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The world's longest suicide note: ONE MILLION words.

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

All opinions are my own.

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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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A Man Slept Here

11 min read

This is a story about winos...

Cardboard city

If you've ever spent a night in a cheap sleeping bag, you'll know what it's like in the small hours of the morning, when the temperature plummets and you can't get warm - you're frozen to the bone and your body shakes to move your muscles, burning energy to heat your blood, which keeps you awake. All you can think about is how nice it would be to be snug and warm and cosy. A rough night will teach you to appreciate your duvet, blankets, heating boiler or furnace, roaring fire and other sources of warmth, like spooning with your sweetheart.

I've slept on a glacier, and it's horrible how quickly the ice leeches away the heat from any body part that strays off your sleeping mat. Concrete is just the same - without some insulating barrier between you and the floor, the cold seems to rise up and enter you... your lips turn blue and your teeth chatter.

In this city of concrete, brick & cement, limestone and granite, there are far more homeless people than I'm ever used to seeing. I've been homeless and slept rough in London. The UK's capital city is a magnet for those seeking to improve their fortunes, through employment opportunities, begging from rich tourists or simply the high quality narcotics.

"Have you scored?" yells a man behind me, to a man at the other end of the road. It's 9:30am on a Wednesday, and these two beggars look familiar to me. My ten minute walk to the office takes me past almost 15 men, who all congregate along the route between the city's two main railway stations - each with their own 'patch'. Some sit quietly with a paper cup on the pavement in front of them; eyes downcast but intently watching the world go by in their peripheral vision. Some look me square in the eye from several hundred metres away - well aware that I am pretending to not notice them - before timing a polite and muted "spare some change please?" request to perfection... all I can say is "sorry mate". Some linger at an intersection, where they step into my path... "excuse me" they say, and my eyes flick up to meet theirs... they know immediately that the element of surprise has not worked - I saw them before they saw me - and I continue my walk undiverted.

How do I know that it's a man who slept rough in that doorway, and he was probably an alcoholic and/or a heroin addict? If one wishes to be pedantic, I don't.

Speaking frankly, a woman who sleeps rough is is at risk of becoming a rape victim at some point. Another unspeakable and unpalatable truth is that a woman in the grips of addiction is not going to spend her nights having her body illegally violently sexually violated against her will, when she could spend that time turning tricks - there are an insatiable number of punters for blowjobs and sex - to pay for just enough heroin and crack to numb the pain of another shitty day of human existence.

What I say is not sexism, prejudiced or anything other than the situation as it stands in the UK - sadly, there are enough rapists out there to make sleeping on the streets a dangerous thing for a woman to do, so our local government will ensure that they are not complicit in any acts of rape or sexual assault that get perpetrated on the streets, though their negligent inaction.

A single man with an alcohol and/or drug problem is not considered to be vulnerable enough to be housed by the local government. In fact, the alcoholics and addicts who line the busy thoroughfares of this bustling city, are viewed as a liability with regards to giving them money and a place to live. "They'll only spend it on drink and drugs" completely misses the point about cause and effect, but statistically it's proven to be mostly correct. Council houses (a.k.a. social housing) and apartments have been turned into absolute shitholes by so many men in the past, that the local authority treats their homeless adult single male population like a plague of modern-day lepers.

Thus, I can make an educated guess that this almost entirely unused fire exit doorway, was where a man laid his head to rest last night. He was probably a heroin addict, but this means nothing - whether it's a symptom or the cause of his destitution is a non sequitur, because homelessness and addiction are intractable. It is as if we ask "which came first? the eggshell or the egg yolk?" without considering the ridiculous notion of having one without the other, and completely ignoring the chicken.

The United Kingdom was flooded with cheap alcohol during the boom years of the 1980s, when the British pound sterling was strong versus the French franc, and enterprising men and women set off across the English Channel to bring back vast quantities of wine. France grew grapes and fermented them in a country that was predominantly rural and agricultural. England, by comparison with our nearest neighbour, has dense areas of population clustering around factories, coal mines, steel mills, dockyards and other organs that were necessitated for the functioning of an empire, as well as the defence of the realm.

Heroin's quality and availability once fluctuated wildly in the UK. The fields of opium-yielding poppies flourish in Afghanistan and Thailand, but the trade routes - the Silk Road - were at the mercy of incredible geopolitical forces. Now, thanks to the intervention of the USA and the UK in illegal foreign wars and 'regime' toppling, the supply of high-quality cheap narcotics has never been in more rude health.

If you think a homeless heroin addict single man is a fool and a failure, you are wrong; completely wrong. If you think in terms of 'bang for your buck' a £10 bag of heroin is going to get you a lot more fucked up than £10 of alcohol. If you think that injecting drugs is insane, you haven't considered the insanity of putting something you've paid your hard-earned money for, into your acidic stomach, where nearly 1/3rd of it will be destroyed. The rational thing to do is to put 100% of your intoxicant directly into your bloodstream.

If we followed the logic of the homeless man, we would all have a canula in one of our veins, and we would pay £1 for pure ethanol to be squirted into our bodies from a syringe, whereupon we would be immediately intoxicated to the point of near-blackout.

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Before we go any further, I should make it clear that I am not advocating injecting drugs - or drug abuse of any kind - nor have I ever injected any drugs, or had another person inject me with narcotics.

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If one wishes to consider the desperate plight of an addict or alcoholic, one only needs to think about the period when many homeless men would drink methylated spirits. Methanol differs from ethanol chemically, but methylated spirits - known colloquially as meths - has been deliberately poisoned by manufacturers, in an effort to discourage human consumption, without success. I can buy 5 litres of meths - roughly the same volume as 7 bottles of wine - for around £10, but to drink it would kill me. Out of desperation to avoid delirium tremens, which can cause seizures and death, alcoholics will drink small amounts of meths to self-medicate for their physical dependence on alcohol, despite the fact that it will cause them to go blind.

The war on drugs and the war on terror have now created a reliable supply chain, whereby the most powerful narcotics on the planet are available at unsurpassed purity and at rock-bottom prices, as never before witnessed in human history.

Competitive free-market economics has given rise to a swathe of pharmaceutical giants, vying to innovate with new medications that are 'better' than anything seen before, in a race for profits. Fentanyl and carfentanil were born into this world in the 1960s and 1970s, respectively. Carfentanil is so potent, that an aerosol mist of it could be used as a weapon of mass destruction. Although the Russian government does not officially acknowledge it, carfentanil has been used in a terrorist hostage situation - pumped into a building as a gas - resulting in the deaths of 125 innocent civilians in a single incident, from opiate overdose.

The rise and rise of the zero-hours contract McJob and a hopeless future for unskilled labourers, in the face of global capitalism, has created insecurity and the total destruction of the prospect of happy and contented family life for a scandalous number of men. While pram-faced mothers, with gold hoop earrings and their hair held back tightly in a scrunchie, will be prioritised for social housing, our entire welfare system discourages work and parental bonds. Economically, a single mother is better off than one who stays with the father of her children. Dads have been made redundant by cheap Far-Eastern labour. People respond to incentives, and so we have created a generation of children from broken homes. We have created an unacknowledged mountainous scrap-heap of homeless single male drug addicts, in a society that has no better use for them, other than to let them rot.

We are all familiar with the concept of supply and demand, but there is also something intrinsic in our genetic programming that makes us seek out value for money. It seems obvious that given the choice of intoxicants, I would select 1 gram of carfentanil instead of 1 gram of morphine. An amount of carfentanil the same size as a grain of salt is enough to kill me by overdose - carfentanil is better value for money, being about 10,000 times more potent than morphine.

The opium smokers became morphine addicts, then diacetylmorphine (heroin) addicts, then fentanyl addicts and now carfentanil addicts. The subsection of the population who have abandoned hope are always driven to seek the strongest mind-altering substance that they can obtain, for the money which they beg (panhandle), borrow or steal in order to support their 'habit' each day.

1 kilogram of carfentanil could kill the entire population of the United Kingdom. Carfentanil is produced in bulk quantities in the Far-East, where - ironically - all the manufacturing and mining jobs have gone, leaving vast numbers of men economically redundant.

In this city where I now live, the capitalists drove the cloth-making industry into a race to the bottom, negatively affecting the prosperity of nations such as India, which has over a billion inhabitants. It seems apt that the 'payback' for this global suicide pact should be so publicly conspicuous. Homelessness and addiction are openly on display, as symptoms of a world that is sick with an illness that's called capitalism; vulgar greed and hoarding of wealth.

I am full of sorrow that so many of my fellow citizens are left bewildered as to what happened to their once-great nation, and seek solace in all the wrong places. To help even one man (#frank) exhausted my economic reserves. All I have left is the power to spread word to more people than I could ever manage to speak to individually, using the power and freedom of the Internet. I preach to the converted, so often, but to stop and speak to the abandoned men - each in their 'patch' - is impossible in the face of a capitalists waving a fistfuls of dollars in front of a sea of hungry people.

All I can say to my readers who own computers, smartphones and Internet connections - you have a golden ticket that the man who slept on the cardboard in the doorway last night, does not have. He's viewed as trash, just the same as the remnants of his existence left behind when he awoke and moved elsewhere this morning.

 

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Human Lives are Cheap

5 min read

This is a story about pets...

Frankie in my jumper

I love cats. Cats love me. My cat, Frankie, is so comfortable with me that I can zip him inside my jumper to keep him warm and he just happily snuggles up.

I read the other day that it took less than an hour to raise thousands of pounds for a cat that needed an operation at the vet. I've always taken the precaution of having pet insurance, because I would never want to have to make a cold hard financial decision about an animal that I kept as a pet, because I'm very emotionally attached - bonded - to Frankie.

A friend of mine has cycled thousands of miles across Europe to raise money to buy bicycles for impoverished families in Africa. These are not bicycles for leisure. They are an essential mode of transport for rural dwelling people, in order to be able to access education, employment and markets, without having to walk for hours and hours in blistering heat. Each bicycle can literally transform the prospects of an entire family overnight.

My friend who has so far covered about 2,000 miles, in over a month, has raised less than 25% of what the needy moggy managed to raise in less than an hour. I'm sure you'll agree, that cycling thousands of miles in some of the steepest parts of the Alps, surely shows that it is not through lack of effort that his fundraising attempt has not been more fruitful so far.

It's certainly not my intention to criticise or take anything away from his incredible feat, working so hard for such a good cause, to raise money for World Bicycle Relief by cycling across Europe. I'm totally in awe of what my friend is doing.

However, what saddens and disappoints me is how readily people will reach for their wallets when they think of a poor suffering furball, rather than a fellow human being.

Both my friend and I have been homeless. There seems to be an assumption that human beings are architects of their own demise, and animals are innocent creatures that need our protection. There seems to be an assumption that charity and governments are somehow working, to redistribute wealth and protect the needy and vulnerable. That simply isn't the case.

Why do people wait, until their friends and relatives are in hospital or dead, before they say "I wish we knew what to do, before it was too late" and "if we knew things were that bad, we would have done something"?

Frankly though, this is horse shit.

We have a culture where we believe we are engaged in a desperate struggle just to "look after our own". It's simply not true.

It might feel like a desperate struggle, to prepare the kids packed lunches and hang the laundry out. It might feel like a desperate struggle to think that you might not get to take 3 foreign holidays this year if you or your partner loses your job, which you're not going to. Things might feel like a desperate struggle because you've been reading too much damn tabloid journalism.

Until you've slept rough, barely been able to keep yourself clean, except with the occasional public shower, and barely been able to keep the clothes on your back from turning to dusty rags, you know fuck all about desperate struggle. However, even when you're homeless in the UK, you still don't tend to go without at least one hot meal a day: there are always soup kitchens and the Hare Krishna.

I don't know what it takes to trigger some empathy, and the goddamn impulse to get up and do something but I'm fairly outraged by the pocket change that gets stuffed into a charity collection bucket, simply to salve a middle-class conscience.

You've probably completely misread my own situation. I live in a flat that costs me twice as much as a hostel bed, which is totally excellent value. I work a job that brings in enough money to pay down the debt that I ran up supporting myself when I was sick. Yes, that's right. Instead of claiming incapacity benefit, housing benefit, council tax deductions and every other kind of government handout that I'm totally entitled to because I have major mental health issues instead I've funded it all out of my own pocket, and impoverished myself in the process.

Why would I do that? Well, because it's easier to get the money you need to survive when you have fur, whiskers and paws.

I mean, for fucks sake, Syrian children are having to print out pictures of themselves with Pokémon so that we give a shit about them.

Sorry for the condescending tone. I'm just a bit pissed off that our idea of "helping our own" is a few likes and shares on Facebook.

The end.

 

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Peer to Peer

5 min read

This is a story about helping each other...

Me kitesurfing

How does one go about putting Humpty Dumpty back together again? The idea of some patriarchal figure - e.g. a king - has largely failed. Instead, we see that complex psycho-social problems are better solved by a community that is filled with mutual support and respect.

In order to get me to the point I am at today, it's taken a social worker. But not a social worker who was employed to help me, but instead a loveable Kiwi who was sleeping on my couch, who took it upon himself to think about my welfare.

It's taken a psychologist. Not a psychologist who I pay to sit on the couch of, while I pour my little heart out, but actually my beloved flatmate, who listened to me while I brain dumped in the small hours of the morning, or coaxed me out of whichever corner I was backed into, suffering almost PTSD-like symptoms.

It's taken a bunch of fellow people with mental-health problems, who "get it". They know that a "positive mental attitude" is just utter bullshit, and you can't just snap out of a severe depression or whatever ails you, when you already know that what you think and feel is irrational, and you would really rather not be feeling the way that you do, if it was a simple choice.

It's taken a bunch of addicts. Not necessarily needle-wielding junkies in the throes of active addiction, but people who aren't so holier-than-thou that they don't admit to their own fallibilities and judge you, lest they acknowledge the demons within themselves. Non-judgemental support is essential, for any way forward.

It's taken all my friends, from all corners of the globe. You might not think that a simple 'like' on social media would mean much, but the implied support has been my lifeblood. To say that I've been attention seeking is plain wrong. Everybody needs to feel that they have people that like them, support them, wish them well.

It would be massively premature to declare things a done deal. I need to make it through a winter somehow, without incident. Current thinking is simply to take off for the Southern Hemisphere for a while... follow the sun.

The plan has always been the same, since I decided to cut and run from my ex wife and Bournemouth: get back into IT contracting for the banks, go kitesurfing. Obviously, you also need a place to live and be on top of your finances. Obviously, you still need the occasional bit of midweek socialising to get you through to the weekend.

Am I some Goldilocks type character, who demands that everything is "just right"? No. I don't think that's true at all.

I accept that there is going to be loneliness, boredom, stress. I accept that things are going to take time. I accept that things are going to go wrong. I accept that it's highly improbable that everything will be going OK all at the same time. However, my basic life formula is pretty simple: work & play.

I tried to take direct action in somebody's life - Frank - when I returned to London. That was a relatively short burst of time & effort, and I can't tell you precisely how things worked out there, although I did see Frank about 18 months later and he was doing really well.

To round off my own story in a satisfactory way, I need to show that things are sustainable, I need to show that I'm not just mooching off people in order to continue on a reckless and irresponsible path through life. I need to close things out neatly: with integrity.

I know people are rooting for me, and it's nice to say that presently, I have a great place to live, a well paid job, and I'm getting back into the hobby I'm passionate about. I'm also increasingly getting back in contact with long-lost friends, as well as hopefully improving the tone of my communication: from bitter and negative, to philosophical, positive & hopeful.

My friend who drove me to the coast today, and has consistently been a pillar of support for me this year, always reminds me that recovery is nonlinear. I know that bad days and setbacks will follow an amazing day at the beach. Monday morning will be miserable, and life has a fully stocked arsenal of slings & arrows... but things seem a little bit better when your skin is salty from the sea and glowing from the sun and the wind.

It's oh-so clichéd, but that Beatles lyric seems apt:

I get by with a little help from my friends 

If it doesn't seem like I've acknowledged your help & support here, I apologise. Every little message, text, email, comment... it all adds up. I do appreciate it. I do appreciate, respect and love every one of my peers. Thank you.

 

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What Do I Tell My Kitten?

6 min read

This is a story about bad news...

Frankie the kitten

First and foremost, I'm a member of the human race, living on planet Earth. We all have the same needs: oxygen, food, water, warmth. The needs of our species are no different, depending on where you were born. We are virtually genetically identical, no matter what your passport says, and what colour your skin is.

Secondarily, I belong to the continent of Europe. I could probably swim across the English Channel to get to the mainland, and I'm certainly considering it in light of recent events. I don't know if you remember this, but we even built a tunnel under the sea, so that we could be connected with our nearest national neighbour.

What even is a nation anyway? What are these fake divisions that we create? What are these lines on maps?

Do you think I can tell Frankie - my kitten - that he needs to stay within some kind of imaginary zone, whenever I let him out into the garden? Do you think he'll understand that he's allowed to play with cats who were born on a certain patch of dirt, and not others? Do you think Frankie feels proud when he sees a Union Jack flag?

How do I explain recent political events to my cat?

Frankie was rather fond of the French and German cat treats, but now that we have to import them and the value of the pound has plummeted, he may have to settle for bland English cat snacks. How do I make him understand that somehow this is because a bunch of people voted to cut themselves off from our neighbouring nations? How do I deal with his sad eyes, when he sees that he's not getting his favourite food anymore? Do you think he's pleased that I'm "buying British" and feels proud when he sees the little Union Jack on the can or packet of food?

Also, people are starting to be mean to poor Frankie, because he's half black. Just because of the colour of his fur, people are shouting angry abuse at him. He doesn't know why. He poops on everybody's garden equally - he doesn't discriminate based on fur colour. In fact, he's kinda colour blind because he's a cat.

How am I supposed to console poor Frankie, when he comes home meowing with sadness, because he feels less welcome in his own home than he used to? It's not fair that he lives in a world of black & white, when he is neither pure black, or pure white... he straddles a border that has been invented by people who want to divide us all.

Shouldn't kittens everywhere be free to roam, as if there were no borders between one garden and the next? Isn't it better for a kitten to be able to play with whichever cats he wants to, without having to check their pet passport, and ask to see their family tree?

Where do we draw the line? I'm not even sure of Frankie's ancestry, because he's a cat, and we don't keep a record of the births, deaths and marriages of cats. For all I know, his parents were Pakistani stowaways and here in the country 'illegally'. He doesn't look like an alien, he looks like a cat, but perhaps he's not welcome, because of which particular bit of dirt he happened to be born on at any one time.

Cat attack

How do I explain to him, that because of his fur colour, people assume that he's not British, and he's therefore unwelcome in the place of his birth? How do I explain to him, that a bunch of people want to "send him home" when he's already home? Where the hell is his home, anyway? Where do you want to send him, you beastly idiots?

As the parent of a kitten, how am I supposed to explain any of this to such an innocent creature? He doesn't want to hurt anybody. He just wants to eat cat food, sleep in the sunshine and shit in your flower bed. He doesn't even want to hurt a mouse - he just likes playing with them and leaving them as little presents outside the back door.

Chucking Frankie out of 'your' country, because he's got a bit of black fur won't help you. Discriminating against my cat is not going to get you a job, it's not going to get you a council house, it's not going to reduce the queue at the doctors or reduce the class size at your school.

I have a cat because he improves my life. All those fluffy cuddle times. The relaxation I get from stroking his lovely soft fur. My life is better with a black & white cat in my life. I'm glad he's here.

Yes, sure, I'm scared about my job security, and whether any human children I might have will have everything their heart desires. But, I know that being mean to a bunch of innocent kittens isn't going to solve the problems in this country.

Cats enrich our lives, wherever they were born. Cats come over here, eat our food, take up space in our favourite seat, don't even work. But, I'm certainly grateful for what cats bring to my life. I'm happy to see their little whiskery faces, no matter what colour their fur is and where they were born.

Yes, OK, maybe it's not you who is being mean to cats, but your actions certainly legitimised the abuse of poor kittens. Because you sided with the bunch who want to discriminate against cats of a certain fur colour, you ended up supporting their cause. Because of your selfishness, cats like Frankie don't feel welcome in their own home, just because he's got some black fur.

You might think that you voted in the interests of your own kittens, but all kittens are equally fluffy, cute and loveable. Why do you think it's OK to be mean to my kitten, by trying to put the needs of your kitten ahead of the whole of the rest of kittendom?

All cats should be treated equally, and dividing them along lines that they can't even understand is barbaric. Cats can't read the nationality on their pet passport. Cats can't read maps and understand the concept of national borders. Cats can't sing national anthems or salute the flag. Cats are scared by the sound of guns. Cats aren't able to stupidly glorify war and killing.

Can't we all just celebrate the joy that cats bring to our lives?

Think of the kittens.

Garden Frankie

Look at the sadness in those eyes. Heartbreaking

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Nickel & Dimed

4 min read

This is a story about being strung along...

Cash is king

How much does it cost to make a difference to somebody's life? How much time? How much money? How much effort?

By the time you end up homeless, far more stuff is broken than just needing a job and a place to live. Not only is your self-esteem destroyed, but also your squeaky clean credentials, which are required by the gatekeepers in the world of wage slavery.

I was asked to provide details of where I've been living for the last 5 years. If I was truthful, it would read like this:

  • Current address
  • Hospital
  • Hotel
  • Hospital
  • Hostel
  • Hampstead Heath (under some trees)
  • Hostel
  • Shitty student flat
  • Hostel
  • Hospital
  • Girl's flat
  • Kensington Park Gardens (under a bush)
  • Hostel
  • Crisis house
  • Hospital
  • Hostel
  • Hospital
  • Rehab
  • Friend's guest bedroom
  • Garden shed
  • Own home

How the hell are the drones who process paperwork at my new job supposed to deal with that?

They say that moving house is one of the most stressful events that can happen in our lives. It's so disruptive. It's so hard to function, without a base, without somewhere settled to call home.

I used to drag tons of bags all over the city. It was worse when I was working, because I obviously needed smart clothes and my work laptop too. Can you imagine going from being homeless, to living in a 14-bed hostel dorm, but having to get suited and booted and go to work, with one tiny little locker and heaps of baggage? Can you imagine having to pack all your stuff up every morning, in case you got moved to a different dorm, and then going to work?

I've never claimed benefits, because I can see that they're just enough to do nothing but not enough to do something. For all the effort involved in filling in the forms, it's not worth it. No wonder people beg and steal... you really don't need that much money to support yourself in some kind of miserable existence, with no hope of escape. Benefits are the very worst option: maximum effort with minimum opportunity.

Anybody who thinks that cutting people off financially is some kind of motivatory strategy is simply an idiot. Here in the UK we have squats, soup kitchens and there is enough wealth to get by, hustling, scamming, stealing, panhandling and generally opting out of society. By raising the barrier to getting benefits, and offering so little assistance, people either find their way into antisocial behaviour, or get trapped into poverty.

Is it right that I should be trapped into a pool of people who can never work again, because we don't have a nice clean address history and we're stressed out as hell from being passed from pillar to post, as nobody wants to invest in our lives?

It takes time and it takes money, but there is a net benefit for everybody if you invest in the potential of people. There is no way that you can deny that the government, various councils and social workers decided that I was worthless, and not even deserving of a hostel bed, despite the fact that I contribute massive amounts of taxes. In the commercial world, it's the complete opposite: companies have shown that I'm worth huge amounts of money, despite the fact they'd shit a brick if they knew the truth about my past.

The obvious thing to do would have been to support me, so I could have gotten back to work sooner and started paying buttloads of tax again, but instead, Camden Council wasted months of my life before finally sending me a one-line email saying that they were making me homeless.

I wonder how many other 'lost causes' are actually capable people who just need a little investment. Stringing people along is not a good strategy. Shortchanging people, giving them less than they need, is a false economy.

 

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Clean & Sober

7 min read

This is a story about worthy causes...

Hopeless Drunk

How do you decide who is worth helping, and who has made their own problems? It's easy, right? People who drink and take drugs are the architects of their own misery, or so we think. Homeless people have to be clean & sober before they're worthy of our help and support. Alcoholism and addiction aren't symptoms, they're the root cause of problems, we believe.

But what if we got it wrong? What if people drink and take drugs to escape problems? What if people's lives are so miserable and hopeless that they need something to anaesthetise the pain, the discomfort and the fact they're treated like dirt, shunned by society and even their own friends and family.

Once somebody has the label attached to them as a waste of space, a lost cause, it's hard to shake it off. We don't like to see our own shortcomings, our own demons, reflected back to us in the eyes of the suffering addict, alcoholic. We'd sooner that the person just disappears into obscurity or dies, so that we can repaint them in some kind of idealistic light. We want to remember them as an innocent child, and having them hanging around as a living adult is rather inconvenient. The living embodiment tarnishes this false image we want to remember.

Some homeless people have poked fun at the ridiculous notion that giving them money will only 'enable' them to continue with their habits. We see images splashed all over the internet of signs begging for money to spend on drink & drugs "but at least I'm not bullshitting you" the signs say. This is confirmation bias. We have preconceived notions about a homeless person, a bum, a junkie... we find it hilarious, and pleasing, to see a sign that confirms our prejudices.

When I met Frank, he was keen to tell me that he wasn't an opiate addict. Because almost all of us have an innate fear of needles, the heroin addict is very bottom of the pile. Almost every non injecting drug addict will tell you "at least I'm not a junkie" as if it somehow makes them a better person. Every stoner will tell you "at least I don't take hard drugs". Every alkie will tell you "at least I don't take drugs". Every person on antidepressants or anxiety medication will tell you "at least I don't drink". There is a clear hierarchy here, but it's no different than a bullied person finding somebody weaker than themselves in order to bully, in order to make themself feel better.

This infighting amongst humans is uncivilised, inhumane. Where did the empathy go? Where did the sympathy go? Where did all this ignorance come from?

Homeless Addict

You really think you could make things any worse by helping? In actual fact, charitable giving is far more likely to make you feel smug about yourself, and feel like you've done your bit for society, so you don't need to feel guilty about your comfortable existence. The fact of the matter is though that going on a sponsored fun run was something you wanted to do anyway. The fact is, that the coins in your pocket aren't amounting to even 1% of your wealth. You're buying a clean conscience very cheaply.

To actually sit down with people, hear their story, get involved in their lives, take a risk... that's a big deal. We all have busy lives, so who has the time to do that, and aren't charities so much better, more qualified? Well, no, not really. Charities have salaries to pay. Charities have offices and need to pay bills. The amount of money that actually reaches the front line, through charitable giving, is clearly not making any difference. The levels of poverty and deprivation are bigger than ever. The rich:poor gap is the widest it's ever been.

Economists trumpet the fact that a large number of people who were living on $1 a day are now living on $2 a day. An increase of 100% in somebody's wealth sounds like a lot in percentage terms, but would you honestly feel happy if your pay rise for the last 10 years was just $365?

Perhaps we should just be happy and content to even have a job. But why? Why should we be content to live with insecurity? Why should we "count ourselves lucky" to have a job where we're exploited, and we don't even have enough money to comfortably pay our rent and bills and have anything left over in case the car breaks down?

Don't you think that living with Damocles Sword dangling over us is unhealthy? Worrying about unemployment, and the ensuing rent arrears or mortgage defaults is not a healthy way to live. The stress and anxiety of working all hours, commuting for long distances, being away from our families, the uncertainty over our finances and the security of our homes and livelihoods... surely it's this constant stress that's destroying countless numbers of people's mental health.

We can't shy away from the fact that there's a mental health epidemic. 5 million Prozac prescriptions get written in London alone, every year. A quarter of Londoners feel like crying on public transport at least once a week.

City living can be isolating and lonely, but it doesn't get any better outside of London. There are less jobs and wages are lower outside the capital. Rents are a bit lower, but bills are just as high, and public transport isn't as good so you probably need to own a car to get to work. Food costs much the same wherever you are in the country. Many towns and suburbs can be just as isolating, and there's always the fear that you don't want your friends and neighbours finding out how unhappy you are, how stressed and anxious, how depressed.

If you live in some poxy little town with only a few major employers in the area, you can't risk burning your bridges. If you get sacked because your mental health got unmanageable, you can potentially make yourself unemployable in the place where you live. You can potentially end up labelled amongst people. If it gets really bad, you can be known to friends and neighbours as a "troubled" individual. You'll be a joke, a laughing stock.

London offers some anonymity at least, and a much bigger pool of jobs, to compensate for the fact that you can feel totally overwhelmed by the impersonal and seemingly uncaring nature of the dog-eat-dog rat race. People do stop and listen, and can be very kind and compassionate. Sometimes, it feels like we're all clinging onto the pieces of our wrecked ship in a storm. There is gratitude when you connect with another person who understands the sheer terror of facing a hostile world, out to label you, to shun you, to try and trample you.

In a way, London has led the way for the country to adopt a kind of blinkered attitude, where we're all working too hard, and our communities have been destroyed, families pulled apart by the need to spend hours at work, commute long distances and live with unbearable stress. However, London has passed the point where it was completely unable to continue any more, and I actually find it far friendlier and caring than anywhere else I've been.

London has provided, where even my own family has failed me.

Homeless bla bla bla

Many homeless and addicts are fleeing a life of blah

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Narcissist's Survival Guide

10 min read

This is a story about unusual techniques to stay alive...

Flash Face

I once filled up a law firm's email server with pictures of myself. I was quite concerned that I was dying and wanted to get the attention of the family friend who was mediating on a matter that was very stressful - an acrimonious divorce was threatening my life & livelihood. Still, very strange behaviour.

When I was getting completely nonsensical replies via email from somebody, I started CC'ing more and more people, so they could see that none of my questions were being answered and an ulterior motive was being pursued by this other person.

Obviously, letting people know when I was in hospital was a bit 'attention seeking' apparently, but messages of support were gratefully received. I know I still have to reply to quite a few people who were kind enough to reach out, but you can believe me when I say your messages did really make a difference.

There was a guy in London who was going to kill himself, but he decided that if, as he walked along, one person looked him in the eye and smiled at him then he wouldn't go through with it. The urban solitude of London had made him feel invisible, uncared for, alone. Thankfully, somebody did look him in the eye and smile. Human connection is important. Somebody saved that man's life with the simplest of gestures that cost nothing.

Urban solitude is a problem for many new arrivals in the capital. People have their headphones plugged in, reading a book, or their kindle, watching a movie on their tablet or perhaps just idly playing with their phone. Especially in the morning rush-hour, nobody is talking or in any way acknowledging that you're all crammed together like sardines in a stuffy tube carriage, on the way to that job that you all hate, from some far-flung flat that you can barely afford.

Anybody who shops in a town centre is probably expert at avoiding the people with clipboards who "just need a moment of your time" to fill in some survey or sign up to direct debit some regular donation to a particular charity. We have become experts in walking right through people giving out leaflets, who aggressively thrust them into areas of our body near our hands, but yet we avoid actually taking a damn leaflet. We can walk right past the beggar and the Big Issue seller without even acknowledging their existence. 1,000-yard stare, off into the distance, and pretend like you didn't even hear them, didn't even see them.

I was thinking today about the improvements that Frank made to his story he told me, in order to seem like a more worthy cause. He shaved 4 years off his age, and showed me his forearms and asked me to inspect for the track marks of an injecting drugs user. It makes me feel bad that I've told my own story of homelessness, if people are going to dismiss it because of my drug use that I'm being completely honest and open about.

When you meet homeless people, they are often very keen for you to know that drugs and alcohol play no part in their homelessness. To be honest, I was very surprised, when I sat down to have a chat with a homeless person, Matt, underneath the bridge outside Chiswick underground station. Matt was extremely articulate and erudite, and I owe him a big debt of thanks for some of the nuggets of information that were later to serve me well on my own journey through homelessness. I have to admit that although I believed him, I was extremely shocked when he told me he had no drug or alcohol abuse in his past. He was simply p**sed off with the system.

If it looks like I'm dropping all this stuff about getting to know the homeless, and trying to help Frank, into this narrative in order to big myself up as some kind of philanthropist, you're wrong. Actually, I found it fascinating, informative, later useful and certainly helping Frank helped me to avoid dealing with my own life at the time, and feel better about myself. There was no alturism there. It was escapism.

Every fun-run that you go on. Every sponsored walk or abseil, or parachute jump or whatever it is... you probably did it because you wanted to do the activity, to feel part of the event, to feel like you made a difference. Sadly, you didn't, except to your own sense of wellbeing and achievement. Yes, we salve our middle-class guilt by making paltry charity donations and taking part in fundraising. Charity doesn't work. It's failed.

We are arriving now at a situation where we are in the middle of a refugee crisis, a housing crisis, a benefits crisis, a pension crisis, an economic crisis, a mental health epidemic. Cancer, AIDS, Multiple Sclerosis and a heap of other diseases are still rife. Poverty has not been made history by any rock concerts.

I'm absolutely not discouraging you from getting involved with philanthropic work, and if you're a volunteer or you're doing your bit to directly help in the lives of others then I applaud you... not that you want or deserve such condescension. Sorry about that.

Everything's just so damn broken. Life's really not working well for the vast majority of people on Planet Earth.

If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem, and I feel very guilty indeed.

Slumdog Millionaire

Here I am being driven to work through a massive slum in Mumbai from my 7 star hotel. I'm off to help JPMorgan process $1.16qn of Credit Default Swaps, with a team of underpaid Indians who travel for hours on dangerous and overcrowded busses and trains to get to the office. Do you think I was helping this nation of 1.1 billion souls?

I was there in the middle of Ganesh Chaturthi and the monsoon rains. The streets were crammed with trailers with idols and flowers being towed to the sea, with dancing neighbourhood groups beating drums and dancing in the road behind them. The roads are pretty much gridlock anyway, without some gawping tourist of an investment banker sitting in the middle of the chaos with his private driver.

We can feel very special being driven around in the developing world, and living like a king relatively speaking. Many people fall for it. Many people fall for the trick and start believing they actually are special and they deserve their place in the world. That, for me, is where a person can cross the line and stray into narcissism and a sense of entitlement.

Several friends have told me virtually the same story, about thinking they were a hit with the ladies in South Asia or South America, and having 'pulled' a local girlfriend, they were surprised when later asked for cash. Just because you're not obviously in a whorehouse, doesn't mean that you're not participating in prostitution. Just because you're not obviously on a cotton plantation, doesn't mean you're not participating in slavery.

Economic slavery means using your hard currency (Dollar, Sterling, Euro, Yen etc.) in order to buy labour (and all labour's fruits) far more cheaply than you would be able to in a country with a hard currency. You can't get pedalled across a European city in a bicycle rickshaw for less than $1. In London it's £10/minute to be ferried around in this manner, and you can be stung with a £200 bill for a journey that would take 3 minutes by bus.

So, I'm able to sit about on my arse writing the equivalent of two novels all about myself on a blog, peppered with photographs of me. This can only happen at the expense of everybody who grew my food, stitched my clothes and manufactured the expensive laptop on which I type these very words. You could say I'm the ultimate narcissist and profiteer from the hard labour of others.

However, modern life can make you very sick. My friend Klaus often says "it is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a sick society". I think he's right. Just because we are dry and warm and well fed and comfortable here in the UK, doesn't mean that our island is now 'full' and we should 'look after our own'.

We are beginning to pay the price for Imperial aggression and an unwillingness to share. That we don't even redistribute enough wealth to end homelessness and poverty within our own borders, shows just how far we have taken small-minded 'look after number one' attitudes. The tabloid reader's belief that immigrants are not an integral part of our society, is ironic when a great many of Britain's working class are clustered together on sink-hole estates that they can never escape. Nobody from higher social strata would ever have cause to venture into the isolated community of poor white Brits.

Do I think I'm better than those people? Am I above living in a council flat, claiming JSA and integrating with the [not] working class? Actually, I feel rather angry that these people have been manipulated by the media into scapegoating the wrong group of people. It's the moneyed political elite who are the reason for economic inactivity and stressful hand-to-mouth existance of the ordinary British public, not the immigrants and refugees.

Yes, I'm privileged. Yes, I still have some shred of self-esteem. Yes, I'm somewhat conceited in writing so much about myself and plastering photos of me all over it. But am I unaware of my actions? Am I unable to perceive the self-absorption of it all? No.

The fact of the matter is that I just don't want to be trodden underfoot, so I'm yapping like a little dog. I don't want to end up dying young, with everybody wondering what happened and whether they could have helped at all, whether they could have intervened.

Suicide might be a sane response to an insane world, but I do appreciate that it's not a pleasant thing for other people to have to deal with, when you're gone. I've written before about compassion fatigue, and it must be hard when one of your friends or a family member becomes unwell with something so poorly understood as a mental disorder.

Drinking yourself to death, or slowly killing yourself with drugs... these things are clearly part of the spectrum of mental disorders. Substance abuse is just part of a complex picture of declining mental heath that is tightly bound up with prejudice and urban myths.

I had to quit drinking for 101 days, and all drugs and substances for 6 months, in order to be taken seriously. I suffered for my art and my cause: to draw attention to the plight of ordinary human beings who are suffering, not because they are corrupt and immoral, but because our very society is sick, and we are turning our back on our own friends and relatives, because of stupid media bulls**t.

Things have to be pretty bad in somebody's life for them to take a risk with a deadly substance. Things have to be really bad in somebody's life for them to be driven into the arms of a chemical dependency, in preference for choosing life.

Why did I choose not to choose life? Why did I choose something else?

 

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Race to the Bottom

8 min read

This is a story about selling eyeballs...

Laser Eye Cat

You ever wonder why your email is free, Facebook is free, YouTube is free, most of the stuff you can find on the internet is free?

Most companies need to have either a freemium or an ad-supported business model now. Most businesses must endure an army of freetards, who demand the highest possible product standards, but aren't prepared to pay a penny. They will spend their precious time criticising you and your product, but they won't spend a single cent.

In the fierce race to capitalise a market, to monopolise, to acquire the biggest number of users, companies must invest so much in their products, and not hamper growth by introducing advertising too intrusively, or by making people pay.

There's really only one place that things can end up: the biggest players dominate everything, and have to fight over a finite amount of ad revenue and market insight data. Eventually, one tech company can do it all, own it all, dominate the entire market.

At the moment Facebook is the clear favourite for me. I spend far more time looking at curated content on Facebook, than I do searching for new content via Google or on YouTube. I'm interested in what my friends are interested in. My Facebook feed contains far more things that I'm interested in than I can possibly read and watch during my waking hours. There simply isn't enough time left for me to do my own content discovery.

Facebook has also started to take over from my use of email and instant messaging services. It's a kinda convenient one-stop-shop for staying in touch with my network of friends and family. It's all nicely bundled together in one place. You can cancel your account any time you want, but you can never leave.

Google's arse is being well and truly kicked at the moment, in terms of growth. Facebook knows so much about us, the advertising can be super targeted. Facebook knows where I've been, who I've been there with, when I went there, how often I go there. It knows where I went to school, what I studied. It knows who my family are. It knows who I stay most in contact with. It knows what I 'like' and what links I click on. It knows what videos I watch, and what content I scroll right past.

Apple Store Covent Garden

Ok, so I'm an early adopter. I sometimes queue up to get Apple products on the day they launch. Apple are presently the world's biggest company, by market capitalisation (number of shares in issue, multiplied by the share price) but they're far more anti-competitive than Microsoft ever were. Safari comes pre-installed on my Macbook and I never get asked if I would like a different browser.

Apple are trying to dominate the ad space by forcing app developers to go through their iAds platform and blocking any other advertising. They're trying to leverage their strong position as a software and hardware platform, to gain the biggest share of the lucrative advertising revenue. Eventually, they're going to land up in legal hot water.

Facebook is far better placed to become the dominant platform for advertisers and companies looking to gain market insight. It's entirely fair that when I use a free website, that the terms and conditions state that they can show me adverts and use my data. It's not fair that when I buy a £600 smartphone, it somehow limits what I can see on the internet. It's not fair if Apple start selling my private location data, my phone usage habits etc.

In the bizarre world of the battles between the world's largest tech companies, you might be surprised to learn that for every Google Android phone sold, Microsoft make the most profit. That's because Google have to pay patent royalties to Microsoft. The important silicon chips inside your smartphone, make a healthy profit for a company that didn't even manufacture them. That company is ARM, who license the chip designs to manufacturers, and take a royalty payment for every chip that gets made.

The legal battles that are brewing will eclipse everything ever seen before. The amount of money that is at stake is unprecedented.

But what happens if you extrapolate? Well, basically, you will probably get given a free phone, the whole concept of paying for software or subscription services will completely disappear, but your privacy, your data will be completely up for grabs to the highest bidder, along with your eyeballs, which will be continually bombarded by targeted ads.

Ancillary industries, like music and film production, and writing, will be consumed into this dominant giant, and high quality content will only exist as the bait for your eyeballs. You won't be able to read another book without there being some kind of product placement having been woven into the plot. Authors have to eat too.

The fact is, that the era of the busker or the indie musician is over. People think that the number of Facebook fans that you have or the number of Twitter followers is somehow directly monetisable, so the idea of chucking 50 pence into a hat or paying for music is unthinkable to the freetard army.

Naturally, with all the advertising money washing around, people who are creating content, simply because they are creative individuals with time and talent on their hands, are simply drowned out in a sea of noise created by the paid content creators. You have no money to market your content, so nobody will even find it or consume it. There's no reason for it to exist, if it's not pushing some product or service.

In fact, traditional goods & services are having their revenues squeezed. Why would you buy a travel guidebook when you have TripAdvisor and a load of ad-supported websites that you can browse on your smartphone, virtually anywhere in the world? The fact that the travel guidebook at least maintains a degree of commercial impartiality is missed by many people, who will end up eating in restaurants or staying in hotels that have paid to be written about.

We don't tend to pay at all, or pay very little, for our news sources. That means that those news outlets are getting the lions share of their revenue from advertising, which exercises at least a kind of censorship over unfavourable news coverage, if not outright direction over how real life events are reported. How can you trust news sources with such commercial interests behind them?

TechStars Warner Yard

You might think that because I've hacked away at some bit of software, making an app or a website, in some trendy co-working space in the heart of Tech City, that's the reason why it's trending on Twitter, that's the reason it's 'going viral'. Actually, most social media campaigns - even the viral ones - are planned and executed by a sophisticated service industry that caters to those who wish to market themselves using the modern mediums.

I often wonder what the point of Twitter is. I have a bot that follows somebody, and their bot messages me back to say thanks for following them. Are there any real people on Twitter, or is it all bots, releasing content at strategically timed intervals, and doing their robotic interactions in a way that's been designed to appear humanlike?

We have loads of stats & data that tell us about content engagement. How much do we mould ourselves, and how we act, in order to increase that engagement? How often do we think about how many 'likes' we're going to get on a Facebook comment, just before we hit the 'post' button.

Frankly, I've tried to detach myself. I'm just writing relatively blindly. I can see how many Facebook likes I get and I can see how many link clicks I get on Twitter, but broadly speaking, I have no idea how many people read what I write, when they read it, where they're based in the world. If I did have those stats, that data, it could start to corrupt the integrity of what I'm trying to do.

That's the most interesting thing of all to me. That I've been able to write the equivalent of two novels of content, and publish it into the public domain, with barely anybody noticing. That shows just how much noise there is out there. That shows just how much content everybody is churning out, into the ether. I could have whispered all my secrets into the hollow of an ancient tree that was about to be felled, for all the difference it would have made to the world.

It felt daring at first, churning this stuff out. But now there's just this dawning realisation that everybody's doing the same thing. There's so many "me too!" folks and wannabe authors, musicians and filmmakers out there in the big wide world, that you can really say or do anything you want, safe in the anonymity of noise.

Headphones

Welcome to the global silent disco. Headphones on, zoned out

 

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Lapse vs Relapse

5 min read

This is a story about helping people...

Next Pro Surfers

Those are some kids from an extremely poor fishing village in Northern Brazil who I gave my surfboard to. Imagine one of them gets really good at surfing, like former Brazilian windsurfing World Champion, Ricardo Campbello. But then imagine if they get a lucrative sponsorship deal and then with their wealth and fame, they get into drugs and die of an overdose. Did I help or did I hinder?

Same dilemma when a friend or relative gets sick. If you help them back to health, they might then go on to do something that they wouldn't have been able to if you'd just let them die. You now feel responsible for their fate. If they do good things, you feel glad and proud of what you did to help them. If they do bad things, you question whether you should have helped them, and not just let them die.

Is that how it works? I don't know. I don't tend to look at people and actions as good and bad. I tend to assume that there is a set of circumstances, an environment, that drives a person's behaviour. I also can't stand by and let things play out. I don't want to play God either, and decide that I know the future, and sit in judgement over anybody. I feel it's my duty to help where I can.

And so it was, I came to be helping Frank, or trying at least, to escape alcoholism and homelessness. A hotel and a hostel that I stuck him in, to get him off the streets, were not exactly thrilled to have him as a guest. But unwittingly, they are part of a larger story that saw Frank go through treatment for alcohol dependency, go teetotal and get a place to live.

Frank at Kings Cross

For all I know, I may have delayed or detracted from something that was inevitable anyway. I might have actually risked his recovery, for all I know. All I know is that when I met him, he was homeless and a polydrug abuser with an alcohol dependency, as well as numerous other health complaints that were being exacerbated by living on the streets.

Naturally, Frank wanted more than I could give. He wanted me to make all his problems go away. Nobody can do that for somebody else. We're all fighting our own fight at the end of the day, we just need some supporters in our corner. We just need somebody to hold the bucket while we spit blood into it.

So, what's the difference between a lapse, and a fully-blown relapse into drug and/or alcohol abuse? Well, somebody who's had a drink, sobered up and is now telling you "I won't do that again" but has a bottle of vodka in their bag is clearly not very committed to sobriety.

During my recent shenanigans, I hid my little bag of Supercrack. Then I took a load of legal benzos and went to sleep. When I woke up, I considered that I needed to end the binge completely, or risk total relapse, however it was too easy to just go and retrieve my little baggie from its hiding place and continue the whole horrid affair.

It wasn't until I chose to flush the chemicals down the plughole, by my own free will, that I had clearly delimited the episode as a lapse, not a relapse.

Anybody is capable of going on the Internet and following the steps that I did, and then tearing open the postal envelope and snorting the contents inside. Therefore, we share the same addictive potential, you & I. In fact, I'm less of a risk than you, because I have far greater first-hand knowledge and experience of what the negative consequences are. It might take you several months or years before you realise that you're in deep s**t.

So, I'm presently going through a chemical and digital detox. That means that I probably haven't read any blog comments, Facebook comments, Facebook messages, WhatsApp messages or anything that has been sent to me electronically. Sorry about that. I do need those messages and I will get round to reading them and responding. I am extremely grateful that you took the time to send me anything. Please keep reaching out.

I do need your help, and it will make a positive difference. You're not 'enabling' me to continue to do anything naughty/bad, and you're not guilty by association to some future as-yet uncommitted crime spree or whatever it is that holds back those who think they have God-like Minority Report style powers to preordain the future.

I've been a bit of a puppet on a string, but I've managed to sever the ties to those unseen hands, and now I'm just your friend, who is very sick and very tired and very alone and very sad and very vulnerable.

 

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