Saturday, December 06, 2008


State of Irritation Address
TOM SYKES pokes fun at the realities of culture and life in present-day Britain

WE, the Establishment, have recently discovered that you, the British people, are unhappy with your lot. Up to 12 per cent of you are depressed, regardless of your background, lifestyle or creed. This is not good for you, but more importantly it’s not good for us. We need you to be cheerful and productive or anarchy could ensue. No one wants that, do they?

So let us offer you some practical advice to lift you out of your mire. First, take more drugs, but only the ones prescribed by GPs, of course. Don’t listen to the cynics when they tell you that you should feel a range of emotions—sadness being just one of them—in order to live an authentic, natural, human life. Put a spring in your step with SSRIs, TCAs and other dubious acronyms.

Secondly, keep shopping. You deserve it. Buy as much as you can. The road of excess leads to the palace of vague contentment. As you consolidate all your credit card debts into one shady loan, remember that you’re not just buying stuff, you’re buying an idea, or if you’re lucky, an ideal. Let’s face it, you were never that good at sex or football, were you? You never quite grasped fashion, did you? You were born with the wrong kind of face. Put all that behind you. Get a pair of boots endorsed by David Beckham and take free kicks like him. Aspire to such models; that’s what they’re there for. Keep striving and you’ll get to their level, too, someday. It might happen. Don’t be pessimistic now.

Each evening when you finish that job you’ve always hated, go straight to the nearest pub and get ruined. Stay there all night and laugh. Make sure you keep laughing. When you get some time off from the aforesaid hated job, go on holiday somewhere nice and ignore the vile propaganda about your 10-hour flight contributing as much to carbon emissions as a year’s worth of driving. Of course, we in the Establishment now admit that climate change might be of slight concern. But you personally can help save the world by leaving your green bin outside the front door every so often. That’s all you need to do. Don’t worry, you don’t have to sell the gas-guzzling child-mower just yet. At least the worst effects of climate change will hit the Southern Hemisphere first and you much later. And you can’t worry about other people you don’t even know, can you? They’re irrelevant. You don’t really share the world with them. They’re on the other side of it to you. They just make those David Beckham boots.

Remember also that we, the Establishment, have given you unprecedented choice. Think of our three political parties and the oceans of difference between them. Think of the dazzling range of methods they use to fund themselves, from massive donations by lobbyists to massive donations by drugs tycoons. Which should inspire your confidence. To make things easier for you, they are mostly agreed on the big issues: our crusades in the Middle East, the structure of our electoral system, the masterdom of corporations. So take heart from that. Oh yes, and you’re powerless ... which isn’t necessarily a bad thing—there are people far better equipped than you to make the decisions.

Now this is the important part: whatever you do, don’t use your imagination; don’t try to experience anything new; don’t try to learn anything more. What you see is all there is, so make do with it. “Be content with the ersatz of Suchness.” There isn’t some greater purpose, some higher truth beyond snooker and toasted sandwiches. “What’s the point then?” you might ask, but shouldn’t ask, because there’s no answer. The same goes for “What’s the meaning of it all?” “Why am I here?” “What’s going on in the world?” and “Am I really free?” Better still, don’t ask questions at all and certainly not of us, the Establishment. This will only confuse matters further and lead to more depression.

TOM SYKES was born in Portsmouth, England, in 1979, and graduated from the University of East Anglia in 2001. He is the co-editor of the travel book, No Such Thing as a Free Ride?, which was serialised in the London Times and named Observer Travel Book of the Week. He has published short fiction and articles in the U.K., U.S., Canada and Southeast Asia. His novel, The Blank Space, is published by Pendragon Press later in the year.

Reproduced from the July-September 2008 issue of Quill magazine


Post a Comment

<< Home