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People Who Think They Can Change the World with 'Free Hugs' Are Fatuous Dickheads

Turns out the people of Reclaim Love are incredibly difficult to love.
Simon Childs
London, GB

Hey, have you ever wondered what a more fatuous and less focused version of Occupy would look like, but lacked the requisite brain power to actually imagine it?

Well, wonder no more:

These guys all belong to a group of people who call themselves "Reclaim Love". Every year on the Saturday closest to Valentine’s Day, they meet in London to attempt to reclaim our hearts from the grasping hands of commercialisation. Which would be fine if that’s as far as it went. I hate seeing romance reduced to Ferrero Rochers, cuddly pink bunnies and Waitrose ready meals very Valentine's Day as much as anybody who hasn't been trepanned.


But, as the video above and the blurb on their website shows, Reclaim Love aren't just railing against Valentine's Day, they think they’ve found the one-size-fits-all solution to all the world’s ills. Given they're the kind of people who crippled Occupy by positing a “negativity tax” to solve the financial deficit, I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that probably isn't the case.

I went along to Reclaim Love's tenth anniversary gathering in Piccadilly this weekend to see if I was wrong.

This was the scene that greeted me. The Reclaim Love clique were eyed curiously by the crowds in Lonsdale bodysuits filing in and out of Lillywhites, the multi-level sports store that has been helping people buy leisure wear in the most stressful way possible for decades.

I could understand their suspicion; it seemed like I'd stumbled into a competition to see who could look like they least belonged here. I'd say the students, tourists and circus entertainers were narrowly edged out by the people who'd shown up all the way from the Middle Ages.

Obviously, there was a lot of incense. I always thought joss sticks were something you bought on your first trip to Camden at 14 years old and never again, but to these people burning sickly bits of bark seemed to be a way of life.

Double denim is a bold look at the best of times – one that you have to absolutely nail or you’ll just look like an idiot. Thankfully, with his bandana, homemade flares and decorative jacket penis, this guy freaking out to a samba band had judged it exactly right.


I haven't figured out the answer to this question yet, but it's definitely not people who walk around Central London in the middle of winter without any shoes on.

I bumped into Raga here, who looked like she'd misinterpreted the phrase "agony aunt" and then decided to become the human embodiment of it.

VICE: Hi Raga, what’s the meaning of Reclaim Love?
Raga: By meeting in a loving way and allowing ourselves to communicate with people we might not know, it’s warming up this area [points to heart]. We have a great need for nourishment in this area [points to heart again]. So, without using the word "spiritual" too much, this is a kind of spiritual gathering. But we don’t want priests here, we don’t want churches, this is just simple, pure love.

I see you're showing me your medallion. What’s that?
It’s a Sheela na gig. I use her to help me. In Medieval times she was placed in churches by people who could see that she has great strength and power. She’s telling young women that the cunt is a sacred place. It’s where life begins and it’s where pleasure begins. Our cunts and our cocks – we shouldn’t be afraid of them. Forget all the stuff that the Church is saying.

Alright, I'll try to purge it from my mind. Do you think Reclaim Love is going to change the world?
There are people who are so fixated on control needing to be powerful in a political way or an egotistical way. If we can use our heart energy to melt that patriarchal desire to control we’ll find that underneath every guy who's swaying around trying to be important is a lost child who actually needs to be loved and mothered.


Rebekah Shaman, shaman.

VICE: Are events like this going to change the world?
Rebekah Shaman: Yes, definitely. You have to love yourself first. Once we love ourselves we realise that everything is amazing. Obviously, if there’s more love in the world, there’s more peace in the world.

You think?
Yeah, more harmony, tranquillity. But it comes from inside. If you’re feeling upset then that’s when you’re going to be spewing it out in the external. If you’re feeling love and connect with Mother Earth and are harmonious with everything then you’re going to be offering that into the world, too.

Okay. So could, for instance, the Syrian civil war be solved through more love?
Yeah, it’s about power, you know. The difference between power and force.

I see.
If we all felt connected to Mother Earth and respected Mother Earth and respected everything she gives us and realise that we’re stewards on the planet then we wouldn’t need to war, would we?

So what’s going to happen once we wake up and reclaim the love?
I think people are going to wake up! I really think so. It’ll help people to realise that there is an alternative out there and that’s why there are more Shamans like me coming out and offering different alternatives to look at the world.

I decided to see if I could take any practical advice away from this charade by asking some bromies for dating advice.

Ecuador the Wizard, 28, wizard.


VICE: What’s the meaning of today, Ecuador?
Ecuador the Wizard: The meaning of today is love, man. To remind people to connect with love and to see everything with love and to have beautiful hugs as well. Would you like a hug?

Er… sure. [awkward hug] So, would you say the problem with the world is a lack of love?
The challenge that we face is to tune ourselves into more love. There’s plenty of love available, it’s just a question of tuning in and choosing love over fear.

What do people fear?
There’s loads of stuff to fear wherever we are but I’d rather focus on the things to love.

Okay, so what is there to love?
Love is the miracle of living every day. The miracle of coincidence, of family, friends and… everything. I love my suitcase! I’d love to shake the hand and give a hug to the man who invented the four-wheeled suitcase.

In practical terms, I’ve been single for bloody ages, mate. Can you help a brother out?
In my experience, as soon as I don’t really want a girlfriend one appears. Really convince yourself that you honestly don’t want one and try to not think of sex too much. Every time I check out a girl’s bum I just… I notice it, I judge it, but then I consciously move my thoughts on to something which isn’t quite so, erm… [grimaces]


Lewis, 26, artisan, carpenter, spiritualist, journeyer, traveller.

VICE: Hi Lewis, can you explain what’s going on here?
Lewis: Well to be honest I just got off at Heathrow two hours ago. I’ve been in Mexico for three months. But from what I can see the message is loving. Keep loving, keep loving. Keep it rising, keep it raising.


Were you loving in Mexico?
[Eyes light up] Yeah, I was loving in Mexico.

How do you define love?
Love? Giving. If we all gave to each other instead of trying to take from each other all the time, we’d start to realise what love is.

Cool. I’ve been single for a while now. What should I do to get someone to love me?
Woah, woah, woah, brother, you can’t “get” someone to love you.

Oh. Okay.
But you can remain open to the love that many people give you and when you see it, don’t be scared of it. Give it straight back, you know?

Okay, I will!

Most people I had talked to so far had mentioned Venus, the organiser of the event. She's the one who reads the poem in that video at the top of the page that you probably didn't bother to watch. If you didn't, definitely check out this one and you'll quickly pick up her vibe.

Once the samba band had finished, Venus took to the podium to deliver her sermon. What followed was a speech too long to repeat here in full, but it managed to plumb brave new depths of fatuousness while at the same time being ridiculously clichéd. Here are some key phrases that should give you the gist:

“The heart of the planet is more and more and more open…”

“Try sleeping with one tiny mosquito if you think you’re too small to make a difference as one being…”

“You are doing the greatest act of activism by being loving…”

“I have a dream that one day we will all unite for peace on the same day at the same time and have a wave of love that transforms consciousness – internally. Because how long have we longed to live as one in peace? We have always wanted this…”


The crowd was more impressed than I was.

Then it was time to clear some space and spread out into a circle…

… so that we could all join hands and utter Reclaim Love’s mantra: “May all the beings in all the worlds be happy and at peace.”

I felt like if they'd sincerely meant what they were saying someone would have held the dog's hands, but whatever, I put my doubts aside and joined in.

As we chanted, Reclaim Love’s enforcers walked round the circle pointing at anyone who wasn't doing it with enough gusto. To be fair, this guy was fucking intimidating; if all the bouncers, police and soldiers in the world looked like him I'm pretty sure everyone would be too scared to leave the house, let alone "do" any "war".

And then Venus began running around demanding compliance. When we had chanted her catchphrase what felt like a hundred times, she ran back to the microphone and shouted: “We did it!”

Did we? What did we do? Whatever it was that we'd done, I didn't know what it was.

People shuffled about as the stereo was cranked up. Communists have Marx’s Das Kapital. Christians have The Bible, by Jesus. These guys had “Where Is The Love?” by the Black Eyed Peas.

Where indeed? I didn’t find it here. I’m all for reclaiming love from Ann Summers, Clinton Cards or anyone else who wants to cash in on it, but I’m not convinced that this kind of insincere hippy love-in is the answer. It's the kind of love you get from pilled up kids at Reading who are desperate to give you a free hug when you're just trying to go for a piss. I shuffled off home, wondering if I'd ever find love.


Later that night, I watched Take Me Out. The circle of people looking for love, the catchphrases, the thirst for public humiliation – the similarities were uncanny. The only difference was that, while the contestants on my TV seemed like they stood some (very, very small) chance of finding mutual adoration, all the Reclaim Love people seemed to be doing was a complex and self-righteous form of wanking.

Follow Simon on Twitter: @simonchilds13

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