The Palinopsia of National Resilience – A Short Story (Introduction)

By Tom Penn

Palinopsia: ‘A visual disorder in which the patient perceives a prolonged afterimage‘ (Collins dictionary).

National Resilience: ‘Coercive patriotism in pursuit of nefarious agendas’ (the new lexicon of Government).

I was a latecomer when it came to scepticism regards the national response to Covid. Being one of the fortunate able to work outside, alongside only one or two other colleagues, and with a very accommodating, flexible client, I remained absorbed in my work; dismissing the whole affair as either sensationalism not worth scrutiny or indeed a national emergency, but one which would inevitably soon pass without great consequence. I had money to make, a project to finish, travel plans, and no energy left of an evening to do much but vegetate – such is the modern life for many.

The entire First Ripple passed me by in a fug of fatigue. Only in August and then again in November, once two overseas bicycle tours had been successfully curtailed by both the British and Spanish governments’ farcical circus show of non-pharmaceutical interventions, did I begin to really pay attention to the babbling Ministerial jesters prattling and prancing around Empire’s Big Top.

I found myself back at home, under the house-arrest of seemingly endless rain, and a rapidly besmirching palette of usually wholesome pastimes; frustrated at having had my annual, psychophysically medicinal adventure stolen from me. It was the first time that the iron fist of restrictions properly thumped me in the gut, winding me severely, and precipitating a long journey of questioning and introspection, which eventually morphed into a simmering rage as the full scale of the Great Hoodwink began to dawn on me.

Every morning over coffee I would pore over the headlines – both sceptical and mainstream – and read endless pdf files on SAGE minutes, pre-pandemic Government strategies and the like. Piece by piece the wretched jigsaw puzzle began to take form, and I found myself utterly gobsmacked. Every day a new sprinkling of lies; every few weeks a warping of the narrative. Very little made sense. Life had all of a sudden become a hurricane of falsehood, and I began writing in an attempt to keep myself sane, and focused on reality; the results of which, as a first time author, in all likelihood are perhaps somewhat clumsy and disjointed.

The Palinopsia of National Resilience offers no way forward, no solutions. It is my personal exploration of anger at the collapse of reason. Many would likely perceive it as wholly negative and therefore of little use in helping to ‘fight the good fight’. I would beg to differ however.

If unfortunate enough to require psychotherapy, one wouldn’t simply be presented with a strategic ‘to do’ list of positive changes by the therapist. Often it would be in the gradual, painful unravelling of one’s hurt and confusion that one would typically get an initial sense of the vague route towards the off-ramp. ‘The Palinopsia’, for me, was just such a psychological confrontation – with myself – and an unexpected exit point off the Executive’s crippling roadmap of cognitive torture.

Most are almost completely unaware of just how manufactured certain aspects of life often are – desires, material wants, the magnetic pull of cotton-wool security, and the frequently distorted notion of freedom. Others appreciate that citizens must sacrifice a certain degree of liberty in exchange for State protection, and feel confidently in control of their allotted freedoms. But when the tentacles of the Establishment begin slithering down your street, through your letterbox, and into your sitting room; then into your eyes, mouth, ears and psyche, at what point exactly does one draw the line under what is an acceptable amount of State interference? How much does one have to suffer for one’s crumbs of autonomy before one eventually picks up a kitchen knife and begins hacking away at such a slimy overreach of joy-sucking power; having finally grasped that the scales haven’t just tipped a little further in favour of the One Percent – they’ve been decommissioned altogether and forged into shackles.

It seems to me that short of the Military marching into Britain’s cul-de-sacs, booting down front doors and forcibly vaccinating the entire population, citizens (sceptics aside of course) will basically tolerate almost anything – even a humanitarian intervention mission aimed at themselves. And we all know those don’t end well, somewhat lacking in humanity as they are. Not even for a nanosecond, as an adult, had it crossed my mind that I might witness the time-worn blueprint utilised to justify cruel wars on foreign soils, being superimposed upon the territory of my mind; by my own government.

One of the most troubling aspects of this unfolding social chess game is just how little time and energy the average pawn has (and quite often understandably so) to dedicate to exploring and thus fortifying against, an attack on their critical faculties by Them Upstairs. Life itself gets in the way, and that sacred time – when all chores and work are completed for the day – is often squandered in the Fiction-factory, delighting in Princesses flying dragons, or romanticised gang warfare. I don’t even have children to provide for and still I’ve fallen into that spiritual death-trap on numerous occasions. And all too often I’ve succumbed to the horrendous maxim of our age: “It is what it is”. But I’ve since learned that this is a saying born from tiredness, and subsequently a profound lack of understanding of our roles as marionettes, jigging around the geopolitical stage at the whims and fancies of despotic Puppet-masters.

In The Palinopsia of National Resilience I explore my role in the Royal Variety Show’s ceaseless gala of rapacity. I arrive, with some relief it must be said, at the ultimate realisation that I really am nowt but a number to my Overseers. I no longer need to pretend otherwise and I no longer feel compelled to utter that maxim of defeatism “It is what it is” in the face of a crisis, because presently, the thin line between reality and fiction is blurred to the point where such a self-deceiving statement makes even less sense than it did before. Just WHAT exactly “is”?

In the story the riff-raff – the general populace – are the domestic help of Manor House Britain. They are cajoled and coerced into servitude to their maniacal Lords and Ladies, undertaking the sorry spadework of the estate to the point of self-harm; goaded into crucifying their autonomy as the champagne flutes of the Elite clink with immunity, post closed-door bouts of duplicitous waffle.

One minute we are bovine plebeians, happily electrifying ourselves on the behavioural fencing of Re-education Farm Britain; the next we are prone on our couches eating toxic televisual-sausages and emitting pongy farts of thematic endorsement.

We are flagellant cripples hungry to worship at the Basilica of Behavioural Buggery. We stand in our doorways aroused by our self-congratulatory virtue-signalling, whilst Her Majesty’s Royal Scare Force pepper us with barbed, evangelical acupuncture spikes.

Our dreams are patrolled by the new Constabulary of Control, who plod the dim cobbled streets of our self-governance, and our every move is dictated by Parliament’s mind-washing gizmos of deliverance – at all times to be found in our apron or waistcoat pockets – that taser out their directives to ensure we toe-the-line.

The metaphors jump all over the map, like the goalposts of life’s new, genetically modified structure. Each paragraph is an expression of rage, of disillusionment – of sorrow. Yet in unflinchingly confronting my demons of indifference I feel purged of their influence. I had a good old rummage around the hurt-locker; stared for hours at my distorted reflections in Top Brass’s shady hall of mirrors, and far from feeling miserable, lost, or hopeless, I feel liberated and newly empowered.

I added a course of stone to my ramparts – my defence against the invading armies of Corporate witches and bent scientific Soothsayers – and re-pointed the entire fortress of my sanity; that the Vultures of the Ruling Elite so wish to pickle in the patriotic codswallop of their political guano.

It is by no means now impenetrable of course, but it is stronger than before, and after each wave of hysterical attack from the vampyric designers of our increasingly engineered existence, I shall add another course.

I’m dismayed to say the least, at our government’s lust for control over the minutiae of our lives – lockdowns – and their race to manifest a vision of life over which we, the rat serfs, appear to have little to no say about. They’ve made their position remarkably clear, yet in response, so too have I made clear my own, if only to myself.

I didn’t take to the streets or petition my local government. I don’t have Facebook or Instagram, and I struggle madly to retain the real scientific facts, stats and numbers. But what I did, at the very, very least, was take stock of the weapons available in my limited armoury, took my head out of the media mind-mincer, sat my rump down, and stamped a question mark on life and my role within it. And I feel all the more robust for it. I’VE built back better Boris – ME – not you and your stern faculty of chameleonic, brain-nibbling Professors.

I’m grateful for those hundreds of hours spent sat motionless, dissecting both the ensuing catastrophe and the inner workings of my mind, as it fought to rise above the choking smog of the Propagandacene’s immutable edicts. It was at times dark and disturbing, and etched a near-permanent scowl on my face. Yet at the same time it was, and continues to be, a most illuminating period in my life: a period of great learning and positive inner change.

The Elite can’t build back better until they first tear down the old ways – which they are clearly hell-bent on doing – and neither can I rebuild, without first confronting and then deconstructing, my own bitterness and hurt.

You’ve made me a better person all-round Headmaster Boris. You’re the corporal punisher whose indiscriminate canings have taught me to simply play truant, and no longer turn up to class just to learn how to tremble in the face of your fantastical pie-charts of fear. I don’t need to pretend to have an upset tummy anymore so as to avoid singing hymns at your assemblies, and I’ll no longer be doing your revolting mass-media homework assignments – I threw my jotter in the canal, along with my ‘old normal’ self.

Thank you for showing me what I really was – what I used to be. Now when I close my eyes I see the backs of my eyelids, and not the algorithmic, polychromatic Palinopsia of your devastating broadcast demagoguery.

And thank you White Rose.

The Palinopsia of National Resilience is available as a Kindle edition here