Thanks to the Opus Independents / NowThen Magazine crew for giving me the opportunity to pose some questions the incredible, the humble, the forthright Kate Tempest. Online version’s here if you want it.
I spotted NowThen during my first week in Sheffield, and decided immediately that if I was going to write reviews and similar for a free local rag, then it was this one, or none of them.
Right choice, Paul. Right choice.
We live in societies, whether they admit it or not, that do rank human life based on race and religion. And climate change forces us to reckon with that, and ask, are we going to live up to the rhetoric of equality and the idea that we actually believe people are of equal value by right of being alive on this planet? If we believe that, we need to radically change our ideas of national borders, and we need to open our arms and talk about how we’re going to share what is left. Or are we going to double down and get monstrous? We are getting monstrous. It’s not a future idea, it is happening. It is the Salvinis, it is the Trumps, it is the Bolsonaros.
We see the response to the Green New Deal — oh, it’s too much, it’s too ambitious. But if anything it’s not enough. If anything, there’s not enough about immigration and borders, still, in the climate discussion. […] I feel like this is a moment when we need a much more expansive discussion of the interlocking crises of our time. If we don’t get out of this idea that these are separate crises, then the truth is that climate will always be pushed out of the way. Because it’s not more urgent than kids being ripped away from their families and dying in the desert — anyone who tries to win that argument is monstrous themselves. We either merge, join forces, or we lose.
This is the task. All the work is merely part of this.
I fucking hate autumn.
I hate winter worse, mind you — but I’ll save my bitching about winter for when winter arrives. Meanwhile, autumn is at the door right now, tapping away at the glass with its miserable raindrop fingers, the fucker. In its hands, a message: telling me I can look forward to another three or four months of the world getting colder and darker. Four long months until I’ll start to notice the days stretching brighter once more, the first hints of spring, of light, of warmth.
It’s worse this year because I’m at home again after a few weeks of travel, of spending time with loved ones and/or with friends and colleagues in civilised places where things actually happen, or of travelling between such locations. Also because I’m in the midst of a period of intensive work which is quite unparallelled in my personal experience beyond that of getting my thesis finalised — yes, it really has been that relentless — and I want nothing more than to spend a few days wandering aimlessly around a large, interesting city with clement weather, a functioning public transport system and lots of vaguely interesting things to look at, and to not have to think about any deadlines, nor to write anything other than for my own pleasure, or pay attention to any form of news whatsoever.
But instead, I’m back home. Home, where trying to go for my regular Sunday climbing session meant twenty minutes waiting in the rain at an unsheltered stop for a bus whose diversion was unannounced on the stop and online, only to miss my connecting bus in town by literally thirty seconds. Home, where returning again from town by train involved boarding rolling stock nearly as old as I am, reeking of damp and mold, and literally pissing water from the roof. Home, where I’m surrounded by people who can’t wait for You-Know-What to magically make everything better, seemingly blind to the fact that You-Know-What is the final triumphant arson of the scumbags who fucked this place so badly the first time around, and who will glady do so again if it keeps them on their back-hander gravy-train for another few years.
Home, where you have to run just as fast as you can merely to stay still. Home, where even the air seems tired of itself, and the eaves of the houses seem to shrug in resignation. Home.
I’m tired of this place. Mostly I’m just tired — tired of my current workload, and tired of three years of enervating contextual uncertainty.
Look, I’m doing OK — this is not a cry for help, and hell knows I’m far better off and able to weather the coming winter than many. By this time next week I’ll be back in Scandinavia, about to start the final ten-day run of this period of work-schedule overload. The week ahead is busy, but the work is all paid, and paid well. I have the tools I need, the tickets for my travel, and the money to keep myself fed and functional.
But I also have my dreams. And recently, they’re all dreams of being somewhere other than here. That “here” is specific, referring to this neglected former pit-village between Sheffield and Rotherham — but it’s also something more general and abstract. I have outgrown my old sense of place, and I need to find a new one, elsewhere.
And I need to do so before I find myself staring down yet another autumn and winter, stuck at the literal and figurative end of the line.
This isn’t home any more. I don’t belong here now.
This is the kind of town /
where everyone knows each other /
and everyone hates that they know each other /
and no one’s getting any younger.
From my bedroom window /“Disconnected” by Idlewild
I was anyone /
every street I look upon /
could be a runway…
Le Guin’s work is distinctive not only because it is imaginative, or because it is political, but because she thought so deeply about the work of building a future worth living. She did not just believe that a society free of consumerism and incarceration, like Shevek’s homeworld, could exist; she explored how that society could be built and understood the process would be hard work, and probably on some level disappointing. The future is not a static thing; to its architects, it is always in motion, always mid-creation, never realized.