Sometimes it feels that the malaise, the feeling of having been cheated, is because the ghosts of my forefathers embody me, disillusioned with the repetition of ordeals we thought were their past, not ours – after all that glorious future their Dickensian-stricken aging bodies believed they were handing down to us (no wonder the 1970’s seems more like a future than it does the past). I do not specifically mean by forefathers my genetic line, but also the people at large who came before us. I also believe many more my age and ten years either side feel this, even if they don’t think this.
And this feeling is certainly no jingoist rain dance! It’s more of a feeling that the future was stolen. A future in which the jingoist impulse would have been buried 6 miles deep (the depth at which they should have buried Thatcher).
The plight of those before me informs us that we are part of a defeated generation. Yet this truth remains an undetected feeling that almost never registers as a thought; drowned out by the white-noise of the capitalism 2.0’s con-work. The noise of competitive individualism, positive psychology and it’s flip-side, the draconian threats to work harder and harder for less. It turns the brain in an inflexible type of wood, then it sends in the wood worm to fuck you over twice.
“Here are the young men the weight on their shoulders … The sorrows we suffered and never were free” Decades, Joy Division
Yet my 200 year old glare knows it’s a con when it catches itself in a train window or the mirror in a pub. 200 years of hardship rest behind them (if nowhere else on my body), overriding me with a sensation of ‘not again’. Ghosts accumulated behind your eyes because the future they should have been laid to rest in never arrived – accumulated from a future denied.
This is a piece of writing I wrote to accompany of a photograph (image above) of screwed up job-centre print-outs (never worth the paper they’re printed on), when I was briefly claiming dole before returning to the very same job I had been doing prior to my unemployment:
“It’s like we all know the world wants us to go through the same ordeals that we already know the grim/empty outcome of, over again, and we’re telepathically communicating a message that roughly translates as “look we’ve [our civilisation has] come this far, look at what we’ve been through, we at least expect something a little better than this”. It is a feeling that haunts the first countries to go through the ‘modernisation’ process’ more than anywhere else; haunted by those ordeals of our forefathers – the first to be subjected to capitalist exploitation”.
I belong to the unemployed even whilst I work day in day out. I belong here because in my heart I don’t have it in me to accept life as a repeat of the grim ordeals of the past, after all con-men told us that this would never happen again. Thus don’t be surprised if as a 30 year old I remain somewhat in a peter-pan state, where am I to go? I’m not the only one. A culture of so-called ‘shirkers’ is actually a society of lost souls, but empathy for others is not something we do well (if we ever did).
But I can hear it already, “what gives you the right to think you don’t to do a hard day’s work?”, “you need to grow up mate and accept what life throws at you”. Which is completely missing the point, and also roughly translates as “How dare you challenge the work ethic so ingrained in our culture that we’re prepared to destroy the planet and go to war in the process of defending it?” Well, there was a time not so long ago when the idea of a coming-world where we worked less, stressed less, envied less, needed to drown our sorrows less, was anticipated. And I believe this world was far from being an unrealistic goal – until the tide of politics changed that was.
Oh, and if you do misread all of this as me being what you’d likely call ‘bone idle’, I do actually work hard. And, although apart from the day job it is not really/directly towards a better career, or a better-looking C.V, and may be work that actually diverts from securing a more financially-stable future for myself (as if I even thought that likely now!) I work fucking hard. But ask me to go to interviews? To start upon the road of bones and C.V’s towards a ‘dream job’? You will see in my eyes that I have already gone. It’s too late for me to believe. It’s a unnecessary repetition of our fore-fathers’ past, and it will only end badly. My 200 year old eyes can’t bear another lap on this grueling track.
Exhaustion in The Face of Everything, A5, ink on paper
Hyper-Malaise (ink on paper)
The sky is that kind of colour that seems to saturate everything with lifelessness. The kind of day when moving from one metaphysical bubble to another is very much advisable. Even better if you can drape these bubbles in enough shiny stuff as to make convince others that they are desirable places to inhabit. I suppose you lose a little dignity when you cannot do this at all; when the only thing that has colour on such days are the billboards/bus-stop-poster adverts that show a glamour that is seemingly always just out of reach.
Stuck in a room with no reachable community (in areas drained of community), where everything sociable requires purchasing power in order to be reached, in a country of people who have been told time again that the world has ended and that their own lives are now all that matters. So I step outside, with just enough money to catch the only bus out of this village to a nearby gallery – my mind needs it easier today, it’s not a day for staring into the abyss whilst sat in it.
I glance at the young people of this village, hanging around the top shop. A village that offers them nothing but street corners and empty roads to scoot down. They have reached that age when society slowly begins to humiliate them; slowly begins to wear the hopes and dreams down that it helped manufacture in the mind with orgies of images of glamour, the good life, and excitement. It now leaves them to stagnate in grey, underserviced housing estates. Of course they will look for distractions/sugary bursts that can help humour or keep in limbo those slowly-dissapearing hopes and dreams, and who can blame them when it turns into acts that are deemed as anti-social?
To suddenly see yourself as you truly are – socially trapped, with few prospects/a person well down the chart on the all-important ‘who’s-who’ list – must be one of the worst assaults possible on that necessary ego one needs, in this ocean of egos. Perhaps, at this point in time, now I find myself unemployed and lumped back in my parents’ house on the outskirts of an already-neglected town (after a failed attempt to move somewhere else), I realise the difficulty in retaining one’s dignity and a sense of self-worth, and not feeling humiliated whenever seeing other human beings who seem to be faring better. An immense amount of energy and mental strenth is required to maintain well-being and ignore the omnipresent signs that tell you you are worthless and a ‘loser’.
Everything that could have been done to make places more pleasant holes to exist in, everything that could have been done to create an environment that gives meaning and well-being to people has been shit on from a great height by the rights of free enterprise and private property. You either become somebody who is constantly in need of distraction (who have probably now become Facebook/text message addicts), somebody who has a skin as thick as a crocodile’s, or both. There is no real future that one is able to plan for.
Think of the 1960’s film, and cult-classic Kez (situated within the same borough as the village described, and culturally not as far apart as one would expect due to the amount that has changed since the production of the film). The protagonist, Billy Casper, enters the careers/jobs office at the Comprehensive school he attends. He is a young man who has sought constant distraction from his grim existence, to the extent that he cannot apply himself to anything – well, until he pets the Kestrel he names Kez, which gives him a meaning and freedom to life, only for it to be cruely destroyed by the culture he is trapped in. In the interview he cannot think of one job he would like to do; he obviously doesn’t have the capacity and strength to think this far-ahead. All he has in his mind is a desire to get out of that room as soon as possible, and get on with whatever gets him through each day, one by one.
To realise one’s true conditions of existence is, for many, a moment of sheer humiliation, followed by fear. One instead has to constantly spin the plate/keeping in balance the feeling that you “are the man, I am man”, whilst clearly knowing that they have been, by and large, sidelined by society. The best description I heard of the effect of the current government slashing of welfare is one of humiliation; as things get worse and worse, more and more will find it harder to maintain their dignity and a sense of self-worth. Within these coming years we are sure to witness extremities of all reactions to such humiliation; more riots, more drink and drug problems, more acts of random violence, more tribalism, more talent shows providing slim chances of success to ever-more desperate people, prepared to be in ever-more humiliating productions just for an end to the long humiliation.
It isn’t possible to look away from this, and these grey days demand of us that we see the world minus the ideological-enhancement-of our real conditions such distractions help maintain.