I was an intelligent child. I was renowned for mischief and self-expression. I was loved by my friends and seldom engaged in the persecution of others. I passed my eleven-plus and enjoyed a summer playing football and cricket, burning dried grass and solidifying fraternal bonds. All was not well. I suffered terror and alienation as a consequence of my mother’s drinking and although this experience had become familiar over the years, it was the foundation of an underlying psychological vulnerability, which made me prone to suffering in other areas.

Problems began on my first day at Vyner’s Grammar School in Ickenham. It was far away and difficult to get to and my journey hadn’t been properly planned. I was equipped with a bus pass for two journeys that were inconveniently timetabled rather than the underground pass and bus pass that would have proved more suitable, and which I acquired some time later. I arrived at the school feeling nervous. I’d missed some vital instruction, which made it difficult to grasp what followed. I stumbled around, not knowing where I was going or what I was doing, feeling friendless and abandoned.

Most of my classmates had gone to the same primary school, which served as a feeder for Vyner’s. The few who had arrived from elsewhere fitted in by virtue of their middle-class manners. I was the only child in my class who did not conform to the template. I was hounded by a hierarchical elite, degraded by its leaders, mocked by aspiring underlings seeking the favour of their overlords, and forced to seek friendships of convenience with outsiders who were marginalised on account of their physical unattractiveness or supposed stupidity. And even the dregs were wont to despise me.

I was subject to physical and mental bullying. The physical assaults were not severe but they could happen at any time and the threat undermined my sense of security. The mental cruelty consisted of condemnations of my ugliness and lack of intellectual ability. I was despised on the grounds of my class, my poverty, where I lived and what my parents did. No teachers intervened to save me. They condoned what was going on and seemed happy to join in.

I sought refuge in sport. I was a good middle-distance and cross country runner, although one 800 metres competition proved another source of humiliation. I won the race for boys in our house, through quickly establishing an unassailable lead, and managing to hold off those who pursued me, because they had ratcheted up their performance too late. I could not employ this tactic in the final at the local athletics stadium and ended up last by an embarrassing margin. I thought about falling over and feigning injury to get out of my situation.

I won a cross country race consisting of more than 70 runners and performed well in the race for the first three years when I was in my first year at school. I was in the school cricket team, but the hierarchy operated here as well, meaning that I was reduced to making up the numbers, left out in the field, never given an opportunity to bat or bowl despite my talent. I also excelled at football, played with a tennis ball at break time, and I remember feeling pride generated by my unwillingness to pass and my propensity for scoring goals.

I was a lonely and unhappy child. I was full of dread. I felt worthless and ashamed. I was impotent, frustrated and full of fury. My education suffered. I was absent from school for much of the time that should have been devoted to establishing foundation skills that would have enabled me to prosper in my later school career. This lack of basic, essential knowledge proved telling with regard to mathematics and science and I never recovered from it. It took a long time for the school authorities to take any action in response to my truancy and even when they did it was inadequate and things continued as they had been before their intervention.

This experience taught me that authority is unreliable, that power is cruel, that the group is something to be avoided, and that the measures one takes to avoid persecution do not bring happiness but produce a different kind of pain, sadness and anxiety. It persuaded me that memory is a source of unhappiness that should be countered by attempting to forget.

I was eventually equipped with an underground pass covering the one stop journey from Ruislip Gardens to West Ruislip on the western extremity of the Central Line. I conceived the idea of using my access to the underground to make epic journeys from West Ruislip to Epping and back to Ruislip Gardens, which I discovered took roughly the same time as a day at school, if I factored in short excursions at stations in central London and took other measures here and there, associated with hiding and waiting. I couldn’t emerge from the underground system because of the limitations of my pass, which would definitely have been noticed – or so I thought – had I attempted to pass through the staffed barriers. I ran the risk of having my ticket inspected on trains. This happened quite rarely and when it did, the inspector usually failed to register the starting and finishing points on my pass. On one or two occasions, I was warned for travelling without authorisation, but my innocence, tears of contrition and promises not to do it again meant no further action was taken. Only once did anyone make an attempt to intervene, and I remember this as a rare act of kindness in the misery of these years. An off duty inspector took me for a burger, listened to me attentively and sympathised with my hardships. I sometimes wonder if this encounter was as benign as it seemed at the time.

I don’t know how many times I made the journey from one end of the Central Line to the other but I know that I travelled often enough to work out that I could change from my school uniform into civilian clothes between Hanger Lane and North Acton if my carriage was empty and I had made adequate preparations. Looking back, it seems like I made one epic voyage. What did I do? What did I think of? How did I occupy my time? I became an adept. I transformed myself. I sought refuge from persecution and killed time by investing it with a meaning that is impossible to express.

* * *

I celebrated my 16th birthday in the company of my older sister in Uxbridge in August 1978. My sister had remained in the area around Ruislip and Uxbridge when I moved to Newcastle-under-Lyme with my mum and dad and younger sister in 1975, shortly after the events related above. I took advantage of a loose invitation to arrive without warning on her doorstep in the spring of 1979. I waited outside the front door of the building she lived in for several hours until she returned from work with her admirer (a printer and lover of The Doors) and led me on the first of many visits to The Green Man pub a few yards up the road.

My sister lived in the attic of a rundown town house on Hillingdon Road with her best friend. They were sociable young women, who enjoyed good relationships with everyone who lived in the building and had a large network of friends and acquaintances outside. I was offered a place to live in the attic, despite the inconvenience that my presence must have caused. I stayed there for two or three months before my sister arranged for me to live in a house in Hayes End that was occupied by her boyfriend, who had been offered a job overseas and wanted to retain his tenancy while he was out of the country.

I endured poverty and starvation. I listened to ‘Down in the Park’ by Tubeway Army and wandered around the darkened streets looking pale and hungry. I worked for a news reporting agency at Heathrow Airport for three weeks before taking up employment as a purchasing clerk at EMI Electronics. My interest in music and literature widened and deepened. I wrote song lyrics and poems and fantasised about being the singer in a band:


Enter now the twilight zone,

The brooding realm of melancholy,

The land where everyone fears.

And through the zone there comes a lie

And the lie is labelled ‘thought’

And throws up empty imagery…


Lamenting in the twilight zone,

Forsaking your morality,

Horrendous lust to quest, destroy,

To run from the sublime…


My sister’s boyfriend’s job didn’t work out. He returned home and I had to leave at short notice. My sister fixed me up with a room in the house next door to the place that she lived in on Hillingdon Road, which was owned by the same landlord. Shortly after his return, my sister married her boyfriend and shortly after their marriage, her husband and I had a major falling out, which was a cause of unhappiness to my increasingly unhappy and reclusive sister. It was widely believed that her husband disliked me because he was jealous of the relationship between me and and my sister.

The room that I occupied on Hillingdon Road was like a cell. I felt ill at ease when I moved there. I subsisted on bread and butter. I was assaulted by the occupant of one of the other rooms in the house, who hated me because he thought I was queer. He was not alone in his thinking. It wasn’t easy being a pretty boy. A college lecturer attempted to seduce me at his home, which I left when he went for a piss with a stolen bottle of whisky stuck down the front of my trousers. I drank from the bottle as I made my way home, falling to the ground, arriving with mud on my face and clothing. I was propositioned on Tottenham Court Road, interrogated by rent boys at Piccadilly Circus, and drooled over by the driver of a fancy car who offered me a lift as I waited for a bus home on Uxbridge Road. I was also chased through Uxbridge town centre by a 20 strong gang of skinheads, associated ruffians and louts.

I walked through Southall in a state of heightened alienation. I merged with the lights of Heathrow Airport at night. I burned my body hair with cigarettes, cut my arms, talked to myself in the cold and the dark, performed comedy routines on the streets of Uxbridge after taking magic mushrooms. My sister died when she was 24, on the day after my 19th birthday, and I can’t describe the horror that followed. I was evicted by my landlord at Christmas and returned to live with my mum, making the journey northwards with a severe case of flu, somehow convinced that I was full of love for all living things.

* * *

I wrote the following to the tune of ‘The Partisan’ by Leonard Cohen in a cafe at Hanley Bus Station in 1984:


From the place of ritual slaughter

Comes the sound of voices singing,

“Freedom soon will come.”

Their promise haunts my life.


I have found myself so often

In the cold and lonely courtyards

Where dark nightmares reign

But you have led me from them.


Once extinguished stars shine dimly

And dull stars grow ever brighter

And the hours of hope

Are resurrected by the morning.


And I wrote the following in Newcastle-under-Lyme and Stoke-on-Trent around the same time:


Through summer’s blazing heat

And through autumn’s driving rain

I’m looking for the wise one

Who always will remain

Forever by my side

A voice to keep me sane

To bless me in the morning

And rescue me in again…

* * *

I’ve always been a light sleeper. I’ve seldom been able to sleep before going to bed at night, no matter how tired I feel. My capacity for sleep is linked to my feeling of security, and my feeling of security is associated with control.

Recently, noise from the person who lives in the flat above me has had a detrimental effect on my ability to sleep well. I wake two to four times during the the night. I usually return to sleep fairly quickly after these periods of wakefulness. I’ve taken to going to bed between 11.00 and 11.30pm and I usually get up around 8am on work days or 9.30 when I’m not working. This means that I could be getting 7 to 9 hours sleep on most days, although the periods of waking mean that this sleep is not as restorative as uninterrupted sleep would be.

One of the features associated with my current sleep pattern is the sound of the first bird of the morning. I forced myself to refrain from clock watching some time ago, on the grounds that it proved demoralising and brought no benefit. Occasionally, I hear distant church bells when I stand before my window but this is rare. The first bird of the morning has become a primary indicator of time. To be awake before the first bird calls is not good. To note the call can be a cause for celebration, indicating that I have been able to get some sleep at least. Sleep before the sound of the first bird of the morning is a foundation and sleep after the first bird is a consolidation of rest.

During the last few days I’ve noticed the dawn chorus (or post-dawn chorus) that succeeds the first bird of the morning. The sound is accompanied by a transition from darkness to light. A bird has taken up residence directly above my bedroom and gives voice to a harsh and repetitive call that wakes me after I return to sleep following my recognition of the first bird’s call. I’ll try to remember to secure my window properly in future, in the hope that it will diminish the alarm represented by the dawn chorus.

Sleep difficulties have taught me the value of sleep. I love sleep because I can no longer take it for granted. When sleep was easier to come by, I did not love it; indeed, I sometimes conceived of sleep as an unwelcome thief of time.

Sleep problems indicate underlying distress. The emotional and psychological distress I experience consists of a heightened awareness of negative thoughts and bodily processes, alongside a discomfort associated with these phenomena that gives rise to a fear of being overwhelmed.

I believe that the cause of my distress lies in childhood experiences of trauma and abandonment, which I responded to by trying to create a self-contained fantasy world devoid of threat, in which no-one could reach me to do me harm.

I know that I’m no longer experiencing the trauma and abandonment I suffered as a child. I’ve managed to sustain myself in a benign fantasy world in the past but I don’t currently have the ability to do this. I retreated from something that I found impossible to bear but the place I retreated to was insufficiently defended to secure myself against threat. At times I convince myself that there’s something beneath the anguish, a core of being that was never touched by it, a true and untarnished self, enduring incorruptible and serene.

Anguish is based on something deeper than the certainty of suffering and death; it is grounded in this certainty combined with the experience that death is not yet, that suffering is not exhausted, that we don’t know if death will be known through the process of dying, or if the moment of death will prove to be an experience or the extinguishment of the possibility of experience.

Anguish is based on the certainty that we will experience something that we cannot accurately conceive of. Anguish is the certainty that we will know what can’t be known.

The fact that everything ends in death renders everything futile. But we don’t experience the end until the end comes, and this enables us to engage in thought and actions that seek to link death, or what we imagine death to be, and what we imagine about what happens after death, with birth, which is an event we can’t remember, or with what happens before birth and conception, which is a fantasy.

When I wake up in the morning, I say to myself, “I don’t think I’m going to die today,” and I take it from there. There’s no objective standard by which to judge. Everything is provisional. Everything is contextual. The attribution of meaning is an exercise in shadowplay. I’m concerned with the authenticity of the uncertain. It’s the moment and the perception of the moment that is true or false, authentic or inauthentic. And the moment and the perception are mine.

I think. The critical internal voice is a sign of the cruelties inflicted upon me, but it’s also instructive, urging me to refrain from what is unprofitable. The dominant presence of any thought, or state, or mental occupation, is a restriction as far as other thoughts, states and occupations are concerned.

I act. Action doesn’t require effort when the desire to act is present. Passivity becomes strained and painful. I benefit from my actions and I suffer from them as well.

If day to day existence seems narrow, it’s a sign of the desirability of going beyond. Vitality flares up and diminishes. Significance is not constant. I will be sustained for a time regardless of what I am doing and then I will go down into nothingness.

I have fallen away from a false ideal. The idea of falling away is as oppressive and alien as the false ideal it relates to. The agency of the false ideal is a tyrannical god channeled through establishment authorities.

Love and hate are not constant and undivided but you can’t love what you hate when you’re hating it, you can’t bless what you curse when you’re cursing it, and you can only do good to those who do evil to you by subverting the reality of yourself.

I have a fearful self. My ideal self has been thrust upon me by people who have no interest in my welfare. The idea of being fearless is a fantasy born of a dream. I live in fear, and fear does not leave me for a moment.

I am powerless. Economic and political elites shape the world through the application of theories that promote their own interests, but this power play also takes place in local communities, in families, and in relationships between individuals. The dominant authority shifts, although it’s likely to be the authority that can impose its will on the greatest number of people at any given time.

I can’t delude myself because I am myself and the agency within me that might seek to delude me is undone by the agency that knows what the subverting impulse is up to. The immediate and apparent exists with a force that theoretical notions cannot aspire to.

I am self-reliant. My belief that I lack ‘necessary resources’ is an indication of the extent to which I submit myself to folly, or let myself be duped. What is beyond me is not certain. What is within me is not certain, either, but it’s more reliable than what is beyond.

I am present. I am not what I see but what I see is dependent on my presence. The extent to which I am present is constant but seems to change in accordance with the attention I bring to what I do. I don’t remain in what I’m doing when it’s finished but I’m always doing something and I remain in what I’m doing.

I want to go where I am and I want to do what I’m doing.


Surviving the War of All-Against-All

Processed with Blackie

One Eyed Eric, the Dreamer of Dreams, or Dreamers… Rasta Kop from ‘Silent Witness’… Christopher Nobody, the IKZ Identity Unit… the Prole-Kunst-Meister… beautified monsters, clowns, bad dreams… jokers who pretend that death is easy or anything special…

We don’t need your condescending interventions. We don’t need your unclassifiable cultural practice. Stick your self-proclaimed expertise up your arse. Give us the money and we’ll get on with it ourselves.

There’s a big difference between ‘is’ and ‘was’ but it doesn’t matter because the action takes place in one day, outside space and time, which becomes impossible to waste. Are we programmed for purposeless drift? Are we programmed to repeat that which we know does not work?

Through obsessive rumination and self-reflection, we’ve managed to identify our problems quite well. We’ve been less successful at identifying solutions, and even less successful in applying problem solving strategies that we have learned through experience. It goes down. It’s not fixed. It goes off to the side. Not the shudder, but the wooze.

We are living in the company of cruel, violent and selfish people. We are engaged in the war of all-against-all. We swallow impotent fury and recognise that we might have overstated the case. Peace and comfort are the privileges of the rich. The privileges of the rich are stolen from the poor. We are the poor.

It feels like the day has been stolen from us. It’s not just the hours spent in the office, it’s the way it effects things outside that. We’re oversensitive to our itching bodies, which we attribute to fleas from the cats we stroked as we set out for town yesterday. We wake early. We refrain from looking at the clock but dawn is some way off. We’re awake for what seems like hours before getting up shortly before 7. We arrive at work at 8.50, and everything we do before then is work focused. The work day is stressful, particularly the first half. Our periods of rest are spent worrying about work. We return home around 4.30 and our tiredness kicks in, making it a trial to hear about a visit from the owner of the flat upstairs and the prospect of a new tenant. The rest of the day feels like a temporary respite from returning to work. We open our beer earlier than usual, preparing to go to bed earlier than usual so that we can be up earlier than usual to go to work tomorrow morning. Work is a thief of time.

Physical spaces condition perception. “Sound weakens the social character of space, turning the surroundings into a distant spectacle which we can control but can’t relate to.” The material world in which we live is more profoundly alien and strange than we had previously imagined.

How can a single entity be simultaneously the one who is hiding something and the one from whom the thing is hidden? We invent answers. We invent endings. But there is no resolution, no fixed beginning, no neatly tied up end.

We are psychosomatic entities. Our minds and our bodies say don’t forsake the core, go deeper into the source. Surface appearances penetrate to deepest reality.

Let’s see where we are and consider what can be done. The depth and potential richness of every moment provides sufficient reason to keep on living.


Crookes Valley Road, 30 January 2018

Processed with Blackie

We were fucked in our juicy internals

Peace became theoretical

Transitions became difficult

Death lurked down the road…

Our eyes are an insubstantial brightness whose weight should be reckoned in tons. They reign in falling. Our noses are leaden absence. Our mouths are death mask features. Our shoulders are stretched meat and the muscles of our chests are endless trouble. And who can work with these legs, to lift one after the other?

Trauma attaches to trauma. Fear leads to distraction and distraction takes us away from ourselves. We need to examine our fear: the internal tension, the lurking crisis, the threatening vortex, the hopelessness, helplessness and defeat. We are not in control. What is it that causes us to shudder inwardly, as if our hearts were about to stop, or our breath to cease? We’re not where we feel we should be but we have no alternative to being where we are. Our task is to become as comfortable as we can with our discomfort.

Some people live in half built huts, some live in ruins, most wander homeless. We are actors and actors are merchants, hawking pretence as sincerity. We might be intelligent but we’re not as intelligent as we’d like to be. We’re ashamed of our deficiency and pretend that we’re more intelligent than we are. We overestimate our abilities; if we did not possess this quality, where would we be now?

What happens in the space between action and reflection? Does that space exist? How do we move from here to there? What does here consist of and where on earth is there? How do we move from the fragmentary to something more substantial? Commence from the reality of the starting point. Take the necessary steps in the correct order at the right time and endure what we experience during the process. Although we’re subject to a pressure that means we’re not in what we’re thinking and doing because we don’t want to face what we’re feeling, our being and image remain ours. Our eyes identify the telling gesture. Let’s know our allies, share our fears, rehearse our strategy.

Take action. Try new things. Develop by making best use of resources and maximising potential. How do we respond to the invitation? How much time do we spend thinking about it? What do we keep in reserve? The truth will set us free, and the only measure of truth is what we feel inside, which is indefinite and subject to change. Truth is subjective, uncertain and changeable, but felt with a force that can’t be denied.

May we be saved from the terror of destiny

Until the day we’re done in

And may our final day be graced by oblivion

Resembling a happy sliding away.

Pinstone Street, 20 February 2018

Processed with Blackie

I love my employer so much that I often piss myself with excitement at the prospect of going to work. I suggest that we introduce a clothing allowance to replace the underwear that staff get through in this fashion. The glory of our employer is so great that all of the people we encounter in the course of our work with other organisations want to fuck us and our commitment to the cause means that we can’t refuse them. I propose that we open a company account with Marks and Spencer, shunning lesser outlets as not fit for purpose.

Arbeit wird dich nicht frei machen…

Enfer et Ses Fils Vivre sa vie Jean Luc Godard 1962

I work for an incongruent organisation. It doesn’t practice what it preaches. Its commitment to work life balance and workforce wellbeing is rhetorical. It promotes staff participation whilst operating a rigid hierarchical structure. It uses the idea of participation to absolve itself from taking responsibility for difficulties that arise as a consequence of the way it operates. It’s a dreadful place; vacuous, inauthentic, divorced from the communities it purports to serve, blighted by autocratic management, intent on a form of self-promotion that reflects the interests of three or four people. It’s a sham.

Returning to work after a break is a comedown. I face frustrations and absurdities. My chair has been replaced by an inferior seat. My computer has not been upgraded. It freezes, then runs too slowly. My email does not come through. The phone manager doesn’t work. There’s too much noise when I’m retrieving my messages. I’m expected to devise a case study for no clear reason, and I’m expected to follow a format that bears no relationship to the material I’m working with.

I experience my work day as stressful and unrewarding but I fail to take meaningful action to change my situation. That’s the default setting.

I speak to someone on the phone. She phones me back about a minute after our call has ended and has no memory of our conversation. Shortly afterwards, I attempt to talk to someone else but I have to abandon the call because she can’t hear me, even though I shout down the phone.

I receive several argumentative emails from the same person. The sender is intent on criticising everyone she comes into contact with for failing to provide what she wants, which is a service that no longer exists. She’s not focused on securing a viable alternative and she doesn’t acknowledge the difficulties attendant on this task. She phones to reiterate the content of her emails and to make further criticisms of all and sundry. I do my best to explain my role, the actions I have taken and the actions I intend to take, and I point out that what I have done and intend to do represents doing my best within the confines of the service I provide. Her phone call leaves me feeling angry and I resort to going outside until my anger has subsided. I resent her for intruding on my psychological balance. The rest of the day is similarly painful. The challenge is to accept the hostility, indifference and distaste I feel and acknowledge my feelings as a part of my daily existence.

I need to cut out the angst and tension. I go, I remain, I fill the time and I get paid. There’s no need to agonise about it. I should live the reality that it doesn’t matter.

Local authority managers are paternalistic and parochial. They assert the right to run things as they see fit. I receive an email about a review, led by one of these managers, which states that the service operates a system of feedback that it does not operate in reality, and asking for evidence to illustrate the virtues of this system. I arrive at a local authority venue to deliver an induction session for council workers. I’m kept waiting for half an hour at reception.

I’m the guinea pig for a middle-class creep’s newly acquired management techniques, which involve defining a problem in 5 minutes, asking questions about it for 15 minutes, devoting 5 minutes to reflection, and 5 minutes for developing an action plan.

The service is relentlessly busy. It makes the days go faster, but there’s always a threat that things will become unmanageable and my reputation will suffer as a consequence.

Everything in my work plan can be accomplished without much difficulty, or if it isn’t I’ve laid the groundwork to make a convincing case why not, or to present failure as success. An example of cynical self-interest presented as social concern. I could do better.

My position is secure. The service is well respected, even if the work is unrewarding. I haven’t resolved the difficulties associated with working with people I don’t like in a subservient role despite occupying that role for a long time and agonising about it for a long time before that and I haven’t resolved the tension between the transcendent pull of my real interests and the mundane pull of everyday routine, which has persisted for many years.

I dream that one of my colleagues is leaving. It’s an emotional occasion. She’s the last remaining team member. A large amount of funding will be made available to remodel the work of the team but that’s only enough to employ one person – her or me. The husband of another colleague is drinking wine from a box during work hours. I ask him what he’s up to. He says that he hasn’t been able to sleep for a long time but he doesn’t want to talk about it. His relationship with his wife has ended. My middle-class creep of a manager criticises me for not doing things the way that they should be done in his team – “that’s not the way we do it”. I explain that I haven’t been joining in because of the influence of “15 years of clinical depression”.

I made a mistake in taking on my current role rather than opting for redundancy when funding for my previous role ended. I’ve suffered reputational damage as a consequence. I’ve made it less likely that I’ll get another job commensurate with my skills, knowledge and experience. The question becomes how can I work to undo the damage that has been done? And the answer lies outside continuing in the role. But the idea of an alternative is a sop to diminish the intensity of the ill feeling I bear towards my current situation, an example of the tricks I use to deceive myself.

I don’t delight in refraining from doing what I’m paid to do but I feel compelled to shirk, to treat the work as if it were worthless, to shrink from what I find uncomfortable, although this avoidance brings no sense of accomplishment or satisfaction.

I persist with implementing the policy of doing as little work as possible. It doesn’t allow me to do anything that is more worthwhile. But there must be something in it at some level. It represents a form of taking control and revenge. It’s also about making it seem that I have more than enough to do. I’m reminded of the mentality of Dostoevsky’s Underground Man. I know this is a case of groundless identification with the rebellious anti-hero.

I don’t enjoy the work I do and its futility disturbs me. It’s absurd but it’s what I’m paid for.

Work is a meaningless struggle, an exercise in holding on and presenting a convincing case that I’m performing a worthwhile function. Maybe the service I provide is not needed, or not as necessary as it was thought to be, which constitutes an argument in favour of scaling it down or doing away with it completely. This argument represents a threat to my livelihood. My concern is to present what I do as necessary and valuable, rather than doing anything good. And this worthless struggle, misrepresentation and unethical double dealing, combined with a concern that it should continue, represents the pressing reality of the day.

I don’t like the people I work with. I dislike the organisation I work for. But it provides a steady income and contributes to my pension. My work pays the mortgage and rent and covers my expenses. My position is secure and there are redundancy associated benefits that would manifest upon leaving.

How important is personal integrity? Why should I record three things I’m proud of in relation to my work during the past year when self-praise is no praise and I’m not really proud of anything I’ve done? I view my job with contempt. It’s beneath me. I take every opportunity to pursue non-work related interests when the office environment allows me to do so. I put off what I don’t want to do for as long as possible. I look for the easy way. I view my colleagues with disdain. And yet, at my appraisal, I’m praised for my development of the service and hailed as a model worker. The gap between my unspoken attitudes and the judgement of others regarding the quality of the work I’ve done is surprising and amusing.

It’s the written record that counts. Conversations around the written record have no value unless they’re recorded. I’ve managed to convince my colleagues that I’ve been doing a good job. In reality, I’ve been indolent and non-committal, evading tasks that feel uncomfortable and taking every opportunity to avoid work altogether in favour of other things. I have a talent for misrepresentation and deceit, which is a great asset at work.

My line manager records that she is impressed with the way that I’ve responded to the challenge of an increased workload. I’ve developed the service systematically and increased its value. I’ve met or exceeded all of my targets. I’ve shown strong resilience and problem solving abilities. I’m an excellent team worker and a supportive colleague. I bring a high level of interpersonal skills to my work, to the benefit of the service. I demonstrate a person centred approach and I’ve used my skills and knowledge to enable my line manager to make improvements to her work. I offer valuable support and I’m a good person to bounce ideas off.

Isn’t that good to know?

Kneel to the Boss

ne travaillez jamais

“I hate all jobs. Why should I make distinctions? … You won’t catch me singing any hymns of praise … I’d shit on the whole lot of them if I could … That’s what it is to work for hire …” – Louis-Ferdinand Celine, ‘Death on Credit’

You are a representative of the alienated workforce, a victim of a confidence trick that markets slavery as the fulfilment of a dream…

You thought, “I’d rather be at home, reading ‘All That is Solid Melts into Air’”. You thought, “I wouldn’t be out in this heat if I didn’t have to go to work”. You thought, “I don’t like it here, I don’t feel comfortable. I don’t like these people, I don’t like how they present themselves. What’s on offer is not what I want”. It’s been going on for years. You feel it dragging you down.

Working for income is an affront to the dignity of Man. You reach the point of knowing where you are, in a system that appears to be functioning, and then your security is destroyed by other people.

No one but yourself can act in your own interests. From the point of view of self-interest, planning and managing your workload means taking advantage of opportunities to do nothing and holding something back to maximise the chances that expectations about what can be achieved don’t become unrealistic or too demanding. The idea that you should always work at work fails to take account of the need to rest and relax. Nihilistic work refusal represents an attempt to maximise autonomy. The skilful deployment of this approach serves to temper the expectations of the employing oppressor but it’s not really satisfying. It would be better to work in a field where refusal is not necessary. But it always is.

Where are you when you’re worrying about work tomorrow, next week, next year? Moment to moment experience remains but to all intents and purposes you’ve gone out of the world of space and time. To work is to hallucinate in a palace of the inconsequential, to stand in constant danger of flying away.

You spend more time on things that are unrewarding than things you have identified as priorities for personal development. Maybe your so-called priorities have little grounding. Maybe the things that are unrewarding fill your time because they’re easy, and take place within an established framework that has been created (without forethought) by others.

Work is boring. It’s evil. There’s no value in work beyond income generation, which is necessary but not something you should devote yourself to. You used to conceive of work having social and personal value beyond the generation of income but you realised that the way work relationships are structured means this is a self-deluding fantasy.

You say that you refuse authority but in reality you accept the authority of operational hierarchies at work and in wider society. There’s only a day before returning to work, and then three days at work, and four days away, and you have no strategy for fulfilling your potential as the round goes on, although you recognise the futility of the unrewarding habits you have developed over the past weeks, months, years, decades.

The organisation you work for would rather ignore your criticisms, or represent them as invalid, rather than addressing the deficiencies which caused them to arise in the first place…

An organisation is a collection of individuals. Its failings are the failings of the decision makers who guide it, and the failings of other people who engage in its proceedings. Everyone who works is complicit to some degree. Organisations are bound to fail because they’re weighed down by the failings of the individuals they consist of.