A Neoliberal Hell On Earth.

I’ve seen the nights, filled with bloodsport and pain,
And the bodies obtained, the bodies obtained.
Where will it end?
(Ian Curtis of Joy Division)

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Well its goodbye to the easy nights, and detuned wanderings of a year still in its infancy: 2011 has finally arrived…….
Sunday 30th January 2011, on the 66 bus to Barnsley and Barnsley Bus station.
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Where are the bus conductors? Somebody needs to say something here, but there’s nobody there to say something. Where are the security guards to break up this fight, as countless youths (some not even youths any more) chase each other up and down station like marauding animals? Where are the have-a-go-heroes, who are prepared to be beaten up or stabbed standing up in defence of a lost cause known as civilisation? I know that I am not him; I must be the most sensitive person ever, as just two separate incidents – one on the bus to the station, and one in the station, waiting for my next bus – witnessed on a Sunday evening have given me such shakes that I cannot be sure whether I’m going to be sick, or have a fit – my hand is bouncing up and down like mad as I enter this into my sketchbook. What the hell is wrong?
.

Why do I get like this? Well, I certainly now feel estranged from those from the educated/upper working class slice of the populace who can just brush off witnessing this violence as “Chav mentality” as if they are another species (“the proles are not human beings” said Syme to Winston!” in George Orwell’s 1984 and this is how society now seems to view the “Chav”) the events stick with me because I know they are trends, not anomalies acted out by inherently bad people (the sad fact is that both my claim that a “grossly unfair society creates angry and confused people” and the reaction I usually get to my despair that “you can’t educate pork” work side by side with each to create, what appears to be, an impenetrable cycle of discrimination and violence).

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What do I see then? I see a sick society run on the most gruesome inequalities; I see the a rise of the symptoms, here in the UK, that are all too familiar over in the most violent, ghetto-infested, unequal developed nation of them all: The United States Of America; I see the facts I read in the Spirit Level about how violence and social disorder are more common in more unequal societies, returning to front of my mind; I see these things getting worse, as the most right wing decisions made by a ruling government to-date are brought through – the most vicious attacks on state welfare to make way for a privatisation frenzy; I see everything that is troubling in our society becoming more-so.

Today I have put a good few hours into my new artworks before I set off for the bus; I was hoping for a quiet ride back. The bus back to the station from my studio was only a small bus, yet it was too large for a solitary staff member (a female bus driver) to be able to do anything about the people who I quickly became aware of who were sat at the back. It is bizarre, when you think about it, and could only be ‘pragmatic’ under capitalism, to reduce the number of staff members on a bus (buses used to also have ticket conductors) at the same time as general trust has decreased and violence has increased. And no other passenger dared say anything to these increasingly aggressive and abusive people, smoking at the back of the bus. And why should they? their already extortionate ticket prices are not worth the hassle of trying to believe in Dave Cameron’s ‘big society’ and entering a debate which will probably become a fight, which they’ll likely lose.

To be honest, I never saw their faces until the bus finally stopped as I didn’t want to turn my head and face getting involved, but their anger, which was either aimed at the seat one of them was kicking, or any potential protester over their behavior, was giving me the shakes. I’m quite a fragile person, but a raised voice is still not enough to spook me like I was. Do you want to know what spooked me? It was the confirmation, in my mind, that I was witnessing The Real of the policies made that until then still only appeared as far-away threats on newspapers and telescreens; that such aimless anger and frustration must surely be result of an imposition of systemic cruelties on people who, by and large, have not been reared to be able confront the source of pain; a realisation that for all the talk of the pain felt in our pockets little has been mentioned about the increasing pain of existing in a society where you don’t trust anyone and dare not intervene when you can see wrongdoing. With all the talk of “slitting his fucking throat” I felt that this was no longer the small town I am familiar with (which, for all its low-scale yobbery, and often oppressive homogeneity, is not a place familiar with much serious violent crime) and I felt like I was riding through a dangerous part of a city of great great divides such as New York.

I got off the bus, and walked into the station. Something was different though. I mean, it’s never the most uplifting of places – bus stations never are – but the disorder ongoing in the gangways somehow seemed greater, whilst the amount of staff around seemed smaller. I was only sat down for a couple of minutes before I saw two teenage girls beating the crap out of each other, whilst an ever-changing group of youths were either trying to break it up or encouraging it. Drunk or sober, what followed was bordering on a riot, which would not have looked out of place in a school-yard, but this was a town centre station in which bus drivers looked almost scared, as they tried to escape the arena as quickly as possible as they went to their office, and other passengers, like myself, looked on, probably thinking that they should have done something has one the girls found herself being kicked by others whilst on the floor, but also, like me, were probably too depressed and paranoid to get involved.

I felt sick, disgusted with everything, including myself, but what could I do? There’s only one thing that my mind can return to now, and forever as long as humanity has to continue to live under an order which exacerbates such degeneration – that thing is capitalism. And you could almost expect smiley faces appearing on the Nestle snacks in the dispensing machines, as the youths run (some screaming with joy and others with dread), as this would be a just expression for the disregard the non-human titans of this world (the corporations) show to the trail of degeneration they leave behind. Two staff eventually appeared – too little, too late. But, like the bus driver who said nothing to the aggressive passengers, who could expect anything more from these people who work for stripped down services, which have no option but to be understaffed, and have to put up with the inevitable resulting aggressive of a neglected generation, that is lied to about their neglect which diverts their anger to the wrong places?

Finally, phew! a police car siren becomes audible. But the police aren’t the solution! All they can do is punish those involved. But for every one they punish two more offenders will appear in their place, it’s like trying to stop a rising sea levels with a bucket. It’s quite funny that I’d feel relieved that the police had arrived to quash a neoliberal-caused disorder, seen as they have recently shown quite a lot of violence to anybody who publicly dared to voice opposition to this system.

In an ideal world – you know, in a proper democracy -the government, and opposing parties – as New Labour were anything but innocent bystanders to the neoliberal procession – should be forced to experience life at the bottom of a stripped-down state; they should have to reap the effects of their policies from the bottom as well as the top, but this has been said so many times that me adding to it possibly just helps bolsters it as a lefty cliche.

But what can be done? I was appalled by what I saw today, mainly because I know that this isn’t the end of it. Anyone who has paid attention, or even experienced the increasing amount of violence on the streets of the UK in the past 30 years should take note that this is only the beginning of the nation’s plunge into a Neoliberal Hell On Earth. And I’m too sensitive to endure it: I instinctively piece the incidents together rather than do what the people who fuck me over do and treat them as acts of randomness to be forgotten about by the time we get home and take off our boots. But it is likely that the windows in those homes will be behind iron bars in a decade’s time, at which point I doubt I would be able to say “I told you so” because recent events have proven that I am not equipped to go the duration in this world. My mad ranting at capitalism has always had the fears of my own well-being stocked up in it. I will find this Neoliberal Hell On Earth very hard to live through.

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About John Ledger

A visual Artist, eternal meanderer and obsessive self-reflector by nature, who can’t help but try to interpret everything from within the tide of society. His works predominantly take the form of large scale ballpoint pen landscape drawings and map-making as social/psychological note-making. They are slowly-accumulating responses to crises inflicted upon the self in the perplexing, fearful, empty, and often personality-erasing human world.

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