Saturday, 12 July 2014

Saturday Interview: Jim Jepps

Imitation, nay, outright plagiarism is the highest form of flattery. In this spirit find below the first in a regular Saturday feature carrying on the fine tradition established by the late Norman Geras. Eagle-eyed readers might spot a resemblance/"adaptation" of some of Norm's questions. So, from now on look forward to the low down from activists, bloggers, political types and other cool cats. And we kick off the series with ...

Jim Jepps is a political activist in Camden, London. He's written for a variety of publications and is involved in the The North London Star, launched this week. You can follow Jim on Twitter here.

- Why did you blog?

I first started blogging (at the Daily (Maybe)) just to see if I could write something everyday to improve my writing. I didn't tell anyone I was doing it but somehow people discovered me and I was too shy to stop. These days, when I blog, I do it for the discipline. If I'm going to crunch numbers or vent about new government proposals I want to do it properly, which I simply would not do if it was just for me or a rant on facebook.

- What was your best blogging experience?

Whenever I think of a joke that makes me laugh. I'm not sure I care if anyone else finds it funny, as long as I get to tell it that's fine.

- What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger?

Don't think too much, just get on and do it. Oh, and be nice to people.

- Is blogging different now from when you started?

When I started blogging it was pretty new, people didn't really know what blogging was and you still had articles and even books on 'how to blog'. That's long gone. Personally I think political blogging, in terms of the 'citizen commenter' has pretty much been killed off by the mainstream media co-opting the form. There are a few hardy souls left but the political blogosphere feels like it's deflating. Where there may well still be space to grow are group blogs (masquerading as magazines) and hyper-local blogs filling the space that local papers used to live in.

- Why do you tweet?

It's quick and easy, but I'm not obsessed by it. The form of 140 characters is good practice for writing headlines, or one liners, but I'm a fan of long form and original content and they tend to hang out in different venues.

- Who are your intellectual heroes?

Jean-Paul Satre. Naturally. And Keith Flett, I envy his facility with the one sentence letter to the editor.

- What are you reading at the moment?

I'm reading Woody Guthrie's autobiography Bound for Glory for pleasure and Richard Seymour's Austerity for not quite as much pleasure.

- What was the last film you saw?

World War Z. It has some nice moments but it's essentialy an empty movie, sadly.

- What is the best novel you've ever read?

I don't know. But I really enjoyed Walter Mosley's Blue Light.

- Can you name an idea or an issue on which you've changed your mind?

There have been a few. I was against Proportional Representation, now I'm for it. I used to think Trotsky was pretty cool, but now I'm not so sure. I wrestle internally on drug legalisation but have so far managed to hide my doubts in the public sphere.

- How many political organisations have you been a member of?

Define political organisations. I joined the Labour Party, but never did anything. I joined the SWP and Socialist Alliance, but escaped after eight years. I was a member of the Greens (for six years I think), and currently I'm free-range. The consistent thread has been that I've never been that tribal about party affiliation and membership of any organisation is just a means to an end. I distrust party loyalists or people who've been in the same party for more than two decades.

It seems to me that it's easier to have consistent politics if you don't tie yourself too tightly to a manifesto or the needs of an organisation. But perhaps I just never found a party that was a good fit for me.

- What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate?


- What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat?

Political dogmatism. I'm very unhappy with the way that people can get used up and spat out in politics, we need to learn to be more open to those we disagree with and take care of our fellow human beings. Someone saying something you don't like is not a license to beast them.

- Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major and lasting influence on how you think about the world?

Bukharin's ABC of Communism. I'm a big fan of the dialectic. Sad but true.

- Who are your political heroes?

I'm keen on iconoclasts. Germaine Greer back in the day, or Sylvia Pankhurst who managed to get on the wrong side of almost every movement she was ever involved in. Mind you I also like radical pragmatists so Bob Crow and, yes, Nikolai Bukharin also deserve a mention.

- How about political villains?

I don't like to demonise people. Stalin was pretty bad. So's Nick Clegg. Don't make me choose between the two.

- What do you think is the most pressing political task of the day?

Tackling the toxic rhetoric on immigration.

- If you could affect one major policy change, what would it be?

I'd like to see real investment in tackling climate change. A mass programme of home insulation to reduce the amount of energy we're using, renewable energy research to improve the quality of 'green energy' and rail infrastructure investment across the nation. It's a scandal that we're pouring billions into High Speed Rail connecting to London when whole sections of the network aren't even electrified yet.

- What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world?

The ecological crisis threatens our food production, extreme weather events and even the future of antibiotics. That's pretty big.

- What would be your most important piece of advice about life?

Make it meaningful, if you can. Don't worry about being happy.

- What is your favourite song?

One song? Sydney Carter's The Crow on the Cradle (sung here by Pete Seager).

- What do you consider the most important personal quality?


- What personal fault do you most dislike?

In myself, bearing a grudge. In others, cruelty.

- What, if anything, do you worry about?

Money. Always money.

- What piece of advice would you give to your much younger self?

Love your friends and family, they won't be there forever.

- What do you like doing in your spare time?

Coffee with a friend is my favourite thing. Two friends is ok, and once you get to three it's abominable.

- What is your most treasured possession?

I have a pair of trousers I'm very pleased with but, to be honest, I'm not very attached to things.

- Do you have any guilty pleasures?

Coca Cola. Sorry.

- What talent would you most like to have?

I'd love to be able to play the guitar. I'm just too lazy to learn.

- If you could have one (more or less realistic) wish come true, what would you wish for?

I'm not sure. Something sexual probably.

- How, if at all, would you change your life were you suddenly to win or inherit an enormously large sum of money?

I'd probably set up a left-wing magazine that refused to affiliate to any party or groupescule. Vanity publishing at its worst!

- If you could have any three guests, past or present, to dinner who would they be?

I'd have Michael Moorcock, Ursula Le Guin and China Mieville, then sit back and listen.

- Socialism: will you live to see it?

We won't have a socialist government in Britain in my lifetime but every week I see acts of socialism, defiance and love.