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I'm a writer. I write about life with bipolar disorder - also known as manic depression - so my eponymous alter ego is MaNic Grant.

I've written more than 1 million words: it's the world's longest suicide note.

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nick@manicgrant.com

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I Hate Renting Houses

7 min read

This is a story about the rentier class...

Assured shorthold tenancy

I spend a lot of time dealing with brain-dead individuals who think they should get paid a lot of money for jobs they're thoroughly incompetent at, as well as being so utterly unbelievably stupid that they would put a Terms of Service contract onto their website, which was stolen from a fast-food restaurant.

Unfortunately I have to deal with lettings agents who think it's OK to charge the best part of £400 or more, for putting a document in a photocopier and then filling in a couple of blanks, such as the name of the tenant and the amount of rent payable.

Like, I mean, how much do you actually think you should get paid for filling in 5 pieces of information onto a document you don't understand, and doing a bit of photocopying.

The UK government has helpfully provided a very nice model contract, for anybody who is looking to rent out their home. This document includes all kinds of useful guidance, such as "it's not OK to demand sex in lieu of rent" for f**kwits who think they can write whatever the hell they want into a contract, and it somehow supersedes the laws of the country.

You cannot, for example, draw up a contract that allows you to punch me, stab me and/or kill me, and avoid punishment for the crime, because I signed a so-called waiver. I cannot waive my rights using civil law. The criminal laws of the country will always take precedence over any contract law. That is to say that my statutory rights are not affected by any bullshit piece of paper that I sign.

When you buy a pair of shoes, you'll sometimes sign a piece of paper that says you can't return them and get a refund. However, that doesn't affect your statutory rights, and you're quite within your legal rights to return the shoes if they're faulty or defective in some way.

The law defends us from all sorts of unscrupulous unethical chancers who want our money but don't want to work for it - in short, they want our money, but they're not going to do any work to get it. Those people are called the rentier class who believe they're entitled to money for nothing.

The rentier class piss me off.

I just want to have a place to live. I want to have a secure home. That's all I want.

Here is an email, which I took the time to research and write on my goddam Sunday afternoon, when I'm supposed to be relaxing:

Dear XXX XXXX,

Many thanks for showing me around XXXXXXX on Saturday afternoon, and your prompt reply to my queries was greatly appreciated. I am interested in renting the property as it adequately met my requirements, but I felt I should write to you with regards to keeping a pet cat. The answer you supplied is not satisfactory I'm afraid.

I must draw you, your agency and the landlord's attention to the matter of UK law, when it comes to the keeping of pets. The Consumer Rights Act (2015) stipulates that the keeping of a pet cannot be reasonably refused, unless the pet would cause a nuisance to the occupiers of neighbouring properties or significantly increase wear and tear to the property. According to the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations (1999) The Office of Fair Trading deems a “No Pets” clause unlawful.

The law is very clear: "[a] landlord cannot exercise a blanket ban on pets". Your quote "the Landlord has stipulated No Pets at the property" which is an incontrovertible piece of written evidence of unlawful behaviour on the part of the landlord, you and your agency.

The property is unfurnished and has hard floors throughout, such that the keeping of a cat would clearly not increase wear and tear to the property. A cat would certainly not cause a nuisance to the occupiers of neighbouring properties. I noticed several neighbourhood cats during my visit to the property.

Given that the landlord has unreasonably refused for me to keep a cat at the property, which is an unlawful contravention of The Consumer Rights Act (2015) as a goodwill gesture I am prepared to offer a modest increase to the deposit and an additional contract clause whereby the tenant accepts any responsibility for pet damage to the property. This would give the landlord an exceptionally high level of protection, for the incredibly unlikely event that an ordinary domestic cat might cause damage or additional wear and tear. This extra money would be held in the Deposit Protection Scheme (DPS) in addition to the substantial deposit already proposed by your agency.

Naturally, the Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreement would be amended, so that it is contractually stipulated that the keeping of one single cat was permitted. Any additional pets would require consent from the landlord, which is standard practice.

It is not my intention to turn the landlord's property into a zoo. It would be perfectly reasonable - for example - for the landlord to refuse the keeping of a large dog, which would be likely to bark loudly and thus cause annoyance to the neighbours.

My request is most reasonable and the UK courts will robustly defend my legal right to keep a pet cat. I hope you will forgive me for reminding you again that it is not lawful for a landlord to "exercise a blanket ban on pets and should not turn a request down without good reason". 

I humbly suggest you and your agency thoroughly familiarise yourself with the laws of England and Wales pertaining to landlords, tenants and letting agents, such that your future business is conducted lawfully. The necessary statutes which you and your agency should familiarise yourself with are: The Landlord and Tenant Act (1985), Consumer Contracts Regulations (1999) and Consumer Rights Act (2015).

I advise you to inform your client of any laws which he or she might not have been aware of, such that any more unlawful behaviour might be avoided in future. Perhaps you might then be so kind as to respond again to my question about keeping a pet cat, when you are next able to speak to your client.

It disappoints me that your agency who charge fees of £311.54 for the simple preparation of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreement, should be so woefully ill-informed of the laws of the United Kingdom. Ignorance of the law is no defence in court. I am especially disappointed that you are charging a substantial professional fees for your services, when you are conspiring with your clients to break the law.

My advice is offered at the cost of a leisurely Sunday I could have spent spent relaxing, so I hope you appreciate the effort I have made in providing you with a comprehensive summary of how to conduct your business and advise your clients, without breaking the laws of England and Wales, which would be financially costly and reputationally damaging. Consider my free advice to be a goodwill gift.

I assure you that my only intention is to rent a property, with the statutory protections afforded to me by UK law, such that my right to live in peaceful enjoyment of the property as my home is not legally infringed. It seems like a reasonable request to me. Would you agree?

I trust this message finds you well and I hope to receive a reply at your earliest convenience.

I hope you had a good weekend.

Kind regards,

Nick

That's my politest possible way of saying you can't fuck with me, you rentier class c**t. And demanding to enjoy the same freedom in life that those who were born with a silver spoon in their mouth get. We should not have a two-tier society, where the rentier class don't have to work, and the rentier class should not make unreasonable demands, such as disallowing the proletariat the comfort of having a pet.

Rant over.

 

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Employment Status

5 min read

This is a story about fitting neatly in a box...

Form

"Are you in full-time employment, part-time employment, self-employed, full-time student, retired or unemployed?" the person on the end of the phone is asking me. What should I reply?

Technically, I'm in full-time employment. Let's proceed with that conversation and see how we get on, shall we?

"OK. Can I have your manager's name or somebody who we can contact to verify your employment and your salary, please?" the person on the end of the phone asks. What should I reply?

Technically, I'm employed by the board of directors. Given that I'm the managing director - the CEO - then the reply is that they should contact me to verify my employment and my salary. Let's see how we get on with that, shall we?

"I don't understand, sir. Are you self-employed?"

Technically I am not self-employed. I have an employment contract with a company and I get paid a salary by that company. The company which employs me is a legal entity, which was incorporated, has memorandums and articles of association, a board of directors (me), shareholders (me) as well as employees (also me). The company has its own bank account, compiles and submits annual accounts to the relevant authorities, and operates as a limited company, which is very different to being "self employed". I'm going to tell them I'm not self-employed, because that would be fraudulent. Let's see how we get on, shall we?

"OK. Who should we write to who can verify your employment and your salary? Do you have a human resources department?"

Technically the company does have a human resources department, as well as every other department that a person might imagine exists in an organisation - finance, accounts payable, accounts receivable, sales, marketing, IT, operations, admin, customer support etc. etc. - so this person on the phone could certainly write to one of these departments. Let's see if they'd like to write to my accountant and see how we get on with that, shall we?

"So your accountant can confirm your employment and your salary?"

Technically, anybody can confirm my appointment as company director, because it's a matter of public record. My salary is not the same as my financial compensation so we're going to have to have that particularly difficult conversation now. Let's see how we get on, shall we?

"So how much do you earn each month?"

Technically, I could earn £702 in one month and 20 times that amount the next. My financial compensation is based upon the company's profits, which are variable, and it's the decision of the board of directors as to when dividends will be paid and how much they will be. Let's try explaining that, shall we?

"So you're self-employed? Or do you work in sales? I don't understand"

Technically, part of my job is sales, in that I am responsible for selling my company's consultancy services. I do not, however, "work in sales". My financial compensation is not based on commission or targets or any of that other crap. I am not self-employed and I am getting rather frustrated about having to repeat myself with this person on the end of the phone.

I could relent, and either misrepresent myself as "employed" with a salary based on my average earnings over the past 3 years, or I could misrepresent myself as "self-employed" which is going to result in them asking me to show them detailed account statements, proving a steady stream of income.

What I really want is for the person on the end of the phone to understand that I'm in the box marked "other" and the way to find out what they really want to know - can I afford to make a monthly payment? - can be answered by my chartered accountant, who's professionally obliged to give truthful and accurate answers.

That I have to answer these questions at all comes about whether buying a car on finance, applying for a loan, applying for a mortgage or even changing from one mortgage provider to another. Given that even the wealthiest amongst us are not able to afford their houses without at least some part mortgaged, the neat set of boxes, which do not include "other" causes a lot of stress and hassle - it's surprisingly difficult to navigate parts of society, where most other people do neatly fit into one of the boxes.

Obviously I hope to one day be rich enough to buy a house in cash - which will probably be a tiny cabin in the woods - but for the time being I'm forced to suffer this arduous form-filling exercise and rigmarole with people on the telephone, who are using systems which are unable to cope with us "others".

Perhaps this is capitalism's way of nudging me towards a minimum-wage McJob, just so I can avoid this kind of hassle.

 

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Our Morals: The Ethics of Revolution

6 min read

This is a story about sedition and treason...

Security vetting form

Questions A, B and C seem pretty reasonable to ask. It seems like a good idea to ask people if they're spies, terrorists or saboteurs, if they're going to tell you the truth. It seems logical to assume that spies, terrorists and saboteurs are enemies of civilised society. It seems sensible to exclude spies, terrorists and saboteurs from positions where they could be a threat to public safety.

Upon closer examination, spies and saboteurs could sometimes arguably be said to conduct their actions in a responsible way, in the course of the furtherment of their laudable objectives, in the absence of other available options. Spies exist when diplomacy and co-operation have broken down. Saboteurs exist when tyranny, oppression and exploitation are so great that a worker must throw their clogs into the loom, to save themselves and their kin. Without wanting to fall foul of the nebulous terminology, it would be remiss of me to acknowledge that a person could certainly understand the reasons for spying and sabotage - in a theoretical and academic sense - and perhaps even excuse those acts, where the outcome clearly results in a positive outcome for the greater good, according to utilitarian philosophy.

Of course, I must tread very carefully.

I have to watch my words.

What on earth is question D getting at? I once destroyed my ballot paper as a political protest at the lack of a candidate and a party for whom I wanted to vote. Does that count as "[undermining] Parliamentary democracy by politcal … means"? Should I tick "YES" to this question? Is my spoiled ballot paper recorded in "national security records" which I'm reminded my answers will be checked against? Why even ask me if you already know the answer?

Of course, the idea of asking people "are you a terrorist?" is pretty ridiculous, so why shouldn't this same 66-page form ask vague questions which are almost impossible to answer, unless you think of yourself as such a perfect citizen and well-behaved patriotic loyal subject of Her Majesty Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain, Northern Ireland, its dependencies and its overseas territories.

Do I believe in the Westminster system of Parliamentary democracy? Do I believe in democracy at all? For the purposes of my rational economic self-interest in the immediate short-term, within the context of filling in this 66-page form, which is of vital importance for the future of my career, the answer is "yes" for sure.

Why am I using such cautious and measured words? Why am I couching what I say in caveats and disclaimers?

The question arises: Is it irresponsible, socially destabilising or otherwise contrary to the interests of national security, to discuss the merits of 'political change' in a purely academic and theoretical context?

Do scholars who study, think about, write about and discuss alternative political systems, imply some "intent" to overthrow or undermine Parliamentary democracy. For example, in the instance that a learned professor were to stumble upon compelling evidence that there is a better system for the decision making which is supposed to improve the human condition and the lives of the masses, then is that professor allowed to discuss it; perhaps even to promote the idea? What if other academics take an interest in that professor's ideas, and they become supporters of the theory? What if this group of academics could be said to be a group of likeminded individuals, similarly swayed by the evidence and the ideas?

Have I made myself into an enemy of the state by taking an interest in philosophy, politics and economics, which has forced me to consider the question: Is our Parliamentary democracy the best available option, or should we change to a different system? Does posing this innocent question constitute an act of undermining Parliamentary democracy?

By the time we get to question F, I must surely answer in all truthfulness that I almost certainly would have - at some point in my life - had a close association with somebody who's been a member of a group or supported a group whose intent could easily be interpreted as 'offering an alternative' to Parliamentary democracy. This is about as close as I'm prepared to go, to admitting something which is against my rational economic self-interest in the short-term, for the furtherment of my career objectives.

Most of my friends are technologists. Many of my friends have created pieces of technology which must surely have undermined Parliamentary democracy. Many of my friends are the original engineers and architects - the visionaries - who are responsible for the birth of social media. What greater threat to the ruling elites has been born, since the invention of the printing press?

Terrorism and violence are hard to defend; seemingly always unethical. It's beyond the scope of this essay to discuss the ethics of violent rebellion by the victims of tyranny and oppression. I'm in too much of a vulnerable situation to say something like: "I can understand the reasons why desperate people might resort to violence, in the absence of all other options, like any cornered animal".

I may hold unspeakable views, which have no place in a civil position of public servitude. My upbringing in the company of academics, in and around the buildings of Oxford University, may well have scuppered any ambitions I might have of playing a role in the running of the country, and hopefully making a positive difference to as many lives as possible.

Even within the walls of a British university, an academic may find themselves falling afoul of laws - new and old - which are designed to punish any agitators who might threaten societal stability and the established order. The power of the internet allows compelling academic arguments to be disseminated to vast numbers of people at incredible speed, and for the public's imagination to be captured. Academic papers are no longer written in Latin and kept safely out of the hands of the hoi polloi, lest any revolutionary ideas they might be harbouring be provoked.

Do I hold my tongue for the greater good - in support of a paternalistic and elitist establishment - because it will perpetuate the state of unhappy stability, which is at least preferable to civil war? Do I speak my mind, because to do so is a privilege afforded by the unpalatable actions done in the interests of national security? If I don't take advantage of freedom of speech, am I really a patriotic citizen, loyal subject of Her Majesty and supporter of Parliament, given that wars are waged on my behalf so that I might enjoy the luxury of being able to write essays like this?

I think I'm just going to tick "no" to all the boxes, because I can't be bothered to have this conversation a second time, when I'm being interviewed by the thought police.

 

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Insignificant Speck

5 min read

This is a story about sonder...

Supermoon

Is it useful to have a realistic appreciation of your own insignificance? Is it useful to correctly perceive that you're not significantly different from any of the 7.6 billion other people on the planet, or the 108 billion humans who lived and died since homo sapiens first appeared as a new species? Is it useful to be conscious of your cosmological insignificance, where the entire human race will be obliterated so completely that it will be as if we never existed? Is it useful to understand the fundmental laws of physics well enough to know that there isn't going to be a technological breakthrough which might allow us to travel to another star when our sun dies? Is it good to know that in the long run, nothing matters, because we live in a godless universe with no afterlife, and we are destined to be forgotten?

Just as we might become aware that every other person has a rich and complex life of their own, we can equally become aware of humanity's wider insignificance.

Warp drives, wormholes, time travel, cryogenics and hypersleep are all lovely sci-fi fantasies, but we can't even solve the basics, such as the fair distribution of wealth so that we can all have clean drinking water and enough to eat. There isn't going to be a colony on Mars. We're as likely to kill ourselves in nuclear armageddon as we are to die because of runaway man-made climate change. Yes, we've made great strides in science and technology in recent years. All those advancements are being used for killing each other in increasingly nasty ways.

The population growth trends are easy to extrapolate, along with predictions about our ability to use the available land to produce food, leading to the unavoidably obvious conclusion that we're going to have mass-starvation of billions of people, in barely a couple of decades. If you like to trot out the tired old lines about what a monster Stalin was, you ain't seen nothing until you've seen what capitalism can do to billions. It's already easy to see what industrial capitalist society has done to the environment, causing all manner of extreme weather events and natural disasters, which are anything but natural, because things are exacerbated by man-made climate change.

It's easy for me to write about the need to show some restraint and forego some luxuries, because I've been lucky enough to have enjoyed those luxuries for quite a long time. What about all those people who haven't yet had a taste of Western imperialist decadence? Isn't it unfair that those who've only ever known poverty and deprivation will never get to live a decadent lifestyle?

Many in the guardian class would prefer it if you just damn well knew your place, and stopped trying to improve your standard of living. How else are the guardian class going to snobbily believe they're a cut above the rest of the society, if every man and his dog is able to have a nice lifestyle? Get back in your place, you proletariat scum.

Thus, we arrive at the new class warfare. We ALL think that we should be at the front of the queue, and we ALL know how to get there, thanks to the internet.

The internet is a humbling place. Where else can you face such an enormous deluge of individual people who all think they're special, unique and different? Everybody's going what they think is an important opinion to share; that they have a voice that needs to be heard. Everybody thinks they're good looking, talented, intelligent. Everybody thinks they're capable of original thoughts and ideas; that they're creative.

It's hard to maintain your own sanity when you see all those social media accounts controlled by all those individuals, who've carefully chosen their name, bio, profile picture, and then carefully creates and curates their own content, according to their personality and the image they wish to project. It's hard to be a homo sapiens with the same hardware that evolved 350,000 years ago, when the population was 99.999% smaller and we didn't have any technology except fire and pointy sticks. Our brains really aren't built to cope with constant reminders that we're an insignificant speck.

We might hope to build up our social media following - our celebrity status - and begin to broadcast ourselves to big audiences, hoping to make ourselves feel somewhat less insignificant, but it's delusional. A judge and jury might convict a person of a serious crime, locking them up for life, but all 14 of those people will die at more-or-less the same time, be cremated or buried. In 4 or 5 generations, those 14 people will be completely forgotten - the criminal will be indistinguishable from those who sat in judgement. For a psychiatrist to diagnose a patient as having delusions of grandeur, is also a delusion of grandeur - both are suffering from the delusion that they have any importance at all, when clearly they are both equally insignificant.

Significance is an invention of the human mind, as a coping mechanism for the increasingly inescapable realisation that nobody matters, nothing matters, we're all dead in the long-run and every piece of evidence that we ever existed is destined to be obliterated some completely, that even alien archeologists with futuristic gadgetry, would never know anything about our entire race; our whole history.

It's pure vanity to think that you're important; that you'll be remembered.

 

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What Have I Got To Do To Get Sacked?

5 min read

This is a story about biting the hand that feeds me...

Water cooler

This colleague of mine was holding an object which looked so much like a sex toy that I was compelled to take a sly snapshot. Trying to be as subtle as possible and not arouse any suspicion, meant that I did not compose my photograph as well as I could have done, but I offer you the cropped image below so that you're better able to imagine what I saw.

Zoomed in

Is that any better? Attempting to photograph a colleague waving around a dildo-like object while filling a bottle from the water-cooler in my office, was somewhat hampered by the fact I spend my days on a secure campus with high fences and guards manning the gates, in a building which you can't gain entrance to until you've been through various in-depth background checks, to ensure you're the right sort of chap.

I'm sure there's something somewhere written in a contract or a code of conduct I've signed, which could be twisted and misinterpreted to mean that I shouldn't irreverently make light of my privileged position in the world.

People tell me I have a "good job".

People tell me to watch my step and button my lip, because "they" are monitoring my electronic communications and every word I speak and write.

We are well aware that GCHQ's mass-surveillance invades millions of law-abiding UK citizens' presumed automatic right to privacy, in the name of national security. We are all well aware that the police are using undercover officers to infiltrate groups of UK citizens who intend to exercise their right to unionise, strike and demand better pay and conditions. We are all well aware that the police share dossiers of intelligence with private companies, black-balling individuals, preventing them from being able to work in certain industries, because they are labelled as 'agitators' who are likely to attempt to turn the tide of worker exploitation by wealthy capitalists in favour of a fairer society. The oppression of the 98% by the 2% is state-sponsored, as proven by an overwhelming number documents compiled and paid for by the UK taxpayer.

This is paternalism in action.

Don't be distracted by the "patriarchy" BS - that's a clumsy, flimsy, pathetically obvious attempt to divide and rule. If there's one thing that the Brits are good at - empire builders - it's dividing people up into groups using arbitrary and imaginary lines. The British civil servant who drew the borders of Iraq and Kuwait had never visited the Middle East in his life.

Civil servants have decided that you're not allowed to privately own a snowplough; they've decided that an ambulance is not allowed to have an electric engine. Why?

Why the fuck are civil servants making these rules?

The Great Game.

It's all a great big game for a highly educated bunch of toffs who've had their egos massaged their whole lives and been told they're destined for greatness, but ultimately what they're left doing is creating a massive and impenetrable rulebook of totally arbitrary made-up regulations, which exist for no other reason than justifying the existence of a bunch of paper-pushing desk-jockeys, meddling in the affairs of every citizen of the kingdom.

I actually think the civil service is somewhat of a benevolent dictator for life; mostly harmless and well-intentioned.

I'd be a bit gutted if I was kicked out.

[Please note, that this is not an admission of where I work, who I work for, what I do, or any other overt statement which might tie me to my employer or client]

Even though it's not a real job, making up rules for other people to follow, enforcing those rules and generally policing other people's behaviour - perhaps even on spying on private law-abiding citizens - it's a little bit hard to argue the contrary position, that we don't need the organisations and the huge number of people who keep the country running. I'm not as much of an anarchist as I claim to be. I live a very happy sheltered secure wealthy life because I'm the right sort of chap and they tend to see me as one of their own and assume I'm on their side. Everyone assumes I'm a well-behaved conformist patriotic stand-for-the-national-anthem Queen-saluting fully-indoctrinated and sufficiently economically incentivised member of the paternalistic guardian class, such that I'd never be so insane as to step out of line and bite the hand that feeds me.

Do I plan to make mischief? Do I plan to commit sabotage? Do I have treasonous intent?

No.

You got me there.

I am a humble servant of Her Maj.

To connect my name with search terms such as "civil service" and "government" is recklessly stupid, one might say, but on careful inspection - by reading what I've written more closely - you can see that I have not revealed for a single instant who I work for and what I do for a living, specifically.

Meanwhile, I promise you that every single day I give dedicated service, to the very best of my professional abilities. I care about what I do. I want to make a difference.

For Queen and country. Ich dien.

 

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Vile Hateful Little Man

8 min read

This is a story about misanthropy...

Lift selfie

On this day 5 years ago, I tried to help a homeless alcoholic called Frank. I made a lot of notes. As my divorce disrputed my attempt to get my life back on track in London, dragging me back to Bournemouth to empty and sell my house, it destroyed my fragile new life and plunged me into the very world of homeless hell, which I had usefully compiled notes on. I did manage to help Frank, but ironically crosssed paths with him later on - as I was descending into hell, he was well on his way to recovery.

On this day 4 years ago, I got myself off the streets, out of the 14-bed hostel dorm, and back into banking. I went to Barclays, which quickly dug me out of debt and restored some long overdue health, wealth and prosperity to my life.

On this day 3 years ago, I went to HSBC and repeated the same magic trick of managing to get myself back off the streets, out of the hostel, into a lovely Thameside apartment, and out of debt. Feeling like my life was going well, I went to a hackathon to create technology solutions to the refugee crisis.

On this day 2 years ago, I was lying to my girlfriend and my guardian angel, because the project I'd been working on had ended prematurely and I hadn't bothered to get another contract. Instead, I had tried to treat my own depression with medication prescribed by an online pharmacy, destabilising my mental health - inducing hypomania - and causing a subsequent relapse.

On this day last year, I woke up as a resident of Wales for the first time since being born here. The day before, I had been discharged from a psych ward in Manchester, England, following a suicide attempt which was very nearly successful.

I'm pretty upset that divorce was such a destabilising distraction at a time when I desperately needed a clean break, and I'm struggling to forgive and forget my ex-wife and parents sabotaging all my hard work; destroying my chance to follow through with well thought out plans which were subsequenty proven to be correct and successful.

I can blame the Barclays thing not working out on a couple of idiots who got fired for trying to screw me over, but in all truth, I wasn't very stable. I was too outspoken. I didn't keep my mouth shut. I made mistakes in my personal life. I had lapses.

I can blame the HSBC thing not working out on the sheer pressure and workload of working on their number one project, while also dealing with homelessness and cripling debt. I can blame a friend who asked me to help him get a job. I can blame a few loafers who benefitted from my hard work. But, again, I was too outspoken. I wasn't at all stable. I was so exhausted and stressed that I was very strung out and very manic.

I can blame not wanting to immediately get another contract 2 years ago on the fact that the project had been so mind-numbingly spirit-crushingly boring, and I'd been so de-skilled, that I'd lost all self-confidence. I really couldn't face any more of the same awfulness without taking a break. However, it was still my so-called 'choice' to relapse and I knew the consequences were likely to be dire, although I kinda "got away with it" that one time.

I can blame attempting suicide and nearly dying on the fact that I knew instinctively that I was in deep trouble. The contract in Manchester didn't pay enough to get me out of debt. I knew I was going to get shafted by a very unpleasant and immoral wannabe Labour MP, who embodies none of the values of socialism. I was working too hard for too little reward, but I also made bad so-called 'choices' such as getting mixed up with a social group who mostly bonded over recreational drug abuse. There was no way I was going to be able to quit physically addictive sleeping pills, tranqulisers and neuropathic painkillers, as well as working a very demanding job which didn't even pay enough to make any kind of dent in my debts. Suicide was my choice, in the face of overwhelming odds stacked against me.

So, here I am in Wales.

What's going to be different this year?

I'm in approximately the same financial position that I've been in all those previous years. My mental health seems to be the same, swinging between suicidal depression and mania.

Just gotta keep my mouth shut.

Gotta make sure I don't go on any crusades, trying to save anybody.

Put on my own oxygen mask before helping others.

This year is different because I've been working for 10 consecutive months without a major fuck-up. Of course, there have been fuck-ups, but they haven't caused me to lose my contract or otherwise let my client down. I've delivered a couple of projects quite successfully, to the great satisfaction of my clients.

This year is different because I've had an affordable place to live of my own since March, and I don't have anybody mooching off me or otherwise trying to ride my coat tails. I don't have anybody pressurising me to subsidise their laziness and inability to make good on their financial commitments. I don't have anybody using my gas, electric, water, sewerage, council tax and broadband, and running up thousands of pounds worth of rent arrears.

This year is different because I've had contract extensions and managed to have consecutive contracts, such that I've hardly stopped working at all.

This year is different because I've been working on my skills and making myself more confident and employable. I've felt increasingly capable and good at my job, without getting too deep into the territory of delusions of grandeur.

This year is different because the pressure is markedly reduced and the stress levels are more manageable, despite crushing mountainous debts. There have been really awful times - such as renting a place to live - but I seem to be well established in a good routine now, such that I just need to keep turning the pedals.

I drink too much. I'm unfit.

However, in the space of 11 months I'll have managed to buy a car, rent an apartment, pay off £21,000 of debt, and save up enough money to pay a hefty tax bill. I don't enjoy living out of a suitcase, but I'm not slumming it anymore. I've been able to take a weekend break to see old friends in Prague and I have a week-long holiday to Turkey booked, which will be my first proper holiday for over 2 years. I stay in a nice hotel midweek and I eat in a gastropub. This is the self-care aspect, which didn't really get taken care of in previous years. There's no point working as hard as I do unless it's delivering some quality of life; I might as well just kill myself if life's going to be an unrewarding slog.

I sometimes can't believe what comes out of my mouth, in terms of the fucking rage which is somewhat pent-up inside me. This is a summary of the many false starts I've had, and nearly-but-not-quite moments, where it looked like I was going to make a breakthrough and get properly back on my feet. It's incredibly frustrating to repeatedly do the impossible - quitting addictive drugs, getting off the streets, out of the hostels and back into mainstream civilised society, while also dealing with a major mental health problem - and to see that there's nothing wrong with my approach per se. On paper, everything should go perfectly and quickly restore me to health, wealth and prosperity, but it does require a run of good luck, and that luck is very much dependent on the co-operation of other people.

Who do I want to blame? Capitalism? Banking? Bad bosses? Wimmin? Parents? Even friends?

I spend a lot of time writing very aggressive angry stuff.

I can't believe what I write.

Maybe this year won't be any different, because I'm a spoiled overprivileged vile bitter old man, who doesn't take any personal responsibility; I'm too quick to blame others.

We shall see. The story continues.

 

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In Debt

5 min read

This is a story about pride and self-esteem...

Warsaw hotel

At the start of December last year I was thrown a lifeline. A friend recommended me for a software project with an investment bank and I was awarded the contract. I flew to Warsaw using the last of my available credit. I ate sandwiches made in my cheap hotel room, spreading mayonaise on the bread with a shoe horn. The expenses of my business travel exhausted what little money I could lay my hands on, but I knew that it would eventually be a profitable gamble, even though it left me temporarily penniless. To be precise, for a whole month I had exactly £23 left available to me, having maxed out all my credit cards, my overdraft and my other borrowing facilities. I was flat broke.

We don't really talk about our debts.

Men regularly commit suicide because of their financial problems.

It's such a shameful thing, to be in debt.

It's so destructive to our self-esteem, being in debt.

The only reason why I've started to talk about my debts is because I see light at the end of the tunnel. Illness had reduced my average earnings to a pitiful level and the interest payment to service my loans was enormous, further compounding the problem. If you were to owe one penny at the time of the birth of Christ, with interest payable at 5% per annum your debt today would now be £9×1038. Nine quadrillion quadrillion pounds is only £9×1030 and there's barely a quadrillion dollars worth of 'stuff' in circulation, which is only £1×1015. To be precise, if we added up the value of all the banknotes, gold, silver, diamonds, houses, cars. factories, livestock, land and everything else which is supposedly tangible, it only adds up to £183,000,000,000,000, which is 1.83×1014.

This is why civilisations need to forgive debts, lest those civilisations collapse. Every civilisation that refused to forgive its debts collapsed.

When we start needing to use quadrillions and powers of ten to express sums of money, and the very best science, technology, engineering and mathematics graduate brains are all diverted into the time-wasting exercise of counting all those imaginary beans, it's time to wipe the slate clean.

I have a debt to a friend which absolutely must be repaid, because it's personal. That money was loaned without interest and was lent at considerable risk, as a vote-of-confidence in my abilities, and my friend's faith in my trustworthiness to make good on my promises and act with integrity.

The remainder of my debts serve as a barometer of how near to collapse our civilisation is. When our ordinary populace has to take on enormous amounts of debt just to live a normal life, it's a bad sign. When those debtors struggle to repay their debts, then the collapse of civilisation is imminent. There's no point repaying debts which are about to be scrubbed because money and the so-called economy have become surreal and ridiculous. There's no point repaying debts which weren't borrowed from anybody.

The vast majority of money which has been borrowed is not secured against any tangible asset. Most money was simply invented out of thin air. It's been a long time since we abandoned the gold standard: your banknote's promise to pay the bearer on demand no longer has any meaning whatsoever. The idea that not repaying your debts is somehow robbing a pensioner of their life savings is a dirty lie perpetuated by capitalists and bankers, which is simply not true.

It keeps me awake at night, worrying about how I'm going to repay my guardian angel, but I'm now at the point where I have saved enough money to clear my debt.

The shame of owing that money was killing me.

I couldn't write about my financial distress, because I couldn't see any way out.

I'm one of the lucky ones. I've been able to work off my debt. Most people who have huge debts will never be able to afford to repay them, no matter how hard they work.

We are at an inflection point. People are slowly realising that all their hard work does nothing except line the pockets of idle bankers, who invent money out of thin air, devaluing our currency to the point where the vast sums of so-called money in the economy is incomprehensibly vast except inside the electronic mind of a computer. Do you even know how many zeros there are in a quadrillion? It's a madness which has got to end.

This is a part of my story which is far more shameful and embarrassing than my homelessness and my drug addiction. To write about my debt is harder than anything I've written about to date.

 

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Compensation

5 min read

This is a story about maintaining equilibrium...

Handful of pills

I started the year £52,000 in debt, with no home and no car. I started the year addicted to painkillers and sleeping pills. I started the year in a very dire situation. The odds were stacked against me.

I managed to quit those addictive medications. I managed to avoid bankruptcy. I managed to rent a place to live. I managed to buy a car. I managed to earn and save enough money to repay half my debt.

That's right. I'm halfway there.

In actual fact, I'm being a bit premature. My total outstanding debt is £43,250 and I've managed to save up £23,400, which is more than 50% but I haven't actually made a substantial repayment yet, because I'm terribly afraid that I'm going to get sick. I'm on the brink of having a nervous breakdown. It's been unbelievably stressful and exhausting to get to this point.

Did I mention that I quit addictive painkillers and sleeping pills?

A little over a year ago I was physically addicted to vast quantities of Valium and Xanax, as well as everything else.

How the hell does a homeless, bankrupt, drug addict, with mountainous debts, go from being sectioned in a secure psych ward, to being able to repay nearly £25k of debts as well as renting a house, buying a car and holding down a good job?

Compensation.

To compensate for the horrific withdrawal of all those medications, which caused massive problems with anxiety and insomnia, it has been necessary for me to compensate. To compensate for the stress and the misery of being flat broke and having the threat of bankruptcy, homelessness and destitution hanging over me; the stress of having to work really hard to service debts and save up money to get back in the black - that's required me to compensate.

I've been compensating for the horrendous things going on in my personal life; the incredible stress.

I've compensated by over-eating and drinking too much.

The stress has been off the fucking charts.

My drinking has been out of control.

I've put on weight.

If you think I should eat less, eat healthy, exercise more and generally look after myself, I ask you to re-consider what I just told you. Somehow I've managed to quit 5 physically addictive medications, move house twice, service debts of over £50k, save up £24k, work 3 jobs, please my clients, zoom all over the fucking country and generally live a miserable austere life with no reward for my efforts.

My mealtimes and my alcoholism are all I've got to live for at the moment. Getting fat, unfit and destroying my health with alcohol isn't my idea of a great way to live - it's a reaction to my extreme circumstances, and the horrible suffering associated with the stress of being massively indebted, skint, insecure and withdrawing from very addictive medications.

A lot of people aren't able to tolerate the horribleness of the anxiety, the insomnia and generally feeling like you're going to die, when you stop taking medications like Valium and Xanax. A lot of people will be hooked for life on their antidepressants, sleeping pills, tranquillisers, sedatives, painkillers and other such medications, because they can't stand the withdrawal.

A lot of people are destroyed by their debts. So many suicides are precipitated by financial problems. When you're deep in a debt hole and bankruptcy seems to be like the only option, that's a life-ruining thing to happen, because a bankruptcy is a black mark against your name for the rest of your life. Try renting a place to live as a bankrupt. Try getting a good job as a bankrupt. Try living any kind of life in this modern debt-driven society as a bankrupt.

My way of compensating for the difficulties in my life has been to comfort eat and get drunk.

I hate it.

I'm getting fat and unfit. I'm destroying my health.

It's a race against time.

I need to clear my debts before my unhealthy eating and abusive drinking kills me.

Don't tell me to eat healthy, eat less, drink less, exercise and otherwise make my life any more fucking miserable than it already is. I know what I'm doing to myself and I know what I'd do if I wasn't under such extreme pressure and stress; so distressed and living a life of such abject misery. I'm taking a very calculated but extreme risk, to escape from the trap - the trap of debt, the trap of addiction, the trap of homelessness, the trap of poverty, the trap of mental health problems, the trap of misery and hopelessness.

That I've managed to almost escape so much that threatened to destroy me, is remarkable. The only way I've managed to achieve it is by compensating with over-eating and drinking too much. My health is getting fucked up. My appearance is getting fucked up. I hate everything about my life, but I'm halfway to freedom.

I did intend on writing this once I've finally managed to make a great big £24,000 downpayment on my debts, bringing things down to an amount I can pay back in 3 or 4 months, which seems much more achievable.

I've achieved the fucking impossible.

I had to write this now, because I can't hold on much longer. Every week is unbearable, but every week inches me a little closer to freedom.

Getting to the end of September will be a huge milestone.

October I need to take some well-earned and very overdue rest.

November and December I need to make sure I stay sane and healthy and keep my job.

2019 is potentially the year I turn my whole life around.

Still so far to go.

It fucking sucks.

But there is a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

 

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The Unwilling Suspension of All Human Needs

7 min read

This is a story about the worst of all worlds...

Canary Wharf station crowd

"I'm sorry but this bonus won't be the megabucks you were expecting from your first job in the City of London" my boss said to me. I was 22 years old and I was glad to have a secure job with an old fashioned investment bank - we'd just been through the dot com crash and 9/11. When I was a younger man I erred on the side of caution. I had decided to quit doing IT consultancy and take a permanent job when I was 21 years old, because I could see the storm clouds brewing on the horizon. I sold out.

The first couple of years of my full-time career were extremely frustrating. The speed that things got done at British Aerospace and the Ministry of Defence was painfully slow. I was already a very competent computer programmer before I started on a graduate training program as a junior programmer, so I'd already mastered the art of software development. There was very little to learn and my colleagues were intent on asserting their authority even if they were lacking any god-given talents - they were mostly insecure know-nothing fuckwits; bitter old men who spent most of their time energy trying to foil and thwart me because I was young.

I then spent a year working for a startup before I went into IT consultancy, doing software development as a contractor. Those were exciting times where I learned a lot. However, I was still bored and quite unchallenged a lot of the time.

The problem is that all software is essentially identical to a programmer. It doesn't matter if you're writing a computer game or torpedo guidance software for nuclear submarines... it's all the same damn code. In fact, the best code a programmer is ever going to write is a computer game, because games programmers have to take advantage of the power of a computer to its maximum: sound, graphics and high-performance code which provides an audiovisual entertainment spectacle - a lot harder than anything else that a computer programmer can do.

I'm a polyglot.

That is to say I code in zillions of computer programming languages.

But.

They're all the fucking same.

All computer code compiles down to machine code ultimately, so whatever programming language you choose is just personal preference. There's no point getting hung up about which particular language you have a fetish for, because they're all the same under the hood. It all ends up as the same CPU instructions, at the end of the day.

So.

I decided to quit the rat race. I decided that I needed to get away from the profession which I'd already mastered long before I started my first full-time job.

But the money.

So. Much. Money.

I was earning £470/day when I was 20 years old. I was working in Canary Wharf for Lloyds TSB. The money was transforming my whole identity and life prospects; my opportunities. I had won a golden ticket which admitted me to a socioeconomic group reserved for kids who went to private school and were otherwise bankrolled by their rich families. I'd smashed through the glass ceiling and broken into a world which I shouldn't have been permitted to enter.

Soon, skiing holidays and yachts. Soon, posh restaurants, taxis, fine wines and other accoutrements of the monied set, meant that I was wearing golden handcuffs. How could I give up this lifestyle?

I hated capitalism; banking.

I can't believe how much I hated both enterprise software development AND the financial services industry. I buried my head in books about economic theory and the way the global financial markets operate, and the deeper I dug the more horrified I became by the whole charade. I couldn't believe that the film It's a Good Life portrayed a bank as a benign entity -- lending out a grandmother's life savings so that a sweet little young couple with a baby could afford to buy a house -- when nothing could be further from the truth. Everything I saw was bullshit built on top of bullshit. Plus, I was bored. By then I was a senior analyst/programmer, but I hardly did any analysis or programming - we were just fat lazy capitalist bankers.

Still I carried on, because the money was so good.

I became involved with JPMorgan and the Depository Trust and Clearing Corporation (DTCC) and we processed over a quadrillion dollars worth of credit default swaps a year. 1% of a quadrillion is 10 trillion. So, if an investment bank loses a million dollars, that's only 0.0000001%, which is what we call a rounding error. The numbers boggle the mind.

I live my life by the numbers, despite the fact that it's not much of a life at all.

I earn something like 2.14 pence per second, which means that watching the pennies is a laughable idea. I'd literally lose money if I stopped to pick up a penny.

It's miserable.

It doesn't feel good.

It's inhuman.

At least I'm no longer propping up and assisting some of the main players in the great global con which is capitalism and investment banking, but I'm not very far from ground zero. I'm still pretty close to the feeding trough.

I have no idea what I'm doing, why, who it benefits, how I'd explain what I do to anybody, how I'd justify my existence on judgement day or how I'm able to look myself in the eye and feel good about myself. I don't feel good about myself. I feel like a sellout.

While others live authentic and fulfilling lives where they follow their dreams and pursue their academic fetishes or otherwise find work which is compatible with their identity and personality, I've been a mercenary for as long as I can remember. During my whole upbringing I was taught to value money ahead of everything else and to prioritise my earnings instead of my enjoyment of life, or any consideration of moral and ethical questions. My parents always put drugs and money as their number one prioriries - fuck children, friends, family and other things like that, so I suppose I've followed in their footsteps.

The net result is this unfulfilling and frankly awful life, where I have no identity or set of beliefs which define me. I just do a job for whoever is going to pay me the most, but I don't know why. All I know is that I learned to do this thing - computer programming - when I was a child and now it's both the source of an obscene income, but also seems to be at the root of all evil - banking and capitalism could not survive without data, computers, software and the polyglot mercenaries like me who help them to ride roughshod over humanity.

I keep telling myself: I only need to earn X amount and then I can quit the rat race and go and do something good; something meaningful; something rewarding. That day never comes.

 

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An Essay on the Abolition of Interest Slavery

7 min read

This is a story about the money multiplier...

Cash

Let us imagine for a moment that I manage to obtain a banking license and start a brand new bank, but I don't have any money. In this hypothetical example you want to buy a house valued at £100,000 - for the sake of easy maths - and you have a £10,000 deposit. Further, let us imagine that there are lots of people who would be glad to take out personal loans, overdrafts, credit cards and other kinds of borrowing, and pay high rates of interest. Let us set the central bank lending rate at 0.5%, the mortgage rate at 5% and the unsecured lending rate at 20%. With me so far?

What I seek to prove to you is how capitalism is rigged so that those who control the money in the economy - the bankers and other capitalists - can make as much money as they want and not work at all, while the rest of us pay double. We pay with everything we earn and we pay again because we pay with our time and labour, which all ends up in the pockets of the capitalists.

Here's how it works.

You go to your bank with your £10,000 deposit. You give the bank your hard-earned cash.

Then, here comes the magic trick.

Your £10,000 is a liability on the bank's balance sheet. That is to say, if you were to deposit £10,000 the bank would be liable to pay you back as and when you demanded to have your money. However, the banks can do a little trick to turn a liability into an asset: It's called the money multiplier.

Banks only need to keep about 5% - or less - of the money that's deposited with them. So the bank can lend out £9,500 of your £10,000.

Then what happens?

Well, that £9,500 comes back into the bank in the form of a deposit. Let's say that our bank is paying a very generous 0.25% interest on their deposits. So, the bank has a £10,000 liability on one side of its balance sheet and a £9,500 asset - in the form of a loan - on the other side of its balance sheet, plus £500 in its reserve account. The loan brings in interest of 20% and the deposit attracts interest at 0.25%. The net monthly income for the bank is therefore £158.33 and the net monthly cost of interest payments is £19.79, yielding a very healthy £138.54 of profit every month for doing nothing.

So that's almost £140 profit every single month - £1,662 per annum - for doing absolutely nothing! But the best part is that it doesn't end there.

Because the bank now has a deposit of £9,500 it can now lend 95% of that. The bank can lend £9,025, making sure it keeps 5% in its reserves. The bank then has assets of £18,525, liabilities of £19,500 and reserves of £975. Somehow £18,525 has appeared out of nowhere.

The two loans yield £3,705 a year, while the deposits only attract interest of £463, giving a net annual profit of £3,242.

Three thousand quid a year for doing nothing!!

Yes.

That's right.

But it doesn't end there.

The bank keeps on lending money that it doesn't have.

A loan of £8,574, a loan of £8,145, a loan of £7,737, a loan of £7,351, a loan of £6,983... and so on.

Eventually, the bank has made loans of nearly £190,000 from an initial deposit of only £10,000. The bank also has deposits of almost £200,000, but these attract very little interest. The annual interest payable on the loans is £38,000 and the interest payable on the deposits is only £5,000, so the bank has an annual profit of £33,000 for doing nothing.

Now what?

Well that person still wants to buy that house so the bank is going to need some money. Where's it going to get the money? Well, no problem - it will borrow it from the central bank.

The central bank will want some collateral as security against the loan, but that's no problem because the bank has assets of almost £190,000 worth of loans bringing in £38,000 of anuual income, so it's clearly a creditworthy institution. The central bank is happy to lend the bank £90,000 at interest of 0.5%. The bank can then use that money to buy the house, which it adds to its balance sheet as an asset.

Now the bank owns a loan book of £190,000 worth of loans, cash reserves of almost £10,000 and a house valued at £100,000. It's very important to note that the person who wanted to buy the house does not own the house - it's the bank's property!

The bank now signs a mortgage contract with the house buyer for 25 years at 5% annual interest for a loan of £90,000. This loan will yield £4,500 per annum in interest payments for the bank, but it only costs the bank £450 a year in interest which it has to pay to the central bank, netting it a profit of £4,050 per annum, in addition to the £33,000 of other profit it makes from its loan book.

Now the bank is making a total annual profit of £37,050 and they are doing nothing.

Nothing.

Meanwhile, the person who bought the house needs to earn at least £6,312 a year to pay their mortgage. The person who bought the house no longer has the £10,000 they saved up. The person who bought the house has not only handed over their savings and committed themselves to having to pay a large amount of money every month... now they have to go and get a job from the capitalists or else they're going to be homeless! Remember, the bank owns the house, not the person who pays the mortgage - the witless idiot is now enslaved by capitalism.

Also, there are more than 100 people who took out loans, credit cards, overdrafts, store cards and other forms of unsecured personal debt, who now have to work hard to pay off the loans at 20% interest. People have become indebted by an additional £190,000 because one person wanted to buy a house, but they didn't realise they were going to get conned along with the rest of working-class society.

The magic trick that gets used by the banks is called fractional-reserve banking, which it allows a very small group of capitalists who have a banking license to economically enslave the whole of society in debt-based indentured servitude.

When loans are necessary to purchase basic survival needs - such as shelter - then there's no other word for it except for slavery. Shelter is not a luxury. Shelter is not an optional nice-to-have.

Insecurity about our shelter drives us into the open arms of the exploitative capitalists, who benefit doubly, because they earn money from us in the form of interest on loans and mortgages, and they have us right where they want us as an insecure workforce who desperately need to keep our regular income lest we be evicted and have our homes repossessed. The workers own nothing and the capitalists own everything. The rentier class have all of the wealth and do none of the work. Capitalism is the greatest crime ever perpetrated on humanity.

I hope you've been able to follow along the basic maths, and you can see how rigged the game is. It's quite simple to explain this horrific scam.

 

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Universal Basic Income

7 min read

This is a story about late capitalism...

Bank notes

Having been part of the JPMorgan team who built a system to process more than a quadrillion dollars of credit default swaps per annum, and also the system to find out who was holding the pass-the-parcel when the music stopped, only to discover it was full of dog shit, I feel pretty responsible for the credit crunch and financial crisis, which has plunged us into a global recession many times worse than the Great Depression of the 1930s. I'm pretty disillusioned with capitalism.

I've had front-row seats for most of the insanity of the past 25 years - dot com, Y2K, 9/11, credit crunch, financial crisis of 2007/8, Bitcoin etc. etc. - and I was a fully paid-up subscribing member of the 2% profiting handsomely from others' misfortune with my snout deep in the trough.

By 2008 I was sickened by the way I'd turned a blind eye and ignored my moral compass, because I enjoyed the wealth and privilege. I was able to buy a house, a yacht, a speedboat, sportscars and go on enough luxury holidays to help me set aside my misgivings about what the investment banks were doing to the global economy, by creating fabricated securities such as derivatives, which were somehow valued at a vastly greater sum of money than the aggregate value of all the precious metals, gems, land, property, cattle, food, commodities, industrial plant, machinery, companies and cash that exists on the whole planet. I was shackled with golden handcuffs - who in their right mind would give up their trophy wife and pull their kids out of private school, to slum it with the hoi polloi?

I decided that I was sickened by the bullshit synthetic world of digital securities and digital bank balances, and the global computer network with all its software and data, which actually doesn't create anything real or tangible. It seemed like the infamous tulip speculation bubble in the Netherlands during the 1600s. It seemed like utter insanity to place so much importance on a bunch of binary ones and zeros which exist nowhere but as a tiny magnetic bump on a disk platter, an electron in a memory chip or a photon in a fibre optic cable. The entire weight of the internet is estimated to be about the same as a golf ball, if you add up all the electrons. It's madness to think that any of our digital scorekeeping - i.e. your bank balance - will matter at all when global warming really starts to bite.

I quit my investment banking IT job at JPMorgan and I retrained as an electrician. I wanted to build real and tangible things with my hands. I wanted to learn a trade which couldn't be outsourced or automated. I wanted to escape the virtual realm of high finance and software and into a field which could make a real difference in people's lives. Try living for a day without your lighting, heating, hot water, power shower, cooker, dishwasher, washing machine, tumble dryer, kettle, toaster, fridge, freezer and the myriad other electrical appliances which you don't even notice are there in your life, saving you untold time and physical labour.

It turns out, we don't value tradesmen as much as we value bankers.

I could've scraped a living, but it was hard work with little reward. The work was dangerous and dirty and the general public expected to get everything for virtually nothing. I didn't much fancy working my whole life with the threat of bankruptcy and my home being repossessed, never having enough spare money to enjoy what little leisure time I had. Economically, it wasn't viable to be a tradesman, except as a kind of break-even hobby. It made no economic sense to use 100% of my brains and brawn, but receive so little reward.

Subsequently, I've returned to making software systems for banks, doing so as a consultant and getting paid even more. I've been a leech on a leech, and the cash has poured in.

Throughout this journey my priorities have completely changed. Instead of aspiring to acquire and accumulate vastly more than I would ever need, and fantasising about buying bigger and better houses, yachts and other material possessions, my fantasies have taken on a completely different guise.

I've been fantasising about quitting the rat race, and having secure housing. I've been fantasising about having enough money to read books and write. I've been fantasising about having time and being free from the tyranny of the alarm clock and bullshit jobs.

I'd live in a Soviet-style apartment and have beige products - no consumer choice - if I could be intellectually free. I'd travel on the bus and give up exotic foreign holidays if I no longer had to play along with the charade of late-capitalism, where we are all commuting too far, working too many hours, and living under constant threat of losing our jobs, losing our homes and subsequently being made destitute. Given the choice, I choose equality of outcome, not equality of opportunity.

It seems pretty obvious that the equal opportunities experiment has run its course and it would be inhumane to continue. Free markets are efficient, but they are only efficient at stripping away people's security, happiness, dignity and any hope of ever feeling content or satisfied. Capitalism is - by its very nature - a force which will price gouge humanity for the basic essentials, such as food, housing, transport, healthcare, medicine and to some extent education.

Our poorest 50% struggle to afford the basics, while even the very rich are miserably struggling to attain the academic qualifications which will allow them to compete, lest they be trampled by the struggling masses, desperate to realise their opportunities. The competitive element of capitalism has turned us into slaves. Our lives our wretched and appalling.

I desperately want to drop out of the rat race, but to do so would see me persecuted. I wouldn't even be allowed to sleep rough and beg for food without being arrested and locked up. Society offers me no ability to house, feed and clothe myself, with any degree of security or quality of life. Working a zero-hours contract McJob is not going to earn me enough to pay rent and bills, buy food, travel to work and have any kind of life worth living. The theft of our time and freedom is an awful crime perpetrated against most of society. The chance to stop and smell the roses is denied to us when we do not have secure food and housing.

The only viable solution that I can see is universal basic income (UBI). I just don't see how else we're going to be able to stop the terrible decline in living standards and save humanity from the tyranny of exploitation by the capitalists. It seems like we're at breaking point when even the middle class children are becoming slaves to the capitalists, with enormous loans for their education, which might win them a low-paid job in a completely unrelated field from their university degree if they're lucky - the unlucky ones end up unemployed.

It's a sad state of affairs when our fantasies revolve around basic needs, such as secure housing.

It's not my idea of a good time, sitting at home smoking cannabis and playing computer games, but I don't see any reason why it's not morally acceptable or right to allow people to do that, and not threaten them with homelessness and starvation if they don't get a bullshit McJob and otherwise comply with the tyranny of late-capitalism.

The idea that we live in a land of opportunity and that hard work will bring rewards has been proven to be a lie, and ever more-so during each passing year. It's time to let people live lives of quiet dignity, rather than frantic futile desperation.

It's time to just give everybody enough money to live in peace.

 

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Godless

10 min read

This is a story about faith...

Church

I have far too much of a skeptical inquiring mind to foolishly believe that religions are anything other than a terrestrial invention, born in the minds of mortal men who were afraid of death, during unenlightened pre-scientific times. I've had access to far too much knowledge and information to ever believe in fairy tales about omnipotent sky monsters. However, it does mean that my existence is pretty absurd and meaningless. Religion gives a sense of community and belonging - those who have chosen to follow a particular faith are able to identify others who believe the same weird things, because of their weird customs, their weird traditions, their weird buildings and the weird books they read. It must be nice to have that sense of belonging, and to strongly believe that there is order, purpose, meaning and easy-to-grasp comforting explanations for everything that happens in our otherwise hostile and chaotic universe... it's all part of God's plan.

I used to pity those who have religious faith as deluded simpletons. I used to want them to wake up and consider the evidence - or lack thereof - and to have a scientific awakening; to become atheists. However, I think it's those who don't subscribe to any kind of philosophical or theological framework, who should be pitied. What do you believe in if you know - from the overwhelming weight of empirical evidence - that the universe is nothing more that a cosmic accident; the byproduct of the universal laws of physics and nothing more. Why are we here? What meaning and purpose is there? Humanity will be wiped off the face of the Earth and everything that we ever thought was important will be erased; as if it never existed. We're not even a microscopic speck in the unimaginably huge - and ever-expanding - universe.

The author Douglas Adams wrote in one work of fiction, about the worst torture being to be shown the entire universe all at once such that you fully perceive your own insignificance, which would blow your mind and destroy you. So many good novelists are more imaginative than our best scientists, and they foresee the cultural and social problems which the inventors of new technology don't, because the inventors are too in love with their creations. Our thirst for knowledge, and the invention of the biggest and most complicated machine ever built, which connects most of humanity in a world wide web - the internet - has not brought with it any comfort, unlike religion. Having this incredible information vault accessible anytime, anywhere, along with the ability to communicate and connect with anybody, is something which no engineer who built the internet thought might lead to incredibly awful social and cultural problems. Engineers are utopians, but they invent things not ideas, philosophies and belief systems. Engineers created the internet and they left it up to others to decide what to do with it; they've left it to us to make sense of things.

Google and Wikipedia appear to be unopinionated. In theory, you can use Google and Wikipedia to simply discover the information which you're looking for, and consume it. In theory, Google and Wikipedia will not tell you that certain ideas are heretical, or ascribe a sinfulness to the pursuit of certain knowledge. You're free to search "anal fissures" out of pure morbid fascination with the disgusting and depraved, and you won't be judged - it's all just between you and the computer. You can ask Google the questions that you would have asked your priest 100 years ago, and Google will give you the information so that you can make up your own mind. In fact Google is giving you the information that the most people clicked on, and some information which has been growth hacked by people with a commercial objective. Wikipedia presents the prevailing consensus of opinion in academia, with some degree of peer-review process, however it's just the opinion of the handful of people who wrote the particular page you're reading.

None of the stuff you read online is informed by an over-arching unified goal of shepherding the flock towards a state of existence deemed better than pure anarchy. Perhaps certain online news sources have editorial leanings which border on the paternalistic, but the vast majority of what's published online is done so to satisfy the particular individual's personal goals, and not as part of any master plan.

You might think it's the role of the government to think about the future of society and civilisation, and the government will be strongly opinionated about the purpose and meaning of our lives, but in fact governments are simply the victors in a commercial popularity contest, driven by individual egos and the survival needs of the massive party-political organisations. As such, governments simply parrot back whatever the people are demanding.

Progressive policies which have advanced our society have not come about because people demanded that we drag ourselves out of the dark ages, but in fact as a result of opinionated elites pushing through changes in the law which were not at all popular with the public. The death sentence is not something the public wanted to see repealed. The public are barbaric baboons and the idea that true democracy would lead us towards a progressive liberal utopia is completely wrong - instead we'd legalise xenophobia, racism and the persecution of minorities, if we left it up to the masses; mob rule.

It's wrong to assume that we have within us a moral compass; a strong sense of right and wrong and social justice. It's wrong to assume that people are basically good; they're not. People are selfish assholes. People are only interested in them and theirs, at the expense of anybody who's not like them. People are just dirty beasts with fancy clothes.

Yes, I'm pro paternalistic elitism. I'm pro social engineering. I'm pro giving people what's good for them, even though they don't like it and it's not what they want. Any move towards greater democracy is a move towards barbarism and the collapse of civilised society.

In my experience, people want simple fables; they want to believe in goodies and baddies; they want to believe in a black and white world, where everything can be simplified into easy to digest nonsense, which strips away all the complexity of reality and replaces it with comforting falsehoods. In my experience, people want to believe in lies, because lies are easier than hard truths. In short, people want religion.

Nobody much cares about the universal laws of physics and the optical illusion which makes solid objects appear to be solid, when in actual fact they're made of mostly nothing; a scattering of particles with indeterminate positions. People don't want to know about the deeply unsettling subatomic world, where things behave in non-intuitive ways. People want to believe that the world is a magical, mysterious and unknowable place, invented by a sky monster, because it's easier than grasping quantum mechanics.

Nobody much cares about the complex history of humanity and all the inter-breeding that's gone on, such that there are no 'pure blood' races. People just want to separate into "us" and "them". People want to belong to clubs, clans, tribes, nations, parties, teams, dynasties and every other conceivable way of slicing and dicing ourselves, such that we feel part of something. People want to hate. People want war and they want to dominate.

Nobody much cares that there are perfectly viable ways to divide our wealth and peacefully co-exist. Nobody much cares that billions of people could have their standard of living dramatically improved, at the expense of greed and selfishness. People want to live under hierarchies; they want to worship prophets and elevate ordinary mortal men to positions and status which are obscene and unjustifiable. Do you really think that a TV pastor deserves to live in a huge mansion while there are people starving on the streets? That's what people want - they want the haves and the have-nots.

Our terrestrial mortal destiny is in our own hands, and we know - in our heart of hearts - that when we die it's all over. There is no afterlife. There is no promised land. It's all bullshit that was invented to lessen the fear of death and make our lives of suffering appear to have some meaning in an otherwise ludicrously absurd existence. In the end you. just. die.

If our destiny is in our own hands, why aren't we making our existence on Earth into a more pleasant experience? Why aren't we bothered about making the most of the short time we're alive? Why are we content to have so much struggle, pain and suffering? We're quite capable of alleviating that suffering, but there's no will to change. We busy ourselves with absurdities, like getting jobs as bakers so that we can earn money to afford to be able to buy a slice of bread, from one of the loaves which we baked. We've constructed ludicrous inefficient systems which only serve to enslave us and make us desperately unhappy.

Of course none of this is God's plan. If there is a God - which there isn't - then why would He have us punching made-up numbers into a spreadsheet, at a desk, in an office, in the middle of a concrete jungle? Why would He have us exchanging pieces of paper with each other until the day we die? Why would He have made the money lenders into the richest and most powerful people on the planet, when His son was evidently not a big fan of usury when he drove those money lenders out of Herod's Temple?

Those who are afflicted with the madness that is religious faith might in fact be onto something, because at least their lives have meaning and they're looking forward to something, as opposed to enduring awful suffering until the day they die. We end our lives afraid and in pain and we know we're not going to see our children and grandchildren again. It might be insane to believe in an immortal and everlasting afterlife, but it's a damnsight better than anything on offer in a world run for the sole benefit of the mega-rich, which we have willingly allowed to come into existence.

In a godless universe with no afterlife, what's the meaning and purpose of anything? Nothing has any meaning. You might as well go and commit whatever crimes you want, because we all die anyway. You might as well indulge hedonistic pursuits to the maximum, because none of us are getting out of this alive.

In a world without religion, what fills that void? It can't be the pursuit of wealth, because that's even more insane.

 

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Sprint Finish

10 min read

This is a story about marathon running...

Stansted Airport

I'm quite pleased that I have this blurry photo capturing the moment when a stranger borrowed my iPhone charger in an airport. That stranger became my accountant and he's been on the journey with me, from a newly incorporated business to the point where I'm now turning over a 6-figure sum of money and making decent profits. My accountant has been one of the few constants in my life during a period which has been extremely wild and erratic.

Another particularly notable feature of the 5-year journey which has brought me - finally - closer to the point of getting back on my feet, is that I've never stopped moving. Through frantic and frenetic activity I've managed to avoid death, bankruptcy and a million and one other dreadful fates. By persevering with a very simple plan - to earn a lot of money as a consultant - I've managed to weather some pretty dreadful storms.

I admit that I did try to have myself declared unfit for work and to obtain the state welfare support I'm entitled to, but most people I meet seem to quickly form the opinion that I'm perfectly fine and healthy. Most people think I'm entirely capable of rescuing myself from even the most diabolically awful situations. It's pretty obvious that I haven't been enabled by anybody, although I'd be dead as a dodo if it wasn't for my guardian angel, who helped me move from London to Manchester, then Manchester to Wales, as well as being there for me during various hospitalisations and wotnot. To say I've arrived at the point I'm at today all on my own is not true at all. Of course I wouldn't have lasted 5 minutes without help and support, but I haven't received any of the help and support from the government that you'd think would be available to a vulnerable person - the safety net simply doesn't exist.

You would think that all your taxes which you pay would give you some kind of insurance, so that you wouldn't be penniless and homeless if you couldn't work. You would think that all that tax would mean that you'd be looked after if you were incredibly sick and vulnerable. Unfortunately, the welfare state is not at all kind to anybody who appears - with a lazy glance - to be of sound body and mind. Despite letters from GPs, psychiatrists and social workers, there are gatekeepers who are so compassion-fatigued and have so few resources to dispense to so many needy people, that there's no safety net at all.

Early intervention would have saved me a lot of near-death experiences, hospitalisations, contact with the police, wasted money, wasted time, wasted energy and health damage. Early intervention would have been far more cost effective than dealing with the consequences of assuming - incorrectly - that I'd cope just fine if I was simply left to my own devices; made homeless and otherwise abandoned by a nanny state which always promised to protect me, in return for the vast sums of taxes I've paid. I wasted a lot of time and effort on the mistaken middle-class belief that the welfare state exists for the sole purpose of protecting the vulnerable members of society. I thought - as so many middle-class people do - that I simply needed to ask for help from the relevant services charged with doling out lifesaving support and I would received what I needed.

It turns out that the UK operates what can only be described as a hostile environment for anybody who falls on hard times. It turns out that vast swathes of the civil service - with a mission statement to supposedly to help society's most vulnerable - are actually acting as gatekeepers and making it almost impossible to access any kind of help or support. Instead, the rigmarole is intended to frustrate, annoy and exhaust until you become disillusioned, disheartened, discouraged and generally lose faith in a government which promised to look after you in the event of an unfortunate turn of events, in return for a hefty portion of your income. The safety net turned out to be a lie and you'd better not waste too much time being angry and disappointed, because you're still broke and homeless... you have to find your own way to survive. No wonder so many people in the UK grow and sell cannabis or peddle other drugs - the black market economy provides much needed cash to society's most vulnerable, impoverished and desperate.

I suppose the argument would be that I could walk into a job quite easily, but that's pure stupidity. It's impossible to get a job and keep it if you're homeless and you have severe mental health problems. It's impossible to get a job when you're hamstrung by addiction and alcoholism. It's impossible to get a job and keep it when you're flat broke. It's a catch 22 situation. There are plenty of people who could theoretically get back on their feet, but they'll never be able to without some initial help and support - they need somewhere to live and some money; they need treatment for their addictions and alcoholism; they need time to stabilise their medication and get counselling for their mental health issues. Allowing people to become homeless - destitute - and to commit suicide is barbaric. Yes, it might seem to the wealthy ultra right-wing conservatives like it's some brutal form of social justice - survive or die; fit in or fuck off. Personally, I want my taxes to be spent on people who can't work, even if it means that I have less money to selfishly spend on myself. I want to pay into a national insurance scheme which creates a safety net for the most vulnerable and impoverished members of society.

In the second half of 2014 it dawned on me that I was wasting my time asking for help from the state, so I complied with exactly what the hostile environment was designed to do: I tried to go back to work. Naturally it was a disaster. You can't force sick people to work. Sick people can't work.

I've struggled along working for 4 hit-and-miss years. I've had a rollercoaster ride. I have periods where I'm working out of sheer desperation, which of course makes me incredibly sick, so I crash and burn every time. Because I seem blessed - or cursed - with the appearance of a man who's got his shit together and is doing just fine, I end up quickly embedded in huge organisations doing very important project work. Because of past achievements I'm given responsibilities which nobody in their right mind would dream of giving to a homeless, bankrupt, alcoholic junkie with mental health problems. The projects are hard enough, without also having to worry about where I'm going to sleep, whether I've got enough money to survive from day to day, and of course dealing with my mood disorder and all the of the problems associated with substance abuse.

Imagine doing an opiate, benzodiazepine and alcohol detox while working a full-time job. Imagine doing drug rehabilitation while working a full-time job. Imagine undergoing psychiatric treatment for severe mental health problems while working a full-time job. Imagine living in a 14-bed hostel dorm while working a full-time job. Imagine not knowing whether you'll be able to afford to keep travelling to work until payday - the ultimate catch 22, where you can't even afford to work your full-time job. That's been my life.

Some of the practical difficulties have been eased in the short-term with vast quantities of debt. I've borrowed heavily to be able to make my living and travel arrangements more compatible with working. I've gone deep into debt on the presupposition that it will enable me to earn enough money to dig myself out of the hole. In addition to the hard problem of working when seriously unwell, I've also had mountainous debts threatening to destroy me.

All of this is exactly what the government wants. The government wants us all to be heavily-indebted wage-slaves who live incredibly insecure lives, so we're easy prey for the capitalists. The government doesn't want us to get fat, happy and lazy. The government doesn't want us secure enough to be able to demand fair and reasonable working conditions and remuneration commensurate with the value of our labour.

I've worked incredibly hard, especially so during the last 9 months. I've earned a lot of money, but none of it has flowed into my pockets - it's all gone to pay the capitalists for their loans, which was the only way I could stay afloat and keep playing the game. If I'd declared bankruptcy I'd never be able to earn a decent wage ever again, rent an apartment or buy a house. The system's set up to screw you whichever way you go; you're forced to become a slave.

With gritted teeth and dogged determination it's been possible to struggle through 9 dreadful non-stop working months and get to the point where it looks as if I'm getting on top of things. I've had a period of what appears to be stability. You could be easily fooled into thinking that forcing me to work when unwell has actually proven the right-wing ultra-conservatives to be correct - that it's OK to economically enslave people; that it's OK to tell society's most vulnerable that they have to choose between starving on the streets, or a minimum wage McJob which won't even cover the cost of incredibly frugal living.

It might not look like it but I've actually done an incredible marathon run and I'm doing a sprint finish. It might not be immediately apparent but it's quite remarkable that I've survived what I've been through and I'm still going. I need to keep going. If I can't keep going then all I'll fall back into the hole as soon as I collapse exhausted in a heap. Every time I'm forced to push myself beyond the point which is sustainable and healthy there's always a price to pay. There's a price to be paid for forcing vulnerable needy people into work.

It might not seem like things have been very hard for me if we extrapolate backwards, but we need to think about where I've come from and what I've been through, not what my current situation and prospects are. My current situation is still pretty dire - there's a long way to go before I can retain my gains permanently; I'm a long way from escaping the debt trap and being free from tyranny. My health is not reliable. My future is incredibly uncertain.

I'm having a difficult time adjusting to the present paradigm. My brain and body are built for crisis mode. I'm able to deal with an endless precession of catastrophic events and survive disaster, but I'm struggling to adjust to the present situation, where I simply need to coast along now that I've re-established myself somewhat. I'm finding it incredibly hard now that I'm no longer in the danger zone - I'm on high alert and super tense, but the worst of my troubles seem to have passed. It's been a living hell but I've beaten the odds. However, I have absolutely no ability to cope with ordinary pedestrian, plodding, slow-paced and hazard-free life. I don't think I'm able to deal with boring daily routine, because my life has been in non-stop crisis for so many years.

So, I'm sprinting to the finish line. I never manage to find steady sustainable consistent marathon pace.

 

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Chore

11 min read

This is a story about strict routine...

Washing machine

I don't feel like writing today. I saw something in the news which I wanted to write about and I even started a blog post, but then I kinda lost my way when doing a bit of research. I had selected a photo - different from the one above - and I started to feel that it was unwise to use it because it shows my face without my cunning and infallible disguise. I'm starting to think more and more about how people perceive me and the damage I could do to my own reputation if my blog was read by my work colleagues.

There are certain things that will cause people to look at you in a completely different light. There are prejudices that are so powerful that they can warp reality and turn good people into twisted grotesque imaginary monsters. To write about addiction is to bracket myself with baby-eating, granny-mugging, child-raping, ethnic-minority-murdering, every-other-bad-thing-you-can-think-of, demonised people who are blamed for all the ills in society. Your average injecting crack and heroin addict is going to commit a hundred or maybe even two hundred crimes every year to feed their habit. However, it's a non-sequitur to think that everybody who's experienced a period of drug addiction in the past is an immoral murderous criminal. "Death's too good for 'em! String 'em up!" cries the tabloid press and the public lap it up, even though the vast majority have never been a victim of crime, nor are they aware that the so-called character flaws which potentiate addiction live inside all of us.

I was going to write about that oft-used song lyric: "there's a monkey on my back". I can't say that I ever felt like I had a monkey on my back when I was a drug addict. "I'm waiting for my man" is another famous addiction-inspired song lyric, which again is something I can't relate to at all. In fact I can't relate to any of the addiction references in popular culture. I've never 'scored' drugs from a dealer. I've never been part of a drugs 'scene'. I never adopted a drug as part of my identity - I never wore clothing with a cannabis leaf or some other drug reference advertising my addiction.

There's a lot I don't understand about drug addicts even though I was one myself. I don't understand why many addicts buy crack cocaine when they could easily make it themselves with baking soda. I don't understand why addicts buy their drugs in small quantities. I don't understand why addicts buy impure and weak products at hugely inflated prices. I don't understand why there are heroin addicts when they could easily bulk-buy fentanyl, which is much more powerful. I don't know why addicts don't just stop being addicts and get rich - like me - whenever life gets tough.

Of course, I do understand all those things. I understand that the only difference between me and an injecting crack and heroin user, is that they were exposed to a drug 'scene' which brought them into contact with dealers, street drugs, needles and other drug paraphernalia. Addicts are caught in the never-ending cycle of scoring drugs, turning tricks, petty crime and everything else that's part of the chaotic life of an injecting drugs user, and the only difference between them and me is that I know that there's some hope that I can escape a miserable life of poverty. What hope does your average crack and heroin addict have of earning a 6-figure salary a month after they quit drugs? What hope do they have of ever earning a decent wage?

I've been able to use my wealth, intellect and other privileges - such as my science and technology skills - to research and obtain high purity drugs of the maximum potency at rock-bottom prices. Instead of messing around with £10 bags of crappy cut heroin, I'd do the research and find out what the chemical with the biggest bang for my buck would be, and then buy it in bulk.

What happens when you have access to a practically unlimited amount of drugs and a practically unlimited amount of time to use them, is that you discover the meaning of the word: practically. It's practically impossible to satisfy a desire for addictive drugs. Given enough drugs and enough time, you just die. Eating, drinking, sleeping, personal hygiene, bathroom breaks and other bodily functions are put on hold for as long as possible. There are some addicts who are perfectly functional - they go about their daily business under the influence of drugs and they can carry on like that for years. That's not really addiction though. Addiction specifically means harmful drug use. Smoking, for example, harms the health of the smoker and the health of those who have to breathe their second-hand smoke. Arguably a pill-popper isn't an addict at all, if the pills are not causing health damage. My own addiction took the form of the very worst kind: the insatiable appetite for a drug to the exclusion of everything else, including the basic necessities for human survival.

At some point drug-taking either becomes a chore - it's something which has to be done to stave off the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms - or it becomes so destructive that destitution and death become certainties. I'm sure there are a handful of homeless people who could see that their addiction was making them unable to work and unable pay their rent or mortgage, and they would be evicted eventually, but they didn't want to stop the drugs: they'd rather be homeless, living in a tent or otherwise sleeping rough, and able to carry on with their addictions. Most homeless addicts probably couldn't see any hope of avoiding homelessness if they quit - there was no incentive. The drug-taking becomes a chore and there's no hope of escaping the dreadful circumstances when you fall too far; the health damage is too severe and the behaviour patterns are too entrenched... rehabilitation would take years, and the best possible hope for those people who dropped out of mainstream society for a long time, is that they could become burger flippers, shelf stackers, toilet cleaners and street sweepers. I have nothing against the untouchables on the bottom rung of civilised society, who do the worst jobs for the worst pay, but it's hardly an enthralling prospect to be shackled to a dreadful job which doesn't pay enough to cover rent and bills, and robs a person of their time and freedom. Given the choice, I'd rather be begging on the streets.

My life is a chore. I'm doing things which I've done a million times before - so there's no doubt that I'm extremely capable of doing my job - and I'm working on projects which are exactly the same as every other project I ever worked on. It doesn't matter if it's Space Invaders, torpedo guidance, stockbroker share prices, computers for schools, public transport, investment banking, government... whatever. Same shit different day. I make systems which are just like the old systems. It's like painting a white wall with white paint, over and over and over again.

Life's a stupid pathetic pointless game. Money is the 'score' and the more you have of it the better player you are, supposedly, but everybody starts with a different amount and the ones with the most are cheating the most. There are other ways to score points, such as academic qualifications, but again, those who start with the most money have the most leisure time to pursue academic interests and surround themselves with people who'll help them obtain those qualification. Winning a game of chess doesn't mean you're smarter than your opponent if the game wasn't on the clock. Winning a game of chess doesn't mean you're smarter than your opponent if you were raised by chess grandmasters and your entire childhood was structured around a single purpose: to make you into a brilliant chess player.

As we scurry around desperately trying to comply with the rules of the game, which mostly means being exploited by capitalists and living in constant fear of losing our job, our home and our children, we surely must stop and think that this is insanity. Why would mortal creatures waste their precious time playing a rigged game, for the benefit of the rentier class who oppress them and profit from their labour?

It must surely be due to drugs and drug addiction that the present situation is allowed to continue. How else are people able to buy alcohol, cigarettes, tea and coffee if they don't have miserable exploitative jobs? How else could we tolerate the intolerable except with massive amounts of anti-depressants, anti-anxiety drugs, tranquillisers, sedatives and sleeping pills? Why would we bother with the miserable commute and the horrible work, unless there was the promise of some artificial and chemically induced bliss during our breaks and at the end of the working day?

You can have as many slaves as you want, but they won't work without coca leaves, khat, betel leaves, areca nut, tobacco, tea and coffee. Fear, intimidation, pain and torture will only get you so far. There needs to be carrot as well as stick.

If you watch enough X-Factor and Pop Idol on TV then you'll see that all anybody has ever wanted for their whole entire life - more than anything else - is to be a singer. Why then are those who succeed against the odds in becoming a rich and famous pop singer, are very often afflicted with addiction problems and many die young?

Consider how hard it is to escape from the poverty trap. Consider how hard it is to escape the rat race. Consider how hard it is to accumulate enough wealth to be truly free. Consider the effort and exertion necessary to break the chains and liberate yourself from the shackles of capitalism and bullshit jobs.

Unfortunately, most people's idea of freedom is flawed. Are you looking forward to your retirement? Why? You'll be old and your health will be declining... why didn't you retire when you were young and fit? Are you looking forward to fame? Why? You'll be working for your sponsors; you'll be working for your fans. Are you looking forward to being rich? Why? What are you going to do when you are? If you spend your money you'll be poor again, and you'll be just as much of a slave as you ever were, except you'll have developed expensive tastes.

Drugs strip away all of capitalism's artificial constructs. A £10 bag of heroin will get a billionaire just as high as a homeless penniless person. Drugs can - in a way - become a way of life which has much more meaning than the pursuit of wealth. However, the insatiability of a drug addiction; its intrinsic destructiveness and lack of meaning beyond the internal experience of the drug addict, leads inexorably to the desire to use drugs as a form of protracted suicide.

Art is the only known antidote, but art is denied to the vast majority of humanity. Only wealthy spoiled trust-fund brats are truly free enough from the tyranny of capitalism to be artists. Of course many of the spoiled brat offspring of the ultra-rich will become drug addicts, because they're too stupid to appreciate the incredible privilege it is to be able to be an artist.

Perhaps the other choice is to bury ourselves in bestial behaviour. If you're blessed with enough stupidity and ignorance to be happily consumed by your reproductive efforts, all the best to you - enjoy yourself. Sadly, this isn't an option for those who've read too many books and newspapers, and have become aware of the absurdity of existence - ignorance is bliss, and there's no returning to those blissfully ignorant times once your eyes have been opened to the stark reality of human life.

In a godless world with no afterlife, free from magic, spiritual and otherwise ethereal non-existent mumbo-jumbo, there's little which is comforting and inviting in a hostile universe which obeys strict mathematical laws. Just a few hundred kilometres away there's the vacuum of space, where you'd just turn into a frozen corpse and float around weightlessly for billions of years. And you're worried about losing your minimum wage zero-hours contract McJob cleaning toilets just so that you can give every penny you earn to a capitalist, even though you already give every waking hour of your life to a different capitalist? Don't you feel conned; cheated?

I don't feel like doing much, but is that really surprising? Is it so surprising that life feels like such a chore?

 

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Forced to be Free

10 min read

This is a story about normality...

Psych ward garden

Most people want a secure job, secure housing and to feel prosperous. Most people don't care about freedom of speech and a free press. Given the choice between security and freedom, most people would choose security every time. It's only a handful of paternalistic elites who dictate that we the people care a very great deal about freedom, when in actual fact this is not true at all.

Freedom has a very narrow definition. When we talk about freedom of speech and a free press, we do not also acknowledge the freedom to be hungry, the freedom to be homeless, the freedom to be marginalised, excluded and abandoned by our "fit in or f**k off" culture. While we might enjoy freedom of speech and a free press, those luxuries are only useful to a privileged few; the wealthy elites; the rich and powerful. While you are theoretically free to run for political office or broadcast your opinions, you are not at all free in practice.

The only freedoms that ordinary people have are the choice between virtually identical minimum wage zero-hours contract McJobs; the choice between conformity or social exclusion. You can be a free tramp, if you choose: you can be homeless, penniless, destitute and free, or you can be enslaved to the capitalists... it's up to you; you're free to choose.

Further, for those who are not neurotypical you have to choose between social exclusion, stigma and poverty or the chemical straightjacket of powerful psychotropic medications. You're free to accept the diagnoses and swallow the pills, and allow yourself to be 'normalised' so that you fit the rigid static definition of how a 'normal' person should think and act, or you can choose to be excluded from most economic and social activity because you don't fit in.

Many of us willingly and indeed eagerly beat a path to the door of our doctors, demanding medications that will return us to 'normality' when we find that we are deviating from what we perceive to be the norm. We see millions of others around us getting up at dawn, commuting to bullshit office jobs and being uncomplaining, so when we're troubled by depression, anxiety and other disruptive changes which force us to confront the purposelessness of our absurd existence, we 'choose' to be made normal again by psychiatry.

Society should be constantly adapting to the changing needs of the people, such that the stress and exhaustion in our lives is reduced or at least kept constant, but instead we see that the people themselves believe that they are the ones at fault. Students take amphetamines, modafinil and methylphenidate in order to artificially increase their concentration spans and stay awake during marathon exam-cramming sessions. Workers drink tea, coffee and energy drinks in a desperate attempt to stimulate their brains and fend off tiredness. We take antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications so that we can withstand the horrors of a society which places greater and greater demands upon us, while also giving us less and less security: our jobs are under threat, our homes are under threat, we and our children are under threat. Where has the feeling of prosperity and the sense of optimism gone? We presume that it must be us who have faulty brains, as opposed to seeing that it's society itself which is failing to deliver the things we need.

As is oft-quoted: "it is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society"

When more than 50% of the population are categorised as suffering from some sort of mental disorder, we must surely accept that it's the minority group who are the sick ones. Why should society continue only to serve the ones who are not suffering? Why should our idea of what is 'normal' be based on something which is abnormal because it is less common? Why are we trying to conform to such unrealistic and impossible ideals, which do not serve the majority of people?

"I'm miserable, so you have to be miserable too"

I think the above quote accurately sums up the attitude of powerfully influential figures in our society, who are blocking any progress towards a better way of life for all our citizens. I had the misfortune of making the acquaintance of a doctor who hated their job, their commute, the daily grind and - seemingly - their patients. This doctor made it their mission in life to deny time off work to anybody they could. Their reasoning was simple: because they were miserable and hated their job, they were going to make everybody within their power suffer too. A doctor has the power to dispense medications which might temporarily mask the symptoms of a sick and broken society, or to sign a piece of paper which excuses a person from the charade of having to go to their bullshit McJob every day. A doctor has the power to inflict misery on potentially thousands of people every year, and we must presume that as many doctors are as miserable as the general population as a whole, which means that more than 50% of doctors are perpetrating this kind of awfulness on the people they have power over.

We worship medicine and medics as a force for good, but in the increasing absence of organised religion in wealthy western democratic countries, we are seeing doctors elevated to a social status beyond what is reasonable, creating demi-gods who abuse their power. Just as with organised religion, we have suspended rational thought, cynicism, curious inquiry and skepticism, and have placed blind faith in the medical establishment to cure the ills of society. We reject politics and politicians as corrupt self-serving liars and we have lost faith in the ability of our vote and other democratic instruments to be able to influence our lives for the better.

The only thing we believe we're able to change is ourselves, with the assistance of doctors who can give us "magic bullet" pills to alter our mood and perceptions, as well as keeping us youthful and protecting us from death. We have fake tits, white teeth, hair implants, botox and numerous other procedures to alter our appearance, because we're powerless over anything except our looks. We can be reasonably sure that our lives are protected by hospitals and medicines, but our power to influence anything else in life, such as our socioeconomic prospects, is precisely zero.

While a sharp-elbowed tranche of middle-class society obsesses about their children's exam grades, places at the most desirable schools and universities, internships, graduate training programmes and otherwise attempting to give their precious little darlings a head start in life, this blinkered myopia ignores the fact that the baby boomers are getting older and older but living longer and longer, while also amassing asset portfolios well beyond their means, and preventing those precious little darlings from having any hope of having secure jobs and secure housing. In order to pay grotesquely unjustified and disgustingly greedy defined-benefit pensions to the generation who've contributed the least - except to national debts, global warming and a decline in living standards - the pension funds demand that workers are paid pitiful wages for longer hours in terrible working conditions, so that profits, capital gains and dividends can keep sustaining the unsustainable, unrealistic and ridiculously greedy selfish demands of those who are taking out far more than they paid in.

A small segment of society is free to write, paint, photograph, travel and generally enjoy the freedoms that we would all love to have, but the very vast majority of us are too busy trying to survive in an ecomony which is built to benefit the few, not the many. Only the old and wealthy are free, and they did not work hard to earn their freedom: they have stolen that freedom from the young and from the future generations who will inherit all the problems of today and tomorrow.

If you're an artist and/or an academic and you enjoy your life and your job, you need to remember that the position of privilege you're in is very rare and a very high price is paid by a huge number of people, so that you can swan around having a lovely time. Your freedom ends where mine begins, so if your freedom is disproportionately large compared to the rest of society's then you're being greedy and antisocial; you're an enemy of society. While it's very trendy to talk about freedom being important, we must be mindful that most people want security, not freedom. Think about the price that's paid by the whole of society for your luxury privileges.

To be truly free and happy, we might have to re-evaluate our priorities. We can't demand cheap food and cheap goods if we want to be free, for example, because those things are only made possible by the exploitation of workers. We can't demand passive labour-free unearned income, for example, because that's only made possible by tyranny, economic slavery and exploitation of the vulnerable. Most importantly, we can't expect to feel contentment and security, when we need unhappy, insecure people in order to sell consumer products and to keep our entire workforce on the treadmill, by heavily indebting them and denying them social housing or the ability to buy/build their own home.

You might teach your children that a strong work ethic and academic excellence are the route to getting ahead in life, but it's not true. Being a compliant hard worker means you will be exploited, and obtaining academic qualifications incurs a substantial amount of debt. Servicing debts and paying rent is a form of tyranny which has encroached on personal freedom to the point where only a tiny fraction of society enjoys any kind of meaningful freedom at all. Your children will not be able to escape the trap; there's no hope. The depression and lack of optimism for the future is driven by a rational, reasonable and sound assessment of our younger generations' prospects.

Our heavily indebted and heavily medicated society is also controlled by draconian laws which were ostensibly introduced to counteract terrorism and industrial unrest, but have been abused to undermine the strength of trade unions and prevent the establishment of any counter-cultural movements which might challenge the status quo. While we should be living in an age of alternative lifestyles and people dropping out of a society which clearly no longer serves the majority of people's needs, we are instead witnessing a miserable dystopia, where we're all trapped on the treadmill because the only alternative is hunger, homelessness, persecution and social exclusion.

Yes, I'm free to write whatever I want, provided I do not defame the powerful figures who are responsible for maintaining this miserable state of existence for so many millions, but those in power are quite comfortable in the knowledge that my ranting is safely confined to an echo-chamber filled with so much noise that, as Aldous Huxley predicted, the truth is drowned in a sea of irrelevance - information overload.

We are somewhat hoisted by our own petard. Almost none of us of us demanded freedom, but we have collectively made freedom of speech into something useless; toothless. We are not free at all and we have no mechanism by which to affect any meaningful change. What is supposedly our most powerful tool to speak truth to power - the freedom to express ourselves - has in fact become the reason why our voices are not heard and our suffering goes ignored.

All that's left is the freedom to be hungry, homeless, persecuted and excluded.

 

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