A thought on my inner voice

I was recently asked to talk about my inner voice and what it feels like.

Ironically, I rarely think explicitly about the voice in my head. Other than to recognise I have one. Apparently not everyone does. For those who don’t experience themselves this way, it’s important to understand, no one talks to me. Imaginary people don’t appear. I hear my thoughts, lots of them, spoken concurrently. And it can get noisy in there.

At its worst, the voice is the opposite of some benign companion, guiding me through the travails of life. Instead he’s an unrelenting gob-shite, filling every space in my head the way water fills a glass. An opinionated, vociferous, belligerent noise maker, that never ever shuts the-fuck up!

If you could hear the monologues behind my eyes, they would sound like traffic tearing up a multi-lane highway. A  mega-road spiralling infinitely inward, forever chasing the end to Mandelbrot’s fractal. Cars and lorries, trucks and vans, wefting and warping at deafening speeds. 

That’s what I wake up to. My status quo. The baseline noise in my head. And because that’s just how it is for me, the best I can do is put it to work. Construct a narrative? All done! Find me a patterns in the chaos? No problem! Create connections between absurdities? There you go! Now imagine all of that multiplied by ten, twenty, a million. 

When things are going well and I keep busy, it’s manageable. When it’s not, when the wheels inevitably come off, it’s a car crash. Any unexpected question, that catches me off-guard, will feel like a herd of buffalo charging into traffic. Vehicles brake! Tyres skid! Unforgiving metal mashes unyielding flesh! It’s carnage. Nonsense speaks. None sensical words choke the voice. No lanes. No direction. Just thoughts and emotions mangled together with nowhere to go but… it’s as visceral and violent as an actual car crash.

If I was a science experiment, it would be beautiful, a miracle of physics. Particles colliding, unraveling some fundamental truth about the universe. But there’s nothing profound coming out of this particle accelerator. When my thoughts collide they create fission not fusion. Things get smashed not created. And the inevitable consequence of exploding fission. Tonnes of toxic waste on everything inside me.

When inertia is everything, collisions are catastrophic. 

On the edge of catastrophe. That’s my head. It reads hyperbolic. Even romantic. But romanticism is torture for financial gain. Grist to the mill for the parasites of romantic pain. That’s not me. For me it’s like watching the penny drop, on my head. A machine, stamp! Tightropes and knife edges don’t mean the same things, when they’re ploughing face first into you. You did this. Your brain did this to you. You hate yourself because there’s no one else to blame. The shame. Shame on you for being that fragile. For being that dumb. For not knowing! How do you master a weakness you can’t control?

Blunder blind into any shadow and the hole in your head will glow. 

When the deluge of cortisol floods the tarmac you’re forced to choose. Fight or flight? Flee or stand your ground? I will always fight! I don’t know why. Generational trauma? Tough ancestors made hard by tough lives? Who really knows? But come at me the wrong way and I will fight you!

The flip side of fighting is vigilance. Hyper vigilance. Life in a state of expectation. Reading the road. Knowing. One step ahead. Anticipating. If this. Then that. When speeding thoughts connect with that charging buffalo it gets dark, barking, myopic madness. It’s not anger. It’s panic. A chest tightening sickness that starves reason. Waiting for the moment, you have to fight!

It’s never calm before the storm, only after the disaster.

The aftermath of disaster is silence. Thoughts choke on internal combustion. Mandelbrot’s patterns burned to a dust. Leaving a hole that’s blacker than absent. And a silence that’s worse than the noise. The quiet is arrest without charges. Until nothing takes hold of everything. Dragging mayhem over the edge. Letting carnage fall off the horizon. Waiting for rubber to taste the edge. Zang tumb tuuum, gears bite the rim. Zang tumb tuuum, engines growl at silence. Zang tumb tuuum, thoughts weft and warp. Noise shattering the silence, so that inner opposite can return to square one.

What make you unique?

“What makes you unique?” is one of those questions asked by potential employers to catch you out. Whatever your response you’re doomed to come off as an idiot. That said, I tried to be interesting.

My knee-jerk reaction to the question, “What make you unique?” is to reply nothing. To misquote Chuck Palahniuk we “are not special… not a beautiful and unique snowflake” we are “the same decaying organic matter as everything else”. But that’s not going to get me the job, is it?

So me being me, I go looking in a dictionary for clarity and inspiration. The word unique is written alongside words like individual, special, idiosyncratic, eccentric, solitary, exclusive, rare, peculiar, novel, and strange.

I could easily make a list of personal characteristics that correlate to these synonyms, but you don’t have the time, and I don’t have the hubris, to start telling you about my idiosyncratic taste in anything.

Uniqueness I realise is dependant very much on context. In a room full of writers, being a writer is not unique. The same can be said of artists or photographers, managers or technicians. But in a room full of specialists, I’m a polyamorous generalist, a creative thinker chasing novelty, and that makes me a bit of an alien.

So to answer your question, what makes me unique? I’m gonna say, I’m an alien!

The Border Reiver by Nick Christofides.

Finished reading what felt to me like a Tory take on class conflict, “The Border Reiver” by Nick Christofides.

There’s a class conflict at the heart of the plot, that reminds me a little of the conflict in Terry Nation’s seventies virus thriller “Survivors”. Nation’s bad guys are all working class union leaders, imposing their collectivist ideas on the middle class survivors of the apocalypse.

Christofides takes a similar tack, as we follow his salt of the earth landowner, battling to protect his family against the ruthless socialists imposing their land reforms, and trying to steel his ancestral home.

I’m not entirely sure how any of this links to the Border Reivers, other than the location of the story. For me the reivers analogy stretches thin under the weight of contemporary political reality. When the riding families were active, raiding across the border lands of Northumberland and Cumbria, they fought and feuded, murdered and robbed, to survive harsh conditions. They were organised and ruthless, the mafia before the mafia was a thing, demanding protection from raiding, taking hostages and extorting ransoms. As likely to take up arms and fight for the King as against him. From the things I’ve read on the subject the reivers were less the lone wolf and more of a pack animal.

All of that aside, it’s a well written thriller that keeps you reading, and I liked it.

The unnatural Nature of Culture

A message from @maimislang posted on @CloutFeed, the DeSo social media blockchain, quoted American writer Joseph Campbell.

The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with Nature.

These days, all of our heartbeats are governed by the pulse of electricity, strobing through wires buried deep in the concrete and steel that surrounds us. The safety of the walls that envelope us, work to keep us away from, and safe from, anything Natural.

Generations ago we hitched ourselves to, and became completely dependant upon, the unnatural Nature of Culture. It was sold to humanity as the solution to all of our problems. Offering safety and protection from the dark nights of Nature.

The price we had to pay for this apparent comfort can best be described as the tyranny of rents and taxes, laws and society. Structures that have become worse now than any dark nights of Nature.

Realise, if you dare, we are all hostage to our fears of the dark.

They keeps us here.

They keeps us working.

And in return Culture keeps the lights on.

Prohibition hurts the environment

An answer prompted by Mike Power’s article in Vice: Getting High Is Damaging the Planet – But Mostly Because of Prohibition

It is no surprise that illegal drug production causes environmental problems. Prohibition is an act of alienation. It’s a policy that only makes sense when seen as justification for ever more intrusive policing strategy.

I would argue that prohibition has corrupted our relationship with drugs. Think about that for a moment. Every culture has a sacred substance, a drug that offers users a state of grace. How different is dropping a pill and dancing all night, from smoking peyote by the indigenous peoples of south America. I would say the only difference is location. When someone says they’re high, what do they mean? I’d say they’re referring to the heightened sate of being they’re experiencing. They’re seeing and feeling things at a heightened level. If you were being unkind, you’d call it escaping, otherwise you might think of it as seeking.

Prohibiting needs to be stopped because we need to reestablish a healthy, considered, relationship with drugs. One that sees drugs in context both socially and environmentally.

Open Culture: Ayun Halliday: Nigerian Teenagers Are Making Slick Sci Fi Films With Their Smartphones

This is both interesting, and a little worrying. It’s great for these filmmakers. They’re making films. They’re exhibiting their talents, and learning their craft. It’s getting them noticed. How long before someone comes along, and gives them a budget, lets them make something bigger? My worry is, this kind of filmmaking doesn’t automatically translate. How many times has a great passion project been the last we ever see of a filmmaker? I can think of a few more talents, who’s work seemed to suffer when they were given a budget. They didn’t know what to do with the money. It’s as if the energy needed to make the passion project gets lost. The pressures of making no budget films are not the same as making something where you’re responsible to someone else. These young men need professional mentoring if they’re going to progress. But with the right care and guidance, they could be the next Spielberg. Remember he started out making war movies on 8mm film when he was a kid.

A secondary worry for me is the pressure this kind of work puts on those who are trying to be an industry professional. How can anyone make a living from projects like this? It’s not a sustainable model. It’s great that people can make a film with only their enthusiasm. It doesn’t bode well for those who need to make a living from the industry. This model is being repeated around the world. Enthusiastic individuals enticing (and or exploiting) other enthusiastic individuals to work for nothing. I’ve been on the wrong side of that equation once too often. It hurts, and can be hard to recover from.

We need a radical approach to the housing crisis

An answer prompted by a George Monbiot article in The Guardian: Poor tenants pay for landlords to have a good time.

I agree that “government policy has created heaven for landlords and hell for tenants.” I am a tenant. I always have been, and always will be. Not through choice but because I have never been rich enough to buy. As tenants my partner and I are treated like children. Constantly reminded it’s the landlord’s house, not a property we’re paying to call our home. All tenants are made to feel as though they should be grateful to the landlord for letting us rent their property. How would you feel if someone could turn up at your door whenever they choose, and just let themselves into your home? It makes you feel vulnerable. As if you have no agency.

I think we need a radical approach to the housing crisis. One that puts tenants front and centre. Yes we need rent controls. But we also need guaranteed long term leases. Terms of five or ten years should be the standard. Everyone needs that kind of stability to make a life for themselves.

There should be a register of landlords. You need a license to drive a taxi. You should have a license to rent private property. Tenants should be able to report neglect of a property, or abusive behaviour, without fear of eviction. A register of landlords would go some way to keeping both parties safe.

I think the owners of a ghosted property should be fined. Not small, slap on the wrist fines, but value of the property fines. Investors then have a choice, sell their ghosted property, or let it at rent-controlled rates. Similarly second homes, or holiday homes, should be either treated as ghosted properties, or taxed out of existence.

Mortgages should be calculated not on earnings, but on a proven ability to pay rent. I would argue paying rent is better indicator of someone’s ability to repay a mortgage than earnings. And if lenders still require a deposit they should be offered to individuals by the government, in the same way as student loans are, and similarly administered by HMRC.

The problems with the housing market were created by decades of poor political choices. For the sake of everyone, we need to make better choices.

[The sinister face of social media] The Guardian: Jamie Fullerton: Teenage girl kills herself ‘after Instagram poll’ in Malaysia

There is a cold inevitability to this headline. A sadness that goes beyond the mountain of sadness that is this girl’s death. I’m filled with questions about the kind of people social media is engineering. And that brings a chill when I think about the people around me. We really are fucked if we’ve become a world where voting on someone’s death or life is given so little thought. My guess is every one of the 69 per cent who voted “death” are going to say they didn’t think she was serious. Their response to “Really Important, Help Me Choose D/L”, was as random as flipping a coin. They didn’t think about the question, or the outcome. They just flipped a tail instead of a head at the toss. An even more worrying implication is the lack of of critical thinking present in her followers. Would this girl still be alive if she had put an “L” before the “D”? I’m going to make a dangerous assumption that she put the “D” before the “L” because she had suicide in mind. Her metric was already headed in that direction. The answer just confirmed her choice. The 69 per cent chose randomly, and followed blindly. That possibility has ramifications reaching way beyond this girls suicide, taking us somewhere over the horizon, and dropping us in a well so deep we may never get out. In a complicated world social media simplified a question into a choice between, “D” or “L”. Ironically they understood the difference between the abstract “D” for death and “L” for life, but not the nuance of putting “D” before “L”. In life there are no binary choices. I fear we are forgetting that fact, forgetting how to navigate that complexity.

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Can you create fire from nothing? Novara Media: George Monbiot: We’ve got to go straight to the heart of capitalism and overthrow it

This is an interesting and impassioned argument from Mr Monbiot. I agree with what he has to say. But it does feel a bit like one of the podium speeches from the film Reds, Warren Beatty’s 1981 biopic of Jack Reed. The question I have for Mr Monbiot is simple; where do I plunge my sword? I’d love “to go straight to the heart of capitalism,” and strike the fatal blow. Personally I don’t think you can, because capitalism doesn’t have a heart. And because it doesn’t, there is no focus for our rage, no place for my aim to strike.

This raises the question, what form does contemporary capitalism take? It’s not the capitalism of the nineteenth century. The one Jack Reed was battling in Reds? That seems almost quaint by contemporary standards. Cut the head off the bosses. Take control of the means of production. Job done. These days you can cut the head off as many bosses as you want, capitalism will continue. It just grows another head, or two, like the spawn of Hydra. It strikes me that capitalism is more like an all-consuming ball of viscera, held together with clots of blood, and the chimeric limbs of a virus, grabbing at everything in it’s path.

Describing it in this way makes me think I should adjust my understanding of the monolith. For me the metaphor for contemporary capitalism has always been the panopticon. The panopticon I’ve written about in previous posts is a machine of control, a prison. It has a tower at the centre. With cells arranged around it. The watchers watch, and the tenants comply, because they never know when they’re being watched. With the visceral image in mind I think I have to revise my vision of the prisons architecture. It needs to accommodate this unrelenting ball of viscera.

If contemporary capitalism is a ball, always rolling, always consuming, where do the cells of the panopticon fit? I can only think they line the inside of the ball like the proteins lining the wall of a virus. This changes the orientation of the cells, tipping them over. That means we’re no longer being watched along a horizontal axis, instead we’re being monitored from above. If we inhabit these six-sided boxes, hermetically sealed cells, what are we seeing when we look out? If we look left or right, front or back, we should be able to see the other tenants of the panopticon. But we don’t. They should be there, staring in on us, as we stare in on them. Could we be so similar to each other we mistake them for our own reflection? Is it that we see them, but like Narcissus we’re so transfixed by our own reflection, all we see is a haze of movement in the background.

If when we look around we only see reflections, what are we seeing when we look up? Can we even see the spherical version of the tower? All watching? All knowing? Omnipotent? Do we see the virus gnome, hovering above us like water sliding on oil? Are we seeing God? Is that why capitalism hasn’t destroyed our notions of God? It needs us to believe in the almighty so we keep looking up. If we’re always looking up, we’re not looking down. If we’re not looking down, we don’t see the viscera, the clots of blood, the chimeric limbs of the virus. We don’t see the true horror of capitalism swirling beneath our feet. We’re told the fiery chambers of hell are waiting should we transgress, but they’re not. All that is beneath us is the bloody intestine of the beast that has swallowed us.

If the Devil is the beast, and the beast is the machine, how many of us have the courage to cut into its flesh? How hard is it to kill an animal? How much fear and loathing must we have to slice through the flesh and bone? How much more courage would you need to slice and escape through those chimeric limbs? Their entire reason for existence is to grab everything in their path, and draw it into the beast? Any individual escaping their cell would become just another resource for the machine, more protein for the wall of the virus.

It is no wonder that beast seems impossible to slay. We’ve been shadow boxing our reflection for so long, we’re exhausted. But strength must be summoned from somewhere. Any attack on the beast must be coordinated. It requires a vast percentage of the panopticons prisoners to break through the walls of their cell, and slice into the beast simultaneously. The trauma must be so catastrophic that the beast is unable to repair or mutate. Each and every chimeric limb must rendered irreparable. The unrelenting production of heads must be hacked until the machine has neither the will or the energy to produce more. Only then will we be able to hack through the clots of blood, and escape.

This would not be the end of it. Who knows what will be found on the outside. Will there be anything left? It could be so depleted it can no longer sustain us. Consider also, how prepared are we for this new life? After forever in a box, will we have the skills we need to thrive? A practical life is not a technological existence. The abstract thinking needed to thrive in a cell is not the same as the practical skills needed to survive in the wild. Can you create fire from nothing? I’m not sure I have such a basic skill.

This is not an excuse to stay where we are. We have a choice. Escape the panopticon. Destroy the beast. They are one and the same. If we don’t the beast will continue until it has consumed everything. Then it will feed on us until that resource is gone. Finally, alone, the beast will wither and decay. It will not matter. No one will cry. There will be no one left to notice.

We have a choice. Learn to make fire.

Mattha Busby’s bias

The article above by Mr Busby presents a deeply confused piece of opinion that conflates wrangles over Brexit with Mr McDonnel’s negative view of Winston Churchill. As if characterising Churchill as a villain somehow negates the Labour position on Brexit.

Ms Kuenssberg inject a squirts of capsaicin into the conjunctiva with her comment, “these remarks at @politic event could stir a lot of trouble.” Neither Ms Kuenssberg or Mr Busby quote Mr McDonnel correctly. He actually said Winston Churchill was “more villain than hero”. A subtle but substantial difference. Yes Churchill was a great wartime leader, but there are many more situations in which his actions could, at best, be described as villainous. Both parties could do worse than listen to the episode of Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History podcast “The Prime Minister and the Prof“. They might also like to take a few minutes to read Tom Heyden’s article “The 10 greatest controversies of Winston Churchill’s career“. Both offer a very different view of Churchill. Yes he did great things for this country, but he also had some very unsavoury attitudes, and took some “villainous” action. To wilfully ignore and misrepresent this aspect of Churchill is an act of “villainy” all of its own.