We are all so very trapped in our own lives, aren’t we? We are all so terribly, terribly trapped, so hideously trapped. It’s a freaking nightmare. We mustn’t ever mention it though and that’s the important thing. The important thing is that we must never mention it. Just keep on pretending that everything is just the way it’s supposed to be. Act like you’re having fun. I’m having a great time buddy – I don’t know about you. I don’t know about you because you look like a bit of a loser to me. A bit of a goddamn loser for sure.
At least we’re all agreed on that, anyway. There’s lots of to disagree about in this world but we can’t disagree with this. No sir we can’t. No way. Lots and lots to disagree with but we can all agree on the important thing which is that, which is that. ‘At least we’re all agreed on that’, I murmur to myself distractedly, ‘at least we can all agree on that…’ I’ve lost track of what I’m saying however – I’m coasting on the momentum of my own deadly inertia and I no longer know what I’m trying to say.
What does the absence of ourselves feel like? That is the big question of course – that is ALWAYS the big, big question. What exactly does that look like? Can you draw a picture of it? Do you have any theories? We all know that this is the so-called ‘Big Question’ – that’s generally understood. That’s generally understood by me at least. We’re all so very trapped in our own lives, aren’t we? I know I am anyway. I know very well that I am and you can quote me on that. It’s a bit of a joke really when it comes down to it. It’s like one of those impossible puzzles, one of those puzzles that’s impossible to solve, I mean. Everything depends on how quickly you can get to see this. Are you a quick learner or are you a slow learner? Or a non-learner, perhaps.
The way I look at it we all have two choices – ignore the fact that we don’t know what the absence of ourselves feels like or try to find out and drive ourselves crazy in the process. Not much of a choice is it? It’s not exactly a barrel of laughs either way. If you ignore the fact that you don’t know what your own absence feels like then you just going to get sick of yourself. Sooner or later you’re going to nauseate yourself past the point of no return. You’ll be so sick of yourself that you just won’t be able to bear it anymore and you’ll start screaming and shouting and freaking out. You’ll start losing your shit big time. So that’s not a great option, obviously.
If you go down the other road then that isn’t great either – you’ll never have any peace, you’ll never be satisfied with anything. You’ll know full well that you’re being tricked wherever you go. Basically, you’re being tormented by your need to know what it’s like when you’re not there. You keep on stretching your neck and peering around corners but to no avail. You’re trying to catch yourself out but you can’t. No matter where you go you’re already there – as large as life and twice as ugly. Leering at yourself. Wherever you go you’re already there and always that same annoyingly dumb hopeful expression on your face. Maybe you did it this time, you’re thinking – like the pure idiot you are. Maybe you’re getting somewhere at last…
I wrote my iconic masterpiece Nightmares in a Damaged Ego in the summer of 21, as is well known. As is well known to me, anyway. The title of which I plagiarised from the film of a similar name. The months of that summer merged in one long glorious burst of dark creativity and after it was over I was spent, utterly spent. I had nothing else to give. I had to go to a sanatorium to recover. I had to submit to the daily routine of colonic irrigation, grated carrot and beetroot juice.
Arrogant, opinionated, conceited, narcissistic, entitled – these are just some of the things people say about me. They don’t realise you see, they don’t realise how difficult it is to be me. That’s a classical one isn’t it – ‘They don’t know how difficult it is to be me’. No, no, no – they don’t know. How could they after all? They wouldn’t have a clue. No one else can know what it feels like to be me – that stands to reason really doesn’t it? ‘So what’s it like then?’ you dutifully ask, although the truth is that you haven’t the slightest bit of interest. But that’s the whole point right there isn’t it? That’s the whole point because none of us care what it’s like to be someone else. We might pretend that we do but we don’t.
There’s no one here but us chickens, isn’t that what they say? No one here, no one here, no one here but us chickens. So you might just as well go and look somewhere else, isn’t that the message? The truth of the situation is that we are all in hiding, we’re all incognito, every last single one of us. We are hoping against hope that whoever it is will pass us by and go and look somewhere else. Please let him move on, we’re saying, please let him move on. There’s no one here, no one here but us egos. No one here but us poor old egos…
You know that thing where you suddenly discover that your thoughts have turned evil and that you’re powerless to do anything about it? I don’t know if you know that thing. There’s actual badness in you and it’s festering away, festering away. That’s an ill omen for sure as I know you will appreciate. There’s trouble brewing and there’s nothing you can do about it. Absolutely nothing. All you can do is pretend that it isn’t happening. Act all innocent, like. It’s got nothing to do with me, you shout out, I don’t know anything about it.
No one here but us chickens, I call out, just a shade too loudly. No one here, no one here. Fear is a terrible thing you know. We’re all afraid of the man here. We live in fear of the man. Let’s hope he passes by. Let’s hope that he keeps on walking. Hold your breath. Let’s pray he doesn’t stop and look in. His dark swarthy face at the window, his burning eyes piercing the darkness in which we are huddled. Huddled up in the darkness, pretending that we’re not here. Pretending as hard as we can. There’s no one here, we say. No one here but us egos.
Fear is a terrible thing of course, we all know that. A very terrible thing. One minute we are shouting and joking and having the craic, roaring like the jackass fools we are. Bellowing our stupid heads off and making ejits of ourselves. The next minute we’ve fallen under the shadow of The Fear and there isn’t the sound out of us. Not even a whisper, not even a whimper. Whatever happened to those stupid loudmouth bastards, you might ask. They were here only a minute ago but now there’s no sign of them. You never saw anything disappear so quick. ‘There’s no one here!’ we are saying with our silence. There’s no one here. There’s no one here but us poor old egos…
Sometimes we seem to ourselves to be happy and this is called having a happy time. Everybody likes having a happy time. I like having a happy time too. To have a happy time is an important thing therefore and I know this as well as anyone else. Sometimes we think about having a happy time when we’re not having a happy time and this can make us very sad. This is a poignant moment. ‘Where have all the happy times gone?’ I ask myself, and this is a purely rhetorical question. I don’t really want to know where all the happy times have gone – that’s just a figure of speech. If they’ve gone they’ve gone and what more is there to say on the subject? Let’s leave it at that my friend, let’s leave it at that…
‘I’m a person the same as anyone else,’ I say to myself defiantly but at the same time I say it I realise that it isn’t actually true. I realise that it isn’t at all true – I’m a copy made by the machine and that’s not the same thing. That’s not the same thing as being a person. The machine rules the whole world it is true and I have to respect it for that but all the same being a copy that has been made by the machine isn’t the same thing as being a person. It doesn’t feel the same and it isn’t the same. It feels hollow and spooky and echoey and there are all these sensations of unreality that are impossible to completely shake off. When you’re a copy that has been made by the machine you’re always going to be haunted by these sensations of unreality. As I am. It’s not possible to escape from them and that’s not a nice thing. There’s no way anyone can tell me that this is a nice thing. You’re trying to feel real but it doesn’t work.
I might come out with some opinion, for example. I might be sitting there with some people that I know from work – it could be a coffee break or lunch break or something like that – and as I come out with my opinion I can’t help knowing that I don’t really believe in it. I can’t help knowing that is not my opinion at all – it’s just a prop that has been provided for me by some subprogram in the machine. ‘Everyone needs a few props from time to time,’ you might point out to me. ‘There’s no shame in that…’ I know you’re only trying to be kind when you say that but I also know that comments like this only go to show the abyss of misunderstanding that lies between us. This is the abyss that lies between me and all other people. In such a situation we both pretend that this abyss isn’t there yet we know all the same that it is, even if we’re never going to address this fact. You’re sitting there and I’m sitting here and between the two of us lies the Abyss of Misunderstanding. There’s no getting away from that. All you can do is mouth banal ineffectual platitudes and all I can do is pretend that what you’re saying is somehow helpful.
Patience is a terrible thing, isn’t it? We are trapped in the Prison of Pretence – I am at least. I have to pretend because that’s all that’s left to me. I pretend that I really do believe in the hackneyed and shop-worn opinions that the machine provides for me, I pretend that I really do believe what I’m saying – even though (I’d say) it’s pretty obvious that I don’t. The conviction is totally missing from my voice you see, and when we don’t have any shred or trace of conviction in our beliefs where are we? Where does this leave us?
I pretend that the thoughts which pop so predictably into my head really are my own thoughts and I try to feel some modicum of satisfaction from thinking them. I try to feel some sort of ownership towards them. I try to feel proud of them even. ‘Yes – that’s my thought’, I say to myself, ‘for sure that’s my thought, and a very good thought it is too!’ That’s how my self-talk goes. ‘Yes, I’m thinking some good thoughts today’, I observe brightly to myself but all the time I can’t help knowing that this meta-thought (because that’s what it is) isn’t mine. The meta-thought is being conveniently provided for me by the machine, just as all my regular thoughts are.
There is comfort in a thought so they say, although that does depend – admittedly – upon the thought in question. It depends – to a certain extent – upon the thought in question. But not entirely, however. Not entirely, because there is comfort in any thought simply by virtue of the fact that it is a thought. It is a thought and we have thought it and there’s comfort in that, come what may. To be thinking is a comforting thing you see and so you’re always better off thinking. Much better off. You’ll thank yourself later. Experts recommend it, after all. Experts always recommend it. Research shows that research shows a lot of stuff, so that’s nice and clear. No space for confusion there, although if confusion is your thing work away by, all means! Work away lads, work away. Dig in there – don’t stand on ceremony! Scientists have discovered that scientists have discovered lots of stuff and there’s comfort in that for sure. We can all rest easy in our beds at night knowing that and if we can’t then that’s our own fault. Who else would we blame, after all? Experts have shown that experts have shown that. Experts have shown that what experts show is always true and so we can all be happy about that. That’s official so let’s not waste any time griping and complaining and saying that it’s all just a fix. There is both comfort and satisfaction in a thought so go right ahead and think one. ‘What thought should I think?’ says you. ‘Any thought you want,’ says I. Who’s counting after all? One’s as good as another and at the end of the day – it all comes down to the very same thing. Some folks like to think about one type of a thing whilst others put their money on another but we’re not going to argue over that! I for one am not going to waste my time quibbling. Why the hell would I care, anyway? Folks can just go right ahead and think whatever the hell they want to think as far as I’m concerned. That’s the Great Benediction that the Supreme Official-Sounding Theocracy has bestowed upon us – the unexcelled freedom to go ahead and think whatever nonsense we want to think. And good luck to us with that. We’ll get far of course. We’ll do great things. Each to their own as they say and that’s about the size of it. Go ahead and think whatever you want because who gives a damn? I certainly don’t. Knock yourselves out. Take a running jump and see who gives a damn. The Supreme Benediction is very supreme, isn’t it? There is no denying that. Experts have shown that it is, after all. Experts always show that it is…
They call him the Muffin Man on account of how he looks like a big fat muffin with tiny little blueberries for eyes. ‘Hey Muffin Man’, they call out cheekily, and then they move quickly on again, getting on with their business. That’s what we all have to do, isn’t it? Get on with our business? We can pause for a while but then it calls out to us go. ‘Don’t forget about me’, it says, ‘I’m still here you know. I’m not going anywhere…’ So then up we get again, going about our business, going about our business, always going about our business.
‘Keep it light and cheerful’, I reminded myself, as I strode purposefully into the office, ‘and make sure that you fend off any prying questions…’ That’s my motto these days you see – fend off any prying questions. The air was thick with them, needless to say. Prying questions, that is. I squared my shoulders and buttoned up my lips as I walked into the room – they were going to get nothing out of me, I resolved. I wasn’t going to give them a damn thing. I’ve always found it hard to fit into the workplace you see. I never seem to know how to say the right thing. ‘Pretend that you know what you’re doing’, I sometimes say to myself. ‘Act like you know where you’re going…’ But it never does me any good, however – I guess I’m just not that great at pretending.
That old voice never stops talking in my head – ‘pretend you know what you’re doing’, it advises me, over and over again. Every time I go to do something it’s the same thing – ‘pretend you know what you’re doing, pretend you know what you’re doing, pretend you know what you’re doing…’ Is it any wonder that I’m such a mess? People blame me for being the way that I am – they say that it’s my fault for being such a freak. ‘Hey freak’, they call out in their shrill accusing voices, ‘why are you such a freak?’
What sort of an answer can I give to that, do you think? What’s the appropriate response in such a situation? It’s not so easy when it’s you, is it? That’s the point I’d like to make. It’s not so bloody easy when it’s you. Of course I realize that itisn’t you – it’s me rather than you, and that’s why you get to sneer and laugh at me the way that you do. ‘Who’s the freak here anyway’, you ask, ‘who’s the one who can’t ever get anything right?’ ‘Hey freak boy’, my inner critic says, joining in, ‘why are you such an abnormal little bastard?’
The days go past so fast that I can barely keep track of them. Actually, I can’t keep track of them. They get away from me all the time. They get away from me every time, I mean. They get away from me every time. I try to keep my spirits up the best I can of course. ‘Good things are going to happen’, I say. ‘We’re going to a good place and so that’s good…’ Affirming statements are very affirming, I find. Positive statements are always very positive, in my experience…
The street angels were out in force, stalking the pavements. There was no escape from them – they were everywhere. ‘This land is precious to me,’ I lied, ‘and now it is full of unclean things…’ I failed to mention that I myself am one of those very same unclean things. I neatly avoided saying that.
Somewhere out of sight in the shadows the Reality Simulator was humming. You could almost not notice it, if you didn’t know what it was that you were listening for. I could hear it though – I can always hear it. Even when I’m asleep I can hear it, and that’s what makes me different from everyone else I know. No one hears the Reality Simulator in their sleep – they don’t even hear it when they’re awake. They never hear it, as far as I can tell.
It could be that people hear the Reality Simulator too but for some reason they never mention it. That could be true too, but I rather doubt it. The obvious conclusion is probably correct in this case, the obvious conclusion being that no one apart from me can hear it. It’s not a nice sound though, it’s more than just a little bit disturbing. It’s enough to disturb the hell out of anyone, in fact. Can you imagine it – everywhere you go the godawful all-pervading humming of the Reality Simulator telling you that everything is a lie.
Maybe that’s OK, you might say. Maybe you could learn to live with it. Maybe it’s not so bad. Maybe you can learn to live with a lie. You’d have to think about this one for a while though – the glib and easy answer – which always comes out of our intense desire not to be disturbed in any existential way, needless to say – can never be relied upon, after all. Oh no certainly not – the glib and easy answer can never be relied upon. It’s only the crickets chirping away in the long grass, we say. It’s only the wind in the tall trees. It’s only the crying and wailing of seagulls. It’s only dogs barking in the night… Scientists have proven that it’s only the dogs barking in the night. Scientists have proven, scientists have proven. We’ll hear whatever we want to hear of course – we’ll only ever hear what we want to hear.
I can hear the Reality Simulator talking away to itself, only it isn’t the Reality Simulator really, it’s me. I can hear me talking to myself in some long-forgotten corner of my mind – ‘simulate the false reality’, I’m exhorting myself, ‘simulate the false reality, simulate the false reality, simulate the false reality…’ There is no humour in this monotonous refrain of mine – no humour at all. I’m telling myself what to do and my words are charged with urgency. I’m panicking in case I’m not able to obey myself. I’m freaking out. It’s very important that I am able to obey the mind-created compulsion. Nothing was EVER more important than this. Simulating the false reality is the most important thing there is – this need permeates every aspect of my life. The pressure of it finds its way into every single thing I do. The terrible, terrible pressure.
‘Do the bloody thing’, my mind yammers hysterically at me, ‘do the thing, do the thing, do the thing, do the thing, do the thing, do the thing, do the thing….’ My mind is abusing me every minute of the day – ‘Just do the thing,’ it snarls at me. ‘Just do the bloody thing, you stupid useless bastard,’ it rages – ‘what the hell is wrong with you, anyway?’
‘Angels are singing in heaven; heaven is real.’ That’s something I read just now on the internet. Heaven is real. That’s an affirming message, of course. Very affirming. Totally affirming. But then, naturally enough, we also have to consider the alternative proposition, which is that heaven isn’t real. It’s important to take the balanced view, as everyone knows. That’s very important. If we don’t take the balanced view then what does this say about us? It says we are unbalanced, it says that we delight in the prejudiced, biased and unsupported view. It says that we already know the answer to the question that is being asked. We knew it all along and so there was no point in asking it! The answer was always going to be what the answer was going to be. We’re going to be balanced however and not make this mistake. So let us suppose the other point of view is right, which means that there is no heaven (or anything like that) which means in turn that everything is just crap and nothing great is ever going to happen, not ever, no matter how long we wait, no matter how much good stuff we do. It’s all pointless. It was all a waste of time. That’s a bummer, right? ‘What – there’s no heaven!’ we ask. ‘How crap is that?’ But that’s the possibility we are exploring here so we won’t pay any heed to how crap it is. That’s as maybe – it could still be true, you see. Crap or not. So – nothing great is ever going to happen to us, it’ll all just carry on just the same as always, day in and day out with no relief ever in store. No let up. That could be true, you see. That could perfectly well be true. We could all just be egos, after all. Did you never think of that? We could all just be egos. A bunch of egos doing ego-type stuff, trying to find some kind of satisfying egoic fulfilment the best way we can. Engaging in typical egoic-type activity, doing ego-type stuff all day long, and there might not be any more to it than that. That could be all there is to it. We like to think that there’s going to be redemption at the end of it all because all that ego-type stuff is awfully stale, awfully lacking in flavour, awfully tiresome. It’s frightening in its own way because that’s all that ever happens – the bloody old egos engaging in their perennial egoic fantasies, fantasies that are all about themselves. These egoic fantasies can be pleasant or they can be very unpleasant – they can swing both ways, as is well known. Sometimes good, sometimes nasty, sometimes fun and sometimes very crap indeed. Heaven is the ultimate ego fantasy in this case because it’s the best anything could ever be. It’s definitely the best thing that could be – it’s the very greatest thing, better than anything else ever could be, as everyone knows. ‘Boy is this going to be good’ – that’s what we say. We’re looking forward to it. Heaven is the ultimate egoic fantasy in that case – it really is. You bet it is. It really is the ultimate egoic fantasy in that case, if we’re going to carry on with this line of thinking. So let’s suppose – just for the sake of the argument – that there isn’t a heaven and this fact one day becomes clear to us. How crap would we feel then? How crap would the poor old ego (which is who we are) feel then? That would be a bad let-down, right? That would be a bad moment, wouldn’t you say? And it could perfectly well be true you see. It could perfectly well be true. We could all just be egos, engaging in non-stop pseudo-heroic self-serving ego-type fantasies from morning til night…
I achieved a god-like status for a while of course, but it was only temporary. I achieved a god-like status for a while but then I became a maggot in the rotting corpse of humanity. That’s how it goes though – you have to take the rough with the smooth. You have to learn to roll with the punches.
To say that I became a maggot in the rotting corpse of humanity is rather overstating the case of course; I’m giving myself airs and grace’s there. I’m trying to make out that I’m some kind of big shot and that isn’t the case. That was never the case. There is a law operating in life which few people properly appreciate and that is the Law of Deterioration. You haven’t appreciated anything if you haven’t appreciated the Law of Deterioration. That’s the big one – that’s the only one that really counts. It’s the only one that really counts when you’re down here in the Basement World, which is also known as the World of Human Ghosts.
Down here in the World of Human Ghosts all is as it should be, each day follows the day that precedes it, each and every path leads to its appointed destination. Here in the World of Human Ghosts everything inevitably falls to pieces, as it is written that they should. What we cherish we lose, what we prize for its beauty grows uglier every day until the time comes when we can no longer bear to look at it. What we rely on fails us, but even so – even in the light of this failure – we cannot help ourselves from relying on it. This is all as it should be: things were always meant to be this way and never shall they not be.
As I say, I achieved god-like status for a while but it’s as well not to get too attached to such things – that can only bring pain. I knew things that only a god could know, I spoke words that only a god could speak. I cannot remember those things now; I cannot remember the words that I spoke then. Those days are gone and never shall they return. Now I eke out my days as best I can in the Ghost World, trying as hard as I can to distract myself from the pointless tedium of my own fake existence. A good day is a day when I can when I am able to forget, but who can forget forever?
We are all sad ghosts together here, each one of us pursuing our own particular brand of private fantasy. We try our best to enjoy our insipid fantasies as much as is possible, within the limitations that have been laid down for us. We try to fool ourselves that we are having a good time and sometimes we even succeed for a while. Can you believe that – sometimes we even succeed! At other times we are unable to fool ourselves in this regard – we keep on trying but it just doesn’t work. It doesn’t pan out: the pain is plainly visible beneath the surface and there’s nothing we can do about it. We pretend that we don’t see it of course but we do. We can’t help seeing it.
Each one of us, lost in our own personal private fantasy, hanging onto it as best we can, trying to get it to work out for us, though it never can. That’s life in the World of Human Ghosts – that’s the way it plays out, that’s the only way it ever can ever play out. Tremendous, unwieldy, apparently inexhaustible ego-fantasies run their course, they go to the place they were always going to go to. There’s nowhere else they can go to. Time is an illusion after all – loathe as we are to see it. Loathe as we are, loathe as we are.
You haven’t learned anything yet, if you haven’t learned to appreciate the Law of Deterioration – that’s what the wise have taught us. But who amongst us can say that they have taken any heed of this most ancient of teachings? The word ‘heedless’ was invented for us. We excel in being heedless. We don’t excel in very many things it is true, but we do excel in being heedless. We go against the Way of Things, down here in the Basement Level of existence. We go against the Way of Things and hope – with a defiance born of stupidity – that it will nevertheless work out for us.
From time to time I make these feeble little attempts to escape from the gravitational pull of my own hideous laziness. Putting my serious face on, telling myself that this time I really mean it. This never lasts very long of course but at the time I would be very earnest about it. I’d be all about it. This is it now, I’d tell myself. This is it. I’m going to turn things around for good this time. I’m done with all the old crap.
Pathetic sporadic little attempts, useless sporadic little attempts, weak and ineffectual little sporadic attempts. Half-hearted stupid little attempts. So if you want the story of my life then that is pretty much it, up to now anyway. And I don’t expect it to change. Although – on reflection – you probably didn’t want the story of my life. Why would you? It’s not exactly inspirational reading, as you can no doubt tell. It’s not exactly going to put you into a positive headspace. Everyone likes stories of people who have beaten the odds and have despite, their unfortunate circumstances, managed to turn it around, as they say. That’s the real feel-good factor obviously, and we all – very predictably I might add – like the feel-good factor. We love it so much. If it weren’t for the old FGF where would we be?
Sporadic feeble half-hearted little attempts to find some modicum of freedom and self-respect – that’s me in a nutshell. Very sporadic attempts and dismally feeble too – you wouldn’t believe how feeble. So very feeble. Not actually worth the effort in the first place! It’s hard for me to get any FGF out of that, no matter how many books on positive thinking I read! It’s hard, but I do manage all the same so I suppose I should give myself credit for that. I don’t know how I do it but I do. So right at the beginning stages of each sporadic feeble attempt to escape from the hideous gravitational pull of my own laziness there is all this ludicrous grandiosity going on, all this stupid old gimmicky talk, all this gung-ho ‘I can do it’ arrogant bullshit. And then there’s the next stage which is where the whole thing sort of just fizzles out and is never mentioned again. That’s the decent thing to do you see – show a bit of delicacy and tact and say nothing about it ever again. Put it to bed, so to speak. Put it to bed and leave it there. Leave it there forever. Draw a line under it. No one wants to go raking around in that after all. Let sleeping dogs lie because if you wake them they might bite you.
That’s life anyway, that’s how it goes. That’s the story. We have to understand the very real necessity to make these sporadic feeble little attempt to do something about the situation. They serve a valuable function, let us say. they serve the valuable function of allowing us to have a bit of self-respect and I think we all know how important that is. This is how we manage to drum up a bit of the old feel-good factor and where would we be without that? Where indeed, I hear you echo. Where indeed? We need that for sure. We’re behind you there.
Research has shown that we all need to have a positive feeling about ourselves in order not to go into a terrible slump. You know that thing where you go into a terrible slump – you just pitch forward one day and take a nosedive, and once you take a nosedive like that there’s nothing that can pull you out of it. Once that happens to you all the motivational speakers in the world can’t pull you out of it! Not even your man with the mighty chin, whatever his name is. Not even he can do it. And if he can’t pull you out of it you know nothing else can!
So every time it’s the same – there’s me putting my serious face on and squaring my jaw. I’m using all the lingo all the jargon, coming out with all those dumb-ass buzz words that I got out of the latest self-help book that I grabbed off the shelf. Mouthing off about it all the time, acting like I know what I’m talking about, acting like I know all this good stuff. Giving everyone else advice whether they want it or not, making myself into a right pain in the hole. And the whole time I don’t really mean a word of it. Not a damn word. Not if I were to be honest about it.
Happy people doing happy things, happy people doing happy things – that’s very good, isn’t it? Yes, yes, yes – that’s very good. We all know that, we all know that. We all nod our heads furiously: yes, we all know that, we all know that, we all know that. Happy people doing happy things. ‘Buy the product you bastards’ a voice calls out on the PA system. ‘Buy the goddamn lousy product, you frickin stinking muppets’. We all scurry to obey. Important things are so important, aren’t they? We all know that of course. We all know well that they are. ‘Buy the goddamn stupid product, why don’t you?’ we bark impatiently at ourselves. We’ve internalised the external authority of course. We always internalise the external authority. Without it your life is empty, the augmented reality feed tells you. Without it your whole life is empty. Capturing your attention nicely. That will do the trick of course. That will generally do the trick. One moment your attention is floating out there without a care in the world, the next moment it’s caught, snared neatly. Without it your life is hollow, without it your life is hollow. ‘Buy the product you stupid twat,’ a deadly dry voice whispers with dreadful intimacy in your ear. Your new friends are mouthing words at you but you can’t understand. What’s that you’re saying, you ask? Oh yes – without the product your life is empty. Yes of course, that’s good to know. That’s a valuable message. Happy people doing happy things. Happy people. Having happy lives. That’s very good, isn’t it? We all know that, we all know that. That’s very important as everyone knows. The voice is shouting at you – the voice is angry. It’s shouting at you to buy the product, it’s calling you derogatory names. All the people are milling around in confusion – they want to buy the product but they don’t know what the product is. The voice is getting angrier and angrier – it’s abusing you, it’s saying horrific things to you. It’s telling you to buy the product. Everyone bought the product and a good time was had by all, the caption read. Yes, yes, yes – pass the product, old chap. Pass the jolly old product, old boy. The product suddenly erupts onto the scene with explosive force. ‘Oh my goodness, we have to buy the product’, an excited voice calls out after a moment of stunned silence. The crowd is milling around in total confusion. Everyone wants to be happy but they don’t know how. The angry angry voice is shouting out again now. The big frightening angry voice. It’s shouting in your head. Buy the goddamn lousy product you useless stupid bastard,’ it shouts and you cringe in fear. You scurry to obey. Buy the frickin product you dumb twat,’ the angry voice shouts in your head. It’s your own voice. You’re scurrying to obey.