Tuesday, 9 June 2009


No more of reverence, love, affection, pity, hatred, regret or horror. All jettisoned a generation or two ago. Our former cocktail of emotions, graded hues somewhere along the happy-sad spectrum, now usurped by a single, solitary sensibility. An unvarying temper of constant agitation. Adolescents are no longer capable of being moved. To be moved is to be affected. By something external that acts back upon you and changes your feeling state. Implicit, is your relationship to what unfolds before you. But now there is no surrendering of one’s own mental state to external influences. To allow oneself to be moved is to compromise one’s sovereignty. While the resultant passivity is couched in an unblinking assimilation. A dearth of awareness. A renunciation of judgment. An abdication of receptivity. As with the phone camera images, vision is pooled, rather than genuinely shared. People’s ways of seeing, merely become adjacent to one another. If they are shared, it is only as an infected needle, or a sexually transmitted disease. A coincidence of space, a mutual dematerialization. A subterranean bundle of fibre optics.

Still, what of the last of these pricking sensations ? Which is to be this all-encompassing emotion, the one into which all the others are to be unified ? Why, they are full of empty rage of course. Aimless vexation. Theirs is no generational Oedipal spite. The “I blame the parents” castigation of rubbernecking social commentators. For in truth they have long since grown indifferent to their parents and any rancour towards them. They have left them not just floundering in their wakes, but trajected in a distant galaxy. Propelled by precipitant advances in technology, culture, information and their own neural hairtriggering. An entire cosmological redshift, as they hurtle away from the dribbling big bang that was their unidealised conception way back when. The non-existent premeditation for them being in the world. For constituting that world in its entireity. By the time the light from their progenitors’ warning beacon reaches them, the life of parents is already long extinguished. Such is the gulf of dead air between them.

No, this is an ire provoked and fomented by the chasm between expectation and actuality. Whatever they do in life, it can render no difference at all. A nebulous foreboding of having been conned, but not by any prestidigitous conjurer they could shake a stick at. A recondite disatisfaction. Directionless. They do not drink and fornicate to fill any yawning gap. Nor do they binge seeking to purge. For how can you relieve a void ? Fire cannot rage in a vaccum. They can burn nothing off of themselves. I see it in all its plangency out in town centres. How they elect to squander their leisure time at breakneck pace. A perpetual motion of restlessness. Such activity merely tamps down the conniption. To drain off the acidic lees. The contamination. The taint. A corking in both senses of the term. Debasement in order to decompress. It passes the time. Distracts them from their wrath. Obliterates reflexiveness. Devitalizes them. Like leech therapy of yore. Actually, it kills time. Ten, twenty, thirty minutes, or an hour, or a day they’ll never get back again. And that’s the point.

All stemming from having banished mortal thoughts (erected ironically on deicide). Keeping them at bay from daily calculation in life. And with it, some catenated notions of wellbeing, contentedness and purposefulness, are also consigned to insensibility. If any of these aspirations are roused, then stringy lickspittles that they are, they inevitably drag back into streaming consciousness the overwhelming dreads of death along with them. Such splintered minds, cannot afford the results of their elective self-leukotomies to be reversed. The deluge would be too annihilating. So they build the levees higher, shoring up the unidirectional flow of their thought processes. They cede more and more fallow mental ground.

With a D-Notice on mortality as a subject for introspection, then they would do well to mull over the occupation of life. Yet, if they rely on such wholesale walling off of their interiority, then they are thrown back on their corpreal bodies for interacting with each other. This leads not to a refraining abstinence, but a more desperate, grappling contingence. A buffeting clutch. Explicit, but incoherent. The exchange of language, such as it is deployed, is gruff and indistinct. Breath’s very modulations are compromised by having to constrict cathexis from hitching a lift. The vocal musculature atrophies, lips only part to snog, not to caress words. The glottis is to be tilted and plugged by adversarial lancing tongues, rather than shaping sentiment within its toning folds and spaces. They are ‘proper’ disarticulated. ‘Well’ speechless from their dried up springs of utterance. Devoid of expressive power, they languish in emotional illiteracy, ‘ya git me ?’

The knottily graded happy-sad pH scale of emotion is only thorny along one of its bifurcations. If neutral is zero, then the happy parade all range positively in one direction. A heliotropic embracing and blossoming. Contented-Pleased-Delighted-Gleeful-Thrilled-Jubilant-Ecstatic. But in the current day and age, this branch has been viciously pruned into fruitlessness anyway. Alas, not so for the sad shower. A phalanx, not tight-knit, but overlapping. Braced dyads of dark-shaded feelings. For every melancholic, there’s somebody jaundiced. Downcast/Discomfited - Sorrowful/Cut up - Morose/Bitter - Miserable/Stricken - Despairing/Repining - Anguished/Tormented - Suicidal/Baneful. The umbra resolutely wallowing, stewing in one’s own juices. While the penumbra, wrings its wagging and pointing fingers of blame at a gnawing external source. One which can be lanced in order to drain all suppurating feeling. The tenor of its march therefore, can only lead to a confluence with revenge. Revenge is not itself an emotion. But spliced with them, it becomes one in all respects. Genetically modified. It does, after all, itself impart motivation for swingeing action and deed. The impulse for revenge, if successfully discharged, can actually turn the emotional pH scale on its head. It will launch you into the happy alkalis, as you recast over in your mind the exquisite piquancy of how it played out. Pleased as punch.

Our emotional range has become truncated, yet not blunted. If anything, it has become rather more shrill at either end of the register. We accelerate up through the middling, pastel shades of feeling far more swiftly. In order to reach terminal velocity, which thereby craves a scratching post. It used to be solely the crooked and the villainous who applied the exponential of revenge. Pre-emptive strikes and deterrent theory. Logarithms of intimidation utilised to hasten things along and seal deals. But nowadays, we’re all at it. Getting one’s revenge in first. (Those “Prisoner’s Dilemma” Game Theorists back in College would scratch their goatees sagely). A furnace of irascibility, necessary to drive the daily engine of the combative business of existence. Road rage. Vivisection rage. Supermarket till and trolley rage. Hedgerow rage even. Finding fault with even the humble mundanities of life. Stoking up the fires so you are not caught cold and die of emotional exposure. Constantly on the brink of combustion at the drop of a hat. At the slightest slight, we are all rendered furious funambulists. To maintain our heightened equilibrium, we need to thrust our balancing pole so as to topple from their perch, the antagonist who dares cross our path. Every interaction becomes a trial by ordeal. Due to its evil siamese twin revenge, no longer serving as a shortcut, rage too has become a state of being. An undifferentiated calculus for negotiating non-negotiable daily life.

New York and Paris, yes we might expect nothing less. But Winchester and Lossiemouth ? Market Deeping and Market Drayton ? Rave on smiley culture, for you strip us of our self-expression.

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