X is for X-rated

Capitalism has always been a process of endless division.

We are separated from our own power, we are separated from each other, and we are separated from the world around us.

Those divisions have only been intensified by COVID. In many ways there’s nothing new about ‘social distancing’.

Whenever we try to overcome those divisions, we find the full force of the state lined up against us.

Those with money and power act quickly to split us into “good” protesters and “bad” protesters. Legal and illegal. The (blue) ticks and the wrong’uns.

We are expected to define ourselves as different from the Other. “We” are OK, but “they” are outsiders. “They” are extremists. “They” have gone too far.

The message couldn’t be clearer. “Stay in your lane!”

We are constantly urged to stick to our identities – whether they are ones we have chosen or ones that have been forced upon us.

But when we stay in our lane, we behave in ways that are predictable. We behave in ways that make us more controllable. We stay trapped within our limits as individuals… all travelling in parallel along pre-defined paths.

Social movements are X-rated precisely because they represent the unknown. The unquantifiable. The unpredictable.

Social movements are X-rated because they are about more than the sum of their parts. They are moments where individualism loses its grip and the power of collective action starts to take hold.

Social movements are X-rated because they act as multipliers. Against capital’s divisions, they raise the weapon of solidarity.

We don’t have money, guns or the weight of the law on our side. So our power is built on unbridled creativity, the sheer weight of numbers, and collective joy.

For our rulers, X is the unforeseen, the intangible, the extra. X is the unknown variable that terrifies them because there is no space for it in their plans.

But for us, X is the magic that happens when people gang up and become a new collectivity. X is the mark of refusal – and also the beginning of a new world.


X means many things. It’s a mark of refusal but it’s often the way that we vote, and the standard signature for those who can not write their own name. Malcolm X considered “Little” a slave name and chose the “X” to signify his lost tribal name, as well as the “X” that many slaves received as a brand on their upper arm.  It’s worth noting that for some people, “stay in your lane” has an entirely different (and more positive) meaning. It’s used when dickheads start mansplaining or whitesplaining etc. – basically, STFU and listen. In case it’s not obvious, we’re definitely NOT using it in that sense here.