Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Political Perspectives #5: Thoughts on Meditation and Revolution

This is the fifth in an occasional series of posts on the various political perspectives of those involved in activism in the Bath/Bristol area. The views expressed are those of the respective authors, and do not necessarily reflect those of Standing Stone.

Thoughts on Meditation and Revolution

by Simon Jilley

At Saturday's Starbucks demo, vibrancy-activist 'G. Rilla' along with some of the Bath Love Police sprawled a large banner across the pavement by the side of the Free Shop and sat in silence.  Questions were raised at the time, such as: ''; 'What is this all about?'; 'Is he asleep?'; 'How long are you going to stay here for?'; 'Does he want a banana?'; and many more.  This blog entry, which has been specifically requested by Standing Stone, will seek to tell stories about these questions whilst also, perhaps, answering them.  Through this exploration of these questions and those answers, it is anticipated that you, the reader, will formulate your own idea of what it is that has happened.  Firstly, a bit of context will be given.

Vibrancy-activist G. Rilla
The NUS #demo2012 was due to be another big one, whereby the students would be kettled again and, due to Bath Spa University and UCU's Chris Jury breaking his promise of providing the tea and coffee, there would once again be the feisty violence and unclear anger that were so prominent in both 2010 and 2011.  Rilla, a Gandhian in style, decided to prepare something of a special civil disobedience stunt just for the momentous occasion.  A plan was thus drawn together: we would get to Big Ben, which is where the main confrontations could be expected to happen due to the route going off away from Parliament Square to a far more secluded location from this spot.  At Big Ben, flyers would be distributed and, soon enough, people would be sitting and meditating in a prominent position, and refuse to move no matter what would happen.  This would be kind of like what that naked guy did in central London two days later (see:, but without being naked and on top of a statue and rather using the power of meditation as our weapon.  What actually ended up happening, though, was absolutely remarkable.

After cracking a few in the line of police blocking the road to Parliament Square into smiles, G. Rilla found himself in a group of people chanting 'What do we want? BANANAS! When do we want them? NOW!'.  (see here for videos: and The chant was rewarded well: after just a couple of minutes of chanting, which is much faster than the Soka Gakkais normally take, a banana was given as an offering to Rilla, and Rilla subsequently did many rituals before consuming half of it with the other half ending up on the floor.  A passer-by obviously saw this for he then produced another banana, more rituals were performed, and this banana was carefully consumed.  Bowing was then given before the banana skins, which were now both on the ground alongside the lost half-banana, before a stamping ceremony was performed, and then Rilla sat down in a kneeling meditation posture.  Some incense was lit and stuck into the banana skins, and the banner that was being carried on the day saying 'The Real Change is Here + Now' was placed on the ground in front of Rilla.  This is where the first question comes in.

Bath Love Police demo, December 2012
'The real change is here and now' is a slogan that could be related to Ram Dass's book 'Be Here Now', or to the Buddhist mindfulness concept of 'present-centredness', and many other possible ideas.  What's more relevant, though, are the philosophies behind such a demonstration.  This is where the second question comes in.

A true demonstration to do with 'being here and now' should transcend the craving for an explanation behind the purpose of such an act.  However, as this can only truly be experienced by physically being a part of the demonstration, some kind of an explanation can be given to those who, for whatever reason, cannot possibly be a part of it.  There could be many different reasons, some of which may be extremely personal, and so it is very difficult to pin down some set characteristics.  This shows about how important the personal, or the individual, is in this all, and it must be said that meditating is definitely one way of getting in touch with yourself.  Therefore, the first characteristic of this demonstration is to invoke/inspire people to keep in touch with their deeper selves, especially within a potentially scatty situation of a political demonstration.  What is the point of a revolution, after all, if you're still caught up in the same psychological troubles as ever before?

Secondly, this demonstration holds within it a call for a change in direction
.  Rather than aiming towards the economic revolution that so many speak of in the media, we have got to see the plausibility in the transcendent qualities of a spiritual revolution.  You can have a spiritual revolution anywhere: in a jail, on a toilet, in your sleep...anywhere.  It can happen at any time, too.  There is no doubt that some of those who have been involved in this demonstration have had their own spiritual revolutions whilst being involved in these demonstrations.

The point is to be stepping out of the box that you associate with being 'how things are supposed to be', aka 'the comfort zone', and to rather allow everything to naturally unravel.  Allow yourself to become 'mad as hell' just to enjoy being 'mad as hell'.  Likewise, don't be put off by the situation around you.  People have found life-affirming 'spiritual truths' whilst in jail cells, which have completely transformed their lives (see this story on American serial killer 'Son Of Sam', for example  No matter where you are, there you are, and I bet that 'you' are always wanting more freedom.  Give yourself that freedom.

Thirdly, demonstrations like this are beyond the media-constructed bullshit of scandals and more scandals.  To sit down in front of a banner saying 'the real change is here and now' is like giving the spiritual middle finger to the media, who will normally construct exactly what we will be protesting against next.  With the one completely empowering message of saying to the world that change isn't in the future and is neither in some obscure location somewhere, we are creating an entirely new scope not only to protest dynamics but also to voicing what we want and how we will attain it without their help. We are completely free.

After that long answer, it may be useful to come back again to the context that we were focusing on.  In front of Big Ben in Westminster, with perhaps over a thousand demonstrators gathered, G. Rilla had sat down meditating with incense burning in banana skins and the banner on the ground in front.  People had asked if Rilla was asleep ('no...he's meditating' came the answer from others who were gathered); people had said about giving him a banana but, for whatever reasons, decided not to disturb him; and, after a while, a policewoman started coming over as a liaison officer to try and negotiate a deal with us.  Alongside Rilla in this were about 10-15 students who became actively involved in talking to the police and the media as well as 50-100 other onlookers.  Here is where the next question came in.

The police liaison asked how long we were going to be staying around for.  Each respondent stated that they were staying with G. Rilla, that the demonstration was being performed as a group and that Rilla was not an individual on his own in it all, and that no-one could tell how long he would be meditating for.  One such reply was: 'Well, he's meditating on all of the problems that are in the world.  As there are so many things wrong at the moment, he might be meditating for quite a long time...'.  For some reason, the policewoman took this to mean that Rilla would finish meditating when the incense had burned down.  She even tried interrupting the meditation in saying directly to Rilla, 'So we have agreed that you will leave when the incense has finished burning, okay?'.  Fortunately, Rilla had not traveled too deeply into meditation and so was able to shake his head in order to give his firm answer, which was understood.  Rilla was not moving.

Meditation should not ever be given a time limit.  A lot of deeper meditation, after all, goes through timelessness.  What may have seemed to have been half an hour of meditation, for instance, could have actually been two hours, or even two days or two weeks.  In deeper states, also, the physical body can be put into a hibernation state, not unlike the hibernation states that colder-climate animals go into, but in meditation a form of consciousness will constantly be maintained through mindfulness.  So it must be acknowledged that these demonstrations may last two hours, as in London, an hour, as at Starbucks, or anything hugely longer or shorter.  Things should not be presumed, and that is a huge strength to the demonstrations.  One of the greatest weaknesses to political demonstrations is often their time limits.  This is where Occupy Bath almost stumbled: people had assumed, including some of those actually camped out at the time, that the occupation would only last for 10 days.  What actually panned out over the following 32 days of camp was somewhat magical.  Occupy Bath, and definitely the Bath People's Assembly, may not be still around if it wasn't for taking the camp to as far as it could be taken.

The final question, which is somewhat irrelevant now, is if G. Rilla wants a banana.  This is like asking a Hindu if they want arthi, or a Christian if they want communion.  The idea of 'wanting' any of these is a bit besides the point, really.

So, lastly, a little bit of advice will be given for those who will be involved in future 'here + now' demonstrations.  Firstly, with the real change being here and now, allow that change to take any form.  It needn't be about meditating, but I suspect that meditators will receive much less confrontation with authorities due to meditation being viewed as 'religious practice' and, ya know, the authorities are weird about anything considered to be 'religious'.

Secondly, for those aiming to meditate, bring something that can be sat on (a bag with clothing in often is sufficient) and plenty of warm clothing.  Find the best posture for you and sit comfortably with a straight back (it is especially important to straighten the lower back).  For those with arthritis or hip problems, sitting with hips highly elevated is especially important.  For me (I have a dodgy hip), sitting on my knees with a big mound to sit on, and something cushioning underneath my knees, seems to work best.  Once you are comfortable, calm the fuck down and give your mind something incredibly simple to focus on.  I like focusing on bodily sensations and to meditate on different parts of the body, changing my focus to another part of the body from time-to-time, and working on shifting the energies around my body.  Others often meditate on the breath, or on something religious.  Choose whatever suits you best.  The point is to just be with whatever comes up - be it thoughts, bodily sensations, or revolutions, and to stay in meditation until it is time to go.  Everyone has their own time to go out of meditation, so just stay in meditation for as long as is meant to be, and be persistent if need be.

You will probably see a lot more of us in the future.  Please, join in in making the change be NOW rather than some unknown time in the future.  These streets are ours and so are ourselves: we're taking back what they stole!

The Bath Love Police Facebook page is here:

Political Perspectives Series:

Part 1. What is Anarchism? (B.A.R.F.)

Part 2. What is the Zeitgeist Movement? (Bruce Galliver)

Part 3. Some thoughts on the Olympics opening ceremony (Katy Gent)

Part 4. Thoughts on Cambodia (Dave Stephens)

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Bath Anti-Cuts Demo, 5 Dec 2012

Anti-Cuts Demo, Bath, December 2012
Bath Anti-Cuts Alliance, with support from members of BARF and Occupy Bath, staged an anti-cuts demonstration on Milsom Street, in front of the Abbey, on the day of George Osborne's Autumn statement. 15 people turned up for the demo, and many members of the public stopped to chat and find out more information about what the cuts mean for them.

George Osborne's Autumn statement has just been released, and it is as bad as everyone expected. Whilst in the past, the ConDems have frozen wages, introduced 'Workfare' slave labour, tripled tuition fees, upped VAT and begun dismantling public services, this government's policy hits the poorest and most vulnerable in society hardest, leaving the rich and bankers virtually unscathed. Whilst attacking benefits, pensions and teachers' unions, Osborne has been forced to admit that austerity measures are failing to save the economy, and will continue until at least 2018. And the scandals of private companies being handed over control of health services will mean widespread hospital closures, and the complete destruction of the NHS.

While we suffer, the Sunday Times Rich List reported that the wealthiest 1,000 UK citizens have seen their fortunes increase by over £18 billion over the past year, to more than £414 billion, ovr a third of the national debt. Their combined wealth has risen to record levels in the past year, despite the recession, whilst we still suffer. Restoring corporate tax to pre-Thatcher levels (£27.5 billion), closing down the rich's tax loopholes (£95 billion) and collecting their unpaid taxes (£28 billion), as well as getting troops out of the Middle East (£4.5 billion) and scrapping Trident (£97 billion) - these steps would also heal the deficit...
But the budget has more to do with the old Tory policies of privatisation, public sector cuts and looking out for their rich mates, than it does about helping average people, indeed, the current cabinet includes 18 millionaires, and over half went to private school: no, were not all in this together.

And all this is taking place whilst banks and companies like Marks and Spencer, SABMiller (brewers of Grolsch), Starbucks, Cadburys, Boots/Top Shop and Vodafone are graciously allowed to opt out of the taxes they owe - with the latter two owing £300 million and £6 billion respectively.

Meanwhile, B&NES council are making their own plans to carry out the governments cuts, including cutting 400 or more council jobs over four years, as well as privatising or winding down its youth services, healthcare, adult support services and libraries, as well as thousands of MOD jobs to be lost from all three Bath sites. In fact, by adopting its proposed new buzzword of being an 'enabler rather than a 'provider of services, the council itself will cease to have any relevance, or power to do its job and serve its community, in any way.               

Just like with the fight against the poll tax at the beginning of the 1990s, a massive campaign has been started to defend our services and fight back against the cuts, up and down the country. We can win, but we need as many people as possible to fight back against these cuts and to defend their jobs and communities.

Standing out in the cold on a December night may not seem like the most comfortable way to spend an evening, but these cuts need to be fought at every opportunity. Bath Anti-Cuts Alliance, along with numerous other groups in the Bath area, including BARF, Occupy Bath, 38 Degrees, Socialist Worker Party and trade unions are doing what they can to fight them. Get involved with them - unless you are the 1%, these cuts affect you too. And if you are the 1% - where's your compassion for those less fortunate?

Bath Anti-Cuts Alliance
UK Uncut
Occupy Bath Facebook Page

Note: Some text taken from Bath Anti-Cuts Alliance literature handed out during the demo

Saturday, 8 December 2012

We Are One NHS Demo, Bristol

We Are One NHS Demo, Bristol, December 2012
On Saturday 1st December, hundreds of people, including union members, anarchists, socialists, occupiers, anti-cuts protestors and other members of the public marched in solidarity against proposed cuts to the NHS.
"Build a bonfire, build a bonfire, put the Tories on the 
top... Put the Lib Dems in the middle and we'll burn the 
fucking lot"
- Popular variation on a chant sung widely during 
demonstrations in the era of the ConDem coalition, 

The NHS that we know and love is under threat. One of the biggest challenges is the pressure to cut costs and make savings. This has resulted in 20 NHS Trusts across the South West, including University Hospitals Bristol Trust and North Bristol Trust, paying £200,000 of tax payer’s money to form the South West Pay Terms and Conditions Consortium which is proposing radical changes to pay and conditions and the creation of a regional pay system.

Plans published by these employers envisaging changes which could cut pay, terms and conditions for nurses and other healthcare staff by up to 15% demonstrate yet another example of how working people are being forced to bear the brunt of cuts to vital services.

This will be bad for the NHS, bad for patients and bad for all NHS staff across the UK*

Local pay hurts the local economy, compromises patient safety, seriously damages staff morale and creates instability in the workforce at a time when the NHS is going through unprecedented change.

The rally started at College Green at 11am. I travelled up with members of Occupy Bath and BARF, and we arrived just as people were starting to assemble. Marching under our usual BARF banner, we set off with chants, whistles, flags and a huge Unison ballon through the streets of Bristol. The editors of the Westcountry Mutineer, the finest anarchist paper this side of London (which I may or may not have contributed articles to), joined the march also, and gave out free copies, amongst all the other literature being handed out. The march ended at Castle Park, where flags and banners were planted in the ground and speeches were given.

The NHS has never been under threat as much as it is now. The rich Tories don't care, and would sooner see it abolished. We must fight the fuckers at every opportunity, at every corner, and make sure that it is protected.

*Note: Part of this article was taken from the Facebook event description

Anarchy vs. Chaos - An Introduction to Anarchism

BARF, the recently-formed Bath-based anarchist group, put on an Introduction to Anarchism event in on Saturday November 24th, with speakers and discussions about anarchism, with around 25 people attending, and ample amounts of free tea and cake.

The event started with a short introduction explaining the take on anarchism that BARF promotes - essentially that it is against oppression, discrimination and capitalism; that people are generally decent and responsible and can determine what they do without need for authority and that power corrupts, even temporary power.

The next section was a history lesson, with a talk on the Peterloo Massacre of 1819, where a huge anti-poverty and pro-democracy rally took place and was broken up by police, with 18 deaths and hundreds injured, and the eventual implications of movements and demonstrations where people fought for their rights on today's society.

Anarchism in the workplace was the next topic, with the speaker knocking dead the suggestion that anarchists tend to shy away from work with the statement "The best place to contest capitalism is the workplace". We live in a so-called democracy, but at work it is often a dictatorship, and the workplace that anarchists wish to see is very different. Unions are now bureaucratic structures and their aim is not anti-capitalist - the struggle needs to move beyond what unions can achieve. A big part of anarchism is direct action - taking action yourself, rather than waiting for unions to do it, and in the workplace, solidarity with other workers and looking out for them is the key to defending rights at work. An example of an anarchist workplace is occupied factories in Argentina, where factories facing closing down are now run by the workers. Working hours are now down and wages are up, and excess profit was used to build a co-operative hospital.

The final talk of the day was on anarchism and violence. Anarchists are often portrayed as violent, however the is a large pacifist contingent within the anarchist movement. There is no guarantee that you can avoid damage to things other than the target during violent actions, and the assassination of a leader simply results in a new leader. The debate about violence in anarchy masks the other aspects e.g. workplace organising and community projects. Violence may be necessary in some cases, especially if there was a revolution. Millions die in wars and of starvation and in the workplace from being over-worked - all of which are symptoms of capitalism, which poses the question: Is it more violent to break a window than to fight a war? However, the means have to be consistent with the ends and violent means could result in violent ends. In order for the people to take over, we would have to face police and military - violence may be necessary, a large movement in solidarity could make it easier.

The second half of the event was taken up with discussions over tea, including overcoming barriers to anarchism and supporting those affected by the legal system.

For more information on BARF's take on anarchism, see the very first on by guest blog series "Politcal Perspectives", written by BARF - What is Anarchism?

BARF's website is here:

For more information on the Peterloo Massacre, On This Deity has a short  article, and for a more detailed account check out

Monday, 3 December 2012

Stop Israel's War On Gaza Vigil

On Saturday 24th November, following Bath Stop War Coalition's weekly vigil outside Bath Abbey, a demonstration calling for an end to Israel's war on Gaza took place. Although a ceasefire had been called by the time of the demonstration, reports were already coming in of Israel breaking the terms of the ceasefire, which many saw as a temporary measure in any case, and it was decided that the demonstration would go ahead.

Despite heavy rain, over 20 people turned out for the demonstration, including people from Bath Stop War Coalition, Occupy Bath, Bath Socialist Worker Party, BARF, South West Food Not Bombs and other members of the public, including film director Ken Loach, who has long opposed Israel's aggression towards Palestinians.

Many people I spoke to were very clear that they do not support Hamas, but were there in support of the Palestinians and were against the attacks and oppression they have being living under for generations. This was not a demonstration against Israeli civilians by any means, but against the actions taken by the Israeli government and military.

Local campaigner Simon Jilley commented: "Although things haven't broken out into something full-scale, they also hadn't for many years in the past. This is the way that this conflict has been working though - it is completely built upon creating fear amongst the people of this region. Not only have millions of people been displaced in some way over the last century in this region, but they are also given a bloody scary life to hang onto. How would you feel if you and your family were forced out of your house, and chucked in a ghetto area where you become watched over at all times, and occasionally bombed? This demonstration, for me, is not just about what has been happening in Gaza over the last few weeks. It is so, incredibly, much more than that. For me, it is to demonstrate about the whole messed up situation in that region. It is give my voice to the change that I see in the world, with the hope that, somehow, my voice will spark beautiful things."

Further Reading:

Bath Chronicle article on the demo:

Noam Chomsky: How to stop Israeli crimes and bring peace to Gaza:

 This short film, where Israelis are asked to role-play as Palestinians, is very moving