(A)politics: A Cheap Negation


Politics is controversial, and tiring, and dull, and sometimes horrific, and on rare occasions it offers a little reassurance. Politics is also important – it dictates almost the totality of our existence, to pretend otherwise is either ignorant or disingenuous. To neglect politics is to obfuscate the allocation and dictation of resources and relations which we live our lives by. To be politically indifferent is to stand back and allow the disenfranchised to be further discriminated against and policed in misery. To be weary of politics and to choose to drown it out is to be either extremely privileged or unfortunately foolish.

No Society, Not Ever

Margaret Thatcher once said in a 1987 issue of Women’s Own that there is no such thing as society. Perhaps you agree with this sentiment, perhaps you do not. I think the most charitable interpretation that can be made from this claim is that individual responsibility exists. Certainly, we are all individuals, and all possess varying degrees of autonomy; we all make decisions, though the caveat is that we make these decisions in specific circumstances. A belief that we are all purely individuals, that politically enforced patterns of behaviour do not, cannot exist, is a major aspect of what I deem to be the (A)political ideology.

            I am from a white lower middle-class family in a majority white county of a majority white country. My experiences may differ to various minorities, whether they were born here or migrated from another country. As individuals however, we all must make decisions when it comes to employment, though our choices in employment may differ. My education has been stable, my family’s finances are secure, and I am less likely to be hampered by state apparatuses like the police. I did nothing personally to arrive into this position, I was merely born into it (a phrasing that will return in a more regretful sense). I recognise the privileges that afford me on average more socioeconomic safety than people of minority backgrounds.

            (A)politics in following Thatcher, would not recognise the varying material circumstances that dictate my position in society juxtaposed with that of someone who may be subject to racism. Professor Tricia Rose, Director of Brown University’s Centre for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America, delivered a lecture on structural racism, discussing its obfuscation by colour-blindness. Colour-blindness is a magnificent tool of the enlightened (A)political, it marks them at once as appearing rationally indiscriminate whilst usefully (for themselves) stripping each individual of their socio-racial matrix and ignoring wider patterns of behaviour and events within society. If you blot out most of the evidence of there being a problem, how can there be one?

Get Your Politics Out of My Escapist Media

Reality, as each of us individually perceive it, is an ideological construction whereby we explain individual actions and events through certain belief systems which allow us to process them. For the (A)political, their reality is one in which the Other is political yet they themselves remain thoroughly not political. The (A)political believes themselves to be above politics, they see themselves as the models of the world, and so if anything, foreign or (say) Other were to come into the foreground it would create disharmony. They believe culture and politics to be very distant spheres and they seethe at the idea that political agents are tainting culture with their ideologies and agendas.

            The (A)political generally exists within the status quo (a placement they might argue against), and as such all that generally makes up the status quo is non-political, whilst any departure from it is obviously political. For the (A)political, if they see a white man and woman sharing a kiss in a film, they will see this as just a kiss, but when it is an interracial or same-sex or queer couple, it is an upsetting and subversive political act. Of course you can argue that the latter representations are political, the reason one might deem the Other’s presence as being political is precisely because they are politicised, their existences are controlled and enforced in ways the (A)political has not experienced or perhaps if they have experienced similar control they do not grasp it as political as such. But we must also see that of course there is something political about white heterosexuals kissing, it is a representation of certain people and not others (Others).

            The big problem for the (A)political is nearly all cultural texts are inscribed with politics, either implicitly or explicitly, so what exactly is there for them to enjoy? They just want to relax, they will watch something political but will be blind to its politics, ingesting them without further thought.

You Noticing My Politics is Boring in Our Tolerant, Lovely Country

In January, actor Laurence Fox (for some reason) appeared on Question Time and got into a heated exchange with an audience member about racism. She made the claim that the treatment of Meghan Markle by the press was racist, to which he responded that Britain is the ‘most tolerant, lovely country in Europe.’ If we consider how the press discussed Meghan Markle when she and Prince Harry were first publicly dating, words like ‘exotic’ and ‘blood’ were bandied about by the right-wing press. If Markle is Othered in such frank terms of ‘exoticness’ when she has done nothing more controversial than enter a relationship with Prince Harry, then what might we say the same right-wing, pro-monarchy press will be like when the pair are stepping back from royal duties?

I cannot claim Fox is purely (A)political nor would I want to, but in this one fixed moment of broadcast television he exemplifies the (A)political par excellence. He claims Britain is the ‘most tolerant, lovely country in Europe’, but that doesn’t seem like a particularly weighty achievement. We still have institutional racism here in Britain, Black and Muslim minorities are twice as likely to be unemployed as white people and are significantly more subject to police stops. Minorities are still subject to harassment and violence that is racially-motivated. Britain being the most tolerant country in Europe does not end the argument that there is still work to be done when it comes to racial justice.

Fox sees problems of racism not in any institutional form but only as individual issues, if a minority is attacked in this country it is not part of a wider issue for Fox. He is the perpetrator of Tricia Rose’s colour-blindness, if a minority lacks the same opportunities as those around them, it cannot be part of a pattern, it’s just some inexplicable state of being. Fox says we need to combat racism when we see it, but what he means by this is when one very explicit racist does something very obviously racist we slap them on the wrists without investigating further the root causes of the racism. Racism is just an individual failing for Fox. The audience member he was arguing with pointed out Fox is a ‘white, privileged male’ and he responded in turn that he ‘can’t help what I am, I was born like this, it was an immutable characteristic.’ The (A)political here is the inability to see one’s own identity as being on par with that of others. Of course, Fox cannot help being born white, nor more than I can or anyone else. What he can do however is consider how his whiteness makes him subject to different experiences to that of non-whites. The cries of racism bore Fox. I will charitably say that dealing with issues such as racism are tiring, they are not comfortable things when you have to maybe re-consider your world view and actively make changes to try and benefit society around you and yourself. Calling out racism, however, should not bore you. The presence of racism should incite outrage and a willingness to view events more widely than what is presented directly in front of us. Until the (A)political can grasp the larger structural issues at play around and within them, they will continually be confused as to why all these individual incidents keep occurring and why very few of their more diverse friends are calling anymore.


(A)politics is not a true negation of politics, rather just a distorted, often incoherent version of it. The adage that ignorance is bliss has some truth to it when it comes to engaging with politics, it can be harrowing and disillusioning to be involved in contemporary politics at any level above that of (A)politics. We have to transcend this lackadaisical attitude to issues such as institutional racism if we hope to build a better world on the basis of a wealth of academic consensus that point to our numerous and present failings.

In the long term it is beneficial to the (A)political to recognise the need to become truly political so that they can perceive for themselves their own alienation within the political system. What I mean by this is that to be (A)political is to be alienated but unable to precisely trace this alienation. Nothing sounds worse than being trapped and unable to properly utilise language which accounts for one’s own state of being in a coherent manner to those around you. We are all individuals with thoughts and feelings, but if we do not learn to analyse and critique the systems that we uphold and are governed by, we will continue to discriminate against vulnerable classes of our society and face the consequences whenever they bubble upward. As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, ‘a riot is the language of the unheard.’ Listening and understanding is in the world’s best interest.  

Further Reading:

Abbie Bray, ‘Question Time flooded with 250 complaints after Laurence Fox’s controversial race row about Meghan Markle.’ Available at:

Anthony Heath and Lindsay Richards, ‘How racist is Britain today? What the evidence tells us.’ Available at:

Jules Holroyd, ‘Implicit racial bias and the anatomy of institutional racism.’ Available at:

David Lammy, ‘The Lammy Report: An independent review into the treatment of, and outcomes for, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic individuals in the Criminal Justice System.’ Available at:

Tricia Rose, ‘How Structural Racism Works: Tricia Rose.’ Accessible at:

Gary Younge, ‘Waking up to the realities of racism in the UK.’ Available at:


My Immortal: An Alternative to Bigotry

I have mixed feelings about Harry Potter. I read all the books as a kid and the Chamber of Secrets video game was unequivocally one of my favourite games of all time. But this series has problems with it, we see that in its portrayal of ethnic minorities, its queer representation, and ultimately it having been created by an incredible bigot. Sadly, JK Rowling, a woman with an unbelievable amount of power, wealth, and influence, is unapologetically hateful towards trans people. I’m not here to disprove each and every stupid claim she’s made in the last few months because people who are much more eloquent than myself have already done so (I’ll link them below this piece). I think it’s fair to say that Harry Potter feels a bit tainted at the moment and it’s meant to act as an escape from life’s problems, that’s why so many millions of people the world over feel so attached to it. How do we reconcile ourselves with wanting to escape into a fantasy world that has been constructed by somebody who is very openly transphobic? I don’t have concrete answers. Maybe for the time being Hogwarts isn’t something that can be appreciated or lived in in the ways it once was for people.

            Enter My Immortal. This is the greatest piece of fan fiction of all time and is undoubtedly a parody. If you are not aware, My Immortal is a self-insert fan fiction based around the impossibly ‘perfect’ Ebony Dark’ness Dementia Raven Way, a name so brilliant it has rendered all other fictional characters inferior by comparison. Ebony is hilariously unlikeable and the story is so perfectly riddled with contradictions and inaccuracies and mistakes whilst also offering a chance to escape to Hogwarts. I think this fan fiction balances perfectly the mockery of Harry Potter fan fictions whilst creating an atmosphere that allows you to still be immersed in its world, albeit one where Albus Dumbledore, famously a wizard of quiet dignity and wisdom, screams “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING YOU MOTHERFUKERS!” at two of his students who he has just caught having sex outside the Forbidden Forest. I shit you not. This whole piece is just an advertisement for this fan fiction, I cannot recommend it enough. It lifts your spirits reading it. You get amazing ‘unintentional’ laughs whilst also getting the fantasy world of Harry Potter that has otherwise been a bit tainted by the original creator. My Immortal is truly art, it is transcendent in its use of Rowling’s intellectual property.

            There is an amazing adaptation of My Immortal on Mediajunkie Studios’ Youtube channel which takes the source material and goes even further with it, adding more character drama and more emotion! If you’ve arrived at the web series adaptation you are now two spaces removed from JK Rowling, an ideal place to be! This adaptation even has good minority representation both with race and sexuality, something the original Harry Potter failed to do very well. Rather than alluding to characters’ sexualities after the fact, My Immortal has blatant representations of queer love, it builds drama around these love triangles and creates decent tension. What My Immortal the web series achieves is a place for people of all backgrounds and experiences to exist within the world of Harry Potter, something JK Rowling might have vaguely once spoken to but failed to make good on.  

            I like the world of Harry Potter, even though it does have deficiencies and the writer is a bigot. Right now, I’m in no rush to re-read those books or watch the movies, but it’s not like there isn’t more on offer out there. My Immortal is so fun and deserves all the recognition it gets. It is possible to find ways to appreciate Hogwarts and the world of Harry Potter without it being Rowling’s world. The Author is dead, so to speak. Re-appropriate and parody the work, make it something bigger than just what one person envisioned it as being. Hogwarts is our oyster.

Trans rights are human rights.

Trans men are men.

Trans women are women.

Non-binary people are non-binary.

A Bibliography of Debunking Rowling’s claims:

Jammidodger’s ‘Responding to JK Rowlings Essay | Is It Anti-Trans?’:

Anna Medaris Miller and Canela López’s ‘J.K. Rowling said there’s been an ‘explosion’ of young women transitioning and de-transitioning. There’s no evidence that’s true.’

Katy Montgomerie’s ‘Addressing The Claims In JK Rowling’s Justification For Transphobia’

Sources for My Immortal:

The story:

The web series:


Choices: The Death of Video Rental

As a kid my weekends were best defined by Choices. It’s very weird to me that I am possibly part of the last generation to benefit from DVD rental stores, like these days it’s a total thing of the past…everything is online. You don’t go into a store anymore and browse films or video games, you hear about them online, you watch trailers or game footage on Youtube, you stream stuff on Netflix or download games on Steam or pre-order them on Amazon. I don’t think I can argue we can go back to this old model; we’re maybe too far gone from that period where we needed physical stores manned by people in their late twenties. For half of my life span at this moment of writing, Choices has been absent from my life, and I want to talk about that.

            I used to go in with my mum and my brother on a Friday after school and we’d pick out video games to rent for the weekend. The few that stick out in my memory include The Simpsons Skateboarding, The Simpsons Wrestling, and Scooby Doo! Night of 100 Frights. The last one particularly has meant a lot to me, but we’ll get to that. It felt nice that for a small fee we had something to pass the weekend with and that there was a certain responsibility (at least for our parents) to return the game by Monday.

            There was also a flipside to the more fun, cartoony options at Choices, namely horror and pornography, categories I would not properly be acquainted with for some time. I remember there being displays of films like Saw and The Nightmare Before Christmas, two films that in my mind at the time were equally disconcerting. I never really knew, or at least I don’t remember there being porn at Choices, but my brother affirms that in their dying days they shifted their business model a tad. This clearly didn’t save them in the end, but I have got to hand it to them for trying. In any case, walking around a store with as diverse options as gory horror movies and random Simpsons sporting games felt wondrous to me, it was a place that at once balanced familiarity and safety with concepts that teased at stuff beyond me, that I would only appreciate in the future. Of course…the future came.

            I think it’s fair to say as a kid you don’t really appreciate all the weird, complex factors that make up the economy or what that means for you or your life or anyone else’s. Suffice to say, the internet threatened physical rental stores like Choices and soon it went into administration, with what assets it had being sold off to Blockbuster. Choices didn’t adapt in the same way Blockbuster had tried to with online streaming and unfortunately it paid the price. If memory serves me correctly, Choices in my town closed in 2007, and the stout, redbrick building it once occupied remained a husk for some time. I grew up. A bit. I would walk by after secondary school sometimes as a teenager and see an empty store and feel sad. Eventually my school had secured space in the empty store to display students’ art which was at least a nice use of the defunct store. Then it got divided, with one small portion of the building being converted into a Chinese takeaway, and the surplus space eventually becoming a charity shop. I think I have stepped into the charity shop only once so far since it opened. It’s strange, the building I am so familiar with in my memories being so alien now in the present. Perhaps that’s okay, things change, and the economic factors which fuel competition and innovation which put video rental stores out of business are far out of my control. The internet offers a level of productivity and stream-lined supply which meets the demands of the 21st century in a way that video stores just can’t anymore.

            My last vivid memory of the store was late night shopping, the annual Christmas consumer spectacle for our small town. I used to love it as a kid. The music in the square was always blaring, you had live bands on sometimes, and a firework display, though sometimes we were the wrong end of town to properly see it. What could be more fun than staying out late? Eating bad food like cotton candy and chips and walking around shops late at night…who decided shopping late at night was somehow culturally alluring? Even as an adult I don’t understand it, but I concede there is something attractive about the notion, it makes even the most innocent purchase of something like a tub of ice cream seem seedy. I digress, my family went into Choices during late night shopping and it couldn’t have been long before they closed. It might have been their last Christmas.

            My happiest memory of the store was the day I bought Scooby Doo! Night of 100 Frights from Choices. I still have the copy. Choices the store might be gone and for all intents and purposes fading from both public and consumer memory, but their blue £9.99 sticker still occupies the upper right corner of my copy of Scooby Doo! Night of 100 Frights. I am fond of Choices for its part in my childhood and I am neither naïve nor cynical in my fondness. I have a complex relationship with the capitalist culture that bred video rentals and subsequently buried them. Here I put forward a dialectics of naivety and cynicism, a sense of sincerity, where the building that still stands in my town square has some profound place in my heart but the very material and spiritual circumstances that once joined us has become wholly disparate.


Kafka’s The Trial: Vulgarity and The Law

In Kafka’s The Trial, there is a sense of vulgarity that exists beneath the sublime surface of the legal proceedings that take place throughout the novel. A preliminary glimpse of this vulgarity, of the ‘Real’ that exists beneath the Symbolic, is the assault of the woman who runs the apartment that doubles as the courtroom. The assault happens during Josef K’s first hearing, displaying an immediate sense of something lecherous and pornographic beneath the austere nature of the court. This foreshadows in some ways the dissolving of the court’s literature as having been a Sublime Object, K. takes these texts to be of great import and highly relevant to not only his case but the Law in general. However, when he returns to the apartment, he discovers in what he presumes to be a law book an ‘indecent picture.’  Hence, an object revered here upon closer inspection has been found to be nothing but explicitly vulgar, “It’s by people like this I’m supposed to be judged.”  The assumption K. qua Subject makes of the Big Other is that his desires are prohibited in so much as they are out of reach in the Symbolic realm. The Big Other whilst obscuring its desire (what is K. charged with?) does reveal its own mirroring nature, at times displaying through acts (like the assault of the washerwoman) K.’s own desires. Does the assault of the washerwoman by a law student not reflect K.’s own assault upon Fräulein Bürstner in the first chapter?  It is K.’s attempts to obey the Big Other which display its constructed nature, which in a sense displays its inexistence. The Big Other exists in so far as the Subject requires it for themselves to exist as Subjects, hence why K.’s expectations of the Law fall short but the Law comes to reflect him in a way he is unable to perceive in himself e.g. the libidinal, the vulgar. 

            When K. meets with Titorelli the courtroom painter, the Law as a Symbolic structure is more evident here than anywhere else in the novel. One of the portraits Titorelli is commissioned to paint works as a useful analogy of the Law and the Big Other. K. is hesitant to identify the portrait as that of a judge: “That’s a judge of course,’ K. had almost blurted out, but he restrained himself for a moment and went up to the picture as if he wanted to study the details.’  This restraint is the Subject struggling to identify the Big Other when personified. Although we already know that K.’s expectations of the Law have been mismatched since the first hearing and the uncovering of the pornography, here there is still a dissonance in what constitutes ‘justice.’ K. notes that the figure of Justice in the portrait should not be running, for “the scales will waver and there’s no possibility of a correct judgement.”  It is as if when faced with the very nature of the Law, which the Subject presumes to speak and desire for him, K. is unable to recognise its radical alterity to himself, in spite of the fact that he feels the need to comply to this Big Other. The construction of the Big Other is drawn out again when K. assumes Titorelli has met the subject of the portrait, only to be corrected: “I’ve seen neither the figure nor the chair, all that’s invention, I was simply told what I had to paint.”  “All that’s invention” works as an excellent symptom on the painter’s behalf, giving one the chance to glimpse at the truth of the Law, that its authority is constructed by the Subject’s presumptions of the Big Other and by its own inaccessibility: “You see, the lowest judges […] have no authority to pronounce final acquittal; this authority is vested only in the highest court, which is inaccessible to you, to me, and to everybody.”  I argue the cementing of the relation between the Subject and the Big Other in The Trial is best represented in Titorelli’s afterthought: “How things look up there we don’t know and, I should add, we don’t want to know.”


The Ethics of Annotation

To highlight is to transgress, to indelibly change the text’s material being as well as its textual being. It is to give precedence to some aspect of the book, to suggest an idea requires further thought or exploration. Many studies show we prefer a physical, hard copy of a book compared to its e-book counterpart. We delight in buying new books from places like Amazon and Waterstones. The books we purchase are perfect and presented as intended by their publishers, in some circumstances if a book is damaged you can get a discount for it. I have an anthology of Latin literature I bought reduced from Waterstones because the back cover and subsequent pages were torn in one corner. I got a discount on a biography of A. E. Housman from a local independent bookstore because the cover had a strange indentation not dissimilar to the outline of a staple. Like these physical damages, once you highlight in a book you reduce its monetary value, it is no longer possible to be said that this book is unread or that it was not used in some way, it has lost its newness, confined at best to the category of ‘good’ if not ‘well-read’. Our own conception of the marked value of the words within books is at odds with their value in the market. This is all fairly obvious, you drop a book in the bath, or write in it, or do anything to it that alters the condition it arrived to you in and it cannot retain the original value it had. My point here is that the experience of buying a new book creates a hesitation in the reader from highlighting in it. We like shiny new things, or in this case, clean white pages. I have resisted for the longest time annotating my books.          

I tried to read Judith Butler’s notoriously dense Gender Trouble three times before I could get past the first thirty pages or so. In my final attempt I kept a highlighter on hand and made my way through the book. I finished Gender Trouble and I think I owed it almost entirely to my ability to highlight most of the text as I went. As I highlighted the book, I took in more of its ideas, essentially imprinting in my brain the words from the text. By highlighting the book, the book highlighted within me as well, ridiculous a notion as it may seem.

When we read from school copies of books for English class, often passages are underlined in pencil, and occasionally there are small remarks or observations made in the margins. Sometimes the observations e.g. red dress = desire, blue curtains = depression, are of use to us, we either agree with them and retain them or we discard them. I think the pencilled-in remarks of previous pupils is important for us to see for ourselves, to understand when we study a text we are a part of a chain of people, in a microcosmic sense, a part of the ongoing practice of cultural study that came before us and that will precede after us.

Sometimes owners of books go further than direct annotation of the text and write their own names on the inside cover of the books or write inscriptions to friends and loved ones. I own a second-hand copy of Jacques Lacan’s Écrits with the inscription: ‘To Chloe Merry Christmas 2009! Love Ed xxx.’ Perhaps it was Chloe who beat me to the chase and had already helpfully highlighted certain passages I would have desired to bring attention to further. At times my highlighter (green being the colour of choice on this occasion) and her pencil negotiated the page. Sometimes my highlighter went over a phrase or even an individual word already highlighted, the wiggly pencil work still visible beneath the neon green. I am by no means an expert in Lacanian psychoanalysis, but whatever knowledge I possess of it I cannot owe purely to the text produced by Jacques Lacan and provided by Routledge. We are all capable of being rational, critical individuals, and the ‘we’ here is the point, there are many of us, in fact the totality of human existence so to speak, that is in the act of thought and interpretation, annotating what we consider vital. I think part of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Nobel Prize lecture compliments this point:

‘There are large glamorous industries around stories; the book industry, the movie industry, the television industry, the theatre industry. But in the end, stories are about one person saying to another: This is the way it feels to me. Can you understand what I’m saying? Does it also feel this way to you?’

Whilst Ishiguro is discussing fiction and the act of reading, doesn’t highlighting provide a similar role when seen by another? Could we not say that when we highlight, we potentially desire and hope for confirmation or recognition by those after us?

            Ideas don’t belong to any one specific person, or if they do, they are not entombed with that individual. Marx is not some crank with ideas long forgotten and unspoken, Freud is not the beginning and end of psychology, ideas are fluid things. They don’t stay on the page, they enter our brains, they leave our mouths. We dilute them and concentrate them, chop certain details out or switch things around, add other details we deem pertinent. The first English translation of Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex condensed much of Beauvoir’s long tracts of thought and sanitised much of the text of its original existentialist philosophy. The text is fluid, for better or worse, its translation changed the flow of ideas and its very content. With the updated translation, the translators reinstated the existentialist strains which coursed through the book and restored Beauvoir’s longer paragraphs, allowing an English audience to read the work as it was intended to be across cultures. Ideas and their presentation can be trial and error. If earlier ideas and forms of existence had in any sense been perfect, there would be no further use for thought and interpretation, yet here we are.

            Looping back around, annotation and highlighting books should be heartily encouraged. We owe our intellectual and cultural circumstances to those who came before us, whether their words are the ones printed in ink or the ones pencilled in the margins next to the former. We don’t have to agree with the ideas prior to ourselves, but I try to appreciate every trace of another human I find in a book. I will go on highlighting and annotating for my own benefit, it is for those after me to decide if any of them are of significance beyond personal appreciation. Perhaps all my books will become pulp, or the ink might fade from the pages, or I might in an act of near-death mania resign to be buried with them all. I hope that before any of these outcomes someone else may read them, make use of them somehow. It is hope I subsist on as I think we are all known to do. I hope despite the amateur philosophising in this writing that I may press upon you the point that ideas are vital, that our individuality is important, but so is the wealth of individuals and ideas outside of ourselves. To end on borrowed words, can you understand what I’m saying? Does it also feel this way to you?