Surviving the System

by Zena Edwards

So Shake is back.

artwork by Anni Movsisyan

artwork by Anni Movsisyan

 We have been on hiatus for nearly 8 months and we’re back with a new Shake intensive course. #SurvivingTheSystem takes a birds eye view of the planet, zooms in and looks at the streets of everyday living and reflects on our lives as individuals. Examining the current and disturbing issues of our time, it seems we are in for a future of more difficulty after an already bleak few decades now. The political shift to the right in favour of big business and property development, with the marketing machine of mass media, many of us find ourselves numb, in shock, and emotionally, mentally and spiritually brutalized. When we look to the institutions and structures meant to be sources of security, we find them to be disrespectful and uncaring. Abusive.

 We are coerced and forced to accept cuts to education and healthcare. Gentrification and immigration prejudice manifests as cultural cleansing and violence, post-Brexit which clumped migration, immigration inefficiency and refugee status’s into one dangerous xenophobic national security and economic risk. In the west, many young people who see themselves as the future working generations are looking at their parents and forbears asking “ What the hell were you thinking?” post Brexit. The sentiment is rooted in deep disappointment and mourning from the the violent severing from the opportunities of belonging to the European block.


Labour. Violence. Addiction
A person’s labour and livelihood is linked so closely to well being, and such deliberate scare-mongering is shock tactics to confuse, misinform, and in consequence heighten stress levels of every life where mistrust and frustration is a genuine societal problem.

Right now, in UK schools, pupils are asked to bring ID and in effect become ‘snitches’ on other economically migrant family members. Employers are now asked to register ‘foreign’ workers. Brexit has seen a rise in xenophobic and islamaphobic attacks. Policing in the UK is proving itself to be on par in its disproportionality of racial profiling and institutional rot. The intersection of race and class fertilizes an explosive relationship. An aggressive xenophobia, reminiscent of the fascist era of the 1940’s, is nurturing violent outbursts on the streets.

The dynamic push in the conversation on transgender issues has blown the doors off conservative binary ideas of gender and gender roles, and exposed decades long injustices and societal stigmas for LGBTQI communities dating back to the 1950’s. And you do not have to dig too deeply to find out about the high levels violence people from the transgender community are subjected in 2016.

Being so evidently the ‘other’ because of the colour of your skin or outdated gender identification leaves a person increasingly susceptible to the harshest consequences policy influenced by big business in favour of the power of the £pound rather than the asset of humanity.



Persistent and pervasive mainstream advertising has constructed a happiness-void, force-feeds some of the most dangerously addictive objects, foods, substances, trash culture. People become addicted to anything that fills drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex, shopping, destructive relationships, violence. This societal destabilisation enables corporate manufacturers with political clout to continue to grow their wealth, from exploited homelands and bodies of the historically colonised, now economically indentured and (in)visibly enslaved to seduce, sedate and distract us from the main agenda of, yes, profit over people.

Our humanness has been reduced to a commodity, a bargaining chip, and expendable currency, a consumable – the body and life energy, hopes and aspirations become this system’s food and it has taken its toll on our sense of morality, purpose and humanity. To be consumable, we dehumanize and are dehumanized, brutalize and are brutalized, and ultimately, distracting, detracting and denying us our innovative, resilient, balanced human selves. The irony is that we consume to consume ourselves. All oppression is connected.

People are unhappy (to say the least). There is a visceral response to that which cannot be seen but which is all around you, with a grip that seems impossible to avoid. How are we meant to thrive in immersed in the toxic white noise of commercialisation and the claustrophobia of the war on terror.

Existing requires the seriousness of thought, innovation, creativity as the ‘traditional’ systems of establishing security has proved itself to be worn out, to be lopsided, from its colonial root, against the poor and the vulnerable.  To move beyond surviving to thrive, a person must hear their voice. (Even if it shakes…). They must not be afraid to comment when freedom of speech is a biased privilege and silencing is a commonplace micro-aggression. Speak, hear and be inspired to take action in resistance to the systems blatantly disrespects of its own laws.

It is necessary to critique all you know of the world and what you have learned requires reflection to see the damage done. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking therapy. It’s fearless interrogation but compassionate solutionizing to repair the unwellness and imbalances and remedy the problems we face in the streets we walk. Examine our daily interactions where prejudices and tensions due to the strain of pressing economic, cultural and mass distraction mediums spinning us out of our right, level headed and fear free minds.

Sustaining.Dare to be Powerful
Technology and social media, networking and millennial thinking are enabling innovation to command and create new spaces for the quest for The Alternatives. Communities are collaborating to form sustainable social enterprises and alliances in greening, housing and health care movements as well as organizing to support and champion the needs of the most vulnerable such as reclaiming (not occupying) empty properties due to gentrification to provide space and raise awareness around the closing of domestic violence shelters. It is evident that local issues are not a priority and communities are empowering themselves.

We have been told the story that ‘there is no alternative’.  The alternative is telling our stories to ourselves outside of the system, flexing our imagination and exploring using creativity, transformation through the word and film to project a re-imagined future. The alternative is that future.

To survive the system, you must know it well. The Shake team doesn’t shy away from discussions that interrogate it to challenge to provoke poignant and accessible creativity that highlights the potential in all young people.

You must also not be afraid to comment and take action against its flaws. Especially injustices that hurt communities in a seemingly irreparable ways. It’s a space for intentional reflection with the purpose for rehumanizing in a dehumanizing era. We have been told the story that ‘there is no alternative’.  The alternative is the future.

In this Shake course, ‘#Survivingthesystem’ the Shake team pulls together 3 urgent themes in response to the lives of the young people they have worked with over the last 3 years. We aim to look at breaking cycles of violence, addiction and labour though the principles of healing justice, reparations, transformative learning through film, spoken word/poetry, zine-making and community organizing.


To sign-up, email for an application form.

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