At ease, and uneasy about it
There’s certainly something that makes me feel very uneasy about being at ease with things in the year 2012, like I’ve accidentally pressed the snooze button on my wake-up-gotta-help-change-the-world alarm clock. With so much at stake, I’m walking around, still boozy from the previous night, too calm, way too calm, already in the storm and not even noticing it!
A weekly requirement has started to reveal its strange and disconcerting motives. An requirement that so many share, but which is so often not due to an addiction to alcohol. I can’t get through a week without heading out somewhere to intoxicate/semi-intoxicate myself at least once. But it isn’t so much the enjoyment of being drunk; there’s something more which this whole ‘heading out and getting drunk’ polava provides. Around the socially-dictated high point of the week (Friday evening to Saturday night), if I realise that I’m going to be stuck in on my own I feel massively discontent, no matter how little I want to go sit in a town centre Weatherspoons or Lloyds Bar. The weighty cultural suggestions around me send me into a text messaging frenzy, in aide of finding someone who’ll accompany me on a mission to relieve myself of this tension.
A few months ago I was partaking in an event (or more happening) in Sheffield which had links, due to a cohesion of objectives, with lots of other events going on around the same period. It was all very promising: the happening I was part of, named Pandemic (as in something all-inclusive, and something that can re-emerge at any time), is the antithesis of ‘the event’ as climatic conclusion of all previous hype. However, despite what was, or could be achieved, a day of such promising events never ever seemed to be fulfilled without the conclusive ‘mission complete’ feeling that a few (or many) drinks at the end of the day could provide (perhaps for myself more so). I was looking through photographs on Facebook of one of the linked events I couldn’t get to. The event sounded very interesting, yet most of the photo’s shown seemed to be of the ending part when people were drunk. Why do we need to have a certain degree of intoxication to feel that a day, which feels like it should be eventful, has been concluded?
Back to today, as I walk around a city centre after a reasonably heavy night, I feel relatively over-relaxed about things; I am not half as concerned about getting things done that I was so adamant about getting done the day before. I’ll just go go home, eat heartily, piss around on the Internet and then go to sleep. Now, this in itself is by no means a sin, but it is state of being that is poles apart from the me of yesterday who was so much in tune with his concerns. However, it was also true that yesterday I was certainly anticipating heading out to give myself an half-decent blasting with alcohol in the evening. A drug providing one with a conclusive feeling to a day that has supposed to have been (or suggested to you that it ought to be) eventful.
Whilst participating in this series of happenings in Sheffield, I mentioned about these photos from this other happening to a friend (and co-organiser of Pandemic). Not at all to be critical of the way it turned into a drunken occasion, but precisely putting the question to both of us as to why events seem to need this end from the participators. We more or less suggested that this conclusive feeling, the feeling that confirms to oneself that “things are now complete now I am drunk, I can go to sleep now, satisfied”, is a compensation for the inconclusiveness of events that are suggested to be the ends for the means themselves, and also, and more fundamentally, it is a compensation for the inconclusive and often seemingly meaningless end to a day in one’s life.
I will continue to argue that we live under a social system that has exacerbated so many social issues to the point of being critical, and I’d argue that this odd problem is ever-more critical in our present times when everything is hyped up to the extent that so much never feels adequate, like it neither ever fulfils nor even arrives. But when one lives in a time when they are encouraged, by the language of advertising and neoliberal society on a whole, to feel that they are supposed to be having fun or experiencing something (or at least making plans to do so) all the time, days can very quickly feel incomplete/inconclusive meanders, making them seem so meaningless and empty when they aren’t packed with life-affirmation. Does this have some relation to the so called “binge drinking” culture, we are suppose to be suffering with in Britain? Well, yes, completely: the intoxication brings a feeling of finalisation and conclusion to our days which demand this of us ever more. Perhaps binge drinking culture isn’t the right term though? maybe a conclusion-searching culture, a satisfaction-needy culture, or, more to the point, a desperately-grasping-for-meaning culture?
Once we have undergone this process, the sense of a finalisation to something comes over us, that is physically powerful enough to give a feeling of completion to the week that’s been (perhaps?.) This gives us a needed satisfaction; a sense of meaning, and allows us to make ‘new weeks’ resolutions’ (yes, the weekend is a smaller model of the Christmas/New Year period) to do exactly the same again, once we climb out of bed on Monday morning and become (re)drenched in the social system’s asks of us.
The alcohol-made satisfaction, and the hazy and tired feeling the day after, makes for citizens who don’t want for much, and don’t care for much but some at-hand comforts such as hearty food and easy-watching television. One becomes as close to being ‘zombiefied’ as they can get. Nothing stirs you as much as it should: News that private security firms are being invited to take on roles that the police usually do is an ‘alarm bell’ of a story for sure, but my alarms are muffled by the lethargy induced by the drink.; then there’s the news about Police and Security ‘services’ blacklisting individuals involved in industrial action against the government’s Draconian measures (although this information may have been purposefully disclosed, but made to look accidental, to scare people away from taking action against government measures in fear of losing all hope of finding work, thus It’s likely I ought to remain passive to this news!)
This is one of the few weekends I have had free for a while. I wanted to write a blog about how climate change has dangerously slipped from the public imagination, and that the belief that it isn’t happening (or at least that humanity isn’t causing it) has risen. But I’m here walking around a Late capitalist backpack destination (a large art gallery) finding much to feel secure and satisfied about (again, not sins in themselves). I know climate change is still the mother of all issues, but for some reason my alarm bell reserved solely for this issue seems to be ringing much quieter than usual. I hope I haven’t fallen for the general cultural lethargy towards this issue. This is why the weekly alcoholic anaesthetising is but a player within the larger societal structure that’s always doing its best to numb us to anything that doesn’t ring its loudest alarm bells. The economy? Yes. Growth? Yes Consumer Spending? Yes. But the gigantic monster awoken by capitalism (Climate Change)? No, forget it – not now people can’t afford to shop ‘greener’.
I confidently reckon that Michael Stipe of R.E.M was alcoholically anaesthetised when he first wrote down his famous lyrics “It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine”: something really bad is likely unfolding, is probably unfolding, but I feel way too snug to move and do anything about it. The threat of climate change isn’t directly linked to alcoholic anaesthetising, but as I say above it’s a player in a societal pressure on us to forget about anything outside the immediate gaze.
With initially morbid consequences, climate change (climatic chaos) needs to be put back into the public imagination in the ominously sounding 2012. It needs to be seen as the bed fellow to capitalism, to show how much we need rid of both; a continuous connecting of the two, like the other unwanted coalition we have been forced into a battle to stop; the Con-Dem’s. With so much that demands critical and thorough thought and debate from many of us (if the 21st century isn’t going to be a more action packed and gory sequel to the 20Th century horror show), here in the UK we have a government with a brutally simplistic world-view (allowed for by the, as of yet, mega pampered ride upon this earth that most of them have had) whose stampede against democracy, and everything that requires consideration, reflects this. We have a ‘leader’ here in the UK who has come out against what he called “anti-business snobbery” seeping into national debate (which roughly translates as “people who are critical of capitalism being put before the needs of human beings”) saying with sheer fucking stupidity that business “is the most powerful force for social progress the world has ever known”.
But as stupid as this is and as anti-capitalist as I am, I wouldn’t try to deny it that capitalism has also enabled technology to advance at a pace unknowable before its appearance, and we need highly advanced technology to try to prevent the environmental crisis we have started from killing most of us off. Yet, I think we can still see the moon landings from over 40 years ago as the pinnacle of technological progress, and they are certainly the icon of that peak. I don’t mean by this that technology itself hasn’t advanced since then, but that the more ruthless (neoliberal/free market) capitalism pushed its way through during the decade following 1969, only to reel in more ambitious, and also more socially progressive ideas for technological use, into the palms of the global market, for pure commercial benefit, to which any claim that the resources and funds weren’t there for better usage can be refuted due to the rapid shift of resources/money into fewer and fewer hands during this period (and what a waste!) The technology is there to build a better world; capitalism may have helped it along, but the better world and capitalism cannot co-exist.
Yet we are still at a stage where the governments and mainstream media (those who get their words heard by majority more than anyone else) do everything within their means to convince us that anything but the continuation of capitalism is impossible. So, instead of getting started on tackling the issues that really matter, such as addressing increasing poverty (in all areas of the world), addressing increasing discontent (in all areas of the world), and addressing the huge environmental issues (in all areas of the world), all that is showered down on us is the need to get the economy (capitalism) growing again. We are kept passive to the other issues; even if in some cases we are already experiencing them ourselves, they still aren’t a big issue because the panic buttons in society aren’t going.
But it’s fast approaching a stage where it is taking everything and leaving nothing. This simplistic idea that “capitalism gives us things, that it provides us with decent lives” may have had some truth at the peak of its compromise with the welfare state, but it’s validity as a statement has been fading away since. But now it’s also close to taking a liveable planet away. Everything being taken away needs to be woven together into a cohesive rejection of capitalism, because bagaining with it to leave us at least something behind is very unlikely to work. Perhaps the crucial factor about the aforementioned news above about Police and Security ‘Services’ blacklisting workers involved in industrial action is that the government aim is to fragment groups, so as to pick them off one by one. It just made me think of how if the system reduces everything down to isolated incidents, which allows it (the system) be too massive to be in line for accusation, and how the reverse needs to be done to succesfully accuse it: weeving all the carnage left behind by it into one cohesive message saying “no more”.