Archive | April 2012

A REVIEW OF MY ART@ HEARTBEAT GALLERY: Nick Birkhead

http://heartbeatgallery.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/john-ledger-cycle-of-destruction-dating.html

By Nick BirkheadI suggest that Ledger’s work owes something to the fantastical Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516). Specifically, the Garden of Earthly Delights comes to mind, with its lush depiction of organic sin. The world famous and brilliant forerunner of surrealism was, in his day, unique and radically different. Today Bosch’s work could not be more relevant, taxing and fascinating, revealing the folly and hypocracy of man. Bosch was born during the transition from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, in the Duchy of Brabant [Netherlands]. Why are his paintings so powerful and why do I think there is a common thread between them and Ledger’s more dour pictures?

John Ledger | The Democratic Umbrella

Bosch places visionary images in a hostile world full of mysticism, with the conviction that the human being, due to its own stupidity and sinfulness has become prey to the devil himself. He holds a mirror to the world with his cerebral irony and magical symbolism, sparing no one. He aims his mocking arrows equally well at the hypocrisy of the clergy as the extravagance of the nobility and the immorality of the people. Hieronymus Bosch’s style arises from the tradition of the book illuminations (manuscript illustrations from the Middle Ages). The caricatural representation of evil tones down its terrifying implications, but also serves as a defiant warning with a theological basis.

John Ledger | Ill Equipped

The echos of these powerful works struck me immediately on viewing Ledger’s work. They were of a dark world in turmoil. Bodies and abandoned buildings were strew across the landscapes, which were more often than not cities; cities which had seen the apocalypse. These were pictures of a decaying world, where redemption was impossible. The doom presented itself as an all consuming and deadly force. There was a cruelty and even a vindictiveness which was apparent, and undeniable. Is this what Ledger thinks our world will be if we all continue on our selfish and consumptive ways? Or a portrait of the present state of affairs. To be honest, I don’t think there is much in it. If the date of his work, 2045, is anything to go by, I do not think much will change in the next thirty years..

John Ledger | The Index Of Child Well-being

From afar, these drawings are remote and almost picturesque; only upon intimate inspection do they reveal the tremendous horror of the truths they reveal. The macabre and the ironic and the droll all seem to be competing. Even more interesting is the methodology behind them. The fact that Ledger has chosen a biro as his instrument for these works is significant. If the biro is a symbol of anything it is transience. The throw-away nature of the pen indicates Ledger’s choice of atmosphere for his work; as if commenting on the idea that humans, like the tool he has chosen to depict, are useful but not permanent. As if the state employs us for a time, and then discards when we are empty. Such a picture of the world is not a pretty one. One which is filled with vices and death and decay. Physically, the pictures are very striking and the tone which is set by the biro creates great contrasts within the works. They are evidently a labour of love, and as I stood in front of them, entranced and appalled, I thought just how long and how much pain-staking effort it cost to produce such mesmerising effects. What on the surface may seem to owe something to the colourful and cheerful design of the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine is in fact a violent indictment of the corruption which we encourage with our lifestyles.

John Ledger | In The City…
But what strikes most in these works is a barely contained fury. Fury directed at the system. The corpses or soon to be corpses in the pictures just claim one thing: not to live in vain! The works depict the world – the commercial public – as a machine which chews people up. Codes of behaviour and narrow mindedness are our worst enemies, according to the pictures. They represent a cycle of destruction which can only be resolved by a complete review of our values. Ledger is asking us what it is that we really value. I think the world today really is questioning itself and wondering whether it is really sustainable at the current rate of consumption; and the conclusion is clear. It is not sustainable. We are eating ourselves out of all the resources we take for granted and these works clearly have digested this feeling and aim to make us take note. Just as Bosch warned against the complete corruption of the spirit in regards to lusting after earthly pleasures, Ledger warns against the rising tide of consumerism. But is it too late? That is a question which maybe none of know the answer to. But by the stark images involved in these peculiar works might hint at a negative outcome!
John Ledger | I Believe In Capitalism
Perhaps the volcanic red image of I Believe In Capitalism is the most powerful: as if the greed of the public is the fuel for the poisoned economy which is then turned against the consumer with weapons of surveillance and paranoia, we seem to be contributing to our own downfall! I think we need to take as much care to heed the message in these pieces as Ledger has taken the time to articulate each serious line of his work. If we are to avoid the vicious cycles drawn in these works, we must take stock of our own priorities. Just as one critic has suggested that Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights serves as a multifaceted mirror for viewers to reflect on how humanity, while created in the image and likeness of God, in the course of history has lost its original identity and tends towards becoming one with a world that is susceptible to an all-perverting force of evil origin, we seem to have come full circle with Ledger’s work, and the conclusion is a grim one: we have not learned our lesson and seem determined to follow the course of self-destruction.

John Ledger/Lee Gascoyne@Heartbeat Gallery – a virtual tour

Images from my and Lee Gasgoyne’s exhibition at Heartbeat gallery, Sheffield, April/May 2012

John Ledger
  
 
  
Lee Gasgoyne

 

Communication adaptation to Neoliberal society

The sound of people talking as if they are asking a question, when they are actually stating something, or telling someone else what to do, is normal to hear now. We’re aware of the rise in tone at the end of every sentence. It grates on many people, even as they find themselves doing the same.It is commonly suspected to be a trait borne in university student campus’s, that has spread throughout the rest of society once these students begin to look for work; or, even more unlikely, that it is an Australian import, due to the tonal similarities the trait shares with the quintessential Australian accent.

As I sit in a cafe sat with my back facing a table holding a conversation between ‘potential’ employee and ‘potential’ employer (or employer’s employer), with the tonal rise at the end of the employer’s most asking sentences, I suspect it is neither of these things. I suspect it is an unconscious adaptation of our communication skills to what is required to function in a neoliberal society, memetically spread onwards from those who are first to find this adaptation of value to (semi) succeed under this system.

The usual name given for a society under neoliberalism is the Post-Fordist society. Getting along in a Post-Fordist society means applying oneself in wholly different ways to the way those who came of age before it had to. Gone are the more predictable, and stable – if not tedious and restricting – structures of Fordist society, the preceding system associated with a strong welfare system, Keynesian policies of state ownership of large national assets and tight government regulation of the market system (periodically speaking, think 1940’s to late 1970’s), and in with a structure based on both individual adaptability and cunning, and much more freedom for market systems rather than social obligation. If Post-Fordism promised to do away with the tedium and alienation of Fordist structures, then it has more than certainly replaced them with endemic fear and paranoia, and has if anything exacerbated the biggest down points of Fordist society for the majority, who don’t have the opportunity to be ‘the winners’ in this world.

The way our working lives are structured feeds into all aspects of life. As Mark Fisher states in his 2009 book Capitalist Realism (Zero Books) ‘Work and life become inseparable. Capital follows you when you dream. Time ceases to be linear, becomes chaotic, broken down into punctiform divisions. As production and distribution are restructured, so are nervous systems. To function effectively as a component of just–in-time production you must develop a capacity to respond to unforeseen events, you must learn to live in conditions of total instability, or ‘precarity’, as the ugly neologism has it. Periods of work alternate with periods of unemployment. Typically, you find yourself employed in a series of short-term jobs, unable to plan for the future’.

The potential employee sat behind me in the cafe was obviously keen to get a job. Even before neoliberalism was further entrenched by the recession (that it caused), people were much more willing to accept jobs that included unpaid voluntary spells, minimum wage pay, and constantly changing shift patterns, just in order to get by. Of course, when in a predicament like this one must always communicate with positivity, and a willingness; they must create the impression that they are always employable. They cannot just ‘walk into’ a factory job like their parents, and parents’ parents could, they have to be willing to take what they can.

Simultaneous to this, management, or middle-management are constantly trying to make the prospective job in question sound much more inviting and worker friendly than it will no doubt be, maintaining the vision of a world laced with exciting opportunities, a vessel that Post Fordism sails upon. The sternness and straightforward authoritarianism of employers, thought of in relation to Fordist times, simply wouldn’t be in sync, whilst a no-smiles indifference from the employee, to his/her often exploited predicament, would be they would soon find themselves unable to find work.

In Capitalist Realism, Mark Fisher references the 1999 film Office Space, a comedy-based but also prescient film, to exemplify this new kind of relationship between employer and employee. He talks of management being in-keeping with the “being smart” ethos…’of shirtsleeves-informality and quiet authoritarianism’, and refers to a moment in the film when in the local cafe where ‘staff are required to decorate their uniforms with “seven pieces of flair”, (i.e. badges or other personal tokens) to express their ‘individuality and creativity’: a handy illustration of the way in which ‘creativity’ and ‘self-expression’ have become intrinsic to labor in Control societies’ (another way to describe Post Fordism, associated with french philosopher Gilles Deleuze). Fisher points out, informed by Paolo Virno and Yann Moulier Boutang, how this ‘now makes affective, as well as productive demands, on workers.'(2009, Zero Books)

Communication skills are now of utmost importance, Although often with reluctance, life under Post Fordism is one of constant ‘careerism’, where one can never miss an opportunity to sell themselves; and thus this isn’t only evident in designated workplaces, or in job interviews, but in all communication. Positive, friction-fleeing, good feeling communication is essential. To not maintain this runs the risk of falling out of employment, with the abandonment of welfare support, giving way to prevalent attitude that it is soley the fault the individual. As Ivor Southwood explains, from the position of looking for work, in his 2011 book Non-Stop Inertia (Zero Books) ‘the Job centre “customer” who is indifferent to the institutional charade of choice and positivity () tends to be viewed as having brought the situation upon himself…(I)t’s no wonder you haven’t got a job with that attitude’.

This seismic alteration, I would argue, is the cause of the rise in tone at the end of sentences. Asks of people, and statements of personal opinion need to maintain an air of uncertainty to them; the receiver understands what is being said without it having a negative effect on the appearance of the person speaking – this being harmful to the maintenance of an air of willingness, and perpetual-employability. And in the case of the demands the employer has of the employee, the ‘questionisation’ of an order, the ‘quiet authoritarianism’ of a shirtsleeve (casual) boss, outsources the authority to an unknown, a non-place even, from where all responsibility lands firmly back onto the receiver/employee. Thus the employee must then respond with the utmost enthusiasm.

 

This spreads to all ways of communicating. Electronic communication is now an extension of forced-perpetual careerism, or ‘social networking sites’, evident with the insertion of uncertainty or a jokey quality into many written messages which aren’t uncertain or joking. For example, the use of question marks at the end of messages which aren’t questions, and the use of ‘LOLS’ or ‘Ha’ or a kiss at the end of the message, when the message is actually a stern assertion. To appear to be an obstacle in the path of this sensation of moving in the right direction, can be damaging to ones own hopes of any kind of quality of life within these times.

Perhaps this communicative trait is more prevalent in students, at, or just leaving university, but this may be due to the predicament of the university student, of acquiring large debts, having to take any part time work they can, and being thrust into an anxiety-stoking environment of ‘careering’, who, for these reasons feel the tightening of neoliberal chains sharper than others, for the need to be reaching out for the fading middle class quality of life. Students/or recent students perhaps embody the existential anxieties of living in a neoliberal/Post Fordist society more than any other section of society. This is rather than the trait being embedded in university culture time immemorial.

 

 

John Ledger and Lee Gascoyne @ Heartbeat Gallery‏ (upcoming show)


Lee Gascoyne, John Ledger

18 April — 10 May 2012

Open: Tues — Sat, 11am — 6pm

Public Opening: Wednesday, 18 April 2012, 6pm

The Orchard Centre

14-18 West Bar Green
Sheffield S1 2DA

Lee Gascoyne

Gascoyne’s artwork not only represents the artist’s journey towards the finished piece but also includes, and plays with, the recognition of the work’s observation by others. He is self-aware of having ideas and making things, and also aware of the space between this process and the observer (the context of which is also considered). Gascoyne states he does not expect the observer to ‘get it’ as he does not feel he is actually injecting precise information that can be read like a book given enough intelligence. This imagined space is what he finds to be the ultimate end/beginning of a piece of art; the point where he is no longer involved in the rigors of thinking and doing. ‘I have a chance to see the work again as an observer and to also learn from others in the process of repeatedly attempting to express the indefinable.’

Lee Gascoyne graduated in 2011 with a first class honours degree in Interdisciplinary Art & Design and was awarded the Chancellor’s Prize for outstanding achievement. Lee has been part of several group exhibitions and collaborative works that span painting, sculpture and installation. He is currently working on a private painting commission and has a major collaborative exhibition in the pipeline for 2013.

John Ledger

Drawing has been the vehicle for John Ledger’s ideas and concerns for the last 5 years as it is ‘the most accessible and direct way of expressing them.’ Nevertheless, he states, his doodles have had no choice but to become murals as he tries to match the size of his concerns. Ledger describes his works as aiming to depict the human predicament in the 21st century, precisely in landscapes to reveal the impacts of our collective movements with a sense of hopelessness and powerlessness to do anything else. ‘Feeling like i am mentally pushed into a corner, my creative expression is my only retaliation.’

John Ledger lives and works in The West Riding of Yorkshire and has exhibited at various venues across the Yorkshire area.

 

For more information : E-mail: heartbeatart@hotmail.com Tel: +44 (0) 7979933405, +44 (0) 7598294919

http://www.heartbeatgallery.com

http://www.facebook.com/HeartbeatGallery

The Democratic Umbrella

The Democratic Umbrella – 2012, biro on paper, 100x130cm 30
IMG_7408

“I wanted to know the exact dimensions of hell”

Why Eating disorders are caused by the totality of global capitalism, not just advertising
The distorted perception of my body that occurs often when I catch a glimpse of my image reflection in a window, always drags me backwards, drags me toward my teenage years; the existential fears of those years. Once here I am under an increased subordination. The anxiety it (re)creates takes over my pressing thoughts, and is infantilising, because I become so insecure again that it perpetuates the need to be asking others for reassurance. I am asking others to tell me what the Truth is: I do not trust my own thoughts; I want to be guided again. But I cannot be.
.
Maybe this ‘shove back down’, the momentary levelling of me down to my 15 year old self, is necessary in order to remember what were the main factors that put me on a one way street of a necessary scrutinising of the totality of global capitalism, precisely because it reminds me of why I cannot find any other comprehensible way of existing. It’s certainly allowed me to further my critical thinking surrounding obsessive disorders, and to see that, for all its damage, advertising alone cannot be seen as the sole causer of these problems in our disorientating times. Some time ago I began to realise how the development of obsessive/destructive patterns in one’s life is as much to do with observing everything environing as being out of control, and feeling powerless to do anything to alter this, as it is the advertising industry. I knew these two were part of the same process, but describing how and why could become muddling.
.
In his book Liquid Times (2007), Zygmunt Bauman talks about how we live in times of endemic uncertainty under a negative globalisation, a movement of mainly money and goods, where there is no real outside to it, so nowhere to escape it, and no given alternative to the endemic uncertainties to individuals’ lives, and how this makes us “…seek substitute targets on which to unload our surplus existential fear that has been barred from its natural outlets, and we find such makeshift targets in taking elaborate precautions…”.
.
Whilst reading the above sentence I couldn’t help but look at my own life, realising that my rigid routines, and almost militant approach to small tasks, mainly in times such as when my eating disorders where at their worse, were attempts to “…unload () surplus existential fear that has been barred from its natural outlets…”. The increasing cases of obsessive disorders centred around our bodies (still mostly affecting females – obviously, due to the commercial necessity for the eternal objectification of women – but increasingly affecting males too) is fundamentally a problem related to the totality of experience under the uncertainties of global capitalism, and the fears this stokes, and isn’t caused merely by advertising’s’ manipulations and commodification of body-image – which, although playing a massive role, is only a component, which flourishes under a globalisation that worships the globalism of commerce and nothing else. I often think the best way to understand the world global capitalism has created, isn’t to first look at how it makes the world act out, but how it makes us act out our own lives
“I wanted to know the exact dimensions of hell”
“Does this sound simple?”
“Fuck you”
“Are you for sale?”
“Does ‘fuck you’ sound simple enough?”
.
I found my way (half way) out of my self-made internment camp by becoming aware that the global capitalist system, it’s disenfranchising of any self-determined future, and its commodity-cultural expectations that it mummifies you with, has it imprints on every component of my own disorders, and the ensuing misery over the meaningless of things whenever I tried to ‘enjoy like others’ and postpone ‘job well-done’ routines. I’ve been building a picture of how this world works: I’ve become obsessed with dissecting the entire beastly system, because I can locate my own problems firmly at the doorsteps of the system’s components. It is probably true that this is merely a redirecting of my obsessive disorders, but if so, it’s a redirecting of them towards the only thing that gives me purpose and meaning and hope: dissecting what has taken away all other possible ways of living.
I revel in the above lyrics from Sonic Youth’s Track The Sprawl (Day Dream Nation) because they describe this very assignment. “Does this sound simple?” Of course it isn’t fucking simple, but finding yourself unable to find a path of least resistance, what else can you do? A lot of friends say I don’t do myself any good by focusing on ‘hell’, that I “worry too much” and “need to relax more”. They mean well but don’t realise that doing this is the only thing I have found that there is left for me to do; and as much as I often get dragged along by cultural fictions (ones that lure me and look so much easier from the outside) I soon become too despondent. If there’s no getting away from this, one must “set the controls for the heart of capitalism” even if, in real terms, it has no heart.
.
I look for things that could give me pleasure/meaning, but apart from the instant obtainment of these through consuming food or drink (which the fear and guilt that generated the unusual-for-heterosexual-males disorders, centred around eating and body image, originate from ) I can’t feel anything else. When I have friends who can show unabashed adoration for new-born lambs, and have hobbies that keep them smiling all way through their 20-something years, it feels like there’s something wrong with me. But there seems to be no escape from this world, there is a totality I struggle to speak of in day to day conversation that I feel in every inhalation and exhalation.
.
“(C)apitalism…must now remake the totality of space into its own setting” (forewarning from Guy Debord, Society Of The Spectacle, 1967). In Liquid Times, Zygmunt Bauman quotes novelist Milan Kundera, to elaborate on the totality of global capitalism’s interpenetration: “Such ‘unity of mankind’ as has been brought about by globalisation means mainly ‘that there is nowhere left to escape to'” (2007). This is the conditions under which increasing numbers of us cannot invest ourselves any longer. And once you’ve suffered a disorder at the hands of the endemic uncertainties under this system, ‘there is nowhere left to escape to’, you have to turn around and try to hack away at this “visible freezing of time” (Debord).
.
I am certainly not the only one. There are many, and the numbers are growing, who can’t exist within capitalism’s drainage of meaning, and are feeling hopeless when they attempt to look through its telescope at the future. They all find different ways of dissecting global capitalism and spitting back out what it’s been pumping down their throats for years. Arguably this is the only genuine hope of these times. Some organise action groups; Some aim to create ruptures. More than anything else, I want know everything I can about it; I want to know what it does to everything, what it has done to everything. “I want to know that exact dimensions of hell”.
.
Why can’t I eat sensibly still? Why can’t I accept myself? Why do I still worry about body fat? Why can’t I enjoy things like a lot of those around me still seem to be able to do? Why can’t I relax? Why can’t I sit still? Why can’t I get close to anyone? Why when I drink do I do so like there’s no tomorrow? Why don’t I have any real plans for the future? Why can’t I just get on with life? Why, why, why.
.
On this blog over the years I have kept on going back to the issue of eating disorders, because as I grow older I am gaining more and more understanding of both my own dealings with them, and the reasons why they are rising at a frightening rate under global capitalism (“since 1999, there has been an 80% rise in the number of teenagers admitted to hospital with anorexia nervosa” Laurie Penny, Meat Market: female flesh under capitalism, 2011, Zero Books). The issue, coupled with the issue of pending ecological collapse, is what put me on this aforementioned route first and foremost. Ecological collapse scares the shit out of me, and my writings on it seem to fold in on themselves precisely due to this. Eating disorders have helped me build up a controlled rage, because unlike ecological collapse, this is personal. Because I often feel that having eating disorders (and its smaller versions) has killed off so much of my life, it’s an issue I will reuse as weaponry.
.
This is the reason why I much appreciated Laurie Penny’s Meat Market: female flesh under capitalism. Laurie seems to have ‘set her controls to the heart of capitalism’ from the very same spot. Once would be misguided to think that her book only deals about anorexia experienced by females: the descriptions of its affects, although experience more so by females, apply to both sexes. However, there is no doubt it is still a problem affecting women more than men; male obsessive behaviour is usually played out in other ways. But it is certainly not only a disorder affecting males of a Bi or gay sexual nature. As I said above my own eating disorders may have partly originated from the fear and guilt affixed to the knowledge that I only really found meaning/pleasure in quick fixes consuming food or (later in life) drink.
.
Laurie refers to a very insightful experiment that seems to show that the effects of anorexia, the obsession with food and ritualistic behaviour can actually be induced through starvation not initiated by a disorder. An experiment undertaken at The University of Minnesota in 1944, “enlisted and systematically starved 36 conscientious objectors (to the war)”. These subjects “developed bizarre rituals around eating, collecting recipes and hoarding food obsessively – not just during the experiment but, in some cases, for the rest of their lives”.
.
Laurie Penny quotes an individual account, which served to me as a vivid reminder of a state of being that is quickly forgotten, once one is above merely-surviving body weight, despite the persistence of the routine-controlled lifestyle. Describing how starvation affected his life, this man recalled that “…if you went to a movie, you weren’t particularly interested in the love scenes, but you noticed every time they ate and what they ate” (The Great Starvation experiment: The heroes who starved so that millions could live, Free Press, 2006). I know this situation well: an all-consuming obsession with food. You’d notice what the TV stars were having for dinner, or how often they ate. As well as salivating at the sight of the on screen consumption of fatty foods, you were also compairing yourself to these spectacular role models, and if you were eating less than them you were ‘winning’; winning a war not with them but with yourself, victorious in the flight from being a human. There were points when I was at my lowest weight when I’d go on visits to nearby towns and cities, literally to go to food shops and stare at food, but ‘controlling’ myself, saving myself for my ration of what had become utterly sacred at dinner time. (I still frequent these towns/cities with the routine still remaining, but now the emphasis is with reading and writing about the system I have trying to investigate with intense scrutiny).
.
This is the point where you are no longer a human being with sexual desires, but merely a body wired to the pursuit of food, whether to eat or just worship. I only suffered from anorexia proper for little over a year. But the controlling and routine behaviours around eating and body image haven’t really had a break for 13 years. The period where the intensification of this control over myself resulted in anorexia proper was triggered by frightening ruptures to the normality of my surrounding world, that dropped me, unprepared, into the perpetual uncertainties and ensuing fears that define life on a planet swivelled on its axis by global capitalism. These moments were really existing moments, mediated to me by news channels that in both in content and mediated-form were like the most spectacular movie scenes.
.
The events were the September 11th 2001 terrorist attacks and the warning on the BBC news on a summer’s morning in July 2002 of a likely asteroid collision with the earth in 2018 (Asteroid Nt7-2002). It felt like the spectacles I had absorbed in the youthful years previous to these close-together events were coming true, but without the usual happy endings. This was a time (at the beginning of the new millennium) when the rolling news format was beginning to be used more by most television broadcasters. Rolling news stokes any unease about what’s happening on the planet. It is almost an avatar for the relentless flow of capital under globalisation: both make reality feel like it could be restructured at any minute, but in an autocratic manner, where we have no voice to negotiate with the dialogue spoken at us. Basically rolling news brings the feeling of having no power to change a world unfolding scarily into our homes: it is very distressing to be in the same room as the world under global capitalism.
.
I went in on myself. The world began to terrify. With all these seemingly terrifying things all waiting to happen, and completely beyond my control, I, by a mixture of design and accident, began to insert maximum control over the only thing I could: my own life. Such an all-consuming control system over my life took up my entire mind allowing me to hide from all that seemed terrifying out there. I would make sure those fears of being overweight, of giving in to food, of being lazy (all the things the system’s spectacular imagery had told me were unforgivable), would never be allowed to detract me this victory over myself again. The weight began to pour, and the hunger simply exacerbated the control-system. Laurie puts this perfectly by saying “when you are anorexic, your world shrinks to the size of a dinner plate”.
There is certainly a lineage connecting the Protestant work ethic, capitalism’s ‘moral’ ethic, with the feelings one gets of ‘doing very well’ and ‘working hard’ when they succeed in maintaining their body weight at merely survival levels. So in a sense it is an intense effort to impress the system. “Look at me I’m trying to be all that you’ve told me is best, and I never cause any trouble; I don’t indulge, I don’t enjoy; I just work harder all the time”. All the system’s Mores pile in on you and completely subsume you. You daren’t even question anything anymore, because it causes too much upset to your daily victories against yourself. Just keeping running, “you’re doing well” you tell yourself, “you’re winning”.
Laurie Penny writes “the triumph of self-starvation represents a major defeat for feminism in the west”. Regarding male self-starvation, I would like to elaborate on this by stating ‘the triumph of self-starvation represents a major defeat for our minds and bodies to the total “subsumption” to capitalism in the west’. Although I would argue that over the past decades there has also been a systemic need for a male to see himself as an object to be viewed by others, it is nothing to the pressure of this sort placed on women. However, being as heterosexual male obsessive disorders seem to play themselves in other ways, I need to emphasise the case of eating disorders for males. Why? because it is the ground zero from where I had no choice but to fight back. Laurie Penny’s words speak volumes to me because they seem to come from the same ground zero point. From this point onwards the only reasonable solution is to find “the exact dimensions of hell”.
(p.s. Why do so many other ‘anti-capitalists’ seem to despise her guts?)

Moments when we realise we are amidst the future we were warned of

“It was a slippery, slippery, slippery slope

I felt me slipping in and out of consciousness
I felt me slipping in and out of consciousness”
Lyrics taken From Harrowdown Hill, from Thom Yorke’s 2006 album Eraser

This collection of thoughts were brought together in the midst of hearing of the British ConDem government’s plans to extend powers of security services to monitor the web, meaning “(t)he authorities will be able to establish patterns by seeing who we send texts and emails to and how frequently, which websites we visit and what we download and the people we phone and how often” (from blog page A World to Win: http://aw2w.blogspot.co.uk/) and hearing about “courtroom secrecy proposals which would allow “ministers to decide what material could be concealed from the public, the media and even claimants during civil trials” (The Guardian, 4Th April 2012) which parliament’s human rights committee criticised for, among many things, causing harm to “the principle of open justice”, thus basically potentially allowing certain trials to to be undertaken behind an iron curtain of sorts.

David Cameron added his defence, saying the government needed to take every step to make the country safe (The Guardian, 4Th April). Despite this being highly hypocritical, by proclaiming safety and peace are his highest priority, in a month when he jetted off to East Asia to try to persuade countries such a Japan and Indonesia to buy British-made weapons, the more pressing questing is what do they see as being a threat to safety? Teresa May added ‘ordinary people’ have nothing to fear. But again, what is meant by ordinary people? The contrasting of a fictional do-gooder with a devious monster creates an image in the cultural imagination which allows for a simple binary, frozen in time interpretation of innocent next to guilty. From this you get the common rhetoric on the street of “if you’ve done nothing wrong, then what’s the problem?” which sends shivers down the back of anyone who cannot dismiss these things so clearly.

They only need to look back 10 years or so to see how flawed such rhetoric is; to see the frightening advance of the security and surveillance complex following the terror attacks of 9/11. Despite the news that anger from back-bencher’s in the coalition has stalled these plans, one only need to look back to see that there’s little doubt as to where we are heading. Writing about the growth of the security state, once the social state had begun to dissolve, sociologist Zygmunt Bauman writes that “once visited upon the human world, fear acquires its own momentum and development logic and needs little attention and hardly any additional investment to grow and spread – unstoppably” (Liquid Times, 2007). We are in the midst of this swelling.

These plans for tighter security extend much further in their aims than merely watching the spectres of terrorism or paedophilia which haunt our society; they will have to watch many more, who up to now believed this nation was one with the eternal right of free speech. It seems to me as if the entire anti-capitalist movement, which incorporates many more than what the media would suggest, isn’t quite sure yet what to do next, after a 18 month period in which the idea of a Left and a belief that capitalism can be challenged has gained credibility (at least outside the mainstream again). I think this is because it realises the challenge it must now face is much larger than (most camps) expected.

The government, protecting an ever more clean cut type of capitalism, will obviously find this (rise in anti-capitalism) alarming. ‘Safety and security’ for many with vested interests will require the silencing of such voices, as the cuts really begin to bite. What we may now possess as potential for a better future, is more than equally matched by a fear of what those who would wish to prevent this would do. In my darkest moments I fear to what extend our still-viewed-as democracy could descend.

But we forget the threat so fast, more or less as soon as it falls from the media’s gaze (I’m finishing off this blog over a week now since I heard of these threats, and I too feel worryingly less concerned about it, precisely because it has fallen from the front page and so fallen from our topics of debate). Like with the way we don’t fear climate change as much now it’s on the news significantly less – due to the drug addict-like obsession our world has with economic growth post-recession crushing anything that may stand in its way like sustainability – we feel much calmer, as if it must all be OK now; like sheep sitting back down now the dog is no longer in the field.

The aforementioned song lyrics are taken from Harrowdown hill, by Thom Yorke (The Eraser, 2006): they repeat over and over in my mind when I start to become concerned about how we all forget about frightening indicators of Power’s capabilities, as they slip to the back of the cultural memory as new news stories, of a more trivial and more thought-numbing nature push more troubling stories right to back, like old clothes you forget you have. Harrowdown Hill was where David Kelly, whilst under intense pressure, being a weapons inspector looking for evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Saddam Husain’s Iraq hence being a liability for the government’s need to maintain The Lie post-invasion died, from (officially) suicide, or was (as is suspected by many) bunked off.

This is possibly what is the most frightening about all of this: collective amnesia, and how any story, no matter how damaging to the power structure, can be pushed away from sight. This needn’t be done through techniques similar to an Orwellian memory hole, but just by maintaining the course for the vast majority of the information we receive with an abundance of what is more distracting rather than informative. And it is so hard to remember, to keep on ones mind on events which bear significance to our own liberties. I think this is what scares me about the recent new legislative plans: that one day people may go missing in the night, be detained without rights, but it will just slip from cultural memory, again and again: the spectacular society needn’t have ways of deleting unfavourable information, because the Memory hole is in every citizen’s mind.

Returning (historically) to how we got here, surely once it has been stated that “there is no alternative” to a way of running our world (no matter what particular way that may be) the totalitarian potential lurking behind the statement will eventually, over time, be enacted in brutal repression of anyone/anything that disagrees with it. Looking at it from this angle, are the current “constraints imposed on certain freedoms – some of them unheard since The Magna Charta” (Bauman, Liquid Times, 2007) inevitable out-comes from the final ‘triumph’ of capitalism, achieved in Britain in the 1980’s?

A dictatorship isn’t actualised in one clean sweep, it takes years of gradual erosion, manipulating a culture’s ability for memory-loss, to maintain an illusion that everything is the same has it has always been. Already maintaining a pretence of democracy, don’t be so sure that our western ‘democracies’ still couldn’t descend further. If it’s a one-way process, then we need to pull the rug from under the entire process.