Whenever I move into a new flat, I undertake a series of implausible vows. These typically include regular hoovering, not smoking indoors, hanging up bath mats… an outpouring of domestic pie in the sky that I have next to no chance of following through on.
This year one such vow, undertaken along with my housemates, was that we weren’t going to turn the heating on. “No, no,” we all agreed, “let’s save money- we’ll just put extra clothes on…”
We lasted until November, where one bitterly cold evening, wearing every item of clothing we owned, huddled around a smoking ashtray, arguing over whether PlayStation controllers can be adjusted for frost bite, we decided to turn the damn heating on.
There comes a point each Winter when I’d happily slip a £50 note in every EDF board member’s G-string with my teeth, simply not to spend my evenings shivering like a whippet that’s swallowed a vibrator. I imagine that by 2015 this won’t be too far from reality.
So the next step was surely to limit the damage, by putting the over-indulgent luxury of not-freezing-to-death on a timer. A couple of hours in the evening to warm the cockles, and an hour in the morning to ease the agony of leaving bed.
At which point we were greeted with this.
Now as a house, our combined IQs, modest though they may be, should cover the mastery of basic domestic appliances. One of us is a structural engineer for God’s sake. Unfortunately this appears to be far from the case.
Here’s a diagram I drew, detailing my insights thus far:
Now the remaining enigma is the clock in the middle. The problem isn’t just that it does not specify am or pm- oh no. It seems to run on a time frame entirely detached from the solar cycles of this planet. No matter what time we set, it remains chaotically unpredictable.
In the end we settled on a system of trial and error- we would adjust it each day, and note the time the heating actually came on, thereby mapping this cryptic insanity into something workable.
Sadly this was not a fruitful endeavor. Occasionally the heating did come on at the correct time, which was wonderful, but rare. Furthermore, entering the living room at midday to find that the sofa had spent the morning slowly melting was far from ideal. The fucker simply had a mind of it’s own.
I took to sitting slumped on the stairs, gazing in anguish at the little dial, trying desperately to unlock it’s mysteries, utterly defeated…. I began to mutter incoherently to myself. I pleaded desperately with it to no avail. I dismantled every clock in the house for no reason. I don’t even remember doing it…
When I slept, the clock haunted my dreams. There I was- trapped in a clock, swarmed upon by a plague of tiny numbers, stinging my eyes and ears, then drowning in a sea of clocks, tied to a huge number 6, beaten savagely by the big hand, as the little hand mercilessly ravaged my wife. I don’t even have a wife! I prayed, I fasted, I offered up sacrifices, I ignored the neighbor’s requests to return their cat. They probably wouldn’t want it back.
Finally, a joyous day. The heating packed it in. I have never felt such palpable freedom. I was cold, yes- but free, and for a simple man like myself, that is how it should be. Heating is a luxury item- like a pint at the pub, or vegetables, or employment.
Any more energy wasted on that timer and I would have warmly welcomed death’s icy embrace. I never want to get it fixed.
I love football. Anyone that knows me will verify this statement, probably with a degree of weariness. It is a sad fact that my mood the majority of weekends is largely determined by my team’s successes or failures.
That said- there are limits to how much one should love… well anything. I recently came into contact with a group of panda fans, who’s love of the prudish, south east asian mammals had strayed far, far into the realm of the unhealthy, if not completely deranged.
To clarify, I was not experimenting with being a furry. Yet.
Which brings me nicely to Sunday evening…. I was at home, exhausted after the weekend gone, zoning in and out of reality. My housemate Simon was the only other human being present, but he had become distracted by a small, blue booklet. I had noticed a Chelsea badge on the front, and assumed it was some kind of fan literature- not unusual given Si is an avid fan of casual racism.*
(*He’s not- that’s a Chelsea joke. Please don’t write to us Peter Herbert.)
I was not inclined at that moment to dig deeper into it’s contents, given I was slipping gently into a comma already, so decided to go on staring vacantly into oblivion. It was at this point however that Simon started laughing.
As it turned out what he was reading was a Chelsea merchandise catalogue.
Like I say, there are levels to how much a person should love anything. Now for most fans, merchandise generally extends to a shirt and a scarf, maybe a poster. Some of the items listed in that catalogue were more akin to mental illness then committed support. Their purchase can only indicate an individual whose love of Chelsea football club has reached manically dangerous levels, and should probably be closely monitored by the state.
Here’s my top 5:
(1) The Chelsea Bedroom- How much do you love Chelsea? This much?
What kind of a person would inhabit this room? I imagine a slightly overweight, middle aged man in a full Chelsea kit, bouncing frantically up and down on the bed shouting, “CHELSEA!!! YES CHELSEA!!! I LOVE CHELSEA!! FUCKING CHELSEA!!! YESS!!! CHELSEA!!!!” Before masturbating himself unconscious to pictures of Frank Lampard.
It kind of reminds me of those films where the main character stumbles into the den of the killer/ stalker, and there are pictures of their victims plastered all over the walls, with deranged annotations in red marker pen.
One of Hollywood’s most popular motifs for dangerous obsession is finally realised. God help us all.
2) Chocolate players.
What kind of confectionery could you enjoy in such a room? Why, chocolate Chelsea players or course! After all, who doesn’t want to consume chocolate effigies of their heroes?
I imagine the maniac inhabiting the Chelsea bedroom, sits there melting them over a small candle, muttering about returned letters and restraining orders….
3) Chelsea Dressing Gown- Now this one is not quite as insane. The guy in the catalogue however, demands inclusion.
What is that face? He’s a professional model for God’s sake. At what point did someone stop the shoot and say, “Yes- Perfect! That’s the look.” That’s the best shot they got? Really?! Less blue steel and more, demented, passive aggressive sexual predator.
They also do a version for her, along with a whole women’s section.
In fact, why stop there…
4) Chelsea Christmas. ”Have yourself, a Chelsea, Chelsea Christmas.”
Yes, this Christmas why not inflict your mental malady on your loved ones? Just imagine your wife, sobbing gently as she tears Chelsea wrapping paper off another signed picture of John Terry, your eyes burning through her.
“We all love Chelsea in this family.”
“Tell me how much you love Chelsea.”
“Tell me how much!”
But number at number one we have an item to spectacularly insane it should come with a military tracking device. Yes, it’s-
5) Chelsea antlers.
There are no words. A Chelsea moose is just beyond the pail.
So how to round off this parade of insanity? Maybe with a sobering thought. Consider that football is just a game, but one that can bring grown men to tears- even fortresses of pragmatism like myself. It holds an amazing cultural gravitas, comparable to any major world event. In light of that, who am I to rob Simon of his antlers?
If nothing else, his Christmas present has bought itself.
Quite unlike riding a bike, when you get out of the habit of blogging regularly it can be quite hard to start up again. It’s been a couple of months, and rather than whimsically spraying my ideas hose onto a page in my usual passive/ aggressive idiom, I feel more like I’m trying to unblock a dank, creativity toilet.
I could blame a number of factors for my lack of activity- soul destroying toil at the legion of doom, seemingly endless attempts to escape their underground lair, or spending several weekends dragging ridiculously impractical corner sofas around West London- but in truth I could have written about all those things. It might have even been quite funny- we will never know….
*I should stress that I didn’t actually work for the Legion of Doom, I’m being figurative. Also a little conceited, but whatever, I’m fine with that.
Well the blog hiatus is over- suffice to say that escape plan #489 was a resounding success, and I’m having an absolute Tim Robbens.
Leaving any job can be a messy business, and whether the exit is of the kicking and screaming or merrily skipping variety, it rarely reflects well on the leaver to speak negatively of their former employer, regardless of any encouragement to do so from former colleagues, (you know who you are….)
Besides which, in this instance I can just leave such criticism to the mainstream media, Government, and eventually a few important men in silly wigs banging a hammer. (By which I mean Judges rather than transvestite builders, although the latter would be far more entertaining.)
My plan is to steer clear of that kind of nonsense altogether. I may not succeed entirely but it is not my chief aim, and as such I am on ethically solid ground- Google the doctrine of double effect if you don’t believe me! (Don’t, it’s very dull.)
The truth is I fell into a trap. The modern world is full of them, large and small, and it’s inevitable that you will fall prey to one eventually. Not that I speak as one entirely liberated- I am as far from being some kind of cosmopolitan Buddha as I am from being a tap dancing Jesus.
I smoke for a start- irredeemably idiotic. I spend a foolhardy amount of money in pubs, not to mention corner sofas. I buy clothes based on label, and branded products that taste no different to their non-glossy counterparts. I insist on playing Fifa over and over again, despite the never ending torment it brings due to the fact that I am clearly terrible at it… the list is long and depressing.
Why do we do these things? Much of the time we know better, and yet on we trot willingly into the snare.
I spent a lot of time after Uni feeling rather lost- an existential quandary I came to know as a quarter life crisis. It’s a rather painful process, desperately scratching at the surface of adult life, trying to glean some insight into what it was that makes people happy with their lot, and others so bloody miserable. I met many people of whom this could be said in many walks of life- vastly different lifestyles and underlying principles, yet the same sense of underlying satisfaction or there lack of. I’d call it S-factor, if I was really lame.
I suppose the common ground involves distilling just who you are and you want to be, from everything that you definitely aren’t and don’t, and as such formulating some idea of what you want out of life- a process that can take years or even decades.
Really the only conclusion I can come to at the end of three years worth of musing is that we must ensure we are striving towards this, our best selves, rather than just coasting neutrally along. That in itself is an intangible concept at the best of times, and yet the truth is we all know when our lives have gone stagnant.
Thus we have come to the greatest trap of them all- the comfort trap, and as the name suggests, it is a seductive one. Maybe you fall into a job that you don’t really want to do, but you compromise on yourself- the money’s good, the work’s tolerable, and nothing else seems to be forthcoming. Such compromise allows you to live in a nice flat, drive a nice car, possess nice, shiny things- essentially life is comfortable. Comfortable, and unsatisfying- punctuated by bouts of drunken escapism in an otherwise inescapable ocean of ennui.
I speak with no small degree of conviction when I say that life in your twenties shouldn’t be fucking comfortable! That’s not necessarily a edict concerning finances- it’s more a state of mind. What do we learn in such times? Nothing. How do you develop as human being? You don’t. That is truly wasting your time in a way that playing video games will never come close to.
Comfort traps are all the things that prevent us from being the best we can be, by making it easy to be less. We should regard all such pitfalls with scorn and venomous resistance.
I saw a really stupid poster the other day in Shoreditch, (funnily enough,) featuring the tagline, “if you don’t like your job, quit.”
Typical hipster arse gravy. You need to work to live you dreadful simpleton- it’s never as simple as just quitting. Also take off that monocle, you look ridiculous.
That said, their idea strives for something akin to what I’m saying. There comes a time when you’re simply toiling to preserve a lifestyle, rather than actually working towards something, professional or otherwise. That is stagnation in it’s most potent form. An artist that works in a coffee shop and produces no art, is just a waiter.
Breaking free is never easy, yet there is no greater feeling than taking control of your own destiny. In fact there is only one force that can drive any such escape, and that is sheer passion. A genuine passion for your life and the world around you- we must let it frame our lives, rather than squash awkwardly into a preset mould- follow what we love, not merely acknowledge it. Without that passion people sink into mediocrity- end up in jobs they despise, and lives that bore them senseless. Passion is all that can save us from our certain fate, and without it you deserve to be fucking miserable.
Do a Marek and fuck off to Mexico if that’s what it takes. Or just knit a scarf- whatever you need to do.
I feel as far from the promised land as ever, (or the land of awesomeness, as Marek would put it it,) but this last week with all it’s twist and turns has formed a landmark in realisation. There is a path, and we must cut it through blood, sweat and tears. You are always free unless you let them own you.
Unusually positive post that, sorry about that. Next week I’ll be filled with disillusionment and bile again, I promise.
“I must tell you about my dream…” One of the most dreaded phrases in the English language. What follows is rarely Dr King- esque, but generally some mundanely obscure nonsense, best confined to sleepy time.
On that note I must tell you about this dream I had the other day. Now most men dream about sex, and some men dream of a better world, but how many dream about both? Both, in symbiotic harmony. Not just in the way that any sex dream suggests a better world, but an actual vision for humanity, an aspirational fantasy, a meaningful thrust towards utopia.
I have traced the waking root of the dream to an post-work conversation in the pub. We somehow got onto how I took a Philosophy of Sex module in Uni.
“What on earth is there to philosophise over sex?” Asked a confounded female colleague.
My long suffering associate, Dave had also taken the module and decided to interject, “Well you say that, but sex is actually quite difficult to define,” he put forward, actually sounding quite erudite, but it was at this moment Dave realised the course on which he had set the conversation- it was one that would inevitably lead to him talking about sex. Now Dave is fairly repressed in many ways, most ways in fact. Sexually he’s sort of neo-Victorian in outlook, prone to hot flushes and nonsensical babbling when confronted with the subject. His eyes widened briefly with sudden horror. He looked at the ground and shuffled a little, strangely swinging his left arm, the assertive confidence with which he’d begun, rapidly disintegrating.
“Well….” he started, “It’s not just a case of a man… sticking…. stuff… in a woman.” Surrounding conversations seemed to immediately cease. The smoking area grew eerily quiet. Collective focus seems to shift dramatically to Dave. He panicked and immediately went on the defensive in the most bizarre way imaginable. “I mean… do lesbians have sex?” he inquired. My download history would suggest so.
Of course I enjoyed this super human display of awkwardness, but Dave actually epitomizes something very universal about attitudes to sex, in that we all seem to be a little ashamed of it.
Very few people are comfortable talking about it, and generally if you end up doing so, it’s humorous by it very mention. We frequently deny it, spend out lives hiding it, only share our experiences of it with out closest confidents. We protect children from being aware of it in the same way we do violence and crime, and we construct our own ethical framework around it, personal and institutional. It forms one of our chief motivations in life, and is in all probability the best thing about being alive- yet in spite of all this we are absurdly embarrassed about the whole affair.
Ladies and Gentleman, my dream was quite simply that this was not the case. One fine day, everyone just decided collectively that we were being silly, and moving forward we should all act more in accordance with the dictates of reason.
Men walked up to women and said, “Good afternoon attractive woman. I have been watching you for some time, and have decided to cordially invite you to come and have some sex with me, pending your express agreement of course.”
She would pause thoughtfully and ask, “Well, you are also a nice looking chap, and it doesn’t creep me out at all that you’ve been watching me, given it is a wholly natural compulsion for you to have. Tell me, are you an assertive member of your peer group? Do you command the respect of those around you?”
“Why I believe so yes.” he would casually reply.
“Well in that case yes,” she would say, “lets go have sex. I’m Denise.”
It just works so much better. With the surrounding rigmarole dispensed of, their lives were immediately improved. Carnally streamlined, if you will.
Rejection in turn became much more bearable, i.e. politely declined sexual advances were taken as just that, rather than some damning character aspersion, triggering the unwarranted self esteem crisis that we all know and hate.
“Excuse me, would you like to have sex?” This man would ask. (He’s not as articulate as the last chap.)
“Oh, no thank you, but I appreciate the offer.” The lady in question would politely reply.
“No worries,” the man would smile back, “I’ll have a pop elsewhere.”
“I hear that girl’s a cracking shag.” She would suggest helpfully, pointing at a girl across the bar.”
“Ah great, thanks for the tip.”
So much better for everyone involved. Not that this is to do with promiscuity per say. It is about people being comfortable with their sexuality. Not ashamed of it, or having to play ridiculous games around it. Treating it as an acceptable human need and pursuable activity for either gender, like eating or reading or playing Jenga. Whether that means you fuck no one or everyone is incidental- it is the mindset that is key- one that is at ease with itself and others.
Men and woman are no longer divided by the baseless inequalities of perception surrounding sex. Free from all the awkwardness, the ridiculous codes of etiquette, and the searing glare social judgement, quality of life is soaring. Society flourishes, although in all fairness productivity probably suffers. Humanity is truly evolving….
You get the idea- somewhere between Plato’s Republic and the last days of Rome. So I woke up and got to thinking, would this really be better? If we treated sex in an entirely casual/ functional way, would that improve human experience?
As great as it sounds initially- what consequences would this shift bear for love, as we understand it? The emotional significance that sex is endowed with under our current, albeit insane, mindset is surely a vital and enriching part of who we are, wherein joy and misery are flip sides of the same coin. Would something important be lost in a more functional approach? Are we throwing the heart and soul of sex out with the fatuous bathwater?
I didn’t dream that part, but in my subsequent conscious reflection I decided that is a secondary question, the answer to which depends very much on Dave’s point in the pub- how does one define sex? Is it simply a functional thing, or is there some greater significance?
Maybe this is just the way I have been conditioned, but when I envisage true, deep set happiness, especially in relation to other human beings, there is a fundamental element of that greater significance. Then again I am part of a sullied generation- who’s to say I wouldn’t be equally contented as a swinger?
I am not going to attempt to solve the puzzle of human sexuality in a blog post, at least not this week, but that said, it seems to me in conclusion that if the world I dreamt of was possible, or compatible with human nature as it is, it would have just happened.
The other day I was sitting in a pub with my friend Dan, when he said to me, “You know your girlfriend asked me to give you some style pointers.”
I looked up, a little taken aback, although not exactly shocked. “Really?” I chuckled.
“Yes,” he replied with a wry smile. “She said to me, ‘We have to do something about Tim’s fashion sense.”
I think he tried to Mimic her accent, but Dan has only one available alternative to his usual Northern lyric, and that’s of a gentrified, English toff. This was largely refined doing scathing impressions of Tories, but wasn’t really at home in this context given she’s South African. I smiled back at him knowingly. “And I agreed,” he added, with just a hint of cattiness.
“You prick,” I laughed, but I knew he was right.
Dan and I could hardly strike a more visually contrasting twosome on your average night out. I am large and usually scruffy looking. Dan is slight in build, and almost always immaculately presented. Dan’s jeans barely facilitate basic circulation, mine could comfortably accommodate another pair of legs. Dan’s hair could have it’s own NME feature. My hair could have it’s own Gardener’s World feature, and so on.
“She said a similar thing to me the other day.” I confessed. “Bitch.”
“No really though mate,” Dan continued sardonically, “I’d love to take you shopping.”
Now under normal circumstances this would be a strange offer from one straight man to another, but not so much with Dan. No, Dan is a man who treads the boundaries of social sexuality like a tightrope walker, seemingly satirising both sides of the line. He religiously attends Grimsby Town games, wearing a cravat. He recently bought a two piece, versache, zebra print suit, but his next large purchase is said to be a roll cage for his hyundai. He hangs vintage signed copies of Wham Records above his bed, yet still proclaims to prefer luring women into the covers beneath.
“Okay fine,” I conceded, after shooting him back a look reflecting my awareness of the above, “It couldn’t hurt.”
Dan reveled in my clear unease at the idea. “You big Queg.” he smirked. Apparently in the North this means homosexual.
At this point my long time associate Marek arrived back from the bar with an assortment of drinks in contrastingly curved glasses, which did not seem to facilitate easy transit.
“Alright then lads!” he effused, plonking them down in the table, “what are we talking about?” He sat and looked around keenly, barely breaking eye contact for a second, as is his way.
“Just how Tim’s girlfriend wants me to dress him.” Replied Dan with a malevolent grin.
“Do you want to go shopping or not?” I retorted.
“Oh, you’re taking him shopping!” enthused Marek. “That’s good call,” he and Dan nodded in agreement. “I mean let’s be honest he’s a mess,” added Marek for good measure.
“Dresses like a fifteen year old.” said Dan.
“Yes, like a pre-adult.” Nodded Marek in agreement.
“Oh for fuck’s sake don’t you start,” I interrupted, becoming a little animated.
Whilst Dan may have the metrosexual edge on Marek, the latter’s objective critique of my general appearance is a daily feature of my life. Some days he’ll tell me to lose some weight. Some days he’ll tell me my lats look popping. He once told me that my tie was out of vogue. Every layer of physical appearance possessed by those around him is constantly subject to his artisan scrutiny.
I have come to realise that this is in fact an extension of his own vanity, which has in recent years risen to frankly psychotic levels. He openly admits that Patrick Bateman is his role model in many ways, despite my increasingly incredulous assertions that American Psycho is not meant to be aspirational fiction.
“Come on though man,” Marek continued, “You’re not in the alps anymore.”
“Oh God, don’t I know it.” I replied ruefully.
“You can’t live on a gap year forever Tim.” helpfully chimed in Dan.
“That is true.” Nodded Marek.
“I know that! For fuck’s sake I tried my best!” I pleaded. The two glanced at each other and then back to me with an unwelcome hint of condescension. “Look, I just never seem to have money to spend on clothes.” I stated defensively, crossing my arms
“That ridiculous,” decreed Marek. “An utterly preposterous statement- It’s an investment.”
“Yes Marek,” I replied, “But investment requires capital, you goon.”
“Well you always seem to find enough to spend on cider don’t you?” Marek put sharply back to me, gesturing to the drink in front of me.
“Well yes,” I conceded.
“And you can afford to go on nice snowboarding holidays, “ he went on.
“On a budget!” I protested.
“But that’s just it isn’t it?” said Marek, “Your budget is all out of skew.”
“Whose isn’t?” offered Dan, but Marek was becoming zealous.
“You’re economy needs to be redirected towards the most urgent needs of your people.”
I should mention that in all of Marek’s allegories he is portrayed as a nation state, and thus so am I by extension. He does not save money, he implements unpopular, austerity measures. He does not go to the gym, he launches expansion initiatives. When he wants to have sex, he openly declares that he has gone to war, the only discernible enemy being not having sex.
“I suppose I just do what’s important to me.” I shrugged, “clothes never really have been beyond necessity.”
“Well that’s a problem then, isn’t it,” stated Dan.
“Is it?” I inquired skeptically.
I have always held firm resistance to any preoccupation with fashion beyond the passing. To me the whole rigmarole is solely a means to and ends. You wear nice clothes to impress a girl, or your relatives, or an interviewer and such, but not for any inherent joy. To be honest the only reason I wear clothes at all is so people don’t shout at me in the street.
In truth, I slightly look down on anyone who cares that much about it, I suppose because to me it smacks of a facile mind, latent insecurity, or an impoverished or superficial world view. In terms of what we should value in people and the world at large, who cares about something so trivial? I mean I like football, but deep down I know it means only as much as I want it to. Who could possibly invest themselves, and their income to any meaningful degree, in something so banal?
So it was with a firm degree of conviction that I defended my inferior wardrobe against the barbs of this metrosexual onslaught.
“How is it a problem?” I shot back.
“Because we live in the real world, buddy,” replied Marek sincerely. “I know I always call you up on stuff, like your shirts or whatever, but that’s only because I’m trying to mould you into something more awesome.” Marek loves that word.
“People judge you on what you wear, that’s just the way it is. You can’t escape it.” Said Dan.
“Exactly,” replied Marek. “If you want to be a mega important badass, you’ve got to look like a mega important badass.”
“Image is everything.” Added Dan with a nod and an ironic grin.
There was not a hint of irony in Marek’s voice. “Yes. Successful people look successful, Tim. You want to be a mega important badass right?”’
“Yes Marek,” I replied, “as we have discussed many times, we are going to be super, mega important badasses.” Dan looked confused by my nonchalance at such a statement. Tragically I must reflect now as I did then, this is simply how we engage with each other.
Marek smiled. “Precisely. This is 21st century, cosmopolitan living. You think fashion is a corporate thing? Because you hate all that shit right? Lefty fucknut. You go to all the artiest places round London, like Shoreditch, Soho, or Camden, or whatever- there’s more emphasis on fashion than any city office.” He paused and shrugged, “You’re in the city.”
“It’s a thoroughly anonymous place,” said Dan sadly.
“Precisely,” replied Marek, “And as such, you are what you look like.”
In that moment, a very small part of me fell away- something like a remaining fragment of innocence, as I realised he was right.
“In the land of awesomeness, there in no room for compromise.” He proclaimed, glaring intently and slamming his fist down on the table.
“What’s the land of awesomeness?” asked a slightly bewildered Dan.
I sighed. “The land of awesomeness is Marek’s promised land.” I wearily explained.
Marek ginned widely. “It’s where you get to by being awesome.” he added.
“So…” inquired Dan, “are we… in the land of awesomeness?”
“Oh no,” Marek hastened to reply, “not yet. One gets to the lad of awesomeness by becoming gradually more awesome over time.” Like look at me, I’m doing a degree, whilst building a career, I’m learning Spanish, I’m moving to Mexico. I’m going to the gym loads to get fucking massive. It’s a process, with awesomeness as the end goal.”
Dan paused, as if to consider Marek’s enigmatic narcissism for a second, charismatic as it may be. I watched to gauge his response through the cracks in my fingers.
“I see.” he eventually replied, and conversation moved along as normally as any discourse can amongst such company.
So why have I chosen to recount this conversation. Well in truth, I really meant that part about the fragment of innocence. That conversation, or the few that the above was based on, taught me something, or rather clarified some truth about the world in my mind. That to an extent, we must assimilate ourselves.
Sit down, be bored, make enough money to maintain a lifestyle, take lots of responsibility and be a fucking adult.
A certain degree of assimilation is necessary, not only in appearance, but in preoccupation. So poor little scruff-bag me, despite all my vacuous musings, as idealistically credible as I still believe them to be, has just got to suck it up and dress like who I want to be, not just who I am- as do all we who share London’s streets. In the city appearance is everything, success is largely catalyzed by the superficial, and that’s just how it is. As the popular acronym goes FML. And my arsehole friends.
Every passing generation shapes its own historical significance- wars, cultural revolutions, technologies…. I have come to believe that my generation has heralded the dawn of Infomania. The manic addiction to information.
It’s not our fault, it’s a byproduct of the age in which we live, and nor is it necessarily framed with negativity. Let me tell you a story about the twined fortunes of civilisation and available information.
Are you sitting comfortably?
When humanity first walked the earth, there was very little information readily available to your average member of the genome. Information was just whatever happened to hit your basic sensory input. It got dark and light at regular intervals, you ate certain things and you died, it was sensible to run away from saber-tooth tigers, etc.
Sex must have been awful in those days, but like troopers they kept doing it, and a mind evolved superior to anything that had gone before in terms of reasoning, but no matter how brilliant, that potential will always be limited by the information available to it.
So move forward a few thousand years and the standard of living has risen. There’s houses and communities, basic tools and craftsmanship. Still though, lifestyle is largely dictated by survival. Hunt stuff to live. Procreate to continue. Try not to die from a multitude of incurable diseases. There is little time for leisure, both in terms of life expectancy and hours in the day. Information is at a premium.
Yet still, as languages evolve and communities expand, the standard of living keeps rising. The wisdom of parents is passed on to children, and attainable levels of knowledge expand with each generation.
Then comes a revelation, the written word. Now we can record information in a formalised way and humanity is newly empowered. Learning can supersede word of mouth. Technologies can be developed across continents. This information influx revolutionizes society- factors like transport and industry develop ever more rapidly.
Communities evolve into huge societies, with complex political, cultural and economic structures. The amount of useful information in the world for any given human being, now far exceeds that which would have been useful to their ancestors. Minds grow more sophisticated as they pile up the accumulated information of global generations.
Life is no longer solely dictated by the tenants of survival, which now requires little effort. An industry evolves to fills people’s ever expanding stretches of free time. They start to create more art, entertainment, literature, and these become profitable pursuits- a whole different kind of information.
Of course, the written word’s mobility still gives it a huge advantage in terms of audience, a factor that would dramatically dictate the course of events to come.
Technology is accelerating at an unfathomable rate, and thus information is ever more readily available, each driving the ascent of the other. With print presses, radios, telephones, and TVs, the size of audience for arts and entertainment soar to unprecedented levels. The profitability of information has never been higher.
So what we can surmise so far is this- the human mind demonstrably grows more sophisticated with more information available to it. In this way the availability of information fuels humanity’s progress. The more information that becomes available, the more is generated, thus that progress is bound to constantly accelerate with every passing generation. No longer is a man born into the same world he leaves. Humanity is an unstoppable tornado, fueled by amassing information.
Now finally, the greatest collection of human knowledge ever conceived of is realised- The internet. As Jesus is the son of God, the internet is the divine offspring of information, except the latter actually happened. Google estimates it at over 5 million gigabytes of data. More than you could possibly comprehend even in sheer quantity, instantly available.
Here’s some fun internet facts:
- Facebook has over 6 million hits a minute.
- Over 90 trillion emails were sent last year. 81% of them were spam.
- 80% of images on the internet are of naked women.
- There is more pornography on the internet than any one human being could watch in a lifetime.
- If every amazing fact about the internet was displayed in a list, it would make for a really boring blog post.
But even beyond it’s ultimate manifestation, available information is picking up speed. The next step, as with most technology, was mobility. You can’t carry a computer around after all.
Oh no, now you can. Not only is information endless, it is now constant and effortlessly portable.
I still find myself gazing in awesome wonder at my little, black, shiny thing every now and again. It’s a phone, a map, a game, a book, a computer, a camera…. If you showed that to someone that 100 or 50, or maybe even 20 years ago, they would have shat their pants. Any glimpse of what we might be carrying around in ten years time would probably illicit a similar reaction.
Now it’s just life and most of my generation are wrecks without it. We’re the first batch of humanity to ever really be weaned on this stuff- we barely know anything else. Infomania is in full effect.
It’s not so much a matter of a decreased attention span- bare in mind I once watched an entire season of Arrested Development in one sitting. It’s just that without that constant stimulation, we suffer.
This recent offering from the gloriously offbeat Cyanide and Happiness rang very true:
Scarily apt. We’re monsters, endless tapping away at our laptops and iPhones in our thirst for constant stimulation. Desperate information sluts.
So where does humanity go from here? As information continues to grow, as it inevitably must, to what levels will it propel civilisation?
Well in all probability, we’ll blow ourselves up in the not too distant future, effectively ending that debate. Now that we’ve split the atom, it’s very unlikely it won’t destroy us, all things considered.
But on the off chance we don’t blow ourselves up, which would be wonderful, the next logical step is surely to cut out the device in it’s entirety, and equip our brains to somehow do this all for us.
Imagine being able to access the internet from your mind alone. Googling answers to questions, IM-ing each other across a room, listening to an ipod that plays music in your brain.
In the advances to come, will we end world hunger? Eliminate disease? Perhaps a kind of information superman might develop, capable of cognitive levels beyond our own feeble comprehension. The potential of such a being could redefine humanity as we know it. Sound mental? The truth is whatever does come to pass will probably be equally mind blowing.
With medical technology developing like it is, living another fifty years may well buy you another fifty. Give us another thousand years, there’s no telling what the human race could have become. Infomania- it’s propelling us into a future we can’t imagine fast enough.
Let just try and get there for fuck’s sake.
Last week MP Peter Bone, called the governments plans to legalise gay marriage bonkers. I was immediately put in mind of those famous words penned by Martin Luther,
“Some people think I’m bonkers, but I just think I’m free.”
So in the spirt of such gay abandon, I decided that instead of churning out another article, I’d write a poem.
An Ode to Gay Marriage
Our government leans to the right,
which usually makes folks quite up tight.
Traditional, adverse to change,
and anything that they deem strange.
So I was quite surprised to hear,
watching the news, sipping a beer,
they planned to legalise gay marriage,
complete with big gay horse and carriage.
Now I have no desire to wed-
declare myself sexually dead,
stare grim at one face every morning,
until my final day is dawning,
But I do know that some folks do,
like to be stuck with legal glue.
Some to appease almighty God,
Some just becuase they’re feeling odd,
The whole affair eludes me quite,
although I try with all my might,
to comprehend with all my brain-
but still I think you’re all insane.
And in a country such as ours,
where equal rights have found such powers,
where we do not discriminate,
or persecute, (at least by state,)
Those of a different pigmentation,
faith or creed or dedication,
or those of such an orientation,
to make gay sex their occupation,
Okay, well not their occupation,
but neither just a brief vacation.
An open life of being gay,
culturally, that’s now okay.
So why not let these nice folk wed?
Muff dive upon marital bed.
Why must accepted nuptials,
exclude men primed like rodeo bulls?
Now you may find that thought appealing,
but its left some in Britain reeling,
A man and man in real wedlock?
A holy union of cock?
Marriage by nature can’t be gay,
It’s never, ever been that way,
A marriage is for man and wife,
A hetro bond they share for life,
So what has been must stay, they say,
then everything will be okay.
It’s fair to say I’m not swayed greatly,
Girls couldn’t vote until quite lately,
Socialists banned from the arts,
Gary Glitter topped the charts,
The past seldom bears indication,
In fighting of discrimination.
No in the end true opposition,
Comes from the churches staunch position,
Their voice is loud and full of pride,
cause they’ve got Jesus on their side.
And Jesus had a lot to say,
When it comes to being gay,
No, search the gospels and you’ll learn,
he mentions many things in turn,
but you’ll be wholly out of luck,
on guidance on what sex to fuck.
Now many Christians reading this,
will cry, “Well no there’s other bits!
Like this in Deuteronomy,
That I’ve been taught since I was three,
Where God gives a resounding no,
to being a certified homo,
and that is quite enough for me,
to play down social liberty.”
These people love to talk and talk,
while munching on a joint of pork,
Forbidden twice in the same book-
That little part they overlook.
And if your ox falls in a ditch,
Stone your wife, cause she’s a witch…
No, Christians have to pick and choose,
To form vaguely coherent views,
But no, in truth I’d really hate,
a theological debate,
for this is first a civil thing,
not part of some religious ring.
Marriage seems to me in essence,
Transcends all such religious blessings,
Or atheists would not get wed.
They do, so put your shit to bed.
This whole debate is quite absurd-
you actually claim to own a word?
Assert eternal definition,
despite strong social opposition?
That’s where this latent stigma lurks,
but that’s not how semantics works.
Believe in what you like- that’s fine,
but don’t assume your will divine.
You just won’t always get your way,
The past is not the present day,
That’s not religious persecution,
That’s plurality of institution.
You see what I find really sad,
is how these people get so mad,
about who people choose to wed,
or with to spend their time in bed.
Ignoring all the actual shit,
that tends to fuck the world a bit,
The war, the crime, the state corruption,
these hardly ward your interruption.
Jesus spoke of brotherhood,
that love and peace were what made good,
A contrast to his modern flock,
Largely obsessing over cock.
In a world where children starve,
Your moral voice seems cut in half,
and in the face of all of these,
Fuck you and your priorities.
So if you’re with another dude,
and if you’re feeling in the mood,
I say do what brings you joy,
The freedom is yours to employ.
Claim that great word for your own,
Engage your throbbing homophone,
And be pronounced as man and man,
then try to cope as best you can.
I should add, this poem is largely directed at various established religious institutions, and the views their leaders have recently expressed, rather than Christians in general, who may hold a wide range of beliefs, united in their fear and love of Jewish zombies. Forgive me.
Because you have to.
Poor people are so lazy. If only they were less lazy, maybe they would be less poor. We in Britain are very lucky to possess a government blessed with such insight, now turning their wise attention to our nation’s occupationally challenged youth.
The sad story goes that in tough economic times, companies are reluctant to take on inexperienced workers, and as such young people are struggling to find gainful employment. To combat this, the government aims to introduce more internships and work experience schemes, wherein young people can obtain the experience they so desperately need, at little cost to the employer.
Something the youth can certainly learn from their elders in power, is that a recession finds great utility in justifying pretty much anything. Those responsible for these schemes spin a reasonable yarn in this fashion, the buzz word being experience, “It’s not great, but it’s better than nothing….”
The main counter point is surely this:
Are we actually having a debate about whether people should be paid to work or not? Is that really happening?!
As things stand, already the next logical step might be herding whole 6th forms onto lorries, transporting them in shackles to the capital, then auctioning them off to employers, pending a gruff dental inspection. If young people could sit down to a hot dinner of experience, and pay the rent with aspirational patience, the claims to benefit young people might be vaguely plausible. In this reality however, they reek.
I find the whole idea chillingly cynical at it’s core. Statutory rights are penned in pursuit of a fair society- they are supposed to transcend market forces. I was under the misapprehension that this kind of exploitation was what employment law was there to protect us from, not encourage.
People work primarily to make a living. True there is a problem in finding gainful employment, but the way to combat that is not to make employment less gainful. That’s like cutting off your feet because you don’t own any nice shoes.
Not only do such schemes fly in the face of fair employment, but of equality in education as well. It used to be only the rich went to university, so we quite rightly brought in measures to combat this, (grants, loans, etc.) Unfortunately, due to an economic collapse, and a couple of decades of severely misguided education policy, ideas that were once sensible have spiraled absurdly out of control, and the job market is flooded with young graduates with no vocational skills.
So how does one differentiate oneself from the horde of mediocrity? Well, maybe do an internship. Thing trouble is that this is a realistic proposition only for those whose parents that can afford to support them during this time. For those who’s can’t, it isn’t. All those social inequalities we tried to iron out of education have simply found a way to hang on to the end.
Quite aside from this there appears to be a massive gulf in rationale. How is it going to help young people get jobs, if those jobs are now being done by even younger people for free?
Either a shelf needs to be stacked or it doesn’t, and if those jobs are taken by free workers, than they are no longer open to paid employees. The employment market is even narrower. The only people that benefit from not paying the person doing the stacking are the owners of the shelf.
Well maybe not the only ones. There was this show on HBO a few years back called The Wire. You probably haven’t heard of it, not many people have. It always starts with a key quote from the upcoming episode.
“You juke the stats, and majors become colonels.” Prezbo.
Juking the stats is a practice wherein the powers that be order the police to arrest as many people as possible for whatever reason they can muster up. They then point to official statistics showing crime being fought and thus it looks like they’re doing a good job. The root causes remain unaddressed and the cycle continues, spiraling toward self perpetuating collapse. It’s a great show.
I’d speculate that something not entirely dissimilar is happening here. The government faces massive and rising levels of unemployment and have thus far been unable to stem the tide.
By introducing these schemes those young people on them, still earning nothing, fall out of the realm of the unemployed. No more jobs mind you, but the stats look better nonetheless. That may suggest a bit of juking, but it could tip the balance in a tight election, as the next looks likely to be.
Nick Clegg, who probably will not survive it, recently expressed the following sentiments, “I can’t think of anything more demoralising for a young person in Britain today, than sitting around watching TV all day.” I can. Off the top of my head, working in Tesco’s for nothing.
Apart from the social inequality, an obviously negative effect on the actual job market, and the stunning unfairness of not being paid to work, by taking financial independence away from young people you deny them a vital component of forming any kind of adult identity. Thus I say let the youth lead the way in telling David Cameron where to begin sticking this excuse of a solution up his arse.