Stories From Time-Locked Space 5.

Giving up The Ghost

January 2017

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“I nearly didn’t make this train, becoming 33 was so lonely it became messy, and I’m so lacklustre I fail to leave the slow train at Wakefield that connects all the nodes along this longing line that can’t be cleansed of their unflattenable mining identities –  from the dales of the Dearne to Castleford. Nevertheless, I arrive in time to meet John W in Leeds and we catch the Transpennine route to Manchester.”

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“I feel better. All journeys are pregnant with our hopes, even if made in January, even if we know we are here to drink in retro bars that act as mere shelters from the present, on a wage rate that cannot sustain this plaster much longer in a Trump-storm.”

“2016 was the collective nervous breakdown, the primal scream. But 2017 is the morning after, the reality of where that necessary SOS goes next. Does history repeat? My life certainly cannot, in life, and art – in the space of a few months the formula of 3 years gone is borderline defunct.”

“I’ve yet to meet a single person on this island who is in favour of the new president across the seas, but similarily there seems to be an slowly-found agreement that this is not a time where normal judgements stands tall. Life isn’t a game per se, but capitalism for employer and and employee is just that; a rigged game, a game you signed an agreement to participate in before you were even born, but nonetheless still a game. Most people, whether they know it or not, are sick to death of this game, because it seems pointless, and some of us are starting to think there may be much better participatory sports we could all engage in. With this in mind, I speculate to John that the Trump/Brexit votes from within the cheerleader nations for the neoliberal project may have acted in a way as one acts on a computer game, where they are tired of wading through low level fights, and just want to fight MR X. Brexit and Trump could be the final boss.”

“I suppose that’s the bizarre light in Brexit, Trump: could they be seismic shocks to the foundations of capitalism? Even if they are hardened variants of capitalism (aka fascism) – in this current stage of its life they could be lethal to its longevity? Big time boat rockers. It’s a speculation borne from desperation, as to how to move away from a collision course with horror. But this could mean the only way to avoid a collision course with horror is to take that very course.”

“But hands up who isn’t feeling frightened in the first month of 2017?”

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“After we leave Piccadilly station we head southwards, with the intention of meeting Oxford Road, the so-called busiest bus lane in Europe, and stop-off in a personal pilgrimage, in a life dominated by the ghosts of my own failed futures. But where are we? This certainly isn’t the 1990s, it’s not even the early 2000s, but, despite warnings of parallels with the 1930s,  it doesn’t seem to belong anywhere.”

Are we in New York yet”?

“I stumble upon a memory as we approach the road, something I spoke about with a friend who’d had a recent bitter return to Manchester, commenting on the homelessness in this once-future city. Through the portal of thoughts of how our info-tech dependency is causing the flattening of experience (this arches everything) we arrived at a worrying proposition that the proliferating homelessness here is actually good for tourism, in a city where the dominant late Victorian urbanity shares more in common with New York’s preliminary skyscrapers than with London’s continentalism. Not only did New York overtake London as the world’s largest city in the early 20th century, but it also became the default for the excitement, romance and tragedy we expect from all big cities now. It’s part of the package.”

“Oxford Road once endorsed my future years before I even attempted to study here. This is when my sister was here, and when all was ‘chill’ in the tie-dye decadence of the late 1990’s; when the coming millennium was still a world of friction-free middle class lounging (soundtracked by the likes of Air and Morcheeba), when it seemed more like a rite before it became an aggressive imposition due to its impossibility.”

“But today it is absent – liberated as we are from its unlikely return in the new tides of 2017.”

“And anyway the exercise of old ghosts, as if they could speak more than I of the present, is cut short on the sodden streets of the city as it seeps through my shoes, making it hard to spend much time in the interzone of the Castlefield brewery and Princess Road on a miserable winter’s day.”

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“The bus we catch, happens to coincide with school turnout, and I reflect on how I grew up in a town that was near-total white working class. I remember coming here aged 19, and despite growing up in a house intolerant of racism, under a New Labour government, which if anything at all, lauded multiculturalism, I’ve since felt that there is something wrong, inadequate, embarrassing about my formative experiences, because they lacked the diversity of the Island on a whole. Could my initial instant reaction of surprise to multi-ethinicity reveal a racism in my bones I didn’t know was there?  Could this be cleansed only by leaving my home town, and then looking back at it with a heap of condescending smugness, because better people ‘choose’ to live in more cosmopolitan areas, whilst the bad apples, the weak, the inadequate are left on the pile to chew over their inherent racism…?” It couldn’t have anything to do with how the nation’s inequality has merely ghettoised us all, could it? This is when this sense of inadequacy is suddenly exposed to the lions on the vast playing field of competitive individualism,  and I haven’t met the grade, always a step behind. Coming in second. The sense of inadequacy results in the poker face of the everyday millennial coming of age. “Yesterday, I woke up sucking a lemon” sang Thom Yorke. But yesterday was 17 years ago.”

“Giving up the ghost”

“The tensions ease in my face over the first pint in a pub that touches on the Manchester, rather than Shoreditch simulacra. We idealise over an vision of a world where communication is liberated from the scarcity principle of capitalist life; where name-shaming, blame games, workplace-bitching, and tabloid life-wrecking is a thing of the past.The tiled green and white interior of the pub seems to rebound, or echo this longing. It’s fed by an optimism that I believe accompanies all afternoon-to evening hinterlands on a Thursday working day. An emotional anticipation of a Friday to end all Fridays; to end the working week for good, and allow all of us relaxation in the comfort of what we have been making for 200 years. Come on, now’s the time to give up the ghost!”

Late 20th Century was late and just said yes or no / And was mistaken for sarcasm…” The Fall

“Manchester’s peculiar resistance to The Flattening process is due to it’s prominence in a prior stage of capitalism. The cramming of so much into a small space in that first industrial rush is still evident in the claustrophobia of a place, that, perhaps due to it being held captive by the steep inclines of the pennines, results in a cocky, if not aggressive northern-ness that has usually vacated places of such size in recent times. But if anything it reminds you that this isn’t New York, even whilst the venues that rely upon these sardined streets, populated with only the most conventionally beautiful and smart of people, could convince you otherwise.”

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“Nihilistic graffiti. The type you find in areas where the weary intelligentsia-corrodes-into-cynical-career-seeking within the crumbling culture industries; an existential epitome for the retro bar refuge, that is the liberal’s retreat from duty as his world unravels outside. The scene here is a former Victorian Toilet, now the site of rock ‘n’ roll decadence and beverages that taste of a failed utopia of Continentalism here in Cottonopolis, now silently lamented. They’re a place of comfort from the feeling of endless ebb; they once were few, now they are many. Further back we saw an old old Retro Bar, beyond refashion redemption, and John spoke of how memory fails us when we try to remember when there were none. But there certainly was never this amount, surely…?”

“…surely it is high time to give up the fucking ghost!? The nihilistic comments are a sign of fatigue (come on, we’ve all written them on something before – so don’t shoot this messenger). The toilet door writers know too much to be as carefree as the words suggest we should be, but lack tools to deal with the coming situation in any other way but despair. Capitalism set down some of its first suckers here in Cottonopolis, but it now dies all around us and within us. We left our maps of the future in the previous century, but the future doesn’t have to be Trump, as we still can’t be sure if Trump could be the system’s red giant, it’s last power surge before fading away. Right now we aren’t giving up the ghost because, we can’t quite give up the shrinking sugary awards we’re granted, depressed by conviction that the alternatives would be worse. But the future doesn’t have to be starvation, nuclear war, and the Ministry of Truth.”

“Amidst the first ruptures of this conscious turbulence back in the days of 2010/11, a friend, in an utterance of the anguish over the scale of the challenge, said “alien intervention, John, that’s what many people are considering will occur”. But I’m beginning to wonder if an alien intervention won’t arrive in the form of some enlightened extraterrestrials, but from an untapped entity in this most social of earthlings. The pain and anguish of our current inertia, smashing against the confines of our craniums,  could (just maybe) be a sign of such a process underway.”

“Before conversation goes the way of all beer, it’s back to the scourge of nihilism. John speaks of the impossibility and recklessness of embracing nihilism. In rejection of the abyss that humanity currently appears to staring into, he says “yes, the centre may not be there, but” with Jacques Derrida in mind  “surely with our language, what we say, our thoughts, we create the centre? The Big Other exists because we make sure it does! Basically we’re just trying to be to good our fellow man!”.”

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