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What it says on the tin

07 Jan 2024 4 minute read
Picture by Geralt

Ben Wildsmith

As the 21st century grinds on, lurching from one previously unthinkable horrorscape to the next, it can seem impossible to exercise personal agency in our lives.

As during wartime, the big decisions are all made for us, under the rationale that a wider crisis temporarily requires our acquiescence to collective decision-making.

After 9/11, a slew of freedoms was lost in the cause of security and, over time, we’ve come to accept that tiny tubes of toothpaste and standing in airport queues in your socks are normal features of travelling.

The government wants to capture and store my ‘biometric data’? Well, sounds fair enough, it might make my remains easier to identify if someone’s sneaked an oversize Fruit Shoot onboard.

Exploding planes are, at least, a real thing. The 2008 banking crisis proved that we’re happy to have our lives turned upside down in response to situations that are wholly conceptual.

‘Look, I’m terribly sorry, but some very clever people who are responsible for dealing in imaginary money have imagined too much of it. So, pipe down and be grown-up about the reality, which is that you can’t have a house and your local library needs to close.’

‘Can I rent a house, then?’

‘Possibly, but only if you pass a stringent credit check. We can’t have people like you pretending to have money when they don’t.’

Personal agency

So, by the time Covid came along our sense of personal agency was already denuded to the point of farce. Jump up and down like Joe Wicks tells you! Make banana bread! Stand outside and clap! Put your mask on! Take your mask off! DO NOT LEAVE YOUR SECTOR!

I did what I was told, I’m a good boy. On reflection, though, it seems to me that the overt removal of freedom during that time was facilitated by years of erosion leading up to it.

Occasionally, my heart sinks when I’m looking on Facebook and Uncle Cyril has posted something along the lines of “Tomorrow Facebook will become Meta, a public entity. If you do not make it explicitly clear that your photographs and personal information belong to you it will be assumed that they pass into the public domain.

“Hold your finger on this post to copy and paste to your wall before it is too late.”

Some kind soul will battle through the cringe to explain that Meta has always owned every keystroke we’ve made on its sites and can exploit them at will.

Even more depressing are the piratical faux-libertarians who rage against the machine whilst using the machine. Yes, sheeple, my Facebook account is a beacon of self-determination in your conformist wilderness.

Oh, I’ve been banned for 30 days again…

Impotent rage

It’s understandable though, isn’t it? The net closes around us more tightly with every passing day, so impotent rage at our diminished choices in life is all we seem to have left.

Even death is no release.

When Uncle Cyril turns up his toes and heads to moderate the great ‘I Remember The Good Old Days’ Facebook group in the sky, you’ll want to honour his wishes by engaging the funeral directors his family has always trusted.

The shop frontage at Obadiah Grave & Sons est. 1892 will look reassuringly familiar.

Only after receiving an inflated bill will your research reveal that it was bought by Necrosis Holdings (British Virgin Islands) in 2012, the same year they acquired every other undertaker in town.

Delusions of independence

This year’s general election will be of no concern at all to the corporate world.

Nothing in any party’s manifesto will interfere with their cradle-to-grave extraction of labour and resources from the population.

It’s a settled matter, leaving politicians to put on a theme park re-enaction of democracy to satisfy the electorate’s delusions of independence.

Our information will be fed to us by a handful of companies, leaving us to squabble online about flags, gender, and immigration whilst, drop-by-drop, our birth right bleeds away.

Happy New Year.

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Richard Davies
Richard Davies
5 months ago

100%, it doesn’t really matter which party is in power after the next general election because “the establishment” always wins.

Genuine change for the better of everyone will never happen because it would mean those that are in power giving up a lot of that power.

5 months ago

Darllen gwych. Diolch!

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
5 months ago

Grim as it is, ain’t it the truth and it is wonderful to hear such truth freeing itself from ‘this hurricane of f****** lies’. Thanks to Billy Joe of Green Day for that line and thank you Ben.

aw savill
aw savill
5 months ago


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