The act of sitting down to write these posts scares the living shite out of me. I’m terminally incapable of planning any piece of writing, to the point where when I do attempt to prepare something in advance I never end up with a finished product. Because of this, I thrive (and keep this Neocities running) through just hoping I suddenly get really passionate about a niche topic and (then once inspiration hits) refusing to sleep until said passion manifests itself somehow. I’ve had friends jokingly say that this gives my posts an oddly conversational tone (imagine the slightly weird old lad on the train who tells you their life story over pre-made sandwiches and scarily sweet-looking tea) but I’ve also had friends point out a concerning amount of typos in my last piece (which you should read considering I poured my soul out for no discernable reason) so I guess it balances out in the end. Regardless of this, I’m beginning to obsess over the formulaic nature of my creative output – even if I’m only realizing as such because this lockdown has been the most active I’ve actually been as a “writer” (read: useless internet wanker). Now if I wanted to try really hard to seem profound this would probably be the point where I’d claim (without a hint of humour or irony) that what I do each Monday and Thursday is the exact same as what Rob Brown and Sean Booth do when they get prodded into throwing together a new Autechre record, but even I think that metaphor is stretching it – at least technical limitations mean that their songs sometimes have melody in them. A certain cultural theorist I will not name this early in this post claimed that the only overruling feeling of this generation was the sensation of assuming everything has been done before – despite this being the tenth post-‘Fiteclub’ piece, I feel like I’ve written everything I possibly could and that thought makes the process of starting anything fairly difficult.
I didn’t sleep at all in the hours that followed finishing the last music post on here and the two days that followed felt indicative of my lockdown experience as a whole. At first, I thought I’d be able to doze off while catching up on the two chapters of Naomi Klein’s ‘On Fire’ I had to read for a reading group I got roped into – an hour or so passed and I got through them while feeling oddly attentive. I spent another hour or so just pacing awkwardly around the house, mainly just in the hopes that using some minute amount of energy would lead to my body suddenly collaborating (or just collapsing). This didn’t really work, so I gave up on any notions of functioning properly for the next few days and started reading ‘Post-Punk Then And Now’, a collection of ten lectures and interviews on the genre I impulse bought a few weeks ago (mainly as it was impossible to find on my usual ebook piracy websites). Because no sane person was awake (that and I was too tired to actually seek out forms of digital distraction) I was able to power through the book, reaching 69% (the only metric of progress in my reading I actively archive) in the book at around two in the afternoon.
Once I’d finished the book I thought I’d just power through whatever work I had due that day (after all I was actually awake for normal human hours at once!!!111!!) but ended up staring at a blank copy until half three in the morning (as my friends practically begged me to fix my sleep schedule over increasingly concerned seeming Discord messages). I woke up the next day at around half twelve, listened to half of ‘Mutant’ by Arca over my phone speakers, and then fell back asleep until roughly four in the afternoon – feeling like one of those crap CPUs Japanese YouTubers use to barbeque meat. I spent most of the day alternating between staring into Twitter while feeling like crap, texting people while feeling like crap, making a small token effort to finish work that was due, and starting ‘Queer’ by William S. Boroughs – even though it felt hard to read a full sentence. My focus was brief and incomplete, I felt oddly foggy and incapable of doing much. In other words, I’ve been unable to think normally for the last few days, presumably making this blog post lamer than usual.
Mark Fisher opened up his part of the introductory conversation in ‘Post-Punk Then And Now’ by pointing out how bleak it was that “we are interested in post-punk in the way that we are” – essentially arguing that “ironically, much post-punk might have sounded more out-of-date in 1983 than it does now, because there’s been a flattening of cultural time since then”. This flattening of cultural time is morbidly interesting to me, mainly as there’s a lot of odd similarities between the conditions in which post-punk arose and the one that we’re currently living out one shite blog post at a time. According to Mark, post-punk was born out of the existential challenge created by a combination of both apocalyptic terror and boredom – “faced with imminent death, it’s a scandal that I’m bored” as he put it. This sentence resonated with me – the fact that I can sit here during an apocalyptic event and get anxious over sending replies to people and feel drained drafting blog posts feels oddly scandalous. I really should not have the right to feel bored or discontented at the moment, making the fact that I’m starting to feel this way strange to think about. According to Mark, where our societies differ relate to a lack of urgency. The internet seemingly “makes us feel immortal, as if we’ve got infinite time to do something”. “We can endlessly float in the archive… Just one more click before I do something”.
Every arsehole on the internet who performatively uses a profile picture taken from ‘Serial Experiments Lain’ has used the same “No matter where you go, everyone’s connected” quote before but I feel as if this line perfectly captures the dread I’m feeling about our current moment. It sometimes seems as if we’re headed into a crisis point at a time where any message of an alternative society is slightly muffled – the system is eating itself alive, morphing into something worse in the process, and all we can do is make snarky one-liners about it on Twitter and go on walks within a 2km radius. There is no real escape from our situation and it rapidly seems as if whatever “future” we’re headed into is going to be some strange combination of Uber-style gig economies, WeWork-style technical hubris, and MAGA-style lowest common denominator nationalism until the planet melts. The only real comparison I can find to our current economic situation is the stagflation crisis of the 1970s (bringing us back to the era of post-punk) – the system of Keynesianism shit the bed and the neoliberals who screwed us over were able to use this crisis to slide in and use their ideological framework as a “coherent” solution to the situation, sending us closer to the hell we currently live in. We live in an odd crisis moment – everything is suddenly a logistical nightmare and “business as usual” is unlikely to work. Neoliberal capitalism isn’t dead, it’s just about to get even more dystopian.
As Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams correctly pointed out in their text ‘Inventing the Future’, these “crisis periods are when automatable jobs disappear, never to be heard of again” – this would be slightly more palatable if we were being replaced with Evangelions, but a lot of these so-called “innovations” in automation are just attempts to make exploitation even more esoteric and obscure. This is probably best exemplified through Mira Robotics, a firm that aims to charge you €208 a month in exchange for a futuristic robot maid that’s actually just controlled by some underpaid freelancer in a country with weaker (if any) labor laws. “We move faster […] yet we go nowhere”. It could be argued that the last few decades have been defined through the brain-melting contradiction of living in a system defined by its utter fragility and precarity yet also a system that we could never admit to falling apart or being replaced – none of us are capable of imagining a future, let alone a better one. I can’t help but feel that this precarity will worsen over the next few years – our tech overlords will get to work from home permanently, some fortunate friends will get to do similar (but as independent contractors controlling some robot somewhere), while the rest of us will go around delivering Uber Eats orders for the rest of our lives. The necessity of social distancing in the months (or years) that follow offers the ultimate impetus for firms like Mira Robotics to further this faux-automaton – Owen Jones getting mad at you for shipping in a maid during a literal pandemic? Just hook them up to a PSVR somewhere! That’ll clearly solve the problem.
When asked about whether post-punk became popular again today due to the lack of a coherent future in our lives, Mark Fisher remarked that “the sense of urgency” created by the Cold War “produced an existential imperative: we can’t waste time because we might not have any time. That is what generated aesthetic futures, that’s what made things sound like they hadn’t sounded before. So the sense that there might not be one type of future, generated another type of future”. Gavin Butt later went on to say that “I think we are turning back to the 80s – and to post-punk – to see how we imagined it could be possible to beat those fuckers [neoliberals] the first time around”. It’d be an understatement to say that we’re headed into bleak times (if we aren’t in them already), but we have to ensure that once we’re able to leave the house again we are able to create a sense of urgency around imagining a better future and avoiding the digital voids we’re currently forced to float in. I’m not really sure how I was supposed to end this so I thought it’d be good to finish with a vaguely uplifting Lydia Lunch quote. “If you live in depression and anger and frustration, the enemy has fucking won. They want you to feel like shit. Yeah. My rebellion has always been, and this has always been the closing mantra of my solo spoken-word pieces for over ten years; pleasure is the ultimate rebellion. Pleasure is the ultimate rebellion because it’s the first thing they try and steal from you in their campaign of fear and hatred. So I insist on being completely hedonistic, a libertine, and have as much love and spread the love and spread your fucking legs people, as much as possible. Because when you are miserable they have fucking won. And face it, this is a miserable fucking country man”.