2018 in Review

The end of the year is a time of reflection. Dance classes end, work slows down if you inhabit an office and people from your past start showing up in pubs wearing Christmas jumpers. Old feeling dredge up as you are forced to confront the ideas you previously held, the person you once were, sometime even people you once loved.

2018 has been a good year for me and there is lot to talk about. The biggest thing is that I have started doing stand up comedy as a hobby. I have even been paid a few times and this is something I am very proud of. Comedy is an interesting thing. It takes my tendency to overthink, my love of writing and turns it into something I can weaponize. In the last 6 months I have had more adventures and have connected with more people than my whole life previously. I love the characters your meet on the open mic scene. That no gig is the same and that you get instant feedback on your work. Comedy is forcing me to take on my fear of confrontation. While crowd work is still my weakest area I am confident that through hard work and a few improv classes this is something that I can excel at.

However, for one dream to grow it seems another must die. 2018 is the year I gave up on my dream of being a socialist politician. In retrospect I can see that I thought that passion for political theory, hard work and sheer bloody mindedness was enough to propel me to some kind of political career. For many people this is enough to find success and maybe I would have too if different decisions had been made. But I can see now the further I went down the activist rabbit hole the less I liked the intense, abrasive person I was becoming. Though it is with a certain bitterness that I look back at the two causes I dedicated myself to for a long time, staying in the EU and electing Ed Miliband in 2015, there is really only so much you can do by knocking doors, giving out leaflets and tweeting at people angrily. In many ways it is lucky that I failed because I like the person I am now much more although I think the person I was maybe even 12 months ago was probably more effective. In summary, I burned out. I hope I will find a way to tap into those wild zealous energies again although maybe now is the time to write jokes and read essays.

Dancing is for me a constant source of comfort, but it is no longer as central to my life as it once was. For a long time debating socialism in a pub was my only real hobby, so it is unsurprising that dancing was a new leap of life for me. But after 3 years of classes and dancing holidays the wild romance has given way to comfort and familiarity. The honeymoon is ended me and lindyhop are married, long live the happy union.

Lastly there is love and this year has been a big one for it, from a sweet summer that ended all too quickly to a joyful fling with someone from across the sea. I have been lucky this year, I am still young for a little while and like in 2017, there is much left to do.

Please find a recent show and a link to my comedy facebook page below:



Time to go: My Thoughts On Corbyn

In the Soul of Man Under Socialism Oscar Wilde berates the hypocrisies of Victorian society and calls for man to live on a higher plane of existence. It is not enough to feed the poor. The point is to redesign society so poverty is impossible. These are words easier said than done and perhaps the dream of eliminating the conditions of poverty, ignorance, idleness and squalor root and branch is but that: a dream that when transcribed into reality taints good intentions into bad results.

Or maybe I am talking nonsense. Socialism has worked in practice. The welfare state was built by socialists. When Thatcher closed the factories and coal pits the Trade Unions filled the gaps as best they could forming co-operatives and co-ordinating mutual aid. The NHS remains the most efficient healthcare system in the world. The most successful and creative societies provide free healthcare, education, enshrine worker rights, holidays and have universal suffrage. These rights are not gifts that were bestowed from up high. They are our common inheritance fought for by the poor, the wretched, the disenfranchised and abused.

Corbyn understands these things but under his leadership the conversations has drifted. We should not forget, there is a dark side to the socialism. How many millions were murdered, repressed and had their freedom taken away under the failed Leninist dictatorships? How many thousand, how many of our greatest minds turned a blind eye and intellectualised these crimes? More recently how many have wasted their lives selling socialist newspapers and attending “emergency rallies”? The truth is that ideas are not black and white. They must be implemented with care and nuance if they are able to succeed.

If a form of socialism worth fighting for is to take root in the UK it should not and can never involve apologising for antisemitism. It wasn’t what I signed up for when I started identifying as a socialist. It wasn’t what I signed up for when I joined the Labour Party. I am tired of people dismissing antisemitism in the Labour Party as a conspiracy. While I have no doubt that Corbyn personally is not a rascist he has lost the support of the Jewish community. Under his leadership anti-semitism has become a problem. There is a tendency amongst pro-Palestine campaigners to use language and hold attitudes that make Jewish people feel uncomfortable. There is a tendency in anti-capitalists to entertain racist ideas of Jewish conspiracy. The truth of the matter is that these groups have flocked to Labour under Corbyn and that he has benefited from their support.

Maybe I am pointing out the obvious too late. Personally complacent because of the aspects of the Corbyn project I support. Keynesian economics, re-affiliation with the Union movement, Labour Party democracy, redistribution of wealth, co-operatising the means of production. These are legitimate, good policies that would never have seen the light of day under any other leader. But they can’t be implemented at the expense of alienating the Jewish community. Corbyn needs to go and I can’t tell if I feel more like a dumb ideologue for supporting him so long or a useless traitor.

Let Me Keep My Stuff: The Case for Tax

One of the most powerful and emotionally appealing arguments for liberal economic (low tax, low regulation) is as follows:

“I work hard for my stuff, why shouldn’t I be able to keep it. If you tax my stuff and give it to people who don’t work hard then we’ll just have loads of lazy people”.

It is a good argument. Simple, easy to understand. Who hasn’t as a child at some point been forced to share your sweets? Who hasn’t worked hard for something and had it unfairly taken away? The idea of something that is rightfully yours being stolen from you, it sucks.

Then worse, the people taking your stuff are politicians, civil servants, lazy pen pushers who haven’t had a real job in their life. Are they even real people? Money is mismanaged, people are bribed. Government institutions are full of corruption and snowflakes, people who mean well but do not get anything done [edit: Just to be crystal clear to any of my colleagues in the public sector I am being ironic here]. You try to engage with the left, to raise these points that are really just common sense, but get shouted down by students, who don’t understand the real world, and bitter people who by now really should know better. To add insult to injury these dirty leftists accuse you of not working hard or really earning your stuff in the first place. But you know you worked hard for your stuff. You put in night shifts, endured bullying, made tough decisions the intellectuals do not know a thing about and now they want to take your stuff away from you.

Like I say it is a powerful argument. Just writing now I can feel my religious, Daily Mail reading, teenage self rearing his Thatcher and dandruffs filled head. But I am being a bit unfair to teenage Nick and the right here. It is fair to want to work hard. It is legitimate to want to keep what you worked for and I think left’s response should not be “well you don’t really deserve what you have”.

So lets take a step back because “I want to keep my stuff” in political terms is simply the idea that hard work should be rewarded. Believe it or not or not the statement hard work hard should be rewarded is something the left and right both agree on and just disagree over how to achieve. The right’s solution, less tax, is basically saying capitalism works (or is the best way to achieve this). Those who work hard always rise to the top and government just needs to get out the way. Higher pay from lower tax is your reward, you have won the race, so enjoy your prize money. The left’s solution, tax, regulation government initiatives is different. The argument goes that capitalism doesn’t always rewards people with the most talent and those who work the hardest. This is because privilege crowds out opportunities for talented hardworking people by handing them out to those born at the top.

Put simply the argument for taxation is: we are taking some of the prize money from the race you won because the race was rigged. You still get to keep most of it, but this part we are using to make the race fairer. If you really are a great runner you won’t mind because next time you run, a fairer race, you are still going to keep winning. And that is the point. If we want to live in a world where hard work pays and the best rise to the top we need to take on privilege. Because yes you work hard for your stuff but the society we live in, some people work just as hard and unfairly get either less or nothing.

If you are convinced that unregulated capitalism is better at achieving meritocracy, social mobility and rewarding hard work than government programmes promoting equality, Trade Unions and cultural change then this blog probably won’t changes your mind. Academics and experts on both sides wrangle over these things every day and I am just a guy with a blog. But books like the spirit level make the case better than I do that more equal societies generally do better. There is evidence from a variety of sources showing that the society we live in, based on free market economics, is not achieving good social mobility. Either way no-one is saying you do not work hard but we on the left are saying that we want everyone’s hard work to be rewarded and see tax as a way to achieve that.




Two weeks ago I wrote a Valentine’s Day special for this blog, basically about the idea that a lot a liberal men aren’t really sure how to talk about sex or even bring up the topic. I didn’t publish for two reasons, there are times when you know what you have written isn’t that good or saying anything very clever (now would be a good time for me to suddenly get a personal troll) and someone from the internet at that very moment had agreed to go on a date with me. I had more important things to do than edit bad writing.

The thing with dating is its easy to forget when you are single for a long time is that dating is actually fun, can make you feel happy and much more confident even if it doesn’t work out. But there is something else I’ve realised. If you are lonely don’t wait for something spontaneous, get an online dating account. It sounds simple but really it isn’t. If you are a self-proclaimed romantic spurning the thing everyone else is using to find love seems like a principled move. But there is nothing principled about wondering what it wrong with you most evenings and potentially creeping out your acquaintances by looking for chemistry that isn’t there.

My dating advice is get an online dating profile, a hobby and find a friend who is good with a camera to edit. And that is full extent of my experience.

Byard’s Brain Christmas Special: Forgiveness

“It seems that in these politically correct times we are dissuaded from speaking out. I wonder if next year we might see more signs, proclaiming the true meaning of Christmas.”

It was dark, cold, Christian. I was at midnight mass and my old vicar was giving a sermon on how Christians shouldn’t be afraid of spreading the Christian story of Christmas; which as things stand is getting drowned out in a flood of consumerism…

Every year I go to midnight mass. My other Christian activity, besides crossing x against Christian on work equality forms, is saying loudly “I should check up on the local Church when I next visit you” to my parents which is followed by either a lie in on Sunday or alternatively, just not visiting my parents. This ambivalence towards the Church isn’t a political or philosophical objection. While I take issue with the Church’s at best mixed messages about gay people, women and sex, my own Parish never really said anything on all three topics. It was not enthusiastic but it was tolerant. There is also something brilliantly absurd about singing hymns, solemnly affirming your acceptance of the creed and the latest dogma before saying “see you next midnight mass!” and cheerfully heading off to enjoy gluttony, sloth and a little lust if you are lucky.

This said I still feel a real affection to my local Church and an affinity for the Church of England despite one, knowing how much pain it has caused some of my friends and two, not believing in the resurrection / anything in the bible that doesn’t already confirm my pre-existing bias’s. The Church did good things for me. When I was at school, I didn’t have many friends and some might even say I was bullied. The Church gave me a community of people who helped and supported me growing up. It sparked my interest in philosophy through those longs Sunday school discussions about God and morality. When I no longer needed the Church I gave it up but there still exists a small community of Christians in Hartley who care and ask after me.

But faith like many things is a double edged sword. If the Church gave me a community, its teachings also planted inside me self doubt and a deep sense of shame. Forgiveness it turns out is just as addictive as the alcohol used to grant it. Many of the ideas within the bible are regressive, despicable and we tell children that it is the word of God. But there are some lesson I’m happy to have learned, like the need to stick to what you think is right even when everyone else is against you. I remember my Church as one of few places where people from different generations mixed and spoke with one another.

I don’t think I will send my children to Church, if I have them, or partake in any Christian activities besides midnight mass and equality forms. But maybe, when I have grown too old to dance, I will return to Christianity armed with a few scraps of progressive scripture to do theological battle with social conservatives, enjoy human company and accept forgiveness.

It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (perhaps the bible isn’t so bad after all).

2017 in Review


The end of the year is a time for thought and reflection but to be honest (I have been trying to make this blog about honesty), for me these impulses tend to express themselves in the form of blind panic and self-doubt. I sit wondering if I am happy with the decisions I’ve made and the kind of man I am. Have I enough success, do I have enough friends and what have I accomplished? These questions never have happy answers.

My friends are starting to take up their first mortgages and some are even talking about getting married. The Billy Bragg Lyric about all the girls he loved at school already pushing prams becomes more relevant by the day.  I am single, I have a job I like, but I will also be renting for the foreseeable future, particularly if I keep up my current social life (i.e. not living like a monk).

Politics is my main interest but obsessing over it makes me feel isolated and at times lonely. I tried abstaining from politics and Trade Unionism completely at the start of the year but it actually left me more frustrated. I seem to vary from wanting to be accepted by everyone, to asserting my independence. I can’t seem to shake the feelings I have had since school of being disparate to be liked, while also feeling deeply cynical towards those with power and popularity.

And yet despite this I am confident, that broadly, the decisions I have made are right. 2017 is the year I started my first job in Public Affairs. It feels like it has taken a long time but I have finally found my feet in an area I studied at University. I like my job and I think if I work hard there will be lots of opportunities. Renting has been the price of this career, but it has also been the price of being independent in my 20s. By moving, and living independently I have found people in the Union movement, dancing and work who like and accept me. I think putting off property ownership a few years has been worth it.

People talk about being single like it a personal tragedy but it isn’t. I learned this year, if only for a very short while, that there is nothing more lonely or upsetting than a bad relationship. My feelings towards love are the same as my feelings towards politics. You shouldn’t compromise even if it means standing alone for a little while, because you’ll be building on a solid foundation in the long run. I like being single. I like disappearing under a rug for days to read bad science fiction, going on holiday by myself and flirting.

To summarise, I’m don’t want to pretend that I am the greatest person ever and really this year hasn’t been great. It has largely been about recovering my confidence after a failed career in Local Government and two months unemployed. But it is December, nearly Christmas, and things are coming together. In 2018 I will be lodging with a friend, I will have a job that I like and I will be starting a voluntary role on the local Trade Union Council. I’m going to continue to read and I am going to continue to learn. I am 24, there is much left to do.

Why Trade Unions are Important and Some Things I Think we can do to Build the Movement in Reading

Why Trade Unions are Important

It isn’t a secret that at school you have to deal with bullies, but what they don’t tell you is that you need to deal with bullying in one form or another your whole life. There are managers who shamelessly flaunt their power, creeps who will pester you or use sex to make you feel small and smarms who will undermine you at every turn. Most bullies you will have to deal with alone. Your friends and your family can provide support, but ultimately it will be down to you to make a decision. It will be down to you to say no. There are some bullies however that you can’t face alone because they decide whether you have a job or not.

Most businesses and most managers are good, great in fact. I made a point of giving my first manager my Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival mug to remember me by (also to subliminally keep the spirit of Trade Unionism alive at my last workplace). However, employers and managers aren’t always good. They might not be aware that they are being inappropriate or they might a bully. Either way this creates a dilemma.

When you are having trouble at work the best approach at first remains working through existing structures or leaving for something better. But this doesn’t always work. You might not want or be able to leave, and what happens when company structures become part of the problem? Also, and this is a bit rich for me to say, but by leaving a bad company you are not fixing the problem. The exploitative practices remain, and the bullies stay in positions or power. According to the ideology of Adam Smith bad employer naturally go bankrupt on the open market but reality is a bit more messy. Bad employers don’t naturally fail and quite often the most exploitative companies are the ones that have the competitive advantage. If we are not careful bad jobs will drive out the good.

That is why Unions are important. They are at worst an insurance policy and at best a way to improve the lives of you and your community. I’ve worked for bad employers in the past that fired people at random and without explanation. At times knowing that I had a Union to back me up kept me sane. Through a Union you can re-balance who holds power in your workplace, you can create good policies and most importantly you can make sure it is all enforced. If you are not part of a Trade Union I think you should join one and if you are already part of the movement I have had some ideas about how we can build the Trade Union movement in Reading.

My Thoughts on Building the Trade Union Movement in Reading

The good thing about joining an organisation with fresh eyes is you return with a sense enthusiasm and you haven’t been there quite long enough to realise all your brilliant ideas have already been in motion for months. That said I’m going to plough ahead and outline some of my thoughts for building the Trade Union Movement in Reading.

  1. Make contact with organisations already friendly to the Trade Union Movement

A few of my friends in the co-operative unions say the worst way to recruit activists is to hand out membership forms. But that doesn’t mean we can’t talk to people already sympathetic to the cause of workers’ rights, anti-bullying in the workplace and outline how being part of a Trade Union can help them. The Reading Trade Union Council currently attends Labour Party meetings and has strong links to a number of campaign moments in Reading. But do they give us time specifically to outline the benefits of Union membership? And do we have a regular slot at all the various smaller branches?

There are lots of groups in Reading that the Trade Unions should consider making contact with. The University has a Labour Society an LGBT society and there are presumably debating groups in Reading someone from Union can get involved with in. We all have friends; links to Churches, charities and community groups. We should take advantage of these to spread the Trade Union message.

  1. Make contact with organisations less friendly to the Trade Union Movement?

I get it, not everyone on the Trade Union movement likes the Lib Dems and groups like Progress who are partly responsible for politicians ignoring Trade Union voices. But the only way to change minds is through a series of constructive discussions based on mutual respect. Also more pressingly, even people opposed to some of the Union movement’s more lofty goals don’t deserve to be bullied by out of control managers, exploited and under paid. The Trade Union movement has a duty to reach out to these groups and give them the option to hear us out.

  1. Organise a social

People join the Trade Union movement to make a difference, but they stay for friend and a sense of community. Socials are a great way to build the relationships that keep social movements together and can be used to introduce new members who aren’t quite ready to attend meetings. There are a surprisingly large number of progressive bands in Reading that sing about issues relevant to the Union movement and even more nice pubs. Definitely scope for a pint in between pickets.

  1. Promote on Social Media!

It is the future folks and great way to magnetise the Trade Union movement’s influence.

  1. Everything else…

This five point list isn’t going to cover everything we as Trade Unionists can do. There is plenty going on in the background and I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of my suggestions are already in motion in one form or another. If you have any comments on how we can build the Trade Union movement in Reading or questions about getting involved in Trade Unions more generally I’d love to hear them and help if I can.

Below are some of the Trade Union groups active in Reading:

The Reading Trade Union Council is the organisational hub of the Trade Union movement in Reading. Meetings are every month: https://www.facebook.com/ReadingTUC/

GMB is a general union that represents public and private sector workers in all industries: http://www.gmb.org.uk/join

Unite is Britain’s biggest Trade Union. They represent public and private sector workers: https://www.unitetheunion.org/join-unite/

PCS is a public sector union: https://www.pcs.org.uk/

IWW is a co-operative union that does a lot of work with gig economy and service sector workers: https://iww.org.uk/join/

This is not a travel blog: Italy

As you might have guessed from the title this isn’t a travel blog. It is more a platform for me to communicate what is on my mind. But that said, I have spent the last two weeks in Rome and Catania thinking and writing (also relaxing) so there are a few things I’d like to share with you.

No matter what country you are in you’ll still be a geek…

This wasn’t the first thing I wrote in my diary when in Italy. The first thing I wrote was a nervous scrawl about having no idea how the hell to validate my train tickets and being worried that a guard might come over and shout at me in Italian. Strangely enough, three years ago I wrote something similar about the Polish train system. Basically, I had no I idea how get the ticket machine to work and ended up travelling to Warsaw illegally (without a ticket). It seems that while I remain completely ignorant of other languages I’m doomed to begin my non-English speaking holidays stressed and confused about public transport.

Our tendency to only learn English in the UK doesn’t make us too popular abroad. I found the fact I am monolingual often coming up with other tourists and dancers. Reactions ranged from exasperated to genuinely shocked, and although I made my excuses about the education system and doing Spanish night lessons at the wrong time in my life, it wasn’t an issues that easily slipped into the background. It is weird that we are only really exposed to one language in the UK and that most of us are monolingual. The rest of the world is coming together and England is starting to look like an arrogant dick.

It is a shame that being English following Brexit, the monolingual thing and how English tourists behave in other countries, puts you a bit on the back foot with other countries because in youth hostels you feel a real sense of internationalism. The world is hanging out together. Everyone wants to know where you’ve come, from where you’ve visited and even to see your photos providing you then agree to sit through a 64 page slideshow of where they have had lunch for the last two weeks. It makes me proud of my generation which I feel is a genuinely international one. But that said these kind, liberal open minded people I met in the youth hostel are most likely not going to be running the world in the next 30 years.

They definitely weren’t reflective of society, being almost exclusively privileged and middle class. I worry that a lot of people I met seemed to be “travelling” as an alternative to living, working in their homes, and to political activism. A common topic of conversation seemed to be how badly things were back home, particularly for young people and how they were going to start saving up for their next trip as soon as they returned. I have no right to judge how people spend their money but at the same time I worry that parts of my generation are choosing to travel rather than make things better for the next. Will our children accuse us of squandering their inheritance choosing to holiday rather than save and politically agitate for their future?


It wasn’t just being monolingual that made write “no matter what country you are in you will still be a geek”. It seems wherever I go there is inexplicably a group of beautiful people in fashionable clothing, laughing with each other and doing shots. I meanwhile spent much of my down time in the hostel drinking Yorkshire tea (I brought tea bags) and reading Albert Camus.

Absurdism was the right philosophy for my holiday. There were moments, such as when I had to be helped out of an Italian supermarket after 5 minutes because I didn’t realise you need to scan your receipt to get out, or when I couldn’t find my Bed and Breakfast for an hour despite it being meters away, that made life is nonsense a nice get out clause for my own stupidity.  But I’m also starting to think that absurdism might be the right philosophy for me more generally. Absurdism is the idea that life is essentially meaningless and all we can do is carry on in contempt of how ridiculous everything is. Unlike Christianity which says life has inherent meaning or existentialism where we find our own meaning, absurdism is about living with the void and making the most of it.

Wikipedia gives a pretty good summary below*


I used to think that absurdism implied that there was no point doing anything but enjoy yourself but like all things it is a lot more nuanced than that. Camus talks about how we need to work with the historical circumstances we were born into and how picking sides is an essential part of being a man. Indeed, Camus himself was an anarcho syndicalist who took part in the anti-colonial movement and French resistance against the Nazis. But at the same time absurdism makes clear that it isn’t enough to live for a cause. You are free, there is no meaning and have no excuse not to live as much as possible. It is a terrifying prospect.

Italy is a beautiful place to eat, travel, think and I recommend you go there. The swing dancing scene is young but welcoming and basically everyone I met when holidaying alone was kind to me. I have a notebook full of anecdotes, anxieties and people I need to stay in touch with, or at least fondly remember.




**Picture at the top credit to the Catania Free Walking Tour (really fun, check them out they even have virtual reality!)





Pragmatism Boo!

One of the key conclusions Rubashov, the flawed protagonist of Arthur Keostler’s great anti-communist novel Darkness at Noon, draws is that maybe ideas shouldn’t be followed to their logical conclusion. Rubashov is shortly after shot as enemy to the people, his last act of service to the totalitarian state he helped create. Ideas are dangerous no doubt but too often pragmatism is used as excuse not to think about the bigger picture.

Ideology is seen in different ways and more than not is used as a kind of political club to batter you opponent with. Politicians are accused of putting their ideology above people. We condemn terrorists for subscribing to a toxic ideology – which they no doubt do. In this conversation ideology is more often than not dominated by it being a kind of political religion, that stamps out doing what is right or reasonably practical.

I don’t like this definition of ideology. It conveniently dismisses people who want big change as dreamers, extremists or stupid. It paints those who are quite happy with the political consensus as pragmatists, people who want to help but won’t promise the impossible by default. The other big definition of ideology is the Marxist one. Ideology is the system of ideas and assumptions underpinning the society we live in. Our belief in money, assumption that hard work brings success, the unwritten rules we don’t believe but follow anyway: This is ideology and it prevents the new society being born.

Of course it is easy to poke holes in political Marxism. It leads its followers out of the old ideology and into a shiny new one. It undermines the old institutions holding society together and replaces them with gulags and the state. But Marxism’s central thrust, that we shouldn’t take political common sense for granted, that we can and should expect more from the political deal in our country. This we should take seriously.

Too many people call themselves pragmatists because they don’t care about philosophy, or they don’t have a vision for the kind of world they want to live in. They call themselves pragmatists because they subscribe to the ideological assumptions that currently dominate politics. And its fine to be Liberal or even a Neoliberal, but beginning the conversation at “I’m a pragmatist and you are not” ends the debate.

The is  a huge problem because every generation needs to have a conversation about the kind of society it wants to live in. The reason Liberalism keeps loosing is because it would rather call its enemies names than engage with them. The Blairites didn’t talk about the achievements of New Labour or the dangers of making capitalism less efficient in a globalised world. They told Corbyn supporters to get a new heart. I think it is important that we think seriously about philosophical ideas, that we have a vision for the kind of society we want to live in and that we have a debate.

But not if you are a Civil Servant, because Civil Servants need to be pragmatic.

Not Being Sure

In pubs and bars it isn’t too unusual to see beautiful women.  Beauty is a complex thing. There is something beautiful about the paternal love between a child and their mother. There’s beauty in tragedy, poetry and in filming a plastic bag swirl round and round if you are the weird character from that 90’s Kevin Spacey film. However, there is also a very specific beauty prescribed in men, but more intensely in women. The kind in movies and adverts, that promotes eating disorders, unrealistic body image, plastic surgery and drives drunk men crazy in bars. That kind of beauty is everywhere on a night out and more often than not it is trying to sell you a shot.


A few weeks ago I was talking to a shot seller. I thought it was strange that every women who tries to sell you shots in the big clubs looks like a model. Isn’t recruiting full time bar staff on the basis of looks against some form of employment law? It is and the reason most shot sellers look like models is simple, they are.  It is illegal to hire someone on the basis of their looks,* but it is also perfectly fine to subcontract work to an agency that supplies self-employed models.  I can’t go into the full economics, but in many ways the business model for shot sellers is simple. Sell a £3 shot you get 60p, the bar and the agency get the rest. No sick pay, holiday pay or minimum wage, it is all commission.

To me this seems like a raw deal. I wouldn’t enjoy badgering people to buy shots and objecting myself for the same reason I also probably also wouldn’t enjoy dancing on a pole or stripping. But I think what I share with these women is that we are both prepared to do things we find uncomfortable for a sense of identity. Again, I’m maybe being crass and insensitive. Besides the one bar shift I recently did at a festival in Cornwall, I don’t know what it is like to be a shot seller, or for that matter what it is like to be a women. But I think there probably is a buzz in being beautiful and something comforting having that as part of your identity.  Because under capitalism we are our jobs, being paid to be beautiful as either a model or a shot seller is the best possible validation. Aspiring models are prepared to be underpaid, objectified and exploited because it grounds them, it makes them feel closer to the person they want to be.

I’ve been involved in the church, political activism and I don’t know if I really enjoyed any of it. I’m not a confrontational person. I don’t like knocking on people doors, getting in fights with them about their spiritual or political beliefs. But I also got a kick out of it. Campaigning, activism, preaching it all validated my sense of self. In this way activism and political lecturing is a lot like stripping, I was the person I was supposed to be and I was beautiful.

But right now I’m not so sure, in general. I don’t think the identities I had built for myself have made me happy.  I feel less and less confident about the righteousness of political beliefs. In reflecting upon myself and being open to new possibilities I have lost a sense of who I am. Part of me wants to go back. To double down on activism, get a socialist girlfriend and join the legions singing “oh Jeremy Corbyn”. But I’m sure that will just bring back the dogmatic, intellectually bullying qualities I didn’t really like in myself. Another part thinks I should read Camu, embraced the meaningless of it all. But really isn’t Nihilism just a cop out, at worst another religion? We need activists and most the people I admire are trying to instigate some form of political or economic change. There is a reason that Martin Luther King was a Socialist, that Gandhi advocated anarchy.

People do irrational things, they hurt, they expose themselves for sense of identity. Perhaps all I can do right now is step back and think. But in the meantime those shot sellers need the minimum wage, sick pay and trade union representation. While I’m just sat very comfortably not being sure.


*I’m sure this doesn’t stop some businesses doing it anyway