She Wore Blue Velvet

She Wore Blue Velvet

For Unrequited Love

The ceiling is covered in paintings, with no theme or substance or style but woman, and they flow down the walls like all of history from the caves of Africa was melting into this one little alcoholic furnace in the heart of dead industries. The staff are dressed as American rock stars, and Gene Simmons carries a couple of bottles across the floor and makes wide, soulless, voracious eyes at the women he passes.

Her eyes are glued to the television; Alexander Armstrong laughs at something a celebrity said, and his eyes flash and invite her to laugh with him but she can’t hear him. The TV is muted in favour of music and conversation, which rolls around her and about her and doesn’t touch her like she touches the bottle of wine, standing an inch from her hand and barely a foot from her other, which curls around the glass only heartbeats from her lips.

Her heart beats.

She doesn’t start, but twitches her eyes every time the door opens and the pale blue-grey light appears as a block within and behind and against the far wall; she twitches each time with the expectation of a grimaced smile; she had been rehearsing that smile in the mirror of a flat she shared with a fat laugh behind a clipped goatee.

The door opens and her heart beats and he walks in from the miasma of blue and grey and into the mess of art and drink and candlelight, red-faced at the pulsating wind which rose from the stone pavement outside. He moves towards the middle of the room, checking the smaller, solitary tables for one, or two, or three, and almost misses her on her large table beneath the television. She raises her glass and tries to repeat the practiced grimace but it comes out from behind her lips like a smile and he sees her and smiles back – she pretends to ignore the spasm of horror that cuts across his features.

She has a wolf tattoo on her left shoulder, and dye damaged hair and the scar of a lip ring and he sits down with old scars running up his wrists and raised white flesh from metal belt buckles leaving a web across his back and she knows they are there. They both know about both of them and she once decided to let her wounds breathe, where he had bound them up and let them fester and rot until the poison flushed out of his body one night, asleep and alone on a bus that roared and spat into the wet air alive with iron bacteria.

He is thin, haggard, with rings under his eyes, in a suit with the top button of his shirt undone and the tie loosened until the noose hangs halfway down his chest like he is being marched towards the gallows in relative comfort. The red electric light and the candles on the tables are invasive, and they creep through his shirt until it is nothing more than a filter and a blur and she can see the outline of a logo emblazoned across a white t-shirt – it looks like a heart, she thinks.

‘Hey you,’ he says, and she says ‘hey you.’

He stares down at his fingers as they work at the two buttons holding his jacket closed, and pulls it away from his shoulders and hangs it over the back of a chair – not next to her, but taking care to leave an empty space between them.

She looks at the empty chair and he smiles and says ‘for the ghosts’, and her heart skips a beat, even as her eyes wrinkle in mockery.

‘Did you know,’ he runs a hand through his hair that is so much shorter than she remembers, ‘that almost a third of people in this country sleep naked?’ As his lips close around the questions mark, he almost seems to wrinkle up, shrivel, like he had been waiting for years to say that and as it left his lungs it took parts of him with it. After a few moments as a broken thing, he inflates himself again and smiles at her, like he would smile if he had tears in his eyes.

‘You come straight from work?’

‘Yeah; everyone else has gone to that new place down the road, you know, that erm Marty’s, Morty’s place – between the scaffolding?’ She shakes her head. ‘I’ll show you it at some point, it’s quite nice in there – kind of this shabby Americana; I mean, it’s meant to be shabby, it’s still pretty posh for ‘round ‘ere.’

‘Sounds nice.’ She sips at her wine.

‘Yeah; I had an old fashioned there the other night – it was, I dunno, lime and pecan flavoured or something like that. Friend of mine had something called She Wore Blue Velvet.’

Tell me you love me, her heartbeat beats, tell me you love me like you did in your skin.

‘So, what’re you up to these days? You doing anything?’

‘Yeah; I’m still at that bar, not too far from yours, actually.’ She looks at him then, for the first time, and he sees her flashing ice blue eyes like a distance peak emerging from a broken plain of sheared ice and dead creatures with white fur and he feels a spike of anger in his gut that rocks him. He lets it roll up in him, he savours it, he swallows it like she swallows the last of her glass of wine; he realises he’d never been angry before – not really, not with her or with him or with anyone.

‘You still working on your art?’

‘Nope; I wasn’t very good anyway.’

He catches himself preparing to say ‘yes you were’ and managed to turn the reaction into a cough. She looks back at the television screen through narrowed eyes. The wine has blurred the air, and each breath is like a desert spreading along her lungs and across her throat – she can feel the sand between her teeth.

He stands up and goes to buy a drink, and she watches him as he moves, as he leans over the bar, easily, and talks to the girl dressed as Joan Jett; he has one foot resting on the metal bar, which runs alongside the counter, and his other taps the floor in time with the drumbeat of conversation and life – she realises that he’s grown up over the past few years; grown up without her, without the need for her; in the space between those flickering moments where she’d seen him on the train, or he’d seen her on a bus or in a taxi as it rolled passed, he’d grown up and her heart beats.

Halfway across the town, a baby that looks like her screams out its hunger and, when it’s been fed, it howls out is fear and its rage and its misery and is soothed by the touch of her sister who can’t see the thing as human at all, just some wailing tumour in a blue shirt; a weight on their lives. The bearded laugh hasn’t come home from work yet, and she thinks about calling her sister and letting her know how late he was, but she doesn’t; she just watches the pale thing in its cot, and listens to the cars that pass by outside.

He comes back with a drink and she fills her glass again and holds the bottle in front of the candle and squints at the liquid inside. It’s almost empty.

‘I don’t know where it’s all gone.’ She says, and she doesn’t mean the wine.

‘Me neither.’ He takes a sip of his drink.

‘What’s that?’

‘Just a jack and coke.’


‘I hate this show.’ They watch the television for a few seconds, and he lets his brow furrow and draws his upper lip back a little, like he is snarling in disgust. He holds it just long enough for her to see and it disappears. He likes to be seen to hate things, secretly – she once heard him say that hatred was a manifestation of love.

Tell me that you hate me, she thinks – tell me that your love was always that; tell me it was a cruel, cruel joke; tell me that you’re incapable of love.

‘How’s your brother doing?’

‘He’s good, yeah. He’s fine.’ She blinks. ‘I haven’t seen him in a while.’

The conversation beats more like his heart then hers – irregular, filtered through the noise only occasionally. But the way they occasionally looked at each other, the way their bodies angled so far apart and yet in the same lines might have convinced an onlooker that their conversation was in-depth and heartfelt and it was they who made the mistake, they whom stopped paying attention for long periods of time, while his drinks multiplied and her bottle found itself a partner.

The television played reruns and called it news. Outside, someone gives a homeless man a twenty pound note and asks him, begs him, not to judge the drunks too harshly; he promises not to, through broken teeth and rotten gums, and still scowls as they spend their money on beer and vodka and thick liquid which doesn’t taste of anything but the morning after.

‘Did you know I had a kid?’ She says, not so much to him, but to the air itself.

‘I’d heard something about it; yeah. Boy or a girl?’

‘It’s healthy, and well looked after,’ she smiles, ‘it’s going to be a chubby kid – it’s never going to want for anything. We’ll see to that.’

‘Who is the guy you’re with now then?’

‘You don’t know him. He’s funny, he’s kind – he’s got a beard and a beer belly.’ He laughs, and she glares at him.

‘Sorry, it’s just,’ he rubs his eyes with the palms of his hands, ‘he’s the polar opposite of me, then?’ She frowns at him for a little longer and, suddenly, like a damn breaking, she starts to smile as well, a smile that turns into a giggle which grows and matures into a laugh. He watches the television, watches two men in suits gravely talk about the last steel factory in the country closing down, and her laughter slowly breaks down and she starts to cry.

Once, he would have rushed to her side and tried to held her as she shuddered until she pushed him away and backed away and carried on crying, leaving him raw and ragged and helpless – he lets her cry and watches the television suspended from the wall and surrounded by the dripping dregs of art.

He says he’s going to the toilet; she doesn’t respond. In the bathroom, he digs his nails into his palms and stares at himself in the mirror – strange; he always feels tears well up when he looks at his own eyes. He steps into the cubicle and locks it behind himself. The walls are covered with graffiti, and he feels inspired by the curving lines that form broken scripture – he puts two fingers deep in his mouth and starts to gag; he feels his heart beating around his fingertips; down his throat, and he tries to reach for it; like he could pull it out and show it to her and say “you see?” and then he could fall to the floor and buck and twist the last moments of his life away with her name on his lips.

This is another short story I wrote years ago. I was younger then, bitterer, perhaps. I kept mistaking my bitterness for romanticism; that was the problem. I kept mistaking my unhappiness for sensitivity. If I could go back, I’d probably tell the younger me to stop searching for happiness – tell him that it isn’t on the cards. Tell him “you’re just a bitter bastard” and it’s probably save me a lot of grief.

I’d tell me to find pleasures where I could and to stop worrying about being happy, all the time. If I could take back all the time I spent trying to be happy, I would; it’d have left me with more time to write, more time to play video games and get angry and calm down by reading – more time to sleep, and enjoy sleeping.

Forgive me, I am maudlin tonight. If you want to read something with a little less of a negative slant, you can always check out some poetry, like Swearing in Italian or prose, like The Air Spoke. For a non-fiction slant, there’s always Swimming Against Themselves. As always, there’re plenty of free ebooks you can take a look at, if you fancy.

The Air Spoke

The Air Spoke

She places her cigarette on the edge of the desk and watches it smoulder. The sunlight catches the smoke in its hands and makes it gleam and it seems to fill the room around her. Last night’s wine still lies where it had been spilled, now a stain on the sheets of paper that cover the cheap, old wood of the table. One hand is warm on her thigh, but the other beats out a restless tattoo in the air. She stares into the mirror on the other side of the room, just a few steps from her. It is a beautiful thing, with a gilded edge only slightly marked by years of movement around the halls of this cheap hotel – the glass looks fractured, with several large frames running through it that remind her of her grandfather in the hospital bed.

She tries to piece together the fragments of the night before; tries to reorder the images like the glass.


A hundred thousand lights of a hundred, hundred colours, flickering out their mad neon desires into the darkness. She remembers beautiful Asian women, half-naked, weaving in the doorways of sand-blasted buildings. She can still feel the heat of it all, like the very air was filled with sweat.

“It used to be like a drug,” she tells the mirror, “every breath I took was pleasure. The air told me I needed to be here.”

There was a smoke-filled room; there always was. There was a gritty kind of half-light that fought with the bitter workings of the incandescence, that curled up against the jukebox like a lover, that spat and snarled at the one-arm bandit on the bar. There were men, men in shirts and men covered in mud and men with their hair slicked back like car salesmen – men who licked their lips and tried to order cobra whiskey but couldn’t get their words right and were jeered out of the bar by the owner. There were women too; old women in the corner and quiet women sat huddled together and the owner’s daughter who kept making these flashing eyes at her and biting her lower lip every time she ordered another glass of wine.

When there were more than four empty glasses on her table, and her lipstick graced a pair of cigarettes arranged in the central ashtray, one of the men came over. He tried to speak in English, then Mandarin, then Spanish, but she ignored him. He went away after she lit another cigarette, telling her that she was the most beautiful women he had ever seen.

She took out her camera and caught a picture of the table, with its wine and cigarettes and old stains and scars. She noticed that the owner’s daughter had perched herself on the bar, and that her legs were dangling in the background of the shot –  two long streaks in the haze; like bullets that had been fired underwater.

The air still speaks of lust, and hope, and potential – she doesn’t believe it anymore. Her bedclothes move; a long leg pushes through them slowly, deliberately, toes curled in on themselves until the whole thing looks pointed. It accuses her, accuses her of a thousand things; accuses her of wasted night and labyrinthine days; accuses her of pride, and rage, and lust; accuses her of decadence and desire. She stands, slowly, and feels the foreign sun on her naked skin. She casts a long shadow in the small room.

She hears the village come alive outside her window. The bicycles rattle across the uneven dirt and the wasted footsteps stagger to work. She doesn’t listen to the birdsong anymore; it’s all about the living. The bed moans. The old wood whimpers. She steps to the fragmented mirror. Half a dozen pieces of her look back, her thighs glitter darkly at her against the light and tell her she is alive. Her stomach, catching the curve of the sun like the crescent of dawn over the moon, tells her she is alive. Her breasts crackle with a thin web and she remembers the hints of them in a polaroid hidden in an old friend’s attic; they tell her she is alive. Her face tells her she is tired, broken, spread across the room like pages torn from her notebook.Hotel Room lit with blue light

Te ves como una diosa.”

She can’t tell if it comes from the bed or the mirror or the paper or the spilled wine or the smouldering cigarette. For a few heartbeats, she wishes it was the air, that the wet breeze cut through the building in such a way that it remembered her and loved her and knew that she existed, that her heart beat.

She feels warmth, and sees a smooth hand appear on her shoulder. It trails down, along her arm and to cover her breast and it splits in the mirror. A pair of lips touch her shoulder blade and the body pushes against her. The hands are hungry, and damaged and they break with her body when they cross the frames.

Another thing I wrote years ago. It might have been a part of the old experiments, where I’d stay up all night and try ot have something completely finished in the morning. It was something different than I’d be working on before. If I remember, I enjoyed writing this, enjoyed just letting the words play out on the page without caring about any narrative development really. It’s what I love about poetry now; that I can just let my fingers play, follow the words, and try to find beauty.

Anyway, enough artistic shit. If you want to read any other prose, there’s always Like Ravaged Porcelain or you can check out some of the novellas I’ve written over the years, like Mychandra or The Burden, all completely free.

I’m going to a poetry/prose reading tomorrow night, hosted by the amazing up and coming writers at the Salford Writer’s Journal. If you can, head over and check out some of the poetry and prose that they’re posting.

Swimming Against Themselves; George Orwell and Albert Camus

Swimming Against Themselves; George Orwell and Albert Camus

By February, 1944, much of the worst fighting of the World War II was already over. The month before, in January, the Soviet forces had managed to finally expel the German occupation of the city of Leningrad, ending one of the longest and most brutal sieges in modern history, and the Allies had made major advances on Italy, ending with the horrifying landings at Anzio.

The following year, 1945, the Allies entered Western Germany whilst the joint Soviet-Polish forces entered Berlin itself. By the end of April, both Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler were dead, the Reichstag seized and the war itself almost over. It is essential to know that this is the background, and the global environment, to the infamous meeting between two men who were, arguably, two of the greatest minds of their time.

George Orwell and Albert Camus: The Meeting That Never Was

George Orwell and Albert Camus had arranged to meet at the Deux Magots café, in February of 1945.  Despite their differences, perhaps even, in some small part, due to them, they were certainly two of the most unique and interesting literary and politically-conscious figures of the time. When these two are addressed together, they are largely noted for their differences. It is easy enough to compare the two based on their antimonies, but their similarities are in no way less interesting.

Their personal lives are largely the main area of concern when it comes to comparison between the two. The two of them were working towards something similar, but certainly through different routes, from impossibly different starting points. It might even be worth considering the two as polar opposites in everything but thought. The lifetimes and work of the two can be viewed as an inversed mirror image, pointing out the flaws, doubts and inherent truth revealed in each man and their bodies of work.

Moving Towards an Ideal: Cigarettes and Shapeshifting

As anyone interested in either literary figure will tell you, their incessant cigarette smoking was almost a hallmark of their lives. Looking at this habit shallowly might lead someone to deduce that the two, perhaps, had the same nerves, the same addiction and even developed the same habits to their lifestyles. However, looking at the evidence a little closer will reveal something much more profound and certainly more interesting when we try to nail down the history and personality of these men.

George Orwell’s CigarettesEdited image of George Orwell smoking and typing

Orwell would roll his own cigarettes. Now, that in of itself isn’t too telling, but when you consider that he used the cheapest British shag tobacco he could get his hands on, this becomes much more indicative of his personality.

Here was an officer, and educated man and a literary figure, smoking the same kind of tobacco as the poorest of the proletariat would choose, the same tobacco as smoked by the lowest ranking Tommies in the British armed forces. This comes as a clear indicator as to his political viewpoints, as well as with whom his sympathies typically laid – even if we were to ignore his body of work.

Albert Camus’ Cigarettes

Image of Albert Camus smoking Camus, meanwhile, coming as he did from a poor background and only managed to achieve an education because of his natural aptitude for it (as can be seen from his semi-autobiographical works including The First Man), always felt like an outsider.

He was desperate to be seen as part of the literary, cultures intelligentista of Paris, in much the same way that Sartre was. So, when he smoked, he ignored the kind of shag his family would have smoked in Algeria, and instead chose to smoke Gauloises, a particular brand of pre-packaged, unfiltered cigarette which was particularly popular throughout the French artistic community.

What did Their Cigarettes Mean to Them?

Both of these men chose their cigarettes carefully, as a direct contrast to their past and upbringing. For Orwell, his tobacco was a way to show solidarity with the British working class, in stark contrast to his fairly comfortable middle-class upbringing, his public-school education and even his role in the Imperial Police force.

Camus, meanwhile, was looking to escape his working-class origins and find comfort in the literary scene of which his favoured cigarettes were an important part. They could both be said to feel uneasy in their worlds, having had to shapeshift from their upbringing and even their natural forms into something that they actually want to be. Their cigarettes were both an ingredient in their shapeshifting. To some degree, they could be said to hold this transformation together; a daily reminder of their ability to shift and change as required.

Camus’ and Orwell’s Consumption

Both Orwell and Camus were afflicted by tuberculosis in different ways. Orwell himself was, naturally, a sickly man by all accounts. His entire life, he was plagued by vague illnesses, aches and pains which seriously impacted his view of the world in negative ways. It is hardly a surprise that he became, by all accounts, something of a pessimistic person to be around, and it is clear in many cases that his attitudes were heavily influenced by his myriad illnesses. Although it is not presented in the clear way that Camus presents his illnesses, Orwell’s entire attitude is – at times – indicative of someone suffering from a thousand minor ailments, illnesses and irritations.

Camus, as I just mentioned, was far more overt in the role that his physical health played in his literature, philosophies and his entire outlook on life. Although ruggedly healthy as a young man, blessed with the natural healthy physique so common in the poor Algerian community at the time, when he was 17 he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. This diagnosis then went on to have a long-lasting effect throughout his life. For example, he often refused to go swimming with Simone de Beauvoir due to fears over his failing lungs. It was much more overt in his literary musings and prose style than that of his counterpart in this case.

His description of the almost fugue state that Meursault inhabits in L’Étranger bore a high level of similarity to his early descriptions of the symptoms prevalent from tuberculosis, of which he would have been intimately familiar. Of course, without the balance of Camus’ overriding absurdity (to my mind, I can’t recollect a single instance when TB created a mindset in which murder, even murder with something of a racial component, seemed appropriate).

Camus and Orwell Meeting Their End

It is almost ironic that the two should meet their ends in such alternative ways. Albert Camus, diagnosed with consumption at 17 and obsessed with the concept of his own illness throughout his life, would escape the clutches of his sickness whilst Orwell, who spent his life blatantly refusing to acknowledge even the concept of his own mortality, should succumb. It is hardly a surprise that the illness killed Orwell, ill through much of his life and certainly having suffered much throughout the Spanish Civil War, his time in the Imperial Police and whilst Down and Out in Paris and London. In fact, I would be confident in arguing that it was Orwell’s illness which gave his ultimate work, Nineteen-Eighty-Four, the desperation it possessed and reinforced the hopelessness which permeates the entire novel.

Camus, despite his twenty-year obsession with his own illness, was fortunate enough (if we are to measure fortune in such ways) to avoid the agonising end that Orwell met with some years previously. Albert Camus was killed in an automobile accident which he could have easily avoided. In fact, he had a train ticket in his pocket which would have enabled him to avoid the car trip altogether.

If only he had elected to travel with his family on the train, rather than rely on the skills of his publicist behind the wheel, he might have gone on to finish The First Man, his semi-autobiographical work about his childhood in Algeria, or his incomplete posthumously published novel A Happy Death. Perhaps it suits Camus – his death; to have something so normal, so mundane take away the life of a prolific philosopher, writer and essayist must have been preferable to the wasting disease which wracked Orwell’s last days.

I hope you found this interesting, because I certainly did. I’m leaning towards writing more small stuff like this, just covering interesting little parts of people’s lives which might otherwise go larger overlooked. There are a few sites which have mentioned their connection in passing, but I thought it might be worth going into a little more detail about it.

Anyway, if this isn’t really your type of thing, go and check out some of the *cough cough* poetry *cough cough* that I’ve uploaded before; A Red Dress, Bluebird and A Very Gentle Suicide aren’t too bad.

Alternatively, if you’re looking for something a little more prose-based, there’s my recent short stories Battery Tea-Lights and Like Ravaged Porcelain. There are also a load of free novellas you can check out on my Smashwords page, if you feel so inclined.

Like Ravaged Porcelain

Like Ravaged Porcelain

‘To tread upon the boards; a fool, a fool! To burn beneath the light and bleed into the blinding space!’

There; that was the cue.

She let him go; let the last warmth of his fingertips vanish from hers as he was dragged out, dragged into the void. It was something she couldn’t understand, some eternal, mythological creature whipped at the shadows of the wings with great, slavering tentacles. She couldn’t fight it; she didn’t know how she could. Every night, she watched him die, murdered by a fiction. She watched him walk away from her and end himself, slit his throat open in some great blackness.

It was the eternal goodbye, a mono-chromatic farewell; the very last moment that they would see one another. He would already be turning away, looking for the light, drooling for the applause. Her last image of him would be as a silhouette, before he vanished. She had tried, once, to explain it to him, and he had laughed. He had said he was walking towards the sun, doing it because he needed to do it – she had said he just needed to do it to prove to himself that he needed to do it. He took those steps to prove that he could stand it, stand the death, stand the pressure, stand the pulsating heat – he wanted to stand it for longer than anyone else.

And every time he was reborn, birthed in sweat and blood and tears into the shadows of obscurity, he would look at her with empty, exhausted eyes. It burnt the recognition from his eyes. His eyes would glitter, but it was the glitter of the stage. He will laugh, and talk, and smile, but his laughter will be the trained laughter of an audience, the conversation will be a monologue – the smile would be makeup and stretched out like a melting cadaver’s. When the dawn light rose and broke the creature’s hold on the city, he would hold her – his grasp would not be the same; it was the kind of hug that she would tell her grandchildren about, the same touch that comes with an autograph, and a story, and a treasured keepsake to prove to oneself, in the dead nights, that one still exists – that one has existed.

There – he has gone, he has died with a faceless roar. Still, a form steps from the shadows; it is someone, something, else. He was suddenly some handsome figure, tragic and unbroken who paced and spoke and gestured with precision beneath foreign skies. She had seen him die a thousand times; she had seen him die as Caesar died, in Pompey’s Theatre on the Ides of March – she had seen him die as Richard died, cut down at the height of his mad, treacherous glory – she had seen him die again and again, and bleed out onto the stage until the audience laughed and cried and hung themselves from the smooth rafters of their open-plan box apartments.

They applauded the blood that rose and formed some humanoid figure, some clever reflection of mirrors and dreams. He was porcelain, red, blood-baked porcelain which aped the mannerisms of something else, something living, something which pretended to sweat and cry and fear like the audience sweated and cried and feared.

She knew him; she knew that when he stepped off those boards, with one last reluctant motion, he fell back into his own body. He was born naked, shivering and blind in the dark, with hair sprouting from between his legs and arms and across his breastplate. He was warm and weak and wet with sweat.

She wasn’t jealous, she was guilty – she reeked with it, reeked with the guilt, like the pale young figure who squatted in the shadowed corners reeked of creativity. She had screamed at him, told him that she had no desire to step into those shadows every night, she didn’t want to die on the stage, for the audience and the joy and the misery of these people.

No,’ she thought, ‘they aren’t even people, not really, not most of them. They were just carping creatures who opened their throats and cackled with a snap of his fingers, mannequins who occasionally shed a tear when his voice peaked in a howl of rage and fear and pain.

She knew what was behind them, what fears drove those undulating furies from between his teeth. It was the cry of a dead man, struggling to cut its way from the coffin as the dead, dirt-covered wood smiled and laughed and pushed him down and shook hands with stunning figures in golden suits and low-cut dresses.

The audience weren’t people, no; they couldn’t be. They were numeri, they were ticket sales, they were reflections of emotion, reflections of emotions she hated, from the stolen form of a man she loved, and little else. She couldn’t bring herself to love them as he did – she hated them. She moved from the gateway, walking across the patched and broken boards of the side-stage. She passed actors, staring towards the stage with envy blazing in their eyes. She had heard their congratulations before, seen their poison handshakes as they longed for the same death, to wear the same death masks as he dared to.

She saw the writer, the pale young figure, with his hands permanently wringing as he mouthed the words in time – he should have been an actor himself, to pretend to such a role. His fingers weren’t stained, like they should have been, but they had the flat pads like a technician. He had the stench of a man who lived with the backspace, who could undo mistakes with the push of a button. He was a genius, apparently. A living legend at bringing the unexplored tensions of modern, multicultural Britain to the forefront of the viewer’s attention, in the language which would make Shakespeare proud and force Hemmingway to beg for forgiveness.

‘So; you left the worship of addiction to the worship of a hero! Who leans against a wall, in Liverpool, like a cast-iron James Dean! Who poses with Marlin Brando’s smile, as though he had been scarred with silver ink and keys and coins and ravaged jewellery! You walk these rain-hallowed streets to walk these rain-hallowed streets, and tell of the time that you moved across cobblestone oceans!’

It was close now, the quiet crescendo – the great undulating roar of applause followed by the screaming silence. She couldn’t bear the adulation they gave him – he wasn’t the dream-soaked idol they believed he was. He was just another young, fierce thing, with hot blood and ragged skin made perfect in the wardrobe. And what was she?

There – just another moment. Just another young, fierce thing with hot blood and ragged skin perfected by the shadows cast by stage lights.

I remember writing this in a single night, in a cabin in Scotland. It’s extremely unpolished, as you’ve come to expect from me, but there’s something about it that I don’t hate. I’ve not been writin much prose recently, though half the time, the stuff I call poetry ends up bleeding into prose.

If you want to check out some of the poems I am not, necessarily, unhappy with, then I’d suggest Ghost or A Red Dress. For more slightly miserable prose, I recently put out another eBook I wrote some time ago, The Burden. It’s free, so read it or don’t.

A Very Gentle Suicide

A Very Gentle Suicide

She was smoking by the Irwell when she decided to kill herself and I couldn’t stop her.
She decided to buy a house in Marsh Green – in that part near the factory where the locals say they’re from Orrell and not Kitt Green, and take their dogs on long, noose-like walks along the Bell.
She decided to keep 10% of her wages in a different bank account so it could accrue interest.
She decided to cut down on smoking and drinking – she said it wasn’t doing her any good, and she wasn’t feeling electric anymore, just tired all the time.
She chose to find someone who’d marry her, and I told her I wasn’t marriage material and she laughed and said she didn’t love me anyway.
She said my chest hair made her feel sick, and the way my stomach vanished under my ribs didn’t look right.
She said I’d grown a beard to cover how weak my chin was.

Her cigarette smouldered in her hands, hanging over the water.
She said she was going to fall in love so hard, and then let it gently simmer until it wasn’t passionate, but a friendship with someone who wouldn’t want to have sex too often.
She said she didn’t want to pretend not to want a wedding day anymore, and wear a long white dress in some church somewhere – I said the one in Pemberton had a good reputation; down by that pub we never went in.
She said she wasn’t going to take my advice anymore.

She listened to me smile.

I asked her if she’d thought about having kids, and she said yeah.
She said she wanted two girls and a boy; the two girls could share a room, so they’d only need a three bed.
When she was old, and tired, they could look after her and her husband and it’d all be worth it just to look up from the hospital bed and see them looking down at her with such sorrow in their eyes.
She said she’d know that she was loved then.

I told her if she jumped I’d be sad.
She said that didn’t count because I was sad all the time.
She said if I wanted my misery to have an impact on her, I should try smiling once in a while.
I couldn’t help but smile at that.
She said she didn’t want dogs either; she wanted cats; two or three of them.

She threw the cigarette, still burning, off the bridge.
I watched it curve. It fell quicker than I expected. So fast that the moment was gone, instantly, and I never had the chance to catch it.
When it hit the water, and fizzled, she was gone, and there was a stranger in her skin.

I’ve started to wonder just how much of our creativity is dependent on us. Is it our role to simply take what we view and turn that into poetry or prose? Is there, then, no innate creativity? I’ve started to question how many of the poems I’ve written are simply down to the odd spare phrase thrown by women in conversation – how many pieces of prose can be traced down to an odd feeling? Maybe I just need to get over it. Stop asking questions and just write, write without consideration. Write without thought. Just let the fingers play.

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!