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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

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Sprint Finish

10 min read

This is a story about marathon running...

Stansted Airport

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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LGBTQQIP2SAA

9 min read

This is a story about individualism...

Disguise

It's fun to dress up. It's fun to put on a silly voice. It's fun to wear make-up. It's fun act camp; to mince around. It's fun to belong to a subculture; to be able to identify with your 'kind' - your clan or tribe. It's fun to think of yourself as special and different. It's fun to have a sense of belonging and a strong sense of identity.

Take a walk down Old Compton Street in London's Soho and you'll see lots of men with shaved heads and moustaches wearing white sleeveless T-shirts. They call them clones. The clones are kinda über-masculine - they're generally stocky, muscly men and their bald heads and moustaches accentuate their extreme masculinity. They're so masculine that they live in an all-male world. There's a kind of hyper-sexuality to the clones coupled with a general sense of aggression and strength. It's notable that the clones appeared on the scene before the acronym LGBT started to gain all the additional letters, and vast numbers of teenagers started to become non-binary and pansexual.

In a world of toxic masculinity the pressure on cisgender (i.e. straight) white middle-class men has become unbearable. Born with original sin which means that to whisper "me too" when entering the highly charged arena where everybody claims to be an oppressed victim, is to be aggressively abused by every identity group, from feminists to LGBTQQIP2SAA gender-queers. "Check your privilege" we are told, when it's blatantly obvious that only a very tiny minority of white straight men are the ones who wield any power and control. It's highly unpleasant to be blamed for a situation that I neither created nor supported and I have no power to change.

Viewed as a "success object" I'm regularly asked about my ability to provide, which is like having somebody lecherously staring at my breasts. "Do you own your own home? What car do you drive? Do you have a well-paid job? Do you have a prestigious job title?" I'm asked, with a complete lack of subtlety that I'm being probed to find out if I'm wealthy and conventionally successful or not. It's like having my bum pinched or squeezed. It's like having a lewd pervert mentally undressing me.

I cringe with embarrassment that I wrote a blog post [now deleted] entitled "Feminazi" once, with only a hint of irony. I was trying to annoy an ex because I was in a messed up state - very unwell - and I was suffering some rather strange thoughts and ideas. I'm making excuses where none can really be made, but that's what I did, and I'm ashamed of myself. In the blog post I listed all the many disadvantages of being a man, such as 97% of workplace deaths, 99% of combat deaths, 79% of suicides etc. etc. Those things are all very good evidence that modern man has a pretty tough gig, but I was flirting with misogyny at times and presenting my beliefs with an unhealthy amount of anger and bitterness driving what I was writing.

I wish I was gay.

I've wished I was gay for a very long time. I've tried my very hardest to be gay but it's just not for me, unfortunately.

The reason why I want to be gay is that I've found the homosexual world to be more to my liking than the world in general. I like the quick and easy casual sex of Grindr. I like the flamboyancy and femininity of acting camp. I like the 'scene' and the identity that being gay brings - they don't have "hetero pride" parades, do they? I mainly like the fact that I can be ogled as a sex object and be passive, with potential sexual suitors buttering me up and massaging my ego, and all I have to do is decide who I want to have sex with. In the hetero world as a cisgender man, it's stressful taking risks, making the first move, trying to impress and having horrible knock-backs; it's a lot of pressure to present yourself as eligible and successful, and having gone to all the effort of getting a girlfriend there can be power struggles, with sex and children used as pawns and men are the usually the ones who lose out.

Of course by now, you're probably screaming at the screen that it's harder being a women, gay, trans or whatever particular thing it is that you identify as. You're probably very offended. You probably believe that my opinion is somehow encroaching on your rights and that I'm stealing valuable airtime which needs to be used exclusively by oppressed minority groups.

Everything I write, I worry that I'm somehow veering dangerously towards opinions that would be more at home on Brietbart. I consider myself to be an open-minded lefty liberal who's been through bi-curious periods of life and is quite comfortable with my identity, insofar as I don't think I'm homophobic or transphobic. I really don't think I'm a misogynist, although I admit that I rather bristle with annoyance that men's issues cannot be openly discussed without aggressive hostility being directed towards men who are suffering some very real and extremely horrible issues, and simply want to share their opinion and experiences. Obviously, to be lumped together with the likes of Donald Trump because I'm also a wealthy white man, is quite offensively racist - I'm not part of the so-called patriarchy just because of my skin colour and socioeconomic circumstances.

All these things are unspeakable.

I'm quite well aware of experiments such as this one: Two groups of psychiatrists are given identical case notes on a fictitious person, but one group is told that the person is black, and the psychiatrists in that group will view the fictitious person as much more violent, suspicious and dangerous, even though the only difference in the available evidence is skin colour. Clearly, people of colour still experience dreadful prejudice and discrimination, but we should be able to discuss other instances of prejudice, discrimination, oppression and abuse without considering certain things to be 'off limits'. I know that anybody who said "all lives matter" in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, was heavily criticised for seemingly undermining the central point: that black people suffer a grossly disproportionate amount of police brutality, incarceration and general mistreatment by the criminal justice system. I don't write in reply to movements which seek to reduce rape, sexual assault, discrimination, racism, bigotry, homophobia, transphobia, hate crime, oppression, exploitation and all the other awful things that are going on in the world; I write in addition. Holding and expressing my opinion does not diminish, discredit or undermine anybody else's struggle.

I'm on extremely dodgy ground.

I feel vastly outnumbered. I can't count myself amongst the angry white working-class disadvantaged men who swill lager and spout racial hatred with a St. George's flag draped around their chubby shoulders. I can't count myself amongst the highly-educated metropolitan liberal middle-class elites, although this is the group I most closely identify with. I can't count myself amongst the homeless addicts and alcoholics, although this is the group I'm most socioeconomically closely related to, surprisingly. I've tried my very hardest to be gay but I'm clearly not able to join the LGBTQQIP2SAA club, despite my best efforts. I know that there are men like me - at least in terms of gender, sexual preference, skin colour, education and wealth - who have successfully infiltrated feminism and groups of Social Justice Warriors. Perhaps I could ally myself with a group of outraged individuals and add my angry and aggressive voice to the unified noise that they create. I would certainly like to feel that I safely belong to a group, rather than being an outlier who holds very untrendy opinions which could even be mistaken as similar to those held by horrible gangs of knuckle-dragging thugs.

Am I a racist, bigot, homophobic, transphobic, misogynistic fully paid-up member of the patriarchy, responsible for the oppression of all the very many minority identity groups who'd gladly queue up for an opportunity to abuse me? I certainly lose a lot of sleep at night worrying that I've unwittingly wandered into the less extreme fringe territory of the groups that I detest: the right-wingers.

I'm somebody who's had a lefty liberal multicultural upbringing, and who has been open minded to the point of being almost a terrorist apologist, so desperate am I to distance myself from the Islamophobia sweeping the UK and US. I'm somebody who's always aspired towards equality in the workplace and at home, and has lived and worked in environments more diverse than any other place on the planet: 110 languages are spoken in London, which is twice as many as the next most multicultural city. Is it possible that I'm actually the enemy? Is it possible that I don't know myself at all, and I'm actually chomping at the bit to get swastikas tattooed all over my body and then go tell some women to get back in the kitchen, before kicking a transexual to death?

What has happened in the world where I feel like I've done something wrong and I'd better keep quiet for fear of causing offence and becoming a target for abuse? Why do I feel like I'm speaking the unspeakable? Why do I feel like I'm uttering heresies which no member of the lefty liberal metropolitan elite should ever utter? Why do I feel like I'm risking further isolation, loneliness, exclusion and being viewed as the enemy by people who I like and respect?

I wonder what my right-thinking right-on friends would say if they read this. I fear that they think I've been driven into the arms of the Brietbart brigade and I've become a nasty horrible right-wing scumbag. Is that possible? Have I missed something? Am I sleepwalking into enemy territory?

 

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Forced to be Free

10 min read

This is a story about normality...

Psych ward garden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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CIP

4 min read

This is a story about preferential treatment...

European sockets

If you Google Translate "Very Important Person" (VIP) into Portuguese, you get "Pessoa Muito Importante" (PMI). It seems like the Portuguese prefer the acronym CIP, but I can't find a definition of what that stands for.

Anyway, as well as getting to spend a couple of days with my friend, I also get to be his guest in the airport lounge reserved for frequent fliers. The big advantage of this is a comfy seat near a power socket, where I can do a bit of work, write this blog post, and otherwise kill time until my flight starts boarding, which won't be for a few hours.

Most of the conversation with my friend during Saturday, Sunday and today, has revolved around middle-class guilt and social conscience. Is it right, for example, that the most wealthy are able to hide their money in Swiss bank accounts and offshore, to shield it from taxation? As a proportion of a person's income or net worth, it's the poor who shoulder the biggest burden in taxes, fees and other things - such as exorbitant interest rates on loans - which prejudice the opportunities of the most disadvantaged members of society, to escape from poverty.

A friend who's a chartered accountant has decided to become an independent consultant, like me. We discussed the tax efficiency of owning and operating our own companies versus paying full income tax and National Insurance on our gross income. Surprisingly, we pay slightly more tax than those who are PAYE (Pay As You Earn) and have their taxes deducted at source by their employers.

Also surprising is the laudable decision of some of my friends who have been lucky enough to become wealthy, to not hide their wealth offshore or in Swiss bank accounts - they're paying their fair share and playing by society's rules; they're giving back to the economies which they profited from. You might say that "laudable" is the wrong word, but there is a considerable burden involved in the administration of complex tax affairs, and the bureaucracy of ensuring that governments receive all the taxes which they are due. Often times, it would be far easier to avoid taxes than to pay them, because there's a whole industry which profits from providing simple and convenient services to the wealthy.

Are we being philanthropic; altruistic? No, of course not. The thing that's driving our behaviour is guilt. We feel guilty that we have been lucky when others have not been. Paying taxes doesn't absolve a person of that guilt, but deliberately avoiding taxes is something extra that the lucky ones should feel guilty about.

What about giving money to charity? Does that absolve a person of the guilt they feel about their fortune in life?

The problem is that a clean conscience can be bought very cheaply. A seemingly large charitable donation might actually be only a tiny fraction of a person's net wealth; a bit of 'disposable' income that wouldn't be missed at all. Even more perversely, tax rules can make a rich person's donation of "pocket change" look like a significant act of philanthropy, while a poor person's unavoidable tax burden is by the far the greater contribution, and yet not recognised as such.

Then, there's the protective bubble problem. If you work on a secure campus or private estate and live in a gated community, you're largely insulated from seeing poverty, homelessness and disproportionately protected from becoming a victim of crime. In fact, just living in a wealthy country, you're insulated from the global wealth disparity created by the subsidies, import tariffs and other economic weapons which are employed to keep the rich rich, and the poor poor.

After 3 days of chatting, my friend and I arrived at the conclusion that we'd have to go through 3 generations of misery to reach a state of global equality and social justice. When I say "we" I mean mostly the wealthiest 2% of people on the planet, which my friend is convinced we can count ourselves amongst; he and I.

How can I disagree with him that I enjoy a life of wealth and privilege which 98% do not, when I'm sitting in a leather chair typing these words on one of my 5 laptops, enjoying free electricity, free food & drink as well as having the leisure time to craft this valueless contribution to the internet's quadrillions of webpages.

It's OK though: I'm a CIP. I deserve preferential treatment.

 

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The Arrogance of the Guardian Class

4 min read

This is a story about the end of democracy...

Don't bomb Syria

There's a widely held belief that our governments know what's best for us, because they're privy to information that the general public aren't. In the case of foreign affairs, our military intelligence gathering agencies will prepare briefings for those in power, which will persuade our government to act in the interests of national security. However, this runs contrary to the principles of civilised society, where information is presented transparently and we the people decide what's best for us - that's called justice, and that's called democracy.

Would you want to be imprisoned or sentenced to death at the whim of a powerful ruler, on the basis of a flimsy allegation? Would you do away with jury trials and the burden of proof? Would you prefer to hand all the power to a ruling elite who 'know better' than the rest of us, as opposed to having a democratic system?

The idea that there are a group of people who are smarter than all of us, and more capable of making an informed decision that's the best for everyone, has eroded the power of democracy and our own individual agency. Instead of being able to make our own informed decisions, the decisions are taken for us by people who think that they know best.

Life-or-death decisions are taken by people behind closed doors, who arrogantly believe that they are doing the right thing, because they surround themselves with other members of the guardian class. By talking privately amongst themselves in their bubble, they arrogantly believe that their intellect is superior to that of others, and that they will be able to reach a decision that's best for everyone, without consulting any mere mortals. This self-appointed elite believe they're smarter and make better decisions than the general populace, and have a right to hand down judgements as well as to keep their process and decision making opaque. By sticking together in a tiny clique, this arrogant group convince themselves that they're following a process that legitimises their tyranny.

There simply aren't a group of people who are better than the rest of us. There aren't a group of people who know better than the rest of us. The elites are self-appointed, and they mistakenly believe they are superior, because of exam grades, job titles and other social status symbols. The jury system delivers a consensus from a cross-section of society, which is a safeguard against arrogant people who believe their own bullshit and think they know it all.

Under communism, the belief that the greater good was more important than any individual's suffering or death, led to an end-justifies-the-means culture that killed millions. Today, we have a culture that worships the great and the good who believe they are infallible elites capable of deciding what's best for all of us, because they're better than the rest of us.

This is not anti-intellectualism. This is anti-elitism. You can be an intellectual without being an elitist. You can care about people and the fate of humanity without being a tyrant. You can be caring and compassionate without installing yourself in a position of ultimate power in people's lives. Nobody should have the power to rule over their peers, in a minority group - that erodes democracy and creates misery, suffering and death.

I abhor those committee sitters who are so hungry for power that they have abandoned public service, in pursuit of positions which afford them godlike powers over ordinary people's lives. I have a deep hatred for anybody who thinks that they alone can make a decision, when presented with some information which they guard and horde, lest it become an open and transparent decision making process and their power base is eroded.

I've witnessed first-hand the scramble to censor, cover-up and cover arses after a death, where the committee sitter was culpable. Instead of inviting transparency and admitting that the elitist arrogance was the cause of death, the committee sitters close ranks and become thick as thieves - skulking around in the shadows. The arrogance, when this behaviour is causing lives to be lost, is the reason that so many lives continue to be lost. Instead of relinquishing their power, admitting their mistakes, becoming open and transparent, those who are culpable for deaths continue to believe that they know best.

It sickens me that there are a group of people who think they have a license to kill; some kind of moral justification for their tyranny and the misery and deaths they cause.

 

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Devolution

7 min read

This is a story about overcrowding...

3D Printing

In the animal kingdom resources are scarce. Food is hard to come by so the best areas to hunt and gather are highly sought after. Defending your territory requires a constant battle with other individuals who want to encroach. Controlling resources gives a surplus of food, which means that surplus can be used to rear offspring. Having a food surplus means you're attractive to a mate - you clearly have the genes to protect your territory, which means you should be a good provider and your offspring should reach genetic maturity and be able to pass on your genes.

In the animal kingdom, what's good for the individual is generally good for the species. Territory disputes will result in fights, some of which may be fatal, but self-preservation instincts cause animals to prefer to avoid conflict. There is no 'delicate equilibrium' - the animal kingdom is a constant battle that ebbs and flows, and whole species are regularly wiped out, for no other reason than pure bad luck - the starting conditions and what happens thereafter are decided by the roll of a dice.

When humans behave like animals, they revere violence, muscle, domination, cruelty, bullying, monopolies, power, control, conquest, shows of force, agression and all the other vulgar traits of a supposedly intelligent creature, which leads to rape and pillage when it is allowed to continue unchecked. We celebrate the rapists in our culture - the 'hero' soldiers and the meathead bullies; the 1% who control 50% of the wealth. We revere the bestial. We worship the animalistic.

When an animal gets a food surplus, it then wants a sex surplus. It's a common male fantasy to want a harem of females. Obviously, with there being an approximately 50:50 male to female population ratio, there are going to be men who are going to lose out. In the animal kingdom, those 'beta' males would fight with the 'alphas' for breeding rights. This is something that we see culturally celebrated - there are various rituals that seem to demonstrate that there's a 'victor' in a simulated 'battle'... it's called sport. It's a zero-sum game: for there to be a winner, there has to be a loser.

We are not animals. We are humans and that is distinct and different, because we are self-aware. We are able to preserve knowledge between generations using spoken, written - and more recently - video as a communication mechanism. We have language. We have reason and logic and science.

Prostitution is an evolutionary advancement. Prostitution allows anybody who is capable of generating value in society to be able to access sex. Prostitution allows sex to be traded with the smartest individuals, and not just the strongest. Having sex with the smartest is an evolutionary advancement, because it allows the species to develop at a rate that grows exponentially, because it is not restricted by selective breeding and genetic mutation - if smart people fuck, they raise smart kids... not because of their genes, but because of their upbringing.

Clearly, we are in the middle of an evolutionary split. If you think about the big 5 tech companies - Alphabet (Google), Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft - then imagine how the founders of those companies would fare in the stone age, you'd be pretty sure that those guys would not get laid. The multi-billion dollar tech company founders are classic 'beta' males, aren't they?

Meanwhile, toxic masculinity has reached such epic proportions that the swollen muscles and tanned skin, that 100 years ago would have shown that you were a farm worker, and therefore poor and stupid, is now revered as attractive.

One branch of society worships agression and bestial behaviour - fighting, war, muscle - while another branch of humanity is rapidly evolving and pulling away from the thick-skulled knuckle-draggers. Who's going to win in a fight? You with your muscles and tiny brain, or me with my army of AI-controlled drones? Who's going to win? The dirt poor idiots, or the richest smartest people on the planet?

The geeks are inheriting the earth.

Meanwhile, homosexuality seems to be the next evolutionary stage. Homosexuality means unlimited sex without having to engage in the bullshit drama that's always created during bestial, animalistic, heteronormative fulfilment of the will of the genes. Procreation is a massive distraction from deep thinking and scientific discovery. A scientist can dedicate their whole life to research and pass on their knowledge through what they write and publish, so there's really no need for any genetic heirs. We all benefit handsomely from the work of the geniuses who have lived and died before, whether they had children or not. Anybody is capable of reading the works of a great scientist and becoming one themselves. The birth of knowledge is far more important than the birth of beasts.

Then, suicide. The candle that burns twice as bright burns half as long.

The vast body of discovered knowledge is far greater than the human mind was evolved to cope with. We are not supposed to know the secrets of the universe. We are not supposed to understand that we are mortal creatures who are cosmically insignificant. To attempt to grasp the ungraspable is to destroy our own sense of wellbeing. There's cold comfort knowing that we're held onto the surface of a rock by the weakest physical force - gravity - while we orbit a ball of gas that's a dying star in the vacuum of space, in a universe that's so vast it's beyond comprehension. We weren't supposed to travel in motor cars. We weren't supposed to fly in jet planes. We weren't supposed to live in skyscrapers. Everything about modern life is anathema to us - it creates great anxiety and distress. Just think about how many people have a fear of flying.

Suicide is a natural response for a person who can comprehend their own mortality and see that life is suffering. A smart person can see that their life is meaningless. A smart person can comprehend their insignificance in the universe. Once you've figured out that life is pointless, and life is suffering, then suicide is logical. The smartest humans will quickly assimilate enough knowledge to see that it's not worth suffering and that death is preferable to life. The survival instinct is genetically programmed, to ensure survival of the species. If the individual is suffering, then of course their own individual suffering is more important than the survival of the species as a whole. In fact, the suicide of those who are prone to suicidal thoughts is better for the survival of the species, although the gene persists because it is intellect that makes a person more likely to commit suicide. Suicide is an intellectual's best option, to end the suffering.

Humans are incredibly adaptable, and we have learned to live with the anxiety-inducing awfulness of the modern world, where most of us cram into overcrowded cities for economic reasons. Most of us are living with cramped living conditions, crime, disease, pollution, noise, ugly buildings, bright lights, overcrowded transport networks and all the other terrible things that modern urban living has given us. We like to think we're terribly technologically advanced, but we've simply gotten used to all the bad stuff that would leave stone age man whimpering; cowering in a corner with fear and overloaded senses.

Devolution - de-evolution - is happening. Humanity has fragmented. The thick-skulled knuckle-draggers will drag themselves back to the stone age, because that's where they feel comfortable. The stupid ones will have loads of children, and they'll teach those children to be stupid. Stupidity is celebrated in the underclass.

If you're smart, you won't have kids and you'll kill yourself.

 

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Closet Tory

3 min read

This is a story about sacred cows...

Police cordon

A closet Tory lives in an ivory tower where they believe they are immune from criticism. A closet Tory is so removed from reality that they'll lecture a penniless homeless person on the virtues of living frugally, while at the same time sending their children to a private school that costs £30,000 per annum, per child.

A closet Tory is somebody who believes that suicide being the biggest killer of men under the age of 45 is an acceptable price to pay to stop a tiny handful of malingerers from receiving incapacity benefit. "Get a job!" they metaphorically shout at beggars, as they spit on them.

A closet Tory is somebody who tells a person who's down to their last £20 that they're not poor... "is that YOUR kind of poor or MY kind of poor?" they ask sarcastically, implying that being down your last few houses, luxury cars, and wads of cash in the bank is somehow more poor than being down to your last £20. A closet Tory is somebody who's so deluded that they believe they're poor, even though they own a huge property portfolio, luxury cars, send their kids to private school and pay for private tutors, and they have a safe well-paid prestigious job. A closet Tory lives in a fantasy world, where they believe that they're hard-done-by, while believing the genuinely impoverished and vulnerable people are having a lovely time.

A closet Tory is somebody who has no compassion for the sick and needy; the vulnerable. A closet Tory thinks that they can read people's minds. A closet Tory thinks they know that they know that people are lying when they say that they can't work. A closet Tory thinks that suicides are an acceptable price to pay, in order to coerce desperate people into miserable McJobs for the capitalists. A closet Tory is a friend of the capitalists, not a friend of the people and not a friend of the vulnerable. A closet Tory puts capitalist profits ahead of human misery. A closet Tory cares nothing about risk to life.

A closet Tory installs themselves into a position of power and authority, and then proceeds to inflict misery on vast numbers of people. A closet Tory is cruel and uncaring about the lives they're wrecking, because they hold the delusional belief that mistreating and abusing vulnerable people is the best way to coerce them into becoming capitalist slaves. A closet Tory believes it's their duty and their right to sit in judgement over others, and decide who's lazy and deserves to die. A closet Tory thinks that suicide is an acceptable risk, when coercing people into miserable McJobs. A closet Tory thinks they're the job police, and they abuse their position of responsibility to perpetuate the perpetration of misery on the British public.

That's what a closet Tory is. They live in their massive house and their kids want for nothing, and they believe their own bullshit... they believe that they earned and deserve what they've got, while the rest of us are fucking scum who should fuck off and die. The contempt a closet Tory holds for ordinary people is disgusting. If you spend much time with a closet Tory, they'll constantly regale you with anecdotes that will make their detestable views crystal clear - they'll mock, belittle, denigrate and disrespect the vulnerable people who they have power over.

That's why I can't be friends with a closet Tory.

 

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Don't be a Martyr

6 min read

This is a story about barriers to entry...

Crash barrier

I'll admit that as a child I took the path of least resistance. Instead of dentistry, which I realised was going to be monotonously boring - if you've seen inside one mouth, you've seen them all - I chose a route that would lead to getting rich quick. Soon, I had a wonderful lifestyle and I never really had to kowtow to any gatekeepers or doff my cap in deference to the slave-owners.

I thought about what I was going to write tonight and I thought I'd come up with a really great blog post title, but it turns out I already used it. In fact, I've written so much that somewhere there's something that perfectly captures everything I'm going through.

I wrote at length about the indignity of being subjected to external scrutiny, when I consider that my 20-year career should have now put me beyond the awfulness of such a process - who the fuck are you to judge me? Of course, if you were hiring somebody for their specialist skills, how would you be able to judge whether they are competent or not, unless you yourself are an expert? One does not have a dog and bark oneself, etc. etc.

Thus, we rely mostly day-to-day on a web of trust. Somebody who is recommended by a friend is much more trusted than a total stranger. Friends of friends are our friends. We stick together. Homo sapiens is a social animal.

What happens when our social network disintegrates? How do we ever rejoin civilised society?

Speaking from personal experience, re-entering the game is very difficult. It's nigh-on impossible to get anybody to take a punt on a talented nobody, versus a talentless fuckwit who knows how to play the game. I don't begrudge the fuckwits - so long as they stay the fuck out of my way - and perhaps it's me who's got things wrong. Many colleagues of mine are qualified for nothing more than keeing a seat warm, reading the news, listening to the radio, watching videos online and counting down the hours minutes and seconds until it's time to go home. If you were hoping to get ahead in life on merit, you're going to be sorely disappointed and frustrated.

It would be unfortunate if I was mischaracterised as somebody who's not a team player. I love my colleagues and I need human interaction, although it seems like my work has a kind of purity that means there's always a right answer and a wrong answer. I'm a fucking wet dream for greedy bosses, because I deliver early and under budget, which is unheard of in my industry, but perhaps it's me who's letting the side down - I should deliberately work at the pace of the slowest worker, because of worker solidarity.

I'm rambling, but I've reached the ragged limit of what I can handle. Either things go my way, or I feel like life's not worth living. I'm blackmailing life to give me what I want, using my own life as an expendable hostage.

Whether I deserve to succeed or not, given the rough ride I've had and the effort that's been expended... these are questions of worthiness that you should answer by having two tramps fight to the death over a half-bottle of wine, just for your own sick amusement. All I can tell you is that having worked my way back from the brink of death and destitution, all I've got to say is fuck you, buddy. You think I should curtail my efforts and scrub toilets for minimum wage, living in some shithole? Fuck you. I'd rather die.

There are matters concerning loss of status and loss of dignity - these are not trivial. If somebody lives the high life and they fall from grace, it's not realistic to expect champagne and sportscars any more, but what about some dignity in labour? What about being paid a wage that reflects a person's skills and experience?

Of course I'm raising the wider question about whether anybody is really paid what they're worth. Of course, we all know full well that the value that we deliver in terms of pure pounds and pence that we put into the pockets our slave-owning capitalist tyrants, does not at all reflect our effort and our productivity, but you know what? The question still has to be asked and has to be answered.

I might seem like some bleeding-heart left-leaning-libtard who thinks they're owed a living, but the evidence doesn't support your assumption. Through all my turbulent times, I've never claimed incapacity benefits, job-seeking benefits, housing benefits, tax credits or any of the myriad forms of state support that are supposedly available to me. I'm trying to play an honest game. I'm trying to play by the rules of the conservative politics that seem to rule the day. I'm trying to work my way out of poverty and back to a position of health, wealth and prosperity.

If I fail, what does it mean? Failure could be utterly catastrophic for me. Even though I have friends who somewhat underwrite my risk, offering to give me a roof over my head, can you imagine working your bollocks off through a 20-year career and having nothing to show for it?... not even some kind of state handout. I thought it would be awful to be dependent on the welfare state, but it's actually more awful to be dependent on out-and-out charity, which could end on a whim.

I don't want to hold a gun to my own head and make my demands, but I came a long way since rough sleeping in a bush. If anybody ever had any doubts about employing an ex-homeless, ex-junkie, washed up loser weirdo who's lost everything, then haven't I proved the case for my fellow unfortunates and myself? When's a guy gonna catch a break?

I'm not trying to elbow my way to the front of the queue. I'm no more deserving than the next person who's equally needy and in distress. To the casual observer, I enjoy a whole host of advantages over the struggling masses. It's not a competition. It shouldn't be a competition.

If you think life's all about survival of the fittest and "it's a jungle out there" then fuck off and de-evolve already, you knuckle-dragging c**t.

 

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Short & Sweet

11 min read

This is a story about burnout...

Graffitti

There's a lie which we're all guilty of perpetuating: Work hard and you can improve your life; if you work hard enough you can achieve anything. It's not true and it's wicked to repeat the lie, because we end up blaming ourselves for our appalling living conditions. "If only I'd tried harder in school" so many of us wail, but "if only I worked harder" is not something that a dying person ever says on their deathbed.

It's obvious that there's a grotesque disparity between hard work, dedication, passion, productivity and personal wealth. If you're going to try and argue that the owner of a large property portfolio works harder than a nurse, then you deserve a punch in the face. If you believe that the beneficiary of a trust fund, who doesn't have to work at all, is somehow more deserving than the person who cleans toilets for a living, then you must be suffering from psychosis.

I've heard it said that life is fair, because it's unfair to everybody. Human afflictions don't care whether you're rich or poor - a billionaire still needs an ambulance and a cardiac surgeon if they have a heart problem, and money can't buy them immortality. However, this does not seem to consider the great injustice of the world: that our efforts and actions will make virtually no difference at all. It doesn't matter how badly you want to study at Oxbridge and enter a lucrative profession - if you were born into the wrong socioeconomic circumstances, you're not going to be able to achieve your potential. It doesn't matter how badly you want to elevate yourself from poverty, and how hard you work - you're trapped and you'll never escape.

The media love to shove folklore heroes in our face. The media work very hard to assist our willing suspension of disbelief. Little girls think they're going to be like Kate Middleton and marry a prince - the tale that we're told is that she's an ordinary girl and that any one of us could be plucked out of poverty, but it's bullshit... she went to a very expensive private school. Little boys think they're going to become 'self-made' men, and there are plenty of examples of entrepreneurs who claim to have not received any assistance in building their business empires, except that close scrutiny reveals that they had their risk underwritten by friends and family; they have access to wealth and connections that ordinary people don't.

You show me the success story and I'll show you the unfair advantages that the person enjoyed. Nobody got to the top on merit. Nobody gets anywhere by working hard - it's a lie.

In fact, to work hard and assume that it's going to lead to pay rises and promotions is a kind of mental illness: it's called "Tiara Syndrome". It's a bit like the fantasy of a knight in shining armour coming to rescue us - a person who has Tiara Syndrome is expecting that somebody will come along and put a tiara on their head, just because they work really hard and they're good at their job. Sadly, it doesn't happen.

Behind every fortune is a great crime. The only way to get ahead in life is to lie, cheat and steal.

"The power of enclosing land and owning property was brought into the creation by your ancestors by the sword; which first did murder their fellow creatures, men, and after plunder or steal away their land, and left this land successively to you, their children. And therefore, though you did not kill or thieve, yet you hold that cursed thing in your hand by the power of the sword; and so you justify the wicked deeds of your fathers, and that sin of your fathers shall be visited upon the head of you and your children to the third and fourth generation, and longer too, till your bloody and thieving power be rooted out of the land"

A Declaration from the Poor Oppressed People of England (1649)

So, if we've been writing about this problem for the best part of 400 years, things must be alright, mustn't they? Don't fix what ain't broke and all that. Why rock the boat?

Life expectancies are starting to fall - people are dying younger. There's a mental health epidemic. There's an opioid epidemic. Living standards are declining. Billions of people live in poverty, and within our lifetime we'll witness a Malthusian catastrophe that will dwarf any other mass extinction event seen on planet earth. If you thought the Ethiopian famine was bad, wait until you see what the next few decades have got in store for us. With high-yield modern mechanised farming techniques, we have plenty of food, but we are staggeringly bad at sharing things fairly. If you believe that the present situation of wealth disparity is acceptable, then you're signing the death warrant for billions of people - a holocaust knowingly perpetrated on the human race, for no better reason than sheer unadulterated greed.

Remember that none of the Nazis were allowed to say "I was just following orders" as any kind of defence. To fail to act and to say that you're just doing what everyone else is doing, is immoral. To be passive and turn a blind eye, or to throw up your hands and say "there's nothing I can do" is not acceptable. Yes, it's our instinct to look after our own families, but the day is coming when that selfishness will backfire. Your kids are going to need a place to live. Your kids are going to end up in debt. Your kids are facing a shitty future, and your grandkids are going to inherit a completely hopelessly screwed situation - do you think they'll agree with you, that it was right that you sat back and did nothing?

If you think you're helping your kids by instilling some kind of 'work ethic' in them and getting them to study hard, you're making a mistake. Remember: nobody ever got anywhere by working hard. Hard work can be a useful thing, but we must consider what our labour is being used for - if it's making weapons and oppressing people, then hard work is immoral when it contributes to the war on humanity. Sometimes the best thing to do is to withhold labour - to deprive the tyrants of the manpower they need to conquer and achieve world domination. Sometimes the best thing to do is conscientiously object; to nonviolently protest.

I've thought long and hard about how I can make a difference. I thought about medicine. I thought about law. I thought about politics. I thought about science and engineering. I find myself in technology, and I'm desperately disappointed. No amount of smartphone apps and websites is going to address the problems at the root cause, which appears to be competition. Why must there be competition? Why do we have to measure and grade people, and declare that some of us are not worthy of consideration? Why do we have artificial scarcity and force people to fight over an artificially limited amount of so-called 'money'? Why do we put artificial limits on the numbers of people who can pursue a certain professional discipline? Why do we want to have elitism? Why do 99% have to be told they're shit and they don't matter and they're expendable, so that the 1% can feel special?

I was on the fast-track. I was made unconditional university offers and allowed to skip entire academic years. I got onto a graduate training program 3 years sooner than any of my peers. I got pay rises and promotions so quickly that I was earning six-figures by the age of 20. I'm an example of one of those success stories that you might read about, that are supposed to make you believe that with enough hard work anyone can reach the top of the pyramid - be a CEO or a prime minister or a president, or a king or queen. It's bullshit. Why would I turn on the system that's given me everything I've ever wanted? Why would I bite the hand that feeds me?

No amount of houses, sports cars, yachts, speed boats, luxury holidays and all the other trimmings of a wealthy life can ever make you quite feel like you're content with the way things are, because you can never fully insulate yourself from the suffering and poverty that surrounds us. The fact that you're reading this on a PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone, means that you're one of the lucky ones - you're somewhere that has electricity and the internet, which means there's probably clean drinking water too. If you think about those less fortunate than yourself, they're probably considerably well below your standard of living. Wherever you are in the pecking order, there's always some unfortunate who's desperately in need of help, because we've set up society to fail people - the very process of succeeding ourselves means trampling others underfoot to get ahead in life. It's a zero sum game - for somebody to win, there has to be a loser.

Life doesn't have to be like this - so adversarial. There's no limit on the number of "A" grades we can give out, or the amount of money we can print. There's no limit on the number of doctors we can have. We live in a world that's been artificially constrained to create winners and losers. There's no need to have competition so inbuilt to society. Yes, we might see that nature is full of competition - survival of the fittest - but we're not beasts. We've become super-intelligent and capable of producing vast surpluses of everything we need. With high-yield farming techniques and agricultural mechanisation, we can feed ourselves until we burst. With mass production and factories, we can have a virtually unlimited amount of goods - clothes and shoes and building materials, as well as pointless consumer crap that we arguably don't need.

Like the many utopians who I studied while doing the research for my second novel, I can see a world that's jam-packed with all the technology that we need to improve the human condition, and elevate half the planet out of poverty. I can see that we already possess everything we need - we don't need nuclear fusion or flying cars or any other sci-fi fantasies... we already have the means at our disposal, to improve our lives.

As a person who wants to make a positive difference - to effect meaningful change - I find it very distressing that those who are working very hard to improve the world are being thwarted. Imagine all the effort put in by doctors, nurses, politicians, charity workers and myriad others who do what they do because they want to make the world a better place... but it's not working, is it? The world is getting steadily more and more fucked up.

If you think I'm seeing the world through a 'blue filter' and my depression tinges my perceptions, we only need to look at the hard data - homelessness, depression, anxiety, alcoholism, drug addiction, poverty, crime and all the other indicators we have of the health of our society are telling the same story: Things are getting worse, not better. Your kids will have to get into heaps of debt to obtain their education, and then they won't be able to afford to buy a house. Your kids are going to struggle to find work. Your kids are going to struggle, full stop. Your grandkids are absolutely fucked. It doesn't take a genius to extrapolate from the data and see where we're headed. Things aren't just going to magically improve without anybody doing anything. Don't look to politicians to cure society's problems. Don't look to charity to cure society's problems. Don't look to the church to cure society's problems. If any of the existing status quo members were going to do something to fix things, they'd have done it at some point in the last 400 years, wouldn't they?

I haven't figured out what I'm going to do yet, but the best "not in my name" protest I can think of is to kill myself. The best way I can think of to register my objection with the status quo, is to end my life.

Maybe I have a lemming-like instinct to kill myself because of overpopulation. Perhaps my genes are telling me to kill myself for the good of the species. Certainly the self-preservation instinct feels much weaker than the powerful emotions that tear through me, thinking about the futility of the oft-tried ways of making a difference.

If there's no opportunity to make a meaningful contribution, why go on?

 

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Meditations on Mediocrity

10 min read

This is a story about being at the top of the bell curve...

Concrete bunker

The world has pushed you one of two directions. Either you feel like the smartest guy or girl in the room, or you feel distinctly average; part of the herd. For some of us, society conspires to make us feel like the top dog and that we can lord it over our fellow humans because we're oh-so smart and important; a big cheese. For others, we take our comfort in knowing that we're just the same as our peers - ordinary and unremarkable.

You might notice a habit of the perennial committee sitter to offer unwanted advice and solutions to solve problems you didn't even know you had. You may observe that the person who believes they have risen above the masses is rather keen to take you down a peg or two - they'll take every cheap shot they can to undermine your self-confidence, lest you start to believe in yourself.

Likewise, you might notice an excessive humbleness - bordering on the pathologically self-critical and self-doubting - that holds back those capable members of society who actually do the work, not seeking to idly sit in judgement over others. You'll hear people giving credit where credit's not due, to those who have cheated and sharply elbowed their way to the front of the queue. A kind of weak-kneed deference is given to the great and the good that is wholly undeserved.

We are all mediocre. Whether we have millions of adoring fans or apparently none, there is no human being who is thousands of times better than another. No man or woman deserves praise and adulation that is manyfold greater than given to their peers. Although we have a tendency to hero-worship, revere men of letters and fetishise those who hold coveted job titles or wear uniforms, we sometimes forget that these are just ordinary people who are role playing - abusing the human psychological weakness towards those in authority.

Any one of us might purchase a fluorescent jacket and start bossing our fellow citizens around, and people will be surprisingly compliant. Any one of us can buy our way into a position of fame and influence, and people will attach a surprising amount of gravitas to our words. "Oooh, what a great leader! How wise they are!" people coo with approval as they unthinkingly accept the artificial social status that was conferred by something bizarre and abstract, such as a metal badge pinned to somebody's chest.

There's a confidence trick that propels ordinary mediocre people into becoming little Hitlers who believe they have a god-given right to exercise dominion over their peers. Those who believe - mistakenly - that they have risen above mediocrity start to believe their own bullshit and fall in love with their own reflection. Buoyed by the unearned respect that's been shown, the pompous little twats start thinking that they can solve everyone's problems and do anything - they start to think they can do any job and know everything there is to know; they believe their opinion and contribution is always valuable, when demonstrably it is not.

In order to support the delusions of grandeur, the world has to be simplified so that trite and painfully obvious solutions to the oversimplified problems can be thrust upon the lower orders. "Have you tried not being poor? Maybe you should try having money like I do. I'm great!" say those who have become rich and powerful by fluke of birth and other circumstances beyond anybody's control. It's impossible to measure anybody's value as a person versus their peers, because sheer blind luck gifts us vastly different advantages in life.

Virtue signalling by those who are succeeding in life is something which turns my stomach. I abhor those who believe that the reason why they're fitter, healthier, happier, richer, more academically qualified and in jobs of higher social status, is somehow due to smarter choices and harder work, or worse, genetic superiority. We can only play the cards we're dealt.

If we consider our place in the universe we should be humbled. If we consider our net contribution we should not be so pleased with ourselves. Everybody is distinctly average and we live meaningless lives. We are all destined to be forgotten.

Of course, fame and positions of high social status lead some of us to believe we're not far from the top of the pyramid, but this is stupidity. You might only be 3 promotions away from becoming the president, prime minister, CEO or other apex member of society, but you haven't done the maths. If each person has 15 people who report to them - such as the prime minister's cabinet - then you'll be competing with at least 3,375 other eager little Hitlers vying to get onto the next rung of the ladder. You're not special, unique, different or in any way making a contribution other than your 1/7,600,000,000th as a distinctly average member of the human race, despite your job title, qualifications, underlings, followers and other vanities.

The indoctrination into a society where we must kowtow to the least qualified and capable begins at an early age - people who aren't able to do jobs or command the respect of their peers take charge of groups of infants and instruct them to believe every word they say. "Respect my authority!" demand teachers as they exploit humanity's predisposition towards filial obedience. What kind of a person is so insecure that they need to find a vulnerable group of young children in order to provide them with an unwilling audience?

Those who wish to judge, police, lead or instruct others are unqualified by reason of insanity, in my opinion. To crave authority and power disqualifies those who have the mental affliction of believing they're better than their peers. Power should never be given to those who want it.

Personally, I want to hear the opinion of the person who thinks their opinion is worthless. I want to find out how those who don't think they're qualified to make decisions want to run the country. I want to be led by somebody who doesn't want to be a leader. This is not anti-intellectualism or a tirade directed against experts, but in fact a desire to solve the real problems; the hard problems, and not just have a society that exists to massage the egos of the little Hitlers who are completely incompetent, incapable and lacking in enough humility to pipe down and listen; lacking enough intellect to even comprehend their own stupidity.

How much productivity and ingenuity is squandered because we have constructed a society which seeks to tell most people that they're stupid and useless, and they'll never amount to anything? What kind of educational system have we got, when it tells most people that they're shit and they should give up - studying is not for the likes of them. Why would we actively discourage people from furthering their education, by slapping a label on them that says "average"? What's an education for, anyway, if it's just a means of attaining a job of high social status... the right to sit in sneering judgement over your peers.

As we reach the inevitable endgame of late capitalism, where we were told that competition would give us the very best results, are we not now able to see that we've squandered all our most precious resources? We've ruined childhoods and lives in the pursuit of academic excellence, but all we've produced is a tiny handful of impractical fucktards who've had every ounce of free thinking thrashed out of them by the system, who rule over the rest - the vast majority of us have been told we have nothing of any value to contribute to society.

Of course, the ruling elite, the scientists, engineers, teachers, doctors, university lecturers and those who hold all the other positions of high social status, are not bad people, provided they haven't been irreversibly corrupted into believing that they truly are better than the rest. To kill, imprison and re-educate the sneeringly arrogant guardian class - as has happened in so many revolutions - would be to squander the expertise that this group undoubtably has. The trick is going to be to wrestle power away from this group; to humble them - they should be servants of society, and not believe themselves to be gods.

People don't like to be patronised. The masses don't mind doffing their hat, so long as the bread and circuses continue unabated, but in a world of austerity and economic depression, why the hell should anybody show any respect to a jumped-up self-important little twat who thinks they're a big deal? Why should those of lower social status continue to humour their superiors; continue to massage their egos?

We're seeing multiple groups who have been patronised and marginalised now becoming discontent in this depressingly fucked up world. Women are fighting the patriarchy. The young are fighting the baby boomers. The practical are fighting the impractical. The workers are fighting the idle. The competent are fighting the incompetent. The have-nots are fighting the haves. The many are fighting the few.

It seems inevitable that the systems of societal control would collapse under the sheer weight of human misery. If you want to oppress a group of people, you should select one of their member at random and give them an elevated social status (imaginary) and they will brutalise their peers, believing that they are suddenly better than the rest and have a preordained right to abuse their fellow men, women and children. It seems inevitable that the oppressed group - who vastly outnumber the oppressors - would strike back eventually. The beaten dog sometimes bites back.

Of course, doom-mongers have regularly foretold of revolution and riot; popular revolt, only to be repeatedly disappointed when the people haven't risen up in anger and corrected social injustices. I am extremely unoriginal in putting forth an opinion on the inequalities of society, and pointing at the classes who consider themselves to be superior as the cause of the problems. However, I'm not wrong.

As the internet democratises publishing and broadcasting, such that we can all be journalists, TV presenters, politicians and add our voices to the discussion, we see the traditional power bases shifting. Unqualified people who have no right to an opinion are having an opinion anyway and sharing it, and they are getting readers, viewers and followers. Information which was restricted to those who had been moulded into loyal gatekeepers, has now been given to everyone, such that we can all become experts - there's no longer a monopoly on knowledge and education. This must surely be the final coffin nail for those who have sought to cling to power.

The net result, if the plutocracy is to unwind itself without too much violence, is that the hero-worship of the CEOs and politicians and celebrities and professionals and academics and journalists and other powerful men and women, is going to falter. We'll start to realise that we can't kowtow to these people any more, because it's too costly for society. We can't accept enslavement to those who are supposed to serve society any more.

Three cheers for mediocrity.

 

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