On The Depressive; A Short Personal Essay

On The Depressive; A Short Personal Essay

I would like, if I may, to introduce to you a man. He is a depressive (hereafter to be used not as a term of judgement on a person’s personality, but of their entrenched depression), and he would tell you that himself. Neither he, nor I, would treat that term as a marker of pride or of shame, or because we want to elicit a particular sympathy from anyone listening. “I,” he would say, “am a depressive”. It may have something to do with his permanent physical ailment (depression is an extremely common occurrence amongst anyone who happens to suffer from a debilitating health disorder, such as diabetes), or it may simply be who the man in question is. In the past, he has been prescribed anti-depressants, but he has refused to take them.

If he was depressed, he reasoned, then it must be for a reason – it must be because there is something in my life making me depressed and, instead of hiding behind the shield of medication, I must work to resolve that issue. This, you will agree, shares a great deal of his perception of depression. He believed that depression was a rational thing; something that could be worked at, fought on its own terms and eventually defeated. Like it was a wall to break through; like it was a prison cell to sunder.

It has become apparent, to me, that depression is not actually the result of any extraneous circumstance, as our subject believed. Depression is not contextual. Instead, I have come to understand depression as a result of personal interpretation. A true depressive (which, once again, is not a grandiose term looking to place one form of misery above another in some hierarchy of contentment) is impossible to cure without showing them the executioner’s needle. To a true depressive, their depression is impossible to relieve. It is as much a part of them as their memories, as what fleeting passions they manage to cling to.

A study of the depressive tends to reveal the same vague sensations which are practically impossible to truly transcribe. Perhaps the most effective, and certainly one of those I would agree with, is that depression is, ultimately, a feeling of hollowness. It is not an emptiness, per se, but hollowness in the sense that the exterior of the depressive is so thin, so ‘porcelainate’, that in and of itself it becomes a major component of the depressive’s hollowness. Personal experience lays this hollowness at the back of the throat, or feeling like it’s just below my oesophagus. It might seem odd to try and physically place a feeling which is largely emotional and certainly mental, but it seems to be the most honest description I can conjure. A hollowness at the back of the throat.

In addition to this hollowness, there are many other symptoms of the depressive. The lack of excitement and hope in favour of a general, all-consuming sense of anxiety – a form of anxiety, in fact, which often results in a borderline obsession with the event, situation or context of the anxiety. This is a permanent anxiety which flickers from source to source like some form of physical parasite. This anxiety is also reflected in terms of nostalgia – but not a positive one. Depressives often find themselves caught in a permanent cycle of shame; something as little as an awkward reply in a single conversation can sit and fester on the brain for months, which can often lead to a form of insomnia.

True, also, is the fact that depression can severely impact motivation. The instinctive, gut-reaction of the depressive to practically everything is ‘fuck off’. Largely, this comes from an understanding that nothing genuinely matters, and a perception that even those things which arguably do matter are irrelevant. This can manifest itself in laziness which not only has its own range of severe side effects, including weight change, lack of exercise, lack of sunlight, low energy, low inspiration to look after oneself and, perhaps most commonly, a disturbance of one’s sleep pattern which can then contribute to the already existent insomnia, thereby making it practically impossible to sleep until early the following morning, if at all.

The most common misrepresentation of depression, or rather the fight against one’s own depression, is that many people tend to picture it as something to be overcome. In my experience, that is blatantly untrue; instead of being something to defeat, it is something that one learns to exist with. Or it kills one. I have heard the great metaphors, of depression as a dragon desperately requiring some heroic passion for its defeat, or for the silver bullets of drugs to bury the werewolf of depression once and for all.

In truth, depression is an endless ocean. An ocean which sometimes sits calmly and is sometimes rocked by the most nauseating of storms. Sometimes the water will open into gigantic whirlpools and swallow the depressive, causing them to kick and fight and scream against their own consciousness. Sometimes, the water is a muddy blue and sometimes it is pure black, reflecting every glance the depressive throws its way. Sometimes it recedes enough for the depressive to reach a small island, and shore up their boat before the water crashes down on forgotten sand again – even the most well-built and protected of boats will be torn to shreds after so long in such foreign, volatile and blackened seas.

Yeah, so this has been inactive for a long time. Motivation is hard to come by. Hopefully, I’ll have more time over the next few weeks and months to really get back into the habit of using this platform; I’ve got plenty of stuff written and saved up for posting, it’s just a matter of making sure it’s actually worth throwing into the meagre public eye.

If you’re interested in reading any of the stuff I wrote before I took my half-year hiatus, then you can check out some ‘poetry‘ here!

Are You Happy?

Are You Happy?

Whenever I think of happiness, I’m filled with this kind of hopelessness.

I can’t think of a single time when I have experienced the joy that I’ve read about – the kind of elation that spits
fire through the veins.

And that is all I’ve ever wanted. I’m not interested
in money, or popularity;
I’m not even interested in love, if I am being honest
with myself. I just
want to find a way to be happy for half-a-second; an instant.

I want to know what it is like to look into myself
and see something other than a hole staring back at me.

I want to know what it is like to be able to look in the mirror and smile,
and not immediately want to cry. It isn’t like I’d call myself depressed – I’d just call myself empty.
It’s like I’m watching a character;
like I’m staring around the room whilst these fingers
– weak slabs of meat and bone – type away.

It’s like I’m pushed on by the winds of habit;
like I’m driven forward by a sail and no storms touch me,
no cool waters make my progress all the easier –
no sunlight falls across my prow and
no rain makes my deck wet and dangerous.

I just go.

I just keep going, with no direction and no purpose and no stars overhead to light my way.

Whenever I think of happiness, I don’t even know that I would recognise it. I have slept with beautiful women and drank until I can’t see; I have smoked and walked and fought and knocked head-wracking painkillers down my throat.

I don’t want anything, except to be happy. And to be honest, I don’t think I’d even recognise it if I was happy, because happiness cannot be this hollow feeling in the back of my throat.

Happiness cannot be waking up with a bad taste in my soul. Happiness cannot be blinking in the sunlight and tightening my brow until I can see. Happiness cannot be hesitating in the shower and turning the heat up until my entire body feels like its burning and turning it up again. Happiness cannot be hovering over the disposable razors and cutting my skin without breaking the flesh until my arms sting but don’t bleed. Happiness cannot be drinking at 3:00 in the morning and waking up at 6:00 and wanting to do nothing more than drink again. Happiness cannot feel like a leash, holding me in place though I’m holding onto it myself.

Happiness cannot be this, this bloody, turgid life waiting for the next time I can go to sleep and, for a few hours, hate myself in dreams rather than life.

So, if you know how to be happy.
If you ever knew how to be happy.
If there’s something that makes you happy, let me know.

Because I want to be happy. But I don’t want to be happy, because I don’t even know what desire is. I don’t know what it feels like to want something so fervently that your heart races at the very idea. I know sex. I know drink. I know drugs. I know food. I know music.

I don’t know how to be happy.
I don’t even know if I want to be happy.

I don’t know how to want. But I know how to hope.

I hope that I’ll be happy one day.

The Empty Breast of Intellect: A Short Essay On the Ingrained Opposition to Intelligence

The Empty Breast of Intellect: A Short Essay On the Ingrained Opposition to Intelligence

Capitalism, the apparent victor of history, has done what all dogmatic ideologies and cultural systems tend to do, in the end. It has promoted and, indeed, cemented the dissolution of generally intellectual thought in certain areas. Whilst technology has grown, and we are all moving towards the gentle, comfortable state of the post-human (whether we like it or not), the minds to whom that technology is made available have become stunted and segmented.

I do not believe, for a moment, that I am outside the bounds of this generalisation; I firmly believe that I am just as stunted as everyone else. Similarly, I don’t call myself necessarily an anti-capitalist, though I firmly believe that an argument could be made that our society currently exists more in line with a perversion of capitalism, than that which necessarily developed over the last few hundred years.

Anyway, before I begin, I feel as though it might be beneficial for us all, myself included, to outline what capitalism is, to my perception.

The goal of capitalism is, in optimistic terms, the general circulation of wealth to improve comfort and self-awareness within the confines of the society itself. Within capitalism, we work and we are rewarded for that work fairly and honestly and we live to a certain degree of comfort based on our talents, the amount of work that we do and the opportunities we make the most of. Capitalism is based on ourselves, and wealth is self-worth and we worship it in practical terms, with a fierce kind of dedication, along with whatever spirits we might desire.

The only real opposition to capitalism, or the ideals of capitalism, is the same as the only thing blocking the ideal of Marxism from becoming a reality. We are people, driven by emotions and logic powered by the self. We are evolved primates, still longing to bare our teeth and take more than our share. Totalitarianism isn’t just an ideology, it’s a logical step from capitalism. Neoliberalism is totalitarianism, and it is how our society operates, with the exception that there is, truly, no law. The strong are not those in charge. Most of the time, it isn’t even the most intelligent, bravest, most daring or most unique. It isn’t those with a clear direction forward; it’s those with the ability to pretend to a personality that does not exist – thanks to the kinds of politics that developed in the 1960s and 70s, particularly in America, power is now dictated by the carefully choreographed personality that sways people from one candidate to another. Democracy has become its own worst enemy and I can only really blame one thing for that sad fact – culture.

Our culture is the main reason for the continuous failure of our society, particularly here in Britain. Our love of the underdog has, in a sense, been one of the primary features of our own undoing. We don’t want clever people in any kind of power, we don’t even really want intelligence because we are afraid of it. Instead, we have this strange desire to keep everyone at the same level. We don’t even want our leaders to be intelligent; how else could we explain the presence of our members of Parliament, our Lords and our council authorities? Intelligence is said to be prized by our school system but it is slowly and surely beaten out of us by our peers, our culture and, above all, our free time.

My argument here (or at least this subsection of my argument) is based upon those three aspects – our peers, our culture, our freedom. The three weights that hold those of us down who aspire to be more than what we are. It is entirely likely that, having grown up in dismal town filled with repugnant people, my birthplace and my formative years have affected me far more than they should have done on subjects like this. Still, these are the opinions that I have formed in this place, with the shadow of the internet and all of man’s knowledge, with a few short years of library access before it was closed down and used as a squat; with access to an education system that didn’t push and didn’t pull and, in the end, was most useful when it left me alone and provided nothing more than an excuse to learn for myself.

Our Peers

Perhaps the largest chain around our collective ankles is ourselves. My complaints against the weight of our peers on the fragile resistance of our intellectual potential is threefold: one; the judgement of other members of society is one of the strongest corrosive elements available, so much so that our entire way of life is built upon it; two; there is a long-standing reticence against the admission or the development of any kind of intellectual advancement for favour as being seen as big-headed, arrogant or any other synonym you might care to name; finally, three; the threat of pretension remains a deadly weapon in the hands of the weak-minded and it’s use, in and of itself, should perhaps be more of a compliment than an offence.

Our Culture

One of the major opponents to intellectual development remains our culture. Over time, as we in the West have grown increasingly comfortable with ourselves, our culture has grown to be less of a benefit to our society as a whole and, instead, works to degrade and weaken our resolve. Our culture has become an enemy of the ideals of, not only capitalism, but also democracy and human development and evolution as a whole. Our modern culture is dedicated to a maintenance of the status quo, and promotion of apathy and an ardent supporter of the unfair distribution of wealth, power, health and resources that we currently have available.

Our Freedom

The freedom that we have is, actually, the freedom to be unequal. William F Buckley, one of the arbiters of the current political system of personality, once said something to a similar effect, and it should be worth noting that our freedom is actually a more debilitating aspect of the innate human resolve and resilience, not to mention to ingrained stubbornness of the British and other nationalities. I propose the idea that, with the ostensibly fair society that we currently have in place, when placed alongside the general freedom to travel, live, work, play and love as we will, our freedom and democracy actually becomes nothing more than another blockade to our realisation of ourselves. This could also be extended to include the idea that the national peace that we currently enjoy, with the exception of misguided spiritualists, is another blockade to the development of humanity and true personality, if not the realisation of a potential intellect.

Peers; Companions; Friends; Lovers; Family; Enemies; Equals; Superiors; Inferiors; Neighbours; The Ultimate Enemies in The Face of True Intellectual Pursuit

Sinatra Night In LiverpoolAs Sartre once wrote, and has been hideously misquoted time and time again, ‘Hell is other people’. I would propose the slight amendment to the quotation to suggest, in fact, the idea that ‘damnation is other people’ ignoring the religious imagery involved in that adjustment, or in the original quotation itself.

Damnation, in this instance, I would describe as the direction in which the world, certainly the Western World, is heading at a rate that has been hitherto unseen. Damnation, in the absence of any physical or spiritual Hell, must instead be considered the state of affairs in which the intellectual ability, the capacity for rational thought, is widely being bred and trained out of the general populace (of which I am one), if they could be said to possess it in the first place. Damnation under the guise of Ginsberg’s representation of Moloch as the bull-headed representation of capitalism.

To be damned, or to suffer damnation, is to undergo judgement and as we now worship society and wealth and popularity as the Holy Trinity, or at least an argument could be made for such, it could easily be said that other people are the main source of our damnation. Without a moral compass of our own, a morality which is typically provided by values imparted to us as we grow and weighed against personal desire and necessity and logical thinking, we rely entirely on others to judge us.

To be judged in a positive light by our peers, our society at large, remains one of the most rewarding and sought after events in modern life. Whether for our work, our attitudes or anything else, we desire to be applauded and accepted into the great ravenous pack that we know as society. In contrast, the daggers of negative judgement are sharpened on a daily basis, and embarrassment, shame and guilt all remain three of the worst possible feelings to undergo – although most of us will have some semblance of a moral compass as we go about our daily lives, it would be difficult to think that we would feel guilty or ashamed in the event of negative action that directly benefits us.

Personally, having suffered from anxiety as a child, I can attest to the fact that shame and guilt are two of the most devastating constructions of society – both of which originate from other people and awareness of their expectations of you which, over time, become little more than expectations of yourself. The fact remains that people, other people, create guilt and shame; they breed it into you and we are taught that they are aspects of humanity which need to be avoided.

We love the underdog, we love the idea of someone who isn’t as powerful, wealthy, popular, handsome, famous or intelligent overcoming their opponent through characteristics like passion and cunning. It enables us to believe that we have the potential to overcome those issues which we believe to be much bigger than ourselves; it suggests that there is hope against the world and all that is wrong with it. It is, essentially, a lie that we like to be told to help us sleep and to drag us on. In that regard, at the least, we are like children still looking for guidance; still hoping for someone to believe in us. Of course, it is understandable that this affection for the smaller weaker member of the tribe appeals to us – as we spend so long inside our own heads, it isn’t really all that shocking to suggest the idea that most of us, the common man and woman, are hyper-aware of our own weaknesses, perhaps more than anyone else. We know where we fail as the ideal human beings we would like to present ourselves as and it is important that we hear these underdog stories to learn that, even the weak and the flawed can achieve victory from the strong. It helps us to know that we are not the only damaged creatures in play.

This leads me on to my next point – the fear to present ourselves as something too much more than we are. The argument could easily be made, and is made with startling regularity, that we all like to pretend that we are better people than we are, that our lives are infinitely more interesting than they are – this is a myth that is not only perpetrated by ourselves, but also the perceptions of ourselves that we are able to cultivate online and across social media websites. There are many people who have been able to push this fear aside, or were lucky enough to never succumb to it in the first place, and have managed to make a great success of forcing their lives to be interesting by cultivating not only the perception of their personality, but their personality in and of itself. Bloggers, vloggers and social celebrities start to believe their own lies, much like politicians, rock stars and other people in the public eye, until they become the person they have pretended to be for so long.

For most of us, however, this fear to present yourself as better than you are is not solely manifested through honest living, but in the rejection of bettering oneself. For example, there is only one bookshop reasonably close to me, in my hometown, and that is a Waterstones. There is a category there, where much of the non-fiction tends to reside, and it is labelled as “smart-thinking”. It took me years to build up the courage to even approach that single cabinet, and I would never be able to do so in the presence of people I know. If I, hypothetically, were to spend any amount of time in front of that category, it would be as though I were placing myself above those who cluster around the romance or the cookery categories. It is impossible to overcome this perception of oneself as “better than oneself” in such a situation, and it always looks as though I am standing in front of that category in an attempt to be seen to be standing in front of the category, rather than any interest in the books that stand there.

Almost ironically, this same fear is what, for a long time, stopped me from applying myself in my education, stopped me from writing what I wanted to write, saying what I wanted to say, to the point that I still find myself checking anything I say before I say it for fear that it might come out sounding like I consider myself an intellectual. It is an ever-present fear of judgement or, rather, judgement of the me behind what they might believe I am creating for their judgement.

I am afraid of being considered arrogant, big-headed and, above all, pretentious. I am not afraid of having ideas above my station, but I am terrified of somebody else thinking that I might have ideas above my station in life.

Pretension, that old dog with bloody claws, brings me onto my third point. Pretension – “the use of affectation to impress”, or “a claim or aspiration to a particular quality”. As someone who is terrified of damnation, the term pretentious is one of the worst possible insults. It symbolises that I, or anyone else, is prescribing meaning to something that does not have meaning; it supposes that things like literature and art are weapons designed to elevate some over the positions of others. It proposes that anything we ascribe our meaning to is, ultimately, meaningless and that we are attempting to emulate what we might consider an artist, a writer, a musician or any person with any form of creative or analytical talent, to be.

It is a term that is used incredibly often, particularly around me; I’ve found. Particularly when I started writing things that I actually wanted to write, things that I gave meaning to, things that were wholly personal, but which is submitted for public view anyway. I will not argue and say that they are not pretentious; that I am not necessarily pretentious; but that there is every possibility that pretension should be, if not celebrated, then at least not condemned by its very nature.

Aspiring to be some other, something better, than what we are has to be one of the greatest possible goals in human existence, surely? Ascribing meaning, even if that meaning is only personal, to any kind of creative work is at least evidence of a semblance of coherent thought that recognises there is more to life than that which we currently are, surely? pretension could very easily be considered the driving force behind self-betterment, and we should not allow our love of the underdog to detract from that.

This attitude towards pretension is not something that we will be able to throw away anytime soon, unfortunately. For many years to come, everyone from students to artists, writers to musicians and even more common occupations will have to deal with the ever-hanging Damoclean threat of pretension hanging over them. This particular sword, cutting the air with sneers and condescension, is deeply ingrained into our culture and will be practically impossible to extricate without executing ourselves in the process.

Culture; Society; Entertainment; Discourse; Debate; Theatre; Perception; Emotion; Interactivity; The Pretence of Emotion; The Enemy of Intellectual Opportunity and Development

Extract from an encyclopedia. A much larger argument than I have the time, inclination or intellectual ability to actually address with any sort of conclusive effort, but our very culture itself seems opposed to the proliferation of intelligence throughout the country. It seems too obvious to point out, but the issue is so deep-seated that it is worth at least mentioning. The major opposition that society seems to present is not necessarily a loathing of intellect, but a love of fakery, personality and two-dimensions well-suited to the flat screens that we surround ourselves with. There are exceedingly intelligent celebrities, that’s true, but very few of them are necessarily loved for their intelligence. Instead, their intelligence takes on their entire personality, and they become a caricature of the concept of intelligence. It is alright to love noted theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking because, in a way, he has become the mascot for the intellectual underdog. Held down by his crippling illness, he has still managed to make wide and varied contributions to the scientific community, and his entire personality is treated, by television, as a brand.

Even then, Hawking and other scientific minds, are not listened to – most viewers switch their brains off when they appear on screen, and are content to be seen to watch these celebrities. Even fairly intelligent programmes, such as Stephen Fry’s QI, still offer little in terms of education as the focus of the entire programme remains on the entertainment factor. The intelligence is, in a way, treated as just another joke as questions that are so obscure or deliberately misleading are asked of celebrities who, for the most part, don’t understand them in the slightest.

Intelligence, just like any other aspect of personality, is marketable – we have a supremely heightened form of cerebral capitalism to thank for that. It is simply another great facet of the ultimate commodity that our freedom provides us with – entertainment. Therein lies the potential source of many modern ills and ailments, particularly the devolution of critical thinking, analysis and personal opinion. Entertainment and culture work to bring society together over shared narratives, shared opinions and feelings and experiences. It could be said to homogenise and gentrify what it means to be an individual, by promoting the ethics of the crowd over the development of one’s own. A bad piece of entertainment is not only like a poor commodity, therein lies the truth behind modern society; leaving us, the viewer, with nothing more than a bad taste in the mouth and revulsion at our wasted time. Entertainment is a commodity, a product, wherein we work to be able to have our free time sucked up by the experience of emotion – it is a strange quandary, when we work to consume, but we do not consume to nourish or better ourselves, but simply because we have no other alternative than to consume. Even the more interactive forms of entertainment which have superseded television and radio as the gods of modern life, such as video games, offer us little besides the shared experience. It is for this reason that buyer’s remorse is like having acid poured down into the back of your throat – you don’t just feel cheated of the money, but of everything that the potential for entertainment represented.

There is a current belief that intelligence is a marked quality that can be, essentially, bought and sold within the public gaze. By choosing to stand in front of the literary fiction, or the “smart-thinking” categories, you are staking your claim to purchase the potential of intelligence. Perhaps the most valuable aspect of intelligence as a commodity is the ability that it can often give us to lie to ourselves; to convince ourselves that we are actually intelligent despite what our breast happens to tell us. Literature and intelligence were, for a long time, intertwined. Looking at the most popular books of the time, it is difficult not to look back with nostalgia upon the days before I was born, when men like Orwell, Vidal and Bellows all wrote in fairly simple, attractive ways which encouraged a mass readership without forcing themselves to dumb down, or hide, the purpose of their writing. Above all else, what we are lacking is a literary, narrative, entertaining voice to take a stand for something, in favour of something. The established system of beliefs that we have, that purely dominate the literary scene of the time, is that of the upmost liberalism. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but when all modern fiction offers us the same advice in terms of morals, then it is not difficult to see why culture and society tend to push people in certain directions, instil us with certain morals and neglect to propose the development of our own. It is all too easy to accept something as good, or bad, when considering the comprehensive benefits and negatives to each point is taxing on the brand. Writing, modern writing, is not so much opinionated as safe; thanks to the political and cultural ideology of tolerance, at least, incredible tolerance in many areas and absolute zero in others, it is impossible to create something that might actually offer even the potential of an impact on a large scale.

By being so irrepressibly middle-ground, by offering relatively unconstrained freedom, our culture has managed to turn our innate apathy and fear and rage into a weapon that effectively allows us to police ourselves. Minor crimes are fine, because our educational system has taught us that we are all special, that there is no one like us in the world, and as long as we believe that we’re doing the right thing, rules are essentially made to be broken. Theft is permitted so long as there isn’t a direct victim. Murder is fine in the name of fear, as we allow immigrants to starve, drown and be murdered in the streets of their hometowns by terrorists that we armed, directly or indirectly. Crime is, essentially, a joke when compared to the crimes of conscience that our society has committed in our name and in the name of all that is good and sane and democratic about the Western World. If our foreign policies, economic choices and general attitude had a name, it would be murder by committee and delegation.

That is the background for the culture that promotes idiocy and joy over intelligence and anger. That is the backdrop against which we applaud half-wit comedians who swear and appear in sold-out arenas on Segways and chequered shirts and cries of ‘you beautiful motherfuckers’.

One current trend with actually promotes the commodity of intelligence has to be the encouragement of the mentally subnormal on our television screens, across the internet as well as in our seats of power. People who replace depth with an embrace of their shallowness. Actors by any other name who turn their stupidity into a brand which they can market, like cultural critics would marketing their intelligence. The promotion of the shallow over the deep signifies the love of entertainment, the love of our free time being soaked up until we sleep and start again. However, these brands play on a much more cunning level than we might expect. When the intellectually shallow, who rejoice in their idiocy, appear before us we are able to rejoice and realise that we are, actually, intelligent compared to other people in our society. Incredibly, rather than making us furious at the failures of an educational system and horrifying parenting which allowed the development of these brands, it amuses us.

Laughter, and the judgement, of these people in society hugely amuses us and could, eventually, play a major role in the continuing function of society. One argument that could be considered is that it creates an “us versus them” mentality, similar to “the self versus the other” idea. By giving us a shared laughter point, a shared target to mock, we are able to make the most of a more liberal and easily justifiable “minute of hatred” such as Orwell wrote about in 1984. By bringing a community together against this one person, or this small group of people, society is able to create communities within itself that can easily work together to keep themselves sane in an insane world. Culture, in this instance, presents us with an opponent, satisfies us that we are more intelligent than they, and gives us a community within which we can rejoice that satisfaction and share it with others. If intelligence is a commodity, as I have begun to believe, then surely the inverse is equally true and stupidity – sheer, bloody-minded, ignorant, innocent, cruel, hollow, plotted and circumstantial idiocy is like ambrosia when it comes to sustaining society. Capitalism has performed incredibly well at keeping us in place by the development of these communities, and the promotion of a morality which encourages us to support and adhere to the beliefs laid down by these communities.

Communal ignorance is a well-documented factor of humanity, and it comes down to a certain meekness; a certain desire to be included and not stand out. Community is another of the major threats to intelligence, particularly as an influx of diverse opinions, delivered in such quick succession that they are impossible to truly intake and reflect upon, is nothing more than white noise – a smokescreen used to blind and befuddle for long enough that the next topic, the next opinion, the next horror occupies our minds instead.

Interactivity, with each other and with our culture as a whole, is a powerful blockade to personal intellectual development.

Freedom; Liberty; Joy; Desire; Design; Inequality;

The sun through the fog behind a silhouetteThe greatest blockade of all, to our intellectual development, to the absolute advancement of ourselves, is our freedom. I am not speaking in favour of totalitarianism, control or dominance, but of our willing ability to deny ourselves development. We are free to do as we choose, within reason. We are free to avoid our own intelligence, to spend time in front of entertainment without intellectual stimulation.

We are not forced to learn different ways of thinking with the cane across the knuckles or the spine; we are not forced to perform well or pay attention in class as children; we are not forced to go to university. Over time, the gentle build of ‘human rights’ and our free, classless society with weakened expectations and the willing desire to oppose expectation, has given us comfort.

Because we are comfortable, entertained, fed; we don’t need to be intelligent.

Because we are free, or free to an extent, we don’t need to develop intellectual thoughts to obtain that freedom.

We are driven by the basic desires; hunger; thirst; acceptance; comfort; warmth; safety. We are not driven by a desire to build a better world, to create things that leave our mark on the future. We are free to forget, free to ignore, free to be unequal. We are free to better ourselves, and that freedom makes us less than we could ever be.

Saying that, I am a major proponent of freedom. I think it would be the greatest thing to obtain, even if it destroyed our culture and our society. Freedom, ultimate freedom, is such an alien concept to most of us that it is a wonder we could conceive it at all.

Capitalism is the enemy of total freedom, but provides us just enough freedom to make us believe that we are free. Just enough freedom that the avoidance of our intellectual development is a choice of our own.

Through this half-freedom, we work to damn ourselves to ignorance. We are free to be stupid, ill-informed, ill-educated, incapable of thought beyond decision.

Through this freedom, we have emptied the breast of human intelligence and ingenuity and, instead, drank ourselves to death on the milk of ignorance.

As well as half-though out political essays, I also write poetry and prose. If you are interested in reading anything else I’ve written, you can click on any of the images to your left which are all free eBooks, available to download from Smashwords. Alternatively, you can read some poetry right here on this blog, such as Coal Carthage, A Red Dress or On Passion.

As always, if you disagree with any of the above comments, feel free to let me know!

Solpadol: My Brand New, Free eBook!

Solpadol: My Brand New, Free eBook!

Solpadol is a semi-fictional, semi-confessional eBook based around the twin sins of drug abuse and unrequited love. This is the latest novella I’ve managed to drink my way through. It’s the most recent entry into the Broken Polemic series, which has so far included Adjective Narcissism and God Metaphor. If you’re unfamiliar with my Broken Polemics, you can click on the links to learn more about them.

Taking place over a single day, and revolving around a simple conversation between the unnamed protagonist and the woman he used to love, this piece of writing explores dependency on love, nostalgia and a range of other pleasant-sounding emotions in a similar vein to drug dependency and addiction.

Before, I’ve focused on art and religion, but I have to say that love – or the dry thirst for impossible love – has had such a major effect on my life that if I had felt confident enough I would have liked to tackle a year or so ago. I’ve done my best to avoid a lot of the deliberately garbled, complex sentences that put so many people off of my previous attempts, but I think it’s fairly obvious that I’ve been reading (and writing) a lot of poetry around the same time.

What Is Solpadol?Solpadol covering image for free J.W. Carey eBook

Solpadol, itself, is an industrial-strength painkiller that is regularly subscribed to deal with agonising back pain and a load of other really debilitating issues. For the last year or more, I’ve been using it to numb myself to the horrors of work on a daily basis, as well as a few aches and pains of my own. A couple of these things will send me to sleep, but I’d recommend avoiding them if you plan on drinking. Believe me, it really fucks you up. Not in a good way.

Still, being half out of it all day does make it go a lot quicker.

I’m off it now, but it really impacted me whilst I was taking it (and all it will take is one bad day before I’m knocking them back again). It kind of let me run my daily life on autopilot, and spend a lot of the day thinking instead.

Why Did I Write Solpadol?

Simply, I wrote Solpadol because I wanted to draw a comparison between the effect of unrequited love and drug abuse. Love is the strongest and headiest drug I’ve ever known, but I know that if I was me, now, I wouldn’t fall in love as hard as I have done in the past.

Above all else, I wrote Solpadol because I have known love in smokeless bars, and felt the disappointment when it fails, even if it never really gained any momentum. I have fallen in love with women I’ve spoken to for a few hours and those whom I’ve only seen perform once, in an alleyway in Edinburgh.

I wrote Solpadol because I once heard a Tom Waits lyric that said ‘falling in love is such a breeze, but standing up is so hard for me’, and I think that line fucked me up a lot more than I’d ever care to admit.

Get This Free eBook From Smashwords Today!

This eBook is completely free, so download your free copy today. To download the eBook from Smashwords today, all you need to do is follow the link, or click on the Solpadol image to your left, or at the bottom of the page on mobile devices.


9 Authors I Want To Read In 2016!

9 Authors I Want To Read In 2016!

Consuming literature is one of the greatest joys in my life, from self-published, modern authors to the literary classics. Similarly, I like reading a traditional paperback as much as I enjoy more interactive fiction.

Fairly hypocritically, I’m not that big a fan of eBooks really, although I’ll definitely read them if I can’t get a hand on a physical copy. Hell, I think the first eBook I ever bought was “Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas”, and that was only because I needed it for a class later that day.

I’m often criticised by friends of mine for my reading list, and it’s rare that I’ll read something by someone who’s still alive – although if I do see an independent eBook that looks interesting, I’ll always at least read the free portion.

So, rather than just go through all the writers that I already like, and focus on learning more about their work, I thought I’d go through the list of authors that I haven’t started to read yet, but are sitting firmly on my to-do shelf.

Top 9 Authors I Want To Read In 2016!

Now, these aren’t authors that have risen to fame at any point over the last few years, but they are authors that I want to have read before the end of the year. I’ll admit, I’ve not made much reading progress so far, (I’ve been more focused on reading back through Camus, Miller and Bukowski), but I will do!

James BaldwinJames Baldwin, Distinguished Visiting Professor

Born in 1924, Baldwin was one of the US’ leading sociological and political writers, particularly in his dealings with race and sexuality. His essays are the stuff of legend, particularly his first collection Notes Of A Native Sun.

I’m not really sure how I’m going to approach his work, but I think I’m probably going to start with the infamous Sonny’s Blues, which is a regular appearance in a range of introductory anthologies to American literature.

George Gissing

An English novelist born in 1857, Gissing was the mind behind several great works of English Literature, including New Grub Street and The Nether World. New Grub Street, in fact, was named the 28th best novel by the Guardian some years ago, and it’s been on my reading list ever since.

Gissing has never been a hugely popular Victorian writer, but he has since been applauded for his brutal look at Victorian literary life.


Walter ScottWalter Scott Novel Cover

One of the most famous Scottish writers of all time, Walter Scott’s diverse range of novels and poetry are still read by hundreds of thousands of people every year. Some of the most well-known include Rob Roy, The Lady Of The Lake, The Heart Of Midlothian and Waverley.

His influence can still be seen throughout Edinburgh and Scotland. Addressing both contemporary (at the time) and historical Scottish issues, much of Scott’s writing was done in a post-bankrupt haste as he tried to keep his creditors away.

James Hogg

Another Scottish poet and novelist who was actually a James Hogg Novel Coverclose friend of Walter Scott. His most well-known work is The Private Memoirs And Confessions Of A Justified Sinner but his long-form poem The Queen’s Wake was also extremely popular.

His literary work was acclaimed during his life, mostly due to his ability to overcome his humble origins and make a success of his writing without any benefits supplied by high-birth or inherited money. He was regarded as a man of great intellect, albeit he was a little brusque and often offensive.

Simone de Beauvoir

Certainly one of the most well-known names on this list, de Beauvoir was a feminist existentialist and close compatriot of the French existentialism school. She was also widely known as a result of her open relationship with the philosopher and novelist Jean-Paul Sartre.

Although I will eventually get around to reading her well known 1949 treatise on feminism, The Second Sex, I am more interested in her fictional work including The Blood Of Others.

Nicholson Baker

Widely regarded as an experimental novelist, the idea behind The Mezzanine is what draws me to this author. The entire novel takes place in an escalator ride, but every page is dedicated to addressing certain parts of the ride with maddening detail.

As someone who has previously been accused of talking about the details too much, the idea is fascinating to me.

Johnny CashJohnny Cash Novel

Yeah, the Cash. I’ve been a long-time fan of Cash’s music, but I found out a few months ago that he wrote a book called The Man In White. The title is clearly designed to reflect his own title, The Man In Black.

Although he is still widely considered one of the best musicians of the 20th century, I’m still kind of in two halves about this book. Trouble is, I’m hugely anti-religious, and The Man In White is a novel about St. Peter. I’ll still give it a try, but I’m not in too much of a rush to check it out.

Saul Bellow

Believed by many to be one of the 20th century’s greatest authors, I’m excited to start reading Bellow’s work. Some of the many themes in his work which appeal to me include modern civilisation’s ability to create a kind of materialistic madness, and how knowledge can be used to mislead people.

A friend of mine told me that Bellow’s work also contains themes of redemption, and promotes the strength of the human spirit.

Lu Xun

Although I’ve not read much Chinese literature (excepting the Romance of the Three Kingdoms) Lu Xun seems like an interesting author to me. In particular, his 1919 work ‘A Madman’s Diary’ looks particularly interesting. The entire narrative revolves around the writer’s fear of cannibalism, and how he sees it occurring around him.

Although it is all only paranoia, it seems like a fascinating idea to explore, particularly when considered in terms of society and capitalism.

Any Writers You Think I Should Reading?

I’m always on the lookout for new authors and poets to read, so if you’ve got any suggestions, please don’t hesitate to let me know! I’d especially like to know about any self-published authors that are pushing more experimental forms of literature, particularly any self-reflective, personal kind of writing.

5 Books I’m Glad I Read Before I Turned 23

5 Books I’m Glad I Read Before I Turned 23

So, in a very short period of time I’ll be 23. 23. 23 years old. Jesus Christ; even the idea of being that old makes me feel tired. Anyway, as I’m now a man of a certain age, it’s time for me to stop looking forward to the next five or six years I’ve got left on this earth and, instead, start to look back at my formative years.

It’s also time when I stop trying to be creative and potentially experimental and, instead, really knuckle down and create these kind of vacuous lists that tend to perform so well online.

I read; I read a lot – admittedly, not as much as I used to but that’s not the point. Over these past few years, I’ve read hundreds of books. Most of them have been crap, some have been okay, but some have stood a head and shoulders above the rest. So, without further ado, here are:

5 Books I’m Glad I Read Before I Turned 23!

Henry Miller’s Tropic Of Cancer

I can’t remember what first attracted me to Henry Miller. Maybe it all came down to the fact that, for a time, his writing was banned in the United States. I’ve learned to use US controversial writing as a marker for quality. Tropic Of Cancer Book Cover

Written over the course of 4 years – between 1930 and 34 – Miller used his bohemian, mad life in Paris as the backdrop for this novel, blending autobiography and fiction to the point that I’ve no idea what really happened and what didn’t.

Aside from all the sex, madness and degradation that occurs within the novel, it is fairly simple to see that many of the characters are highly caricatured versions of real people. Occassionally talking directly to me, the reader, Miller’s writing really left an impact on me – especially as I read it alongside his companion novel, Tropic Of Capricorn.

My Favourite Line:To sing, you must first open your mouth. You must have a pair of lungs, and a little knowledge of music. It is not necessary to have an accordion, or a guitar. The essential thing is to want to sing. This, then, is a song. I am singing.”

Of course, the entire book is packed with fantastic lines that kind of sear themselves onto your forebrain; in a way, Miller has a fairly poetic form of writing in these novels, and a kind of weary, miserable cynicism that is reflective of the novel as a whole.

Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, Kaddish And Other Poems

Sticking with the theme of American literature that caused a stir, we can’t help but turn to my favourite poet (and probably one of the most well known internationally) Ginsberg. Of course, before I’d read this, I’d heard of Howl, I’d heard of America (the poem, not the nation) and I knew that Ginsberg used to hand around with Bob Dylan. Immediately, that got me interested. Ginsberg Poetry Book Cover

After surviving obscenity trials in 1957, that many have suggested made the poem much more widely known than it would otherwise have been, Howl itself has gone on to become one of the most incredible poetic achievements from the last few hundred years. There was even a film made about the poem, starring James Franco as a younger Allen Ginsberg.

This collection features a range of other poems, including the equally fantastic Kaddish, Death To Van Gogh’s Ear (one of my personal favourites) and America.

My Favourite Line (From The Poem Howl, Of Course):They broke they backs lifting Moloch to Heaven! Pavements, trees, radios, tons! lifting the city to Heaven which exists and is everywhere about us!

Taking a single line from Howl seems almost like cheating, but if you are interested, and you haven’t read or heard it before, I’d definitely recommend it! Ginsberg is probably the poet who, more than anyone else, showed me that poetry can be beautiful, can be artistic and isn’t simply a waste of time for rich people with nothing better to do.

Alain Robbe-Grillet’s In The Labyrinth

In The Labyrinth is a masterclass on disconcerting and confusing the reader, often to the point where I really had to reread several pages over again just to make sure I’d kept hold of what was going on. Some scenes are so incredibly similar that I genuinely thought I must have accidently lost a few pages and gone back to where I was before. Book Cover Of In The Labyrinth By Grillet

This entire novel seems to have been written with an almost general dislike of the reader. At times, it can be a hugely torturous process getting through it, but it has definitely been one of the books I’d most enjoyed reading over the past couple of years.

Even fairly simple techniques, like introducing the character as The Solider and then on the next page saying that A Soldier is leaning against a lamppost is surprisingly disconcerting. You’re constantly bombarded with this sense of tension, to the point that I’m sure I started to feel stressed out when I was reading it.

My Favourite Line:Below the engraving, in the white border, a caption is inscribed in an Italian hand; The Defeat At Reichenfels

Picking any one line from this novel is hugely difficult when it seems like ever paragraph has been written like any other author would create a single line. However, this line, written about a particular picture, sums up the entire character of the novel for me – the solider is looking at a picture of a scene he is actually looking at, engraved with a caption that he is currently living. If that isn’t confusing, then I really can’t think what is.

Albert Camus’ The Fall

Any long time readers will know I’m a big fan of Camus; pretty much his entire body of work has passed through my hands at some point. The Fall, in my eyes, stands out simply because of the strange polemic style it adopts. Albert Camus' The Fall Book Cover

The entire novel is a one-sided conversation, a confession, if you will. It features a loss of innocence and self-loathing – two things which I happen to understand perfectly well. Seriously, if you’re looking for a unique read, then The Fall is a great option for you.

My Favourite Line:So, tell me, please, what happened to you one evenings on the banks of the Seine and how you never managed to risk your life. Say the words that for years have not ceased to echo through my nights and that I shall finally speak through your mouth: ‘Young woman! Throw yourself into the water again that I might have once more the opportunity to save us both!’ A second time – huh! That would be rash! Just imagine, dear colleague, if someone were to take us at our word. You’d have to do it. Brrr… The water’s so cold! But don’t worry. It’s too late now, it will always be too late. Thank goodness!”

Okay, so it’s a little long, and it needs some context, but the last paragraph has always stuck with me. It says so much, about regret and about the folly of regret and the joy that a character can feel as they regret. I could open this book at any page, and you would be able to see incredibly imagery and fantastic writing, along with sentences that hint at deeper meanings and promised of things that never came.

Perhaps, The Fall has had more of an effect on me than I’ve given it credit for. Still; it remains one of my favourite books, and one that I read every few months.

Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged

Okay, so this might be a bit of a controversial one! I know why people dislike Ayn Rand, not just for her politics, but for her dense and often unforgiving writing style. Still, sitting down over a few days to read Atlas Shrugged was one of the best decisions I ever made. It made me question a lot of vaguely socialist (not really), extremely liberal beliefs that I kind of took for granted. Atlas Shrugged Book Cover

Plus, there really are some fantastic examples of writing in this novel. Aside from the badass sounding quote about Atlas balancing the world on his shoulders, there are pages and pages dedicated to John Galt’s speech over the radio towards the end of the novel.
Wherever you lie on the political spectrum, you cannot afford not to read Atlas Shrugged, if only to learn what you are fighting against.

My Favourite Line:I started my life with a single absolute: that the world was mine to shape in the image of my highest values and never to be given up to a lesser standard, no matter how long or hard the struggle

Literature Has Helped Me Turn Into The Person I Am Today

It might sound corny, but I wouldn’t be who I am without the literature I’ve read – that might not necessarily be a good thing, but it is certainly true. Anyway, now that my 23rd’s approaching, I’m on the lookout for even more great literature to consume, so that I can look back in a year’s time and wonder how the hell I got this far without having read (insert title here) by (insert name here).

If you’ve got any suggestions for novels or poets I should try out next, I’d love to hear them! I am, it has to be said, undergoing something of a dry spell in terms of literature.

By the way, if you look on over to the left, you’ll notice a load of links to longer things that I’ve written – if you’re a little strapped for something to read, why not give them a try? After all, free eBooks aren’t to be sniffed at!

eBooks Are Changing The Way That We Write; Not Just How We Read

eBooks Are Changing The Way That We Write; Not Just How We Read

It’s a sad fact that our attention spans have shortened – considerably. Today, even goldfishes tend to have a longer attention span than us, and we can decide whether we want to carry on reading, watching or playing something within a matter of seconds. There’s no surprise there; things are available much faster than ever before, so why wouldn’t we come to expect instant gratification from all forms of media? Why wouldn’t we demand to be hooked as soon as we turned the first page of a novel?

I tend to characterise this instant desire for gratification in the same vein as the popularity of eBooks. Now, I know that most people still prefer a paperback to an eBook, and I don’t blame them, but I think the major issue lies not in the way that readers consume a novelist’s or a poet’s works, but in the way that writers actually create their art.

I’m not limiting this issue to just eBooks, either – it’s all to do with how much we need to read on the internet and, to be perfectly honest, the sheer amount of just crap writing that there is out there.

The ‘F’ Pattern Of Reading

Now, as we’re scrolling through text, we tend to read it in an ‘F’ pattern until we find the information we’re looking for. It’s an entirely pragmatic, and understandable, idea – we read the top line, scroll down, read another line, scroll down, et cetera. It’s the quickest and easiest way to find the most relevant information. I’ve even found myself doing it more than once (normally after a Guinness or two).Displaying the 'F' pattern for reading web content

People who have grown up with computers and, particularly, the internet, are hard-wired by themselves to do this by default now. Even if we’re reading a book or a magazine, our eyes ill want to get to the information we’re looking for – ignoring the fact that we’re reading for entertainment, education or even just to say we’ve read the damn book.

Now that so much is published digitally, even academic works and essays, it is so easy to simply skim-read them instead.

I tend to think that this ‘F’ pattern is indicative of the entire attitude towards reading, an attitude certainly supported by the format of eBooks.

Are eReaders Distracting Us From Our Books?

One of the major problems with the Kindle, and other readers, is that it is so easy to ignore your reading and concentrate on something else instead. If you’re reading on your phone, for example, and you get a text you’re going to close the book down and swipe on over. Or you might want to check Facebook, or Twitter or your emails.

It’s great that we have these devices which we can do so much with. What isn’t great is the way that these fantastic, fascinating devices are changing our minds and limiting our attention spans.

In my experience, I’ve seen that a lot of people are reading eBooks as little as a paragraph at a time, when they’re waiting in line for coffee, when they’re on the bus or even just in the bathroom. This should, should, have created an attitude where people really take the time to appreciate the craftsmanship that went into the writing, appreciate the more poetic imagery and truly go in-depth when analysing metaphors.

Today, even if someone says they enjoy reading, that doesn’t mean they do. It means they like having read things, to appear clever or for something to talk about. There are very, very few people, in my experience, who actually enjoy the act of reading. You’re probably thinking that that sounds pretty haughty of me, as though I’m giving myself some kind of superiority. You’d be right, but then I’m a raging narcissist.

The eBook: Content Diversity And Hyperlinks

Despite the numerous attempts to take advantage of the form and create new and exciting forms of interactive literature (video games have already got that covered) there hasn’t really been much in the way of success. Although there is always something floating around in literary circles talking about the potential for greater interactivity through hyperlinks to webpages and so on, we’ve yet to see anything like that manifest itself in a way that actually adds anything.

I spend a lot of time at my day job talking about content-richness and diversity (blah blah blah) but do we really want our novels, our literature, to be diverse? To be interrupted by videos and musical cues like a semi-interactive cut scene in a videogame? It sounds like a good idea, but it is essentially useless to include other media in our text. With video games and interactive media offering such a fantastic range of possibilities, there isn’t really anything innovative, or being added, by hyperlinking to other content from within your eBooks.

Writing In The Post-Kindle World!

Now that readers are shifting into the ‘F’ style of reading, and with all the other issues that are associated with shorter attention spans, writers are changing the way that they create in order to appeal to them – well, most writers anyway. There is the desire to produce a ‘good book’ rather than anything actually worth the time it takes to read.

Language is used completely practically today, to get from one point of the narrative to another. It’s a very practical, efficient way of writing that w have developed, with no time wasted on the possibility of beauty, of creating lines that roll around the tongue, that sear themselves onto the consciousness.

Today, the narrative is more important than the form of its delivery for most readers, which goes back to the idea that people prefer to have read than to read. It’s not surprising that writer’s like, say, George R.R. Martin are named as great writers, whereas they are more like storytellers. To be perfectly honest, I’m struggling to name a truly fantastic writer from the past few years.

Of course, the major advantage of the ease of digital publishing is that, now, anyone can write – anyone can get their opinions and narratives out there, anyone can try to exorcise their demons through the written word. I had hoped that this would result in new and unique literature, that the voices with no medium might be given the opportunity to shine through – unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to have happened.

I mean, you only need to head on over to Smashwords to see what the freedom of digital publishing has to offer – romances which aren’t well-written enough for Mills&Boon, erotica that has all the sexual nature of a brick and bad, bad fantasy rip-offs where the plucky teenagers can defeat the evil dark lord/king/emperor through the power of friendship!

If you’d like to help bring my astonishing egotism down a peg or two, feel free to download one of the free eBooks on your left and let me know how bad you think it is!