The new left needs a  sense of the  'viscerally thrilling possibilities for change', says journalist Laurie Penny.

Penny Red: Notes from the New Age of Dissent
Laurie Penny
Pluto Press

I've sometimes wished that New Zealand had someone like English journalist  Laurie Penny subverting the mainstream media. The corporate media could do with a good old shake up from within.  Is it just me or we plagued by  the same old talking heads saying the same old things all of the time? 

No one is prepared to stick their heads up over the parapet and declare that it is  just all  BS.  Nobody wants to because they are mostly cheerleaders for the status quo - and, of course, there's a buck to be made. Just listen to commentators  like Barry Soper and Mathew Hooton grazing on the latest headlines like contented dairy cows.    God, Barry Soper. He's the next best thing to a sedative.

Yes, It's a cosy little club where politics exists  purely within the parliamentary arena with all the limitations and sheer dullness that this implys.  Most of the hacks, at one time or another, end up on  on Q+ A or Close Up  for bit of a yawnfest, I mean,  talkfest. 'What about the latest poll results then? What does it all mean? What is this weeks major issue and we'll thoroughly discuss it in five minutes...and what about Winston....blah blah blah....Jusiin Bieber...blah blah blah...

I doubt that someone like Laurie Penny would even survive in the New Zealand media environment. She'd be quickly pigeonholed as 'unsuitable'.   I mean, she talks about things like socialism, radical feminism and how crap the (British) Labour Party is. She declares her support for the Occupy movement and is seen hobnobbing with members  of the Socialist Workers Party (even though she has crossed swords with the SWP in the past). Yes, she is  definitely likely to speak her mind and upset conservative and liberal sensibilities alike.

At least, in the UK at least, she can write for such publications as the New Statesman, The Guardian and the Independent.

I've been reading her stuff for years and, while I don't always agree with her she's always fresh, provocative, acerbic.   She 's also an original  observer of the cultural mores of our time - in a way that someone in their mid-twenties could only  be.

All this and she suffers from clinical depression too. In 2010 she wrote: 'My mental health has taken a turn for the worse. I'm struggling to care. I'm struggling to stay angry. That terrifies me more than anything'.

Thankfully she seems to have beaten off the black dog for now. Staying angry, I think, keeps her going. 

In another column she observed  that, for her generation; 'It’s time to get organised, and it’s time to get angry.' And later she wrote:  'What the young left needs is energy, inspiration, a sense not only of the consequences of inertia but of the viscerally thrilling possibilities for change. What we need, most of all, is a comprehensive sense of fun.'

Penny Red ( the title of her original blog) is a collection of Laurie's  online material  and some of the  material she has written for various newspapers and magazines.

It is conveniently divided into five sections including a section  on the Occupy  protests and a heartfelt final section,  'Their Hallucinations, Our Desires', a call for  revolution and genuine  power to  the people.

Some of the stuff I've  read before and its a little  disappointing there's no new original  material here. But if you haven't met Laurie Penny before this is a good  introduction to her work and her life - because they are both intertwined. Journalism isn't a 9-5 job for Laurie Penny  but always a  means  to change the world. 


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