(A writing for the Retro Bar at The End of The Universe Collective)
Apparently Generation Y arrived in January 1984. This means my sense of stuckness could be down being born in a generational hinterland.
Actually no: we are all stuck, stuck in the deep mud between the end of something and something….something else, that needs to be longed into existence promptly.
This year has been one of free-fall in stasis. No wonder the word of the year hasn’t been Trump or Brexit, but post-truth. How could our experience of the world feel to be both frozen and falling to bits at the same time, except in an age when our ability to function in daily life isn’t even affected by an era-defining loss of trust in all beyond our immediate lives?
The freeze and free-fall are no doubt effects that have mushroomed in motion with our hyperspace dependency. To begin with, let’s look no further than the big documentary of the year; Adam Curtis’s Hypernormalisation. In a condensed interview for BBC 6 Music he spoke of how The Internet is one magnificent engineering feat, but one that we have mistaken for the future. It is a means to an end, but has become the end in itself.
But whilst we’ve been caught in this quagmire we have also found ourselves subjected to far more stimulatory information than we were ever equipped to deal with. We have become stuck in a search for an endless series of tasks, which we multitask until the sun goes down (and back up again), from social media, information from all angles, dating, job-searching, house-hunting and more bad news than the TV channels could ever imagine delivering to us. If the Internet was engineered to deliver things, what it has actually engineered is a huge mental health time-bomb, from which no recent global event could said to be immune. A toxification not just of the soil and sea, but also the psyche.
To add to this, economist and thinkers such as Paul Mason and Peter Frase have shown us this year, through information abundance and automation, that computers are actually bringing an end to capitalism. Although it is an end that currently has no end in sight.
..well, it doesn’t if you’re a depressed but stubborn utopianist, adamant that capitalism’s death means fully automated communism.
…rather than Barbarism.
But… wait for it….!
The Ultimate Roast Potato!! (Sorry Jamie, it’s nothing personal)
“It can’t go any further, it’s already reached the end” says DS Jarvis, in a sweeping but justifiable assessment of culture under late capitalism, as he drives us down the hill from Grange Moor Roundabout towards the built up beginnings of Huddersfield.
Onetime Cool Britannia-late-comer Jamie Oliver is the locus of today’s said assessment. His Xmas cooking program offers to show us how to cook ‘the ultimate Roast Potato’, leaving DS with no option but rage.
“I wouldnt mind… I wouldn’t fucking mind, but he’s already put a disclaimer in his program saying he’s already shown us how to make the BEST roast potato, but no, that wasn’t enough, NOW he’s showing us how to make ‘the ultimate roast potato’“.
The conversation weaves in and out of how outrunning and inevitably then lacking the New, capitalism is pulping culture, and creating pointless tokens of luxury in order to keep selling shit, and we reach the old mills of Huddersfield before DS adds “I wonder if he [Jamie) even realises what ultimate actually MEANS? It means final, or ending. After this he may as well just fucking kill himself, I mean what left is there for him to do now he’s created ‘the ultimate roast potato?’. I wonder after a hard days baking, if he sits down and thinks ‘Christ, I’m dead inside’ ?”.
Jamie Oliver arrived in our world on a mopehead in the complacent dying days of the 20th century, adding a flavour of Britpop-lite to high quality food our newly-middle-classed bellies had now come to expect. The problem is, we weren’t so middle class after all. And to Jamie’s horror, he discovered there was lots of people who hadn’t ‘got on their mopehead and looked for Britpop-lite in the 90’s’, and were still eating bad bad bad food. He even cried. This was Jamie’s 9/11 moment.
We drive down past DS’s favourite (and most-hated) building in the town; the incinerator. “John, it’s that fucking big, that it actually dominates the town; the town’s main feature is a place where you go to destroy all the shit that you didn’t even want in the first place”. We’ve been to the Costa coffee next to it before, and marvelled at how both it (with its atypical simulacra of Mediterranean life) and a Travel Lodge could only exist in so close proximity to an incinerator in a time where the idea of a place has so utterly eclipsed the reality of a place, to the extent that people can’t see that the biggest chimney in Huddersfield isn’t some now-romanticised chimney, which once pumped dark smoke into the sky over this former mill town, but this white monument to the unspoken failure of consumerism to fill the void.
The Huddersfield of the mind is still brass bands, satanic-but-reassuring mills and Fred Dibner-ites. On the congested ring road DS goes on about how Dibner called Huddersfield a rat-race in the 1970’s. “Fred, you should come look at it now” he says. “You would lose your fucking mind!”.
Into the town itself now, and under the influence (thank fuck). We meet John W. John W looks around the pub. “You see, the Xmas fever usually over-rides the depressed and troubled spirit of the year that’s been. But I’m not seeing it this year. I feel that this year’s events and forebodings have been so hard for us to switch off from that not even ‘santa can deliver the goods’. We are well and truly experiencing something different.”
I must admit my whole idea of purpose has been wrong-footed now that the concerns I felt lonely in thinking about seem to be concerns for all of us to think about in loneliness. I used to think that exercises in the exhaustion of the sugary lie of ideology would be enough to make people reject it like an under-cooked Wetherspoons meal and vomit it out. But a zeitgeist of disbelief is what currently prevails, and who can see that changing in 2017 right now?
As we leave, DS turns and says “I will be following Jamie Oliver’s recipe for the ‘ultimate roast potato’ on Xmas day. I mean, what choice do I have? After all it is ‘the ultimate roast potato’!. But I wonder what is left in this world for DS, and for all us for that matter, after the ultimate roast potato has been eaten?