I believe that when it comes to blogging opinions are split between 2 sides: those who think it is productive and those who think it is damaging. Those who see it as damaging are split further still – between those who believe what the conservative voices in the media say and those very conservative voices […]
(Note: Some of these images have been taken from Google, but I have decided to bypass their copyright law on moral grounds, seen as they document every street in Britain, and every by-passer present without our consent.)
Another one of nature’s positive reclamations of relatively lifeless British soil has been hacked back again. I’m always reluctant to criticise. The expected reaction to this criticism of Network Rail’s tree-slashing frenzy, is a common type I can expect for many other criticisms. “It’s only a few trees – what’s the big deal?” could easily be “it’s only a few poxy chickens, what’s the big deal” or “it’s only a bit of fun, what’s the big deal?” Maybe I’m jumping to conclusions beforehand, but I just want to state that these ‘little’ things matter a lot!
My arguments always attempt a global viewpoint – the big picture – in so far as what is only a small trend happening in one place, isn’t so when it is happening everywhere. And the criticism of this tree slashing isn’t sourced in some unrealistic idealism, as there wasn’t a realistic reasoning for he chopping down of most of these trees as most were too far from the lines to pose any threat of interference with the railway (observation alone can assert that the removal of a few branches and nothing else was all that was needed).
Rail travel in the 21st century promotes itself as a greener alternative to car travel, and there’s no doubt about this to anyone who’s stopped and observed the blatant insanity of people moving around in their own metal boxes (the car would have been a miracle of modern technology to those who saw the first ones, I doubt they could have imagined that 21st century life would make it all but impossible to survive without one). However, train travel doesn’t feel so green now (not at least in on the Hallam rail line) as it travels up and down a newly-made barren landscape. It suddenly looks very much like the old photographs of the trains as they passed through the then South Yorkshire landscape heavily scarred by the coal mining industry. And although the social landscape has been greatly wounded by the inhumane way in which industry that formed an entire way of life was desecrated, the natural landscape probably hasn’t been this green and lush in the past 200 years.
Of course, the way an environment looks isn’t taken into consideration much under a system that is so sick that business and business only is what matters – ultimate efficiency on the two-carriage-sardine-tin for profit maximization is what matters, thus trees are seen as a nuisance, because they do inefficient things like drop leaves from time to time. Trees are often seen as a nuisance in many a walks of life for this one reason. Why don’t we chop ’em all down and have done with it?
Network Rail’s scorched earth policy of tree slashing ironically seems to have been implemented at the same time as the current government’s scorched earth policy of welfare slashing. Perhaps I say this because as the train pulled in to the station today, from around the corner of the now empty slopes, it reminded me of my childhood in the 1980s, and the landscape during that decade seemed barren and black and white as if it symbolised what I now know to be last period of welfare slashing. Likewise, judging by the size of the trunks of these felled trees, they must have been saplings when I was that young. The ‘greening over’ seemed to start in the 1990’s and now it’s gone again as we take another step backwards, and in this way the barren area seems to speak of many steps taken in the wrong direction.
But despite of this, rail travel in Britain is no longer a service to the people and is run by private companies all trying to make a profit. Thus, it seems not to care whether it transports passengers through barren wastelands. Darton train station is by no measure scenic, but it is a damn sight more so when silver birches and oaks drape the slopes and birds and other animals sound over the nearby drone of the M1 motorway.
To argue against the whole of the ever-more Neoliberal system Britain is being plunged into: if beauty and well-being are second to profitability, what do we bother living for? The felling of a few trees isn’t just a few when it is part of trend which states that nothing should stand in the way of profit. Green issues, due to their association with the softer things in life, are still not taken as seriously as they should be as a left-wing and left-wing only policy, against capitalism’s drive towards sucking the life from the world. And the way in which the qualities of an environment are stripped away at the same time as our social securities are being stripped away should really double up the anger and rejection of this system
After just being shown a ‘top tip’ in a gossip magazine for plastic grass (a despair-in-humanity inducing page, even by gossip mag standards) ironically labeled as a ‘Brainwave’ it has been made clear that, although it is one of the worst examples I have seen, it is just an element of a trend which cannot be simply labelled as ‘for stupid people’: it’s an element of a trend in humanity to flee further from the reality they are facing by bolstering up their denials.
The ‘top tip’ was to have plastic grass in your garden instead of real grass because you don’t have to cut it (unfortunately, however, I do not have access to the original article. This is because all gossip magazine titles, no matter how colourful they are, translate into just one word in my head: shit). To anyone who doesn’t immerse themselves in gossip magazines to the extent where they take this tip on board, this is an utter absurdity which one would only expect to be used by residents of streets where the Christmas lights can be seen 5 miles away, who will all soon be homeless because they can’t pay the electricity bills. But these banal and destructive suggestions have a reason for being: they highlight a human tendency to bolster up their denials of looming problems of environmental destruction by living in a more plasticised and nature-less world. The more plasticised their lives become, the less the natural world interferes, the more real the illusion of unlimited resources – that things can go on for ever like this – becomes.
Of course, let’s not forget that the gossip magazines, perhaps more than any other kind of magazine, are hardwired into the system of consumerism. Although many who read them take them with a pinch of salt, I would say that they appeal to a collective who are almost entirely submerged in consumer culture. But blindly conforming to the tide of society in this way isn’t as clear cut as to say that these people don’t even know about the huge environmental and political problems facing us in this century. It is impossible not to know!, it is impossible not to sense that there is something seriously wrong with the way we live under this system. I just believe that those who are completely submerged in consumer culture are in hyper-denial: where their denial fills in for reality, so that one can carry on building a life and future for themselves in a type of world which is coming to an end.
I am notoriously poor at ‘blotting out’ the bigger picture than others (I am constantly told that this is detrimental to my well-being by people who don’t think about it most of the time, and I’ll be honest in saying that at times I would like to blot it out almost entirely also as, from an outside view, it does look to make life a lot easier to get through. But I am not like that, and all I can attempt to do is to turn it into a strength) But blotting out looming threats is a usual human tendency. A diet of the gossip mags, The X Factor, Vampire trilogies, retail shopping outlets and new cars (oh come one! I don’t think I’m generalising!) blots out the ’empty spaces’ where you’d probably have chance to gasp and think “oh fuck, we are totally screwed!”
This means that as the opportunities to prevent climatic catastrophes from happening fade and fade (and they are fading fast, I am talking about a few years not decades before the affects are irreversible) the need to build the illusion that it isn’t happening expands (although the ability to do this will be more costly, which seems plausible enough as those few with any money at all in the future will likely have it all, as the power of the corporation swells in the global ghetto). Thus, the idea of having plastic grass in ones garden instead of real grass (with real living creatures) becomes a plausible idea in society.
Of course if we all didn’t initially feel so powerless to so something about environmental destruction this farcical scenario would not need to exist. A society founded on togetherness, community and equality would be fit to challenge this problem. Likewise, green movements have to be left-leaning; you can’t bargain with capitalism on sustainability. Not only has capitalism directly caused the collapse of the natural environment it also creates a mental environment of self-centralism which exacerbates a problem at just a mention of the troubles it would bring, as it profiteers on peoples need to escape the truth, either by selling ‘green goods’ which create the illusion that the world can be saved simply by adopting a less toxic consumerism, or by simply by profiteering on a complete denial of our fragile 21st century existence.
The advertisement of Plastic grass to replace your garden’s real grass isn’t just just an indicator of how terrible gossip magazines are, it is an indicator of how terrible the times are.
Although all the problems that are magnified, or directly caused by the capitalist system are interconnected, there is one major issue which dwarfs the concerns of all the others for me. yet many anti-capitalist thinkers seem to only skim the surface of it. It is the issue of environmental destruction (climate change and resource depletion) – the father of all my fears.
Although humankind’s very nature of manipulating the environment is always going to be more harmful to life on earth and helpful to it, no system has torn through it like capitalism has. Capitalism is essentially anti-sustainability – it survives by continually growing. It grows by using energies provided by others and not giving back (the old, though still completely relevant critique of the exploitation of workers should rightfully be applied to the exploitation of the living planet), stripping the earth without replacing what it has taken. It pumps the waste into the atmosphere which is unsettling the finely balanced climate systems which nature has constructed over millions of years, and those ecosystems it eats up are what helps control this delicate environment upon which we (humans) thrive. Climate scientists predict we have only a handful of years to cut these emissions from the waste we produce before we cannot stop a catastrophe unfolding larger than any nuclear war. However, possibly down to who funds their research etc or their depoliticized nature, few come out to openly criticise the dynamic system of Capitalism for eating us out of a home of only limited resources. Even if we began to rely entirely on renewable energy as opposed to non-renewable energy the system would still require an insatiable expansion, which would outdo any progress made.
This is why technology alone cannot be the answer. I cannot believe that we could ever live sustainably under capitalism, I think that it can only do the opposite, and from observations made during the past ten years it seems as if the system exaceberates its consumption of the world the more it is threatened by environmental issues. This problem concerns us all – nobody is safe. And this alone should drag along all the other critiques of capitalism, as it is clear now that a just world means being just and fair to everything on the planet not just humans.
In relation to the article ‘Hipster – the dead end of civilisation (Adbusters) – my similar feelings and thoughts from my own experience
If you look around and observe for a couple of minutes sobriety hits home fast, from which the only option is to quickly head for another pint of Strongbow and Black or head for a taxi homeward – a taxi driver who will most certainly have provided the same journey at the exact same time at some point in the near past.
Meanwhile a handful of ‘you-know-you-find-me-fit’ Indie girls are performing the same spellbounding rituals on some, new-to-the-room, indie-cool lad each week, going through the exact same motions on a dance floor consisting of roughly 4-5 people. And The DJ goes through the same motions, playing the exact same ‘UK indie’ tunes as have been played continuously since time seem to crystallise somewhere between 1998 and 2001 (and we still dress up as Mods/rockers, adoring our new/old retro outfit and can’t wait to look like a fallen rock star in it).
This is my home town, and it pains me to be one of the same old faces frequenting to these places. It feels a waste, a complete utter waste. I observe a life spent living in a dead aesthetic, and that includes me, although I take a cynical distance from it all as I drift more and more into scarcely populated corners as the night goes on. It is painful to watch and painful because I know that I am in the picture I observe.
I ponder the lives of those I once knew who have escaped this particular stagnated scenario – those of my age who actually had career plans safe within the capitalist framework, as year by year I seemingly (bar a few friends) congregate in a group who’s nucleus is younger and younger by the year. I have never had anything much to say to the larger part of this ever-changing nucleus, not much is meant to be said in these encounters of endless hedonistic nihilism, where the hedonism is already directed and driven by the conventions of the pub/club. (It was easier when I was younger because my naivety allowed me to dance and be stupid, as the daydreams were still large enough to stand up to the retribution felt in sobriety). Yet I do try to make conversation because, for me, the purpose of being in these places seems to be communication. Thus (Barr a few friends who I still head to these places with) I feel like I have made an error when I speak for more than 10 seconds: “what am I talking about such boring things to people for?”. So I just lapse into the queue for another drink whilst I let the extroverted revellers “whoop whoop” every night like it is THE NIGHT OF ALL NIGHTS.
So, again I ponder those who have – to use the title of a Facebook group page, created to intentionally mock those who haven’t done so – “managed to escape Barnsley” with a certain degree of envy and a massive amount of shame. Shame, even though I know with conviction that I simply don’t see the world like many of those who have left do (long-term positive thinking is something I find impossible under late capitalism, which doesn’t mean that I think all those who have left Barnsley for more glamorous places are pro-capitalist, just that they can work within in it maybe a little more easy without the questioning and doubt people such as me possess) and I haven’t had the chance to do so because the idea that ‘you make your own chances’ is completely alien to somebody who cannot see a future for himself within this system. Shame, because although I believe I can completely rationally justify my inability to leave this place I struggle to enjoy living in, I am subjected to a feeling of being left behind – from which the system based on the atomization of an individual blames me and me only: “you’re not adventurous enough/too stuck in your ways/too small-minded” a feeling of the world being one big Facebook wall, on which everyone has the right to tell you how you should be living.
It is a feeling of being a lesser person. This is the correct emotion! Indeed, without completely dismissing the discontent of living in a place which perhaps isn’t the best place to live for the sake of my health, what it is more prominent here is the blow to my sense of self I have been issued by the new form which capitalism has taken: it is called Cultural Capitalism, and it is helping me to dislike my home town more than it probably deserves because it informs me that it is a nowhere place and that if I stay here I am a nobody.
And this brings me closer to the real issue here. The observations made at the start of this page are not special to my home town, the cultural stagnation I am witnessing is a global issue; it has infected (maybe sterilised is a better word to use) all accessible areas on the planet. After all, the photo albums on Facebook profiles from those who have ‘escaped’ to some, perceived-as, cultural utopia are as clone-like and as repetitive as the albums of those who spend their nights out in the Weatherspoons pub and the Lucorum Bar in the town of Barnsley. And when I am looking at the ‘Indie kids’ dancing-like-they-mean-it to ‘Disorder’ by Joy Division (a band who, perhaps more than any other, have been incorporated into, and almost stand for the prevailing Nihilism, mainly due to the totality of the music finalising with the lead singer’s suicide), dressed in a style which once had purpose and progressive poise but is now merely a dead aesthetic – a selection of shedded snake skins taken from the museum of fashion – I don’t just see a stagnation unique to Barnsley. I see a stagnation of civilisation on a whole, and this is why, despite of cultural capitalism, I do not leave – “where do I go to improve my quality of life?”
This observation was even more striking last night. It was the celebrated British event of Bonfire night (November 5Th). This meant that most people were at bonfires and the pubs were emptier that usual for a Friday (But me, finding no escape through tradition, felt much more inclined to continue the usual Friday night process). When a pub/club is busy with revellers one has less ability to have such sobering thoughts regarding the a decay of a civilisation (the only historical similarities I can think of to our own decay are the last parties during the collapse of the Roman Empire, or even, the visuals from the film of Hitler’s last hours in his bunker -The Downfall – where the debauched parties are going on above ground whilst the city is smashed to pieces by invading armies). These bustling nights appear to becoming an increasing rarity in my home town, but when there is one the reverse actually happens and the feelings are atomized: a feeling that something is wrong becomes a feeling that something is wrong with only you, and the despair of the situation around you becomes despair at your own isolation. In the quiet pub/club however the bustling crowd shrinks into a small over-familiar crowd of revellers from where it becomes more evident of a culture with no vision to make any choice but to pursue hedonism every night, a culture which, come-what-may, will be looking for the thrill, the ‘good times’. And it is at these moments, when the situation reveals itself.
Hedonism, say in an era such as the 1960’s or the very early 1990’s had so much more of a cause/story and it had a future to look towards. What we are experiencing now is not the same. To borrow some ideas from Mark Fisher’s Capitalist Realism, what we are experiencing now feels like an exhaustion, but with no alternative but to further exhaust it – nothing left to do but to pursue hedonism but with no reasons left for actually pursuing it. I strongly suspect that this pursuit is (and has been so since 2001) an avoidance of reality. I believe that the severity if this situation’s exacerbation can be given a specific date: September 11 2001 – the day the world woke up from its naive 1990’s optimism, induced by a collective misunderstanding of the complete effects that the fall of the Berlin Wall had.
‘Woken up’ is the right term to use for the way the September 11 attacks instantly made the glazed-eye western world feel, but the following result has been the opposite: the decade that followed saw our immersion into materialist niches on an unprecedented scale – we closed our eyes and dived into a pool of consumerism, which was now much more equipped to sell to our needs to be intelligent, free-thinking, alternative individuals -different from the pack. This is evident in the way that guitar band fashions are now draped upon younger and younger school children, and the way that alternative music and fashions have now become the mainstream.
The generation of youths who saw the events of September 11Th on The TV (I was 17 at the time) could see no alternative but to become more immersed in their consumer-veneered dreamscapes. We didn’t even have a grasp of an alternative existence – I don’t think I’d ever even paid attention the word Capitalism and I dare say most others my age hadn’t either, we knew there was Communism, and used the word in childish jokes about High School regimes, but we never questioned what actually ruled over us. It was made obvious to us that people didn’t like the USA and likewise it was made obvious to us that the Taliban could be ruthless, but that’s about as far as we felt necessary to question the way of the world. I’d just play my 1990’s Indie music on my Walkman and drift off into a daydream of a future ‘where all is well’. This genre of music and the style which accompanies it made the backbone of what I saw as my desired aesthetic when I was still an impressionable teenager.
From being 19 onwards my endeavours took me further and further away from any aesthetic group, but not enough to wipe away the preference to dress slightly in this style than to dress in any other way. Thus, the nearest hedonistic environment for me was the indie bars/clubs. However, the friction with being associated with any niche has intensified. The comfort with living in a dead aesthetic, sewn-together with day dreams was torn by the events which occurred in the the first decade of the millennium, and the tear has been widening since. The portrayal of the world by all around me (televised, read and spoken suggestions) became ever-more unsatisfactory, the day dreams died out and the void left has been filled by left-wing ideals.
For the past 5 years I have known that I could never truly find any happiness inside this ‘design for life’ which is conveyed to us, but I still consumed a belief of finding a partner who could shelter my mind from the unfolding world outside (or as Alain Badiou puts to – to live without an idea). The environment of the hedonistic reveller is the only place Ive ever been able to believe this achievement is achievable in. This is probably due to a general mood conveyed by a society which knows not what to do accept to pursue hedonism – thus, it is apparent that everything that is in anyway good reveals itself within these confines. This means that my more philosophical side is constantly in conflict with the side which evades a philosophy of any sort by trying to find happiness within the suggested confines (that easy ride of life, with all the comfort of a loving partner and easy-going friends, which society conveys to me).
So I head out on many nights out, at the same time avoiding the sadness and solitude which encroaches upon the domestic me in the evening. It is probable that 9 out of 10 nights disappoint but I head out anyway because it is better than spending an evening in and letting my conflicting sides maul each other into an early submission. But the places we convene on for hedonistic pursuit are intentionally lacking in places for substantial conversation. So we drink, yell and dance. (well, the dancing died with the last few day dreams a long while ago, so I just drink, drink, drink, loose track of what I have said to people, which creates a massive self-doubt which lingers like fog until it is finally lifted by a mobile text or Facebook post inviting me to resume the search for a good night).
And it goes on and on and on…………
I felt an urge to write my own experiences of this kind after reading the article Hipsters: the dead end of civilisation in the Adbusters magazine. Apparently Hipster is an offensive word in North America, where the article was written about, but the indie/retro look, and the electro/funky house style (whatever its called..?..) certainly fit the same description over here in the UK (the former generally marks its territory by being ever-so-slightly less mainstream and the ever-so-slightly less narcissistic than the latter, and this separation is what makes the ‘indie-cool’ look). And although the incidences described in this article are quite different to my own Non-incidences described, the general message is the same: a cultural stagnation; a youth who can no longer surprise the establishment, who merely borrow aesthetics from a medley of past youth movements which now have no meaning and are merely dead artifacts from the museum of civilisation, a youth who can do nothing now but revel and look stylish, and this is a signifier of a civilisation with nowhere left to go.
The Hipster, then, lives for the nights out, and the feedback of the nights out (Facebook photo albums). They live for ‘the scene’, and probably don’t even realise that this is what they are doing. They can perceive no future and I don’t even think they realise that they can’t. And at this point (because there’s no way I could claim to take a moral high ground here) I should state that it would be more appropriate for me to use we instead of they, because even if I am reluctant I am still present within these scenes. One of the biggest criticisms of the article in Adbusters was that the article writer – Douglas Haddow – was probably an hipster also and Adbusters is generally bought and read by Hipsters. Although maybe this could have been taken into consideration, perhaps the criticisms were also missing a point, which is: is there anything left for any of us to be but Hispters? Has all counter-culture, no matter how anti-capitalist, already been incorporated into the capitalist museum of spectacle before it even begins? And, as anti-capitalist as I claim to be, I still wear one of the aesthetically pleasing dead skins from its museum and frequent to places where I can enjoy culture in retrospect, and during the daytimeI ritualistically go and sit in a culturally-fabricated cafe reading Adbusters.
However despite of these moments of utter self-doubt, one shouldn’t give up. And the sceptical eye I have for these places I am present in provides much of the fuel for the work I make, which is pretty much all that keeps me going. And at points it feels like I am one amongst many people now slowly starting to see through the cracks in the veil disguised as reality which capitalism has created. But these moments are only half of the story. The other half of the story informs me that the seemingly hopeless political situation will just further exacerbate an ever-elasticated youth cultures’ (by elasticated I am referring to the way that older and older people seem to cling onto the scene because they have nothing else awaiting them) lifestyle which knows of no other way forward but to be constantly pursuing pleasure. Thus, people know that the ‘shit is hitting the fan’ but have no thoughts about preventing it.
The most relevant of pressing issues worth mentioning at this point is the Environmental issue. I always presumed that few of us knew about issues such as the fact that if the oil reserves run out and we still haven’t a viable alternative that we are in big big trouble, but they do so, and I am doubly naive in expecting that when in the know they would, somehow, know how to react to these problems, unlike I. They do just the same as I. “When the oil runs out we’re gonner all be fucked! said a young man to me as he finished his cigarette and JD and Coke outside the Lucorum bar a few Fridays ago. But “I just try not to think about it” is the most common one, or “I’m worried, but what can I do about it?” You see, as much as I morbidly observe the situation within youth culture in particular, I resonate with them and I am like them: they, like me, can perceive no other way but to end up pissed in the same ‘indie’ bar each Friday. They, like me, expect somebody/something else to show us out of capitalist death-trap labyrinth.
Since the beginning of the recession in 2008 the whole situation and behaviour of people seems to have deteriorated further more (which is why rising alcohol prices in a time of increased unemployment will just make for equal amounts of heavy drinking but poorer people). My moneyless friends, apart from paying their rent, put nearly all other funds they can find towards the scene revolving going out, drinking, (alcohol, new clothes, new hairdo’s etc). This is a generation who sees no future to save money for past the next weekend. They aren’t isolated individuals to be told off and criticized (as the ruling ideology’s dictations would have us believe); they are a signifier of a MASSIVE problem.
The problem is the capitalist system, which has subsumed so many sub-cultures/counter-cultures, conquered so much of the planet, crushed so many other ‘ways of seeing’ the world, that nothing but a final push to topple it can relieve us from this mess (merely getting the economy back on track, encouraging growth, asks us to look at the completely wrong picture of the current world). The eternal pursuit of the good times, the avoidance of reality will only rise as inequalities rise and climate catastrophe’s increase in frequency, as the system which knows only expansion continues to not only dismantle the natural environment but also the thoughts and spaces from which another world is possible.
Yes, the piss-up in my home town really does bring me to such conclusions, and why shouldn’t it do so?
I look at cars rushing up and down the main roads and I see the downfall of all of us.
This machine, more than any, epitomises small mindedness.
The small mindedness which makes us think only of the benefits towards us and our immediate family.
The small mindedness which is turning the social into a void from where a few walking figures are but remnants of a forgotten world, continuously fading from our memories – leaving a void in which the perverse and soul-sucking social-networking-site is growing like an enticing but poisonous ivy, chaining us into our box rooms.
The car is the first object from which my anger has to be restrained when the world ignores my cries for fairness.
The car is the object which has detached us from reality more than anything in the past 100 years, yet inside these hi-tech metal cans I see human beings behaving in the most primordial manner.
The car, like the cell phone, like the internet, like capital, is what we are told we cannot live without.
The car is an object, amongst others, which is symbolic of increases in isolation, mental illness, selfish behaviour, environmental destruction, and the triumphalism of right-wing attitudes.
The car is symbolic of the inherent fascism in society
“drive alone and drive with Hitler” I read in a college library book in my earlier, more naive years. And now as I wait and wait in the unforgiving November darkness, relying on the one street lamp to highlight my hand waving for a rarity known as a bus, amidst the violence and light and noise of a sea of cars, the line feels truer than ever.