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Gemma Copeland

Tag “reflection”

I’ve recently been working on a Membership Agreement for Evening Class. It’s an attempt to escape the tyranny of structurelessness, as well as to provide a guide for new members.

It’s been a rewarding exercise as it’s prompted us to think about and formalise some of the key principles that underpin everything we do, as well as making clear what forms of support we expect from each other. In some ways, these kinds of protocols can feel unnecessarily formal, but I feel like by having it all written down allows us to address how we treat each other more directly, forming the basis for a greater level of trust within the group.

This got me thinking about protocols more broadly, and what they mean for establishing and maintaining self-organised groups.

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 — Time during quarantine

I’ve just finished reading Mrs Dalloway, which has me thinking a lot about time. (It was originally called The Hours, after all.) It’s such a wonderful book: Woolf effortlessly changes tempo, switches between the inner dialogue of different characters, moves from describing a fleeting present moment in great detail to remembering events long since passed.

It was particularly interesting to read this in our current context of lockdown. There seems to be a general consensus that time is very weird right now. March was endless while April and May have passed by incredibly quickly. There are ongoing jokes on Twitter about people struggling to remember what day it is, and questioning why we have days of the week at all.

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 — Unravel from toxic individualism

A few months ago I spoke at a panel discussion for CSM students. It was a partnership with Thames & Hudson and Design Observer to accompany their new edition of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s 1841 essay, Self-reliance. The event aimed to explore what it means to graduate during a crisis after 1+ years of disrupted education.

While I totally agreed with this premise and wanted to contribute, the essay itself and the choice to republish it really grated on me. Of course, it was written in the 19th century, so I can’t really blame Emerson for being a few centuries behind the intersectional feminist, post-colonial and post-humanist thinking. Still, it feels strange to me that the publishers are pointing to the power of individualism as a way to deal with social, political, economical and environmental upheaval. This idea that we’re all individuals and that there’s no such thing as society has been one of neoliberalism’s greatest triumphs.

I wrote a somewhat ranty post about the essay to sort through why I had such a problem with it. I didn’t publish it at the time, but I find myself still thinking about this question of individualism a few months later, so figured I may as well.

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