Extracts from Tell Him Your Plans:
To the cosmic outsider, the global and historic sum of humanity's malcoordinated to-and-fro must seem offensively stupid or, even worse, cute. To Cthulhu, our cathedrals and Genome Project must look like a macaroni Mother’s Day card.Robert Wringham
When I woke up that first Monday, free for the first time to build a life on my own terms, I realised that I have zero experience doing that.
Few of us do, because we’re born as subjects to the authoritarian figures of our parents, and from there we’re funnelled straight into the education system, which steers us directly toward the employee workforce. In each of these systems, we are subordinates whose work is likely to be unrelated to our own values, on schedules that are always determined by someone else.
It seems inevitable, then – though completely insane – that for the first 33 years of my life I was never the one determining the basic day-to-day structure of my life. When you only take full control of your life less than a decade from middle age, it’s alarming to find yourself allowed to actually put your hands on the wheel. There’s a conspicuous absence of instruction, and it feels strangely like you’ve done something bad.David Cain
We live our lives as if the basic structure of our civilisation is secure. Pompeii shows you how everything can be turned upside-down in a matter of minutes. This is a lesson of history in general, but Pompeii is a great example. It also shows us how time changes the way we view an event. I often think how weird it would be for the people of Pompeii to know that their homes and their deaths would be turned into a tourist attraction. Once you start thinking like this, it’s hard not to stop looking at the modern world and wondering what will survive and how the people of the future will view it. What bits of my daily rubbish or possessions will end up in museums? What will be here in 2,000 years’ time? It’s impossible to imagine but it’s fun to try, and once again it gives you a little window into your own insignificance in historical terms. Nothing is permanent and everything will fall.Richard Herring
Present-day Japan is caught in a kind of super-efficient paralysis. The Amagasaki rail crash prompted an open debate about the nation's obsession with time, but while these discussions took place JR trains continued to arrive and depart within seconds. Japanese people today are increasingly aware of their predicament, yet they remain trapped in a culture which values time even above human life.Tom Mellors
To simply play out roles ascribed to us shows Bad Faith. For Camus, the only choice to make is on the value of one’s life or, at least, the value of continuing it. Thus, the person who never contemplates suicide is living in Bad Faith. If one accepts life as a role that one must play out to a natural conclusion, then you are ascribing it no value at all.
This sense of suicide as a courageous act does not mean that self-murder is advocated by any of these persons, only that confronting the possibility is more brave, more active, and more alive than ignoring it. To choose to live or die, clearheadedly, in any given instance, is to make a personal choice, to exert individual freedom, despite an absurd universe.Reggie Chamberlain-King
One of the defining characteristics of London for me is the way it can produce the likes of Quentin Crisp and Noel Coward alongside the likes of Danny Dyer. That Pinter can connect all three names in his work makes him a truly London writer. He captures acutely how the city is a godless collision of the diverse, the uncountable and the unknowable, of people in rooms failing to communicate, of urban conversations with no purpose. But most of all, he recognises how this is often as comical as it is unnerving. No one else has quite managed that since.Dickon Edwards
The privatisation of welfare, this gradual removal of a communal safety net, magnifies the importance of our economic lives, makes it imperative that we hold on to our jobs at all costs. The alternative is the payday loan website, and beyond that, the gaping maw of the ‘Job Seekers Plus’ office, more detention centre than labour exchange. Work, of urgent necessity, looms ever larger, our dependence on our employers ever more absolute. We offer unpaid overtime as a matter of course, obediently re-apply for our own jobs, gratefully move from one short-term contract to another, accept life as a perpetual process of selling oneself. What used to be free time is used to polish our CVs, scan job lists, send speculative applications to potential employers, and attend networking events, where we evaluate, discard and use others in accordance with their potential to help us find work.
Ivor Southwood describes our condition as a ‘cultural stagflation, a population revving up without getting anywhere’, locked in ‘a cycle of non-stop inertia’.Justin Reynolds
Marcuse has this notion of ‘repressive tolerance’, the idea that the arts are an outlet for frustration. If we didn’t have all this bourgeois art-making we might get so pissed off that we might actually do something. Whereas if we convince ourselves that art is radical and making the world a better place then we don’t act. It’s repressive tolerance in the sense that a voice of dissent is permitted within capitalism and it is repressive because it amounts to nothing but chatter. In the internet era, it’s been amplified to an extraordinary degree: useless information, useless chatter, useless rhetoric.Ewan Morrison