Peak Time Alienation

(WARNING THIS POST HAS HAD AN USUALLY LARGE SOAKING IN NEGATIVITY. I WILL RETURN WITH HOPE SHORTLY)

Walking through a nearby city centre on a Saturday and now I remember why I don’t mind the fact that I rarely get a weekend off work – They’re horrible! For Christssake, get these people back behind their office desks, and stop them spending their money on pointless car journeys to town via the McDonald’s drive through! Temporary irrational thinking and a bit of generalisation here – “Phew, for a minute then I lost myself”; Sorry about this, I will attempt to right my illogical mood, but right it to what?

When one books time off work only to realise that they’d rather be back at work and just dreaming about time off instead, one finds themselves in a huge existential crisis. There’s no escaping things that get to you about life in the 21st century on a weekend. For me, who sees a weekend as a mini version of Christmas – precisely because I seem to have the same feelings of alienation from (what appears to be) the mass frantic search for enjoyment where I just see an empty nihilist pit, and (because I get a weekend off almost as rare as there is a Christmas) people’s consumption levels seem to be at a scarily high level comparable with festive times – I tend to see these times through a dystopian lens, and the lens must be glued to my face as I can’t seem to readjust my outlook.

FACT: Weekends, just like Festive events, are ideologically prescribed times for leisure and socialising, with the effect that to be doing something otherwise actually makes you feel like you’re doing something socially unacceptable. This is why those who don’t (or cannot) get along friction-free with this ‘idea’ of how we ought to live, find themselves alienated and extremely uncomfortable in places which they probably felt more or less ‘OK’ in a few days prior to the weekend. But many (including myself), even if knowledge tells them this is an unsatisfactory design for living and it isn’t what they want, have still had their beliefs and feelings massively tampered with by a media and over-heard-conversation indoctrination, – thus although they know that a trip into a quite woodland area or tending to their garden (just two blunt examples) is probably going to make them feel better, the pull of the bright lights of the city centres is far stronger. Then their wish to get rid of their beliefs in a hope that it may be easy to accept this design for living starts speaking: “Anyway, there may be just a chance you’ll bump into someone who will show you how to enjoy what until now seemed unenjoyable – FORGET, how nice would that be!!”. FAT CHANCE.

As I’m writing this I’m watching the beginnings of an PlayBoy Bunny-head-gear- style ‘hen-Do’ from the window of a chain-cafe, which I feel guilty about purchasing a drink from but which seemed like the only quite place from the busyness outside and the busyness in my mind which follows on with its nice habit of doing things like transforming coughs and splutters in a queue in TK Maxx into grunts from well-reared pigs at markeT, and connecting every purchased product inside a shopping bag to its humble sweat-shop beginnings (which is a justifiable thing to do, but once my brain starts to attempt to do this in a busy shopping area I think it’s obvious that a meltdown on some scale isn’t far around the corner). I always start to walk funny or pull frowning faces down busy shopping streets, just in the faint hope that this isn’t the bizarre late capitalist totalitarianism, where everyone is at some level (some fathoms higher than others) subordinated to a amoral system bent on permanent growth, and there is actually some Stalin-esq/Big Brother figure watching over us all, praying that he notices that I’m ‘not down with this’ and pulls me out of this horribleness and locks me away, and uses torture methods which I can actually claim are torture, rather than the ones we are currently made to endure and told that it is actually fun.

On a more serious note, what a weekend does to me is heighten my fears that we really aren’t going to sort out this mass consumption fix before it causes an humanity-ruining ecological riot. I can sometimes just about believe that we may have a chance on a weekday, but not on a weekend. Bags and bags of new clothes; busyness in Primark (sweat-shop user bar-none, by all acounts) on a scale that one would think it was staging a massive festival; way too may 4X4’s (still not giving a shit if they hit me or not); and a general immersion of seemingly all people in this city (which feels like all 7 billion of us) into fashion; immersed in their own image; the atomised pure self; the wannabe be rockstar; the ‘special one’ who (as assured by Hollywood and Disney) will get their happy ending one day. And if one thinks that people will unite for a common cause when the time comes, well, the amount of times today I have apologised for bumping into somebody (both when it’s been my fault and their fault) only for them to look at me like I was a 5.7 foot turd, or to ignore me as if it was just a solid bit of air they bumped into – no friends to make in a late-capitalist city centre on a Saturday afternoon, that’s for sure.

IT’S PART THEIR DOING PART MY DOING

Truth be told, I do have a great difficulty in enjoying life wherever I am, which is why I never even attempt to go off ‘somewhere nice!’ (at least I get ideas for my art work in frustrating cities). If I was stood looking at the Grand Canyon, there would still be a gaping emptiness nagging at me with speaker-system volume inside. That’s why when ever I’ve been on holiday in the past 5 years, the only thing that seemed to have any resonance was the Cider in the evening, which is exactly what I do when I’m at home. I’m at loss wherever I am if I’m not making my work, expressions against this ruling system, which, even though I am still partly indoctrinated by it, I’d be at a loss without making my working against it. Quite a dilemma then. But I think tourism’s become worthless anyway, and actually very destructive and I can’t see any good in the general bulk of it (festivals included). If I’m being honest, I think many are being dishonest (even if they don’t know they are) when they tell you “how great” where they’ve been is, and how you “must go too” because it’s a “must see!”. All we are is consumers, consuming experiences to add to our individual profiles (‘now in social networking format!’), which is why the digital camera is so damn popular, because people can accumulate experience without actually experiencing what is left to experience of it anyway. And all the better for it, as nothing seems to have the meaning it’s supposed to have anymore anyway – but it seems like hardly anyone dare say this.

Sound cynical? Maybe I’m just pissed off because everybody else at least seems to have somebody else in this sprawl this Saturday afternoon. But today I’m feeling the rage against it all, and our culture seems sick, empty and full of people desperately trying to prevent this form happening to them by perpetuating this process. And maybe that’s why I’m sick and empty – because I didn’t try hard enough. Oh well, tomorrow’s a new day, even if it is one day closer to ecological disaster. I’m going to my studio now to work on my drawings. It’s the only thing that seems to make sense in my life. It’s all I do every day after work, but that’s not a problem as long as I fuck off the ideas of how I should be spending my life.

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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