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Choose Love: A Manifesto

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Fold – Choose Love

The new single out now on Clue Club, Vol. 5 with Esper Scout
Brought to you by Clue Records

Vocals by bell hooks and Sweet Honey In the Rock
Strings by Kieran O’Malley
Artwork by Toutine
Zine design & layout by Tommings

Choose Love was made Huey Morgan’s Beat of the Week on BBC 6 Music, October 28. The tune has also been featured on Amazing Radio, Get In Her Ears (Hoxton Radio) and BBC Introducing West Yorkshire, among others.

“The beautiful new single Choose Love from Fold is an emotive, poetic ode to tolerance challenging social injustice with powerful rhetoric. If we had our way it would be the anthem for 2018.”

— Music Match

Clue Club, Vol. 5 is available via:

Choose Love was released to members of Clue Club along with an exclusive zine. The full maxi single version with PDF zine download is available exclusively on Fold’s bandcamp page. The zine features, among other things, an article explaining in depth the story behind the song. That article follows below in full.

On November 11, 1939 (2 days before my father was born) all 600 Jews remaining in Ostrow-Mazowiecka, Poland (where my grandfather’s family lived) were marched to a forest on the outskirts of town. The German soldiers forced them to dig a large pit then shot them all, piled their bodies in the pit and ordered Polish gentiles to fill it in. There are photos showing the progression. Some testimony indicates that people were buried alive.

We can’t yet be sure if any of our family members were murdered in this massacre because we don’t know what they looked like and only a few relatives survived the war to tell of anybody’s fate. My great grandfather Hersz did not escape Poland and was not known to have died in a concentration camp (unlike my great aunt Tauba who died in Treblinka) so it is possible that he at least was among them. There is no list of names.

It is hard for me to look at those photos. Yet I feel it is important to do so in order to connect with the reality of such images to which we have become perhaps too desensitized.

Under the banner of Hitler’s divisive myths, like those that enabled slavery and the genocide of Native American people, millions were murdered including many of my extended family in both Poland, on my grandfather’s side, and in Belarus on my grandmother’s side. The catastrophic trauma this caused extends across generations. Yet we see these same myths in different guises resurfacing today across the United States and Europe.

When examining human history it becomes clear that there is an underlying mechanism turning the wheels. Power is seized in order to facilitate the consolidation of the planet’s wealth among an elite few. The majority of wealth is perpetually and systematically syphoned out of the hands of the many who spend their lives generating it into the hands of the few who spend their lives enjoying it. All that changes are the degree to which the tap is open or shut and the methods used in the turning of the tap.

We have long been locked into this cyclical narrative. In order to escape, as some have done for brief periods, we must examine the ways in which power is seized and find ways to subvert the agents of power. Arguably the most common, damaging and insidious method used to seize power is through division.

I shall be honest with you, Morris. I do not hate all white men—but I desperately wish that I did. It would make everything infinitely easier! But I am afraid that, among other things, I have seen the slums of Liverpool and Dublin and the caves above Naples; I have seen Dachau and Anne Frank’s attic in Amsterdam; I have seen too many raw-knuckled Frenchmen coming out of the Metro at dawn and too many pop-eyed Italian children—to believe that those who raided Africa for three centuries ever loved the white race either. Race is a device—no more, no less. It explains nothing at all. I would like to be simple-minded for you Mr. Morris—but I cannot. I have seen.

But you see, then I agree with you entirely! Race hasn’t a thing to do with it.

Ah—but it has!

Well now, which thing do you believe, my friend?

I believe in the recognition of devices as devices—but I also believe in the reality of those devices. In one century men choose to hide their conquests under religion, in another under race. So you and I may recognize the fraudulence of the device in both cases, but the fact remains that a man who has a sword run through him because he will not become a Muslim or a Christian—or who is lynched in Mississippi or Zatembe because he is black—is suffering the utter reality of that device of conquest. And it is pointless to pretend that it doesn’t exist—merely because it is a lie.
— Excerpt from Les Blancs by Lorraine Hansberry, 1964

Dividing in order to conquer is an ancient political tactic that is still pervasive today. My own country, the United States of America, was built on two founding crimes against humanity mentioned earlier: slavery and the genocide of the Native American tribes. Both crimes were made possible by propagating a myth of white supremacy that dehumanised African and Native American people while embodying white people with a false sense of superiority and entitlement. The primary purpose of both crimes was, as always, to facilitate the consolidation of wealth among the few but the scale of the myth’s propagation was unprecedented. White supremacy was used as justification for colonial barbarism against non-white people, perpetrated by white Europeans across the globe for centuries wherever there were bountiful resources to be plundered.

Hitler himself ultimately rose to power with only 43.9% of the vote despite having already waged a campaign of terror against his opponents. Hitler did not unite Germany. He first stoked existing divisions, assumed control of a large minority group by bitterly scapegoating much smaller minorities, then mobilised that larger group to coerce, bully and terrorise the majority into compliance.

Find any convenient way to divide people and you need only appeal to the largest minority in order to seize power. More often than not the most convenient way to mobilise people against each other is by stoking hatred and fear of that which is different. Appealing to emotion rather than intellect is both more immediate and more difficult to counter. We see these tactics in Brexit, we see them in Trump’s ascendency, we see them in elections across France, the Netherlands, Austria and elsewhere.

Here in Europe, as we have sat comfortably in our homes 8,500 people have drowned in the Mediterranean since 2015 primarily because their countries of origin are too dangerous to raise families and they can’t find peaceful nations who will grant them entry. My Jewish relatives who perished trying to escape Poland and Belarus found themselves in a similar situation but these are predominantly people from Arab states, many of them Muslims, the latest group to be sectioned off by a more recent myth.

I have watched in horror as this myth – that all Muslims are terrorists bent on the destruction of the western world – has been steadily propagated by political tacticians. The fact that so many innocent men, women and children have been simply left to drown in such a short time reveals the extent to which we have allowed this myth to take hold.

Nazi propagandists ‘portrayed Jews as an “alien race” that fed off the host nation and poisoned its culture.’ They also claimed that Jews were ‘engaged in a conspiracy to provoke war.’ British tabloids like The Sun and The Daily Mail today treat Muslims, and by extension all Arabs, in precisely the same way. We may, as Lorraine Hansberry so brilliantly encapsulated, “recognize the fraudulence of the device in both cases,” but these people drowning in the Mediterranean are “suffering the utter reality of that device of conquest” just as my relatives did.

These divisive myths, these ‘devices of conquest,’ have been responsible for the enslavement, torture and murder of tens of millions of people. Over hundreds of years, they have become deeply ingrained in the fabric of society making them extremely difficult to eradicate. The resulting systemic or structural racism has helped to perpetuate badly unequal societies. People who are subjected to structural racism have limited opportunities to succeed and are often the target of hate crimes, racial profiling and police brutality. They are far more likely to be incarcerated and in the US an inhuman and enormous private industry of incarceration has been callously constructed to profit from that. In my country certainly, even after the civil rights movement, inequality and the myth of white supremacy prevail.

The Equality Trust, a British organisation, has demonstrated through substantial research and analysis that more equal societies are in fact better for everyone, not just the poor.

“In rich countries, a smaller gap between rich and poor means a happier, healthier, and more successful population. Meanwhile, more economic growth will NOT lead to a happier, healthier, or more successful population. In fact, there is no relation between income per head and social well-being in rich countries.
If the UK were more equal, we’d be better off as a population. For example, the evidence suggests that if we halved inequality here:

  • Murder rates could halve
  • Mental illness could reduce by two thirds
  • Obesity could halve
  • Imprisonment could reduce by 80%
  • Teen births could reduce by 80%
  • Levels of trust could increase by 85%

It’s not just people in poorer communities who would do better. The evidence suggests people all the way up would benefit, although it’s true that the poorest would gain the most. These findings hold true, whether you look across developed nations, or across the 50 states of the USA.”

If society is to progress as a whole and if we are to put an end to widespread suffering, the goal must be to move towards equality. Achieving this goal requires numerous changes that can be described here only in brief.

For one, we must call out and reject all attempts to propagate and perpetuate divisive myths. Here in the UK that means at minimum boycotting and disparaging all forms of communication that do so. The Sun and The Daily Mail, among others, are in perpetual violation of the UN’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and ought to be held accountable but, mysteriously, are not.

We must move away from the profound demands of materialism and consumerist culture for, as Ernst Schumacher noted “an attitude to life which seeks fulfilment in the single-minded pursuit of wealth – in short, materialism – does not fit into this world, because it contains within itself no limiting principle, while the environment in which it is placed is strictly limited.” Tackling this subject properly, though absolutely critical, is well beyond the scope of this article.

In an equally crucial way, we must also prioritise the value of love and fully embrace the concept of community. bell hooks, the primary voice on our track Choose Love, points out that “to ask the big question of why choose love, to talk about why our nation has to choose love again as one of the ethical values driving our daily lives is to be doing that which is courageous, daring and enormously difficult precisely because of the profound trivialisation of love in our culture.”

She argues that “we might do well to not just problematise our difficulties around race, gender and other things but also then to talk about what brings us together? What kinds of yearnings do we share across all of those things? And it seems to me that the desire to love and be loved is one of those yearnings people share, irrespective of class, race, sexual preference or practice and that it might be interesting to theorise in terms of our struggle to end all forms of domination from that place of love.”

She goes on to say that “to ensure human survival everywhere in the world females and males organise themselves into communities. Communities sustain life. This is my answer to the question of why choose love. Communities sustain life – not nuclear families, not the couple and certainly not the rugged individualists. There is no better place to learn the art of loving than in community.”

bell hooks in 2009
bell hooks in 2009

In support of this statement, echoing the sentiment of Ernst Schumacher’s quote above, bell hooks submits that “the privatised, patriarchal nuclear family is still a fairly new form of social organisation in the world. Given the world’s swiftly dwindling resources, the vast majority of people do not have and will never have the material resources to live segregated from communities into smaller units.”

The ‘privatised, patriarchal nuclear family’ is itself an extremely successful form of division. Extended family communities – the agriculturally based, traditional form of social organisation – have been in severe decline since the industrial revolution which rapidly caused so many to move away from home to find work in urban centres. The political consequences are both that power traditionally wielded by larger communities is reduced and there is less sharing of resources yielding greater consumption. Communities are divested of power, which is then centralized, and profits for private enterprises increase. There is a thread of both individual and familial isolation across the entire discourse of western culture and economics. This, I believe, is something we ought to be determined to resist.

I have experienced the potential of community throughout my life, particularly as a teenager at an international school in the Netherlands. There I was steeped in the richest cultural diversity and love that I’ve ever encountered within a community. This had a profound effect on me. Cultural diversity enriches us. Culture, like language (and the gene pool), is constantly evolving – it is formed by interactions between people within a community. This occurs almost instantaneously once you have people interacting within a space.

I believe that culture is enriched by increased contribution, never diminished. Clinging to a concept such as ‘Britishness’ is counterproductive. The people who interact within the space that is England at this very moment comprise its culture. Of course there are long-standing facets of culture in a particular place that gradually form an overall shared identity but in reality, that identity is always evolving.

The myth of culture being threatened or poisoned by outsiders, as the Nazis claimed of the Jews and the British tabloids claim of Muslims, is yet another that needs to be countered urgently. In opening our minds, our doors and our communities to other cultures we only stand to gain. You need only look at the many contributions made to society by immigrants to the British Isles for evidence of this.

As bell hooks also points out, “the foundation of all love in our life is the same. There is no special love reserved for romantic partners. Genuine love is the foundation of our engagement with ourselves, with family, with friends, with partners, with everyone we choose to love.”

Perhaps it is time to recognize and embrace the fact that we do rely on, and are sustained by love not only from within our nuclear families but from a wide variety of friends and other family members as well. Perhaps it is time to find better ways of sharing our collective resources within our communities. Perhaps it is time to be more welcoming of outsiders, recognising that they have something unique to contribute that can enrich our lives. I believe these are the key elements that will enable us to subvert the agents of power.

I know families that have lived in this way for years and they are the most loving, happy groups of people I’ve ever encountered. I hope that one day their way will be the rule, not the exception. That is the world I want to live in.

“In and through community lies the salvation of the world.”
— M. Scott Peck

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