THE END IS WHERE WE START FROM
A FUTURE AFFIRMATION?
Written by Twin bro’ David Wise in late 2021
Photo: July 12th 2021.The last photo of Stuart Wise by Angie Knutt our intrepid companion and explorer as together we reached out to make a new world beginning with the illicit transformation of Martin Bell’s Wood on Wormwood Scrubs Common. David Wise is in the background. Stuart died on October 28th 2020.
Shortly after my twin brother’s death there was a more or less open zoom meeting organised by the Michel Prigent Commemoration Group which broadly discussed – amidst a bit of well-intentioned laughter – Stuart Wise’s contribution to the British situationist grouping, King Mob. (I didn’t attend because overcome with grief amounting to trauma after losing an identical twin brother as had happened likewise to our dear friend, Nik Holliman a few years earlier). It seems the meeting was a lively affair and somewhere among the mêlée, Nik presented a perceptive and knowing valedictory on Stuart. So let’s begin by presenting Nik’s text:
Valedictory for the late Stuart Wise
born:1943 died. 2021
I first met Stuart in 1976 after working with his twin brother David at We People workers’ co-operative, based in a derelict pub” just off the Portobello Road. After that the three of us worked together on different kinds of building jobs. This served as an outlet for our manual skills and as a potlatch of critical ideas about suicidal capitalist systems and the modern commodity economy. Steve Jacobs was a long-standing member of the crew who also gave a two-fingered salute to careerism, rejected roles and the economic exploitation of others. Stuart was always instantly cheered up by Steve’s stream of quips, jokes and repartee. Based on our family names and our gift of the gab a number of people mistook us for being Jewish.
Stuart preferred this kind of building work, which included plastering, carpentry and masonry, to other work that was drenched in ideology yet more highly paid. His experience and critique of this work was validated by events at the time – the social fallout from the upheavals in Portugal. Phil Meyler and Dave told him that those who did purely technical work fared better mentally after the disruption, Portugal’s de-colonisation programme and the end of its long dictatorship of Salazar than those whose work had a high ideological content.
This anecdote about the man is mentioned because Stuart always had an interesting angle on most things. He also learned to make instant yet accurate analyses in the social context of people we came across. Perhaps this was because he read a lot of heavy stuff – his walls were sound-proofed with books. Also he was intellectually or even academically inclined although unable to stomach academia and intellectual circles. Where did he go from there?
Well, partly he went for rejection. This tactic for free living within the confines of a capitalist society worked better in the U.K. because of its urban diversity, than it did for anti-capitalists in Spain for example (rechazo), which had an anarchist tradition that Stuart admired. In connection with this he always questioned whether social movements in Europe and North America for example were relevant to our situation in the U.K., which he maintained was fiendishly difficult to analyse in radical terms. Arguably, he thought most movements did not seem relevant to U.K. society because of our early bourgeois revolution (before the French one), our history of religious dissent, our early process of industrialisation and our history of failed attempts to change the exploitative nature of a capitalist society riddled with the divisiveness of class antagonism.
He did, after all, come from a Methodist background, a railway worker’s family based in Yorkshire and the North-east and tended to take a workerist position. His was a working-class family, which valued education, literacy and political consciousness – something that chimed with so many narratives in E.P. Thompson’s “Making of the English Working Class”.
At a time when capitalist ideology has invaded every aspect of life and part of the solar system he re-charged his battery by gardening and re-wilding, which he carried out with David in Yorkshire’s former industrial but now derelict areas and on the Wormwood Scrubs, not far from Martin Bell’s Wood.
It was encouraging to see the pleasure he took in popular culture, re-wilding, gardening and writing critical tracts on an ad hoc basis that were worthwhile yet given a wide-berth by so-called radicals and the politically-conscious.
I never did get ‘feedback’ from him about my article on “Twins” for the Principia Dialectia website – an endeavour that was dismissed as a mere blog by some. On rare occasions however I caught him off-guard. While re-wilding on the Scrubs during the ‘lockdown’ phase of the public health pandemic, he asked: “Do you feel weird?” He did, and he was referring to the pandemic that we were going through. I did not, but I appreciated his use of good old Anglo-Saxon word. And regarding the harrowing circumstances of my twin brother Jonathan’s death he said: “I can’t imagine what you are going through.” Usually it was hard to hear Stuart express his inner thoughts about everyday calamities because he was in deep think mode.
We probably never do get to know someone completely, yet fraternal twins get further than most and maybe identical twins get even further. No one else in the world knew a twin better than the other one – not even the biological parents. Stuart, the individual, made his bones in this relationship as well political consciousness. It was just as well that Stuart and David could buttress each other when it came to putting the boot into the capitalist system.
In acknowledgment of Stuart’s sympathies with the romanticism of pre-industrial Britain it could be concluded that he was a fellow traveller of the Diggers and Ranters: “I have writ and I have done.” (Gerard Winstanley)
Hopefully soon a book will be published provisionally entitled Dialectical Butterflies / Nameless Wilding. This book will reproduce many a text mostly written by Stuart and myself from a now sadly deleted web of roughly the same title which can now only be accessed via The Wayback Machine and I owe it to Len Bracken (Guy Debord’s American biographer) that he found it there. It could be said that this web is historically the UK’s response to a more genereal trajectory: the evolution of situationist critique and concomitant direct action morphing into the growing sphere of revolutionary ecology. It’s an omission which was lacking, or rather merely hinted at, within the orbit of the fully fledged Situationist International of the mid to the late 1960s, despite the latter’s explosively brilliant impact on the revolutionary moments of that era…..However, more about that lacuna later.
For those reading this blurb who don’t know who we are or, more specifically, who Stuart Wise was and is – and that means about everybody in the age of Cancel Culture – he is an individual more or less there at the inception of that subversive revolutionary group in the UK known as King Mob in mid to late 1967. Stuart was ripe for making such a leap as he was participating in the Icteric art / anti art experiment in Newcastle-upon-Tyne which opened the doors of perception and active subversion as the influence of the International Situationists began to make a big impact in student / post student circles. Stuart stayed on in Newcastle until the early 1970s having an influence on many of the radical acts that place in the city at the time not least in the burning down of part of the Art History dept. From then on saddled with a notorious reputation and more or less barred from making a living he upped sticks and headed for London’s Notting Hill radical alternative community. Having neither inheritance nor money to fall back on the attraction of forms of srtisanal building beckoned which also allowed time to publish lots of crazy man, crazy pamphlets and posters on the side as well as doing crazy man, crazy things. A couple of decades then rolled by and Stuart became involved in ecological theory and practise but one firmly embedded in his previously broadly situationist perspective (see below) merely extending its scope within an ever widening totality. Indeed, his passion and thirst for total revolution never diminished but as he grew older “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” made their formidable marks on him.
This then is the bare outline of his life and what follows is the tragic nitty-gritty of Stuart’s final years. It’s traumatizing for me, his twin brother, but I have to try and get it off my chest and will most likely fail for only an imaginative explosion from below can possibly begin to mend my broken heart.
The dramatic trauma of Stuart Wise’s final ‘illness’ and intermittent stays in hospital had a great deal to do with a huge nervous breakdown whereby he could hardly put one front in front of the other. It was an overwhelming but passionate despair that his hope for a new world free from money and wage labour (at the very least) had, post ’68, come to nothing. Instead we had encountered the miseries of ‘Suicide Capitalism’; a notion that we increasingly emphasized alongside the fact that humanity was literally eating itself up alive. This concept was lifted from the evolution of l’Encyclopedie des Nuisances more or less based in France which had such an impact on the Larzac Plateau protests in the 1990s and the subsequent ZADs (Zones à Défendre). It’s also a subject which has been dealt with in a more academically acceptable way in a recent book with the title of La Société Autophage by Anselm Jappe which sadly has yet to be translated into English.
Our return to nature from the mid 1980s onwards and, as it were, our return to childhood memories of wild, roaming, playful interventions located in and around decaying industrial infrastructures of abandoned mines, soil covered disguised factories plus mucky becks, etc had also simultaneously to do with the collapse of the ‘old’ workers’ movement. In the UK this and most poignantly for us was the brutal outright defeat of the great miners’ strike of 1984-5. As we have well documented elsewhere, defeat was felt very personally because of powerful childhood memories involving much respected family background connections. Subsequently, post 1985, it was like as if everything of promise was lost in the UK as the most draconian anti-worker laws in what was then known as “Western Europe” (as opposed to the pseudo-communism of the Eastern Bloc) were passed by the British Parliament, laws that subsequently have never been repealed.
After jotting down the previous paragraph and for the very first time I started reading some of Stuart’s ‘secret’ diaries only to come across the following which astonishingly is very similar to what I’ve just recounted: “4th October 2020. I feel so foolish and pathetic my mind is in chaors – yet I don’t doubt for a instant that what we are doing on the Scrubs is and elsewhere is fundamentally right. I struggle to understand what I’m doing – its connection with the remote past (as children around Heighington Stn in Co Durham) the death of art and Icteric, my attraction to waste spaces, to old industry and its reclamation by nature, the precipitous decline of industrial class struggle in this country and how a PROLETRAIAN ECOLOGY came to take over my life and with it the need to reinvent nature and humanity.”
From the mid 1980s onwards ironically – since we are dealing here with what rightly became regarded as odious fossil fuels – especially our long involvement with the pit spoil heaps (C/F the 15 or so films we made on spoil heap butterflies which really should go up on YouTube)) nature became our great solace, especially the deeply hidden but glorious world of insects. In many ways it was a feeling that had never left us but was revisited with an even greater intensity though essentially now placed within the trajectory of total social revolution. A re-visiting of nature was now inseparable from the need to abolish the fetishism of commodities – so well explained by Marx – which also involved new ways of relating to nature necessitating the overthrow of the law of value, abolishing class society, money and the state. For us, post the vision of an insurrectionary 1968, changing the face of an increasingly domesticated nature also meant given further momentum to the abolition and realisation of art via a new creativity opposing what Debord characterised as “the fall of life”. So why shouldn’t a de-commodified wilding taking place within the context of the beginnings of new communities freed from the diktats of political economy trigerring the process of overthrowing the separation between town and country be humanity’s and planet Earth’s glorious future? For sure, all this was jumbled up inside ourselves indicating not only Rimbaud’s dictum that “love must be invented afresh” but which also indicates everything else must be completely reinvented.
Putting it less gloriously apocalyptically and placed within the mundane every day, this re-visiting of childhood inevitably brought with it all subsequent knowledge and experience, good or bad, whilst simultaeneously implying a clearer idea of the way out of a hellish capitalism on the brink of an abyss in its sheer rape of every living morsel: Truly, a capitalism of NO FUTURE albeit much more catastrophic than the way Malcolm McLaren and the Sex Pistols put it back in the mid to late 1970s.
Initially the ‘return to childhood and nature’ was experienced as something of a relief; a soothing ‘getting away from it all’ seeing an already loathsome counter revolution in these islands was gathering pace morphing into the paradoxical embrace of economic neo-liberalism plus ideological neo-feudalism. It was a conundrum whereby money, money, money became the god substitute amidst a revived worship of royalty, lords and ladies, empire and the public school especially “the playing fields of Eton”. This was all made worse, indeed sickening beyond belief, considering that a sizable proportion of people at the sharp end really embraced this shit. It was if all hope was slowly being abolished…..
Sadly the rose coloured spectacles surrounding our childhood quickly hit the buffers of reality as in the meantime we’d somehow kind of forgotten all the nasty incidents related to our childhood escapades. Even then we were naively asking for it as roaming through semi abandoned terrains we inevitably carried with us various cutting tools along with sheaf knives hidden from view in pockets, etc. Anything in short that could tear through tangled mazes of bush or prolific arenas of gorse as we created semi-secret passages well hidden from the gaze of “the gadgie”- imitating the gypsy cum Scottish lingo we’d adopted – be they police, security guards, gamekeepers and what have you. Moreover, we were not averse to a bit of very minor fire-raising either be it railway bank sides or lighting up those old fashioned platelayers huts well-coated with tar. For sure the latter was simple juvenile delinquency, meaning we’d then scarper real quick, headed for home, kept schtum, and loudly played say, a scratched 78 rpm of Bessie Smith singing Weeping Willow Blues. (We did after all live in the New Orleans Jazz mad, working class North East which a few years later hit Top of the Pops via The Animals House of the Rising Sun). We also built dens in trees or constructed them – bridge-like – across streams as well as blocking rivers and /or cutting mazes through dense undergrowth. However, amidst all this we were also rapidly becoming very nature-savvy noting with delight the Great Crested Newts in the ponds or the Dingy Skippers or Wood Tigers on the wing as we whooped around imitating Native American Cherokee.
Of course there were reprisals for being adventurous kids but nothing like the stick decades later we were to receive for trying to recreate these childhood landscapes whereby the aforementioned creatures – and others – could thrive. This time reprisals by the authorities were far, far worse than anything we’d encountered as kids; reprisals moreover that tore our hearts out the more we started re-creating “landscapes of contempt” on public land –as the French refer to them – in a more consciously informed way. The truth of the matter is we were engaged in practical experiments to “save the planet” as we rapidly realised slogans like this utilised by the state and private capital were nothing other than A BIG LIE; a mere ideological front – virtue signalling at its worst – covering up their relentless destruction of nature .
Indeed from 2013 onwards our intransigent ecological activities became an almost daily battleground and it wasn’t simply the old adage that ‘water wears away stone’ but how much more can you take in your 70s after a lifetime of combat and persecution?
Stuart’s response to the devastation wreaked on our remarkable eco experiments by now psychotic power freaks was also to catastrophically turn in over which increasingly devastated his psyche, as more and more he considered himself the biggest, most horrendous bastard cum arsehole who ever lived. “And the many men so beautiful and they all dead did lie / And a thousand thousand slimy things lived on / And so did I” as Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner put it. He began to seriously neglect himself and it had an effect on his health, mentally and physically. After a day of hard slog he tended to retreat into the bedroom of his council flat lying endlessly flat on his back on a mattress copiously scribbling away filling one book after another with notes and comment with Sri Lankan radio and accompanying music in the background even though Stu’ couldn’t speak a word of Tamil. He’d always had a tendency to behave in an odd ball way but now it was hitting stream of consciousness levels. Unfortunately, when his often very lucid scribbling stopped Stu’ refused to take them to the next logical stage: turning his initial ramblings into something communicable for other people to read. In fact I was the one and only person who intervened to do just that and would often grab the scraps of paper he was writing on and put them into shape for perusal on webs, etc. It was as if he wanted everything related to himself to disappear, almost as if there must be no oeuvre left to mull over. In that sense he remained the anti-artist to the end and wasn’t it De Sade who said something like; “All your works must be destroyed on the day of your death”??? Interestingly this comment is favourably quoted by the Surrealist Luis Bunuel in his requiem book My Last Sigh…… In consequence I now possess two heavy sack fulls of Stuart’s jottings and scribbling which will take years to plough through but even random glances reveals a lot of sheer brilliance alongside an enormous amount of general knowledge.
Stuart’s live-in surroundings had always been somewhat bo-ho ever bordering on the chaotic and I’d often call him “mucky-pup united” and his council flat was always over-the-top untidy but in an easy relaxed, comfortable way. Over the last few years however his lifestyle really went downhill the more reaction triumphed and the more our eco experiments out there in the wild got trashed / extinguished, etc, and the more various authorities threatened him with prosecution. In response, bo-ho gave way to filth and soon there wasn’t even a clean cup or mug to drink out of until the day came when he found a mouse happily swimming around in the soup he’d left on the stove. Truth to tell he was disturbed when he confessed to me what had happened but it made no difference as flies everywhere massively increased in number as nothing got cleaned up and piles of rubbish grew and grew in every room. Moreover Stu’ just couldn’t kill anything the more he identified with these creatures with no voice. A personal diary comment around that time (23rd Sept 2017) read, “I increasingly feel myself reflected in the brief, random flight of a bird, or a hover fly on a Michaelmas daisy. Just as I am doomed so are they but ‘they’ are fortunate enough not to know it”. Moreover, I couldn’t help but feel our family past in his response going way back to our grandah, a miner and union organiser in Liverton Mines, a small community around the pit which overlooked the North Sea near Whitby. Late in life, Grandah used to play with the mice running amok in his gaff even giving them names. He did so because in the dark deep underground which had been so much of his life often his only companions were the mice. And then the link to nature cum revolutionary past returned as Grandah was remarkably well clued-in about the nature around him but had also managed to get a bunch of formerly armed anarchist inclined Belgian miners -after a big strike – redeployed in his own pit and who consequently couldn’t get work anywhere on the European mainland. The latter is a great story in itself: suffice to say here, Grandah asked our future Mam to befriend the Belgian miners’ children and she consequently learnt every gully low French swear words doing the rounds yet couldn’t even string together a sentence in the same language!
Sure the latter is by-the-by a fine story but increasingly I was worried sick about Stu’s living conditions especially after the destruction of the wonderful post-industrial gorge in Bradford (see later crucial emails on this catastrophe). Moreover once physical illness struck amidst his ever darkening depression I knew Stuart could be open to all kinds of infections as his immune system would be weakened. Four years later that’s exactly what happened. What’s more Kensington & Chelsea council were beginning to flex their muscles amounting almost to threats of eviction from his council flat. Come Stuart’s second bout in hospital in April 2021 they really were looking for that infamous jugular. Instead the council via social workers demanded his flat be given a ruthless “blitz clean” after ambulance staff took photos of his surroundings. I managed to intervene and stop this nonsense by doing a big clean-up myself throwing out sack after sack of rubbish which unfortunately meant also throwing away a lot of snails feasting on rotting food on his kitchen window ledge. (Yep for those in the know, ironically it smacks of shades of his snail Icteric experiment from 1966). Moreover, I was able to save all his wild seed containers labelling some and stacking them together on a small table. More importantly I managed to find all his last placards that he’d been busily working on ready to be screwed on tall trees in Martin Bell’s Wood on Wormwood Scrubs Common. Unfortunately for Stu’ this necessary clean-up was too late in the day and once out of hospital and back in his flat bit by bit the infections, especially of the kidneys in no time again took off leading up to his final collapse a couple of months later.
In a way Stu’ slowly but surely went into ‘remote’ where previously he’d been an ‘internal’ subjective kind of guy bordering on the distant. Now it was difficult to get any kind of sustained conversation from him whereas not long ago he’d love giving out some kind of critical summary on say Kierkegaard’s theories. In any case, he’d always been something like the absent-minded Prof’ in disposition even though having small regard for academics knowing they somehow nearly always manage to water down their best perceptions ever fearful of losing their privileged positions together with the FUDS and DUDS after their names. Almost inevitably too, so called “experts” also riled Stu’. This response was hardly surprising considering he’d never held back on his opinions and conclusions, and being a child of the direct action oriented, utopian late 1960s, he’d been quickly slung out of academia and forever black-listed as a nobody and a no good.
As you may now realise Stu’ was immensely learned. Moreover, he more or less fluent in 5 European languages despite having failed the infamous 11Plus of yesteryear as I had too. But was I like Stu’? Not quite and I mean “not quite” in a by no means way; for sure we were inseparable twins but alike as chalk and cheese as the old saying goes. I would always somewhat provocatively characterise myself as ‘thick’ in comparison to my twin. Moreover, I am an appallingly bad writer, grammar –wise, etc – as many a person has pointed out, and I truly wish I could do something about it but I can’t. My command of languages is virtually zilch and my understanding of say Marx, Nietzsche, Kant, Darwin, Hegel, et al, is pitiful in comparison to my dear departed bro’. On the other hand, Stuart couldn’t organise the proverbial “piss up in brewery” was hopeless at making friends and couldn’t act in outlandish ways even though his life was a living example of commendable negation. Moreover, he’d never been nicked by the police anywhere near like me as at the same time he’d lambast my “conservatism in daily life” also knowing I had little control over myself when I did act. Then again, Stuart would stubbornly persist in utterly lawless behaviour in low key, purposefully hidden away everyday eco activities. I was always upfront about my name, Stuart on the contrary often deploying pseudonyms. The name Lawrence Clarkson was especially favoured as a Facebook front in communicating texts and often lengthy informed commentary to Extinction Rebellion, etc. The latter initially would often immediately delete ‘Lawrence Clarkson’s’ intransigent but experienced comments only for a few months or so later back track and allow them through. Also, ‘Lawrence Clarkson’ was greatly regarded by Chris Packham, George Monbiot, etc. I personally did not approve of this clandestine behaviour always insisting Stuart should be more upfront but he simply ignored me. Fair enough and I quickly stopped grumbling knowing that many other subversives throughout history had regularly deployed non des plumes.
But, but, but, who was this guy? Who was this Lawrence Clarkson in reality? Why, the subversive Ranter cum Digger of the English Revolution of 1640-5. A wild man and very anti money, Clarkson opposed the notion of sin saying it was “invented by the ruling class to keep the poor in order.” The guy therefore wanted all of us to participate in a kind of unlimited orgy though he did find time to link-up in socially progressive communal physical work joining Winstanley’s Digger experiment on St George’s Hill in Surrey only for Winstansley to quickly get rid of him. Needless to say modern day feminism would most likely have loathed Clarkson’s guts.
However, was Stuart in anyway like Lawrence Clarkson? Well perhaps in terms of the anti money / Diggers angle but beyond that it’s a big NO. Stuart had enormous contacts with women but largely as part and parcel of the ‘remote’ vicinity he occupied and to be kept at a distance like he did with his much fewer male friends. In a way it was part of the afore mentioned Rimbaud-esque sydrome of that love that must be reinvented afresh and in the meantime a big void exists whereby we can’t go back but neither can we move forward and all we can do is make a Kafka-esque signal of that hand at a lighted window waving towards you in the surrounding darkness. So his ‘contacts’ weren’t at all down to earth in any touchy feely way; indeed hugging and sex hardly came into the equation, it was more about moving into the realm of the ethereal, even perhaps, quasi-spiritual reaching for an ideal that in present dire circumstances, cannot be found. In his diaries he constantly bangs on about love but in the sense that relationships are now impossible. Take the following diary entry: “28th October 2020. No girl friend only the fantasy of female companionship dead and living ones. I construct my love life out of thin air. It is better than the real thing – the ‘real’ people of our doomed time”. One of his ethereal woman friend contacts one said to me (via email -what else?) “Stuart is very difficult”. Alas, I could only agree… He did though really love the following women: Dorothy, Barbara, Joan, Samia … So let’s leave it there….
In a way, me, I, myself, – the twin – was ‘the woman’ ‘the wife’ (in the outdated sense of the term) who did all the mundane, practical tasks like cleaning up, going to the doctor’s, giving Stuart my own new clothes for him to wear, sorting out his living situation especially during his recurrent depressions. The basic problem was he increasingly needed someone to look after him especially when health issues started to figure, and all he had was my ‘ornery self’ with all my inadequacies to fall back on. Commendably Stu’ was against domestication – including the family – as he felt such a nexus was inextricably linked to the acquistion of commodities even central to the deadly conundrum of commodity fetishism, the fulcrum of capitalist accumulation. If you like there was always something of Wilfred Owen’s anti First World War poem, Strange Meeting in his stance: “I went hunting wild after the wildest beauty in the world / that lies not calm in eyes and braided hair” words he would shout out from Whitby cliff tops as a 16 year old… That didn’t mean he was for singularity and isolation rather he wanted something like imaginative but responsible social communes free from money and consumerism, etc, communes that have yet to see the light of day… A true utopian who enjoyed putting up a bird box in praise of Fourier’s “butterfly principle” in Matin Bell’s Wood.
Stuart after the age of 40 often attended Depressive Anonymous groups only finally in his late 60s to be put off them because he reckoned they’d fallen into the dead–end of PC identity politics. It could be said some of his best ‘ethereal’ women contacts of all races were remarkable, especially his on-going contacts with often deeply depressed, suffering like hell, older Spanish anarchist women whom he often talked to me about. Indeed recent individual webs on the Revolt Against Plenty site illustrating often profound spray-painted comments writ large on Spanish or Latin American walls came via these great gals. One woman, Ana Bueno, he mentions in his always secret diary of the 22nd of April 2018 saying, “She is beautiful – and in pain. But I can only keep my distance, never meet. Only that way can love stay intact”. He previously said something similar in an entry dated 13th Sept 2017 regarding an older Polish woman shop floor worker in his local Poundland: “I have long had a soft spot for her. I would love a long, silent relationship with her where not one word passes between us”.
But who was Stuart, merely a persona – Lawrence Clarkson – to these individuals?? I just don’t know.
Latterly it was as if Stuart had gone into remote so often that he’d succeeded in putting himself under lock and key. Many were the times I had to divine what was being said trying confusedly to fill in essential missing bits and pieces. The worst omission came right towards the end when Stuart refused to tell me he had been informed by a consultant that he’d got terminal cancer still making out to me that he could carry on doing heavy, physical tasks on the Scrubs. The trouble is he really really could do this hard, often back-breaking slog without saying a word or even grimacing!! Northern grit? Well, heck, of course it came into it. Now though reading his diaries for the first time I’m in profound shock. Why, oh why? All I can say in retrospect is why on earth couldn’t he have told me about his terminal cancer as it wouldn’t have made much difference only to realise a couple of seconds later, of course it would! Obviously the twin thing had kicked in and he wanted to spare me the unbearable agony he knew I would feel. poor, decent, beyond the honourable, type of guy….
It could be said that Stuart expressed the final moments of his life as an extension of an uprising gone crazy in his head involving people within nature taking direct action followed by the inevitable bureaucratic. deadly counter attack from the ever more crazed powers that be. For sure before his final weeks in hospital, Stuart was suffering bouts of intense nervous collapse and one triggered by experiencing too much sabotaging of his ecological ventures by developers and their agenda fronted cleverly by “greenwash goons” and as such illustrated on some of his last placrds (see pictures above). It was however merely the first stages before the onset of a vicious bout of PSTD instigated by the the promoters (the real coffin bearers) of Suicide Capitalism. This was then made worse by a haphazard out of the blue, nightmarish conjuncture: Covid 19 along with neglect of cancer patients. During early 2020 Stuart found out he had ‘manageable’ prostate cancer but then everything went awry as chaos kicked-in as three bouts in hospital followed on in haphazard fashion as disintegration and confusion engulfed the NHS and one mirroring Stuart’s own disintegration regarding his living conditions. He also wasn’t picking up messages from the NHS as so many of his electricity cables had gone skew-whiff haphazardly strewn over his bedroom floor which he’d trip over ensuring his landline was often out of order. On top of this he was endlessly mislaying his mobile phone. It was almost as if he wanted to die as for the last 20 years or so he’d been thinking about suicide in one way or another at the same time as he’d admonish himself saying in his diary, “I must try and not succumb to despair”. I’d get more than a whiff of this for many a year and it would fill me with almost unbearable agony.
As the emotional and physical pain got worse Stuart bit by bit was inevitably given stronger doses of morphine and finally inevitably along with the drug came the delusions, apart from the fact some were often insightful even remarkable within a paranoid paradigm. Towards the end he felt – profoundly felt – he was participating in the beginnings of a social / ecological uprising involving a somewhat avant-garde experiment with patients as part of a psycho-geographical experiment combining anti-psychiatry but done clandestinely as officially within the confines of NHS bureaucracy anti-psychiatry is still regarded as ‘one of those evil late 1960s things’ or something like. Back in the day, its chief proponent, R D Laing in The Divided Self along with other writings would go on about the Surrealist Antonin Artaud and so on. Interestingly, Stuart wasn’t too keen on this experiment he been fantasising about as he also found it “inhuman” even though nonetheless, he was also seeing Max Ernst frottages on the hospital walls alongside giant caterpillars. (I’d insist I couldn’t see them but then he’d get impatient with me suggesting it was part of my innate conservatism).
Once he even texted me very late at night that he’d suddenly become an unintended victim of this avant-garde experiment and was being slapped around to forcibly join in as a patient extra in some kind of hospital performance art enactment with cameras there at the ready. Desperate and freaked I didn’t know what to do. Call the hospital at the dead of night?? Instead I did nothing. I then nearly went crazy myself emitting uncontrollable wild shouts holding my head in agony. Damn, damn, damn the mobile phone!!
Inevitably given his penchant for abstractions, Stu’ began to consider the modern hospital as part of the containment / suppression of humanity’s liberatory potential under capitalism even describing the phenomenon finally as “the industrial / urban / hospital cum prison complex” – obviously referring to the way the Covid 19 nightmare was being obscenely used by an ultra predatory neo-liberalism. A means – if you like – of ensuring that capital accumulation becomes even more concentrated into the hands of the super rich, billionaire elite exercising ever greater powers along with the assistance of a 5G technocratic update. In fact he was taking notes on this trajectory in a diary he kept by his bedside. (A query: Has this diary been lost and has his pitiful bedside belongings been arbitrarily disposed of)? One thing’s for sure: the NHS hospital is no longer the humane retreat of even two decades ago whereby a certain “hospital communism” – as some described it at the time – was the order of the day.
Finding the hospital unliveable Stuart wanted me to organise a gang (the leftovers of our building gang?) that would facilitate his break-out; a gang who would arrive in the middle of the night crashing through the security doors of the convalescent home and then whisk him away. This fantasy took no account of the fact he couldn’t even walk and was visibly getting weaker by the day as the flesh seemed to fall off his limbs. Previously I’d always done a lot practically for Stu’ but now he wanted me to be reincarnated as Superman and JUST DO IT! PRONTO! In agony and dismay again I was admonished for my earthly limitations as I was becoming overwhelmed with despair which was clearly showing on my face.
For sure he wanted to be back home at all cost but where could I take him? I did discuss all of this with clinicians and what have you but they did shake their heads and I did agree with them. My flat was three stories up and small and his nearby ground floor flat was a No No as still too polluted regarding the risks of further infections. On top of that I was leery because of many past experiences when almost literally I had to walk behind Stu’ with a dust pan and brush as everything discarded was always dropped from his hands, as if I hadn’t, the whole place rapidly would have become the proverbial pig sty or rather a stu-sty, – nothing needless to say wrong with pig stys – though this time whatever sty would have been lethal.
He was always reiterating the same thing: if only he could get back home he’d get well again in no time as he knew how to handle his body to get himself moving and walking again. Could it have been true? But then he got incarcerated in the Chelsea and Westminster hospital and the place our fellow gang member Steve Jacobs had been sent to for his prostate cancer operation in 2019. Steve went through hell and referred to his stay as something like an “Auschwitz experience”, so much so that he finally threw a fit after undergoing mini-stokes which were ignored. He wasn’t even allowed to go to the toilet. And something of the latter was tohappen to me two years later (C/F email later) as I was treated like a criminal after a fit of grief beside my twin brother’s bed. In no uncertain terms I was truly an unwelcome visitor and was more or less forced – for my own sanity – to keep clear of this particular NHS institution. Little did I know I would never see Stuart again. A few days later and he was dead.
And then I felt guilty as hell, in fact so appallingly guilty that I think the feeling – that remorse – will never go away. Was I really the straight, conventional arsehole he was literally accusing me of being? Oh, shades of Baudelaire’s Confessions….. Evidentally in his last few hours of consciousness Stu’ was screaming, “David, David, David” Shithead that I am……
As for myself throughout the whole nightmare saga as days slipped into weeks even months, sleep at the very most became fitful and irregular and I started downing one kalm pill after another. Most nights I spent pacing my flat often hundreds of time from bedroom to living room to kitchen from where I’d look down from three storys up on an empty All Saints Road in London’s Notting Hill desperately searching for relief in the smallest thing like the buzzing of a fly. Then dawn would gradually break and I’d view the street beginning to stir with desultory activity and if lucky for some obscure reason, cold and tiredness would hit my body and then I would sleep for a few hours only to suddenly wake in fear dreading texts on my switched off phone. Trembling I’d switch the miserable instrument on and if lucky the texts were sometime a little upbeat, at other times Stu’ was accusing me of virtually everything under the sun. It shattered me. Damn, damn. damn the mobile phone. Damn, damn, damn fucking twins…..
I was expected to perform miracles when my health at 78 years old was inevitably not that brilliant. Covid 19 had had a detrimental effect on my body too. My left eye cataract operation had been delayed as had some vascular surgery (stents?) on my legs; the latter meaning a walking stick had now become essential. I thus moved about ever afraid of falling but Stu’ ignored all of this as he had always done regarding my past illnesses. All this however is understandable seeing he knew inside that his end was approaching.
Is all this a condemnation of Stuart? I hope not but in a raw way it reveals the complexities of twin-ship from the popular notion of “terrible twins” to Manley Hopkins “life love-locked” twins. Never forget in and through togetherness we had produced often surreal – or rather maybe – situationist strength though in a complex way and one that fits in with these outrageously reactionary times. His strengths were often my weakness and vice versa. As a techie Stu’ was hopeless and utterly relied on me to sort things on his computers. After then it would be the toilet didn’t work and the doorbell didn’t ring, etc. The same was true of other necessities. Although he couldn’t organise building jobs and literally often didn’t know how to get paid (believe it or not) once on a job he was invariably brilliant able to sort out technical tasks in often ingenious ways and that ability was equally true of particular, practical eco problems out in the field or rather, Landscape of Contempt. Moreover, our twin relationship wasn’t a nicey nicey serene relationship. Instead it was fraught with passionate conflicting intensity interspersed with frequently violent interludes which didn’t really last long before the lovey-dovey – as if by magic – like a wave – would burst over us. Once in 1977 we had a passionate argument in Notting Hill’s Ladbroke Grove just beneath the tube station bridge. I quite forget over what triviality but all hell broke loose between us as traffic screeched to a halt with blood seemingly everywhere. Cops were called but by the time they arrived we were both attending to each other’s wounds and the coppers shaking their heads were perplexed and decided not to nick us. Next day with the aid of walking sticks together with bits of sticking plasters on hands and faces we boarded a bus previously booked bound for Italy to fraternise with the Metropolitan Indians in Bologna then on to Turin to join the picket lines outside the car factories, etc. Subsequently, we looked so dishevelled with our cuts and bruises that many rebellious Italians we met and communed with thought we’d been beaten up by fascists or the riot police. We didn’t correct their assumptions as how the fuck could you have explained this conundrum when we couldn’t understand it ourselves?
The building gang though was well acquainted with this typical (?) twin behaviour and often laughing like hell would take no notice of it. On a more general level work-wise the gang was great at fixing faults in old or older properties, those of an artisanal / makeshift character but most certainly anti the legoland, algorithmic shit that is all the rage and nonsense these days. As the years and decades went by increasingly we worked for ad hoc marginal housing co-operatives making derelict buildings kinda ship shape in an odd ball way and it can be said – the perfect foil for our ecological interventions in ‘landscapes of contempt’. Indeed, as in the Bradford gorge we encouraged young people to try and squat in the newly created ecological arena we had occupied without permission as there were a few buildings nearby which were empty and had been for a long time. Inevitably at this juncture our wages on the buildings were low as we gradually conjured up a vision to be practised on something like a world-wide scale: a world without rent and property portfolios amidst a rejuvenated – anti parks and gardens – wild nature; a world freed moreover from passive consumption, resignation, entertainment, commoditisation, celebrity and money. Git off yer arses and move, move, move…….. down with ALL bureaucratic structures up with flexible , horizontal social autonomy. But autonomy is not easy; it isn’t simply a quick fire, spontaneous gesture though that comes into it but is also product of bitter experience especially keeping well clear of officialdom in any shape or form.
But back to the hospital. Alongside delusional ‘free association’ as it were, Stuart did get friendly with the occasional truly subversive nurse or other ward staff whom I also instantly identified with as they condemned a stultifying, hierarchical NHS whilst hating all attempts at any further privatisation. Once in a transitory, ground floor convalescent single ward he overlooked a garden well stocked with plentiful magpies and squirrels along with a remarkable cortege of foxes headed – it seemed – by of all things, a white fox who would put his paws on the window sill and look at him. Stuart even reckoned he communed with these foxes in the middle of the night; moreover, he also reckoned he had enlightened conversations with a female nurse who gave the birds and animals lots of leftover food from the hospital kitchen.
Stuart reckoned that some of the nurses along with other essential staff often talked about joining unions with potential strike action in mind and it wasn’t long before I overheard similar conversations. However, for Stuart on his doses of morphine the drift was more dramatic: revolution was in the air and insurrectionary tactics were in the offing! Is this perhaps one of the reasons why he became more and more belligerent during his second stay in hospital or was simple anguished despair becoming paramount and there was nothing left to lose? Inevitably consequences followed and he was placed in an isolation ward without windows which did indeed seem to imitate a plain white-walled window-less punishment cell. Or maybe this was simply to do with the need to prevent further infections? The quick result was he literally couldn’t stand it as he desperately needed the company of other patients aswell as satisfying his simple human need to look out of a window. In response he started hollering and evidently smashed things up (exactly what I just don’t know) but his outbursts worked and he was released from his hospital cum prison cell. One of the things he did say was he needed to get out and back into nature as the latter was the only reality that could sooth his troubles. This was backed up by the fact that he had been allowed to read a book while in ultra confinement and it was Cal Flynn’s recent Islands of Abondonmemt. On reading the book he rapidly realised it had been influenced by Dialectical Butterflies and perhaps Revolt Against Plenty, so in something of a momentary up-lift he sent me a text saying, “Much of this has come from us in general outlook and Cal Flynn even argues for a Duchampian approach to nature even though she has quite a long way to go in grasping total critique”. My instant response was the book seemed in drift to be something of a repeat of two years previously with the publishing of birdman Mark Cocker’s book, Our Place: Can We Save Britain’s Wildlife Before It Is Too Late which then went on to lift descriptions from Dialectical Butterflies, especially one related to Mark Rothko, the American abstract expressionist painter. In both instances our names and webs weren’t mentioned almost as if a giant NO/NO apparition had YET AGAIN appeared above the writers heads. At the time in his diary Stuart wrote:”Mark Cocker’s book Our Place has come out. We aren’t mentioned though we are the elephant in the room. A must read from the point of view of details but not much else besides. A glow worm in the dark is all that is left of my life.” Yep. Cancel Culture had really hit town and an all enveloping smoke screen appeared on the horizon. Is it therefore surprising that Dialectical Butterflies was clandestinely gotten rid of? The only thing that is now allowed to see the light of day must be nothing more than Guardianista virtue signalling and greenwashing plus support for a two-faced Nature Bureaucracy. Indeed Cocker in Our Space calls for a kind of TUC (Trades Union Congress) of nature organisations obviously never realizing that back in the day especially during the late 1960s to the mid 1980s the TUC was the original two-faced racket as wildcat strikers – still tenuously linked to the bureaucratic outfit above them of the TUC – were calling the shots creating inspiring havoc often proclaiming openly the need to get rid of capitalism once and for all. What we still want – and what the younger generation is hopefully beginning to grap – is a combination of increasingly aware autonomous revolt throughout work places, urban spaces and most importantly feeling an ever greater affinity with the natural world. No wonder Stu’ was delighted when Ramon of Burning Pink (the XR breakaway group) sprayed pink paint over the outside of the Guardian offices early on 2021. Stuart was (perhaps) even more pleased on 2nd April 2021 when he texted me some of the bumph they used on their London mayoral gambit: “Everything lived is now spectacle” as if Stu’s situationist influenced life had not all been in vain.
In his final nightmare sojourn in hospital, Stuart became a good buddy of an especially open-minded senior nurse from Guiana who looked remarably like our old mate Alex who also hailed originally from Guiana before settling in New York’s Bed’ Stuy’ before jumping ship to finally live in Notting Hill. You really could open up with Alex (mark 2) in no-holds barred conversation. He tried to get Stuart to walk again but to no avail finally whispering to me the dreaded words which I already knew but refused to regognise: “I’m afraid Stuart has given up”. My mind raced as I linked Stu’ response to “The Great Refusal” that epithet from late 1960s contestation and picked up deftly by Herbert Marcuse. It was like as if this refusal with Stu’ had gone into car crash overdrive colliding with slow-motion suicide together with Herman Melville’s Bartelby who endlessly repeated that wringing phrase, “I’d prefer not to” (Stu’ really rated the story) as he finally preferred not to walk or live. The negation of the negation of death and his un-crowning glory lies in Martin Bell’s Wood on Wormwwod Scrubs Common……
One of the last acts Stuart engaged in, even though in physical agony, was a visit in May 2020 to the anti HS2 camp adjacent to Chats Paddock on the Scrubs to hand out some leaflets we had done for an XR demo in central London a couple of years previously. One of the leaflets was on the destruction of Woolley Colliery the other on the destruction of the finest insect site in inner London at Mitre Bridge about a hundred metres away. This heinous crime had been covered up by the local Scrubs greenwashers and remains so to this day. Evidently for Stuart the meeting at the camp proved to be a really enlightened encounter which unfortunately he wasn’t able to follow up.
Rather than continuing to write about my trauma, rigtly or wrongly, in a somewhat too passionate yet also intellectualised manner, maybe it’s best to merely record a number of emails -sent out and received – on the occasion of Stuart’s death simply because they contain tellingdetails plus a wonderful display of emotion
Thu, Oct 28, 2021 David Wise to Jerry Dickens (Jerry is the guy from Bread and Circuses publications who put together couple of books around King Mob)
Sorry to say but Stuart died during the night in Chelsea and Westminster hospital. He’d developed prostate cancer but mainly was suffering from a gigantic nervous breakdown which confined him to his bed for the last few months. He also let his flat fall into pieces and then pains starting developing all over his body as various infections all over. The cancer went aggressive and hit his liver, lungs and kidneys. He no longer could walk – nor wanted to – and said he “just wanted to die”. He was finally shattered by the ruthless developmental agenda on the Scrubs. This was on top of all the trouble in Bradford re the destruction of the Great Gorge which so obsessed John Ruskin and which in the last two decades had spawned its own magnificent, wayward nature which we went out of our way to protect and encourage by further wilding. This destruction was spurred on by ex deputy PM, Nick Clegg’s baneful Aire Valley Regeneration Plan, never forgetting that Nick Clegg is now Zuckerberg’s right hand Facebook / Meta Man. Between 2014-16, the council along with the police went out to arrest us but we got out of town with the help of Red and Green lawyers in Bristol. But the council bullies nailed Barbara who lived by herself in Bradford and forced here to hand over incriminating evidence about us. Babs was alone, bullied and terrified. Fortunately the ‘evidence’ couldn’t be proven but then the poor gal caught sepsis and died in Bradford Infirmary in 2016. Stuart was in bits about Babs and never recovered from the shock because he simply couldn’t really live without her. Then things just seemed to get worse and worse on almost every level with Stu’ saying things like, “We’ve lost the eco battle and I cannot carry on cos’ there’s no hope left”, etc…..
I don’t know what to do…
Best. Dave x
On Fri, Oct 29, 2021 email from David Wise to Jerry Dickens
Actually these three articles above on the Revolt Against Plenty web are also an extension of Dialectical Butterflies and Icteric. Indeed From Russia with Love ends on a very clear-cut ecological note regarding our transformation of Martin Bell’s Wood on Wormwood Scrubs which also links up with Icteric in an explicit way in the sense of outlining a slowly evolving movement from greenwash artefact to authentic wilding. I’ll also forward you a lovely email from Una Burnard a 23 year old who had kinda joined forces with Burning Pink and a more revolutionary breakaway from XR. She filmed us doing things on the Scrubs as we talked to her at the same time.
For more photos and captions, emails from a number of sympathetic fellow travellers and / or individuals who knew Stuart (including friends in Os Cangaceiros), and footnotes on their ecological adventures in the years before Stuart’s death, continue reading at: