Tag Archive | unemployment

200 year old eyes

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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.

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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

Exhaustion in The Face of Everything, A5, ink on paper

Exhaustion in The Face of Everything

Hyper-Malaise

Hyper-Malaise (ink on paper)

Hyper-Malaise

Doing anything to prevent ourselves seeing the true conditions of our existence

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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.

Barnsley (58)

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.

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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?

Barnsley (56)

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’.

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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.

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Where am I? Where do I want to be? Should I be moving in a certain direction? Why aren’t I moving?

Anti-depressants are social control first and foremost, and when the desired effect they provide is wearing off one can feel their functioning in society stumbling, and occasionally tumbling. It’s at points like this when you realise “yes, the system does try to control me”. It’s such a disenfranchising feeling, and if I don’t trust the system how can I find help from within it? I can’t without capitulating, and that just never works because I’m too alienated from its design for life for it to successfully take me over (and yes, at terrible moments, when aimlessness is coupled with despair, I have begged it to take me over, like Winston Smith crying for mercy in the arms of O’Brien in 1984’s room 101; control and de-characterize me, as long as you take away this pain).

I have tried quite a few of the system’s offers of help, but none can give you help based upon your own understanding of the world. Another method of help from within the system is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). CBT’s advice for the patient seems to be taken directly from the psychotherapy ideas which encourage hiding from the Social to work entirely on the Personal – ideas taken on board by elites, which have helped reconfigure the system to one based on control by keeping individuals trapped in a never-ending solitary pursuit for personal satisfaction. Thus the only help it can give you, to put it in a ruthless way, is to forget the problems of the world, and of others, that surround you, to dedicate yourself to a constant proving of your innocence and exemption from it all, in order to pursue an enjoyable life. To anyone who has spent much of their life concerned about what’s going off in the world, the therapy will be defunct from day one. The practitioners seem to genuinely want to help you live a better life, and you can’t help warming to them due to their friendliness. But, in effect, it’s arguable that you continue attending out of gratitude for their efforts, rather than the help actually being of use (it’s almost becomes the reverse of wha it is supposed to be: you go in care of their wellbeing, rather than the improvement of your own). This is unless one can take on board the system’s coding. But to do so means an initial wiping of one’s character; surely it must?

“All we want from you are the kicks you’ve given us” (Motorcycle Emptiness, Manic Street Preachers).

Certain friends would advise me to reject the system’s advice (i.e. the general societal advice understood from the collectivised ideas, suggestions and orders, mediated and spoken to us). So far, this has been all-but-impossible, and my time just seems to be spent on a mental ring road, where my thoughts just chase each other around and around (which is played out in the physical world by hopping onto trains in hope of finding a solution, only to arrive at places and suddenly wonder why I’ve even come here; Knowing that I might as well as stayed on the train as that’s where the sensation of moving onwards resides). But how can one reject a society completely when one has spent their entire life subjected by its images and words, guiding one towards its mores, and making anything less seem like a bleak prospect? When one is also so utterly dependent on it? Are these endless internal debates the fate of all humans who feel compelled to question and scrutinize? If I managed to exist without the pressures and mores of society grabbing me, would I find stability and acceptance? But can the greatest of philosophers even manage this?

The past month probably hasn’t been the wisest of times to begin a reduction to the intake of my Sertraline 50mg, anti-depressant, prescription; as my wage-earning work (to differentiate from my art-making work) has momentarily all but stopped, leaving me without a wage-necessity-dictated structure. So when one starts to feel ‘the dips’ that the emotional-levelling anti-depressants usually block, without a structure to give superficial meaning to one’s day, the marching from place to place loses its steam, and there is nothing to bury one’s head into, and one starts to feel worthless due to being unable to stop comparing their predicament to those who, superficially, seem to have a more purposeful life, a feeling exacerbated by the lack of money from being laid off without pay.

In life in general I feel that I am getting nowhere, and that the only progress I am making is an advancement of grey hairs and wrinkles. I understand this is philosophical poverty, but I never seem to have the space to fundamentally ‘get a grip’, and when life does leave massive dollops of time at my disposal it is usually because I am having feelings of worthlessness and uselessness, that scare me and compel me to get back on a treadmill, any treadmill, as long as it’s moving fast: when I have time to think, I often feel too fragile to question and scrutinize.

I’m sat writing parts of this whilst invigilating a gallery space. A video is being shown which is a continuous slow changing of photographs focussing on a woodland space, where one can see the seasons slowly take over from each other. This, of course is a continuous process. The video is continuous. There is no beginning and no end, except when I have to switch it off after the gallery as closed for the day. The seasons change; this continuous cycle should give me the courage to find meaning within my own continuous cycles, that’s if it wasn’t for the spectres of climate change and capitalism forcing me to feel like I need to ‘hurry the fuck up’.

But does my critique of the system mean I am ruthlessly against every element of the state?

This is where I get confused as to what kind of world I’d want. Or, more accurately, what kind of world I believe is achievable in the face of so many threats to humanity. I do, after all, have an unshakable desire for the continuation of humankind. Finding something or lots of different ‘somethings’ that help 7 billion people live on this earth, without fear of annihilation is the upmost priority for me – I cannot take flight from this. We cannot sit back and allow the possibility of apocalyptic scenarios scientist James Lovelock, amongst others, predict will wipe billions off the world’s population by the end of the century. Our being creates meaning; our existence allows for the world to be; without us there are still things there, but they are in nothingness. My mind is absorbed in this bigger picture, and I’m not in a position, nor am I the person that could think up any solutions, so I just get confused into despair.

Strangely I was thrown into a spell of depression recently after I read an article in complete rejection of the modern industrial world; the Europeanization process was how this writer described it; but its consequences can now be described as parts of the capitalist process. One would think I would be glad to find voices critical of such a de-humanizing, elitist, and environmentally destructive process (which, since its conception, has arguably always been on course to build a dystopia, a situation I would argue we are within now), and I am usually, yet certain voices can leave me in despair. The words were spoken by a leader of The Native American, Russell Means, and had to be written down by somebody else, because for him writing (or at least the dependency on written rather than spoken word) was a key source in the Europeanisation modernising process, that leads to an abstraction from the world we exist in, which has engendered Europe’s (or the Wests) ability to abuse the earth, due to becoming to see it (from the land to the people who live on it) as something which is there to be exploited, the bounties of the earth as a means to an end, which has led us to this catastrophic point; an argument that each technological advance has been borne out of this reckless model, and that it is all defunct and living on borrowed time, with a belief that nothing can stop this civilisation’s collapse.

I cannot disagree with most of this. But his solution, or not so much solution but stand point which he, and many others who believe a complete abandonment of the urbanised/industrialised, leaves me in a state of despair, from where I need to go for a cider just to soften the fear of oblivion. How can we go back to a state of living where we aren’t dependent on such technologies, without either seeing hundreds of millions die in the process, or letting a process that kills hundreds of millions arrive us at this point? We can’t. I can’t see how we can get back to a point which negates all the technological advances from this Europeanisation process, without consigning a hefty chunk of humanity to its doom. We couldn’t turn our backs on our technological advances even if we decided we didn’t need cars, computers, microwaves etc. ; we need advanced technologies to feed so many mouths, to provide energy to the system’s that keep us warm in places naturally cold, and for essential communication between different areas so we can act together in necessary times such as environmental disasters, and these are but a tiny percentage of the reasons we cannot now live without it. A very down-to earth, ‘grow your own’ way of living is a great way of teaching us what we’ve forgotten in our urban/suburban lives, but it just wouldn’t be possible for 7 billion people, on a planet which is already sweating and twitching due to our messing up of its ecosystems. But how can we manage to maintain the systems to do this without maintaining the nation states that control (or at least sub-control) them?

So, do I believe in trying to change things from inside the current social system, peacefully? Or do I believe in completely rejecting the current social system, both by subtracting from it, and by striking back against it, violently if necessary? I am always confused as to who I believe is right and who is wrong when it comes to trying to change the world for the better. Although I wouldn’t normally do so, if I had to categorise myself, not in a sense of any political alignments, but in a sense of the kind of person I am, I would have to label myself as an anarchist communist: I have always been adamantly individualistic, often to my own loss (even to the extent where I have to overcome a massively uncomfortable feeling, when I’m trying to join a demonstration, because when many people walk one way I always want to walk the opposite way), I hate the feeling that something/somebody is trying to tell me what I should do and when I should (my drawings which I have often called ‘landscapes of people’ are first and foremost me kicking against such feelings, followed by the despair that the social system embeds in my outlook). However, I have also always despised unfairness; I have never been able to accept that some people have lavish lives, whilst some peoples’ lives consist of fruitless hardship, of worthlessness and lacking any hope. I can’t stand injustice in the world; it will always seem unnecessary to me. As much as I have always felt like an outsider, I am also affected by The Social (what I see when I walk through a town/city) more than anybody else I know; sad sights of trashed lives can cripple me for days.

There’s nothing I would want more at the moment than to see this societal sickness almost cured, to see an end to the abundance of misery and poverty around me, and to see an end to the system based on greed and selfishness that engenders this; to see people with genuine meaning and happiness in their lives, to not have to see the opposite; people blind drunk at 4pm on a weekday, or people frantically trying to finding meaning through consumerism. Maybe one should always keep in mind the ideal (of a world free of the nation state, capitalism and their corporate marriage, but also free as possible from hierarchy and poverty/oppression and human-made suffering), but if much of what constitutes the ideal is ever so far away from being realised, but something far less ideal, but still considerably better than the current predicament , and does look to be attainable at present, then I would still show my utter support for it – even if this did mean that citizens were still subordinated and infantilised to a certain degree. For example, I will still show my support for those wishing to (re)strengthen the welfare state and reduce inequality in Britain, even if this does mean a continuation of capitalism and unfairness in general. Whether this is even achievable now; it may be too late to do any bargaining with a system that has reached its zenith of madness.

The thing is can the machinery of capitalism (which is dumping the poor before it dumps the entire earth into the incinerator) truly be halted from driving us over a cliff edge, without the dismantling of the state also? This is where my utter confusion kicks in. Although I feel a sense of belonging in the hills of the West Riding of Yorkshire, because it’s the only home I’ve known, I am in no means a nationalist to the nation of England, or the remnants of its empire (Britain). But as much as I despise the unthinking loyalty to The Royal Family whipped up by the media when there’s a Royal an event, and feel alienate from aspects of what appear to be its national identity, being a subject of the state wouldn’t make me anywhere near as miserable and desperate if the problems in our society, caused by and large by the inequalities intrinsic to neoliberal capitalism, weren’t half as bad as they are.

Then sometimes always clinks in my mind: “it’s their world, it’s built in their image, and they own it. Don’t expect them to give you anything.”- By which I mean, ‘they’ – the elite of the corporate state complex. The philosopher Slavoj Zizek warns how, instead of seeing developing capitalist nations, such as China and India – where there is barely any democratic rights, obscene income gaps between rich and poor, and nothing much to prevent ruthless exploitation of workers – as ‘developing’ in the sense that they are going through what the European/American nations went through in the 19th/early 20th century, one should see the reverse: that our perceptions of capitalism being tied with democracy are false, and only reflect a very short period in our history, and instead of China and India becoming like us, the likelihood is that capitalism will make the European/American nations more like China and India. This prospect certainly does put the brakes on trying to make mainly law-abiding changes within the system

But then again, Zizek in his book Living In The End Times also seemed to be suggesting in his conclusion, that rather seeing one method of challenging the capitalist system as wrong and the other as right, and wasting time arguing over this, one should, if not use all methods themselves, at least support each different way of challenging it, either through subtraction, action, or peaceful bargaining. Basically to push and pull from every end. All actions that aim for something better should be supported, but without ever giving up on ones ideals. Which I suppose leads onto the idea that society is a constant flux, and one should never rest on a structure relating to set ideas; one should always be seeking for the ideal, with no the permanent end in sight from where surely society would become archaic an hierarchical (?).

I must admit that I am guilty of wishing for fixed-endings under our current predicament, both in my own life and the wider world, but this is often out of wishing for an ending to the anguish that I feel , the inability to be at ease within the world. And here I am not looking for an ideal; I am in flight from the ideal. But, even when I can’t feel that there can be a predicament better than this, logic still convinces me to support and agree with those who want better than this

So then, if the construction of the state is the first step of corporatism, abstracting our sense of identity and belonging and aligning it to an artificial construct, which lays the perfect base for capitalism to flourish, how do we halt the reckless dynamics that make the system if we can’t dismantle the state without fear of catastrophe, unimaginable suffering, the worst case scenario? I’m not sure to be honest, but the technology, the advances, we certainly can’t do without now. Capitalism has brought great material changes to our lives, I cannot dispute this. But it is easy to see now that it has reached its zenith of bringing better material benefits for most; and has thus descended into madness in the quest to maintain its legitimacy. Not to subtract from technology; its technological advances are to be kept, but not it; it can only do the reverse effect now. But how humanity could achieve this separation of technology from an utterly destructive system is something I don’t feel I have the ability to be assigned the job of racking my brains over, even though I do this, day after day after day after day, on my West Riding train travel circulatory, which is why I have to express my thoughts on thing, that I’m likely out of my depth with, on this inclusive blogosphere. I need to vent this somewhere.