I want to take one moment out of our busy internet schedule to pause on the pretence expected of us in this modern world.
Today I went to this course that teaches women how to create change. When we split into groups, two of them said that I was confident and outspoken.
Confident. Me. They clearly had missed the dozens of tears streaming down my cheeks a mere half an hour later when the women in the course, as part of an exercise, waxed lyrically on how much they admired their mothers or, in one case, daughter.
To these women I appeared to have it all together. Even though there is nothing “together” in my life. And I really mean nothing.
There was this girl at work, last year. She was beautiful. She appeared on the local newspaper because her A levels had been so good. She was friendly, and appeared to be loved by everyone.
Apparently, she was also needy and had no self esteem.
She told me of her sister once, how she had social phobia. I met her in person: you couldn’t imagine a more confident looking woman.
Today in the course one woman told us the story of her daughter. She was told, by Atos, no less, that “she didn’t look depressed”. Her mother remarked to us that the one thing you can know about depressed people, is that they are really good at hiding it. Not that Atos could ever care.
I met up with a friend last Saturday, and we talked about the reality of student life. Everyone appears to be having a gay ole time, and yet. And yet, she and I struggled a lot. Gay ole time? More like rotten misery to me.
I remember when I was a student, how wealthy everyone else looked. You wouldn’t believe they were students, required by law to be permanently skint.
Last Wednesday a new acquaintance told me of her friend, who is 30 grand in debt, and has nothing to show for it. Small loans here and there, to pay for shopping sprees and lavish holidays. 30 grand. A life of luxury, shame it’s make believe.
We also discussed her sister, a fully functional adult with husband, children, good jobs, mortgage. Struggling just to get by, because the children “need” all these things… like blackberries and ipads.
And I look at everyone around me, and then look at myself and I wonder… are we all struggling, suffering, and hurting but keeping up appearances? Is our society so shallow that we cannot own up our real life in public for fear of… of what? Social stigma?
Would it feel too much like bursting the bubble of mandatory positivity to admit that, hey, I am actually struggling here. In a world where intimacy and connection have been replaced by “statuses” and “tweets”, would it be an act of rebellion to stop the friendly banter for one moment and scream “I am in pain, I am scared, I am in need”?
What would happen if, just for one day, we all put down our masks and revealed to the world the ugly truth: that we don’t have it all together, that we are barely making it, that we are, in actual fact, falling through the cracks.
We would probably have a revolution the next day. How are we supposed to build solidarity, the hallmark of revolutionary struggle, if we all look confident, perky, positive and wealthy?
That’s the reason why we are fighting. Because things are getting, in the words of a communist friend, “ridiculously sh*t”. For everyone, not just ourselves.
Would you join me? Would you admit to the big internet out here that you may, in fact, be finding it slightly difficult right now? I’ll start.
Hi, my name is Mary and my life is a bit lousy at the moment. Minus the “bit”. I am terrified of the future and can’t imagine things getting any better for me or young people like me. I am afraid I’ll never know security or happiness. That comfort will forever be but a distant memory. That I’ll reach the end of my days studying but having never had a “proper” job. I feel unwanted, irrelevant. I feel like my dreams have been and continue to be ruthlessly exploited by a system intent on making everyone believe that the Universe lies at their fingertips, while at the same time bent on denying everyone access to the most basic needs. And I fear my generation will forever disappear out of history having offered nothing to the world outside desperate complacency to a system that is crumbling around it.I need new glasses and I don’t know how I’ll afford them. If you know of a job I could do, please let me know, I’ll greatly appreciate it.
I know there are plenty of people out there bursting through the bubble of make believe positivity. And I am grateful for every one of them.
Mark Fisher, author of "Capitalist Realism" and the blog k-punk, has admitted to have struggled with depression, while doing his PhD. You can listen to a talk abouthis book here. I warn you: there will be so many insights flying at you that you may need pen and paper at the ready.
It’s thanks to him that I just found out about Ivor Southwood’s, author of “Non Stop Inertia”. He has a blog or two, and I’m only too happy to have found out about them. He writes about the crude, cold reality of unemployment, precarious work, jobseeking, and the general misery of it all. But he also dishes out a powerful, compelling, original and creative critique of the whole system. How can someone so knowledgeable and capable be unemployed?
Last but by no means least, there’s Sue Marsh’s “Diary of aBenefit Scrounger”. Sue’s occupation: sick person. She writes about her daily struggle with her illness, sheds light on the reality of disability benefits and puts up a fight against the welfare cuts.
As part of my journey to finding an alternative way to do "politics", I'm intent on covering the personal lived experience of actual people, their stories, their journeys and yes, their struggling. Because, to me, political activism needs to be motivated, at least in part, by the desire to help ourselves and others. And in order to do that, we must start by admiting that yes, help is badly needed at the moment.