Resilience or Fuck You Neoliberalism – a strike poem

I should do a squat every day
My yoga teacher tells me
While I am perched awkwardly on my mat
Breathing through the pain
I’m not supposed to be feeling
Every day just do a squat
And a plank
And a downward facing dog.
It’s just a little effort and you’ll feel so much better.

I should meditate every day
The book tells me.
The book that tells me that I can cure my anxiety
If I just meditate everyday
And change my diet
And my exercise
And my life
Just 45 minutes every day.
It’s just a little effort for my mental health.

I should draw a little every day
Because drawing relaxes me
So I need to keep doing it.
Do a little something I enjoy
Every day
And I’ll love myself more.

Just these few things I should do every day
To take care of myself.
Do my breathing exercises
Walk 10.000 steps
Eat my five a day
Write in my journal
Practice my drawing
Water my tomatoes
Meditate for 45 minutes
Do a squat, a plank, a downwards facing dog

And if I just do these few small things
I’ll be fine
I’ll have been sufficiently kind to myself.
I can tick off all the items on the to-do list of my wellbeing.

And I thought about how few items I had ticked last year
Last year when the world was closing in on me
When the world wouldn’t stop spinning
And fear spread through my body
Unstoppable
Unmanageable
When I sat at my desk shaking
Not knowing if I’d be able to get up again
I thought of all the things I could have done to take better care of myself
And how I would not have felt like this
If only I had
Meditated every day
Done my breathing exercises
Walked 10.000 steps
Watered my tomatoes
Written in my journal
Practiced my drawing
And done my squat, my plank, my downward facing dog.

And I knew that it was my fault I wasn’t coping
And that if only I’d have done those few things I would have been able to handle it all.

I would not have cried like I did
When my pay was cut.
I would not have felt so dejected
When I had to fight to get paid even what little I was owed
For the third time.
I would not a have lashed out like I did, at others as stuck in these structures as I am
When I didn’t like their tone when they delivered me the messages that threatened my income.
I would not have lost so much sleep worrying about deadlines, about angry emails, about how I was failing my students, about whether, between my four different jobs, I would be able to pay my rent next month.

I would have been able to handle all this
If I’d taken better care of myself
If I’d only built up my resilience.

And it’s only now
That I’ve found my feet again
(and yes
I did meditate
And did do breathing exercises
And all the things I was supposed to do
And yes, they did help)
It’s only now that I feel myself again
And trust myself again
That I can say

That I was never meant to handle this.
That we’re not meant to handle this.

That when you’re telling me to be resilient you are really telling me that I am failing the system, when really it is the system that is failing me.

So fuck you.

Fuck you for sending me invitations to stress reduction courses
While you make me teach larger classes for less money.
Fuck you for sending me booklets with breathing exercises
While my workload grows higher and higher
And fuck you, especially, for telling me to work on my resilience
While you try to dismantle the pension
That I can’t even pay into yet
Because you prefer to give me four casual jobs, rather than one contracted one.

Because you and I both know that if you take this pension from me
It will mean I was living a lie
That I was lying to myself
Thinking my precariousness was just a temporal phenomena
A stage I have to go through, on my way to the stability of tenure.
Instead I can look forward to lying awake at night again
Worrying about how I will pay my rent when I’m too old to do a squat, a plank, a downward facing dog.

And, seriously, fuck that. And, seriously, fuck you.

I refuse to be resilient.
I refuse to be ok with this because I am not.
Because non of us are. Not really.
I refuse to numb myself
to the pain caused by a system
Which treats me like a thing.
I refuse to be complicit in my own oppression.

I will continue to meditate (irregularly)
Because it helps me calm my mind and to know myself (and I’m getting to like this person that I’m learning I am)
I will continue to draw
Because it brings me joy (but under no circumstances will I ‘practice’ drawing.)
I have made peace with the fact that my tomatoes are all dead.
I will go for walks when the weather is nice.
Occasionally, when my back feels tight,
I will squat
I will plank
I will do my downward facing dog.

But do not for a second think that I am doing any of these things for you,
That they will make me more
Resilient
Efficient
Compliant
That they will make me forget.

Don’t think for a second that they will make me forget
The better world that I deserve.
The better world I can imagine.

The world I have seen on picket lines
And community halls
In whispered conversations
And shouted in slogans
Scrawled all over sidewalks
And written on the internet.

Because fuck you and your individualising bullshit.
Because I know (as we all know)
That this is a world we can only achieve together
And that this is a world that we can achieve together.
Because while I refuse to take
Responsibility for my own suffering
I will gladly accept
Responsibility for our collective wellbeing.

We are the university

 

 

Grace Krause, Margate 1. May 2018

 

 

 

 

8 thoughts on “Resilience or Fuck You Neoliberalism – a strike poem

  1. Cate Schofield

    That was beautiful, Grace. Tragic that you and so many of your colleagues are exploited and under valued. But you are an inspiration and a lovely person. Thank you

    Reply
  2. Kelda Kay

    Brilliant. This was read aloud in a university office in Australia, and all four of us laughed and cheered and wiped away a tear.
    Passing it on to others in the system who need to hear it.
    Thank you, Grace.

    Reply
  3. BC12

    Yes! THIS! ALL OF THAT!

    In particular this little gem –
    “I refuse to be complicit in my own oppression.”

    Reply
  4. Melanie

    I agree with parts of this but parts of it make me angry….the world is the world and it’s up to us how we respond to the unfair challenges like not finding full time work, not making enough money, insane costs of buying a house, you DO need resilience and healthy habits/lifestyle to get through those challenges, your suffering IS your responsibility, how you react WILL affect your mental health, everyone has struggles, some more than others, but resilience IS what matters….what about the things in our world that CAN be FIXED by US? we’re killing our earth..the oceans are flooded with plastic, ocean animals dying because they think the plastic is food…that is a problem that we literally can fix..we cant change house prices, job salaries, part/time/full/time work, but we CAN change how we treat our environment. People with mental health are soooooooo caught up with themselves, honestly the most selfish people..stop blaming the world, it is what it is.
    …disclaimer: I have had my share of mental health issues, diagnosed ADHD, depression, anxiety and medicated on concerta, couldn’t get out of bed, quit my job because I couldn’t get out of bed, I know the struggles, but that is why I have the view I have.

    Reply
    1. B.G

      Don’t want to be a hater aha but demanding better treatment at work seems far more realisable in terms of ‘taking responsibility for your suffering’ on a concrete productive level than solving plastic pollution. First because getting better terms in your workplace is a matter of collective struggle in and between workplaces (organising, development of existing union relationships to pursue emergent directional demands) whilst marine plastic pollution if it is to be solved (God willing) will require near-unilateral international co-operation, huge amounts of capital, and years of work. I don’t really understand how you can talk as though workplace and economic policy is less changeable than global pollution, or think that the continuation of capitalism as it is (exploitative, concerned with the maximisation of profit margins, drawn to deregulation in markets and safety practices) is at all conducive to solving the pollution crises (in air, water, agriculture, public health) which it has itself led to. ‘Struggles’ are not merely individual, solutions are not merely remedial. Restricting the responsibility to deal with stress, discomfort, and the effects of precarity to the individual alone, is a pernicious way of obscuring widely documented psychological effects of capitalist life (precipitated by definite professional and regulatory practices) as selfish pathologies. It is up to us to respond to the unfair challenges of our society, and its our responsibility to deny them normalcy where they are inhumane — not to accept them as necessary evils. Really great poem!

      Reply
  5. Aba

    Grace, insightful and eloquent, brave, and true for many walks of life.

    Reply to Melanie (quote) “People with mental health are soooooooo caught up with themselves, honestly the most selfish people”

    Isn’t the new mantra that all people have mental health, same as physical health? If you meant “people with mental illness”, since when worry about your ability to pay the rent due to factors outside your control is a diagnosed medical condition?

    If a car runs you over and breaks your leg there’s legal and financial liability for the driver. We would have an accident victim and a patient. We would have sympathy, even if the pedestrian was walking in the middle of the road.

    Reply
  6. Jacqui

    You are brilliant Grace
    Like you am working at a uni that is ‘restructuring’. For those that escaped the axe (this time), it is a sigh of relief coupled with the knowledge that eventually the axe will fall. For those of us caught up in the 1984 mantra of a brave new world, it is almost impossible to not take personally because the alternative is even worse – we are numbers only and mean nothing.
    I came across a very interesting article written by one of our alumni based in London:
    https://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/up-this-way/audio/2018628858/the-reign-of-business-bullshit
    Another interesting article is:
    https://www.odt.co.nz/opinion/corporate-culture-commercialisation-driving-university-decision-making
    This seems to be a world wide phenomomen and although life is about change it doesn’t mean we have to like it.
    Your poem is awesome.
    Hang in there.
    Jac

    Reply

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