An essay by Tom Penn
Perhaps time – or lack thereof – is the biggest killer of all, and not the now thoroughly nauseating ‘C’ word. A paucity of time, created by the most crippling of all mutant variants – the lunatic pursuit of more square feet of shelter, to house a burgeoning collection of increasingly infantile lifestyle trinkets.
Sleepwalking to the disturbed nursery rhymes of the shape-shifting economy – cacophonous yet slumber-inducing nonetheless – we readily infect ourselves with it’s clock-slaying credos; content it seems, to direct all potential leisure-hours towards ultimately chimeric ends. And whatever spare minutes do remain, can be all too often spent lying prone at day’s end, underneath the multiple rectums of popular culture’s media incubus – tranquilizing ourselves on the spew until our eyes burn, and psyches submit to it’s lemming-breeding lullabies. Precious vitality is easily, routinely, and voluntarily squandered in the laboratory of commercialised dreams.
Why can’t we learn to live with Covid? We have already learned to live with stress, anxiety, depression, obesity, and chronic heart disease – the oft-self-inflicted collateral damage of our dunderheaded addiction to sleek home appliances, 200bhp work vans, garden features, and an absurd superfluity of space.
For months on end it was illegal to leave Sarcophagus Island. For our own benefit, and to protect those we hold dear, and that which we are obliged to – Empire – we were ordered away from the veritable abattoir of a domestic or international airport full of covid-negative people, for supposed fear of importing lethal terror-mutation ‘X’. Yet we were free to slaughter ourselves in genocidal, Online Shopping-mall Britain: free to fritter our time, health, and common sense away in keeping the smokescreen of consumerism, and Africa’s coltan mines – both concentration-camps of sorts (minus the concentration aspect regards the former) – in obscene profit. The mind baulks when attempting to compute the staggering death toll of voracious, non-essential spending Vs comparatively appetite-less covid.
We have been in ideological lockdown for quite some time now it seems. Little wonder, as a nation, we embraced physical lockdown. Some have had such little time for anything other than lining the coffers of the Treasury for so long now that – dare I say it – they want all non-conformists to finally suffer alongside them; that they may no longer feel so lonely in such perpetual isolation from their true selves.
Is there really much difference between smothering your sagacity with a disposable face-nappy, and flushing almost your entire life down the toilet of materialism? According to the statistics, the Grim Reaper seems actually to favour you focus on the latter of the two mucky endeavours.
According to the British Heart Foundation, heart and circulatory diseases account for a quarter of all deaths in the UK. That’s over 160,000 deaths annually. Heart attacks are responsible for more than 100,000 hospital admissions each year. That’s one every five minutes, at a total annual healthcare cost of £9 billion. Most disturbingly of all, virtually all sources agree that such fatal disease is preventable by adopting a healthier spectrum of lifestyle choices.
It truly boggles the mind – and even more pertinently so now – that one can stroll into any supermarket in the UK and essentially be confronted by row upon row of toxin-laden packages: colourful, fun, convenience-fuel for the slowly clogging, minion arteries of one of the world’s juggernaut economies.
Exhausted from yet another week spent servicing a shameful, downward spiralling fetish for a degree of material comfort that knows no limit, we predictably select the easiest options – inevitably the most toxic – paying not only in pounds sterling, but pounds of flesh: a contactless transaction of quality-adjusted life years. Many will also stop at the tobacco kiosk on the way out, unable to resist such a bargain-bin of ward-congesting, self-bastardisation.
We have developed such a strange way of protecting the NHS during ‘peacetime’, not dissimilar to the way in which we strive to save the environment – with our ceaseless, profligate consumption. We all need a few vices, but is self-destruction a vice or a social virus?
The Establishment don’t want you to have your old life back. So before they decide just which components they will eradicate – temporarily or indefinitely – make the choice for them. If you’re amongst the very fortunate who don’t struggle to provide the basics for a dignified existence – conservatories, a new fireplace surround, a quarterly revision of bodily lifestyle adornments, a bi-annual upgrading of thematic household totems, and a yearly update of smart-tech are not the basics – then force their hand, before they decide what’s best for you. Ditch the addiction to acquire.
SPI-B’s ‘Oniomania’ branch may well have set up office in your mind long ago. There might be a catastrophic Neil Ferguson sized model of idyllic, domestic material bliss being beamed into your circuitry right now, like a Parliamentary bat-signal – the prismatic harbinger of your own apocalypse; calling on you, one of the Kingdom’s heroes, to spend your way to a utopic early grave for the benefit of all.
Locate the projector, and smash it. You’ll find you have more time. Surplus hours to perhaps more roundly comprehend the issues of the day, peer behind the stage curtain to glimpse the faces of the demented playwrights, and make more wholesome, enriching lifestyle choices – for the benefit of all.
When we are not so oversubscribed our natural curiosity blooms, our patience rises, and something primordial begins to stir from within – reality.
Create time for mental space. It probably won’t be easy at first, as you inch away from the economy’s cultish messaging apparatus of mass-suicide, and further into the perhaps disquieting, growing silence of a usually discordant echo-chamber of advertising. It will require imagination and sacrifice, a degree of temporary discomfort, and courage in the face of risk: the latter just the very survival mechanism Government wishes to eradicate from your already heavily-plundered genetic toolbox.
All that will likely happen is that which usually happens when one steps off the precipice of one’s entrenched habits, and defiled, inhibiting cultural aspirations – one is caught by angels. Then, the whole sordid, scandalous plan that Top Brass had for you, melts before your very eyes like the block of rancid, corporate lard that it is. And you’ll finally be able to discharge yourself from the knick-knack crowded Nightingale hospital you’ve likely been constructing since a toddler – possibly as ideologically empty, moribund, wasteful and deceptive as the real ones.
“Welcome my son. Welcome – to the machine. What did you dream? It’s alright, we told you what to dream.” – Roger Waters, Pink Floyd, 1975.