turn a blind eye whenever I see oppression – this great enemy of freedom.

As I wish to be free, so I wish every human to be free. How could I truly enjoy the sweet taste of liberty when I see it denied to my siblings?

And so I say: let us all be free. Let us tear down the walls between us and burn the bounds around each of us. Let liberty be for each of us and for us all.

When I feel I had written everything I needed to write, I added the title “A Individualist-Solidarist Manifesto” on top of the page. I realised then that I had ended up writing a statement of my own political beliefs and values.

The term “Individualist-Solidarist” to me means someone who believes in personal freedom but that it can only truly exist in a world where people help each other out and help protect each other’s freedom. I used to think the problem with a lot of individualistic ideologies was that they took it too far. Now I’ve come to the conclusion that they don’t take it far enough.

For example: Ayn Rand was a big proponent of individual rights. But her philosophy of Objectivism when applied to political policies leads to nothing less than Corporate tyranny and individual freedom for only a very small percentage of the population. If she had been serious about individual liberty she would have wanted it for everyone. She would have wanted all things that keep people from being their own to be abolished, not just the oppressive structures that come from the state.

Individualist-Solidarism, I believe, is the core principle of Libertarian Socialism and it’s what has drawn me to this particular ideology.

But how exactly do we create a world where everyone gets to be their own person? Well, that’s an issue you can’t really answer in one post. Not that I claim to have all these answers. But I sure will continue to bring up these questions and look for ways to help liberate both myself and others.

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A World Tour of Books: The Vegetarian by Han Kang (South Korea)

The first thing that intrigued me about this novel when I saw it in the bookstore was its titel. Being a vegetarian myself, I felt compelled to pick it up and after reading the synopsis I knew I had to give it a read.

The topic of vegetarianism is briefly touched upon in this novel but isn’t really the main theme. Through the story of Yeong-hye, a housewife in a traditional Korean marriage, Han Kang examines the potential consequences of a person rebelling against conventions.

When the homely and quiet Yeong-hye one day decides to stop eating meat, she is met with staunch opposition from the people in her life. Her parents, husband and even her sister all try to persuade her to give up her new diet. The situation soon turns into a power struggle which is about much more than just what Yeong-hye wants and doesn’t want to eat.

How much can a person take? What does it do to a person to not fully own herself but to be restricted by tradition and the opinions of others? What happens when someone finally breaks or rebels? These are some of the questions asked in this Man Booker prize winning novel which will leave you feeling shocked, moved and disturbed.

A new ID and a brighter future

I haven’t posted a life update in a while so here comes one.

The first big thing that’s happened is that I’m now officially legally male. Along with the change from a F to a M on my IDs and passport, I’ve also been given a new social security number because of this silly Swedish law that says men and women must have different kinds of SSNs. It makes the process of changing legal gender a bit more complicated than it needs to be. A new SSN means a completely different legal identity and that creates trouble for a lot of trans people. Just to name one example: you can be denied a bank loan if you haven’t lived in the country under the same identity for more than three years.

The second big think that’s happened is that I’m soon going to start a course to become a certified accounting clerk. I’ve actually worked as one in the past but as I’m mostly self-taught and don’t have an official education I’ve had a hard time finding work in the field. After this course I will hopefully one day be able to leave the janitor job I currently have and which I probably shouldn’t even be doing since I have such bad joint problems.

My long-term goal is to be self-employed in my own accounting bureau or to start a cooperative one. Either way, I think it’s important for workers to own their own means of production. That’s the socialist in me, I can’t help it.

Which brings me to the third big change: my political activism. I’ve had a strong interest in politics for a long time but have only been politically active since becoming a libertarian socialist. After being a hardcore individualist (and really kind of a douche) for years, I’ve now realised how isolated I was all this time. Ironically, going outside of myself to help others has help me find myself in a way solely pursuing my own individual freedom never could. I have made many connections and doors have opened for me which I never dreamed possible. Solidarity among workers really is a great liberator.

Between political rallies and planning my future career, I still find time to write. The last part of my fantasy trilogy is about 70% done. I’ve also recently decided to make all my books free. Bringing money into it kind of ruined a lot of the fun and put a certain pressure on me to write something people would be willing to buy rather than simply write from my heart. It feels like a burden has been lifted from my shoulders and right now I don’t much care if I ever make another cent from writing.

I have been slacking a bit when it comes to reading but I’m still working on reading a book from every country in the world. At the moment I’m reading a fascinating novel from South Korea and will be posting a review in the coming week.

My Political Evolution

Ever since taking an interest in politics, I have been concerned about one issue in particular: freedom. Having grown up in a conservative and highly repressive religious environment where Church elders decided everything from what you were allowed to wear and what movies you could watch to who you were allowed to marry, I had never known what it was like to be my own individual. From a young age I have to been conditioned to ignore all personal wishes and dreams and to submit entirely to my religious leaders’ wills. Now that I was free, I promised myself that I would never let anyone rule over me like that again.

Because of my experiences, I had an almost visceral reaction to words like “group” or “collective”. Even the term “solidarity” made me cringe because of how I had heard it being used growing up. To name one example, the notion of “solidarity among God’s people” was used as an argument to justify covering up sexual abuse of minors within the church.

The idea, which I would hear from time to time from leftist friends, that certain types of collectivism could be liberating to the individual sounded to me like the dumbest thing I had ever heard. I’ve since changed my mind on that issue. But more on that later.

The political ideologies which I was first drawn to were strongly individualistic. Right-wing Libertarianism, Objectivism and even anarcho-capitalism all captured my interest because they focused primarily on self-determination, something I had been denied most of my life. I became a die-hard individualist who believed that the best thing one could do was to focus on one’s own goals and not worry about trying to make the world a better place. I also wholeheartedly embraced capitalism, which for all its destructive aspects I couldn’t imagine could ever possibly be worse than a system where the group was placed above the individual.

Liked many people, I assumed that the notion that there is a fundamental conflict between the individual’s longing for freedom and the well-being of society as a whole was true. But after pondering about it I realized that not only does this not make sense but that the one cannot truly exist without the other. How can an individual be happy if the society around them is turning to shits (unless maybe they’re a sociopath)? Likewise, how can a group thrive if the individuals that make it up are not happy?

I witnessed first-hand an example of the later in the church I grew up in. We were often told that our congregation was made up of “the happiest people in the world” but the broken dreams and repression of individual wills made us miserable. Alcoholism, mental health issues, spousal abuse and suicide was rampant. We lived only for the church, the collective, but the collective felt like a prison.

Getting out of that environment was incredibly liberating and I have been passionate about freedom ever since.

I considered myself an individualistic, pro-capitalist libertarian for a long time because I genuinely believed it was the best system for liberty. But some things made me reconsider my position.

The first was the fact that freedom is far from accessible to all under capitalism. As a working-class person, it became increasingly clear to me. I realised that what I had loved all along about capitalism was that it gave the possibility of liberty. Because under this system you can have an incredible level of freedom – if you can find a way to amass enough capital. Freedom then becomes a prize you have to prove yourself worthy of, it’s the carrot dangling in front of the donkey to urge him to keep running. Most people, the working-class, are never allowed to catch that prize.

If I truly love freedom as much as I claim, I asked myself, why do I support a system that denies it to the majority of the world? But on the other hand, what would even be an alternative? Centralizing everything and letting the state redistribute the resources in a way some self-proclaimed Benevolent Overlords deem just? That has been tried before and it always ends in tyranny. Socialism then was not an option, I concluded.

But that was because I had a fundamental as well as common misunderstanding about politics: that it’s all about centralised socialism/communism vs. decentralised capitalism. Discovering thinkers such as Noam Chomsky and other left-wing anarchists and libertarians opened my eyes to another option: voluntary socialism. That is: people of their own free will joining forces in a decentralised fashion to gain freedom from the shackles of the corporations as well as of the state, both which struggle for ownership of the people.

Voluntary solidarity among workers has already achieved a lot. Without workers’ unions, for example, child labour would still be common. So would 14 hours work days and workers having no paid vacations or even days off. Worker cooperatives are another example of how workers can help liberate each other.

Of course, raising solidarity among the oppressed takes a hell of a lot more time than some violent revolution to overthrow the current system. But if the culture does not change first, can the change brought on by a revolution persist?

Today I believe free, voluntary cooperation between workers is the greatest way we can liberate ourselves. Since becoming involved in workers’ rights activism, I witness every day both big and small ways people help each other out. Whether it’s holding demonstrations, starting co-ops together and just lending emotional support. There is so much we can do without having to ask for permission from the state or private exploiters.

I will be writing more on this in the future but for today I would like to end this post with a slogan we shouted at the syndicalist manifestation I attended yesterday (translated from Swedish):

We free the people and the people are us!

Winter is coming (in September)

2018 is election year in Sweden. A new government won’t be voted in until this fall but it’s already keeping me up at night.

Every poll shows the far-right Sweden Democrats to be either the second most popular or the most popular party. As September steadily approaches, I have to start planning what to do if a party who wants to strip me of my rights comes to power.

Because SD is a party who is known for its bigotry against minorities. Mostly racial (the party has its roots in the white power movement that swept the nation in the 90’s) but they have also shown that they despise LGBT people. High-ranking SD politicians have said vicious things about us and the party has voted against every single reform to improve our rights. Among other things, they were the only party who voted to continue the forced sterilization of trans people.

Being white, the racism of SD is one thing I know will not affect me personally. But I worry about what will happen to people of colour. Racist bigots will likely be emboldened by a SD victory and racist bashings could very well increase after the election. And who knows what racist reforms SD are going to try and pass.

Then there the many rainbow families I know. Will the government try to destroy them by taking children from their same-sex parents? Will same-sex marriage continue to be legal? Will trans people still have the right to change their legal gender? Or is it going to be like SD wants, that a person can only be legally defined by their biological sex?

These are some of the many questions I have and which have been giving me insomnia. I also ask myself what I’m supposed to do if the unthinkable happens and the Sweden Democrats actually win. My first thought was to get out of the country, perhaps immigrate to a more progressive place such as Iceland.

But then I got angry. Like in really fucking pissed. I don’t want to fucking run. This is my country too and I’m not going to leave. If SD, and the people who support them, want people like me out of Sweden, they’re going to have to push me out themselves.

The nice thing about anger is that when you’ve got enough of it, you stop giving a shit about the consequences. Maybe I’ll run out of it soon and get on a plane to Iceland with my tail between my legs. But right now I’m up for a fight. Bullies have tried to break my spirit since I was in freaking kindergarten, they haven’t succeeded yet and I’m not ready to let them win.

I’m not sure exactly where to go from here. I’m planning on connecting with likeminded people in my area and together we could make a game plan to fight SD. Not in a violent way. But somebody’s got to do something and there are many who are prepared to stand up for what’s right. If I don’t stand among them, I’ll never forgive myself.

I’m going to try and catch up on getting enough sleep and I’ll get to it. Definitely going to use my love of writing in this, so heads up, a lot more political posts coming.

 

A World Tour of Books: Terra Nullius by Claire G. Coleman (Australia)

Terra nullius is a Latin term which means “nobody’s land” and describes a territory free to be taken by whoever wishes to. Australia was declared such a terra nullius when it was colonised by Britain, despite the fact that it was the home of one of earth’s oldest cultures. Or rather cultures, as there are around 500 different Aboriginal groups.

The reason the British considered Australia to be nobody’s land was because they didn’t view the natives as human but rather part of the fauna, like kangaroos and koalas. They subsequently didn’t treat them with the dignity afforded to other humans and the history of the colonization of Australia is one filled with blood and oppression.

Terra Nullius is also the name of a novel by Aboriginal author Claire G. Coleman. It tells the story of the invasion of Australia – but with a twist.

This colonization does not take place in the past but the future, and the invaders do not come from beyond the ocean but from beyond the stars. Just like the British did not view the native Aboriginals as people, so do the new reptilian settlers not see the humans as their equals. They therefore do not allow them the same rights.

Many are kept as slaves, some women even used like breeding cattle. Children are taken from their families and communities, which are considered too stupid to take care of their own offspring. Everywhere, the colonizers of Earth are doing what they can to oppress the native humans and eliminate their desire to be their own people.

But there are still humans willing to fight for their freedom, despite seemingly impossible odds. Even a few reptilians, derogatorily referred to as “toads”, are prepared to stand by their side.

Terra Nullius is a fictional work but the truths it tells are very much relevant to us. It draws parallels between an imagine future and a real past to teach an uncomfortable but important lesson.

Lastly, I want to say: read this book. The story it tells will touch your heart and open your eyes.

 

I’m on Instagram

I’ve written in previous posts about my plans to make a Facebook author page. Today I was about to do it when I remembered I feel Facebook is kinda boring. So I made an Instagram account instead.

I used to be quite active there a few years ago and enjoyed it a lot. If you want to follow me in my daily indie writer’s life, check out my account. I haven’t posted anything yet but will likely start tomorrow. The username is @pocketbearjack.

A World Tour of Books: Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse (Germany)

Where do I even start? This novel often made me uncomfortable when I was reading. But in a good way, one that feels like you probably need it.

One of 1946 Nobelprize-winner Hermann Hesse’s most popular books, it tells the story of a middle-aged man by the name of Harry Haller. Harry is a deeply divided man. A part of him is very petit bourgeois while another, the one he has named the Steppenwolf (German for wolf of the steppes), pulls him in the direction of his most animalistic desires.

wolf
Harry is largely blind to his own personality. That is until he comes across a mysterious booklet with the title Treatise on the Steppenwolf. In it is the key to his own self but it is only the beginning to his journey of personal discovery. Through encounters with strange characters such as the androgynous Hermine and Pablo the saxophonist and through an invitation to a Magic Theatre, he will delve deep into who he is and could become.

Steppenwolf is a highly symbolic novel and one has to think hard to try and figure out its true meaning. Hesse himself wrote that this was his most misunderstood work and people’s interpretations of it vary wildly.

Personally, I believe its main themes are the struggle between chaos and order present inside every individual and the importance of being authentic. Could be I’m one of those who Hesse said misinterpret the message of Steppenwolf so don’t take my word for it.

The best way to make up your own conclusion about this classic of German literature is of course to read it yourself. Whether you’ll hate or love it, this story will make you think and ask yourself some important questions about your own nature.

 

Dysphoria-triggered Depersonalization and how I deal with it

For as long as I can remember I’ve suffered from disturbing episodes of feeling like I’m not real. Everything around me stays the same but I go into a state of being disconnected from it all, like it’s just a movie I’m watching on TV. Usually when this happens you can’t see it on me because I go on as usual but I’ve had episodes when the depersonalization  becomes so intense that I’m incapable of doing anything but stare in front of me.

How long the depersonalization lasts varies. It can be minutes, hours or even days. It can be triggered by things like fatigue or stress but one of the biggest causes of it for me is being misgendered.

A lot of people won’t get this. Some would say I’m being an overly dramatic “triggered SJW” so just let me explain: when you are trans, you spend all your life pre-coming out as someone you are not. You get up every day and act along in what feels like a play, a farce where you never feel you are allowed to just exist and be yourself. And when you don’t get to ever be yourself, sometimes it can trigger a feeling of not being real. That’s the depersonalization.
Every time someone calls me she, or a girl or my very feminine birth name, it’s like they say: “You don’t exist”. If that happens enough times in a day, I can start to dissociate. Especially if I’m already dealing with stress or anxiety.

For the longest time, I didn’t even know what depersonalization was. It was one of those aha-moments when I finally learned about it. I read up on what to do when it happens and on grounding, a technique to connect yourself back to reality.

There are many different variations of grounding and it’s good to try different ones to figure out which ones work for you. Here’s how I personally go about it.

First, I do some mental grounding. It ask myself questions, sometimes out loud if I’m alone, to focus my attention back on reality. I start with “Where am I?” and “What am I doing?” Then I might ask some additional questions like “What year/month/day is it?”, “What’s my name?” or “How’s the weather today?” I take a moment to answer them to myself and it often is enough to help me snap back to the moment.

If it doesn’t, I do some sensory grounding. It can involved doing a motion, like wiggling my fingers, and focusing on that for a while. Or it can be eating something and focusing my attention on the taste and texture. I’ve found it’s best if the sensory stimulation is something pleasant, as unpleasant sensations can increase anxiety and make the dissociation worse.

If the depersonalization is so intense that no grounding works, I remind myself not to panic and that it will pass eventually. As scary as it can be, depersonalization is temporary. Sometimes you just have to ride it out before you get better.

Lastly, I’d recommend seeing a mental health professional if you can. I’m not one myself so don’t take anything I write as gospel. An expert can help you much better and follow you through your progress.

 

A World Tour of Books: My Michael by Amos Oz (Israel)

The first time I read one of Amos Oz’s books was as a teenager. His How to Cure A Fanatic was in the curriculum of the religion course we were taking at school. I have a vague memory of what it said but I remember that I profoundly disliked it.

After being raised in a fundamentalist Christian cult, I had a very black-and-white view of the world and was not ready to accept the message of the book. Much time has passed since then and I’m thinking I need to read it again, now that I have such a different perspective on things.

But being curious about one of his most famous books, My Michael, I wanted to read it first.

The first thing you need to know about this book is that it won’t be your cup of tea if you like stories where stuff happens. My Michael is about the relationship between Hanna and Michael, who meet during the 1950s when they both study at the same university. They get married and have a child together.

Everyone expects Hanna to feel fulfilled but she can not. Probably because her husband and the life they share is so goddamn boring.

One would assume that the character whose name is in the title of the book would also be the most interesting. But Michael Gonen has to be one of the most painfully banal characters I’ve come across in literature. I find it no surprise that the mentally unstable Hanna seeks refuge in a fantasy world. The scenes where she does so are by far the best part of this novel.

I find I have mixed feelings about Hanna, from whose perspective the story is told. I find her childish and often annoying but at the same time I understand her frustration and her longing to really live, not just pass through a dull existence.

To conclude, I would say My Michael is a beautifully written, intimate portrait of a young woman falling deeper and deeper out of touch with reality. A great story, albeit a bit slow-paced.