Post-resistance Era (a sweary lament at modernity in four parts)
Modernity, isn’t it wonderful! A few years ago, I would have debated this statement somewhat, but would have also conceded that modernity has not been without its benefits. A few years ago, I felt I knew where I stood on the political spectrum and despite working long hours in myriad jobs ranging from bar work, English teaching and mental health support, it all meant something; for it was integral to the greater dream of making it as a successful artist and writer. Irrespective of having some misgivings about modernity, I nevertheless felt sure of my place within it, or at least where I wanted to get to within it: I had an identity linked to a dream. However, in recent years, and especially during the past year, something has darkened; my view of the world has dimmed considerably and my faith in humanity has all but gone. The past few months, I have been trying to put my finger on what the cause (or causes) of this might be; all I know for certain is that I find myself feeling disinterested, disenchanted and despairing in a way I’ve not felt before, which at times has been quite unnerving. I began exploring this feeling in previous blogs, notably here, and more recently elaborated on my disillusionment with the world broken down into four categories: the arts, the left, health and freedom, all of which seem dead to me.
Part One: Death of the Arts
For years, I thought being an artist was everything. Over time, writing became the main focus and, after writing two books and a number of poems and blogs, being a writer meant everything. The arts have since revealed its true face.
Alongside being a creator of beautiful things, I used to think the arts were also a place to question accepted norms; to turn on its head what our ‘social betters’ tell us is right and true. I realise now that it no longer concerns itself with either and was put to death at the turn of the century. Already severely wounded by the homogenising effects of 20th century capitalism, it took a near-fatal stab in the back by the Internet with the mortal blow coming about a decade later via the über-conformist, ultra-hive-minded kingpin known as Social Media.
In a world that has become universally bourgeois, is there really any difference between reading a contemporary novel and watching TV? If everyone is on Social Media, if everyone has an iPhone and participates in the uniform narratives mediated by capitalism within the confines of a snooping, Americanised un-world owned and controlled by a handful of rich men, if thinking itself is effectively colonised, then really, what is the difference between staring at a screen with moving images, or passively running one’s eyes over pages born from dis-imagination?
The sum total of human progress is to consume; to mediate life through the spectacle of Smartphones and Social Media, and be like everybody else. We no longer daydream. We no longer resist.
There is no possibility of beauty or subversiveness in a corporate sponsored, domesticated art world. No more great music where mediocrity has become celebrated. No more compelling and thought-provoking literature in an industry full of establishment gatekeepers seeking the next middlebrow drivel adhering to contrived market trends. No more character to our theatres in an era of abject conformity, and forget about cinema in an age of Disney, Marvel and DC.
It’s official: Art is Dead.
Individuality is Dead.
Culture is Dead.
Everything’s a brand.
We have become so fucking complacent that we actually believe we are saving the planet despite the paradoxical messages beamed into our brains 24/7 to consume, consume, consume. Not only are we not saving the planet, we are actively making the situation worse by the hour through our incessant throwaway society. NOWHERE in the arts is this even close to being questioned or challenged.
The world has never been so unsustainably materialistic, destroying everything that’s beautiful.
Indeed, we have instituted a banal culture of narcissism alongside an insufferably vapid worship of hypocritical, jet-setting celebrities boring us all to tears with their phoney liberal ‘values’ idolised by morons. We have come to revere a handful of psychopathic billionaires more concerned with colonising outer space (presumably to similarly rape it for its resources) rather than saving our beautiful planet.
Poverty and violence have been reduced to an advertising opportunity for the ‘socially conscious’ market. When it comes to social justice – BLM, #MeToo, LGBTQIA2S+, all represent the same fucking thing: corporate interests. Nothing more. Putting pronouns in your bio changes fuck all, you doughnut.
Literature, fine art, theatre, cinema, music: born and raised within the confines of the spectacle. There is no diversity because there cannot be any diversity – that’s the fucking point.
For considerable time, the arts have been little more than a dying corporate whore. Now the poor slut is dead, and still they line up in droves to fuck the corpse.
19 October ‘21
© Christopher Sharp
Part Two: Death of the Left
If you’d asked me in my twenties where my political affiliations lay, I would have confidently replied ‘on the left!’ These days, my response is less assured. Indeed, I would say that, right now, I feel politically homeless and I remain uncertain as to whether I have discovered the true face of what I always believed to be the left, or whether the left is in fact dead. This short blog will attempt to explore the latter.
At university during the early noughties, as my anger and disillusionment with Labour grew and grew, I read numerous books and articles by John Pilger, Greg Palast and Noam Chomsky (among others), which helped to give me a clearer understanding of the corrupting influence of big business on politics, while finding a tonic to Bush and Blair’s imperialist wars (and the destruction of the democratic process) in the satire of Bremner, Bird and Fortune.
Today it seems conservatives have never had it so good as I find myself asking, where is the left?
The idea that we could ever have a truly ‘objective and impartial’ news is evidently beyond human capacity; we all lean one way or the other. The question is, whose interests are better served by an exclusively moneyed climate – the people, particularly those on the bottom without power and influence, or the minority mega-rich who own the media (and the politicians), raking in millions from corporate advertising, and in whose circles many journalists seem to move in and/or aspire to be a part of?
The way much of the mainstream media is cosying up to Big Tech, Big Pharma and the Military Industrial Complex endeavouring to inhibit our freedoms, while turning a blind eye to the persecution of whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning, should trouble us all. Though the aforementioned journalists and intellectuals are still out there reporting on such things, they are nevertheless ageing and I am struggling to find a credible left wing alternative coming from a younger generation with not only the courage to reveal the crimes of power, regardless of whether it’s ‘us’ or ‘them,’ but that also demonstrates an astute understanding of the mechanisms of the establishment.
John Pilger used to feature regularly in papers like the Mirror and the Guardian but, in more recent times, he seems to have been pushed to the margins where most of his articles appear on his website (perhaps due to his staunch support for one of the world’s greatest living journalists, Julian Assange?). I see him doing the odd interview on RT. The latter has seen a pretty successful propaganda campaign that RT is, in fact, controlled by arch super-villain Putin which, in an era that lacks critical thinking, has probably scared off a significant number of those who would otherwise be receptive to the kind of thoughtful, people-centred journalism espoused by Pilger.
In recent years, I have discovered the great Chris Hedges and Matt Taibbi. I would say Hedges is more openly left wing and is hugely critical of corporate power both in the US and abroad. I recommend tuning into his show ‘On Contact’ while Taibbi, who likewise comes across as more to the left, is interesting because he has a refreshingly reflective view on the function of the media. Some of his talks about being on the presidential trail during the Trump campaign are quite thought-provoking and worth a look.
Hedges and Taibbi are American and while Pilger has spent a lot of time in the UK he is Australian. This leaves me wondering, where are the lefty journalists in the UK?
I came across an organisation called Media Lens and I recommend checking out their various alerts as well as their book ‘Propaganda Blitz’. What I find most interesting about them is that they reveal the obsequiousness of organisations that function ‘under a liberal halo’ to quote John Pilger; incidentally, news sources that I once considered credible, such as the Guardian and the Independent.
Media Lens has led me to sites such as Declassified UK, and I find Jimmy Dore’s interviews with Aaron Maté, Max Blumenthal, Chris Hedges and Glenn Greenwald provide some kind of leftist take on the functioning of power (albeit from a US perspective, which doesn’t always translate to leftism in the UK). The left is definitely out there (maybe not flat lining as such), but it’s very much on the fringes – pushed to the margins ironically upon the advent of the Internet and particularly Social Media.
It amuses me to hear conservative commentators lament the BBC as a ‘leftist bubble’ (it was actually founded by a Tory and its directors have sat on the boards of companies such as HSBC and BAE Systems – no conflict of interest there!), or bemoan the likes of Ash Sarkar, Owen Jones and Afua Hirsch; these ‘journalists’ (and a depressing number besides) are an outright gift to power; they are allies of neo-liberalism and its materialism-driven, war-mongering corporatocracy. Peddlers of luxury beliefs and identity politics – who sound like middle class sixth formers – these hacks challenge absolutely nothing.
Across the pond it’s just as bleak as equally vapid liberals cheer on AOC’s ‘Tax the Rich’ dress designed by an ‘immigrant woman of colour’ (in reality a lady who moved to New York from Toronto and has a banker boyfriend worth $100 million, the hardship!), at possibly one of the most vile odes to greed in human history, aka ‘the Met Gala.’ Meanwhile, struggling New Yorkers are outside in the cold protesting the eviction moratorium and getting beaten up by police – many of them people of colour.
Watching Fox (or really any of the major news networks for that matter), reading the Mail, Telegraph and the Times, plus many of the redtop tabloids, it’s easy to see what they represent: rampant corporatism, which has been the dominant force in the world for at least the past hundred years and therefore why I think a left-leaning alternative is important, for it’s where I feel I’m more likely to find a better understanding of the mechanisms of power and the impact its having on things like the environment, personal freedoms and human rights.
Rarely have the above convinced me as credible sources for such concerns – rather, for the most part, peddlers of outrage and hate be it draped in the viciousness of patriotism (Fox), or a vague sense of ‘Britishness’ promoted by the aforementioned UK rags – hence over the years I turned to sources including the Guardian, Independent, Huffington Post, the Intercept and BBC Newsnight, all of which leave me wondering what the fuck it is they are supposed to represent.
What I find absurd is the growing trend among liberals (aka some of the most privileged members of society) that have taken it upon themselves to not only be the arbiters of social justice (to be handed down as a kind of scripture), but also have somehow managed to simultaneously cast themselves as victims of oppression. Unfortunately, such hypocritical arrogance and sense of victimhood has come to pervade much of politics, academia, the arts and the mainstream media. What I find equally troubling is the increasing number of gullible fools who buy this crap.
As Media Lens has noted, publications like the Guardian have often been the biggest cheerleaders of war while a Saudi investor owns a 30% stake in the ‘Independent’ (no conflict there when it comes to issues of human rights). In fact, I have since come to find the aforementioned so embarrassingly facile, largely through being infected by the infantilism of an Americanised ‘politicisation of everything,’ which appears equally spiteful and moronic, that I can no longer bear to read them.
It is now crystal clear to me what most liberal rags actually represent: the death of journalism (and by extension, quite possibly, the death of the left).
As for satire, that’s been dead a long time … it’s sorely needed, but I don’t even see it on the margins.
20 October ‘21
© Christopher Sharp
Part Three: Death of Health
Earlier this year, I completed a diploma to become a qualified Personal Trainer. I learned a lot about anatomy, nutrition and how being active is beneficial to just about everything.
I also learned some surprising facts, notably, that we are getting less fit as a society, for example, my tutor informed us that they have reduced the levels of physical competency required to join the police and armed forces due to a widespread lack of fitness among the general population.
It has long been known that obesity is on the rise, however, what also shocked me was to learn that life expectancy has actually fallen in the UK, which is largely down to people living more sedentary lifestyles (primarily caused by an increasing addiction to technology), as well as eating shit food and getting fat.
We are also less happy, less creative and becoming increasingly obsessed with identity. Countless studies have linked high levels of depression, low self-esteem and anxiety with too much use of iPhones, Smartphones and Social Media, yet still we remain addicted.
What I find interesting is that we’re often prescribed the very thing that makes us sick in order to get better. For example, it seems there’s a tonne of apps to track your mental health; to this I can only wonder, have you ever heard the phrase ‘you can’t polish a turd?’
Surely the advice should be to ditch the fucking Smartphone and trade it in for a bike or skateboard!
Isn’t it strange how technology is not only ruining democracy, but also seems to be destroying our health and making us less self-sufficient and yet, while many people appear to be aware of this, they still seem unable to kick their addiction, scuffling along, hunched over, like a herd of kyphotic zombies.
I find the continued hysteria surrounding Covid ironic given the unchanging ecocidal policies marching us all towards extinction. Likewise, I find the ‘Save the NHS’ argument equally ridiculous given there already exists a public health epidemic caused by the shite we eat and drink, the toxic air we breathe and the widespread misery caused by technology via the overuse of Smartphones and Social Media. Where’s the lockdown of the fossil fuel companies, McDonald’s, KFC, Burger King, Apple and Vodafone? Why don’t we just forever lock ourselves the fuck out of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram?
A campaign to stop smoking spawned the grotesquely wasteful industry of vaping and a plethora of new health problems have ensued, not least in the young. Why don’t we lock ourselves out of that shit, too?
The system we live in is a sickness run by psychopaths for profit. We know most of the food we eat is poison, but it’s interesting to observe what happens when people take the initiative and try to inform the public (remember the McLibel case?). Companies are making a killing (literally) out of peddling poison, but do you honestly think you could get regular adverts on prime time TV objectively informing the general public about all the terrible things in Coca-Cola or a Big Mac, and why you should eat more fruit and veg instead? I’m sure their team of high priced lawyers would be dispatched post-haste and the politicians in their pocket would soon write the necessary legislation prohibiting such an important public service deeming it ‘libel’ (bit like what the bankers did with the Glass-Steagall Act so they could make more money while destroying the livelihoods of millions).
Lawyers are like scientists: existing to facilitate the psychopaths’ perpetual rein of despair.
Let’s face facts, our society is really, REALLY sick. Instead of acknowledging this; instead of thinking it would be good to get rid of all the poisonous shit we eat; stop encouraging more use of iPhones and building more masts doing untold damage to wildlife (particularly the bees who are so important to the ecosystem); instead of saying consume less, be less materialistic, get off your Smartphone, spend more time around nature, be more active, find one or two real friends and spend time sharing a common interest, take up surfskating (seriously, it’s so much fucking fun!) and travel more (go eco of course though don’t blog about it – just fucking experience it!).
Instead of suggesting such self-evident things to improve your life, what do scientists do?
Torture innocent animals to either a) tell you what’s already self-fucking-evident (did you read about the recent tests on mice re: drinking warm milk before bedtime? WTF!). Or, b) create more fucking drugs when simple lifestyle changes would suffice, moreover, they then have to torture more animals to create more drugs to tend to the new problems created by the new technology produced in a perpetually sick, psychopathic system which, despite on some level people being aware that it’s fucking sick, there nevertheless remains a continued failure to affect changes that would make it better for everyone. It’s quite obvious ‘health’ refers less to people and the environment, more to making endless profits for the rich who are spearheading the destruction of our planet and yet, in many cases, we idolise these psychopaths! Anyone else see how fucking retarded this is?
Most of the food we eat is poison; we’re force-fed drugs to cure a sickness created by the madness that surrounds us only to need more drugs as new sicknesses are created (sort of functions like the debt-based monetary system, i.e., you can never pay off a debt because you have to constantly borrow!); the air we breathe is increasingly toxic; we’re horribly materialistic and self-absorbed, anxious and depressed; we’re less fit getting fatter by the minute as we lie on the couch ever drawn into more miserable fairy-tales mediated through Smartphones and Social Media.
Health, according to the World Health Organisation, is ‘a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity.’
They need to up their game a bit.
21 October ‘21
© Christopher Sharp
Part Four: Death of Freedom
Every city looks like Rivendell, connected world-wide by an eco-friendly rail network that you can hop on and off as you please – no need for passports because everybody, in every country, is happy and content; no one is fleeing war, no one is poor or being exploited, crime and terrorism are a distant memory. Religion doesn’t exist. Instead, humanity decided to embrace its capacity for empathy and ingenuity to use technology as a means to live in greater harmony with both nature and each other in eco-friendly societies that abound with trees and wildlife. The air is clean; rivers and seas unpolluted; life is full of joy; for instead of staring blankly into screens caressed like rosary beads in the palm of our hands, getting more anxious and depressed by the minute, we ride hoverboards through beautiful, tree-lined boulevards. It’s a three-day week, for humanity has learned that it’s more important to focus its time on making great art and music than wasting it on the banality of bureaucracy and politics, meaningless work, or the aridity of numbers; the scam of money since made obsolete. Everyone is happy; everyone is free.
Where did it all go wrong?
I actually had a number of names for this part including ‘Death of Protest’ and ‘Death of Activism,’ but seeing as such things are ostensibly about attaining liberty, and seeing as we don’t enjoy much freedom, I settled on the above title.
Not only do we live in a woefully joyless society, it is one where we are not even close to being free.
What does it mean to be free? For me, this is a deceptively simple question that, unfortunately, is rarely treated as such.
If you’re a conservative, it appears to lie in moronically parroting the word ‘freedom’ as a kind of mantra while uncritically binding oneself to a particular economic policy that seeks to accumulate as much fairy dust (otherwise known as ‘money’) as one possibly can and screw everyone else in the process. Oh, and this accumulation is a) never enough and, b) relies on an ever-expanding, superficial culture of materialism that both destroys the planet and perpetuates the very nihilistic brand of misery among the general populace bemoaned by those who are instrumental in creating it. Go figure.
To be fair, conservatives believing in fairy-tales shouldn’t be all that surprising given people from said disposition tend to enthusiastically believe in the grandest ones of all (otherwise known as ‘religion’ which, incidentally, has historically demonstrated violent contempt towards the freedom of women and minority groups in the most barbaric ways). It’s also interesting to note that in the States, where conservatism seems most fervent, there exists the most intense opposition to more sensible gun laws. This inherent need for protection at all times doesn’t represent a strong inclination towards liberty; on the contrary, it reveals both a fearful distrust of freedom and the ‘others’ alongside the necessity to always feel in control. In a nutshell, that’s the conservative idea of liberty and it’s pretty fucking dumb.
What about people on the alternative side, as it were, of the ideological spectrum?
For me, it doesn’t really get any better. Such people tend to be the ones that take to the streets, are often insufferably self-righteous, usually lack a coherent vision of the changes they’d like to see in society and, while there are undoubtedly a great number of well-meaning and articulate people out there fighting for positive change, there is also a significant number of cunts who I would personally not want to see anywhere close to getting into power; for it’s strange how much of this side of the spectrum (ok, let’s call it ‘the left’ to keep things simple) often turns out to be the most anti-free; the most authoritarian.
So what is freedom? How do we achieve it, if such a thing is even possible?
As stated in a previous blog, I currently have it down as follows:
‘True freedom lies in a paradox: to feel unconstrained in spirit while living in harmony with one’s surroundings.’
Furthermore, I deduced that, in order to attain this, I must find a way to ‘no longer be part of it.’
The above is not as straightforward to achieve as you might think.
No man or woman is an island; we all have to share this world and so absolute non-participation is unrealistic. Moreover, what if I decided to just go back and ‘live off the land?’ Disillusioned with the false promises of city life, people have already tried this the world over (as documented in Sebastião Salgado’s ‘Struggle of the Landless’ in Brazil, for example) and it’s often led to violent confrontations with rich land owners who, in many cases, only use a small percentage of the land they own, the rest of which could just as easily be made available for others to make use of.
Think about that for a moment; the made up rules of a particular ideology and its made up medium of exchange called ‘money’ (that in reality only benefits a minority while destroying the planet), wholly forbids us, should we ever ‘freely’ choose to, the basic right to go and live self-sufficiently off the land; in other words, we’re not even ‘free’ to be fundamentally human! I find that so depressing I can hardly find the words.
So what exactly are we ‘free’ to be and do?
It would seem, for many, the correct answer lies in getting overtaxed and underpaid working shitty, go nowhere jobs while being ripped off by a greedy rentier class who, in turn, evict you once they realise they can make more money letting your room through Airbnb. You subsequently get moved from pillar to post in shitty accommodation working your shitty job that has an increasingly shitty effect on your health, all the while wasting your shitty life transfixed by the unreality of the spectacle unconsciously consuming yourself into nihility in some shitty little town … and then you die.
Isn’t it ironic how technology has fragmented society? Just about everyone I speak to expresses some kind of unease towards living in a world permeated by modernity’s novelties, endlessly stimulated by an overly-saturated media culture, which seems to have us all addicted to a collective misery presided over by a shadowy super-villain.
If you’re addicted to something then you’re not free. To free yourself from addiction, you must first have to acknowledge you’re an addict before you can even begin to think about ‘solutions’ to the problem. Quite often we jump the gun when it comes to issues of modern-day mass addiction with responses like ‘so how would you change things?’ ‘What’s the alternative?’ And so on. This is a classic addict’s response deflecting from the fact they have an addiction in the first place. Until there is widespread acknowledgment that one even has an addiction, and is therefore not free, then I’m afraid there’s no getting off that carousel.
I think this is the mistake many present-day ‘activists’ make; they are addicts who believe they’re enlightened and yet utterly fail to see the irony of taking to the streets with their Smartphones and blogging their ‘revolutions’ via highly-centralised, ultra-surveilled platforms owned by a handful of Silicon Valley oligarchs.
I recall reading an article where the authorities knew the amount of white people attending a BLM protest in the States (think it was at a demo in LA) and wondered how could that be? Of course it’s simple, if people are giving running commentaries via platforms that are essentially military technology, they’re actually making the authorities’ jobs much easier. Consequently, in my view, technology has provoked both an activist, as much as intellectual, lethargy.
The above has even spawned its own kind of Entertainment Industrial Complex; just look at all those celebrities and corporations getting in on the ‘activist’ gig. Notice how it doesn’t change a fucking thing and yet it has become as much an opportunity for big business as it has a career platform for narcissists.
I first began to notice this phenomenon while travelling a few years ago. I was in Seville on May Day during which there was a gathering of people demonstrating for workers’ rights. What I thought was interesting was there were also an equal amount of tourists filming them on expensive looking cameras and mobile phones. At no point was I given the impression that what they were protesting was in any way significant beyond their own bubble; for most, it was just another tourist attraction; just another selfie opportunity.
Similarly, on the other side of the spectrum, I recall the outrage online over an EDL (the right wing English Defence League) demonstration in my home city of Exeter a few years back. I went along and what I found were little more than a handful of masked, angry white men, who were outnumbered by both police and counter-protesters. I found it all quite farcical, but it no doubt played into the idiotic narrative that fascism is somehow on the rise in a country that’s never had a fascist government (and, indeed, fought two bloody wars against it).
I’m no conservative, but I hasten to add I’m not an activist either. I’m not interested in saving anyone although I am a romantic who sincerely wishes we could show considerably more love for the beautiful world we’re destroying in favour of a horribly restrictive, banal, psychopathic, war-mongering and downright fucking ecocidal system of capitalism. Our shallow attitude towards beauty and the natural world depresses me no end.
Moomins creator, Tove Janssen, brought to life one of the greatest cartoon characters of all time: Snufkin. In a world that seems populated mostly by addicts and those fearful of freedom, the nearest path to liberty I see, right now, is to find a way to no longer be part of it from which I’ve taken inspiration, of all things, from the understated genius of the Moomins.
I believe everyone should be like Snufkin and I like to think there are many out there who feel something similar. I look forward to meeting you (offline, of course), in Moomin Valley; free to roam as we please, free from both the shackles of fear and addiction.
22 October ‘21
© Christopher Sharp