“They’re putting me away, but I’ll be back someday”
(Blog title: lyrics from The Fall’s Put Away)
A collection of thoughts swilling in my head in the wake of the 2015 UK election outcome
“I see the world moving in a certain direction, and if NOTHING changes there will be a catastrophe” Slavoj Zizek
Solidarity in Defeat
Amidst the dog-eat-dog ‘Psychic Timebomb‘ that is contemporary late capitalist life, I don’t think I’ve felt as part of something, or had a sense of whom my real ‘comrades’ (oooh, dirty word!) were in this world, as I did within realisation of the election outcome. Yeah, much of this activity was avataristic, the Self as Spectacle, via social media, but it was one of a few rare occasions when pulses of something closer to tangible interaction (action?) infected the millions of lonely slaves-to-self-promotion of a miserable fucking X-Factor society; a time when the 40-years-hate-your-neighbour project falls away, and we find ourselves genuinely ‘sharing’ something (maybe those worst infected by ‘40-years-hate-your-neighbour’, ‘trollers-cum-epic-fail-hunters’, can tell me it was my own little delusion, but I’m not prepared to listen to you until you are prepared to listen to the words spewing out of your own heads onto ‘comments’ boxes).
It already feels like it is fading again. Yet, as stated by a speaker at last Saturday’s anti-austerity demo in Sheffield, the speed at which protests against this elected government have emerged is notably much more rapid in comparison with 5 years ago. And although what we anticipated from the then-coalition government was very different from what we anticipate now, we shouldn’t be afraid to suggest that this time around the ‘slow suicide’ of a ‘keep calm and carry on’, over-worked existence won’t keep us passive, bored, and depressed Netflix-hovel-occupiers any longer. I’m not afraid to risk being wrong by speculating that our silently-shared depressive spell is over; although I expect a further spike in suicides and breakdowns in and out of work places, the fact that we ‘we can’t take it anymore’ means that it will no longer be silent, and energy will emerge from many souls that were too immiserated to respond during the past 5 years.
Losing Isn’t an Option
Just because we lost the battle of democratic reform, of parliamentary legitimacy, it doesn’t mean any momentum has been lost for a growing left movement. Nobody knows what a forceful movement for social, political and environmental justice capable of beating down the memes of late capitalist ideology would look like, but there again, how could we? We only know what they looked like in the past because they have been captured by a history that is technologically-enabled to be at our sides telling us ‘how the west was won’ more and more by the day, overburdening our minds with the failures of opposing ideologies, creating an air-tight impression that no future movement is possible. Capitalist relations were such a game-changer regarding all other prior social forms, that to suggest socialist social systems have failed because the Soviet experiment has proven them to lead to corruption and misery is to be totally naive to just how determined by capitalist reality these systems were; it is matter of fact, and not opinion, that a genuinely different system has not managed to supersede capitalism yet.
But losing isn’t an option now. Maybe these words are only vibrating in my ears in the wake of seeing a triumphalist right wing victors gleefully promise to be as cruel and as environmentally destructive as possible (how mind-fucked with malevolence does one have to be able to accept these born-to-rule creatures as our best governors?!) But if we believe our species’ own little story about our ability to adapt to any given situation, and that it doesn’t just mean a winner takes all in the ‘rule of the jungle’, then we’d come to see that our species has to respond to a system that really cannot now be be seen as anything but a crash course in the annihilation of life of this planet. The privatisation of health, the Auschwitz-like dogma about the virtuousness of work; the unrelenting hatred of the weak and poor – it is as one of my Facebook friends said, ‘a slow motion holocaust’. And let’s not even begin to talk about Fracking; a deranged warlord sweeping the Asiatic continent looking for fixes for his fucked-up addictions would even pause and consider the sanity of such a measure…but in our times it is presented as the most ‘pragmatic’ measure to take. And what does that tell you…?
It’s the end of the line. But this could prove to be a blessing in disguise. It could… The alternative doesn’t bear thinking about.
“The Conservatives have figured [how to get votes whatever the situation]…appealing to the population in the following way…’vote for me…and I will protect YOU, and I’m gonner take it out on THEM’.” Richard D Wolff, Global Capitalism May 2015 lecture
What really constitutes self interest? If the politicians winning over voters are those appealing most effectively to self interest, then I’ll look at what I know constitutes my self interest. My self interest benefits from an optimally-bearable environment; upon not seeing poverty left blinded to its causation; aimless passive violence, always threatening to be more than passive, and the far-right graffiti stickers on lampposts making spaces instantly more threatening; and an expanding homeless population requiring constantly-updated blinkers and dancier Ipod numbers to pretend it isn’t really happening. My self interest benefits from a general trust of those I catch the eye of walking down half-empty streets, not an environment where you are warned of either CCTV watching your ‘for your own safety’ or potential ‘criminals’ spying on you as you enter your pin code. It doesn’t benefit from the ecological downsides of a miserably self-concerned society; such as congested roads, filled up like icy rivers with the distrust and screaming-competitiveness feeding into our every moment (the past five years have proven that forced-belt-tightening hasn’t reduced traffic on roads, but the anxieties intensified over those years have made us less likely to think about less tangible environmental costs, and more likely to use our cars to get to and fro our ‘unknown pleasures’ as quick as we can). Life becomes harder for the pedestrians, whose self-interest becomes more focused on their lonely TV-repeats-dominated-hovels that they’re returning to than the motorists, due to the hostile road-choked environments convincing them that they aren’t wanted anywhere else.
In a nutshell, my self interest depends upon the self interest of others as much as they can possibly enhance each other. At the moment our self-interests are far from benefiting each other; the ‘40-years-hate-your-neighbour’ has made us sick individuals, prone to bi-monthly breakdowns, yet unable to see that it may be down to the society we’ve built rather than it being a case of certain emotions that we haven’t quite ‘mastered’ yet (“I must try harder, I know!!). If only we could see through the atomising propaganda surrounding our goldfish bowl-like lives.
Has anyone ever noticed how you never see any signs of public joy, affection, street celebration (even if proven to be misguided – think 1997) in the wake of Tory victory? Miserable, atomised, self interest doesn’t really go hand in hand with the sharing I guess. This is not a victory where many who even voted for the Tories were happy, but a victory for fear.
Not that I expected too much to have changed if the Labour government had got in, still, as it is, in the process of being pulled to the seabed by the tentacles of New Labour. But, whilst being unfortunate enough to land my eyes on the [even more] right wing press championing THEIR Tory victory, in a shop on Saturday, I was shocked to find myself with a strong sensation that we were a people under enemy occupation. “Know your enemy”. But I didn’t feel “Let down and hanging around, crushed like a bug in the ground”, but energised. Energised by a realisation that fighting back is now not a task but a compulsion that many of us will no doubt find ourselves partaking in without much realisation of how we got here. After spending the last years of the coalition under a zombie-state, unhealthily-melancholic and obsessed with what was lost, there’s no way of repeating this growing sickness, that has already shown signs of being unbearable. May I be so unusually brave as walk out onto the tightrope above contemporary life to suggest that some kind of new approach to life is on its way, I can feel it…….? If nothing changes, everything is lost anyway. There is no way back. I have to be brave. We all do.
Maybe life how I once remembered it could still be around the corner….
“While There’s Still a World to Win, My Red Dream Means Everything” – RED SLEEPING BEAUTY, MCCARTHY