Teresa Mayday (Writings From HMS Brexit)

This cut of HMS Brexit is a montage of considerations and conversations held in urban Yorkshire around Teresa May Day, 2017.

The election promise of more bank holidays is perhaps the most worryingly feeble soundbite the Labour Party have pitted against May’s iron-agenda of “a vision of a man chipping ice off his windscreen and going to a job he hates, forever” (a comment the late Mark Fisher made in the aftermath of the 2015 Tory victory). Short of a general reduction of the working week, bank holidays are merely showcases of just how burnt-out our cultural obsession with work has made us. Bank holidays are like a warm maddening gust of monoculture seeping into every receptive pore, yelling “hey, you enjoying it yet!?”.

Last year, during a late afternoon September walk upon Marsden Moor, in the simmering aftermath of yet another 2 day race to try to sweep up as much leisure as is possible from the limited time/energy left from the 5 day race, we spoke of being ‘landlocked on an island’. It was a throwaway remark that nonetheless stuck in our thoughts.

Bank holiday weekends are landlocks on an Island, or at least its lockdown, where the extension of the normal weekend-feeling intensifies the seizure of space into a mentally exhausted hunt for fun.

There’s no escaping it – it’s like a workday commute in reverse, where we pathetically and unimaginatively try to push back the time taken from us.

Some breaths are taken are little more slowly and deeply than others.

…but there’s no winners.

The right wing victors have made sure life is a game all about winners and losers. But I see a society where everybody is living from fix to fix – whether it’s from the more privileged vantage of a status car in a traffic jam, or the ‘loser’, straddling the narrow pavements with cans of cider in his bag. I see a society where everybody is losing.

On the train to Sheffield, I had the nauseating everyday-performance anxiety of finding myself alienated from, seemingly, it all. ‘Lads on tour’ made me remember it was a bank holiday Sunday, and I should be drinking, or thinking of drinking. It’s all we know do to with the gaps of freedom granted from our nothing-jobs, when not ‘gymming it’ – which is surely an extension of work? But drinking too is an extension of work, not just in how it recharges us for Monday by puking up our frustration built up from the week gone, but in how our drinking seems like the cultural response to losing. Resigned as we’ve long-been to losing to the capital machine, and accepting workaday for eternity

Maybe the election promise of more bank holidays is because the idea of a reduced working week would seem like heresy in a time where the ghost of work drives society into a state of overworked exhaustion that produces barely anything we savour.
“We’ve never had it so good”, a famous quip by the Prime Minister Harold Macmillan in the midst of much Postwar optimism, has since been internally re-digested to mean “we should never have had it so good”. We’ve come to accept so much less, and I don’t think we’ve even realised. Whilst we may cling to the Disney of theme-weddings, flash cars and country homes, we feel dirty for even dreaming of not burning ourselves out each week doing something we despise – even as the machines threaten (or promise) to do all our ‘dirty’ work for us.


There are stickers currently posted all over the transport terminals of South Yorkshire – preventing us forgetting the grave injustices dealt by the Tories on the National Union of Mineworkers in 1984. But they alone will struggle to remind us of the once-held belief that we shouldn’t have to live and die as worker-bees who feel that queen bee has spoiled us with an extra bank holiday to fuck up. We are now the self-inflicted undeserving poor, and, thus, it doesn’t take much to whip up hatred of the non-working poor when, essentially, it is ourselves we hate.


Tied like weary beasts to the 1990’s, its stagflated children have nothing to replace its neoliberal ‘teenage kicks’. 20 years ago to the month, after 17 years of Tory rule, New Labour were elected to govern a country that felt very different, if wearily similar. As John Harris’s article on ‘Cool Britannia’ states in this weeks’ prescient edition of the Newstatesman that I picked up in Leeds Railways Station, “the Western world was still locked in to the decade-long spell of carefree optimism that had begun with the fall of the Berlin Wall and would end with events of 11 September 2001”. This, I can personally vouch for, being young, and easily influenced by the hype of a decadent music culture fused with a then-new-look politics that looked like it would lead us into an exciting new century.
We all know how sour things went, but I think John Harris only mildly humours the answer to the question ‘where did it all go wrong?’.
It’s not just a question of being fooled by a political party who felt they’d found a new formula that could splice market fundamentalism with a strong, sharing society. It’s not a question of feeling fooled by a backwards-looking culture that was heading for burnout before it began. It’s not even a question about wanting to turn back the clocks to before ‘always on’ connection and the 9/11 terror attacks.
It’s all of things, but I’d like to suggest it was maybe more to do with the mirage that there was then a shared-sense of a positive projection into the future. It led us to take it as a given, when, in fact, from about the early 2000’s onwards there was a growing sense of betrayal, and hurt, at the bitter persistence, and intensification of the nastiness and distrust of each other injected into society most notably by the party, and leader (Margaret Thatcher), whom Blair sought to eclipse with his ‘new’ vision. As he tries to resurrect his political life as I write, like some demonic creature time-locked by the last century, maybe we should consider that the period that he was a cipher for led a lot of (especially young, and politically naive) people into a false sense of togetherness, the slow-betrayal of which they possibly never fully recovered from.
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Passage taken from ‘Abandon Hope’ (Summer is Coming), the late Mark Fisher’s brilliant piece written days after the 2015 election result

UK 2017 – a general election for the Unhappy Ilse
But we’re not talking about Bertrand Russell’s notion of the ‘happy miserable’. What we have here is more it’s ‘the selfish-miserable’.

Maybe we shouldn’t avoid Brexit talk, and stress that it’s really now more about whether you want to wager on a man, who, however unfit he is for The Age of Ads, is probably earnest about injecting compassion and empathy into a dying social body, or if you’ve totally given up on our wider environment, and willing to ignore that evidence is mounting to show how this is abandonment is killing us by misery.


But what right does a land of people who have raped the earth have to happiness anyway?

The Jamaican-born Stuart Hall, was right to point out that “Euro-scepticism and Little Englander nationalism could barely survive if people understood whose sugar flowed through English blood and rotted English Teeth”, but severed from its source it serves as a shard of violent words, for the vicious verbal in(ternet)fighting that now constitutes much of our lives.

Yes, the selfish-miserable has policed the waves and plundered the land for sugary satisfactions for centuries, it’s part of a sediment of suffering that probably dates back to the terrifying castles the Normans built as a statement of superiority all over England. It spread across the world, but no place like home did it have so much time to sink its teeth in.


I’m actually convinced that a lack of foreign-sugar in our blood stream is not something we would miss if we as a nation accepted and challenged the toxicity of our interrelations. It creates a sickness that makes a slow-suicide through sugar desirable. Be it through comfort food or alcohol; this is self-medication against the accumulation of minute emotional wounds we, and the infrastructures we’ve built, inflict on each other throughout every given day.

June 2017


words from Patrick Keiller’s London (1994, BFI)

The fraught distrust that hugs our shared spaces, more pungent than the toilety smell of toilets on crowded Virgin Crosscountry trains, is a worrying indication that it will be a victory for Teresa’s May’s padlocked-pessimism this June. The party is the preserve of cowardice, and will happily feast on the carcass of the social body if we willingly lay it down to die.

I hope I’m wrong. Surely enough’s enough? And I mean this on a much deeper and broader field than the one on which Teresa May bullies politicians who have the courage – when courage is viewed as stupidity – to believe in a better world.


I think I’m writing this because I want to address what I feel this nation is suffering from most after 40 years of the most extremely atomising stage of capitalism; a process that has severed so many means to our necessary need to bond and feel belonging.
I can never get out how severe I feel the severance is. Maybe this is because the barriers have already damaged our ability to communicate, even on paper; maybe it’s because we are so exposed to how alone we are due to the explosion of avenues for communication; Maybe this explosion is so painful, so immiserating, because it’s demanding a leap; a leap in collective consciousness that we may or may not be capable of.
The damaging, and most common, response is to use this explosion of avenues of communication to fight each other in a form of verbal violence that spreads the social disease of all Vs all like wildfire. This is why I try my best to refrain from finger-pointing on Facebook (for example), because I know how painful it can feel when those disembodied words fire at you – after all, we’re all capable of ‘getting it wrong’ due to the mental exhaustion caused by the chaos, confusion and competition of it all.

I think any form of argument that sees itself as constructive, yet relies on these forms of identity attack, amidst this white noise-moment for language, is set to intensify the destructive human behaviour we wish to end.


I was thinking out loud today about environmental articles, and posts that I feel resort to these tactics. Because the more we fall for the circular thinking that blames our inherent stupidity and foolishness for ecological collapse (despite it being a human made phenomenon) – lamenting our ‘idiocy’ and ‘dumbness’ as we pass by a fly-tip or river next to a supermarket – the more we hate each other, and, consequently, lose our way on a path towards survival.

I guess, this is just one example. Yet if we are here saying the main issue is around ‘getting our act together’, this example is the biggest issue.

Technological leaps in a capitalist society have always frustrated and hindered the very opportunities they open up. But this has never been so critical as it is now with the explosion of communicative potentials that are testing the limits of our psyche.

It is currently all about limits. And I guess it is difficult to stick with the problem (and it is a problem) of this island, when discussing so global a game-changer. But how do we leave this out of Teresa Mayday? Because I believe that capitalism’s nature to aggravate the itch that cannot be scratched has reached its bearable limits.

And if it is bearable for you, as I guess it’s bearable for me in comparison with many, is ‘bearable’ what we’re set on now? If so, fine, let Teresa May have her day. All I’m saying is that it just seems like ‘bearable’, as things stand, is equivalent to a house just that little bit further in-land from the ones currently being eroded by a tide that is permanently coming in.

And “I’m just about coping, Jack” is a pathetic excuse of a civilisation on any landmass at any time, ever.

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