Skip to main content

The world's longest suicide note

I write about life with bipolar disorder (a.k.a. manic depression)

All opinions are my own

twitter.com/ManicGrant

nick@manicgrant.com

www.facebook.com/manicgrant

 

Paradoxical Rage

9 min read

This is a story about losing my temper...

Ruined shoe

I'm blessed with the ability to observe reality and analyse it using pure reason and logic; in fact it's a prerequisite of my chosen career - to be able to decompose the world into systems which can be modelled mathematically inside a computer. Computer science is good science, because in its very essence it's repeatable. If an experiment is not repeatable it's not science. So many experiments in psychology, biology and fringe pseudosciences are not repeatable at all - when those experiments are re-run, the supposedly statistically significant findings cannot be reproduced. Even many so-called scientists are prone to being led by their gut instincts and preconceived ideas - they draw completely incorrect conclusions from their data, and publish findings which are simply bad science because they're based on small sample sets and incorrect assumptions.

A lot of scientists invent a hypothesis and devise an experiment to prove or disprove the theory, then when they find that their experimental findings do not support their theory, they look at all the data and attempt to reverse-engineer a theory from the results. For example, let's say that it's my theory that people with red hair have anger issues, and so I go out onto the streets and ask anyone with red hair to complete a survey for me, as well as a number of control subjects. When I crunch the data, I find that there's no evidence that the redheads are more angry than the control group. Instead of abandoning the research as fruitless, I look again at the data and I find out that a lot of 18 to 24 year olds have scored highly on the "anger scale" based on the surveys they filled in. Thus, I conclude that this age group has anger issues, and publish my findings as if that was the original theory being tested. This is flawed science, because there was no underlying theory or hypothesis which existed before I did my experiment, and my experiment was not designed to prove or disprove the theory which I'm publishing. I'm pretending I've discovered something profound and important, when I haven't. If the experiment is repeated the results vary wildly - at prestigious universities, the 18 to 24 year olds are not angry at all, and in former industrial towns with high unemployment the 40 to 50 year olds are even more angry than the original group. Thus, the experiment is not at all repeatable and the published conclusions are worthless.

We are often so eager to reach a profound conclusion that we believe we have discovered a universal truth, when in fact we've discovered nothing. We are keen to talk in absolute terms and declare things to be fixed and immutable, when in fact the world around us is constantly shapeshifting, making it virtually impossible to tease out cause and effect - feedback loops obfuscate the fundamental laws which govern reality, so it's ludicrous to talk about macroscopic matters as if they can be examined in isolation and behaviour will be consistent no matter what the surrounding circumstances are.

Human mood, perceptions and behaviour are particularly fickle, and to believe that a person can be simplified to the point where they behave in a predictable manner according to a convenient model or label, is laughable. To say a person is "an angry man" or to damn somebody's character with a label like Borderline Personality Disorder, is not only useless but also leads to completely incorrect beliefs, in much the same way that the 12 signs of the zodiac tell you absolutely nothing about a person's character and temperament. Not only is each individual unique, but their character and behaviour will be different dependent on their ever-changing circumstances. It might be possible to corner a person and bludgeon them to death, but it really doesn't tell you very much if you limited their options and inflicted atrocities upon them. So desperate are a group of powerful elites to believe that their theories are correct, that they'll physically restrain and force vulnerable people to comply with their flawed belief system, learning only that the more artificial constraints a person suffers the more frustrated and dysfunctional they become.

Rage can be paradoxical, but so can positive reactions and behaviours. We might believe that if somebody draws a knife or a gun, our only response should be to draw a weapon of our own in defence, which will then neutralise the situation. It seems fairly obvious that in fact there are a range of available options, some of which will have much more positive outcomes than "comply or die" diktat. Of course, somebody can pull rank or badge and say that they are acting with authority in imposing their tyranny on another human being - claiming it to be in the best interests of an individual or society - but in fact we can surely see from the available evidence that this is not successful at all.

I've suffered bouts of paradoxical rage. I've become obsessively and disproportionately angry about things, and my anger has been completely misplaced. The crap on the side of my leather shoe - pictured above - was from a walk through a garden in winter time, so far as I could remember, but I suddenly became angry about it the following summer. I apportioned blame, becoming more and more entrenched in my belief that some compensation was owed to me. I got increasingly angry and frustrated about the issue, and I was soon completely consumed by an obsession that the matter had to be settled immediately. It felt at the time as if I'd suffered the most terrible injustice imaginable.

That the matter of the ruined shoe was resolved was somehow the very last thing I wanted. My rage was nonsensical and my demands were unreasonable; my blame was misplaced. I was completely in the wrong and I suppose I knew it all along, but my world had inverted and rational thought eluded me. I suppose I've lived most of my life with the burden of being the rational person who's been forced to suffer other people's illogical bulls**t, so very occasionally I flip out and cross over into the world which most people inhabit, where fuzzy-headed dunces perpetrate unspeakable acts of violence against anybody who doesn't do what they want.

I received a pair of replacement shoes, which immediately caused me to return to my senses. I was flooded with disbelief, shame, embarrassment, guilt and regret. Not only could I not believe that - for once - the world had bent to my nonsensical will, instead of vice-versa, but I was gobsmacked that I'd been so obsessed and insanely angry; my anger was completely ridiculous and misplaced. My logic and reasoning had evaporated and I'd behaved just like an average ordinary person; I perpetrated a terrible tyranny until the result complied with what I stubbornly believed; until I got what I wanted. As soon as I got the result I thought with horror "what have I done?". As soon as my point was seemingly proven, I knew with certainty that the very opposite was true - I had acted abominably and my thinking was plain wrong all along; my behaviour was outrageously unjustified.

If we step back and consider the bigger picture, we might consider that I was involved in an abusive relationship for many years, where rage and violence trumped logic and reason, and I was viciously tyrannised. I had never known known love, as my parents sought to impose their iron will over me and thought of me as an animal to be made obedient, compliant and robotic in its behaviour, through abuse. I spent about 8 years in a relationship with an aggressive psychopath who completely tormented, dominated and subdued me. Considering this, the shoe incident can be understood thusly: the most important relationships in my life had never contained any love or care for me or my feelings. The shoe incident caused me to completely reverse my stance when the reaction to my unreasonable behaviour was clearly an act of love and care; an act of kindness, the likes of which I had always hoped to receive but had never gotten from my parents or ex-wife. I had demanded proof that there are decent people in the world, and I had not been disappointed - at last - despite all the years when I had the very great misfortune of being tortured, trapped and tyrannised by abusive bullies.

My eternally optimistic hope that my strategy of being unguarded, open, trusting and loving, despite the very great risk of getting hurt, has been very successful since I cut my parents and ex-wife out of my life. I suppose I carry more baggage than I'm aware of, and it's certainly alarming that my behaviour has on a couple of occasions, mirrored that of the horrible tyrants who I suffered at the hands of. However, I on the other hand, respond immediately and positively to love and kindness, unlike my parents and ex-wife who's only objective was to subdue, control and abuse me... they never felt guilt or regret for dominating me and crushing me under their heel; they never saw their own behaviour as abhorrent, even though it was undoubtedly so.

My life's had maybe just three incredibly uncharacteristic fits of seemingly inexplicable rage, under the most extreme circumstances imaginable. Logic and reason eluded me and I fleetingly believed crazy things and acted in the most extreme and unreasonable way. My misbehaviour became quickly apparent to me - with sudden realisation - and has left me with nothing but sorrow, regret and guilt. I have no entrenched stubborn belief that my thoughts and actions could be explained or justified, unlike the total assholes who abused, traumatised, tyrannised, bullied and dominated me for far too many years of my life. If it sounds like I'm excusing my behaviour, I'm not. I live with my guilt, unlike those assholes.

I would say that alcohol and benzodiazepines play a very important role in disinhibiting thoughts, feelings and behaviours, which potentiates paradoxical rage. I don't think I would have meandered so far from the path of logic and reason, and been so stubbon and unreasonable - closed minded - if my brain chemistry hadn't been substantially destabilised by psychoactive substances.

I firmly believe that if you want to defend yourself you should lower your guard. If you want to de-escalate a situation you should be kind, not aggressive. If you want love, love.

 

Tags:

 

How to Become Irreverent

14 min read

This is a story about the values you raise your children with...

Church window

It seems like I have had the sentimental attachment most of us feel towards everything we revere in society systematically thrashed out of me. If you pick one thing that summons feelings of safety, security, comfort, respect for authority and faith in the divine/spiritual, then I will tell you how exactly how I came to question everything: every institution, everything sacred, every tradition, every profession, people who are normally considered beyond reproach and ultimately even existence and its purpose.

Starting with my birth, I'm literally a bastard. I was born outside of wedlock. My parents never married and always planned to remain unmarried, such that I took my mother's surname instead of my father's. Ironically, my mother had once been married, and I have the surname of her ex-husband instead of her maiden name. Confused? Imagine trying to explain that to your fellow pre-schoolers when you're 3 years old. I didn't really understand it at the time, but I understood that I was different; unusual.

My schools would often address letters intended for my parents to Mr & Mrs Grant, and my father would always tell me that I was the only Mr Grant in the house and therefore the letter was addressed to me. My mother would tell me that she was no longer Mrs Grant and she was Ms Grant. "Why not Miss?" I would ask, and she would explain that she had been married, and Miss was only used by women who hadn't been married. If anybody telephoned the house and asked to speak to Mr Grant, my father would hand the receiver to me and say "it's for you", which it never was, of course.

I understood that there was divorce and some of my school-friends were raised by a single parent, or a step-parent. My peers would often ask if my father was my step-father, to which I would reply "no". Nobody could understand how I came to have a different surname from my biological father, or entertain the notion that I could have been given my mother's surname, not my father's.

At some point, a fairly clear question formed in my mind: "why aren't my parents married?". 

The reasons why people get married had become quite clear in my mind, for the very simple reason that I had endured years and years of people's reactions that suggested that not getting married was very atypical behaviour. Nobody wants to feel unusual; freakish. Nobody likes to feel odd.

When I posed my question - "why aren't you married?" - to my parents, they replied with their own question: "why should we get married?". I had a pretty easy answer for them, as I've explained: because that's what everybody else does. "Do you want to be like everybody else?" my parents asked. "Yes" I replied.

[I just burst into uncontrollable sobbing. If it wasn't what you experienced, I don't think you can begin to understand what it's like to spend your entire childhood as the freakish weirdo; the odd one out... the one who's different from everybody else]

Having covered marriage there is a natural segue into the topic of religion, and the origins of my atheism.

For a number of formative and important childhood years I lived in an attractive terraced house in an area called Jericho, on one of the most desirable roads in central Oxford. These houses are the most expensive in the world, far exceeding real estate prices in London, San Francisco and Hong Kong, in terms of their affordability. However, these £1.5 million houses were bought by the first wave of gentrifiers, when academics and young professionals with families started to move into slummy areas because they couldn't afford family homes in the more desirable parts of the city.

When your immediate neighbours include an MP, a barrister, a heart surgeon, a City banker and a number of promenant Oxford dons and professors, their children were raised in an environment which was knowledge-rich and encouraged the exploration afforded by a curious rational mind; critical thinking. Nobody went to church. My friends, whose father was a consultant at Oxford John Radcliffe Hospital, went to Quaker "friends meetings" occasionally, but my peer group - the sons and daughters of the intellectual elite - had little place for God and church in their lives.

We should rewind a little bit, back to the village our family lived in before we moved to central Oxford. If one were to imagine the most quintessentially English picturesque Cotswolds village, with the manor house, the village green, the workers' cottages, the post office and village shop, the village pub, the village school, one should not forget the church and its graveyard. The church's presence and influence is not to be underestimated. My religious indoctrination began as soon as I started school, with the vicar regularly present. Village social events are very often church-linked, like harvest festival, and of course everybody who grew up in such an idyllic village wants to get married in that particular church, have their children baptised there and be buried in that graveyard.

Essentially, the church's opportunity to exploit a child's vulnerable immature mind were scuppered by my father. For everything that the church had a comforting but incorrect explanation for, my dad cited a lack of evidence and instilled in me the skepticism which gradually became integral to my developing personality: "show me the evidence".

When we moved to the centre of a city whose university is globally recognised for its academic excellence, I never encountered another simple-minded fool who had been persuaded to believe in Gods and other aspects of religion, which are so obviously irreconcilable with the pursuit of knowledge. Religion encourages ignorance but I had been raised to question everything and remain skeptical until I had seen convincing proof. "What are atoms made of?" I remember asking one of my friends who lived on my street. "Quarks" he replied. We were perhaps only 5 or 6 years old - the product of a childhood immersed in academic culture, as opposed to the sentimental and traditional.

The disturbing and unpleasant consequences of an irreverent life can impose themselves on a child at a worryingly young age. I've already been uncontrollably sobbing about just one thing - the tradition and sanctity of the institution of marriage - and I haven't even mentioned how a child deals with the concept of mortality and threat of death without the comfort of religion.

A US Air Force pilot who drank at the village pub which my parents later bought and now live in, drunkenly boasted about the ability of the United States to wipe humanity off the face of the earth. I was definitely no older than 4 years old. With my friend with whom I had discussed subatomic particles, we talked about the temperatures which could be reached near ground zero of a fission or fusion nuclear bomb, and how the radiated 'heat' (electromagnetic radiation) had instantly vaporised human beings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, with only their shadows left behind, permanently etched into the walls of buildings.

If you believe you live in a Godless world with no afterlife you naturally want to know what everything's made of if God didn't make it; you want to know why it's here. How did it get here? Why is it here? You start to pick everything to pieces by iteratively asking what each thing is made of: humans are made of cells, and cells are made of molecules, and molecules are made of atoms, and atoms are made of quarks and leptons... and you can in fact keep asking the question. There's good proof that the electron is not a fundamental particle, as had originally been thought.

When your schoolmates are smart-arse little shits, because their parents are brilliant academics, teachers and school loses its awe and authority. If you're being taught science that's almost 100 years old, and sometimes even 200+ years old, the whole exercise is nothing more than a box-ticking exercise to be endured.

The other thing to consider is that my parents used illegal drugs on a daily basis, and had strong views about the legitimacy and usefulness of the law, certainly in the instances that suited their own addictions. As with many drug users, they were very paranoid. They viewed the police as corrupt and not to be trusted - the enemy. My father's criminal conviction for drugs not only poisoned his views on the police, but also made him very anti-American, as he believed he would never be allowed to enter the country due to his criminal record.

[I'm crying again]

It was only because of first-hand dealings with the police that my viewpoint changed from skepticism due to lack of evidence: the police had never caused me any harm, and in fact I had never had any dealings with the police at all for most of my adult life. You might be surprised to learn I adore and respect the police. My accumulated experience of police encounters has consistently shown that they are some of the most kind, patient, empathetic, forgiving, reasonable people, who have always gone out of their way to bend the rules and simply help as opposed to ever enforcing the letter of the law.

One shouldn't mistake my respect for the men and women of the police force for reverence. I would never for a minute expect that a 999 call is somehow going to be the answer to my prayers. I don't feel safer or more secure, knowing that I can call for police assistance. I wouldn't feel any more comfortable in a stressful situation if there was a police officer present. Of the very many police men and women who I have had first-hand dealings with, they have always treated me very fairly and kindly, and it's quite clear that they deal on a daily basis with a huge number of very vulnerable and damaged people, which they do so with incredible compassion - they are the living embodiment of humanity not deities who should be worshipped and revered.

[More crying]

So if I don't revere priests, vicars, teachers, headmistresses, marriage, religion, military superpowers, soldiers, the police, the law and my own parents, what else is there left for me to lack reverence for?

Cumulatively, I've spent almost 6 months having my life saved in hospital - often in high dependency and intensive treatment unit (ITU) wards. Shouldn't I revere doctors; surgeons?

I think that if there was one thing that would make almost anybody feel more secure and happy in a stressful situation, it would be knowing that there's a doctor present. It's such a clichéd question: "is there a doctor here?".

To explain my irreverence for doctors, we merely need to explore the reasons why I have ever had to deal with one, and the outcomes of those interactions.

Having been lucky enough to escape congenital abnormality, it doesn't take a rocket surgeon to figure out what I want from a doctor and why. You don't need to spend 5 or 6 years at medical school to know that the human body has been dealing with pathogens since the species first came into existence. You hardly have to be brain of Britain to figure out whether you're dealing with a viral, bacterial, fungal or parasitic infection, and furthermore, which is likely to be treatable. In actual fact, I've never been to my doctor for antibiotics: every infection has always cleared up on its own. Fungal and parasitic infections can be dealt with without a doctor obviously: head lice shampoo is available in every pharmacy, without a prescription, for example.

At the age of 28 I went to my doctor wanting treatment for depression, but I knew which specific medications I was prepared to try and which medications I didn't want because the side effects were not acceptable. Having my choices limited only to SSRIs provided firm evidence that doctors were an obstacle to be overcome, not a panacea.

When we think about the first time I was hospitalised, do you think I didn't know that I was going to end up there and what the problems were going to be? Do you think it was an accident that I ended up in hospital?

Again, you don't need to spend 5 or 6 years at medical school to know that the human body needs water, salt, glucose, proteins, amino acids, vitamins, minerals and myriad trace elements, or else the bodily functions haven't got the fuel, carrier fluid and raw materiels they need. You don't need to be a doctor to know that human body temperature needs to be homeostatic as much as possible - much like every other measurable thing in the human body - and any extreme variation too high or too low is going to have dire consequences.

When you are making choices in full knowledge of the likely consequences, medicine ceases to be lifesaving magic, and instead it becomes another simple case of what do you want and why?

One must consider the very last time I was hospitalised to truly understand my irreverence.

Not only had I quite carefully pre-planned my suicide attempt, when I arrived at hospital against my will, I gave very clear instructions: do not put activated charcoal into my stomach, do not perform gastric lavage, do not intubate, do not provide life support and most importantly of all, do not resuscitate. "Do you know what's going to happen?" the A&E doctor asked. "Yes. I'm going to die of a combination of organ failure and serotonin syndrome, with a lot of seizures" I replied. "Do you think you'll be unconscious? Do you think it'll be painless?" the doctor asked. "No. I expect that it will take a long time to die and I'll be conscious and in a lot of pain for most of it" I replied. Then I started having seizures.

Doctors see a lot of people who are scared and they don't understand what's happening to them. They're desperate for somebody who seems to know what they're doing and what they're talking about; doctors are an authority figure. I have no doubt that for feckless simpletons and those who lack access to medicine, the arrival of a doctor or a priest/shamen/witch-doctor is incredibly soothing and comforting. If you don't know what you want and why, your reverence is misplaced, but it may still ease your passage from life to death.

When shit goes bad, who are you going to turn to? If you have to pick your team of people to survive on a remote island, who are you going to pick and why?

Why revere anyone? Why kiss anyone's arse and tell them they're great because they did the study and training that you could've done if you wanted to. You could have passed those exams. You could have gained those qualifications. You could have followed that path if you wanted to. If you wanted it bad enough, you could put on that uniform; you could get that job title; you could prefix or suffix your name with the bit that tells the world just exactly why everyone should drop to their knees and worship you.

Nothing's sacred to me. I could do your job if I wanted to.

I'm not smarter than anybody. I'm not better than anybody. That's the whole point: I'm lucky enough to not have anything that's holding me back; limiting my potential.

I really don't recommend telling your kids they can follow their dreams and be anything they want to be. I really don't recommend telling your kids to question everything, and understand everything about how the universe works, to the point where they reach the very bleeding edge of scientific research. I really don't recommend raising your kids to challenge the status quo and resist the urge to fit in with wider society and their peers.

Take it from me: there's a mind-destroying kind of cold uncaring "nothing matters" bad feeling that comes from being too rational; too much of a free-thinker. Take my word for it: understanding the absurdity of existence will destroy your mental health.

You should probably experiment with hard drugs. That's probably way less likely to fuck up your life than going down the rabbit-hole of picking everything to pieces and trying to reason from first principles and pure logic.

 

Tags:

 

Reliving Trauma

5 min read

This is a story about having one foot in the past...

Bournemouth Pier

I don't want to go back to Bournemouth. I have lots of friends there and many happy memories, but there's too much trauma. Bournemouth's a beautiful place and it's possible to have a wonderful seaside lifestyle there, but my ex-wife lives there... it's hers now. Too much bad stuff happened in Bournemouth. That relationship was too abusive - it's caused me so much trauma.

I don't want to go back to the North Oxford village where I briefly lived as a little boy. It was traumatic when we left, because my parents were constantly moving - I went to 8 different schools. The drug addiction, the alcoholism, the general disregard for settled, secure, nice, normal family life... it was all too disruptive and traumatic. I don't want to be anywhere near those toxic abusive people - my parents. It's a massive insult that they eventually moved back to the village where I first went to primary school. It's a massive insult. Why did I have to go through the trauma of losing so many friends, moving around so much and having my childhood destroyed? I guess that's what drug addicts and alcoholics do to their children. F**king selfish c**ts.

I don't want to go back to London, because I've tried for too long to make it work and the capital city has chewed me up and spat me out. It's hard damn work trying to make it in London, because so many wide-eyed dreamers head to the capital city thinking that they're going to make their fortune. London's a good place to go to get away from trauma, because it's full of runaways, waifs and strays. London's a good place to heal.

It might look like I'm unnecessarily re-living painful memories on the pages of this blog, but this is therapy. This blog is a good listener. This blog is nonjudgemental. Here's where I'm finally able to tell my side of the story, without the lies and bullshit from the perpetrators of abuse, violence, neglect and all the other awful things. Yes, bitterness drives me to tell the story in a way that's somewhat lopsided occasionally - nobody is completely evil - but we've heard quite enough from the bullies. Those who are strong are quick to stomp on the weak; to silence the defenceless and vulnerable. Here's where the bullied kid finally gets to speak up and condemn those whose hands he suffered at. Here's where justice is done. This is my day in court.

It would be good if I could forgive and forget, but part of forgiveness is about acceptance. I can't accept things and just forget about all the trauma until the tale is told. There are some who'd like me dead, to shut me up. There are some who'd like it if I took my secrets to the grave - that'd be mighty convenient for them. Hence, that's why I write so much. Here it all is in black and white - the ugly truth. If I die tomorrow, it doesn't matter because at least I finally got to tell my side of the story. If I die tomorrow, at least the truth is out there.

There's always a danger I could ruminate on the injustices of the past and get stuck in a rut. Certainly, when things aren't going well and there's no hope of any improvement in my life, I'm prone to bouts of bitterness about my suffering at the hands of some key people in my life: my parents, my ex-wife.

It's quite a cliché for a man my age to be filled with bitterness. It's quite a cliché to complain about my lot in life. I'm the living embodiment of a cliché.

I should be embarrassed and that embarrassment should cow me into silence. I should be silenced by social pressures: "your parents did the best they could". No. No they did not. My parents tried their best to obtain and take drugs. They tried their best to get drunk. Fuck them. I don't hold sway with the "their heart was in the right place" bullshit. I'm sorry, but there's no excuses for ruining childhoods because you were too off your head on drink and drugs to notice what the fuck you were doing to your kids. No excuses.

I don't know quite where this is coming from. I think it's probably a result of the exhausting journey I've been on, and the fact that I'm still not safe and secure... I'm still having to work as hard as I can to try and get myself into a decent position, where I'm safe from homelessness; destitution; death. I'm still in a deep hole, digging my way out.

While my life still has considerable present-day struggles, I think I'll always be reminded of the reasons why I ended up here - I'm forced to re-live past trauma.

 

Tags:

 

Wilful Children

8 min read

This is a story about the generation who want to die...

Bad Kid

So you mean to say that I've inherited a dying body on a dying planet, over-populated by dying coffin-dodgers who are squatting in all the big houses and hoarding all the money? So you mean to say that all those times I didn't get to eat jelly and ice-cream; all those times when I had to stop playing with my toys and go to bed even though I wasn't tired; all those times I couldn't see my friends because I was being dragged around the place by grown-ups... you mean there's no payoff for all of that?

What's so infantile about acting like a spoiled child? What can we learn from children?

It strikes me that even though we went to school and ate our vegetables and had lots of tears and tantrums as children, everything went to Hell in a handcart anyway. When the survivors of the nuclear apocalypse crawl out from under the rubble, aren't they going to wish that their kids weren't raised by strangers in institutions? Aren't you going to wish that you didn't act more childishly when we're all going to die anyway?

How precisely has all of our discipline and self-denial benefitted us? Half the planet lives in dire poverty; those in the middle live in conflict zones, afflicted by war and refugee crises; the top couple of per cent have wealth, technology and education, which they use to write angst-filled books, share suicide memes and otherwise complain about the agony of existence.

Even tiny tots get given homework. Exhausted looking parents complete after-school projects for their kids, the night before the deadline. Extracurricular activities demand every spare second of time - every waking hour of the day is seen as an educational opportunity.

Pinching our noses and shovelling in disgusting-tasting food, because it's good for us, is something that we have become habituated into doing as adults. What can children tell us about the madness afflicting the planet? Why do I want to be healthy and live a long miserable life?

"Are you smarter than a five-year-old?" is the title of a gameshow. A chess grandmaster is not smart per se - they are probably a thoroughly impractical person if they've dedicated so much of their life to playing a board game. Better chess players are simply better at spotting patterns they've seen before, as opposed to brute-force reasoning - to become good at chess requires a lot of experience. To be an adult is simply to have gained more experience of how to play the game of life - I often think that children are the smarter ones.

Stood in the supermarket today, I wondered why I didn't just take a doughnut off the shelf and eat it; I wondered why I didn't lie on the floor and kick and scream that I wanted something until it was brought to me; I wondered why I was walking when I could be carried or wheeled around in a trolley or pushchair; I wondered, in fact, why I would adhere to any of society's expectations at all - none of us are getting out of this alive, so why shouldn't we put down our tools and just run around like a bunch of kids?

Of course, when we get cold and hungry, we're immensely grateful to have a fire and some food, but those things don't require me to sit in a classroom, lecture theatre or an office. I don't need to wear a suit and take a crowded commuter train to put food on the table and keep my house warm - the work of the service industries is not farming, fishing, producing energy or building homes. I wonder if our advanced society should feel as smug as it does, given the vast numbers of us who are stressed, anxious and depressed. When our bright, energetic and enthusiastic young people are faced with such grim prospects, have we led them astray?

For those "I'm alright, Jack" few, who are content to mortgage their grandchildren for the sake of their desire to be idle in opulent luxury, they will mock socialist movements as immature and naïve. Conceited media commentators deride supporters of the Labour party & left-wing as being mainly students and bleeding-heart liberals.

Literature is littered with examples of the youth being to blame for everything. Parents are afraid of their own children. It seems acceptable to laugh at the angst-ridden teenagers, as if us adults have got things all figured out. It seems OK that millennials won't get to buy a house and have a job that pays enough for them to raise a family, because they've got smartphones and social media - as if that's some kind of fair trade.

I find myself somewhat sandwiched in-between a generation who feel entitled to do nothing, as their reward for fucking up the whole world, and a generation who get no reward for giving up their childhood, despite eating their vegetables and doing their homework. Why?

For every 'good' reason I can come up with for why it's better to act in an adult way, I have to admit that I can fully empathise with the childish stance. Furthermore I can see that inside even the most po-faced and responsible adult, there's still a part of them that would like to have a big tantrum and not do any of their chores. Under the veneer of maturity, we are still children. It struck me that the only difference between me and a child is that I look like a grown-up, and my play-acting has gotten a lot better - I can keep a straight face.

If we're not careful, then childish ideas will take hold. The us-versus-them mentality that has brought Donald Trump to power and threatens the unity of Europe, is lifted straight from the playground. If we wish to be po-faced about the behaviour of children, shouldn't we discipline ourselves first? What kind of world have we created for our children to inherit, that makes us so damn smart and justifies feeling so smug with ourselves?

Personally, I'm turning to children to remind me not to be so dazzled by the brilliance of my own mind. Whatever I've read; whatever I've learned - it's clearly becoming less & less relevant in the modern world. There were 4.3 billion people crawling around like ants on the planet, when I was born, and now there are 7.6 billion humans alive today. In a little over a decade, there will be twice as many people competing for the same scarce resources, than when I started my life. What relevance do attitudes of the 1970s - when I was conceived - have in the 2020s and beyond? What could I possibly tell a young person about the world, when it's changed so much in my lifetime?

The old strategy of studying at school, working hard and complying with the rules of the game, seems deeply flawed when we're telling people that no matter how hard they work they won't get a job, get a house and be able to afford the things that seem like a human right: to be able to raise a family of our own. Are we supposed to be happy that at the end of it all, we will be living with our parents, like overgrown adult-sized children? Why not just remain infantile and childish for life?

Although I can see that to spawn my own progeny might change my attitude, I also see that I might begin to impose my own "I know best" attitude onto my children, which perpetuates the cycle. While I do occasionally cringe when I look at myself, talking like an angst-ridden adolescent, I would prefer to be accused of immaturity than associate myself with the sneering po-faced group who got us into this mess - those who refuse to accept that society and civilisation is crumbling all around us; refuse to acknowledge the untold human misery.

To critique parents has become rather boring, so instead, I write this essay in support of anybody who wants to have a tantrum, eat crisps & chocolate instead of vegetables, bunk off school/work and otherwise run around having fun instead of living a life of intolerable suffering.

 

Tags:

 

On Loneliness

1 min read

This is a story about the odd one out...

Pink flower

I'm trapped in a prison of my own mind. My internal monologue chatters away incessantly. When social norms don't constrain me, I talk to myself. Sometimes my brain tells me to do stupid stuff, like kiss a male work colleague who's talking to me in the middle of a busy office - the most inappropriate thing that my subconscious can imagine. Often times, agonisingly cringeworthy memories pop into my head, that are so awful that I wince and whisper "fuck!" under my breath.

 

Tags:

 

Being a Grown-Up

6 min read

This is a story about inevitabilities...

Essential consumables

If you stay alive long enough, sooner or later you're going to have to fend for yourself. You might have been lucky enough to have fallen in love with your childhood sweetheart and gotten married young. Perhaps your partner took the baton of domestic duties from your childhood primary caregiver, in a kind of relay race that has insulated you from household drudgery. Perhaps you were born into a wealthy family with a maid and a cook and a cleaner and a nanny... so the items above are as alien to you as anything that was tossed out of a passing flying saucer and into your hands.

In all likelihood, most people in the UK will have the misfortune of having to purchase and use a variety of products that are not glamorous or fashionable, but are essential for the functioning of a clean and hygienic home. The products pictured all belong to a family of consumables that will need to be used until the day you die, to clean up after yourself.

To say I lived a sheltered and cosseted existence as a child is untrue and unkind. However, I learned how to change the filter and engine oil of a car before I learned the importance of defrosting a freezer and cleaning a fridge at reasonably regular intervals. I'm not sure if I've ever cleaned any windows or dusted any cobwebs in my entire life, but I'd probably mowed more acres of lawn and collected a mountain of grass cuttings and leaves bigger - at the family home - than almost any boy in the United Kingdom.

I'm no working-class hero but I'm no pampered and spoiled brat either. I defy all simplistic attempts to classify me with a label of convenience. Even the word "manic" is something that I have taken ownership of - therefore it's me who uses the word ironically, mocking people's prejudices, as opposed to it being a pejorative that could be used against me.

You might believe that nature is 'in-balance' and that the 'top dog' or alpha males will have the best genes, but you'd be wrong. I'm sorry ladies, but if you decided to cash in your chips early with that popular and attractive boy when you were young, you've played a losing strategy. Like chess grandmasters, the most intelligent animals wait for the opposition to make a mistake and have planned several moves ahead, so that when the orgy of juvenile copulation is completed, those geeky boys who didn't get any attention in their teens are able to cherry pick the very sweetest, juiciest and most succulent fruit. Revenge is sweet, if you don't turn bitter.

"But he was so hunky and so good at sports" I hear you wail, neck-deep in housework and childrearing duties.

"But she was so sexy and good at blowjobs" I hear you grumble through gritted teeth as you sit in traffic, collecting your offspring from after-school activities before ferrying them to their next engagement like an unpaid taxi driver.

If your other half is male, does he have a beer gut, hairy ears, man-boobs and think that foreplay is rolling you over and shoving it in dry? If your other half is female, does she have saggy tits, a vagina ruined by the brats you spawned to replace yourself, and bingo wings?

Do you think pornography, prostitutes and rent boys are used predominantly by single people? You need your head examined if you do.

One of my most beloved science teachers - Mr Laithwaite - was reduced to tears when his wife gave birth, because of some emotions that were beyond his describing. These were definitely not tears of sadness though, but neither were they clearly tears of joy. A puppy is not just for Christmas, and a child is not just an inconvenient consequence of 30 seconds of copulation, which can merely be suffocated in a plastic bag and tossed into a canal.

Do you think I don't feel anything when I see a little kid hug their mummy or daddy? Do you think I don't desperately want to have a dog that licks my face and wags its tail in sheer delight when it sees me? Do you think I don't miss my cat, and my eyes don't prick with tears when I think about him?

Men don't have a menopause and erection medications have extended my 'use-by' date. My scrotum will continue to be full of sperm until I die, and if I froze some sperm today then I could virtually guarantee that I would be able to complete a vanity project - the raising of a chid who inherited half my genetic material, instead of adopting a malnourished child with no access to healthcare, or at least a child whose prospects would otherwise be fairly dire without adoptive parents.

"Fuck you, you sanctimonious prick!" I hear you vociferously snarl.

I adopted a kitten and raised him to adulthood even though this clearly made no sense - to bond with an animal that has 38 chromosomes when I have 46 - and I was so concerned with giving this pet the best possible life, that I fed him every day, even when I was skipping a week of meals myself. I care so much about the wellbeing of my cat, that I have only ever made him move house once in his entire life, which was unavoidable due to the actions of my ex-wife - she forced an innocent animal to suffer the upheaval of divorce [my cat, not me... but I suffered too].

They say that for men, moving house and divorce are the two most stressful things that can happen to you in your life. Anybody who's seen my two hand-drawn maps will know that I'm no stranger to moving house, and that a succession of house moves started before I was even 1 year old, and continued regularly at the whimsical behest of my parents, throughout my childhood... despite my childhood one might say.

Thus, we arrive at the present day. Fucked up childhoods create fucked up kids. Quelle surprise!

All I can say is, that when I left home before the age of 18, it was a great relief. Even though I have had to cook, mop floors, hoover carpets, make beds, wash, dry and iron my clothes - it has felt like a privilege, not a chore.

Also, I've used contraception, which has been available since well before the day I was conceived. There's no fucking excuses for any 'accidental' or 'unplanned' pregnancies - we're not baboons or amoeba, reproducing without sentient intellect.

 

Tags:

 

Bad Boy

4 min read

This is a story about being naughty...

Fluffy doggo

If you're thinking about what you're going to get me for Christmas, I'd like a tame raccoon or squirrel. But, I know that I've been a bad boy, so I've been crossed off Santa's list. There's a black mark against my name.

How do you know a 'wrong un' when you meet one? How do you know a lost cause? How do you know that somebody's got an evil streak?

I once begged the police to punish me. I was convinced that I was a bad man and I should be locked up. The police have cautioned me four times, but never brought a prosecution. The police deal with bad people every day, don't they? Cops & robbers; cowboys & indians; goodies & baddies; right & wrong; innocent & guilty. If anybody knows what a bad lad looks like, it'd be them, wouldn't it?

But what about all my victims?

Obviously I've shoplifted, pick-pocketed, mugged, defrauded, burgled, assaulted, vandalised, robbed and generally gone on a crime spree, leaving a trail of misery in my wake.

Except I haven't.

Maybe it's a question of morality. Morality is absolute, not relative, isn't it? If a billionaire steals an apple that was the only food that a whole starving family had to eat, that's exactly the same crime as the father of the starving family, stealing an apple from a billionaire who owns all the orchards. Theft is immoral, always. All crimes are equally bad.

Presumably, if there are gods and they smite the wicked, anything shit that's happening to me is all part of some divine comeuppance for my evil deeds?

However, the evidence doesn't show that. Despite being a desperately bad boy, who's misbehaved like crazy, it seems to have done little to destroy my health, wealth and prospects. I certainly don't want to take my good fortune for granted. I'm well aware how close to disaster I've been and I know how much assistance I've received from some lovely people. But... doesn't the conventional wisdom say that I should be disowned, excluded and thrown onto the bonfire of human bodies that we make with anybody who strays from the righteous path?

Lock up your daughters!

In fact, you're probably better off keeping your daughters away from the kiddie-fiddling priests who claim to be moral authorities and pillars of our society. Your children can't 'catch' my mental illness. I'm not an active promoter of dangerously deadly deeds. I don't leave cyanide-soaked baby rusks lying around, and drop HIV-infected hypodermic syringe needles all over the place.

Is there something intrinsically attractive about a bad boy?

Why would anybody want to get close to somebody with flaws? Why would you be drawn to somebody who's sad, vulnerable, lonely, sick?

We know that kittens and puppies instil protective instincts in us, so why shouldn't the same be true of a homme fatale? If I wasn't rescued when I was on my knees, I'd be dead. If all the 'best' boys are taken, then what's the next best choice? Do you go for one of the second-rate options, or do you find a broken one and fix him up?

It's said that men find a woman they love, and they hope they'll never change, but they do. Women find a man they love and they hope they do change, but they don't.

Wouldn't it be good if you could find a bad boy and turn him into a model boyfriend; a perfect partner?

"You knew what I was like when you married me" said I, never.

I tried so hard to re-shape who I was - to bend and twist my personality - to please my ex-wife, but it was the wrong thing to do. I tried to please my parents; to impress them. Waste of fucking time.

'Good' and 'bad' are labels that other people want to attach. Behaviour is amoral, because it's driven by circumstances, environment, upbringing, instinct, natural urges and evolved biases. We have strong views about things that other people should or shouldn't be doing, but we want freedom for ourselves. Our moral code is defined by our own unique moral compass.

So, if you think your kids are being naughty this Christmas: the question is not "how can I control this naughty child and make them do what I want?" but instead you should ask yourself "what is driving their behaviour and what do they want?"

For my part, I've decided I'm going to drink lots of Tizer, bite people, scream, pull the ornaments off the Christmas tree, refuse to sit at the table, repeatedly say "I want sweeties" while crying lots and not let anybody else play with the toys.

 

Tags:

 

Who Do You Think You Are?

12 min read

This is a story about family...

Llethr melyn farmhouse

I was born in Aberystwyth, Wales. This is the first house I lived in. We moved around lots when I was growing up - I went to 8 different schools - so I don't really know where to call home. For me, home is where I make it: I have a grab bag in my apartment in London, with a tent and a sleeping bag. I'll survive, but there isn't a family home I would visit ever again. Homelessness is the only option.

I was wondering to myself earlier whether I'm a misanthrope or not. I certainly dislike the stress of rush hour travel and battling crowds. You must wonder why I live and work in London, where it's so densely populated, but I find that it has amazing people, food, culture and lots of jobs for my skills and experience. I live by the river and it's actually pretty quiet down on the Isle of Dogs, as is the Square Mile, where I often get contracts.

I've decided that I don't hate people, but a lot of people seem to hate me. Changing schools so much is disruptive to a child's life. Instead of learning how to make friends and become popular, there's little point if you're going to get yanked out of some place you're happy with and dumped somewhere else. It's fairly obvious that the more disrupted a child's environment, the more they will retreat inwards, in search of some stability and consistency.

Bullying was a big feature of my childhood. It was a daily feature of life until I went to college. It's easy to make a child into a bullying victim: just give them something that marks them out as different. Take a look at the way all the children in school are dressed and make sure you dress your kid differently: turn-ups on their trousers, a jumper when all the other kids are wearing blazers, Clarks shoes when all the other kids are wearing Doc Martens. If they're a girl, dress them like a boy and vice-versa. If they're a boy, make them ride a pink bicycle with ribbons on it. Et cetera, et cetera.

My parents' only hobby was drug taking. In their imagination, there were fucking unicorns and rainbows everywhere and everything they said was profound and important. In their minds they were hard working and intelligent. In reality, they were sat around in a dirty house, dribbling like morons and unable to say a single syllable that was understandable. Their brains were intoxicated by drugs and alcohol and they were antisocial: preferring to spend as much time as possible alone indoors with their drugs.

I'm not sure if my parents are misanthropes, but they sure as shit don't have any friends. They have each other and they seem to think that they're the two smartest people on the planet and everybody else is thick as pig shit. When I feign snobbery and arrogance, it's easy because I just imitate my parents. They used to talk about friends and colleagues behind their back. I would get in trouble if I ever let slip a "mum says..." which taught me about two-faced hateful nasty people.

It's kind of fun to gossip behind people's backs, but having been the victim of social exclusion, bullying and also witnessed the nasty nature of horrible people who say mean things about people behind closed doors, I now try to stop myself. I'm not getting up on my high horse and saying I'm morally superior: I just mean to say that I have strong feelings about it, as it's affected my life. It's almost as if I was the one who suffered for my parents' desire to be hostile to everyone.

Evil Child

There I am. It's fairly obvious from those murderous eyes that I'm pure evil and had been plotting to do all sorts of dastardly deeds, while I was a sperm and an egg.

"My girlfriend" is how my dad referred to my mum. He made me call him and my mum by their first names. I wasn't allowed to call them "Mum" and "Dad". There was open hostility towards me, as if I had planned to ruin their drug binge and screw up their easy carefree life; as if my birth was some pre-meditated malicious atrocity. That's a pretty freaky thing to accuse a small child of.

What else do I know about myself?

Well, I was lonely. I was so desperate for secure, loyal friendships, that I would get very overexcited when I got to spend time with friends. I was super intense and hyper: I had to pack in all the friendship I could, when the opportunity presented itself. Sleep was always of secondary concern to maximising the time available, so it was exhausting seeing me for the short intense bursts that my parents permitted.

A number of my childhood 'friends' were the children of people my parents deemed good enough to hang out with occasionally, because they liked to take drugs. My parents made all objective judgements of people based on whether they liked drugs or not, rather than on personality or intellect. My dad rather styled himself on a man known literally as Mister Mean, who charged his wife and young children rent to live in 'his' house. What a cunt.

The biggest event in my life was the birth of my sister, when I was 10 years old. Parents are supposed to be outnumbered. Children are supposed to grow up with brothers and sisters. It's fucking abusive to have lonely isolated miserable children. Guess what? Children like playing together. Children like being children with other children.

It occurred to me that we spend so much of our time and energy trying to get children to act like adults, which is disingenuous and bound to lead to frustration and misery all round. If you want adult company, go make friends with people your own age. Kids need to be kids, which means play and socialising with their peers. Punishing a child for being childish is abusive.

Yeah, I'm banding round the term 'abuse' quite freely and easily. I'm sorry if there's a very specific context in which you find that English word acceptable, but it has a definition that you're at liberty to look up in the dictionary if you need to. I'm calling things abusive, because they've had life-altering negative effects on me and caused prolonged periods of abject misery. If you've fucked up your child's chances to form meaningful, secure happy relationships and partake in society as a well-rounded individual, you've really fucking abused a kid, OK?

This is turning into a bit of a "poor me, poor me" whinefest, but it's the background of the who am I type stuff I've been thinking about. I know it's horribly egocentric, but tell me, which pill do I take to just forget about this stuff and move on?

"Give me the child until he is seven and I will give you the man" -- Aristotle

Finding myself unable to get along with my peers and finding my parents to be disappointed that I wasn't born as a grown adult independently wealthy Victorian butler, I eventually found that friends' parents and some teachers were very nice to me. Having been raised to act with 'maturity' many adults found my good manners and strong communication skills to be charming. While I could do nothing right at home, I found that the adult world was mainly about kissing arse and saying intelligent sounding things at the right time. Naturally, my peers saw me as aloof and arrogant, which I guess I was.

It's easy to see how I got a head start in life: because I was lonely and isolated. I played on computers when others were playing with their brothers, sisters and friends. When I went to my first job interview, I wasn't intimidated because I felt more comfortable in the adult world than I did with children. When it came to making a good impression at work, people judged me on the fake image of maturity that I projected. In short: I seemed more grown-up than I was.

We're all a little insecure, but I desperately wanted loyal friends and a loving girlfriend. That lifelong damage that you do to a kid when you fuck up their childhood, means that they feel unloved, they don't know how to make friends, missed out on childhood sweethearts and feel distant from their peers. That shit carries over into adult life. Where's the confidence, the gregariousness, the outgoing nature? Where are you going to get that stuff, if all you know is bullying, isolation and disruption to your life that destroys every friendship you've ever cherished?

Every time I've been clingy, intense or a little too full-on... that's coming from that hole that was left in adolescence, where most people are swigging cider in the park and having fumbling trysts in the bushes.

But, I've also been affected by drugs. I'm not afraid of drugs. I don't have a healthy fear and respect of drugs, unlike people who've never been exposed to them. I'm in the situation of having in-depth knowledge of drug taking, but I'm surrounded by educated middle-class professionals who know nothing about drugs (except that if you inject a marijuana you will immediately murder a grandmother to steal her money).

It's crazy to think that the spotty, nerdy unpopular awkward geek who was bullied as fuck, took amphetamines and lost his virginity at the age of 15. Is it crazy? Well, a lot of people think drug taking is cool. It's seen by some simple-minded fools as an act of rebellion. Idiots see themselves as being part of a counter-culture movement, when they make themselves dumb and apathetic, spending their money on a trillion dollar commercial industry, never actually doing anything revolutionary or productive because they're sitting around indoors dribbling and babbling incoherently.

Small Child with Cannabis

Doesn't it seem only natural that with insecurity and isolation, I would follow in the footsteps of my parents? It sounds like I'm blaming my parents for my addiction, but I'm not (directly). The debate about free will and our ability to make choices, is a complex one. 

"Boring! We've heard all this!"

Yes, but I'm retelling. I've been through Hell and I'm trying to understand everything myself. Through my writing, I'm coming to terms with a mind-boggling amount of experiences that I have to slot into place, in order to make sense of the world and where I fit within it. Life is not black & white; good & bad. I can't simplify things to the point of simply saying I'm a "bad kid" like my parents seemed to decide from very early on. Blaming myself for everything has gotten me nowhere.

No apology or even discussion was forthcoming from my parents, so it's up to me to figure everything out and make the correct judgements based on the evidence and rational investigation of the facts. Yes, it's nice and easy to jump on any one particular thing that seems to be the 'smoking gun' pointing to the fact that I must be an evil little shit sent from Hell to terrorise the world, but there comes a time when that story really doesn't stack up.

I've been wondering why I do a lot of looking back. I have very little control over the future. My future is bound up in the hands of decision makers, who will either give me a role that I'm qualified and experienced to do, in order to get the cash that's needed in this bullshit capitalist society. Otherwise, my life will be ripped to pieces by the vultures that prey on anybody who doesn't fit the mould.

Life's definitely a lot easier when you're not penniless, sick, homeless and addicted to drugs, but it's not as simple as that. What's your purpose? Who are you? What's your identity?

Being a vagrant is actually a fairly strong identity. There is something cool about being half-dead. There's something attractive about the hollow eyes, pale skin and skinny body of heroin chic isn't there? If you don't belong to a sports team; you weren't one of the popular ones at school; you aren't trying to get as many letters after your name as possible; you haven't conflated your professional and private identities... then who the fuck are you and what the fuck are you doing?

Drugs neatly encapsulate both identity and reward. Instead of getting small dopamine hits by bragging about your promotion at a dinner party, you can get a big dopamine hit by staying at home and taking drugs. Also, you feel that you 'belong' to a special club: you learn to identify other addicts and you feel a connection to them... a sense of belonging.

If you can roll a joint and you have weed, you'll have 'friends'. If you have enough money to buy cocaine, you'll have 'friends' and you'll want to share it because you're not an addict, right? Except you are.

I found - by accident - that drugs gave me the self-confidence that had been stolen from me by my parents. I was able to chat to girls. Pretty much most of the time that I had sex, it was on speed (amphetamine), mushrooms (psilocybin) or Ecstasy (MDMA).

Eventually, I discovered - through dangerous experimentation - a drug that was so powerful that it was a far superior substitute for my abusive ex. She was no longer needed. She was abusive, mean, selfish and unpleasant and I was very glad that the spell was broken, even though it cost me a period of addiction and a lot of money. I wasn't strong enough to leave her, without the drugs.

Now, I'm all cleaned up. I'm a good boy.

But, I'm left wondering about that whole purpose & identity thing.

 

Tags:

 

A Serious Man

7 min read

This is a story about having fun...

Sand cock

If you need to prove that you're good at drinking and taking long holidays, university is an excellent choice. If you have wealthy middle-class parents, don't know what you want to do with the rest of your life except avoid working (you're right - work is boring and shit) then why not take a gap-yah or two and spend as long as you can in full-time education? Study now. Pay later.

Did you select your A-levels based on the degree course that you wanted to study? Did you make sure you have as many languages and extracurricular activities on your university application as possible? Did you make sure you've got some volunteering or Duke of Edinburgh award, or some other bollocks to make you look like more of a model student?

Next question: did you pick your degree based on the job you wanted at the end of your studies?

There are a limited number of professions that require undergraduate or postgraduate qualifications. To enter into law, medicine, accountancy, teaching, dentistry, veterinary surgery and a handful of other fields, you cannot legally practice without membership of a professional body, who usually mandate that you have followed a proscribed educational path.

In short: you only really need to go to university if a degree is absolutely necessary in order to get the job you want, right?

Wrong.

What about fun? What about staying with like-minded peers. While those who are not academically gifted (read: thick as pig shit) go on to have fulfilling lives in prison, on remand, on probation and tending their many illegitimate children, the brightest bunch will get into thousands of pounds of debt while having an extended infancy. Who wouldn't enjoy spending their student loan on beer and drugs?

Have I missed something?

Yes.

While I fumbled my way through my career, hamstrung by the fact that I was 3 to 5 years younger than my peers on British Aerospace's graduate trainee program, I had missed out on living in a dog-shit untidy flat with a load of selfish arseholes, having some lovely girlfriends and making lifelong friends, while growing up amongst a peer group of likeminded individuals in ostensibly the same circumstances. My first few years after college fucking sucked. Yes, I had money, but I was fucking lonely and miserable.

After a couple of years I became fucked off with the ageism and went in search of a company that would give me a proper opportunity to prove myself. With another job as a stepping stone, I got into IT contracting by the age of 20. I was earning £34 an hour, plus VAT. It was a king's ransom and I started to use money to fill the hole that would ordinarily have been filled with tales of happy 'student days'.

By the time Y2K came around I was working at Harbour Exchange, on the backbone of the Internet. I was doing some software development for Lloyds TSB on their telephone exchange (PABX) software. My Docklands Light Railway journey to work each day took me past two enormous holes in the ground: the foundations of the HSBC and Citibank towers that flank 1 Canada Square: the UK's tallest building. Career-wise, I had won. I was earning 6-figures at the tender age of 21. Fuck you, graduates.

When did I ask myself "what do I really want to do with my life?" or "what do I enjoy doing?"

Never.

Who can afford to dream?

If you've got somebody underwriting your risk; if you've got a loving family; if you have wealth... sure, go ahead, dare to dream. If you haven't, you'd better be pragmatic. We saw what happened to me when I slipped. Was anybody there to catch me? No fucking way. I was homeless, destitute. Neither my family nor the state intervened. There's no safety net for me. Failure means failure. Complete and utter failure, destruction and destitution.

And so, I don't choose to do what I want, work where I want, consider what I want. I take the job that pays and I get on and I do it. I'm cynical and I moan about it, but what's the alternative? Flipping burgers for minimum wage? A shop doorway that smells of piss and sneering government employees begrudging me a pittance of a support allowance... not enough to escape poverty.

I'm almost incensed by people who suggest I should retrain, or at least choose work that I hate a little less. That's madness, for me. I just don't have anybody underwriting my risk. I'm already leveraged to the max: all-in, bollocks on the chopping block.

The annoying thing is that it works.

I fucking hate the whole stupid fucking industry that I'm mixed up in. I'm doing the same shit I was doing when I was 21. Wouldn't you be, if the rewards were the same for you? Think about what you could do with all that money. Imagine having a 5-figure paycheque every month.

But it's not like that.

I'm so fucking serious.

Take that 6-figure job, but get rid of your lifelong friends. Get rid of those memories of meeting people on freshers week. Get rid of those memories of student halls, the NUS bar, living away from home for the first time, your proper girlfriend/boyfriend who you were mad about. You can kiss those 3+ years you spent discovering your adult identity goodbye. You'll be financially rich, but you'll be miserable, lonely and insecure. You won't have that piece of your identity that says you belong to some club: the town or city where you studied, the campus, the finals, the dissertations... the grade, the diploma, the graduation.

Take those happy memories, and instead replace them with being at least 3 years younger than your closest peer, and having to work several times harder to overcome the impression that you're less experienced, less developed, less able. Of course, I was inexperienced: I was living away from home for the first time. When I threw up on a night out, it wasn't with other students who were doing the same, but with work colleagues. At university it was a fun rite of passage shared with others who had done exactly the same thing. I really don't advise doing it as part of your career, although it's a somewhat unavoidable part of life that has to be done at some point. In my defence, I was tricked into eating a Dorset Naga chilli pepper.

Moan, moan, moan.

Anyway, I got my gap-yah. I had my 3 years of living in appalling conditions and getting fucked up on a non-stop rollercoaster of sex, drugs and drink, with few responsibilities. I had long holidays. I got a stupendous education that I certainly won't forget in a hurry. Bizarrely, I did even get a certificate at one point. I kid you not.

"University of life" is rather synonymous with people who the elites rather like to sneer at, but consider this: there are a lot of smart people who don't get to go to university, because they don't have wealthy middle-class parents underwriting their risk. The point that I missed - and I regret - is that it's better if you stick with the herd. My peer group went to university and I didn't, and for that reason I became even more isolated and lonely. My parents successfully sabotaged my childhood by moving me all over the fucking country, but I made the final mistake by not seeing the value in fucking about for 3+ years with likeminded individuals, as far away from my c**tish parents as I could get.

I've come back to bitching and whining, full of bitterness and regret, but isn't it apt? Here I am, about to secure another contract doing the same old thing, the same old way. Sure, I can do it, but can I fondly reminisce about the journey that brought me to this point? Do I share the journey onwards with lifelong adulthood friends?

No.

My life was fractured in my childhood. I'm on a different path from my peer group. Having fun and having friends is not for me: I've been told that from a very early age.

 

Tags:

 

Never Allow Yourself to be Measured

12 min read

This is a story about conformity...

A grade

Why would you ever consent to being graded? Isn't that extremely degrading to have somebody sit in judgement over you and decide where you fit in the pecking order?

We don't have an education system. We are not educating our children.

Instead, we have a system that's designed to give us the best grades we can possibly afford, so that we will have better employment opportunities. Schools are businesses, and they need pupils to get funding, so they can pay all those lovely salaries. Teachers are judged on their students' exam results. Schools are chosen based on their exam results. Universities will offer places to those students with the best exam grades, but universities are money making machines, taking at least £27,000 for an undergraduate degree, from every student. Finally, employers will select prospective employees who have the best grades.

Imagine you gave up your childhood and a few of the prime years of your young adulthood, in order to get "A" grades and a first class degree from a top university. You worked your little socks off from the age of 5 to the age of 21. That's 16 years of hard labour. It wasn't an education. It was an exercise in grading. Your teachers didn't teach you. Instead, you were trained how to pass exams. The whole balance of incentives is such that only the grades matter. You just want the piece of paper at the end of it, so you don't have to take a shitty minimum wage zero hours contract McJob.

So, what happens when you graduate, take a graduate job, and then find what you're doing is utterly pointless bullshit?

What happens when those 16 lost years of your life mean that you're saddled with debt and working some drastically underpaid job that won't even buy you a house anyway?

In the US, every man woman and child has a debt of $60,000, even if they don't even have a bank account and never personally borrowed any money. In the UK the figure is circa £30,000. This is money the government borrowed on your behalf. Even if you're financially prudent, and you don't spend money until you've earned it, that's certainly not what your government is doing.

In order to stand a chance of getting a half decent job, you reckon you need to go to college/university. In the US the average student loan debt is $35,000. In the UK you have to spend £27,000 on tuition alone, for a 3 year degree course. Of course, the UK figure doesn't include the money you need to live on. You can borrow a further £32,000 in order to pay your rent, food, transport and other costs of living at university. Basically, you're going to spunk the best part of £60,000 getting your degree.

So, you've spent 16 years of your life, having no life - your nose has been stuck in those books and you've been doing all your homework - and you're £90,000 in debt. Imagine you met the love of your life at university, you both graduated and you'd like to have a couple of kids. That means your household is going to be £240,000 in debt, before you even take out a mortgage. That's £60,000 of government debt for your two kids, £60,000 of government debt for you and your other half, and £120,000 for your two university degrees. God damn! You'd better get a job and start paying that debt off, because you haven't worked a day in your life at this point, even though you're now 22 years old.

Because you worked so damn hard to pass your 11+ exam, your grammar school entrance exam, or private school entrance exam, your GCSEs, your A-levels, your university entrance exam, your final year exams, your dissertation... you're pretty heavily invested now, aren't you? You gave up playing outside in the sunshine with your friends so you could do extra Latin and calculus. You gave up swigging cider in the park and shagging in a bush, so that you could be at home poring over your books. You gave up being debt free, so you could now have a £60,000 student loan like a millstone around your neck.

Guess what? Even having a good degree from a good university isn't enough. You probably need to become a lawyer or an accountant to set yourself apart from the McJob fodder. Lawyers in the US run up student debts in excess of $100,000. Here in the UK, you're going to have to pay an extra 2 years of tuition and living expenses, before you can even get a job in a law firm. You're going to pay the the law school £21,000 in tuition fees, plus you'll need another £20,000 for rent and living expenses, while you study. So, your student debt is now £100,000 before you even enter one of the professions.

Even a graduate with first-class honours from Oxford or Cambridge is not a professional. Having read classics does not seem immediately useful, given the lack of living people who speak Latin or Ancient Greek. While you have clearly marked yourself out as 'clever' in a rather abstract sense, you're not obviously employable because of your education. It is merely your grades that make you attractive to prospective employers.

Is it even very clever, to spend so much of your parents money on a private or public school education, squander your childhood on homework and piano recitals, saddle yourself with the best part of £100k of student debt, and then have the prospect of doing legal or accountancy work to help billionaires avoid paying tax.

The more you invest the more exposed you are. You're not going to take some lowly entry-level job, because you've got a goddam degree dontcha know? You're not going to question how absolutely dreadful the work is that you're doing, and how appalling the salary is, because it's a graduate job apparently. The job spec said "must have 2:1 degree from respected institution" so therefore it must be a good job, right?

Yeah, at least you're not flipping burgers for a living.

But, can you buy a house?

Nope.

You were conned. You studied hard for 16 long years. You stressed yourself to bits over every exam. Writing your dissertation was pure agony. You were so worried that you were going to fail. You could have failed at any moment. You could have failed to get into a good secondary school. You could have screwed up your GCSEs. You could have screwed up your A-levels. You could have screwed up your finals. You could have screwed up your dissertation.

You were so damn relieved on graduation day. Sure, it felt good to have your picture taken holding a scroll of parchment tied up with a red ribbon, wearing a black gown and a mortar board. Your mum has that picture of you up on the wall in the downstairs toilet. Every houseguest sees that photo of you, a fresh-faced 21 year old graduate, proudly clutching the bit of paper you worked hard for 16 years to get. They imagine that you must be terribly clever but little do they know that you're now working some dreadful office job, copying and pasting numbers in spreadsheets, like some kind of factory worker.

Maybe you were a bit smarter and you realised that everybody's got a damn degree these days. Perhaps you did a masters, a PGCE, went to law school, studied accountancy. Now you have a profession. You're a teacher, a lawyer, an accountant.

You studied the extra years. You did the training. You took the shitty entry-level salary. Now you're a qualified professional. You're a member of The Law Society, you're a chartered accountant, you've got Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). Guess what? You still can't buy a fucking house.

My suggestion is this: if your parents have money, don't fucking work your bollocks off and study hard. Get your parents to buy you a house and give you some money. You don't need to work. The world does not need any more corporate lawyers.

If you don't come from a wealthy family, for God's sake don't waste the prime years of your life following the same path as all the other drones. There's no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. School, university, graduate jobs... it's all just a miserable path that leads to debt and misplaced gratitude for a 'better' quality job, which is actually nothing of the sort.

I'm financially incentivised to stay doing what I'm doing, because I can buy a house and afford to have my family live in considerable comfort. My earning potential is a function of how able I am to say "fuck your shit" and go and get a better contract elsewhere, because I'm not driven by fear: fear that I have invested 16+ years of my life in a pointless piece of paper; fear that I have £60k to £100k of student debt that needs to be paid back; fear that I've been measured, graded, and that I know my place.

I don't know my place, because I never allowed myself to be graded. If somebody is turning me into a commodity, then I change my role. I'm very hard to pigeon hole. I'm very hard to label. I'll brand myself up as whatever I need to be in order to get the job, instead of harking back to my most recent academic or professional qualification. I have no qualms at saying "this bullshit job just ain't worth the pittance you pay" because I don't have this fetish for "graduate" or "professional" work.

In some narrow niche, you'll find that there's somebody who wants it worse than you. You'll find that somebody is prepared to study harder, longer, put more effort in. If you enter into the arms race, you'll find yourself competing in a completely unnecessary battle for something that's been created with artificial scarcity. Grades are not a precious rare metal dug out of the ground. There's a finite amount of gold on the planet, but there is no shortage of "A" grades or bullshit jobs.

The professional bodies are there to limit the numbers of people becoming lawyers, accountants, doctors, teachers and a whole host of other jobs that are better paid than flipping burgers. The only reason why those professions pay more than minimum wage is because artificial scarcity is created, by limiting the number of people who can qualify and practice those trades.

I never let my schooling interfere with my education. I taught myself how to program a computer, with the help of a couple of schoolfriends. I don't advise becoming a programmer today, because it's a crowded market, but there'll be something better that your kids can be doing instead of their damn homework. There's something you can be doing better than saving up money to help get your kids through university: buy them a damn car and a house, because they're never going to be able to afford things on their own, with the way things are going.

The education system was there to break our will and our sense of individuality, and prepare us for the workhouses. The education system is used for societal control. Your government wants obedient debt-laden citizens, who are grateful for a shitty made-up job. The plutocrats who rule your life want cheap labour, even though you think you've got a prestigious well-paid job. In actual fact, you know your place, and you have no social mobility at all.

We're moving beyond the era of the CV with your exam grades and other qualifications on there. The idea of sifting and sorting everybody, like grains of sand, ending up with the very finest particles graded right up to the grittier stuff... this is a flawed model.

Take your average super indebted grad today. Could they rewire a house? Could they fix the plumbing? Can they cook a fine meal? Could they organise an event? Can they lead people? Can they mend a car? Can they dress a wound? What are they like on a mountain? What are they like out at sea? What are they like in a crisis?

We're churning out people who are only good for one thing: regurgitating established facts and ideas. Parroting answers they've learned but don't understand. Passing exams.

Our kids these days don't pass exams because they've reasoned the answers from their knowledge and experience. Our kids these days don't make theoretical deductions. We have an exam passing machine that teaches our children how to pass tests, as opposed to educating them.

Everything's going to hell in a handcart because original ideas and critical thinking have no place in our education system or the world of bullshit jobs. We spend at least 16 years brainwashing our 'best and brightest' to be exam passers, box tickers, compliant little drones who all think and act the same way. The homogeny of bland corporate wage-slaves, churned out by the cookie-cutter 'education' system is frightening.

When sufficient numbers of people realise that they've been conned into giving away their youth, in return for a soul-destroying desk job that's mind-numbingly boring, but yet they can't buy a house, there's going to be rioting that far exceeds the disruption we saw in 2011, when it was the disadvantaged youths who took to the streets to protest their lack of opportunities and general contempt that is held for the underclass.

Debt will not prop things up forever. Without a wirtschaftswunder - debt forgiveness - the capitalists will destroy everything by demanding their pound of flesh. Empires always fall when debts are not forgiven and the proletariat are crushed by the weight of the idle elites who live in decadent luxury, while ordinary people struggle.

Teach your kids practical things. Let them play. Don't make them do their homework. Don't force them to practice an instrument "because it will look good on their university application". A new world is coming, and moulding kids in the shape of every other underpaid, underemployed corporate drone is not going to do them any favours.

 

Tags: