Friday 29th April……..
A sense of belonging is very different to patriotism to a nation state. I do have a sense of belonging, and I (like many people from this region) do feel like I am coming home when I see the top of the Emley Moor TV mast, popping out from behind the hills. This land is what I would call my home. Likewise, I must admit, the only time I have ever flown on a plane (I am reluctant to do so again, because of the amount of carbon emissions airplanes emit.) once I saw the shoreline of this island reappearing I did feel some sense of belonging.
Nothing makes me feel more alienated from my own Terra firma than the clumsyness and brashness of this island’s culture on bank holidays, especially on days of fabricated excitement, whipped up by the media, over a patriotic event. I don’t care how many of you reading this buy the idea that there is a left wing conspiracy to depatriotise us; I do not associate the union jack and (especially) the ST George’s flag with what I would call home. The iconography completely alienates me from places I am familiar with. And when I’m walking these streets, I’m always watching my back, shaken by unexpected sounds. Frustration, sometimes leading to acts of violence, seems to follow such days.
Turning on the television on Friday morning, being instantly greeted by the BBC news, it seemed at first that the fighting forces in the many wars and uprisings in the middle east had called a ceasefire in respect of William and Kate’s ‘special day’. “How nice of them, to do this!!”. Of course it was still ongoing, but it gives the impression that Britain, and “our way of life” is completely innocent to the horrors in the world, which is hardly true. More true is that we (we, as in Britain) have a tendency to start problems which, when they turn very nasty and messy, we claim to be innocent bystanders of: a separation of our own actions and the consequences further down the line, which is, after all, vital to the capitalist mentality which has made nations such as Britain so wealthy and powerful at the expense of others.
Yet the hype around the royal wedding isn’t entirely about patriotism: it is about the celebrity star-system’s penetration of our minds; the fantasies of grandeur and happy endings, and being the star ourselves that are incubated in our minds, by the bombardment of this sort of toss by the mainstream media. This event is a fusion of them both. By capturing our minds with the hype and aspirations of the stars, the celebrity star-system is like a smokescreen holding firm in front of democracy and the ability for human cooperation; not denying them, but diverting us from them. It is a structure which condemns humanity (through an avoidance of the now) to future misery and to the worst aspects it is capable of, by constantly diverting us away from the present into a world of day-dreams, until it is too late to think and act rationally. The Royal wedding is a supergiant amidst other celebrity events, which sucks in even those who one would expect to know better. Excitement over the royal event seems to spread like a plague: suddenly somebody who you thought would have a little more sense, becomes infatuated with what dress Kate Middleton is wearing. This is painful to see: when people you know who have similar morals to yourself get sucked into adoring events which perpetuate a world they actually find sharply disagreeable.
It is painful to see and creates a frustration which bubbles and burps for days after. “Well, what hope do we have?!” I find myself thinking. I just cannot simply ignore it, as many would advise and do themselves (heading to some quiet spot, free from the ST George’s and the union Jack flags). I cannot leave it be because it just so riles me that only a month after the 200,000 strong protests against the government spending cuts, so many of us seem to fall prey to this fabricated notion of Britishness, and seen no wrong in (and probably don’t even question) the crude amount of public money being spent on an event which consists of people who are already given a crude amount of public money, whilst instead we are expected to scorn/name and shame people who may just be slightly short of the right qualifications for receiving incapacity benefit/job seekers allowance (who earn pigeon scraps in comparison anyway) in an attempt to get the money back to solve this so-called government deficit, so that everyone, including the Royals, don’t fall into the shit that we have been told that we have to fall into anyway!
“But they’re part of what makes us British!” people will cry, when I turn away and sigh at the excitement over who is going to wear what at the wedding. Or they’ll probably crudely compare me to Oliver Cromwell and his men, which has so little relevance to our current reasons to object, that modern day objections to the royal family may as well be compared to Dr Grant’s objections to John Hammond’s creation of a Jurassic Park. I feel like the time traveler in the 1960’s film version of H.G Wells’ The Time Machine (before anyone who has read any of my older blogs, yes, I know that I have used this novel as comparison already before) once the Morlocks of the underworld’s siren begins, and the Eloi of the upperworld become entranced and walk like zombies to their doom, whilst the time traveler pushes and drags them backwards in an attempt to wake them but to no avail. I’m in no way suggesting here that the queen feeds on the flesh of the residents of the nearby town of Slough by turning on a device which makes them drift straight into the dinner pot, but it does seem like a mindless force which takes over the British on such occasions.
On this occasion it is more than harmful for the population to be entranced by a procedure which is a showcase for systemic inequality just at a time when, to put it bluntly, the elite are inflicting a war on the poor. This is a prime example of how inequality has been humanised, and we say exactly what we are required to say to keep things this way when we say “yes, but they’re such nice people” and “I wouldn’t want anything nasty to happen to ruin their day, it wouldn’t be fair” or even the ambivalent who say “I’m not really interested in it, but I wish them the best of luck” (which isn’t something I’d disagree with, if it was backed by the rightful ‘other half’ of this reaction, which should be “but we shouldn’t be in the habit of idolising individuals because it diverts us from systemic injustice). To look at it systemically would be to see that the Royal Family, in their modern form, provide a friendly face/a familiar face for the legitimacy of great inequalities, perhaps the worst in western Europe.
Any call to see all celebrity looking-glass events (which is what royalty is in a late capitalist society) in a systemic way (as to see these events as a necessary device for the system to fill our minds with fantastical dreams, justifying and perpetuating the social evils it must make in order for it to function) is instantly greeted with reactions such as “oh, you’re so doom and gloom!!” or “oh, you don’t like anything you, do you?!!” – as if I was akin to the stereotypes of a grey and robotic Soviet Union bureaucrat – when my objections are fueled by the exact opposite: that distractions from the “doom and gloom” are but assurances that it will continue, and be exacerbated. The humanisation of the vanguards of institutional inequality seems to fool so many. This is why I get is unhappy to see so many being drawing in to “what Kate (Middleton) must be feeling as she walks down the aisle.
Considering The Now, I struggle to believe that there has ever been a moment in the history of this nation when optimism as been so low as it is now (a future worth living in for looks far more realistically-unlikely than it could have ever done during the cold war; once we push the planet too far, human decisiveness will be unable to prevent nuclear bomb-scale disasters). So it isn’t surprising (although it still makes you slump in self-defeat) when little encouragement is needed for calls to look back to an illusion of the old, ‘glorious’ days when Britain was ‘great’, and to bolster our solidarity to that very fiction.
Steps forward are currently very frightening for us to consider, but steps backwards are just that: backwards heading, and dangerous, considering what we are avoiding in the process. A step backwards was what happened the Thursday following the royal wedding: I think it’s justified to argue that the royal wedding bolstered peoples’ blind love for the constitution (by which I mean a love for this Britain of times gone and a wish to preserve so that it still functions this way), which may explain the very depressing refusal of the majority of the electorate to vote in an alternate voting system one week later (some of the anti alternative voting campaigns whipped up fear, by showing Britain under the rule of ‘President Clegg’ in an imaginary end to the British constitution, in an almost DR-Who-like dystopian future). I feel alienated on the only land I’ve ever known.
The issue of the mass of the population preferring to live in a fantasy version of life, than the reality, has been the bane of the life of many an artist/thinker (though not to place myself amongst them, I do certainly feel like them). Perhaps when they tried to make this point the reaction they got was also along the lines of “well, people don’t want to be surrounded by doom and gloom all the time, do they?!” as if this is all that constitutes reality. So I must repeat myself and state that my objections are fueled by the exact opposite of making people miserable; that the issue (of a majority preferring to live in an illusory version of lie) needs to be addressed because of certain forms ‘doom and gloom’, unique to the corruption of humanity, which could be challenged and prevented if only we were reminded of the truth more often. For me, April 29th produced many sad sights. I must stress that I hope elements of this blog do not come across as belittling to those who got caught up in all this hype (I am in no place to belittle). However, some times one cannot save themselves from getting the urge to slap people in the face and then to make them look at the real world.
Then came Monday: the death of Bin Laden…..
The reactions, and the feeling of treading dangerous paths (resulting in a mass trimming of the things I would have added to the conversation) that I was receiving for my opinions on the wedding were pretty much identical to the ones I had over an event three days later: the news headline that stated ‘Osama Bin Laden has been killed by special forces in Pakistan’. It was strange to feel the same conflict emerging for this as for The Royal Wedding. And the conflict which was sparked by the fear of ‘putting people off me’, by arguing with so much of what they say, internalised the conflict: Do I want to accept the world as it is mediated to me, only diverting to my opinions within an acceptable framework (Like a walking version of The Guardian newspaper)? or do I want to argue from every front, that we are living and accepting a greatly powerful idea of how to live, and to see the world, with the risk of alienating myself from many people and becoming “dislikeable”?
This inner conflict’s source is growing because it is becoming more and more blatant to me that never before in history has the human story been so controlled and structured by the fictions and ideas of a powerful few, who massively benefit from life being this way. The system of western style democracy has shaped the way we see, the way we live, and has shaped far more people than any religious institution has done prior to this. And the inner conflict all boils down to the knowledge that this ‘idea’ is possibly the most stupid idea of how to carry on this planet, precisely because it is based on permanent consumption of resources, and permanent growth. It simply cannot guide us through this century. And what am supposed to do when I see the streams and becks to this catastrophe-ocean being allowed to flow freely? I cannot shut up! sorry!. I am sorry, but to swallow it’s ideas on how live our lives, and to swallow the ideas of how the world is, through daily doses of media, is to be these streams and becks.
What prompted my objections to the relief shown by people over the killing of Osama Bin Laden was that I couldn’t figure whether I thought this event was real or not. What do other people think of this story? I’m not sure what to think. We live in a world of so much public relations that I am unsure what is the real. This is a frightening feeling, and it opens up ones gates to the accommodation of conspiracy theories which, although there are undoubtedly conspiracies out there, simply intensifies these frightening feelings and makes one feel more and more powerless. I’m not saying that I don’t believe that he’s dead. I just don’t know. I’m not convinced that he’s dead, alive, or whether he even existed in the first place! It’s just that the face of this man seems like such a useful prop for the conviction of western imperialist motives.
All I could think about when I saw the crowds stood outside the White House shouting “USA! USA!” was how similar this scene looked to the crowds who were chanting the same at ground zero, when Bush made a speech in the place where the twin towers had stood just a few weeks earlier. 9/11 is of course where this 21st century narrative of the western forces ‘protecting us from dangerous radicals’ began. 9/11 is drenched in conspiracy because the event seemed to fit so perfectly as a justification for the worlds largest superpower to affirm its superiority, in a time of other emerging powers and a last-ditch battle to grab the oil reserves to assure supremacy: war in the middle east was very much in the interests of the U.S and (let us not forget) Europe.
I’d be lying if I said that I thought an ‘Inside Job’ was completely out of the question. But whether it is true or not, individual modern-day conspiracies can make us lose sight of the fact that all information from the mainstream network mediated to us is chosen and edited to perpetuate the realism of the ideology we live by. Basically, the elite blatantly conspires to control what we see and hear, via the mainstream media; which is essentially an apparatus perpetuating support for the legitimacy of their domination. The attempt to make the planet into one big market is fundamentally a conspiracy. This fact was laid bare for even the most naive of us when the U.S secretary of state, Hilary Clinton voiced her concerns that the U.S news channels were losing ground to broadcasters who voiced anti-U.S-interest sentiment, Particularly Russia Today, which (although far from a perfect way of receiving news) does tell many truths about the USA and Western Europe, which are hardly even touched upon on their own news channels. By focusing on individual conspiracies, we are trying rip small holes in a package rather than using the lacing to unravel it.
Returning to the killing of Bin Laden, what unsettled me the most wasn’t the issue that it could be a false news story. It was the way in which it (like the royal wedding, the Friday before) seemed to generate, and regenerate a large-scale acceptance of the world as it is mediated to us by the mainstream news. I felt more like I was watching the last scene of a film which was set over a decade, when I turned on the television on Monday morning, which may explain why many proceeded to rejoice as if it was just that: the happy ending to a film.
Overall, after Cameron had had his say, it just felt like an attempt to bolster the legitimacy of western motives, against growing negative sentiment in the western nations themselves due to harsh measures being inflicted due to the economic crisis. It basically sounds like “we are the good guys, spreading our good ideas, but there’s some nasty people out there who want to hurt you, and if you stick with us we’ll protect you from them”. “We are the good guys” was the sentiment I was picking up on during the day. To what sort of place will these powers drag us before we resist its sweet little messages, and we say that “enough is enough: your stories don’t match-up any more”?
I decided to leave this piece in the waiting room at Sheffield Train Station; now there’s only the fast train stoppage point of Meadowhall shopping centre on the Hallam line which hasn’t received one of my works so far (I think the likes of me, would be monitored by the cameras as being ‘suspicious’ as soon as I set floor towards this complex – not that this is a particularity suspicious thing I’m doing, but we do live in an insane and paranoid world).
I really couldn’t think of anywhere where I’d have the time to hang this drawing up, but as soon as I started covering it up in newspaper (to avoid the usual comments I get on public transport when carrying a work around) I quite liked the idea of it being wrapped up. After all, they are gifts, sort of, as I know that I’m not going to get them back.
Tuesday, 3 May 2011
The freight train
There’s something haunting about it as it clunks through the empty station, lit up orange by lighting late at night
What compels me to watch its every move?
What is it about the carriages which make them seem so brotherly to the Grey high rise blocks that loom heavy like giant warriors turned to stone in a calamitous projects we refer to as our home towns?
What is it they contain?
“Goods. Produce. Raw Materials” I know this already, but this answer seems too simplistic, too practical, too much like a yawn
They, like their ghostly brothers, the high rise blocks, appears as symbols of the alienation caused by The Machine
All that “produce” and “raw material” is heading for a million lonely mouths
Their lonely bodies will occupy the lonely cells that make up the high rises
Their loneliness works wonders for The Machine, and it keeps working on other ways to keep everyone just like the separate boxes following the driver carriage like sheep up a pitch-black rail-line: silent to all around us; never uttering a word; stumbling into an eternal night.
All I can do is too stare at these objects that seem to be embodiments of everything else I see.