You know that feeling when you listen to a right-wing politician speaking at a rally and you get strangely excited and all worked up and you find yourself thinking, ‘Thank God someone has the courage to see when action is needed and isn’t afraid to see it through’? Well I guess we all know that feeling all right. We’ve all had that experience – we all know that inexpressible sweet sweet relief of hearing our deepest and most irrational prejudices voiced out loud in compelling tones in front of an ugly crowd. Oh yes – we’ve all definitely been there.
You know that feeling when you’re watching a trashy Saturday night game show on TV and you suddenly realise that all the enjoyment has somehow gone out of it? You’re sitting there watching all geared up to have a good time but nothing happens –you discover that you are incapable of deriving even the tiniest bit of pleasure out of it and you’re left feeling as if you somehow don’t belong. It’s as if the contestants are all some kind of weird alien species and you can’t relate to them anymore. Maybe you’ve had that experience too? I know a lot of us have. It’s not that uncommon. You shouldn’t be afraid to admit it.
Well that’s actually what I’m experiencing right now as I sit here in my armchair facing the TV screen on the other side of the room. I find myself somehow alienated from the whole damn experience. I’m alienated from the whole damn experience of being me, sitting here in my favourite armchair in my living room on a Saturday night watching the 7.30 game show. I don’t seem to be able to relate to the experience of being me. I feel as if I’m not actually in my own life anymore. I can see it clearly enough – it’s right there in front of me – but I can’t seem to get into it any more. I can’t inhabit it. My life could be on the other side of an impregnable glass wall for all the good it does me. No matter how I try to climb back into it I just keep banging my head off that glass wall. I feel like some kind of annoying stupid fly buzzing at a window pane because it’s too stupid to realise it can’t get through the glass…
Do you know that feeling when things aren’t normal and you do all the things you usually do in such a situation to make them be normal again but it just isn’t working? You’re doing the things, you’re doing the good old normal things that always make things be the way that they’re supposed to be but somehow it doesn’t do any good. Even the special super-normal type of things that you do in order to make everything go back to being what they’re supposed to be don’t seem normal any more! Probably they would if only everything else would just go back to being normal but – it doesn’t. And you’re left there feeling like a total freak, doing all these bizarre stupid things that don’t make any sense at all.
Well I guess we all know that feeling well enough. That’s definitely something that most of us can relate to, I’d say. I mean, we’ve all found ourselves in that predicament, haven’t we? I mean, that’s normal enough, isn’t it?
How can a man do what I do, and yet still respect himself, I asked? I wasn’t asking anyone in particular, it was more of a rhetorical question. Or an ironic question, perhaps. I already knew very well that this was not possible. I’d known that for a long time. Life is an adventure, not a protracted exercise in security-seeking, I told myself. I knew that. I know very well that life is supposed to be an adventure, but knowing this doesn’t help me any. It helps me only in one way – it helps me to feel bad about myself.
How can a man do what I do and yet still respect himself, I wonder? Perhaps I would just have to learn to get on without any self-respect, I mused morosely. After all, I’ve been doing pretty well up to now. I’ve been making a rather good job of it, if I say so myself! I’m getting on just fine without any self-respect so where’s the problem? Perhaps I should respect myself for this accomplishment? Perhaps I should respect myself for getting on so well without any self-respect. Perhaps this way I could get to like myself after all! I knew that I couldn’t really learn to like myself like this though. That was just my wry, self depreciating humour showing itself. As it does from time to time.
I am stuck in heavy traffic again. I seem to spend half my life stuck in heavy traffic, it occurs to me. I don’t even have the energy to get angry about it anymore. Twenty years ago I would have been fuming but now I just sit here, resigned to the exhaustion and tedium of it all. You can get used to anything in the end can’t you? Any monstrous perversion of what life ought to be about. Where’s it all going, I wonder? Where is my life headed?
I used to imagine that my life was heading somewhere – the same as most people do, presumably. Do most people imagine that their lives are going somewhere? Presumably they do, I find myself concluding. It’s probably a given. I imagine that it’s a given. A wave of immense weariness washes over me. I hadn’t really been wondering where my life where my life was going – I’d only been ironically wondering. I am far too disconnected from my true feelings to ever genuinely wonder about anything it occurs to me then, momentarily and unaccountably reconnecting with my own disconnection.
I only ever play at having emotions these days, I realise. My so-called ‘emotions’ are only insincere ironic games that I play with myself. My regret and consternation at my own lack of self-respect is an ironic game that I play with myself. This was what Eric Berne would call a ‘one player game’. An intra-personal game rather than interpersonal one.You don’t need anyone else.
I’ve been told that if you don’t respect yourself then one else will respect you. It always makes me laugh when I hear this. That’s all very well if you happen to live in some kind of ludicrous pathetic fantasy world, but it’s no good to me! When you live in a world where everyone is trained from a very young age to reject and betray their emotional core then what sense is there in talking about people who might supposedly respect you if and when you respect yourself? That’s just a sick joke as far as I’m concerned. It’s all one big sick joke. Nobody respects anybody least of all themselves in a sick society. I wonder why we as a culture find it so hard to address this simple psychological fact?
Do you ever wonder what happened to people? Do you ever feel like approaching someone at random in a public pace and actually asking them about it? Do you ever feel like shaking someone by the shoulder and shouting “Dude – what happened?” “Dude,” you’d shout, “what the fuck happened to you?” Of course you could ask the same of me. You could come up to me and shake me by the shoulder and say, “Hey man – what the fuck happened to you?’ Of course you could. Why wouldn’t you? I’m not trying to say that I’m any different from anyone else. Mind you, I don’t know what I say if you did come up to me in a public place and ask me that. I’d probably freeze. I’d probably be embarrassed. I don’t know what happened to me. I’m just here on the other side of the Event, if you know what I mean. There’s always a sort of amnesia associated with ‘the Event’, isn’t there? Nobody knows what happened, nobody remembers. That’s a very good question actually – “What was the precise nature of the Event?” I like that question. I like mulling it over; I like turning it over in my head. I can’t answer it though. Sometimes I make up stories to try to explain it to myself. I got fed into the Scrubber, I say, and then the Scrubber scrubbed my brain clean. The officials told me that I had to be put into the Scrubbing Machine and that the Scrubbing Machine would make me be okay again. I’d be given CBT. I’d be sucked up a giant pipe and spat into the mechanical jaws of the Mumbler and the Mumbler would mumble me all up. I’ll be all mumbled and jumbled and my brain will be turned into Gubblebum and that’s what the officials want. That’s what the officials always want – they want you to be fed headfirst into the Official All-Purpose Scrumbling Machine so that you can come out well and truly scrumbled. Because that’s what people who have already been scrumbled want! That’s what they always want. When you get scrumbled by the Scrumbler then you want very much for everyone else to get scrumbled too. That’s the only thing that will satisfy you. It’s the only thing that will make you feel better. You need that. Anyone who hasn’t been scrumbled yet needs to be fed headfirst into the machine and made to be just like them. Then they’ll be happy – they’ll be happy for a short while anyway, because before very long they will have to find someone else to feed into the Scrumbler. To turn their brains into pools of liquid Gubblebum. They don’t know what happened to them of course! They don’t know and they don’t care. If you ask them they’ll probably spit in your eye.
I am the Universal Hero. No authorities can regulate me no tribunals can bind me no policies can curtail my activities. My name is legend, but I can no longer tell you what it is. I have forgotten it. I can no longer tell you anything, for the bad thing has finally happened. The Ultimate Catastrophe has finally come upon us. Not only was I unable to protect the world from it, I created it myself. I created it myself out of my fear. I am sitting here staring out at the destroyed world listening to the voices murmuring in the background. The voices make no sense, but then again they’re not supposed to. They’re part of the failsafe system which is now starting to fail. The moment I installed the failsafe system it started to fail. Extra headache card should tighten them extra headache card should frighten them, and when they do then they’ll be sorry, the voices whisper. And when they do then they’ll be sorry. And when they do then they’ll be sorry. And when they do then they’ll be sorry. And when they do then they’ll be sorry. And when they do then they’ll be sorry…
The voices are the remnants of my own deteriorated consciousness. I am sitting here all alone staring out at the ruined world, the destroyed world. This is the price we pay, I tell myself but I am no longer there to hear my own voice. I’ve been hollowed out on the inside. I too was part of the destroyed world. I too was part of the price that had to be paid – the price that has been paid. All around me are happy, well-spoken people. They murmur softly in the shadows so as not to disturb anyone. They are elegantly dressed and never make any fast movements. They glide rather than walk. When you try to look at them face to face they disappear and when you try too hard to make out what they are saying their voices are consumed with static. No one has a face here, no one stands out from the crowd. Even the crowd doesn’t stand out from the crowd. No one shouts and no one speaks roughly, no one says cruel, heartless or unkind things. These elegant, softly-spoken people don’t really exist; they’re just part of the ambience generated by the failsafe system to protect us in case of the ultimate catastrophe.
I’m staring out at the destroyed world listening to the crowd murmuring softly in the background. They’re talking of things which never happened and never will happen. There’s a crack in the porthole and the ship is starting to settle into the ruined earth. The sky has turned red with strange gases. The failsafe system is starting to fail and nobody knows what is going to happen next. I was so afraid of the bad thing happening. So very afraid. Always so afraid. I went to such lengths to ensure that it never did happen. Such extreme lengths. I can’t even begin to explain the lengths that I went to – I don’t understand them myself, never mind explain them to you. I created an entirely different universe. I created an entirely different universe as a failsafe and then that turned out to be the thing that I was afraid of. To cut a long story short I went to such lengths to avoid the bad thing happening and then in the end the extremes that I went to in order to avoid it created the bad thing. It hadn’t even existed before. I didn’t even need to have been afraid of it: my all-consuming fear was quite unnecessary and led to the creation of something more terrible than even I could imagine. Even me, with my well-developed imagination for the macabre and the sinister! Even I with my predication for anticipating catastrophes could never have foreseen what was to happen next…
I call it ‘the Swamp’. Other people may prefer to call it something else, but I like to call it ‘the Swamp’. That particular word makes sense to me – as far as I’m concerned it has a nice ring to it. I know what I’m talking about when I say ‘the Swamp’. The Swamp’s a funny thing – it’s a very funny kind of thing actually. It’s actually the damnedest thing you’ll ever come across. The Swamp’s a funny thing because when you’re in it you don’t know that you’re in it. You are totally clueless – you’re clueless in a big way. It’s not possible to be any more clueless than this – it’s just not physically possible. No where no how no way is it possible! The clue is in the cluelessness, you might say. That’s what tips us off. So the thing is if you pick on anyone in the Swamp and you ask them – politely of course – what exactly they are doing there they won’t know. They won’t have a clue. They won’t say ‘I’m stuck in the Swamp’ because they don’t know that they are. They’ll say something else; they’ll come up with some story or other which they’ll totally believe in, even though it isn’t true. It isn’t true because the truth is that they’re stuck in the Swamp. They’ll never admit that. They’ll never admit it because they don’t know it – they think something else is happening, although what could possibly happen in the Swamp I can’t imagine! Nothing ever happens in the Swamp. It’s enough to make you cry, if you’re the crying sort. What do people do when they’re stuck in the swamp? You can be sure they have a good story, anyway. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it, I’ll say. I’m such and such a person and I’m doing such and such a thing. There is always all this narrative going on. Some kind of endlessly intricate but at the same time totally pointless narrative. Have you ever noticed how bored you get when someone starts telling you their narrative? That’s because it’s totally pointless. We feel like screaming, we feel like stabbing ourselves in the leg with a sharp thing. Because of the pain of having to listen to yet another pointless narrative. There’s nothing worse in the whole wide world than the pain of having to listen to yet another pointless narrative, and yet we all have them. We have to have them because otherwise we’d know that we are stuck in the Swamp, pitifully trying to make sense of the utter nonsense of our existence. How often do you think that we allow ourselves to glimpse this? How often? How often do we allow ourselves to see that we’re stuck like flies on the flypaper of this absurd nonsensical life that we have made for ourselves? You know the answer to that question as well as I do of course – ‘not very often at all’ is the correct answer, and even when we do we make sure to forget about it as quickly as we possibly can!
I saw a factory and I said ‘I used to work in that factory’. I saw a house and I said ‘I used to live in that house’. I saw a man doing a job and I said ‘I used to do that job’. I saw a tree and I said ‘I climbed that tree once’. If someone is reading a book then I’ll interrupt them and tell them, ‘I’m in that book!’ If there’s a news bulletin on the TV I’ll shout ‘That bulletin is about me’…
I was in everything. I am in everything. It’s like that joke about the Englishman, the Irishman and the Scotsman all arguing about who is the most famous. It’s me. I’m the most famous. I’m in that joke. I’m in every joke there ever was! I’m in everything…
So how does it feel to be so damn famous, you might ask? Is it a good buzz? It’s natural to be curious I suppose so I can’t blame you for that. It’s not what you think though. You can’t really imagine what it’s like and I don’t know if there’s any point in me trying to explain it to you. The thing is you see there’s a very big difference between relative and absolute fame. There’s a tremendous difference. I don’t actually like the word ‘fame’ but I’ll carry on using it I guess until I can think of something better. It’s kind of half-way right at least.
Relative fame is of course the type of fame everyone knows about and is always competing for. So tiresome isn’t it – people and their ceaseless greedy struggling for their share of the limelight! For more than their share, I should say! I don’t just want my share, I want everyone else’s too. I want your share – I want the air you breathe. I want you to be thrust unceremoniously into the ignominy of nonentity where no one has ever heard of you and no one ever will. That’s where I want you to stay.
‘It’s not enough that I be famous, others must be thrust into the wretched ignominy of non-personhood’, as we could also say! Rephrasing that familiar quote, which is something we are quite entitled to do. If we so please.
We are memes competing for attention and it’s ‘all or nothing’ in this game – what do you call a meme that doesn’t manage to get any attention, after all? You see what I’m getting at here, of course. You take my meaning. I don’t have to spell it for you, do I?
We all need attention in order to exist when it comes down to it – that’s what this whole squalid business is about. And how very squalid it is! You can’t tell me that it doesn’t disgust you to think about it because I know that it does. It disgusts us all, and there’s no point trying to pretend otherwise. It is a thoroughly nauseating business. How could we allow ourselves to live in such a fashion? How can we bear to have let ourselves sink so very low?
That’s ‘relative fame’ for you – a sordid, squalid affair no matter how you look at it. And that’s the principal human preoccupation. All human egos are deeply obsessed with the need to obtain relative fame. And all inhuman egos too, for that matter. But I’m not talking about ‘relative fame’, I’m talking about ‘absolute fame’, which is something entirely different.
‘Absolute fame’ doesn’t have to compete in a squalid fashion for territory – all territory belongs to it. Absolute fame is the fame of Reality itself. Is reality famous, I hear you ask? ‘Well, it should be’, I reply snidely with a condescending chuckle – if Reality isn’t worthy of fame, then what is?’
I know he is a pure ejit I apologised lamely to the security guard but he’s okay he is with me I tried to give him a reassuring wink but I couldn’t I couldn’t pull it off my eyeballs were burning in my sockets the pain was unbearable I’ve been up all night scouring the Internet checking all my social media feeds obsessively haunted by the fear that I might have missed something the seven habits the seven habits of genuinely fake people how to know when you’re dating a psychopath I scrolled down frantically I’ve been at it all night research shows that scientists have proven that research shows the eyes popping out of my head I had felt as if it was swimming in viruses I knew that I was seriously unwell but I couldn’t stop it’s okay I told the security guard they’re pure fools I know but they’re alright really I caught some kind of bug the other day I knew I shouldn’t have gone out without a coat on and now it was threatening to floor me my eyes ached and my brain felt as if it was awash with viruses multiplying away for all their worth my head was solid with them solid viroid space no room for thinking no room for independent intelligent thought welcome my friend welcome to the Viroid World you’re going to love it there I was just pure blocked your wrecking my melon I moaned full of self-pity and spat on my laptop screen I scrolled down frantically afraid that I might have missed something the seven habits of highly effective psychopaths I read how to know if you’re sleeping with a narcissist my mind was blocked with the virus I could feel them burgeoning within me like a tidal wave of pure evil you’re wrecking my melon I screamed powerless to do anything about it I had to stop as I walked down the street I was gagging silently I was doubled up by a bout of dry retching I knew that the badness was within me I turned a corner and found myself face-to-face with the biggest seagull that I had ever seen pecking away at a black rubbish bag in the street and as it looked me in the eye I knew that it despised me for what I let myself become the other lads are fooling around some of them are pretending to swim about on the carpet in the hotel foyer whilst others were licking chair legs one guy laughing inappropriately as he pissed absentmindedly up against the wall it’s okay I said to the security guard they’re with me