Moments of conflict with ruling ideology (my f***king train’s been cancelled)
Is the feeling of hopeless frustration one gets when let down by public transport one of the most direct confrontations with the ruling ideology as one could have? Of course, here I am not referring to the severity of a confrontation – as a canceled train is a tiny inconvenience when compared to the hardship that people are now being forced to face as what was an initial failure of the ruling ideology (the global recession) is being attempted to be redeemed by revving up the ideology to its fanatical extremes – what I am referring to is the fact that the experience of feeling let down by a service such as public transport (a service you have paid for – free public transport is now incomprehensible in Britain), and having frustration with no outlet to direct it at, is a direct confrontation with capitalism’s self-fulfilling rhetoric “There is no alternative/it’s just the way it is”.
The feeling is perhaps most acute at a local service train station. This is mainly because, firstly, it is common place that nobody/nothing bothers to inform you about your cancelled train, and secondly, because local service stops are the first ones to be neglected if there has been any hold-up on the train lines. As you watch a express train whizz past, with no sign of your train, it becomes evident that the fast train – which is running a service which only stops at larger towns – has taken precedence over the local stopping train upon which you, at your little station, depend. The big fish gets right-of-way over the little fish; capitalism runs by the rule of the jungle, and you have found yourself to be nothing but a minnow, with no say in the way things are run, and perceiving idiocy to be the only outlet for this frustration and humiliation.
Idiocy becomes the individuals last resort. Humiliated by the systemic demeaning, stranded with little option, and almost imagining the mocking laughter of those who drive their own car if you were to vent your frustration via Facebook, you get an urge to damage the electric signs – the machines that “will not communicate” – and punch and kick the information point which doesn’t even function. Even with the consequences of doing so, the almost-realised fantasy of going berserk and smashing things up seems much more closer to a cure than the usual apathetic, and very English (who are very used to being ruled) reaction of moaning that “the fucking public transport system is a disgrace” – which instantly feels like a suicide of the soul, like I’m already digging an hole for my corpse; ‘this is the only way’.
The frustration at public transport is a direct confrontation with capitalist ideology, as we acknowledge the futility of our concerns/opinions against its one-way-only dynamics. This leads us to listen to the persuasions of those who have already submitted to the ‘the only way that works’. They encourage us to submit to the increasing atomisation of our lives also. “Get a car” they may say or “that’s why I learned to drive”. These aren’t words spurted out by those in favour of the increasing atomisation of life, but by those who are helping to mould the self-fulfilling prophecy of ‘the only way that works’ further still, because they cannot see the point in trying to battle back any more.
Another confrontation with the ruling ideology, one which has been burning at me for at least 2 years now, due to my never exactly satisfactory social life (at which point those reading this who either make up the Smile Police, or ‘like capitalism’ will probably react by saying “aah, I guessed as much!” – and they’ll probably stop reading my blog – bye!), is the one felt when experiencing the dilemma on whether to be, or not to be on the social networking site Facebook.
Facebook alone isn’t diabolical; it is the correct package for our late capitalist predicament. A predicament which allows those doomed aspirations, forced onto us by indoctrinated individualism, a chance to be revealed, inevitably only to fail and be unheard, as we log off again each evening yet again bemused and confused as to why nobody cares -all those millions upon millions of ‘special’ individuals, who have been conditioned to want to be heard above everybody else, and a predicament which has, via consumer advances, got us to accept that paying to communicate is acceptable, as we desperately search for a lover and those elusive long-lost friends via our £30 a month broadband connection. And I can’t leave! I keep coming back, in the hope of gaining something .
Although you can walk away and leave the room, you feel mesmerised by the screen just as much as it depresses and immobilises you. You become subjected to all the soap-opera-of-friends info which is ever more generic and depressingly predictable as it tries to surprise, such as, what appears to be, increasingly more sexually provocative photographs, mainly of females who seem to have a willfully blind attitude to how they may be being seen by the 300+ Facebook friends who receive notice of photos, or a wave of collective posts that confirm to you, sat in your room, that your life is so much more pointless and aimless. And because anyone who mutters a dislike to the desperate state of affairs they see in front of them, is met with reactions which equate to “you’re a pessimist, you don’t see good in anything” – in a strange parallel to how somebody who struggles with the way the world is who depends on state benefits is collectively viewed as a ‘scrounger’ – you end up deciding not to say anything, largely because it may make you, who is already struggling socially, struggle even more, if you feel that people see you as pure misery.
Like the dilemma of whether to give up trying with the public sphere of public transport for the atomised world of car ownership, in an almost inverted parallel, it is the dilemma of whether to give up trying to socialise without resorting to cyber-space communication (the internet, but also relating to cell phones) whilst the self fulfilling prophecy of ‘there is no alternative but to communicate via cyber space’ becomes an ever more irreversible truth. There are two main reactions to using Facebook which run parallel to the reactions of car users, these two reactions are the two collective approaches which are constantly making capitalism’s modernizations irreversible facts of life. 1: “I don’t particularly like Facebook but it would be really hard to contact people without” it (which runs alongside “I’d use public transport if it was reliable, but I couldn’t survive without a car now”). 2: “I think Facebook is great, I get to know what all my all friends are doing, when an event such as a gig is upcoming, and I can keep in touch with people who live hundreds of miles away” (which runs alongside “I love my car, it gives me a massive freedom to go where I want to go and do what I want to do”).
The former ultimately equates to “I don’t like Capitalism, but it’s the only system that works – Communism works on paper but not in practice” and the latter ultimately equates to “I like Capitalism, it’s giving me a good life, I can buy what I want when I want”. The former is the most depressing one, as these are the people who would be on the side of universal emancipation/progressive politics, but they can’t because they cannot believe in this alternative, and the more they convince themselves that there is no alternative the more that becomes the utter truth.
Sadly I very often sink in to former section. The first section are largely seen as pessimists by the second section. But I largely object to being called so. The former group is the people who feel the conflict with the ruling ideologies rendering of our lives. True, the ideal would be to convey positivity to others by proving that it is possible to resist the rendering of our lives done by the ideology – thus not feeling powerless and voiceless – but, as I explain in the previous paragraph, that ideal has been made to look impossible. I know that if I, amongst others, accept this self-asserted fact, that what we desire is impossible, then “the only way” of capital is more and more closer to being a unchangeable truth. However, trapped between the submission to an awful place and a hope, which has yet to be rendered into a possibility, pessimism is the only achievable reaction.