A blog by an historian, Pagan and fanfiction writer, with left-wing leaning politics. In short, I could be waffling on about anything.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Fuel to the Flame by Joolz

Back in the '90s, the heroine of our generation was the punk poet, Joolz Denby. Here she is in action, in 1991:

I have an e-mail, dating from 2006, from her giving me permission to reproduce 'Fuel to the Flame' on a long-dead website. This piece of prose has been keeping me sane and on track, in Amnesty International campaigns, since about 1992. In my humble opinion, the line 'it takes great control to be angry' is possibly the most important one that Joolz ever wrote.

Last night, as the world watched on in shock at the killing of Troy Davis, in Georgia, I tried to find 'Fuel to the Flame'. I wanted to show it to two friends in messenger, in the hope that it could prove as much a help to them, as it has for me.

Fuel to the Flame by Joolz

It takes great control to be angry. You wouldn't think so, would you; angry usually means a burst of temper, the row, the smashed plate, the nice cup of tea after the sobs and sniffs. But that's not angry, not really, that's being a bit cross, annoyed, put out. Angry is waking up every day in the certain knowledge that you can't put right the wrongs you see before you, gross and unforgiveable.

Mind you, what's wrong to one person is fine to someone else, I grant you that, oh yes. I mean, when I see the Abundant Life Evangelical Church looming like a great grey warehouse on the hill, and contemplate the sorry mentality of its good Christian flock, my anger simmer a little, it must be said. Now someone else might say that Christians are decent folk with moral standards and the welfare of the world at heart and it's wrong to condemn them out of hand - even if that's what they do to everyone else; two wrongs don't make a right and all that. You can get into one of those long arguments about the state of the world that go on for hours and a clever speaker could probably beat me easily, as I was never the great debater, being too furious and prone to becoming speechless and tearful.

Because it fill me up, anger, like a balloon full of fire and it does tend to put people off, doesn't it? My gran thought I would grow out of it, 'bolshie', she said I was and when I'd had my share of knocks from life, I'd settle down and mind my own business, but that doesn't seem to have happened at all - in fact it's even worse as time has slowly robbed me of all my heroes. All the little cruelties and betrayals that people hand out in private with self-righteous expressions do make you understand how easily humans can do murder, rape and even genocide or the vast destruction of land and water. It's just a matter of scale. What doesn't alter is the overwhelming ability of humanity to convince itself utterly that it is justified, that it had the right, that it was someone else's fault.

You know, I remember, I remember very well when I was a child, believing with all the power that I could summon, that if you loved someone enough, they would love you back, they'd have to. I was wrong, of course. But I wonder how often, in some form or other, that child's belief howls in the heart of the victims when predator looms over them, how often the tortured scream.

'You must believe me, I don't know anything, you must believe me, it's the truth', as if the truth will save them; how often the woman smashes up against the wall spitting teeth and blood crying, 'but I love you, I love you', as if her love will save her. Oh, it's not like that in real life, is it? In real life, they asked for it, they just happened to be in the wrong place, mix with the wrong people, marry the wrong man, the chain of excuses.

And it takes control to be angry, you must be precise, get hold of the twisting screaming thing each day and leash it tight, because otherwise you burn up inside and nothing gets done, you die... and what does another dead soldier mean in the great scheme of things? It means one less to be angry about the small betrayals and the great, it means one pair less of open eyes that see and cannot shut in the kingdom of the blind and that would never do, because it's a long war we're fighting against ourselves.


  1. Is this poem originally published this way or were the line breaks different?

  2. It was originally published this way. Joolz usually reads it aloud though.

  3. Heya Jo, popped by to have a looksee.

    Reminded me of Anger is an Energy, John Lydon, and an Aussie politician who once candidly remarked how he can only do his job by being angry.

    We are a mix, aren't we. Emotional and rational all brewed together on a rollercoaster life.

  4. You've got me listening to 'Rise' by PiL as I type. Thanks for the reminder. It's been a while since I last heard it.

    That's quite a beautiful mix though. It keeps us living and hopefully makes the world a better place.