Sold to me over Facebook as a forum in which we might “develop stronger and stronger anti-racist social movements,” I attended the Struggles against Racism panel discussion in the Cobblestone Pub in Smithfield. For me at least it failed to deliver, and before anyone thinks I’m just being my usual contrary self, let me make it clear that I would never have had gone along if I wasn’t on-side. Caoimhe Butterly, a young woman who has spent time working with refugee solidarity groups in Greece and the Balkans, upset me the most. There can be little doubt that her experiences place her in a unique position to reflect upon and share strategies towards a solution to this catastrophe.
Rather than ideas of solidarity and resistence what was delivered was a catalogue of dead babies. In one verbal image after another, what the listeners were exposed to was one drowned toddler after another, with vignettes of mothers, “still lactating,” cradling their un-resuscitated infants, without a single critique of this hellishness or a proposal for resistance. Ultimately it took a question from a Bulgarian activist in the audience on stopping the war to spark the strategic thinking processes of the panel, but even this was brushed off with a comment about the impossibility of discussing the complexity of the war in such a forum. Having arrived frustrated with what I knew of the crisis, I left infinitely more frustrated knowing more about refugee mothers and dead children.
All of this only adds to the already overpowering and debilitating sense of powerlessness and hopelessness we are all feeling. Please don’t get me wrong, I felt for Caoimhe, for all that she had witnessed, and my respect for what she and thousands like her are doing is beyond measure. I am in awe of this work. Yet we know the sickening details; we’re the choir that’s being preached to. What we hunger and thirst for is a meeting of heads to develop real strategies that can work towards a real solution; to the crisis itself and the racism and fear in Europe that exacerbates it.
What I took with me as I left the Cobblestone was a comment from one of the organisers: “We should be enraged by this.” At least I could relate to this, but even this is of limited value. We are already enraged and my thought on this is that our rage has confused us every bit as much as the political inaction and complicity. What Žižek says (and I believe he is right) is that we should be thinking more, and thinking in a productive way. It is clear that the solution at least is simple, what makes for the complexity and difficulty, and therefore the frustration and rage, are the people, ideologies, and structures blocking the path in our journey to this solution.