“Not now, Jeremy, we’ve gotta get on the with show”
In recent years I have tried hard to stay away from the gut-driven urge to be an ideologue. Perhaps this is for reasons I am about to go into. However, what I see being offered by the UK Labour Party is more like the kind of opportunity offered by a counsellor; not a rigid doctrine, but enabling a way out of our current life state. I’ll explain why I think this.
I’ve heard few positives about Pink Floyd’s 1980’s album ‘The Final Cut’ (often due to accusations that Roger Waters had taken over the band). I think if anything, it’s the logical conclusion to the realisations made in their famous 1979 album ‘The Wall’. The Final Cut reminds me of the crazed voices that want us to carry on existing through our trauma, even when we have identified it, all that’s caused it, and all the damage it has down.
To begin on a personal note. I recently undertook a huge project that tried to come to terms with a lot of my own unhappiness. ‘Wall, i’ is a collaborative film project, and is a loose reemployment of this rock-opera, emotional odyssey template for a ‘Millennial’ experience; for a fictionalised account of my own journey from childhood to my mid 30’s, from the fall of The Berlin Wall, and ‘The End of History’, to what has been called the ‘lost decade’ of the past 10 years. It’s the biggest project I have ever embarked on, and I would wish for others to watch it via the Youtube link I have left.
Yet when it comes to what I do next; the life I know I must now try to build; I often get a golem-like voice in my head saying “not now!”
The song ‘Not Now, John’ on The Final Cut is this voice of burnt ego, and score-settling, that refuses to give up the ghost.
When it comes to the general election the UK is about to embark on, I believe this is, collectively, where we are at.
There has been a societal-level emotional shift quietly occurring over the past ten (maybe fifteen) years. I wouldn’t say ‘consciousness’ shift, because it is rarely aware of itself; the conditions we inherited from previous eras are blocking it. These conditions aren’t just external, they inform our egos, and self worth, which are still clinging onto to the dream of the rock and roll individualism sold to us in the neoliberalist salad days of the late 1980s and 1990s. “One more JD and coke, matey?”.
I firmly believe that a large cause of the mental health crisis, or perhaps the part that makes it an unavoidable part of our collective make up, is the fact that the cracks in the life foundations, past traumas, that can lay dormant in ‘normally functioning’ times, have become unavoidable. If the deep structural inequalities, competitiveness of society, and atomising nature of it all, wasn’t underpinned by a vast breakdown of cultural narrative, these injury causing features of life may not have seemed as unacceptable as they clearly are.
Indeed, I believe this is one of the main points of miscomprehension between the generations. It’s clear that the living conditions that the average Baby Boomer generation came of age in were far worse than the average Millennials’, but what seems to have happened in recent decades is the collapse of a story, a narrative to life. This has caused the traumas implicit to this very social system, the school, work, and domestic-based traumas brought about by the institutions of capitalist life, to emerge violently in our stream of consciousness, whereas when the ‘story’ was working, we could ignore them.
This doesn’t mean those traumas were acceptable so long as the story was working. More, this is an opportunity at hand. One that I believe many can see but perhaps can’t quite quaff about in everyday polite conversation. The accounts of people leaving more high paid jobs to work helping others, the accounts of people who are seeking new, peaceful paths in life, are too many to count — too many to dismiss for what it is: a phenomena.
This is where politics, or the political structures we currently have, fall short. I’d argue they still largely operate through the trauma, rather than beyond it. I have long felt that the forces vested in blocking socio-political change are at heart, unhappy ones. Life experience, whether its a ‘lose’ or a ‘win’ in terms of materialist success, seems to largely inform an idea that life isn’t very nice, — a ‘depressive realism’ as the late Mark Fisher put it. The politics that wishes to bring great change, must engage in a system that it is not its own, it must therefore argue on turf that is not its own; for many on the ‘left’ from what I see, this, on some low-level has a ‘triggering’ affect, forcing them to argue as they would have when they first sensed injustice, around pedagogical figures, or schoolground bullies.
Whatever you think of Roger Waters, Pink Floyd, or the relevance of talking about a band a white guys who were big in the 20th century, I have found they were fantastic when it comes to exploring the trauma involved in the institutions the make up Modern, capitalist, life (family, school, work, and the threat of prison, war). ‘The Wall’ is far more revered than ‘The Final Cut’. Yet if ‘The Wall’ is about the cause and affect of living in a traumatised, alienated state, The Final Cut is about coming to terms with it, painfully.
And this is where we are, now — if we recognise it for what it is. We are a society that is hurting. Some of us have had to realise this. Some not so, maybe. But some, and I am talking about myself here, still haven’t finally given up living through their trauma, and want another pop, another go on the emotional rollercoaster, another way of proving yourself to the unhappy memories rather than overcoming them.
“Not Now, John” is the penultimate track on ‘The Final Cut’. It’s a rejection of sense, reason, and a peaceful life, all in aid of settling old scores: “Fuck all that…we’ve gotta compete with the wily Japanese”, and “Hollywood waits at the end of the rainbow”. Waters is clearly also taking aim at Margaret Thatcher, for her demolition of the ‘post war dream’, in favour of throwing the nation back into the chest-beating big player game.
But here we are in 2019, and whatever your politics, you can’t deny those sugar rush (for some) days of Thatcherism seem a long way away. The sugar rush of neoliberalism, the ego boost it enabled, became a severe addiction; the competitive career-driven culture of our age is a mirror image of the spice and opioid addiction on our streets by those left behind. It’s just not easy to admit.
So, here is where I state my cards. In spite of shortfalls of our political structures, I’m voting Labour.
They are the only party who seem to actually want to bring this show to an end. Jeremy Corbyn isn’t god, and I’m not ‘Labour till I die’, but what I recognise is an offer similar to an offer made by a counsellor. It’s an offer to leave our past selves behind, overcome our trauma. They can’t do all the work, and we don’t know the future outcome, but it’s an hopeful message for a fresh start. It may not work as we expected, but surely it’s time to work through our demons and take new steps?
Like any sort of therapy, it can be enabling, allowing us to see opportunities where there were previously dead ends. It’s the reason I wouldn’t just ask those who have turned away from the nastiness in the personalising of politics (for the sake of their own peace) to vote, but also anarchists; surely the goal of self-realisation, autonomy away from institutions, can only be achieved by supporting people in the first place? Our current systems have put people in a state of perpetual anxiety — a disempowerment from where all we can attain are what Spinoza called ‘the sad passions’.
Many voices are currently screaming “Not now, Jeremy, we gotta get on with the show”.
But do you want the show to go on…?