Thursday, 1 September 2016

a Drab Existence

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On one chilly October morning there was a feeble knock at the door and the knocking continued, just like the porter in Macbeth. I answered the knocking of course and was presented with two aging women. As it turned out the pair were Jehovah’s Witnesses. During the conversation, which I found to be highly amusing, one of the women asked if I wanted to live on this earth in perpetuity albeit she did not use that particular word. I looked at her, and before saying anything reflected on this question. Within a moment I laughed, so much in fact that I began to foam at the mouth. I said to them it would be like hell for me to live for ever. The very idea was gruesome.

People who want to live forever have no talent, said Solzhenitsyn. Perhaps that is true. When most people die, they want to leave something behind for others to cherish. Those who leave nothing behind and have no legacy, are desperate. They want to live until something remarkable happens to them, but, sadly, for them, no such thing will happen and they will continue to live a drab existence. When they walk, they walk with no real purpose and it is the same with everything else. Their own lives have been devastated by their own failures and misfortunes. There is something Bergmanesque and Chekhovian about these people.

Oswald, in Ibsen’s Ghosts, hates the parochial, suburban existence, the man loathes the bigotry in such places. The terrible thing would be for somebody of cultural merit, of ideas, intellect, ambition, to live in a terrible place where everything and everybody that surrounded them were backward and barbaric. This would be worse than a drab existence; a concentration camp of sorts, for there could be no escape. There would be nobody for people to speak to; for everybody in the rotten town would be uneducated and uncultivated. Their perimeter of discussion would be around boorish trivialities. Soon enough the unhappy soul who belonged to this wretched town would die due to unhappiness.

It is not just the artist, the progressive, that leaves a drab existence either; the people are everywhere. They are the homeless, the prostitute, the poor, the disturbed, the mentally ill, tortured souls, the imprisoned, they are all of us. The struggle is finding warmth, food, even shelter. These people are affected by market absurdities. Unhappiness lurks everywhere. The world has been unfaithful to these individuals and they must bear the hardships until this sick, depraved existence ends their lives and are forgotten forever. In a world where there's no hope existence is futile in the first place.

Tom Joad has hope as does the rest of his family in John Steinbeck’s the Grapes of Wrath. Their present existence, some, may argue, is drab, but there is hope; hope of finding permanent work that pays a salary we dream of and the rest follows on from that. Without hope nothing seems worthwhile. Cormac McCarthy of course, another American novelist, offers no such hope, and the characters in his novels are left rather helpless in a desperate quest for survival. In his apocalyptic novel, the Road, only death seems inevitable, for all life has been wiped out. The suffering of modern man, woman and child is inexplicable. It is a horrorshow of an existence.

We have all become existential absurdities in a Kafkaesque world. One nation may be economically viable to another; that is worth the imprisonment and torture of an entire nation; the murder of hundreds of thousands of innocents, even millions perhaps. After all people are expendable. Nothing matters as long as economic growth is visible. Alexander Sokurov, the Russian film director, called all politicians terrorists because they put politics ahead of humanity. He is quite right, of course. We now live in an age where ‘terrorists’ must appear they are concerned for the poor and the oppressed. The plain truth is they are poor and oppressed because of the terrorists themselves.

Noam Chomsky said even to enter a debate on whether the Jewish holocaust took place is to lose one’s humanity. One should add even to enter the parliamentary political arena is to lose one’s humanity because what follows will be a holocaust of sorts. What people are subjected to is no better than a Kafka short story. People that live in misery and helplessness are limited in their scope of action. Some pray to something or somebody that is alien to them, others gamble their lives away and drink themselves to death.

India is a country which is subject to intolerable abuse by more developed countries. This does not generate a great deal of concern from many people today, and sooth it never did. Indians then are just raw cattle and market fodder who are abused and exploited for no other reason than free market perversities. I.E economic growth. This consists of forced labour and child labour. There are rich and wealthy areas of course which makes India such a disgusting country. It is these people who lead a drab existence that make western companies and business happy for the profits to go through the roof given the pittance they pay their workers, and the working conditions they work under is an absolute abomination.

People will always be in the gutter so to speak. There will always be oppression, repression, abuse, coercion and whatever else. Even in more developed countries we still see desperate and miserable people moseying around with little to do. Their entire lives have been emptied of any meaning. A drug addict can not function as a member of society, for they, in some cases, commit unceremonious acts in order to obtain particular substances, and by substances I do not mean the most lethal which is cigarettes and alcohol.

The alcoholic fares no better. The dependency on this drug leaves this person in a permanent state of lethargy and is impossible for them to live a normal or even decent life. This is hardly a life at all. They are literally dying and this is not uncommon either. The reasons for becoming dependent on alcohol can range from anything. It is true by taking vast amounts of alcohol on a regular basis nums emotional and psychological pain, and sometimes even physical pain. Victims of childhood abuse often, through anguish and pain, go through this downward spiral, and it affects the poor and rich alike.

We do not know, when we bump into another in the street, what sort of person they are, what life they have led and so on. We can only surmise. There was a woman I once had the opportunity to speak with and she was a peculiar sort of person. She lived in an apartment block and looked more like a tree than a human being. All through her clothes sticks and branches could be seen sticking out; her body looked like it comprised of nothing but twigs. The woman made it known she did not wish to communicate with any person and suggested that if any of her neighbours wished to communicate with her they should post a message under her door. This person led a drab existence and spent most of her time sitting on park benches getting drenched in the rain, when she had  a flat to go home to.

People are not happy and they attempt to deny this fact. Some will always be happy and be content with life; others will not.  Some people when they enter a prison or their deathbed will not change their demeanor or attitude towards life. Their smile is unable to be broken and their optimism unable to be reversed. These are the strong willed and nothing can break their spirit. Then there are people that will always have a black cloud hanging over them, no matter what happens in their lives. Depression of all kinds lurks in all corners of their mind. This cannot be helped. It is some kind of sick and rotten condition. They cannot go on, but they must.

 If we turn towards Anton Chekhov and his characters on stage we see they are far more remarkable in their melancholy and misery in the lives they have led. Uncle Vanya, one of Chekhov’s greatest creations, after attempting to shoot the old retired professor-a man he despises- bemoans his own existence:

Oh my God I’m forty-seven. Suppose I live to be sixty, that still means I have thirteen years to go. It’s too long. How am I to get through these thirteen years? What am I to do? How do I fill the time? Oh, can you think-? Can you think what it would be like to live your new life a new way? Oh, to wake up some fine, clear morning feeling as if you’ve started living all over again, as if the past was all forgotten, gone like a puff of smoke.
When people have led this drab existence for so long they no longer regard their lives as a drab existence at all.. This is because there appears to be little thought about anything at all. It is only survival they are concerned with. Yes it is true their lives, just like Vanya’s, are awful and desperate but often do not think about these things. This is hardly surprising. This has become the norm; the usual way. Their family and friends are often in the same position as themselves. This woeful situation then becomes normalised and it is no different from getting up in the morning and eating breakfast. Then the rest of their lives pine sway and they are forgotten forever.

The workplace is a good example. The structure of the labour market is a criminal disgrace. Once a ‘worker’ enters the workplace they are stripped of their rights, humanity and even civility and this only adds to the misery of their own lives. Work only adds to the burden. It is also the case, when entering the workplace, they are no longer a living organism; a human being, they have become a mere worker, a bondman, a slave to their exploiters, a prostitute no doubt. Physical labour at least leads to a premature death and creates all sorts of illness and diseases for the individual. Therefore people ought to free themselves from the hideous shackles and retain their freedom. There then exists a possibility for a better life; a better existence. ‘Work’ only makes a drab existence more inevitable.

Often desperate individuals are so downtrodden and despised that they turn to that awful thing, religion. This, of course, is because they are totally desperate. They hope for a better life in the next world. There is no use in trying in this one any longer. Instead the life’s unfortunates of this world must turn to something far more perverse. The interest is no longer in this world but elsewhere. It extends even beyond religion. These Kafkaesque nonentities, as they are often known being of their deprived social position, seek hope and salvation in visiting cunning and deceitful psychics and clairvoyants. Of course, like religious apologists they seek to prey on the vulnerable. It is easy to target the poor, the miserable, the downtrodden, the abused, the exploited, the unperson. This is the current state of affairs in the world.

The world is a desperate place for many, but what else is there? There is no escape-there is only alcohol and drugs to relieve the suffering, as discussed. Their lives are imperfect to say the least and there is no escape. They have no hidden talent that can save them from the terrible, perpetual nightmare. Often they wake up in the morning or afternoon wishing to speak, think, even breath. Life has let them down. They were born dying and that fact has never gone away and that along with everything else is inescapable. Their lives have become as insignificant as Estragan’s and Vladimir’s. Only their lives are real, and when they die, other people born into this world replace their misery. There is always somebody else to take their place. It is a drab existence.

8th-10th November, 2014

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