Category Archives: General

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a summer job bagging cadavers

It’s hard not to feel an opportunity was missed by not making Frankie Boyle the new leader of the Labour party instead of the equivocal sub-Blair suit who just got the gig.

… you have to wonder if the virus is so very different from extractive capitalism. It commandeers the manufacturing elements of its hosts, gets them to make stuff for it; kills a fair few, but not enough to stop it spreading. There is no normal for us to go back to. People sleeping in the streets wasn’t normal; children living in poverty wasn’t normal; neither was our taxes helping to bomb the people of Yemen. Using other people’s lives to pile up objects wasn’t normal, the whole thing was absurd. Governments are currently busy pouring money into propping up existing inequalities, and bailing out businesses that have made their shareholders rich. The world’s worst people think that everybody is going to come out of this in a few months and go willingly back into a kind of numbing servitude. Surely it’s time to start imagining something better.

It’s also hard not to feel that, for many of those in the UK whose words I’m reading in recent days, the mere capacity to imagine something better is itself the only something better that they can bring themselves to imagine. Never has there been less pleasure in being proven right regarding your understanding of how the world really works.

navel / abyss

[Content warning: contains vaguely Ballardian solipsism, and privileged angst.]

Atemporality has taken on a much more intimate and personal feel under the circumstances. In addition to the already well-established (but still accelerating) contextual time-soup, I’m finding that my own sense of time at the level of days and hours is starting to slip and slide. The internets are full of people pointing out that Ballard is having another of his many moments in the discursive sun: I wouldn’t say I feel like a Ballard character, not least because I’m not an architect who starts on the cocktails at noon in order to avoid thinking about the seeming collapse of spacetime within my modernist apartment. However, his themes of boredom and anomie and the mediatedness of everything seem… well, not prescient, exactly, because it was always-already a sort of truth when he was writing it. But I do feel the urge to return to his short stories, in particular, in search of some sort of recognition or familiarity. Hell knows which of the many boxes of books in this flat they’re lurking in, though.

I also read some other thing for which I’ve lost the link a few days back, in which the author noted that self-isolation is like voluntarily returning to the life-pattern that their depression had once imposed upon them, and I definitely recognise that. After years of working from the living room of cramped flats with nothing but the anxious soma of THC and a cranky cat for company, I’d just started getting accustomed to the idea that work was not just a thing I did, but a place I went. Having finally reached at a point in my life where I have my own office to go to, I can’t go to my office. An epic case of #firstworldproblems, to be sure—but it throws a light on the far greater difficulties that self-isolation must be causing for people less fortunate than I.

There’s a current of survivor guilt underneath all of this, too—not just demographically (i.e. I still have a job, and I can do it from home if needs be) but geographically. Looking at the news out of the UK, as I’m largely trying to avoid doing, makes me feel like someone who scrambled into the last lifeboat of a ship that was already taking on water before the iceberg hit it. I’m not sure how to deal with this, really, other than to find ways to turn my work toward the possibility of building another, better world in the rubble of the one that’s currently crumbling apart around us.