Interview with Isy from the rad autobiographical comic zine Morgenmuffel about "contributing to the downfall of the existing order in some way" and creating community. Her comics are also available to view and download at http://www.morgenmuffel.co.uk
Can you introduce yourself?
I’m Isy, I’ve been a Brighton resident for a good many years now. My parents are German and Korean and I grew up all over the place. I’m 34, but don’t act my age.
Can you tell our readers about your comic Morgenmuffel?
Morgenmuffel is an autobiographical comic zine. I’ve always liked drawing and at some point realised how comics were a great medium for telling the stories that I wanted to share. I first drew them for my friends who encouraged me to distribute them more widely. I was familiar with self publishing already through anarchist activities. The name Morgenmuffel was a suggestion from a friend, he thought it was a funny German word that suited me well – it means someone who is crap at getting up in the morning!
I’ve been self publishing it for over 10 years now so I’ve literally documented a third of my life. Its topics are what I do/am into – direct action, travel, grassroots organising, punkrock, ecology, feminism, friendship and enjoying life. This zine is entirely mine, which is very satisfying, although I also solicit contributions from friends, mostly in the form of lists of things they hate! I print about 400-500 copies by myself on duplicating machines at our local resource centre, which is cheap and fun, and distribute them through the wonderful zine network that I have grown to know and love over the years. I send em out all over the world. I also send copies free to prisoners, and review magazines.
What do you do besides your zine?
I do as little paid work as possible, and spend a lot of my time with different grassroots projects, making my zine, working in our local anarchist social centre The Cowley Club, helping out friends, travelling, and baking! I cook with the Anarchist Teapot mobile kitchen and in the social centre cafe, do prisoner support, and do what I can to build community and challenge the status quo.
I’ve also been involved in a few collaborative zines, such as ‘A Zine about Women’s Self Defence’ whose imaginative title gives away the topic, and ‘Last Hours’ which is a punk rock and counter cultural magazine currently focusing on developing its online presence (www.lasthours.org.uk). I’ve also contributed to and written a bunch of other stuff, including ‘The Anarchist Teapot Guide to Feeding the Masses’ and a vegan cookbook called ‘Another Dinner is Possible’.
What do you hope can be accomplished through DIY projects?
The complete destruction of this society that is based on the exploitation of human, nature, and animal, its unhealthy unequal relationships, its profit seeking harmful practices, the commodity form, hierarchical organisation and the State and police and so on.... and the building of real communities based on freedom and autonomy, mutual aid and co-operation, and the liberation of our desires. Failing that, any kind of contribution to the above.
What do you love about zines? Are there any aspects you find challenging or limiting in the zine community?
I love zines for their immediacy, their uncensoredness and the opportunity it gives me to find out things I would never have thought about, give me perspectives I would not normally hear and help me understand what makes people tick. Through zines, I can listen to people’s opinions and be infected by their passions, no matter how imperfect or ‘unimportant’. And through a zine, anyone can pour their hearts out, be creative, share their dreams and their inspirations. Of course any subculture has its limitations, from the dangers of co-option to issues of demographic and how society’s inequalities are replicated to how accessible a scene is/can be/should be. But I’ve always felt that zines have a lot of potential to overcome some of these limitations, being based around a form of expression rather than a uniform community.
Do you consider feminist zines as part of a social movement? Do you think feminist zines can effect meaningful social and political change at large - or do they have significance mainly in individual lives?
Zines have always played a part in my development as a feminist, and I do consider them part of a social movement that seeks to fight patriarchy; it is part of our ongoing discussion about and attempt to understand where we are, what is wrong with the world, and what we must do. I think zines mainly have influence in individual lives, but these individuals make change.
Do you see yourself as part of “DIY” or “Third Wave" movement?
I definitely feel I am part of a feminist movement, if ill defined, and which I guess could be described as DIY or Third Wave but I’m not hundred percent sure there. I am a feminist because of my dissatisfaction with the world that I was born in and how it’s organised, as well as my excitement over sisterhood and solidarity. I prefer to keep my activities autonomous and outside of institutions, and always within a framework of a critique of the totality.
On a practical level, I’m involved with a Feminist Health collective, as well as teaching women’s self defence. Both of these activities are a direct result of my desires to dismantle patriarchy.
What are the most pressing issues for you in daily life?
Trying to figure out how to best fight back. Trying to figure out how to create spaces in which people find new ways of relating to each other and feel encouraged to fight back. Trying to figure out for myself how I want to live. Trying to figure out how this world works and how it can change.
And the ever increasing impact of human civilisation on the natural world from industrial agriculture to climate change, the destruction of wilderness and of habitats, the mass extinction of species and the way we live entirely alienated from the natural world are the ideas that feel the most devastating and the most urgent to me.
What would a woman-friendly society look like in your view? How do you think society might be re-thought and transformed to be a safer, better place for women, grrrls, transgender and queer folks?
Safety, respect, equality, none of these can be guaranteed, however both by challenging the values we were brought up with as well as restructuring our society to a non-hierarchical system in which people don’t have to fuck each other over to prosper, in which individual freedom is valued and personal choices respected, and people aim to co-operate instead of competing with each other we could be living in a better place for all of us.
For the here and now, a constantly evolving, open and inclusive discussion of what problems we each face, and how we can support each other is a good way to address the inequalities we live with. Another good way is for those of us who struggle in our lives to learn to assert and defend ourselves, make ourselves heard and demand respect as well as keep ourselves safe. Policies, although helpful as part of the discussion I mentioned, are only as effective as the people who care that the policies are respected.
What are some of your personal wishes/ideas/plans for the future, if you would like to share them?
Personally, I hope to spend my life continually learning new things, meeting people and making friends and gaining new perspectives, understanding the world better, being able to do the things that I want to do and doing them well, growing closer to nature, maintaining my sense of humour, not giving in to apathy or (too much) cynicism, seeing and experiencing lots of new things, developing skills and sharing them, being a good friend, having a good community around me. I hope my actions reflect my values, and that I can contribute to the downfall of the existing order in some way. I also have no desire to grow up.
Check out Isy and Mike's gorgeous vegan cookbook / guide to reconnecting with your food, Another Dinner is Possible, http://www.eco-action.org/teapot/anotherdinner.htm