how it was and how it felt
I settle in on the train and am braced for the babble of accents on mobiles; OK, call me a Luddite; Russians, Poles and other nationalities that are too politically incorrect to name for fear of the ‘thought police’. I get out my book, to rest my dystopian eye. It is a commentary on being ‘no one’; of your subjectivity not existing; thank you dear wife for this easy read.
Still, this lack of subjectivity is soon verified by the passengers using their mobiles for there is no sense of self consciousness in this carriage. Silence is golden but not on this train where you grieve for its absence, for nothing seems sacred to these people as they self importantly vocalise their wares. I think of mobiles as a vast technological money making confidence trick which has broken the bounds of privacy and I blame all those 12 year old boys from Silicon Valley; now billionaire male geeks. Yes ‘Silly Con’ Valley, the avant garde of our Orwellian future. ‘Twitter, twerp, tweep’ - why is it that this 21st century form of slavery has to be so juvenile? We are being infantilised by 12 year olds and it is all emanating from the adolescent culture of the United States?
Let’s catalogue it; misogynistic abuse, trolling, the unstoppable flow of hardcore sexual materials - half a million pornographic images posted on Twitter every day; a narcissistic selfie-centred culture disguised in the vacuous language of inclusion and transparency; a job killer not a job creator, the impact on jobs is huge, I could go on. Americans it is said don’t get irony, yet one thinks of the inventors of Google - idealistic science graduate students who so mistrusted advertisements that they banned them on their homepage; fast forward to now; Google is the most powerful advertising company in history, valued at nearly $300 billion. Hey guys, is there not irony here? But that’s what happens with idealists, think expansionist European Union, Ukraine first what about another Baltic state, why not Latvia, Estonia? This expansionist mind-set, which smacks of Lebensraum, appears to be more dominant than putting one’s own house in order (Greece, Portugal, France, Spain et al). Indeed, why not one day not only all the Baltic States but the big growling bear itself. Why not one day, Russia? Meanwhile the Russian bear feels threatened and who would blame him with losses of over 20 million people in the last war and with this bear don’t expect flight, but do expect fight. The idealists at the outset of the European Union, are now at the behest of the expansionists thereby bringing about the possibility of war in Europe, the very things it was idealistically designed not to do. Is there not a fearful irony here?
So too with the Internet the suits have taken over from the idealists, The suits will use any means like unseen jackdaws ravaging and exploiting our thought patterns, yes, ‘they’ know where you are, where you have just been, and where you are going and is this for the common good, no, it is, as ever, for filthy lucre.
You see Google never forgets, it take your dabs on everything; computer user you have been fingerprinted forensically, the DNA of your thought patterns have been recorded sine die
and are housed in a giant computer in California.
‘Hey Dude, it’s good man, we are all connected.’ No, dude, we are drifting into a world where everything, our health; our appetites; our hobbies, our driving preference; our work patterns; what we eat and how long we sleep are recorded and stored in the data banks; we can redact nothing if we choose to use a computer
Oh come on, easy to see the bad, but there must be some good in all this?
There is, I have 4 daughters, through the use of a mobile, I like to know where they are, but overall we are victims, not beneficiaries.
The mobile chatter increases in decibels as more people board. I have to get away from this communal washing in public. I am incandescent as to what I witnessed before boarding the train and what I hear now from the mobile chatter to what I deem to be a violation of one’s space. Why am I so up in arms about it all, am I just a reactionary who would write one of those middle England howls of outrage letters to the Telegraph if I noticed someone was missing a rear light in their car? But the truth is more likely to be that I and perhaps you, have a deeply ingrained sense of order already there to be affronted and having just witnessed the washing of feet in the toilets at our little England station and what I witnessed in Paris on my last visit, violates ones mostly unconscious assumptions about how the world should be. But why can’t I have a bit more largesse towards these people who wash their feet in public toilets, pray on the street and who chatter ceaselessly on mobiles in trains? I would, but the premium on such largesse is intensely steep.
I return to the book so what does this book say? ‘...the emergence of a first person perspective...’
’...you may think you are an island of presence but this has only been arrived at through overarching representational context governing phenomenal experience, and this context generates the experience of presence.’
Don’t understand that at all. Yet impressed by the book, I try to think of my subjectivity as being a hole in the doughnut, but my doughnut the sugary part can’t help noticing the actions of a woman in the seat beside me. She is crunching crisps. Now I understand that part of the enjoyment of eating crisps is aural, i.e. the crunch of the crisps in your ear. However this enjoyment does not apply to the person who is not eating them and has to listen to the crunching. After what seems an interminable time she finishes grinding and crunching her crisps and I watch as she holds the empty bag of crisps up the air and shakes it so as any crisplets that were too minute for her fingers to grasp might drop into the open chasm which she offer up to the crisp packet. Then to my amazement after a short respite she does the same thing again. A brief pause and she does it again. Is this a religious thing? For it looks like a sacred ritual to me.
“I am on the train,” I hear for the umpteenth time. How I bereave the lack of silence and then I am suddenly overjoyed as we enter a tunnel. “Going into a tunnel...” echoes voices across the carriage and then the plaintive, ‘Love yeh’, as if the speaker wills not surivve the 90 second separation,
Righty ho and on we go. Our ‘Chechnya shuttle’ will stop at all the stations into Victoria picking up all the babushkas that inhabit this part of the South East England. ‘Babushkas’, so termed by me because they are weighty reminders of my one visit to Russia. At the second station stop a gaggle of hefty babushkas board the train. After a fair degree of shuffling to accommodate body size they settle down. Now there is much animated conversation, for I gather, as does everybody else within a wide radius that these women are off on a ‘shoppin’ expedition. Where do they get the money? Their communication skills are, well, enough said. They are all about this side of thirty and to say they are ‘big boned’ is to demean euphemism. Their conversation predictably falls on what was on the ‘tele’ last night. Have I lazily fallen on cliché here? no, cliché does not do justice to the inanity of the chatter. The younger ones in the groups must be a product of ‘Blair’s Britain’, he who espoused ‘Education, Education, Education’ and having failed miserably in that endeavour, judging by his alumni, went on his smooth lawyer way to his true goal, to make buckets of money and have countless properties. But then that’s socialism for you. The babushkas continue to talk of the characters they saw on ‘the box’ as if they were real people; friends. I look at my book and think the virtual is alive and well and thriving on shuttling trains into London.
By the time we reach the next bleak station that has a car park jam packed full of metal and a back drop of fast food signs. I am considering emigrating to Estonia. You look at the overflowing car park and it dawns on you that these people never walk anywhere, no wonder there is an obesity pandemic. You then think of the two most used words in UK schools: answer ‘Gay’ and ‘Car’. Estonia or anywhere must be better than this!
Must stop this rancour that is boiling inside of me and stop treating anyone not of my cast of mind as naive, innocent, unphilosophical, unthinking, or plain stupid. After all, we are all creatures, aren’t we? Biological of course but also social. I look around me, the point is how much biological and how much is social? My fellow passengers; what I witnessed at the station this morning; that visit to Paris, I mean they are all individuals, aren’t they? Yet you wonder about individuals and how much of what they do is the working out of innate, inherited capacities, and how much is acquired from people around you? There is also the more communal question: how much of our social behaviour as a group – how we talk, how we walk; how much is determined by our shared animal nature and how much is peculiar to our ways of living? I think of a quote, ‘Nature is all that a man brings with himself into the world; nurture is every influence that affects him after his birth.’
For God’s sake broaden your thinking; I chastise myself, after all the Cosmos consists of an number of galaxies, yes, stop being so damned parochial on your little train into London. I must curb my dystopian eye. But then I think cosmologically, why isn’t the universe, or at least the human part of it, better than it is? I look at the book and see the mention of Galileo, the canonical text for our time. Sometime I think of myself as Brecht’s yes me, the .
“Sorry about that. Just went through a tunnel,” reverberates across the carriage. I think why there aren’t more tunnels on this line. A ‘heavy set’ woman has got on with a small child who has a hacking cough. She sits close to the quartet of massive babushkas and without much ceremony is intruding in on their ‘tele’ conversation. “Yeah, I missed that bit; I popped out for a ‘fag’. This piece of information is accompanied by the hacking cough of the child. Now they are all onto ‘smoking’. “I tried to give it up but when you are well stressed out and every fing...” “I never have more than ten a day and I never smoke when we is eating.” Hold on, isn’t a packet of ten cigarettes £345 now?
The babushkas are getting more animated for they will soon be arriving at ‘Bromlyiskyva’ where there are many Malls and Arcades, for these citizens are on the hedonistic treadmill of ‘shoppin’. Where do they get the money? I think of the UK monetary well, which is now a well with a lot of rather fetid borrowed water. Estonia must be better than this?
A few hours later as I leave the Lecture Hall, In the foyer I notice the Lecture timetable; there is another Lecture in half an hour, ah well, we live in the late capitalism culture of 2 for 1. I inspect the notice what would this lecture going to be about? Hmm...‘The Road to Calvary’. Speaking of which; if I hurry across Green Park I will be in time to catch the 16.32 ‘Chechnya Shuttle’