Category Archives: Politics and Economics

Cigarettes, Alcohol and So-Called Social Fucking Networking

Beer keeps me vaguely sane, and cigarettes give me the nicotine kick I need to stay slightly neurotic. So giving up either of those for New Year is out; in fact, I’m resolving to maintain both habits in a semi-mystic and quasi-religious kind of way. Which leaves me to ponder my list of things to abstain from. I avoid socks for most of the year already, except in the most inclement weather, and to force my toes into the snow for the sake of it seems perverse. It would seem like most of the year I wasn’t trying hard enough and the other part of the year I was trying too hard. I’m seeking balance for 2011.

Denying myself of many other things seems equally arbitrary: I rarely use chocolate except when my blood sugar level plummets to the point that only stuffing my face with a Mars bar can prevent either fury or coma; dodging soap is something I did in my teenage years; and not procrastinating can quite effortlessly be put off until 2013.

Whittling down this list, I slowly realize that the object of my anti-desire has to fulfil several criteria: it has to be something which wastes my time, does not nourish my mind, body or soul, and is something I could forego without too much effort. ‘Social networking’ seems like an obvious candidate, at least in terms of the first two stipulations.

Social networking is, when you think about it, a euphemistic oxymoron. If ‘networking’ is taken to be the money-making, deal-breaking game of poker to advance up the corporate ladder, then I’m somewhat hobbled by the fact that none of my colleagues (and certainly none of my senior colleagues) rank among my Facebook ‘friends’. Network-wise, I am therefore both horizontally and vertically challenged.

This is entirely by choice: nocturnal beer-fuelled rants-slash-status updates might make me feel better, and may even provide (in brief moments of delusional grandeur) a blue-print for changing the world. They might even be mildly amusing for those who have known me long enough to indulge my middle-aged burnings and ravings at the close of day, my raging against the dying of the light, to rather loosely paraphrase Dylan Thomas. Such rantings are, however, likely to lead to an early twilight of one’s career, were one’s betters to read them.

The ‘social’ aspect of ‘social networking’ is even more of a misnomer: there is nothing social about being pinned to my desk absorbing the detritus of the lives of people who I am unlikely – and probably unable – to sit down and have a beer and a chat with in the next twelve months.

Paradoxically, however, for this very reason the third stipulation – foregoing something without too much effort – may be the biggest challenge. While social networking offers me almost zero nutritional content, its potential as a short-acting stimulant is unsurpassed. Like the empty buzz of cheap, burnt coffee, I imbibe Facebook’s slutty dregs anyway. Despite knowing that nothing on Facebook is likely to seriously impact on my life in any meaningful way, I click my mouse in order to see if, this time, I might glean some meager spike in the otherwise flatline of my online life.  Someone, somewhere has maybe acknowledged that I am annoyed about something or other which I would have probably forgotten about had I not posted my minor grievance for all the world to chime in on. But, usually, they haven’t: and I go back to whatever it was I was meant to be doing. At least for five minutes, until the frenetic urge to poke my virtual fucking nose into somefuck else’s business grips me once more, and I feel strangely satiated by the sheer fact that, like me, nothing at all of any significance has happened in their life in the last 300 seconds.

So, adieu Facebook. You’ve served me well over the last three years, or at least since such time as I no longer remember that you did not exist. I don’t dwell on what I did with my life without you, and I shan’t post-mortemise our relationship in much detail in the future. For the seven people reading this: we didn’t need Facebook to stay in touch. For the 431 people who aren’t: well, all I have to say is …

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Things Fall Apart, the Centre Cannot Hold

It’s odd, because this feels like something of a prosthesis – a fake limb that gestures awkwardly; a supplicant to the phantom pangs of an amputation – to my former face, book, self.

‘All Things Fall Apart’ is my handle of choice for a number of inter-textual reasons. It nods to and echoes various poems, books, tunes and experiences which have – in their own and different ways – led me to write the way I do. Not, please note, ‘be who I am’. This is not a cathartic self-help introspection, it’s not a how-to guide and nor is it a therapy session. This is an experiment in writing; in pressing words into work to articulate my triumvirate passions of language, politics and culture.

‘Things Fall Apart’ was the title of a 1958 novel by the Nigerian anti-colonialist Chinua Achebe. Achebe – who struck a long chord between his upbringing and his political ambitions – borrowed the title from the Irish poet William Butler Yeats, who versed it in his poem ‘The Second Coming’. A writer with somewhat quixotic political allegiances, Yeats’ poem is open to several cross-cutting interpretations: at once revolutionary and conservative, Yeats – and his poetry – remains ambivalent. ‘The Second Coming’, more of you will note, was the Stone Roses’ long-awaited follow-up album, widely derided in the music press at the time but the record which enshrined now-classic tracks such as ‘Love Spreads’, ‘Ten-Storey Love Song’ and the 11-minute jazz-funk epic ‘Breaking into Heaven’. The latter conveys the immortalising – if not quite immortal – lyrics:

‘Listen up sweet child of mine,
Have I got news for you,
Nobody leaves this place alive,
They’ll die here, join the queue;

and:

‘How many times will I have to tell you,
You don’t have to wait to die,
You can have it all, anytime you want it – yeah,
the Kingdom’s all inside.’

More on this later. But thanks for migrating from FB.

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