Momentarily feeling the need to ‘stand my ground’
The assumption that those living in more urban areas/areas more integrated into the sprawl of humanity look down on people like myself who are still seemingly embedded in much smaller settlements isn’t misplaced. Towns, such as the one I still reside in, are openly mocked and belittled by society. It is thought of as being unambitious, and being intentionally backwards, always yearning for the rustic, to stay in such areas.
But, far from desiring to stay here, my own (miss)understanding of late-capitalist reality has meant that the ‘get up and go’ language us children of the 1980’s/90’s are supposed to have inbuilt (in the same way we had Alex The Kidd built into our Segas) has somewhat left me behind, like the Motorway cutting through my village with no slip road to join, so one can only watch the other candles burning much brighter as they fly by. Likewise, I spend most of the days I have off work in the nearest and affordable-to-get-to urban sprawls (the Yorkshire cities of Leeds and Sheffield) precisely because of these reasons, and the shining lights attract me on vain like a moth, but a moth in search of meaning or love, or whatever the hell it is I’m supposed to find in a city.
However, all this is irrelevant because everybody hooked up to the Internet, cell phone networks, and subjected to matrix of images and signs that make up late-capitalism, through these devices, is a virtual urban dweller, and there is truly very few human beings these days who could be called rural dwellers, in regards to how we interact and the frequency with which we interact with the rest of the human world. Likewise, when I visit the biggest city in this country, I don’t feel like it’s a new experience, or an experience I rarely have, just a compression of my usual experiences and an exacerbation of them: it just feels like I’m traveling down one of the main arteries of the now endless city, instead of one of the smaller ones.
One now feels as lonely in front of a screen showing their facebook homepage, as they did traditionally in a city all by themselves. This is the feeling of a true urbanite. Yes, I am, in a sense as much an urban creature in the small ex-coal mining town of Barnsley, as somebody using the tube in central London is. The endless city has materialised in a way much unpredicted in much of the 20Th century science fiction, where the world was envisioned as becoming one big physical city; cyberspace has created this, with the added inversion of reality, where nothing seems real because nearly everything happens in a place exempt from the physical reality where we still have to get out oxygen and food from.
Obviously there is still so much more to do in the real physical city, places to go to experience culture or revel, but somehow these things don’t seem of note once one is there, or at least don’t have the effect one would expect them to have after all they’ve read about them. Walking around the British Museum, I really couldn’t appreciate the historical significance of the ancient artifacts I was walking past; partly down to this and partly down to the glaring truth of the place, I took on board the 2Nd history of them; the history of their colonial appropriation; the reason why Egyptian/Greek relics are in London.
Yet, as much as this not very rosy truth needs to be acknowledged, the reason for purposefully looking at them in this way was because I really couldn’t feel what I thought I was supposed to feel from seeing things which are supposed to be ‘wonders’, so I had to put on my critical poker face. Seeing image after image on screens of things that are far away, right through my life; talking to people through cyberspace; listening to music from far off studios on my mp3 player; walking down streets I know by clicking computer buttons; all this seems to detract from (or least tamper with) the worth of things in the physical world (especially things which are suppose to be of great cultural/historical significance). Nothing in the physical world seems more real than that in the virtual world, and nothing much surprises because it could just be from another television drama or documentary.
And When one is next to these/experiencing these things we are told are of significance, they are most likely going to be taking photos of these things/or writing on phones to people about them, sending their existences back into the endless city, rather than the concrete biggest of cities they are currently stood in. An anxiety about what to do arises, because we can’t feel anymore/or don’t know what we are supposed to feel. So we must document, or consume by appropriating photographic images of it, continuing the Pumping of the physical into the virtual.
The physical city has been negated and the virtual city promoted until they have blended with one another, and we are all now urban dwellers, in an endless city. But an endless city would surely be desirable? Unlike an endless village, where everybody clings to their prejudices and tribalism’s. The apparatus’s which reinforce a village mentality within us, rather than an acceptance of cosmopolitanism within an endless human city, would require a critique of the current system of domination and the way it uses technology, and I think the Internet is currently generating both, but one may eventually win over the other. However, the intention of writing this was that I was feeling the eyes of those physical city dwellers, and just wanted to explain how a small town resident becomes just as urbanised as someone living in the centre of London in the Internet age.