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DIARY Distant socialising

We might be able to live with the new lockdown normal but it's killing Julian Assange

I WAKE UP hitting the routine. Exercises, meditation, tea with the London Writers’ Salon (LWS) — Zoomsters saying what they’re doing, doing it, then saying what they did.

Breakfast, emails, walk, coffee with a phone call. Writing, lunch, snooze, writing, tea, allotment jobs and watering.

Then wine and dinner, livestreaming or dead TV, more wine and dessert. Book. Bed. In all of this, there might be a socially distanced walk with another citizen of the locked down.

But, back to the LWS, who I’ve just discovered online. They’re great and mostly young, so don’t go on about conjunctive clauses. I’d furloughed the characters in my novel, as their situation didn’t feel relevant to the one we’re in.

But with the support of the LWS, I’ve found a way of giving an elderly Polish painter, working-class art handler and a special-needs teacher an hour’s socially distanced exercise on the page every day.

They have between 8-9am to frolic and ponder in Tate Modern in 2003, where a citizen’s arrest of the PM for the crime of war is being planned. This is not a spoiler by the way. Next week, all my characters will be allowed to meet in the same space, unless somebody transgresses and they all have to stay in again.

Must admit, I’m finding the tone of the government’s advice quite funny — though I know it’s not — like a head of year from a public school speaking to an unruly year eight class in a Dagenham comprehensive. Imagine having to stay behind with deputy headmaster Gove? 

Imagine, too, Julian Assange’s lockdown day. I’m sure he’s become good at them, he’s had so many. Practice makes perfect, isn’t that what they say? Perfectionism used to be seen as a virtue, but now perfectionists are looked upon with suspicion — anal at least, creepy at most.

But perfection is where danger lies because there can be no capacity for change. When nothing changes we are becalmed, unmoored – adrift. And Julian Assange has become ill from it. In fact so ill, he could not attend Monday’s extradition hearing at Marylebone magistrates court. Where is the public outrage at that? 

Locking a man up and throwing away the key for journalism that exposed the truth about US war crimes after the invasion of Iraq is an infringement not just of human rights but also investigative journalism.

Julian revealed the truth, and for that has had solitary confinement, the utmost cruelty, inflicted on him.

Investigations into alleged sexual misconduct have been withdrawn but muck sticks and many are simply happy to see him remain locked up as a “sex pest” or have him extradited to the US as a traitor. This would almost certainly mean life imprisonment and an early death.

We are killing him and, but a for a handful of truth-defending activists, no-one would know or care.

So, next time someone asks how your day was in lockdown, spare a thought for Julian Assange.

A fuller version of this article is available at International Times,



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