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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

www.facebook.com/manicgrant

 

The End of Privacy

7 min read

This is a story about data protection...

Messenger bag

Congratulations. You found me. Somehow you managed to figure out my real identity and hack my personal data. Somehow you've managed to discover all my most closely-guarded secrets. You've compromised my privacy and discovered all my data that was held securely in the vault.

I'm fast approaching 900,000 words that I've written on this blog. I've written extensively about my childhood, adolescence, early adulthood, losing my virginity, first love, getting engaged and married, getting divorced, my mental health problems, my problems with drink & drugs, homelessness, near-bankruptcy, trouble with the police... I've written about everything. Everything you could ever hope to find out about a person is all documented right here, in unflinching detail.

I repeat myself.

I repeat myself because nobody fucking cares. I've written all this stuff about myself and left it out there for anybody to read, and it doesn't matter - everybody's too wrapped up in their own lives to give a shit about the details of anybody else's messy little life. I've published high-resolution photos of my passport. I've published every single detail you'd need to steal my identity, but nobody can be bothered. Most of us are far too boring and mediocre and average and uninteresting for anybody to give a shit.

Perhaps you've been so stupid as to share personal information in a way that's easily harvested in vast quantities. Maybe you're just another idiot who made their date of birth public on Facebook, or told some other popular website personal details about yourself, where you completely ignored the messages that told you exactly what data would be shared with 3rd parties.

You've got free email. Free photo sharing. Free messaging. Free document storage. Free business contacts. Free marketing. Free social networks where you can connect with your friends and meet other likeminded people. How the hell did you think any of it was funded? If the service is free YOU are the product.

The email address on the bag pictured above is my business email address. You can email it and your message will be delivered to me. I've been very careful to not mix my professional identity with my Nick "manic" Grant identity, because I work in very boring corporate environments which don't take kindly to people with mental illness who've recently been destitute and locked up on psych wards. There's a fundamental incompatibility with my true identity and the persona that allows me to get good jobs and get ahead in a corporate environment.

To write that email address in text form on the pages of this website would mean that Google would index it and make it searchable, such that my email address would be added to spam lists and my inbox would be inundated with crap. To write that word - the name of my company - on the pages of this website would tie me to any search that included my name and my company's name. I'm already on page 2 of Google, and I'd hate to make it any easier for me to be found. People already find me very quickly on LinkedIn, so heaven forbid what it's going to be like if people start digging for me on Google and stumbling on this blog.

A colleague of mine has already found my blog. I can see that he has an iPhone Plus and he uses the WiFi at our workplace to read my blog. I can see what pages he looked at and how long he spent reading them. Perhaps he doesn't know that I know this, but maybe he does now... if he's just read this. If you think I'm spying on my readers you should know that every tech company collects analytics on its users. Of course, I can't know who every individual is, but I can make very good educated guesses by looking at the IP address they visit from - which tells me their location, their ISP or workplace - and the kind of device they're using.

If you think it's unethical to spy on the people who consume content for free, you should consider whether you'd be prepared to pay for Facebook, Twitter, news websites, funny comics, interesting blogs, videos, games and all the other content you regularly consume. Would you pay for email? Would you pay to keep your photos and documents safely stored in the cloud? At the moment, you receive so much stuff for free, because your data isn't private - you consented to give it to us tech boffins so that you could get free stuf. You made the deal with the devil.

If you think you have privacy you're incredibly naïve. The details of your confidential medical consultations are discussed casually around the dinner table. The details of your life are pored over by the guardian class, who present themselves as protectors of your privacy, but are in fact terrible gossips who share all the lurid details of your most embarrassing moments with all their guffawing chums. There's no privacy - it's an illusion; a fantasy.

Having dealt with GPs, psychiatrists, hospitals, the police, security vetting people, tenant vetting people, credit check people, proof-of-identity people and numerous others who've sought to invade my privacy, I can tell you from first-hand experience that information washes around quite freely and there's very little protection of your precious privacy. The most sensitive information is casually chucked around in the most careless fashion. You're delusional if you think your data's protected.

I became disillusioned with data protection and privacy, and I decided to go public. I decided to write 900,000 words that give complete transparency about who I am and what I've done. I have no privacy. I live in the public eye - everything you could ever want to know about me, including my very worst, most embarrassing and most unflattering moments, are documented here in unflinching detail. This is what happens when you embrace the post-privacy world that we live in.

What do you want to know? Do you want to see my pornography viewing habits? Do you want to see secret webcam screen recordings of me masturbating, or maybe just picking my nose and scratching my testicles while lying on the sofa in a pile of my own filth, watching crappy TV shows? If you want to know what a person's really like behind the mask, I'll give it to you. Guess what? We're all a bit pervy and none of us is perfect; we all have flaws and stuff that we'd be embarrassed if anybody knew, but it's there - we're all basically the same.

Google does not yet read the text on images and make it searchable in the same way that it will for this word: googwebcamasturbdex. Try searching that word tomorrow, and you'll see that it's Google's top search hit. Try searching my email address and you won't find this website, however... which is how I want to keep it until the world finally accepts that we're living in a post-privacy era and we can see that we ALL have flaws.

I'm taking a HUGE risk having all this stuff about me out there on the public internet. I risk my reputation, my business, my income, my livelihood. I risk becoming unemployable. I risk being black-balled, because nobody wants a homeless bankrupt junkie alcoholic with mental heath problems working in their precious corporation. I'm risking it because it was exhausting, trying to keep my privacy in the era when privacy finally became a thing of the past; a relic.

Does privacy help you? Is it a big deal that Facebook leaked 4% of their users' data? Would you have paid for Facebook if it meant that your data was secure?

I think in time you'll come to see the world like I do - secrecy is hard work and life is better when you're transparent and open. I can highly recommend uploading yourself to the public cloud for safekeeping.

 

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Oversharing

5 min read

This is a story about high stakes...

Security pass

This time tomorrow I'll have almost everything I need for a happy contented stable ordinary humble modest little life. I can park my car on my driveway. I can sleep in my own apartment. I can drive to my job. I can do my work. I can get paid. I can see my girlfriend. I can pay my bills. What more does a man need in life?

A person who's more risk-averse than me would probably ditch this blog and my Twitter and Facebook pages, and hide their digital identity. It makes sense for me to cover up my chequered past. Nobody needs to know that my path to this point has been non-linear. Nobody needs to know that I've had my difficulties during the last few years. I can erase myself. I can expunge myself from the archives. I can ditch the world's longest suicide note and pretend like I've been fine all along.

I must admit that I Google'ed myself, just to check that I'm safely buried deep in the depths of the internet, in some dark recess that nobody would think to look for me. Sadly, it seems like I appear on page 2. I guess that means that somebody would have to be doing some very determined digging to find me... they'd have to click on the "next page" button, so that's pretty hard to find, right? Also, I'm wearing a disguise in my profile picture. In real life I look nothing like my profile picture, because of my cunning infallible disguise.

I tried hard to bury my blog by writing a whole load of really boring stuff, so that anybody who found it would quickly decide that there was nothing interesting to read. I mean, there isn't but I'm pretty exposed and vulnerable. If somebody wanted to dig dirt on me, they'd find it pretty easy. There's a lot of stuff that would encourage deeper digging. If you want to discourage anybody from looking too closely, it's best to put a layer of really boring crap on top.

I tried to steer clear of putting anything on here that was specific and would make me identifiable. I don't - for example - mention the exact place I live or where I work. I don't mention names, except my own of course. Why would I write under my own name? Surely that's madness. Well... it's something I've always done. I hate that the internet has made people feel like they're protected by the screen, hiding behind their anonymous avatar. I'm me - it's my face and it's my name, except for my cunning disguise, of course.

Things are really high-stakes. I can't afford any major setbacks. I don't want to jeopardise my livelihood; my financial security. I don't want to risk a domino-like chain of events that would cause my whole life to collapse. I've almost got all the things I need in life... so damn close.

I've written blog posts where I've given very precise details about my financial situation. Sometimes what I've written has seemed a little vulgar; a little boastful. That's not what it's about. I've been really suicidal because of the ludicrousness of the situation where I can work and earn a lot of money, but I'm being blocked and thwarted. I find it unbearably frustrating when I'm not allowed to get ahead in life. I need to have this record of the insanity of the situation. I need people to be able to understand my frustrations in the event that I killed myself.

For the record, I think my suicidal thoughts are driven by circumstances. I think my depression is driven by circumstances. I think that my thoughts and feelings are a sane response to an insane world. Things in my life are good, and so I don't feel suicidal anymore.

It might seem like I'm oversharing, but it's immensely beneficial to me to have people share my frustrations - my highs and lows - and empathise with my situation. It's immensely useful to not feel alone. It's immensely helpful to have people who care able to see what's going on with me: you can dip into my world any time you want. Most people who read my blog are trying to help me. Only once or twice have I ever suffered prejudice and discrimination because my honesty has been used against me. I think it's unethical to use something like this against somebody. I don't write anything that would breach any code of conduct or otherwise present a problem for my employers. I don't bring my profession into disrepute or otherwise comport myself in a way that would justify being disciplined, dismissed and/or tossed onto the street like a piece of trash.

The ethical dilemma falls on the reader. What are YOU going to do with the private and personal information that you've obtained? It was your choice to come here. It was your choice to read. It's now your responsibility to use the knowledge you've gained responsibly. If you want to use anything you've read here against me, how are you going to sleep at night? It's immoral to cyber-snoop for stuff that you're going to use against people. It's immoral to discriminate.

I'm just like you, but I write my stream-of-consciousness down on a public website. Use it wisely. With great power comes great responsibility.

In the era of post-privacy this is the future. I've got a head start - an 850,000 word head start.

 

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#nofilter

11 min read

This is a story about engaging your mouth before your brain...

Surveillance Owl

Most of what I write is not stuff that is ordinarily shared by people. We bottle a lot of stuff up, and perhaps with good reason, but what happens if your general demeanour means you're a fairly open book?

Sure, it's true that some of my life experiences - mental health problems, drug abuse, homelessness, being arrested by the police - are not things that your ordinary middle-class professional will hopefully ever experience. It is therefore logical that I should keep all these things hush-hush. Pretend they never happened.

I don't think that privacy and anonymity is necessarily helpful, judging by the direction that life is headed for many people who I speak to. We know there is a mental health epidemic, with millions of people laid low with depression, anxiety and a huge spectrum of illnesses affecting the mind. If we don't talk about this, and share our experiences, we suffer in silence.

It seems to me as if Psychiatry has failed. Pills, powders and potions have failed to cure the ailments of our very souls. Something is wrong, broken, with society, and medicine hasn't yet come up with the cures... probably because we are treating symptoms, not root causes.

It's been a theory of mine that we were never evolved as a species to live in such close quarters with one another. Open plan offices and tiny cramped apartments in overcrowded cities certainly make me feel like a lemming: compelled to throw myself off a cliff. It really doesn't help that so many service sector jobs are so soul destroying. Moving paper or electronic money around for the mega wealthy is most of what we do in the rich nations. It's not growing carrots or building houses.

Sure, some of us are tortured artists and entertainers. Some of us create organic artisan jam, or dog's milk yoghurt, or run a creative digital agency where we wear unfashionable clothes and stupid facial hair and ride fixed-speed bicycles to work. These, most surely, are the last days of a dying civilisation.

They say you should never get too close to an iceberg, because they can flip over unexpectedly. You might be rather pleased to be part of the top 1% or even 5%, but while you're sticking up at the top, there's a huge mass under the water beneath. Sooner or later, the massive body of ice that's been held underwater rises up, and the top of the iceberg is plunged into the freezing sea.

Google Self-driving Car

The motto of Über is "everyone's private driver" but how can we all have a jet-set A-list celebrity lifestyle? There simply isn't enough landmass to create enough helipads for everybody to be flying around by private helicopter, chauffeur driven around the place, pampered and flattered at every turn. Technology can't make us all rich, famous and able to have an impossibly high standard of living, despite its promises.

With our MacBook Pro and our high-quality digital camera etc. we all feel like a writer, a photographer, an artist. Facebook gives us the impression that people love looking at photos of us, so we must be glamour models. Twitter turns us all into bloggers, preachers, with our followers... our congregation.

There was a time when you could quit your job and probably make a good living selling cup cakes, setting up a trendy delicatessen or being a life coach. I'm not sure if those people who followed their dreams and quit the rat race are happy, but there's certainly not any opportunity to do it today. Things are so competitive. How many cup cakes have you got to sell, in order to have a salary comparable with somebody who shuffles paper around their desk and tries to look busy and important in the office, but is just a tiny cog in a big wasteful machine that doesn't actually produce anything of tangible value.

I'm mortgaging my privacy. I'm selling my soul. By making public every little tiny detail about my private life, including my massive f**kups, I'm potentially headed up a one-way street. If I achieve any kind of infamy, then I'm basically screwed, in terms of re-entering the world of the wage-slave drones.

So, I've got the best part of 6,000 Twitter followers in the space of 6 months. Do you think that translates to pounds in my pocket? Do you think that taking the unprecedented step of writing nearly 200,000 words about a fairly spectacular life implosion, would change my life significantly? Well, the ship has sailed for anybody hoping to get an easy ride, I'm afraid.

Chesterfield office

I like what I've written. I would defend it, to some extent. It serves as a permanent public record of not only what I've been through in the past, but more importantly, there is a subtle recording of what I was going through during the whole time I've been blogging. You can read my emotions, my moods, the challenges, the stresses... in-between the lines of what's written down.

I'm starting to be accused of being self-indulgent, self-absorbed, but why shouldn't I have this? Why shouldn't I be allowed to scream and wail and tantrum a bit, if I had to be the sensible grey-suited career guy, with the good job and an impressive CV, who had the mortgage and saved money for a rainy day and got married and did everything by the f**king book like I was supposed to. I deferred gratification like a son of a bitch, and there was no f**king pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The cake is a lie.

How many people are discontented? How many people are struggling? Not only struggling with stress and poverty and unpleasant things happening in their lives, but also struggling with the injustice of things, the pointlessness of some make-work wanky job that's completely useless to humanity. Or perhaps the work they can get is just so completely degrading and poorly paid it's not even worth working at all. You might as well just get off your head on drugs and alcohol and dribble while you play computer games or watch terrible trashy TV.

How many kids are getting smashed out of their skulls on cannabis, skunk and legal high smoking blends? How many kids are consuming dangerous amounts of cheap alcohol, simply to become highly intoxicated? What is it about life that these kids want to escape? Why aren't they sharing the anguish, the inner turmoil? Why do they retreat inwards, under the heavy sedation of intoxicating drugs and alcohol?

Tweet a Postbox

Now Microsoft and Facebook are hitting headlines, saying they're working on chat bots. The iPhone has Siri, which is supposed to be a kind of artificially intelligent digital assistant, that can understand what you ask it to do, and try and help you. People are delighted when it turns out that you can ask Siri to beatbox, and it will kinda do it, in a weird kind of way.

Why would we be wasting our time talking to computers, when we could be talking to each other? I wrote before about us sharing 21% less on Facebook, in the space of a year. Do we not keenly feel the loss of that connection with real people, who can get in contact and try to make us feel less alone with our problems and our existential crises?

No person is an island, and the isolating existence of interacting more with apps and websites and software in general, instead of with each other is a worrying trend. Ok, so I'm bucking that by providing a veritable brain dump of sharing, which is much akin to verbal diarrhoea, but at least it's putting stuff out there, where there's a chance I can get some help from my friends.

There's obviously a bystander effect, where nobody knows quite what to do when somebody starts having a public meltdown. People just aren't supposed to act like this. Where is my stoicism? Where is my stiff upper lip? Where is my shame? Where is my embarrassment and my intense desire for total privacy?

Nobody wants to be first, and people also worry that they're going to end up feeling responsible. Everybody feels they're already struggling so much to keep their own shit together, that anybody else bleating on about their own struggles should shut the hell up. Look after number one and keep yourself to yourself. Don't you think that could be the root cause of this horrible isolated existence that causes so much damage to our happiness, our sense of wellbeing, our mental health... leading to depression, stress, anxiety, breakdowns, self harm and suicides?

We're in such a hurry to label, to judge, to jump to conclusions. We like to bracket people and problems as quickly as we can. Somebody becomes known as a drama queen, or we tire of their depressed demeanour, the dark clouds that follow them around. We start to stop inviting the killjoy out, or generally interacting with them. Let them wallow in self-pity, right? I'm sure social services or somebody from a government service will step in before they do something stupid. It's somebody else's job. Not my problem. I've got enough going on with my own stressful, meaningless, empty, unfulfilling life that I hate and I'm depressed about.

I'm just typing now. The taps are open and the words are flooding out. I have relaxed my anal sphincter and a torrent of liquid brown verbal diarrhoea is jetting out of my arse and into the toilet bowl of the internet, and nobody gives a shit, because we are all sinking with shit up to our necks. There is a whole World Wide Web of shit out there, and we're all just pumping out this useless effluent into the cesspool of human emotional pain.

Dog poop area

Do you think I'm going to look back on this frantic period of writing and recoil with horror when I read it back? I certainly expect that I will be cupping my face in my hands, saying to myself "what the fuck was I thinking?" but it must be about as close as it's possible to get to knowing what somebody's thinking, reading this shite.

I thought to myself that I won't hold back, I won't censor, edit or filter, because I can always tear this down with a click of the mouse. A stroke of the keyboard, and all this is gone and I can deny all knowledge that it ever existed. It's the digital photo that you deleted off your camera or smartphone... those shameful ones and zeros are gone forever.

But you know what? I've not felt the urge to take anything down. I've not felt the pangs of regret at sharing stuff that makes me look really bad. I've given the world everything it needs to pigeon-hole me, to categorise me, to bracket me, to judge me, to dismiss me with a label or an over-simplification of my entire existence.

That's what we want, isn't it? Computer credit scores, and computerised personality profiling, and a computer simulation of a real person, that responds in a predictable and easy to understand way. We don't want real lives, with all their messiness and unfathomable complexity. We don't want to get to know each other, but have to live with the fact that we still don't really know each other. We don't even know ourselves, even if you're an irritatingly self-absorbed little prick like I am, who self indulgently wallows in a world of introspection and deep self-examination.

Show me some more videos of funny cats. Distract me from the banality of my existence. Please don't remind me of the humanity that my fellow Earth residents possess or incite any kind of sympathetic or empathetic response in me. I'm quite wrapped up in my own world of pain and disappointment, boredom and stress. I want to pretend like technology and the advancement of civilisation is going to wave its magic wand and even though I'm fornicating with a person I'm nearly totally revulsed by the more I get to know them, in a filthy home in an overcrowded town, on a hopelessly poisoned planet, everything will be fucking rosy for the screaming brats that end up getting spawned.

What the hell is this anyway? This is what happens when the filter gets switched off. This is my life, with no filter.

I think I was born with no filter.

New Socks

Look: I bought new socks. I'm sharing the private details of my socks life. Every time I have socks, I'm going to post it up on social media. Socks is supposed to be a taboo subject. Always practice safe socks.

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The Anonymity of Noise

6 min read

This is a story about gushing all over the Internet...

HSBC Future

What happens when you lay your soul bare for public examination? Well, don't worry about it, because everybody is pouring their private lives out into the public domain on social media and via email, text message and other electronic communication mediums.

I have overcome my fear of dying alone. My frustration with life now outweighs my fear of death. Now my only fear is of being survived by anybody who knew me. The way that people misremember you will be your legacy.

We all write and create so much content these days. Digital cameras are ubiquitous. We create thousands of photographs and videos. We write hundreds of thousands of words in emails, text messages and social media posts. Our digital footprint is huge.

You would have thought that there would be shame, embarrassment, regret in sharing my most private secrets, but the more I do it, the more I am liberated from the desire to prove myself worthy. I like admitting I am fallible, that I have made mistakes, that I have gone astray. It's exhausting fighting the rumour mill and trying to maintain a spotless image.

I'm actually struggling to return to the 'real world'. Spending every day with nothing more important to do than write is nice (who knew?). I'm sure that those of you with jobs and kids must hate my guts for the fact that I reject responsibility and instead, my time and energy is ploughed into pontificating like a student, like a child, like a spoiled teenager.

Presumably you see that sitting an exam with known 'correct' answers is pointless? Allowing yourself to be measured, to be sifted, to be sorted... subjecting yourself to the degradation of allowing somebody to sit in judgement over your intellectual value. Surely you can see that being channelled through such a system is brainwashing you? You might as well get "KNOW YOUR PLACE" tattooed to the inside of your eyelids.

Writers, photographers, musicians and other artists must struggle to be heard over the cacophony of "me too" voices. Any douche with an iPhone is a photographer or a film-maker these days. Any douche who can play three chords on a guitar is a musician. Any douche who's not completely tone deaf is a singer. Any douche who can string a coherent sentence together is a writer or a poet.

Pearl Jam

When was the last time that you stepped back from what you were doing, and questioned your place in the big picture? When was the last time you examined your reason, your motives, for doing everything you do?

An experiment was conducted on public transport, where a person would ask somebody who was sitting down "can I sit there?" indicating that they would like the person sitting down to give up their seat. There was no obvious reason to give up the seat, such as being pregnant, old or having an injury. We just want to sit down. Perhaps an unreasonable request, when at least second in line for that seat.

The result from the expriment was that, a large proportion of the time, people would give up their seat and allow the other person to sit down. Sometimes the person would ask "why?" and the reply "because I want to sit down" would be given. An unreasonable reply, perhaps, but that was enough of a reason for some people to give up their seat after initially questioning the justification.

We are all very familiar with the 'teacher' experiments that show that many people would administer lethal electric shocks to a 'pupil' if we were told to do it by an authority figure. People are very compliant with social norms. We very rarely question things, especially if there is obvious rank and status in play.

How dare I publish my photographs, unless I have done some kind of photography course. Maybe I need to be a fellow of some kind of academy or society of the arts? Maybe I need a piece of paper to wave, as well as the end of my camera lens.

How dare I read academic papers and do my own research, consider my own hypotheses, publish my own thoughts and ideas. Maybe I need to be a graduate from some esteemed academic institution? Maybe I need to have a qualification that says that I was measured by somebody in authority, and found to meet a certain standard? Maybe I need to be gagged and blinded.

How dare I write, unless I have received an advance from a publisher, or have other works published. Maybe I need to have a number of press clippings and a bibliography to prove my words have the necessary importance. Words without quotation, without citation... they're worthless noise.

Fortune Cookie

Have you ever heard of original thinkers? People who don't give a shit who you are, and how important you think you are. People who don't give a shit about rote-learning the same crap as everybody else. People who aren't afraid to question the status quo, or to keep asking "why?" until the limit of understanding is reached, and the shaky foundations of knowledge are revealed.

Sure, a great debate rages about the contribution of laymen and women. Sure, everybody thinks that their contribution is valid, and there isn't enough time to lay bare the fundamental error in every half-baked crackpot idea.

Publish or perish, though, publish or perish. Everything is indexed for search these days. It really doesn't hurt anybody, having these 143,000 words out there in the public domain. It actually helps me, because I have a non-monetary life-insurance policy. It serves to capture a little piece of me, alive. I'm living through my words, because I don't feel like my fingernails are going to grip onto life for very much longer.

Yes, it would be easy to say that this sounds alarmist, attention seeking. However, I know how close I am to death, because I've captured the data and I've done the calculations.

Blog Word Count

I can see the cyclical nature of myself. I can see the downward slide of things

 

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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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Back Door

7 min read

This is a story about cat & mouse...

Cinais, France

Catch me if you can. But why are you chasing me? I'm not a bad guy. Trying to prove someone guilty who is innocent is a bit ridiculous. Perhaps you should consider your own guilty conscience.

So, I'm well aware that I have rattled some cages pretty hard. I'm also aware that the slow, lumbering and dimwitted sleeping beasts that I have awakened, will take a while to kick into gear and mobilise against me. I'm aware that my privacy is being infringed (using back doors) in the name of so-called justice.

What the hell am I talking about? Well, as a matter of professionalism, I told my end-client - HSBC - some hard truths that they didn't want to hear, about the fate of their #1 project. Plausible deniability is rather hard to maintain if a highly paid consultant is giving you their expert opinion. Also, my ex-wife, who said that she'd rather that I was dead, has recently received the rather disappointing news that I'm still alive.

I don't actually wish either my ex-wife or HSBC any ill will. I want the biggest bank in Europe to succeed with their #1 project and retain value for the shareholders, and remain as a profitable entity that employs 245,000 people. Those jobs are important: many families are depending on the income from those employees. I want my ex-wife and me to be able to both move on with our lives.

My occupational health doctor at JPMorgan urged me to try and make an ally out of my ex-wife. Sadly, she said that she would divorce me if I accepted life-saving hospital treatment. It's a bit hard to make an alliance with such a person. She marked my suicide note in red pen, with many abusive remarks written in capitals all over it. I'm a good diplomat, but that's kinda hard to deal with.

So, my ex wrote to me and said that she wanted to deny all knowledge that we had ever had a relationship. That's going to be a bit impossible, given that the record of our marriage is in the public domain, and so is our divorce. Anybody can look those things up in the register of marriages, and the court records.

Denying history, like pretending there was no holocaust in World War 2, is not going to work. Pretending that things didn't happen, is not going to lead anywhere good. Her guilty conscience will always follow her around, and there's nothing I can do about that. It's not my fault that she acted in an immoral way. I can't absolve her of her sins, although I do forgive her.

Fundamentally, this is about forgiveness. I always turned the other cheek. I have absolutely no idea why she is violent and aggressive and abusive, but I forgive her. I have no idea why she wants me dead and buried so badly, but I feel sorry for her. I pity her.

So am I bitter? Am I hanging onto things that I should just let go of? Am I agonising over things that were said and done so long ago, that my feelings are invalid?

Show me the way to Mordor

Actually, it can take a long time to surface things, when you have been abused for a long time. She will claim that she is the abuse victim. Yeah, that makes sense... when I'm the one who was self harming, suicidal, couldn't work, was totally isolated from my friends and family.

She used to boast about hitting ex boyfriends. When she started hitting me, I didn't know how to deal with it. I trashed our flat. Then I started cutting myself. I was going to kill myself. It didn't really fix things.

She has been very quick to forgive herself, to excuse herself.

Frankly, there is no excuse for perpetrating violence and abuse against somebody. I feel very guilty about the times when I have lashed out. It's driven me to the brink of suicide. For her, it seems to have made her cultivate a holier-than-thou fake self image. I don't buy it. Start with kindness and go from there. If you're not kind, you're not a good person, in my opinion.

Every part of me feels like not publishing this. Every instinct tells me not to share these inner demons. That's why I'm going to do it. I'm going to keep pushing myself to share more and more of my inner turmoil.

Obviously it would be really easy for me to just bring out the big guns. It would be really easy to lay out all the evidence that I have collected of the years of abuse that I endured. That kind of character assassination would just be sinking to the same level as my persecutor though. I don't think that's the right thing to do.

Fundamentally, I could just say that I was victimised, and use that as an excuse for what happened later. I didn't do anything to defend myself for a very long time. I got battered but I turned the other cheek. It was beaten into me, to expect violence and abuse to be perpetrated against me, as a passive and kind, soft, caring, innocent confused and trapped victim.

However, my reaction was wrong. I should have been stronger. I should have walked away. I didn't. That makes me an accomplice. That makes me complicit. I helped to perpetuate what was going on, by not removing myself from the vicious cycle.

So, guilty people can be pretty sneaky. They will collect 'evidence' that will support their warped worldview. They will prepare their ammunition for the day that karma catches up with them. They will try and build a base of support, and cultivate an image of guilt-free innocence.

I'm guilty. I'm guilty of sticking around and trying to fix things. I'm guilty of caring too much. I'm guilty of not protecting myself. I'm guilty of letting my defences down. I'm guilty of making mistakes. I'm guilty of hitting back.

Don't let anyone tell you that I'm an abuser. Don't let anyone tell you that I'm out to control anybody. I'm a kind person. I'm a caring person. I'm a loving person. If somebody is telling you a negative narrative about me, you need to consider what their ulterior motive is. You need to consider what guilty conscience is being covered up.

Yes, I'm no saint at all. I'm guilty, not innocent. I'm exposing my conscience to the world. I'm very disappointed with myself about the way I've acted, in a whole bunch of ways. I could tell you all the reasons why I am who I am and why I acted the way that I did, but it's probably better if I just say that I accept responsibility for my actions. I know that there were better ways of going about dealing with things. I know that I would do things differently today. I feel guilty about a bunch of mistakes, even though I know that it was impossible for me to act differently in the circumstances at the time.

If anybody wants to blame me for things, be my guest. I'll even help you. I am going to provide the world with all the evidence and an open account of my wrongdoing. My gut instinct is to start with the rationale behind things, the reasons, the circumstances, the pressures and the stresses. However, that might seem like I'm trying to justify my actions.

Hurting somebody is always wrong. I'm sorry if I've ever hurt you, whoever you are. I really didn't mean to, and I do feel guilt and empathy. You can come and take your pound of flesh if you think it will help. I'm beating myself up, but if you want to inflict even more blows against me, be my guest... I'm used to being a punching bag.

So, is this self-pitying drivel? I have no idea. It's the beginning of a journey for me. Either there will be liberation or there will be death.

That is all.

Bless You, Son

Frankie the cat lives with my parents. He's pretty much the only living reminder that their son is still surviving, somewhere in the world. Please don't take that away from them (November 2012)

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All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace

2 min read

This is a story about the lives of others...

The windows have eyes

The more a person spies on another person, the more they see themself reflected back. The more they sympathise and see the ordinary humanity in the person that they are spying on. The more empathy they feel, the more they start to doubt the ethics of spying.

We can use software to do a lot of the 'heavy lifting' of spying, but we still need intelligence officers to actually then do in-depth analysis after red flags are raised by the systems that monitor our electronic communication.

These analysts may then be sanctioned to perform further, more in-depth snooping, if there looks to be a strong case to justify the further intrusion into the life of that citizen. They have to argue the case to their superiors. They also have to argue the case because it's their job to make cases. If they didn't think anybody was worth spying on, there wouldn't be any jobs in the intelligence field.

When a case is accepted, then even more information is gathered, sometimes at great expense. Then, somebody has to pick up the bill. It's time to start building a case now against that person, to make them pick up the bill.

The usual ways that the intelligence agencies will make their citizens pay would be prosecution for terrorism, fraud, drug trafficking, prostitution, human trafficking, weapons. Unfortunately, this can also extend to anti-establishment activity, which would not be criminal. The only payback would be a smear campaign, which is a lot easier if you have lots of juicy details about that person's private life that you have snooped without their knowledge.

There's never any backing down. Nobody will ever say "On reflection, I was wrong and we should not have pryed into the private life of this citizen" because nobody wants to look stupid. Everybody wants to justify the case that was made and actions that were taken.

All I'm going to say is this: I'm only human, and I've never engaged in organised crime or terrorism.

That is all.

 

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A Portrait of the Hacker as a Young Man

3 min read

This is a story about ethics...

Walk like an Egyptian

The difference between a white hat hacker and a black hat hacker is that the former is ethical and the latter is not. A black hat is out for fame or personal gain.

I signed the Official Secrets Act when I was 17, which means that I can't tell you that I hacked British Aerospace's servers when I was 18 and released details of everybody's salaries, as a protest about wage inequality. They covered it up anyway, but you can never stop loose tongues wagging, and I wound up on a watch list at GCHQ. Oops.

I did something similar at Barclays. Again, people tried to cover it up. If you try and cover up an ethical hacker's work, you normally end up in trouble yourself. Just be ethical yourself... nothing to hide, nothing to fear.

I've had the opportunity to defraud my employers out of millions of dollars and be living on a beautiful coral sand island, safe from extradition provided I never set foot back in Europe or North America. At JPMorgan, I knew about a rounding error with Derivative settlements and I knew that our reconciliations weren't picking it up. There were literally billions that were missing and nobody knew except for a handful of programmers.

I'm not a bank robber. I'm trying to help the banks.

At a security briefing for a higher level of clearance, with DERA (Defence Evaluation and Research Agency, which is now QinetiQ) I was told to mistrust attractive women, Chinese people... I was told these people were probably spies. Lolz.

I decided that I didn't like working for the defence industry. They've got dirt on me. They have photos of me sleeping with my male boss. I was only 18, like I said... it was too easy for them to do something like that. Like taking candy from a baby.

I worked on two software systems that were linked with a fibre-optic cable and used quantum entanglement to verify that there was no man-in-the-middle snooping attack going on. That's paranoid, considering that I worked on a military site guarded by Marines with guns, and my car was searched every day.

So, if I seem a little paranoid, it's because I've been trained to be.

I've stood above the working nuclear reactor on Swiftsure and Trafalgar class submarines, and peered into the core and seen the Cherenkov radiation. I've seen the propulsion units that no civilian is supposed to see. These are hunter-killer machines that run seriously quiet.

I know things that I'm not supposed to know. Oops.

So... please leave me be. I'm just trying to do the right thing. I'm trying to be more grown up and consider the wider ramifications of everything I do, but sometimes I feel like nobody wants to act ethically.

Look at the vast number of refugees fleeing wars. Look at the vast number of families who are financially struggling. Their need is greater.

That is all.

 

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Publish or Perish

4 min read

This is a story about fear of death...

Falling to my death

I grew up terrified of everything. Electricity, dogs, mealtimes, fairground rides... wait, what? Mealtimes?!?!

Yes, mealtimes were very stressful when I was a little boy. My parents had been to India and they thought it would be cool to give me very spicy food. It didn't taste that spicy to them because - I might have mentioned this - but they were my parents and they had been to India. If you are an adult, in India, eating spicy food, you get used to it.

Also, if you are parents, and you have been to India, that means you are past puberty, hopefully past teenage years, hopefully past school, hopefully you've been working, plus 9 months, plus 3 or so years for your son to start eating solid food. All that time, you are losing your taste buds... your mouth is getting less sensitive to capscicum, which means it hurts less when you eat it.

If you force feed chilli to a young child, they will be pretty anxious about meal times.

I ended up vomiting before every meal, because of anxiety.

I remember waking up in hospital, malnourished. I got to eat cornflakes, not chilli. Eating cornflakes is nice. Eating chilli isn't. They even had milk on them. Normally I wasn't allowed liquids with my meal. Milk is quite a nice thing to have if your mouth is burning hot from chilli. I wonder if that's why I wasn't allowed to drink it with my meal?

Bye!

Anyway, I'm sure my parents meant well. I mean, they gave me food after all. It's not like I starved. Except when I did. Yes, there was that time that I ended up in hospital, because I was starving. We all make mistakes I guess. Like starving our children. Oops.

Guess I'm just a fussy eater.

Well, just about the only things I don't eat today are sprouts and grapefruit. I've had a test and apparently I'm a supertaster, which means I'm picky, but not fussy. I can force myself to eat almost anything now... I was well trained as a child. I have even learned to like the taste of some things I used to find revolting, like Badoit mineral water, Indian Tonic water and olives.

I'm trying my best to forgive, forget and move on. If this blog is getting a bit dark and bitter, I'm sorry.

It's also a bit weird, doing my private journal/diary in public. Weird, yes. I'm owning that as part of my identity. It's been a term that has been thrown at me abusively in the past. I own it now. It's mine. I'm weird. Yes me, I'm a weirdo, hello!

An anagram of weird is wired. I guess I'm just wired a little differently. I can taste things that other people can't. I don't see dead people, but perhaps I see things from a different perspective from you. Perhaps I see things from an equally valid, but distinct and unique perspective. Would that be possible? I hope so, because I like being me. I have tried to be the version of a person that somebody else imagines is possible to exist. It lands me in hospital every time. I'm not doing it again.

I refuse to be anybody other than me. No. I'm not doing it again. Go to hell. I've been there and I don't like it. It's your turn to go to hell.

Eternal damnation? Hell no, I won't go.

Promises Promises

I fed Frankie the cat even when I was starving to death. Animals and children are innocent victims sometimes. We need to use our adult brains and protect them (October 2013)

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My Name's Nick and I'm a Workaholic

9 min read

This is a story of a growing problem in people's lives....

Nick in Pink

I can't get no sleep. That's a double negative. What I mean is, that I have a problem with insomnia, because I stare at backlit devices around-the-clock. The problem with backlit devices is that they output light that hits your retina, telling your body "it's daytime, get up".

When I'm awake, which is most of the time, I'm either at work on my laptop or working at a double or even triple monitor, looking at my phone, or looking at a TV, tablet or some other backlit device. I had even taken to reading books on my phone, which means that my body had absolutely no light-based clue as to what the f**king time is.

Unsurprisingly, this messes with your circadian rhythm, even if you eat your meals at regular intervals, and attempt to get in and out of bed at normal times. I generally keep at least 3 electronic devices within grabbing distance of my bed anyway (phone, laptop, smartwatch) and often times I fall asleep with either my laptop on my lap, or still wearing my smartwatch (which helpfully vibrates, so I can briefly wake up to check any alerts).

Photographing stuff on my phone and uploading it to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, posting check-ins and status updates, and making snide or sarcastic Tweets - from 4 different accounts, at least - has grown and grown, leading to a kind of live-blogging of my life.

To say that I was obsessed with social media would be a massive understatement. It's actually an addiction that is affecting my health. That's the generally recognised definition of an addiction: when something you enjoy is negatively affecting your life, but you are struggling or unable to reduce your dependence on the thing you are addicted to (water, oxygen and sugar don't qualify, you see, because you die without those things).

Shaun the Sleep

The inscription around the woolly head of our sheepie friend reads: we are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep. Shaun would be well advised to make sure he gets enough sleep, as our immune systems can get dangerously low if we aren't giving our brains and bodies the rest they were designed to have.

Modern life gives us surprisingly few environmental cues as to what we should be doing. Here in London we have artificial lighting 24 hours a day, and there is barely a wall that doesn't have some kind of flat screen attached to it now. We really are a City that doesn't sleep. When all the bankers, lawyers and accountants go home in their taxis, just before midnight, an army of cleaners and trash collectors sweep in behind, to collect all those discarded coffee cups and sandwich wrappers.

Most offices are now 24 x 7 x 364 (you get Christmas Day off - this is the only real Bank Holiday) which have cost-saving motion sensing lighting, so you only have to glance up at one of the tall office blocks at an unusual hour, to get a rough idea of just how many people are working on some unrealistic deadline for their client.

Delivering a deal, getting the Thank Yous from your bosses and clients. High-fiving your colleagues, and adding another tombstone to your impressive collection of deals or projects that you have delivered... that's addictive too. You get a little dopamine hit every time one of those things happens, and before you know it, you find yourself going into the office 7 days a week and answering the phone to your bosses whenever they call.

In a global business, we operate a follow-the-sun model, where Europe hands over to the Americas, and then onto Australasia, and then Asia-Pacific, and then Middle East and North Africa and all too soon it's dawn again. Where those business centres are unable to fully support themselves, some poor sod carries their phone and/or BlackBerry everywhere anytime. We used to call it Crackberry when we first got our BlackBerries, and you found yourself checking email at 4am, even when you officially weren't on call.

We can't actually help ourselves anymore. Whenever we hear that bleep and see that message notification light blinking, we have been habituated into reaching out and grabbing it, no matter what time of day it is, no matter how socially inappropriate it might be, no matter what else we are attempting to do at the time.

I find myself looking at my smartphone, one-handed, while cycling along in front of 3-lanes of red London busses and trucks... what could go wrong? I find myself finishing typing a message, one-handed, while descending steps and even a ladder that leads down onto the 'beach' outside my flat. That ladder is about 80ft high. It would hurt if I fell, or maybe even kill me.

It's a similar deal with selfies. People will go to extreme lengths to get the shot. They won't even let you skydive with a camera until you have done a certain amount of jumps, because of the sensible precaution that people should concentrate on the hard ground that is approaching at 125mph, and not the killer shot that will make their Facebook profile look super awesome.

Got to Catch 'em all

So I tried to photograph 64 painted sheep in Covent Garden yesterday. Should we be quite worried, in a pathetic hand-wringing Daily Mail reader way? Why? In the above image, some adults might have been accidentally been photographed obsessively taking photos of their children. The image is low enough resolution that you can't actually recognise people, but some idiot will still declare that their privacy has been invaded. Welcome to London, you muppets. We are one nation under CCTV.

(NOTE: I took particular care to avoid taking a photo of anybody's child, and no, that really is not your kid in the image... it's someone else who shops in Baby Gap or Mothercare or wherever, and has a blonde/mousey/dark-haired kid. Can you imagine how hard that is in Covent Garden?).

So, for my part, I am pretty much putting my entire life - not including anything I am under contractual and professional obligation to protect - into the public domain. Nothing to hide, nothing to fear.

Is this brave, or stupid? Will I come to regret doing this? Am I embarrassed? Yes, there is embarrassment at first, and then this grows into a feeling of being liberated. Nudity, sex etc. are still taboos, so I'm not going to take things that far, and I am mindful of other people's need for privacy so I won't be exposing anybody else to my public life laundry. Ask yourself though, why do you feel uneasy about something leaking out?

Greenhouse

So, I believe that Cannabis is a very dangerous drug that has been allowed to enter popular culture (some conservative estimates say that 1 in 10 people are regularly 'stoning' themselves). My biggest concern is that prodromal Schizophrenia is being turned into fully blown psychotic episodes in young people. The paranoia and disordered thinking that I have witnessed in friends and relatives is disturbing.

The strains of Cannabis that have been developed with very high Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content are ruining many lives. People just sit around, eating, playing computer games, and p1ssing their youth away. These are smart and enterprising people. We are losing a whole generation, and I'm pretty angry about that.

If you walk around Camden Town, you will realise how the Marajuana plant has become a ubiquitous emblem for a huge powerful narcotics industry. The revenue and turnover involved is many many billions, in the UK alone. The corruption involved, the bribery of government officials, is a multi-agency problem that spans Border Controls, Customs, Police, Local Government, and of course, Parliament. Professor David Nutt was run out of government for trying to bring some sanity to the issues which threaten to tear our society apart.

We can't have an entire generation, whose ideas and energy have been repressed by a chemical 'straight jacket'. These stoners are too intoxicated to see that they have been conned. They might think they are part of a counter-culture revolution. From my first-hand observations, they are actually spouting complete rubbish, gawping at the TV, surrounded by empty junk food wrappers, in the stained clothes they have been wearing for days.

It sounds like I'm having a go at young people. I really am not. This is a major sadness in my life, that brilliant, bright, intelligent, energetic, beautiful young people are selling themselves so short, because they have been trapped into a cycle of poverty and intoxication, addicted to strong narcotics. What other hopes do they have? Getting a job as a young person is almost impossible.

Can't get a job without the experience. Can't get the experience without the job. That's the spine-chilling Catch 22 that is destroying a whole generation. These are your children who are being frozen out from the employment market. Take a bloody look at yourself, stop looking at the profit and turnover for your company, and ask yourself how many apprentices have you trained? How many entry-level positions have you created in your company? What are you doing to help the next generation?

Give young people the break they need in life. It could be as little as a small business loan, of a few hundred or few thousand pounds. That kind of money is pocket change compared to the value of your savings and assets. If you don't give away more than 1% of your total personal wealth (value of your house + value of your salary + value of your savings + value of your pension) every year, for the lifetime of each child that you have spawned, then you are a pathetic spineless leech on society.

My parents, tried to be as supportive as they were capable of being, and I love them. They have made mistakes, just the same as all of us, and I do recognise that being a parent is hard, and everybody is just winging it.

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