Joseph Reardon is a woodworker living in South East London.
We look back – perhaps forward – to the counterculture of the 1960s to try to understand optimism, or possibility, or hope. The abolition of the future over the course of the decades between then and now creates a clean, blank break, an insurmountable barrier in the collective (un)consciousness, that renders many of the ideas for radically new, collective styles of living, doing and being incomprehensible to us, the generations born after the ‘end of history’. The impossibility, to our 21st century minds, of alternative modes of social reproduction, for example, is the result, and process, of what cultural theorist Mark Fisher (1968-2017) called capitalist realism – the doctrine we are all subjected to which claims that the way things are is the only way that they can be, and that any attempt to do anything else is doomed to failure. There Is No Alternative.
(16.04.21) – Isolation and Solidarity
The longest period I spent completely alone during this pandemic was one week. I spent the week reading the increasingly distressing news on my phone, desperately wanting to do something, to be a small part of some collective action against the tightening authoritarian grip of the Tory government. Instead, I sat alone in my rented room, waiting, worrying and reading.
The call came and I was told that my second period of furlough had ended. I would return to the workshop for three twelve and a half hour shifts per week, 7am to 7.30pm. The week my boss called, I’d been rereading Gravity and Grace by Simone Weil (1909-1943). Weil was a philosopher who worked in temporary teaching jobs, often being run out of town for her trade union-organising and activism. By the time of her death, Weil had built up a body of idiosyncratic, unorthodox, mystically-inclined theological writing, posthumously collected in Gravity and Grace. I read the final section, ‘The Mysticism of Work’, the day before my return to the workshop. After sitting in my room for three months, going back to such long days would be hard physically, which made it hard mentally; I didn’t want to do it, but I had no choice. At least I’d be able to search for Weil’s mysticism of work.