No Mercy

It’s 07:26 and I’m awake again. Decided to get up and feed the cat. My IBS keeps waking me at about 6, which is beginning to wear on me. Thinking on it might be why I get so sleepy in the afternoons. Just not enough decent sleep. Sat in the garden with a cuppa and the Pinebook. It’s not particularly warm. Spring has sprung but there’s still a chill in the air. The doves are having a hooting competition all around me, it’s nice to be outside.

Want to do some music today. Can’t work out why I’ve been struggling to start. It might be because I can hear things in my head and just can’t make them happen. This probably involves some training, maybe signing up to Mary Spender’s Ableton course or something.

I like Ableton. I like the way you can paint sounds with it.

At Mark Fisher’s prompting I’ve been listening to the Caretaker (although the long album with the reprocessed songs got a bit wearing). I like Retrograde Amnesia, it’s good to code to and creates a calming aural backdrop.

On my walk yesterday it was interesting. I was listening to the audio book of ghosts of my life and the section was a review of some John Foxx music from 2006, called something like Tiny Colour Movies. That recount Foxx’s reaction to some films from a collection where the collector doesn’t collect anything more than 8 minutes, found things, video from 1960’s surveillance tapes, clouds, all kinds of things. So I decided to listen to the Foxx material, which is quite beautiful and weirdly fits in with the noises in the park I was walking through, the geese flapping and the motorbikes in the distances etc.

The analogue synth sound reminded me of, of all things, The Tubes and the song TV is king. So I switched to that because why not. Then I went to the album Remote Control and listened to that from the beginning. I remembered I used to listen to side one of the vinyl a lot, until one day I came home and I think my sister had disappeared the album because I left it on the turn table for quite a while – sigh.

A wave of emotion ambushed me and I felt like crying for a while. The music brought back the period from about 12 to 22 or so when my life was covered in misery. I know what the despair people experience feels like – I felt it keenly then and still feel it now, years of Buddhist practice just made it easier to live with. Listening to the songs 40 odd years later side 1 still has some great songs, put together really well, that inadvertently form a really powerful critique of consumer capitalism and the vacuous culture we are forced to live with. They’re beautifully crafted 1980’s pop songs.

You’re just a tube full of gas
And a box full of tin
But you show me your junk and I want to get in
If only your chassis were covered with skin
Cos TV you’re my everything
TV is king, you’re my everything

and on I want it all now

I saw somebody get married today
Saw people crying as they drove away
Old people laughing and children at play
I asked for love but they don’t hear what I say

What is it like to kiss a real girl
Think you’re in love and get married to her
Have lots of children and grow fat and old
And die like a fish at the end of a pole?

I listened to No Mercy and realised it could be an anthem to capitalism, it could be something we sing to our bosses in the queue for the guillotine. I had a mental picture of Fisher’s point that we need to counter the lie of calling everybody who needs help in the face of the murderous intentions of our owners scroungers by calling them back, calling them for the parasites they are. A nice picture of Johnson captioned No mercy for parasites.

Despise all the gifts of chance

The old Stoic writer Seneca was very concerned with making sure noble young men (well it was men in that society) understood that the best thing you could do was accept whatever happens. He also pointed out that everything comes to an end, and if you were to die before the end of everything, well so what? You’ve only stolen a march on the inevitable death of everything by a small measure.

Your privilege and power, such as it is, comes from chance. You may have been awake enough to grasp opportunities, or work to get entrance to places where there were such opportunities, but a slightly different fall of the dice could have changed things a great deal. This is one of the reasons the massively rich were so keen to pretend they’d earned their wealth. The internet billionaire who had the funds to create something obvious right at the beginning of buying and selling sold his company and became fabulously rich. But what was special about him? There could have been, indeed there were, several companies doing the same thing. It just happened that his organisation was picked to be bought by the people with deep pockets because of the series of accidents that led to it being in the right place at the right time.

Being in the right place at the right time is pure luck. You might have worked extremely hard to create something that was viable, but being at the forefront of whatever zeitgeist was compelling is luck. You might be clever, but lots of people are clever, you might have built something that was really effective, but lots of people have done that and failed to catch the wave and been wiped out by change. The truly grounded person understands this and shares what they can whenever they can. A truly compassionate person knows how little they have was under their control. The idea of a grand narrative that is tied to some quasi-religious destiny is so much horse shit. As one of the more humble billionaires said, there’s only a story when you look backwards.

The person in the wheelchair that can’t get up the stairs. The person who needs state assistance just to have any kind of a decent life. The person with the mental health problem that stops them doing as much as they could. You are all these people, and they are you. These are the other gifts of chance, conditions that blind you with pain and put you in need of care and love. Without compassion, without this understanding, we are all lost.

There is no they, there is only us.

A walk in the park

About 2 months ago I went paddling in my kayak. It’s a tight fit, designed so you can cartwheel. It also has a flat bottom which means it surfs really well but isn’t very fast.

I’m overweight and often find it a little hard to get in and out of the yak, but it’s not that much of a problem. Thing is, I spent a good chunk of January fighting with that cold that lasted for weeks that everyone had. It meant I’d done no physical exercise since December, if not longer ago.

I put all my kit on, the waterproof trousers, the new dry cagoule and so on. I found that the several Kg heavier I was meant that I was being constantly pressed on the diaphragam and couldn’t breathe properly.

I went out with my son onto the water and did the things I always did. I lasted about half an hour and things got worse if anything.

Frankly, I was terrified, I became afraid that I was doing things (or rather not doing things) that meant I was gonna die sooner rather than later.

A friend suggested that I go for a long walk every morning. So I started getting up an hour earlier and doing just that for about three weeks now. Also been listening to useful stuff from Audible while I wander, which helps me think and focus.

I’ve lost about 10Kg and I have energy during the day.

I’m also having a dry month because I was getting to the end of the 9-5 and saying fuck this, let’s have a gin and then not getting anything done.

Been good so far.