Digital porn debate – neither heat nor light

I don’t quite know what I think about porn. I don’t think about it much, don’t watch it (What never? No, hardly ever). So what? What I do and don’t do, what I like and don’t like has no moral weighting when we are talking about societal harm.

This is a basic point that I wish the six speakers at tonight’s “debate” on the prevalence of digital porn had absorbed. (‘THIS HOUSE BELIEVES THAT WE SHOULD ACCEPT DIGITAL PORNOGRAPHY AS AN INEVITABLE PART OF OUR CONTEMPORARY EXPERIENCE’) Anecdotes and confessionality might win titters or applause from the audience, but they doesn’t advance the debate, it doesn’t expose people to (m)any ideas and perspectives that they’d not heard before.

A debate might shed more light than heat, or more heat than light. Or, occasionally, as in tonight’s curiously bloodless affair, not much of either.  I walked at the half-way stage, before people started pitching in from the audience, and had a drink with a good and v. smart friend.

I am not sure what I’d have done to sharpen it. I get the impression that the participants had not been in or to many actual debates, with cut and thrust, argument and counter-argument. They barely acknowledged each other’s points (such as they were), and mostly talked past each other.

Nobody laid out, at least that I heard (my attention drifted intermittently via the 6 five minute spiels) about the teleological (greatest benefit for the greatest number sort of thing) versus deontological (thou shalt/not) ways of slicing philosophical and ethical questions.

Nobody (and this is a point my good friend made in the pub afterwards) asked “why is sex any different to whatever else we sell – our time, our creativity, our physical labour”. And if you don’t tackle that one, if you dance around it, you end up with a debate invisibly shaped by Victorian values.

I don’t mind that it was mostly by and about young people (I just about vaguely remember being one of those) and the Effects On Teenagers. But what was quite odd was just how INCREDIBLY heteronormative it was. Not one person talked about porn that didn’t involve both men and women. Very odd.

BTW, am interested in any books that anyone  can recommend about “sex and the internet and ethics”, especially from an intelligent ‘sex-positive’ feminist position (i.e. and one that takes the strongest of the radical abolitionist arguments and deals with them fairly, without ad femininem or straw-womaning).

Update:  Here’s one that goes on the post-Thesis reading list

Virtual Intimacies: Media, Affect and Queer Sociality

We make history – (but not in the circumstances of our own choosing)

How much history can you tell in exactly-ish nine minutes? Quite a lot, it turns out.

The Deaf Institute, a rather lovely space on Grosvenor St, just as you enter UniversityZone south of Manchester, hosted “We Make History” tonight, part of the “Being Human festival.” It was basically 8 (less than the advertised 9) historians or kind-of sort of-historians talking for allegedly-exactly (there was a prominent countdown clock, but no taser enforcement)

The audience was ably warmed up by Steve Cross, who apparently comperes science – and of late history – events around the country.

There were four historians in the first half;

The first, Elaine Tierney looks at festivals and public events from the 16th to 18th century. She did it ably, as a dos and don’ts for project managing festivities. Lay on food (but expect stampedes if your guests get over-famished) and don’t go back near fireworks, seriously.

The second Tereza Ward was from the Manchester Jewish Museum, and was giving excerpts from a holocaust survivor, Helen Taichner, whose account they had mislaid for 25 years. Worth remembering how we dehumanised and persecuted people. Thank goodness we would never ever do that these days.

The third, a ring-in with only four hours notice, was James Sumner. It was a barn-stormer, lamenting that the people who get blue plaques tended not to do the stuff they were famous for while in Manchester (Marie Stopes, but especially Ludwig Wittgenstein, we’re looking at you). There were puns, passion and one of the most appallingly bad (i.e. good) meta-jokes I’ve heard in yonks.

Last up was Dave Haslam, talking about sex and drugs and rock and roll, from Thomas de Qunicy to the Hacienda [a contractual obligation], with rude words about Stoke. He has a new book out.

I didn’t stick around for the second half – knackered- but wish I had. These sorts of of events are a good laugh, a good learn, and the sort of thing that makes living in a big city, with loads of students, fun. Richard Florida, you kind of sort of maybe have a point.

A lively dodo!! On extinction, Derrida and solastalgia

Went do a corking seminar this afternoon, at the end (well, middle) of a corking day (more on that another time).

It was by Gitanjali Pyndiah, a third year PhD student at Goldsmith’s University (scene of a crime against academia and activism 10 days ago, but I digress).

She’s looking at how ‘we’ (people from both Mauritius and the wider world) think of and portray … the dodo.

Dodo_tennielThe title was “The objet-Dodo: reframing extinction in a post-colonial context.

This blog post is NOT a verbatim summary of what she said, more of the interesting stuff (and also my stuff) that came out of the talk and the discussion.

She started in with a brief history of the dodo and how it is native to Mauritius. It got wiped out by the Dutch, who then scuttled off and left the island to be colonized by the French, who had it till 1810, when the English took it (but left the language, laws and everything else untouched).

There was a good short description of “Imperial Nostalgia” –

a mood of nostalgia that makes racial domination appear innocent and pure; people mourning the passing or transformation of what they have caused to be transformed. Imperialist nostalgia revolves around a paradox: A person kills somebody and then mourns the victim; or someone deliberately alters a life form and then regrets that things have not remained as they were. . . Imperialist nostalgia uses a pose of “innocent yearning” both to capture peoples’ imagination and to conceal its complicity with often brutal domination (R. Rosaldo, Culture and Truth: The Remaking of Social Analysis)

There was a fascinating bit on the biology of islands and “island dwarfism” – how things either shrink or become giant when isolated. May use it to think about social movements some more, and how they shape people’s habits… But I digress

There was a fascinating section on how the Oxford Dodo (on display, in multiple senses, at the Natural History Museum there) is worth thinking about.

There was a bit on Derrida where my attention became decidely undecidable; I thought and wrote some theoretical stuff about my PhD (on the dialectical issue lifecycle model, since you ask), which would make my supervisor happy, but he doesn’t read this blog.

Then there was some cool stuff on a Mauritian artist whose representations of the dodo are again worth thinking with.

This was followed by a lively discussion. If only I could read my hand writing that suggested I read something “Essay on Cr…., essay on…..”

Other books and essays to add to the tottering pile

“Borders, boundaries and frameworks.” Hmm, can’t find, but this, by someone called Mae Henderson, might be it?

Peasant Pasts: History and Memory in Western India” by Vinayak Chaturvedi

My thoughts, fwtw

Solastalgia – sadness for what we’ve lost thanks to climate change.

Solastalgia is a neologism coined by an Australian; The philosopher named Glenn Albrecht in 2003 with the first article published on this concept in 2005.[1] It describes a form of psychic or existential distress caused by environmental change, such as mining or climate change.

Hans Haacke – German political artist

Elizabeth Kolbert and her book on The Sixth Great Extinction

Extinction as a passive term where the doer is missing, but in Chile the dictatorship would “disappear” people, as a verb…

The Portuguese only have one word that covers exploration and exploitation, which is sensible and honest, if you think about it…

The dodo as US (we are stupid but don’t know it). An invading alien would do for us the way the Dutch did for the dodo. As per “The Arrival” which stars Charlie Sheen as a rocket scientist…

Martha the Passenger Pigeon and the last Tasmanian Tiger (that we know about  and that sad sad footage.)

Baudrillard’s Simulacrum – representation of a thing that never existed/no longer exists blah blah

Dodo as boundary object?

In sociology, a boundary object is information, such as specimens, field notes, and maps, used in different ways by different communities. Boundary objects are plastic, interpreted differently across communities but with enough immutable content to maintain integrity. The concept was introduced by Susan Leigh Star and James R. Griesemer in a 1989 publication (p. 393):

The animals we choose to represent us (the hippy students of UC Santa Cruz getting the banana slug instead of the sea lion. But not every animal “means” the same thing the world over, of course…)

“Learning Curve” briefing on OECD and #coal subsidies decision #climate #roadtoparis

On Tuesday the OECD will be meeting. It’s the rich countries’ club, a useful talking shop for elite decision makers.  On the agenda is what to do about the awkward fact that while we SAY we want to stop the world getting more than two degrees warmer, at the same time we are allowing public money to help build new coal-fired power stations in the developing world, competing with renewable energy.  The USA and Japan want some relatively tight rules.  On the other side is South Korea and Australia (always such a good global citizen when it comes to coal and climate, oh yes) with a proposal for much looser rules. It’s basically a spoiler operation to water things down.

So, I did a “briefing paper” on what is at stake here, giving a bit of the history.  It’s the first of a series of brief briefings which I am going to write about recent coal/climate battles (although I am fascinated by the period 1988 to 1997, there just isn’t the word count in my eventually-forthcoming PhD thesis to justify further research.  Sad face.)  The idea is to help me get my head around key dates, key players, key battles, put it out into the world and then be told by people who know better that I am wrong about x or y or z….

The briefing paper is here as a doc, here as a pdf.

And I’ve cut and paste it below too, but the formatting is inevitably a bit wonky..

PLEASE let me know what you think.  What have I got wrong?  What have I not explained (it’s probably because I don’t know it myself).  What should I have read and said?  Thank you.

Learning Curve” briefing: The November17th OECD decision on coal subsidies, and why it matters.

Marc Hudson

15th November 2015

What’s up?

On Tuesday 17th November there is going to be a bun-fight in Paris. The “Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development” (a club of 34 rich countries) is having a meeting and there may be some fur flying. The USA and Japan, backed by Germany and France, are proposing some new ‘tough’ rules about the coal industry. Specifically, they want to stop rich countries being able to give money to poor countries to build new coal-fired power stations. Not totally, don’t get giddy – there is a loophole; “ultra-supercritical pressure coal plants” would still be eligible for public money under the US/Japan proposal. By a strange coincidence, Japan leads the world in that particular technology. According to one recent study (Bast et al. 2015) Japan and Japanese companies (I’m looking at you, Toshiba Corp) are $20bn to the good for flogging these technologies over the last seven years.

Meanwhile, South Korea and Australia (by another eerie coincidence the world’s biggest coal exporter) have cooked up a rival plan that is a lot weaker, as a spoiler.

The US/Japan proposal includes a clause saying a coal plant can only get “export guarantee” money if cleaner options like renewables can’t be done. The Australians want that clause removed. Classy.

Why now?

Have you been stranded on Mars with Matt Damon? There’s a big climate conference, also in Paris, in two weeks’ time. At that meeting some protesters will get beaten up and our lords and masters will cook up a PR deal that convinces enough people that climate change is being dealt with. Do keep up.


So what; why do coal subsidies matter? Isn’t renewables the Wave of the Future?
The fossil fuel industry knows it is in trouble. Coal-fired power stations aren’t getting built in the kinds of numbers that people who sell coal for fun and profit (especially profit) would like. So, as old plants are shut down and replaced by gas-fired or renewables (nuclear remains in the doldrums) , then the demand for ‘steaming coal’ (the kind you burn to make electricity) might shrink, and as demand shrinks so would price. The price is already low (especially compared to the boom that ended in 2011) and that is causing all sorts of headaches for the industry in both Australia and the United States.

Renewables are indeed growing quickly, but from a very low level. What we’re seeing is a battle – coal is fighting a rearguard action, and renewables is trying to grow as quickly as it can (obvs). This subsidy fight is just one example, one battle in a broad war.

So when did all this hoo-hah start?

In 1824 a French guy realised there must be something stopping all the heat bouncing off the earth. In 1859… wait, you mean the OECD subsidy thing, don’t you? Well, the OECD and its step-child the International Energy Agency (established in 1974 after the Western world got slapped around the face by the first Oil Shock) have been looking at environmental issues for yonks. The IEA has done its fair share of boosting the coal trade (remind me to show you a 1979 report I stumbled across sometime).

The OECD has been working with the G7 and G20 (groups of the top 7 and top 20 richest countries) for quite a while now, on the whole “green growth” (cough, cough) thing and facilitating climate finance (a fancy way of saying finding money for cleaner energy when nobody wants to be the one paying to “save” the planet).

Back in September 2009, as part of the pre-Copenhagen hype, the G20 leaders said they would “rationalize and phase out over the medium term inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption”. The OECD, IEA, OPEC and World Bank have been looking at it closely since then.

Grok this from a recent example, a 2013 report that was snappily titled “Climate and Carbon: Aligning Prices and Policies

Across the OECD, a significant portion of support for fossil fuels is provided through

reductions in, or exemptions from, energy taxes. The OECD (2013b) has identified over 550 individual support mechanisms that directly or indirectly encourage the production or consumption of fossil fuels across OECD countries. Producer support mechanisms include i) government intervention in market mechanisms to alter costs or prices, ii) transfers of funds to producers, iii) reduction, rebate or removal of certain taxes, and iv) the government assuming part of the production risk.”

In a June 2013 speech President Obama called for an end to public money for new overseas coal plants “unless they deploy carbon-capture technologies, or there’s no other viable way for the poorest countries to generate electricity(Plumer, 2013).

According to Lake (2015) they’ve been talking about “discussions to phase out export credit finance for coal power stations in the OECD commenced last year, but hit a stalemate in June this year.” That’s because Japan played the “I need a little more time” card (Guardian, 2015), but was been brought round to the USA’s way of thinking by October.

Btw, earlier in June a corking report “Under the Rug: How Governments and International Institutions are hiding billions in support to the coal industry” was released.

Why are USA and Japan acting as they are?

President Obama, under all kinds of pressure, is chasing a legacy, and it’s not going to come via anything that involves getting a treaty through the US Senate, nosiree. The Japanese also have their own international problems, since their coal consumption has gone up since they shut down their nuclear power stations. This deal seems to be around giving their reputations a bit of a polish, without pissing off too many domestic groups who could make electoral pain. Meanwhile, it would be a nice little earner for the the Japanese economy, since anyone (mostly from Asia and South America, where economies are growing fast and decent coal in decent quantities is relatively hard to come by) wanting to build a new coal-fired power plant would probably be flying to Tokyo, cheque book in hand. It also is tied up with Japan’s ongoing competition – on many levels – with China. Geo-politics, eh, whaddyagonna do?

Why are Australia and South Korea blocking? What is Australia’s motivation in this?

Australia is wanting to defend its coal exports. For the last 25 years, that’s been its primary motivation, in terms of foreign policy. They’re very up front and unashamed about this.

Also, the fact that “Australia, one of the world’s 10 richest countries , received over $4bn in funding for new coal projects – mostly for mines and mostly from Japan” may not be totally irrelevant… With the South Koreans, well, their export agency dishes out $7bn a year (Matthiesen, 2015). As Sebastien Godinot, an economist with WWF-Europe, said in June “Their intention is clearly to buy time or to block any substantial progress.” (Matthieson, 2015).

There’s resistance to this in Australia. Morton (2015) writes

10 environment and like-minded groups including Greenpeace, WWF, the Wilderness Society and the Australian Conservation Foundation have written an open letter to the government calling on it to back the US and Japan and ratify a deal. The letter says it would be “deeply embarrassing” for Australia if it were the only country to not support or further weaken an agreement – “particularly when countries such as Japan and Germany, which export coal plant technology, have agreed to limit support for coal plants”.”

The government leader in the Senate George Brandis said in parliament that the country “believes in the coal industry… We know that Australia produces some of the cleanest coal in the world… and it is a very important source of prosperity for the Australian economy, and very important source of jobs for Australians.”

How will it all get decided?

OECD decisions are made by consensus, and it will be mildly interesting to see if the new-look government in Australia (Tony Abbott got turfed six weeks ago, do keep up), is willing to play the bad boy and scupper the deal.

But “super-critical” is good, right? I mean, new technologies make coal okay-ish?

Well, um… “no.”. As Lake (2015) points out.

The International Energy Agency recently highlighted that in order to meet the [average-global-temperature-rise-of-no-more-than] 2℃ goal, any new power stations must on average emit 200 grams of CO₂ per kilowatt-hour, whereas even super-critical power stations emit above 600 grams per kWh.”

But I mean, the West is trying to help out, right?

Well, as one reviewer of this piece astutely noted – “I missed the neocolonialist punchline: we restrict developing economies’ support to boost our own economy, while at the same time we pretend to do something good. In reality though, we’re just protecting our privileges…”

What is this OECD thing anyway?

The OECD would say of itself ;

The mission of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is to promote policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world. The OECD provides a forum in which governments can work together to share experiences and seek solutions to common problems. We work with governments to understand what drives economic, social and environmental change. We measure productivity and global flows of trade and investment. We analyse and compare data to predict future trends. We set international standards on a wide range of things, from agriculture and tax to the safety of chemicals.”

A cynic would say it’s the rich man’s club, set up in 1961 to defend the Western economic order when the self-described Communist world still existed and there were some ‘independent’ states, with more expected, and that since then it has morphed into one of those useful talking shops and spaces where complex issues get threshed and thrashed out so that the biggest of the big boys and girls can then do a red carpet photo op.

And how does this relate to the whole Paris thing?

It doesn’t, not directly. But if Tuesday goes well for the US and Japan, it adds the momentum and that Something Is Being Done. If Australia “wins” Malcolm Turnbull will get some frosty froggy glares when he’s in Paris for the opening day of the Paris summit. But frankly, everyone is used to Australia being an unrepentant and irredeemable sociopath by now. And Julie Bishop, Australian Foreign Minister and now co-chair of the “Green Climate Fund” may get some froideur, but since everything is – with her help – getting warmer, then it all evens out in the end, eh?

Um, okay, so where can I get more information?

There are the official websites of these outfits, and particular campaigning groups that keep an eye on it all;

OECD

Oil Change International

NRDC

World Resources Institute Sustainable Finance Programme

In terms of newspapers, your best bet is the Financial Times.

Anything else I should know?

Yeah, the species has almost certainly left it too late to do anything about climate change. Yes, there’ll be some wind farms, but pretty soon we will panic and reach for the geo-engineering. You’d be well advised to take one or both of the following courses of action: 1) stockpile shotgun ammo and baked beans in a sick survivalist psychodrama 2) dance and drink and screw

Key dates

2009 (Sept) G20 meeting in Pittsburgh says leaders will work to abolish export subsidies

2009 (Dec) COP19 Copenhagen climate conference ends in farce

2013 (June) President Obama gives ‘we really oughta stop with these subsidies’ speech

2014-5 Negotiations, ending in deadlock in June. Japan gets its arm twisted/drives a harder bargain

References

Bast, E., Godinot,S., Kretzmann, S. and Schmidt, J. 2015. Under the Rug. How Governments and International Institutions are hiding billions in support to the coal industry. NRDC Oil Change International WWF http://priceofoil.org/content/uploads/2015/05/Under_The_Rug_NRDC_OCI_WWF_Jun_2015.pdf

Friedman L. and Vaidyanathan, G. 2015. U.S. and Japan to announce deal curbing coal financing. EE News, 27 October. http://www.eenews.net/stories/1060026972

Guardian (2015) OECD talks to phase out coal subsidies end in stalemate. , 12 June.

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jun/12/oecd-talks-to-phase-out-coal-subsidies-end-in-stalemate

Lake, K. 2015 OECD coal discussions highlight tensions in Australia’s position on climate change. The Conversation, 13 November.

https://theconversation.com/oecd-coal-discussions-highlight-tensions-in-australias-position-on-climate-change-50522

Matthiesen, K. 2015. Japan and South Korea top list of biggest coal financiers. Guardian. 2 June.
Morton, A. 2015. Turnbull government accused of blocking US, Japan plan to reduce coal. Sydney Morning Herald, 11 November.

http://www.smh.com.au/environment/un-climate-conference/turnbull-government-accused-of-blocking-us-japan-plan-to-reduce-coal-20151110-gkv02w.html

Plumer, B. 2013. The U.S. will stop financing coal plants abroad. That’s a huge shift. Washington Post, 27 June.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2013/06/27/the-u-s-will-stop-subsidizing-coal-plants-overseas-is-the-world-bank-next/

Disclaimers and biography

This briefing is not definitive! Not even of what I know now, let alone what I will (hopefully) learn. All constructive criticisms of blind spots/misinterpretations gratefully received. You don’t even have to be polite about it. Tweet me at @marcsrhudson

This is published under a Creative Commons non-commercial 3.0 licence. Mash it up, but credit me. Don’t sell it, ‘kay?


Thanks: Malte and Pat.


Marc Hudson, besides trying to extract himself from editing “Manchester Climate Monthly,” is a second year PhD candidate at the Sustainable Consumption Institute, studying how come and how coal is still in the game almost thirty years after climate scientists and some ‘issue entrepreneur’ activists, bureaucrats and politicians managed to wake everyone up to the threat of anthropogenic global warming. The views, snark and glibness contained herein are entirely his own, and in no way represent the official position of the SCI, the University of Manchester or anyone else, obvs.

Future “Learning Curve” briefings will appear on – (Australian) divestment, peak bodies & umbrella groups, carbon capture and storage, local coal conflicts, denialism, the coal industry’s recent trajectory.

Scared now, because only John Major can save the UK.

This man was Prime Minister from 1990 to 1997. You may never have heard of him, or not remember him, but he was.
This man was Prime Minister from 1990 to 1997. You may never have heard of him, or not remember him, but he was.

Only John Major stands between us and a Pinochet-style coup.

What have I been smoking?  BBC Radio 4 news, is what(1).  The slide towards living in a totalitarian state is a long, slippery and mostly ‘gentle’ one.  The always-slender civil liberties we have (and fwiw, imma rejoin Liberty), are under attack.   I won’t bore you with other manifestations, but one principle of liberal democracies(2) like the UK’s is that serving officers in the military do one simple thing:  they shut the fuck up about party politics.

The head the defence staff, Gen Sir Nicholas Houghton has chosen to ignore this.  Jeremy Corbyn has done the right thing (3) saying that he “would gently say to him, with the greatest of respect,we live in a democracy where politicians are elected to Parliament in order to take political decisions.”

Will David Cameron, that noted small-c conservative, come out swinging for this crucial point of Constitutional principle?  You know the answer.

Who else could, with any effect?  David Davis MP might (we’ll see).  But so what, he’s a “cranky back bencher”.  Other actual conservatives (small state anyone?  military in their place, anyone?) might, but in terms of Establishment Figures, barring Brenda, the only people who could turn this issue into a “woah, what is HAPPENING to us?” moment is a former Prime Minister. There are only three.  Blair, who should be at The Hague, Brown, who is clearly bonkers, and…. John Major.  Younger readers may not have heard of him, but he was Prime Minister from 1990 to 1997.

Will he speak up, and continue speaking up until the BBC can’t ignore him?

I’m scared now….

If you haven’t watched it yet, I strongly recommend “A Very British Coup“, both the book by Chris Mullin and then the 1988 TV mini-series (I can’t speak for the remake).

Footnotes

(1) The 6pm news leads with it, and it is BEAUTIFULLY framed as a piece of very subtle propaganda, with Corbyn becoming “embroiled”  only “hours after attending Remembrance Sunday” commemorations.  So they manage to get Mr Bean and hypocrite smears into one sentence.  If anyone wants an example of how to smear and look ‘above it all’, that broadcast, based on this report, is the way forward.

(2)  Yeah, House of Lords, monarchy, etc etc etc. I know.

(3) I am not a member of the Labour Party. OR ANY OTHER PARTY. Never have been.

Citizens, arrests and seven metre dinosaurs: A history of the UNFCCC #climate protests

carbonosaurusMy latest piece, for the Conversation, is out.

Here’s a scene that will be familiar to anyone who has watched media coverage of a major geopolitical summit:

By mid-morning the main entrance to the UN’s Palais de Congres, and its side entrances, were ringed by Swiss and German citizens, chained together. The blockade was total, if symbolic. Diplomats came and went, but had to duck under the chains. A barrage balloon floated in the sky over the Palais, urging delegates to “Cut C0₂ Now”. Boiler-suited Greenpeace activists swarmed over the roofs of the Palais, clutching placards bearing the same message.

That was 25 years ago this weekend, outside the Second World Climate Conference in Geneva…. continued here-

Citizens, arrests and seven metre dinosaurs: A history of the UNFCCC #climate protests

With thanks to Mike Hopkin, editor extraordinaire.

Reflections on feminism and women’s liberation

Sue Crockford is a London-based feminist.  Here’s a brief interview with her in which she reflects on how she got involved in the Women’s Liberation movement (via involvement in anti-Vietnam War activity),  what her memories of that time she cherishes, and what feminism means to her. Below, another feminist, Sarah Irving, writes about her reactions to the interview and what we can learn.

Sarah Irving: There are lots of reasons why I think that younger feminists ought to listen to women like Sue Crockford, with her decades of involvement in the movement. Some of them a serious reasons, like tactics and strategies and not reinventing the wheel. At forty (or very close to), I’ve realised in recent years that I’m already old enough to have seen several cycles of activism go round – similar issues and dynamics recurring, people getting enthused and burnt out in depressingly similar and repetitive ways.

Of course, we all need to learn from our own mistakes, and that’s as true of younger activists in their political lives as of anything else. But do we need to keep making the same mistakes, over and over? There’s a difference, I think, that can be drawn between the kinds of personal, emotional screw-ups that everyone probably needs to go through to understand how to function sustainably as an activist in the world, and the movement-level mistakes that can be learnt about, if only we can put aside our pride, and our prejudices against older people, for long enough to do so.

As well as all that serious, important movement-building stuff, I also think that this interview with Sue should be watched by younger activists far and wide because it’s a great reminder that being involved in politics doesn’t all have to be deadly serious. As well as being a long-term, committed feminist and struggler for social justice in other forms, Sue is also a beautiful, flirtatious, sexy, fun, funny person, and that very much comes through in this video. She’s a glorious reminder of the fact that activism is part of life, and that while a lot of life might seem pretty grey and depressing, it should also be shot through with colours and glitter. If we don’t allow for that in our activism, we risk both our own health and sustainability, and being so bloody miserable-looking to other people that we put them off getting involved too.

Watching this video, I get the overwhelming sense that although Sue Crockford might have been hard-working, high-expectations kind of comrade in the 70s and 80s, she’d also have been a hell of a lot of fun to work with. And that’s a great set of lessons to learn, for all activists.