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Kevin Ghora with Vow-er

6 min read

This is a story about life on the farm...

Barbed Wire

Yesterday, I was too depressed to get out of bed. Being awake was horrible - I tried to doze for as long as I could. I was irrationally afraid of having to get up for some reason; on edge that there might come a knock at the door. My friends make me feel incredibly welcome, and I would always have somebody to talk to if I was feeling lonely and desperate, but I also feel like I should demonstrate my willingness to help wherever I can.

Today, it's been sunny and mild; very good weather for the time of year. Hiding under the duvet doesn't feel so bad when it's grey skies and raining, but I feel guilty about wasting the day when it's nice outside. Nice weather can paradoxically make me feel even more depressed.

I'm naturally a restless, anxious and fidgety person. "Where am I going? What am I achieving?" I continuously ask myself when I'm not consumed by a task; fixated on a mission.

At the beginning of the week, I dragged myself out of bed to go to the seaside. It was a drizzly foggy day, so the picturesque beach wasn't going to yield any nice views, but still, it was an outing. Rain-drenched families trudged through puddles. "Why are all these children not in school?" I asked. Apparently, it's half-term school holiday time in England - not so in Wales.

This jarring disparity; this acute difference between what consumes my thoughts, and what most other people are concerned with, is being well highlighted in my current environ. I was cut off from the world in my London apartment. It was wonderful to have the space & time to think & write, but I was very far removed from the day-to-day reality that most of humanity experiences. In the past few weeks, I've been reminded about school-runs, commuting to work and long days in the office, car maintenance, housing, pets, children, cooking and cleaning, although I can claim absolutely zero personal involvement in the running of these affairs - I'm an idle observer; a tourist.

Of course I worry that I'm lazy; worry that I'm mooching; worry that I'm a leech; a parasite.

"Yes, we'd all like to be a thinker; a writer; an artist; an intellectual; a professional layabout" I imagine people saying. "Your art is just a hobby... get a job" is what I imagine people are thinking. I feel guilty for not producing anything more tangible than the words on this page.

I started to get a little stressed about November, when I plan to write my second novel. "How am I going to find the time to write?" I wondered to myself, which must sound a little ridiculous to you. Why am I even writing anyway, when I'm not overtly commercialising my creative output?

There's something more socially acceptable about saying "I'm sorry, I need to write my book" as opposed to just "I'm sorry, I need to lie in bed feeling incredibly anxious and depressed". I wonder if more people would have breakdowns and refuse to go to their stressful and boring jobs, if it wasn't so stigmatised. Wouldn't we all love to just spend all day with our children, and not get out of our pyjamas? Why can't we skip breakfast and have cereal instead of a cooked meal, and completely reject the demands of society?

I feel immense guilt for not having a proper job, spending hours of my life stuck in traffic, being bored to tears by a bullshit job. What's my contribution to society? Why am I allowed to pontificate, when I haven't done my 9 to 5 grind?

I'm not so naïve as to think that the good life doesn't have to be bought and paid for with human misery. For every beautiful countryside cottage set in manicured gardens, nestled in lush green countryside, there is also an immense amount of suffering that's gone into delivering that dream. The children who wait 5 minutes, staring at a single marshmallow on the table in front of them, will receive two marshmallows as a reward for their patience. Those same patient children will shed tears when they are packed off to boarding school, but it'll all be for a good reason one day.

Are we even supposed to be so patient; so tolerant of intolerable cruelty? Are we any happier for all that homework? Are we any happier when we get "A" grades and go on to get a fancy job, miles and miles away from our home and our family? Are two marshmallows sweeter than one?

I feel like the cuckoo in the nest: I'm no genetic relation of the lovely family who I'm living with. Why do I get to enjoy the comfort of a farmhouse straight from the pages of Country Living magazine? What's my contribution to the household? What's my contribution to humanity?

Extrapolating, I can easily imagine that I will have produced my second novel in a little over a month from now, but I will have very little else to show for my time, not to mention the food and energy that I will have consumed. To say that I have been working on restabilising my mental health and attempting to rediscover my reason(s) for living, feels a little untrue given the trajectory of my mood. To turn a blind eye to my very real concerns about the difficulty of obtaining paid employment during the Christmas & New Year period, seems short-sighted - November will be over in the blink of an eye.

Throwing a ball for the dog in the garden, sucking in lungfuls of clean fresh air that's blown inland straight from the Atlantic Ocean, my physical health is undoubtedly improving. I'm seeing an aspect of existence that I'd long forgotten, trapped in a polluted concrete jungle, and surrounded by the seething masses in densely overpopulated cities. This life is so much healthier and happier than the rat race, but I can't afford it - it feels as if I'm enjoying a retirement I haven't paid for.

Perhaps you imagine that my time is free for the pursuit of leisure. Perhaps it is. If so, why am I so damn stressed?





8 min read

This is a story about unhappy endings...

The end

When things come to an end, it's hard to re-adjust. Our lives have almost perfect continuity: we segue from school to university to job to job to job... and then we die.

My life's been a bit different.

The conventional wisdom is that any gaps on your CV show that you're lacking moral fibre. You're flawed. You're a failure. You're malingering. You're going to be hauled in front of the authorities and be asked to give a good explanation for why you didn't shackle yourself to your desk, in some dead-end career that barely pays the bills.

Is it fear or is it poverty that keeps people working full-time, when really it would be a lot better if we could stop and smell the roses? Why is nearly every job a 5-day a week full time one, with at least 7 hours a day doing some dull pointless shit, keeping a chair warm? Surely we could get all the actual work done in 4 hours and then take the rest of the week off?

I decided to take the whole of November off so that I could write my first novel.

Now, I'm hunting for a new role in December. It's hard to find work in December: everybody is in holiday mode. No work is getting done. People are thinking about seeing their families, drinking too much and eating luxurious festive food.

My last contract finished prematurely when the commercial terms of the project failed to be agreed between consultancy and client. Everybody got the boot. I needed that money to get myself back on a good financial footing. My flatmate had to be kicked out because he was thousands of pounds in debt to me and showing no intention of getting a job.

Then I finished my novel.

I loved inhabiting that fictional world. I loved that people were reading and would ask me where the next chapter was, if I didn't publish one every day. I loved doing something creative. I loved having a goal; a project. I was master of my own destiny, and I achieved what I set out to do. I proved that I can set my mind to a task and be disciplined enough to keep working until it was done.

Now, I have absolutely no control of my destiny.

I fire my CV off into the ether, and I have no idea whether the right people are getting to look at it. Agents might filter it. HR people might filter it. Project managers might filter it. Until my CV gets in front of somebody technical, they have no idea what they're looking at. It's literally an exercise in writing the right things to get through the dumbasses that stand in between you and the person who's qualified to make a decision.

I'm not happy when I don't have a project; a mission; a goal; a target.

I'm a completer-finisher and it will be painful for me to have to down tools and spend the Xmas break impotently waiting for the working world to start up again in the New Year. I want ink dried on a contract. I want to work. I guess it's my fault for spending November writing a novel though, rather than speaking to agents and doing interviews.

My life goes like this: morning speaking to a procession of agents who phone me up asking if they can put my CV forward to their clients. Afternoon speaking to agents about roles that I've already been put forward for... trying to get some feedback and see if the roles are still actively hiring. Evening spent sending my CV out for every contract that looks any good. I also have phone and face-to-face interviews. I can't keep track of everything. It's disruptive, having to wait by the phone and speak to agents and interviewers. I'm glad I'm not trying to write my novel while I'm doing this. I hate being interrupted when creativity is in full flow.

The other thing I miss though, is the time and the space set aside for writing. Friends were excited that I was writing a novel and they would ask "do you need to write your chapter today?"

People were helpful, making sure I had space to be a novelist, even if it was just for a month. It was fun, to call myself a writer.

Sometimes surprising things can pay the bills. If I can edit my novel in January, I might be able to circulate it with some literary agents and see if it has any commercial potential. I can't see why my debut novel would be up to the required standard of a publisher, but it's worth a punt. I can always Kindle it as a plan B. It's just nice knowing that I did that: knowing that I have another achievement to be proud of. How many people can say they've written a novel in their lifetime? It's way cooler than saying that I've written computer games or business critical software. It's way cooler than saying I'm blogging. Everybody blogs, don't they?

My identity is bound up in whatever I'm doing. I had purpose when I was a writer. I had purpose when I was a scrum master, or a developer or whatever. Now, I'm nothing. Just another unemployed loser. Just another guy stuck at home on the sofa, circulating his CV hopelessly.

Overcome with depression and frustration, I snipe at the whole bullshit system and flirt with disaster by linking my professional identity and my nom de guerre. I don't like pseudonyms and I don't like living a double-life. I'm not a keyboard warrior. I'm not a troll. I feel happier - after some initial trepidation - having as much of a unified identity as possible. Even an old colleague at HSBC - who I haven't seen for 12 years - somehow knew that I was briefly an electrician. What the actual fuck? I knew gossip travels faster than light, but that's ridiculous.

Is it that we are all applauding our colleagues who are brave enough to say "fuck the system" and go off and chase crazy dreams? We want to live a more exciting life - vicariously - through the people who quit the rat race. I'm that nutter who did iPhone apps, dot com tech startups, retrained as an electrician, was a whistleblower, became a novelist. People in offices with good 9 to 5 jobs just don't do anything that exciting or cool.

But, the reality is a lot more grim.

It's tough at the top. Being your own boss sucks. Dealing directly with customers sucks. Doing the right thing sucks. Being the odd one out sucks.

Alright, it doesn't suck, but the stress and the loneliness outweigh the financial rewards. Life is a constant battle when you're trying to do something different. Everybody's got 99 reasons why you're going to fail, why you should give up and why what you're doing is wrong and shit and useless and pointless. People goad you into trying, but then they secretly think "I'm glad I didn't try that myself" when things go wrong. I am glad I tried though. I am glad I've got those experiences, even if I'm left a little fucked up by it all.

So now, I've got this collection of awesome experiences. I've proven to myself that I can achieve awesome things. Problem is, it doesn't fit the mould. I haven't approached things from the usual angles. I've turned my hand to things that I thought I could do, and I did them. I succeeded, but nobody gives a shit. Nobody's ever going to ask me in an interview "how many profitable businesses have you founded?" or "how many books and computer games have you written?".

What now? What next?

When you do something different in society, you get a taste of freedom. You realise that things can be done. You realise you are capable. But... it will ruin you forever. The system doesn't want you back, because you're an independent thinker and you trust your own abilities. You don't need to prove yourself to anybody. You answer back. You're a dangerous inspiration to the drones in the hive: what if other people start questioning whether the 9 to 5 bullshit they do for five days a week is how they want to spend the best years of their life.

What's my plan? Milk the system for some more easy money and then go write more books. Buy a yacht and sail away. So crazy. So romantic. So unrealistic. But, what's the alternative?

Wage slavery and waiting for a retirement you'll never get to enjoy because you'll probably drop dead from stress before you get to spend that stockpiled lucre.




An Anatomy of a Market Crash

9 min read

This is a story about a fictitious bear and an imaginary bull...

Market Graph

To explain how a speculative bubble bursts is very easy indeed. Investors are like a herd of cattle. They are not rational actors. When a critical mass of investors become spooked and start selling off their investments, this creates a market with more sellers than buyers, which means the asking price for financial instruments has to be lower to attract more buyers. Pretty soon, there is a stampede, as all the investors try to 'cash in' their investments and take their profits or minimise their losses. The asking price drops lower and lower, and buyers simply wait, knowing that the ever growing crowd of panicked sellers will underbid each other in a desperate attempt to offload their devaluing assets.

Anyway, that's so simple and obvious that it doesn't warrant further discussion. What I want to write about is what causes a speculative bubble in the first place.

We could look at historical examples, like the tulip mania during the Dutch Golden Age, with tulip bulb prices peaking in 1637, before crashing spectacularly. The Madness of Crowds explains the crash, but not the initial price bubble, in any satisfactory way for the modern financial markets.

To understand your average investor in publicly listed companies on the major stock exchanges, you only need to understand two human characteristics: greed and laziness.

The greed part is simple. Any of your friends who have reached a point of economic prosperity where they have disposable income are likely to have 'invested' some of their wealth. It's highly unlikely that they made angel investments in small startup companies where they knew the founders, the business model and understood the domain in which the embryonic enterprise operated. Instead, they thought they could make a quick buck by buying shares in a major corporation.

The laziness part is slightly more complex. The lazy divide into two groups. The speculative private investor looking to make a quick buck isn't interested in doing any actual work in order to earn their extra wealth. One phonecall to your stockbroker, having read a stock tip in your preferred newspaper does not count as an investment of labour, and so it is clear that these investors are lazy.

The second group are institutional investment managers: the people who look after pension funds. Now, you can ignore profit:equity (PE) ratios, yields, earnings per share (EPS), turnover and EBITDAs (Earnings Before Interest, Tax, Depreciation and Amortisation). You can ignore the philosophy of Warren Buffet, who is an active shareholder. The pension fund manager is passive and invests for one reason and one reason alone: the market capitalisation of the public company has reached a certain threshold. That is to say, the market values a public company above a certain amount of money.

To understand market cap, let's take Apple Inc. as an example. We take the number of Apple shares that are issued (5.4 billion at time of writing) and multiply that by the share price ($118 at time of writing) and we arrive at a market capitalisation of $637 billion. That is to say, if you had a spare $637 billion in your bank account, you could buy Apple outright*: every single share. You would be the sole shareholder of Apple, which is the biggest company in the world, by market capitalisation.

Now, Apple might have absolutely dog shit products lined up for the next 10 years. The CEO, Tim Cook could be an absolute moron who's going to run the company into the ground. The institutional investment manager doesn't give two hoots. They're going to buy Apple stock simply because it's highly valued. In fact, they're going to buy ALL the highly valued companies, above a certain market capitalisation.

In the UK, we have a kind of football league, with the premier league being the FTSE100 and then the league below being the FTSE250. As the market caps change, companies drop in and out of these 'leagues'. Consequently, investment managers will buy the new entrants and sell the ones that drop out. Easy as pie, right?

The laziness that drives all this is retirement. People saving for retirement are too lazy to make their own investments that ensure the value of their pension is not eroded by inflation, so they get an investment manager to 'track' the value of an index like the FTSE100, which generally outperforms inflation, over a long period of time. That makes sense, right? Money invested in the 'best' companies, should outperform money that's just sitting in the bank earning interest.

Furthermore, when people come to retire, they want their pension pot to be managed for income not for growth, but they're still too lazy to shop around to make sure that the yield or dividends that they are receiving on their pot of money give them the best possible income, while also protecting their capital.

In essence, the biggest part of our economy is driven by greedy lazy people. Instead of the industrious and ingenious entrepreneurs finding it easy to borrow money or sell a share of their company in order to raise the capital they need to grow, the sad reality is that almost all of the wealth in the developed world is ploughed into corporate behemoths that have already extracted all their value from the public, in order to keep people who have nearly reached the end of their lives in the manner to which they have become accustomed to.

Yes, that's right. By the time a company comes to the point where it floats on a stock exchange, it has peaked. It's time for the original founders, angel investors, venture capitalists, private equity and other shareholders to now cash in and fleece the public by offering their shares in an Initial Public Offering (IPO). Because the company has reached a certain 'valuation' (as decided by market sentiment and the bullshit written by the underwriting investment bank in the prospectus) then it has to be bought by the institutional investors, because it is highly likely to have a market cap that will put it straight into the FTSE100 or FTSE250. The companies with the smallest market cap in the FTSE250 are around £400m; for comparison Twitter floated with a market cap of $30,000m, which is 75 times more.

Let's take a hypothetical example. If I was to build a company with a turnover of approximately £20m per month, or £240m per year, then one might say that it could be valued using a rough multiplier of 2x turnover at £500m. That would easily be enough to make for an attractive IPO, because the market cap is going to attract all the institutional investors who have to buy FTSE250 companies. In effect, the IPO is underwritten by the pension tracker funds.

Therefore, greedy lazy people buy dog shit stock, it appreciates in value because of market sentiment - "ooh the price is going up, let's buy more" - and the fact that public companies can use their shares to acquire other companies (growth through acquisition) until they have a dominant market position (some may say monopoly, ahem!).

Growth through acquisition is not really growth. If I have 100% of the shares in company A, and 0% of the shares in company B, and then I use 49% of my shares and a bit of cash to acquire company B, such that I now own 51% of company A and 51% of company B, no new value has been created. There may be cost savings, there may be benefits from anticompetitive practices, but really all I'm doing is increasing the market cap of the parent company, hoping to move from the FTSE250 to the FTSE100, where a whole load more pension funds will have to buy shares for their index trackers.

The same deal goes on in the US, where companies are trying to IPO at a certain valuation in order to get into the Dow Jones or the NASDAQ, such that the US tracker funds will have to invest. The public - mostly pensioners - get fleeced.

So, in conclusion, the cause of a speculative bubble is actually institutional. Because the pension funds are so massive and they are passive investors, using index tracker funds, there is an immense amount of fake value created by mergers and acquisitions, as growth by acquisition carries such huge rewards. This starves the companies - who are truly growing and innovating - of much needed investment capital, stifling the economy and instead creating corporate giants who are too big to fail.

Eventually, the central banks and the rest of the money multiplying machine reaches the limit of how much the value of dinosaur institutions can be artificially inflated. These dinosaurs move at glacial pace and stifle change and competition. The lack of efficiency of markets to deliver capital to those companies who have true growth potential, undermines the economy for years, until finally things reach breaking point.

Overvalued companies, market disruption by venture-capital backed challengers, the faltering of capital gain and the end of effortless profits, are the things that spook the lazy, greedy investors. So, then begins the market crash.

The dying behemoths are dangerous animals. For example, the 'too big to fail' banks were able to hold the world's largest economies to ransom, with the threat of unimaginable disruption to our systems of payment and borrowing that underpin so many mortgages, overdrafts, credit cards, car loans and how we get and spend our wages each month.

For now, the status quo persists, because the idea of smoothly transitioning to truly free and competitive markets is beyond comprehension, such is the web of complexity that has been created by supranational organisations that have swallowed so many competitors around the globe.

Until we move to active investment rather than passive investment, we will always have the cycles of boom & bust.




* - You couldn't actually buy all Apple's shares for $118 each, because the very process of buying up all the available stock for sale would drive up the price. I merely offer a simplified example.


Quality of Life

3 min read

This is a story about feeling healthy...

Quality of Life

If we score ourselves as 100% when we are feeling healthy, it may surprise you to learn that depression sufferers score themselves at 30% when they are depressed. Being depressed means not enjoying the things that you normally enjoy. Being depressed means feeling tired all the time.

There is a good amount of data to show that the richer we are, the more satisfied with life we are. Don't believe all that nonsense about how "the rich cry too". It's pointless propaganda. There is good hard data that shows that the more well off we are financially, the happier we are.

So, let's imagine this hypothetical situation.

I'm depressed at the moment because my well paid job is truly appalling. I'm earning a lot, but I don't get to spend it. I'm earning a lot because it's all going into a pot of money that I get to spend when I retire at age 65. It seems like the sensible thing to do is to save up for retirement. But is it?

Imagine that I take my dream job, which pays enough money for me to rent a shitty room in a shitty house, never save any money, but I can enjoy my life and have a nice time. I'll reach age 65, and then my health and wealth will be so f**ked that my 'wellness' score will drop to zero: I'll be as good as dead.

We can actually measure quality of life, and calculate which is the better strategy.

Let's imagine that quitting the rat race means I'm no longer depressed, but I'm a little bit stressed about money. Let's imagine that I'm not totally depressed, so my quality of life is currently 60% lower than what it would be if my mental health was perfectly normal. That means that my quality of life will improve from 40% to 90%, just by quitting my terrible job and going off to do something fulfilling that won't pay very well.

In the red part of the diagram above, you can see that I have a brilliant retirement, where I'm at 90% health, but my old age means that my body is starting to let me down. I have loads of money, so I'm having a great time, until I drop dead at age 75 from a heart attack because I had such a stressful and boring job, sat at a desk getting fat, unfit and miserable.

In the orange part of the diagram above, you can see that I have a brilliant time from age 37 to age 65. I grow old disgracefully, living a hand-to-mouth existence that's fairly free from grown-up responsibilities and sensible retirement planning. Without the millstone of a mortgage and a pension plan, my existence is fulfilled and hedonistic and I can have a brilliant time up until the day I'm too old to work.

As you can see, the "live for today" strategy scores 30 points, and the "live for tomorrow" strategy scores 20 points.

Using these hard numbers, you can see that I will have better quality of life not working in the rat race, even though it will leave me destitute and dying on the streets when I'm 65. I could literally kill myself on my 65th birthday, and I will have had a much better life than if I die 10 years later in wealth and comfort.

I kinda felt this intuitively, but it's good to see some hard numbers that confirm my hunch.

I hope I die before I get old.




Make Poverty History

8 min read

This is a story about bang for your buck...

Small change

The churches have their tithes. The government have their taxes. The world has charities. It's pretty clear that these systems of wealth distribution and assistance for impoverished and vulnerable people, have spectacularly failed.

Tonight, I'm going to eat my dinner. Eating my dinner is something I want to do. Eating my dinner is something I enjoy. I get a kick out of eating my dinner.

So, why don't I start a Just Giving charity fundraising page, so that people can sponsor me to eat my dinner? You can sponsor me to go to work. You can sponsor me to go for a little jog around the park, having a lovely time waving at everybody. You can sponsor me to jump out of an aeroplane. You can sponsor me to abseil down a cliff. Even though you'll be donating to whichever charity I've chosen, it won't make any difference to the world.

You want to make a difference, right?

You buy Fairtrade coffee, bananas and chocolate. You recycle your bottles, plastic containers and cardboard. You give £10 a month via direct debit to the Red Cross. You throw your loose change into a collection bucket, when somebody jangles one in front of your face. You went to a pop concert one time, that was supposed to end poverty once and for all.

Maybe you work for a charity. Maybe you do volunteering. Maybe you organise bring & buy jumble sales. Maybe you bake cakes and sell them to raise money. Maybe it's you who is chugging the collection tins and getting people to reach for their wallets.

However, have you considered whether what you're doing is effective?

Clearly, whatever you're doing, it's not effective. Poverty is not history. In fact, wealth inequality is growing to unprecedented levels.

There are a number of ways we justify our inaction:

  • "I do my bit"
  • "I already give what money I can afford"
  • "I already give what time I can spare"
  • "I can't help everybody"
  • "It won't make any difference. The world is a cruel place. Life is hard"
  • "The world is overpopulated. Africans should stop having babies"
  • "That's just the way things are"
  • "We've got to look after our own"
  • "Charity begins at home"

On closer examination, these beliefs are delusional, and only serve to prop up the status quo. All the reasons for inaction boil down to the same thing: "I'm not going to do any more until other people do too".

We are in a rat race. We are desperately trying to not lag behind the other rats in the race. We are desperately trying to keep up.

The mega wealthy race ahead, while our incomes stagnate. Since the 1980's the average wage increase has been just 40%, but for the wealthiest, their income has increased nearly 300%. As a proportion of their income, the wealthiest share less than ever. The wealthiest guard their income from taxation. The wealthiest spend a very small proportion of their income, meaning that it never enters the economy.

All humans need clothes. A poor person buys a £30 pair of jeans. 20% of the ticket price of those jeans is VAT, so the poor person paid £5 in tax. Let's say that the poor person earned £100 on the day that they bought the jeans. That means their effective tax rate was 5%, on clothes that they needed to buy. If a rich person bought the same pair of jeans, and they earn £1,000 a day, then their effective tax rate is 0.5% for the clothes that they need. A much smaller proportion of the rich people's income goes on essential items like food and clothing. As a proportion of their income, the amount of tax that the rich pay is tiny.

We can't afford the rich.

The rich are responsible for an expensive army and police force, in order to maintain the status quo and protect their wealth. The rich are responsible for deciding to bomb brown people to bits, in order to maintain conflict, to sell them weapons and stop them from ever reaching prosperity. If we let the brown people ever become prosperous, they might be unhappy about growing our food and manufacturing our goods, while we sit around idly doing nothing.

We spend more on 'defence' than on education.

If we were to spend more on education, then people would realise that our struggle is for nothing. Our labour contributes to nothing more than our own enslavement.

Capital growth, through effortless income from interest, dividends and increased asset prices, far outstrips our ability to earn money through work.

Our whole society is topsy-turvy. The old people who are dying are the ones who own all the dividend earning shares, through the pension funds. The old people who are dying earn all the property. The old people who are dying do not work, and they demand to earn money for no effort. The institutional investment managers who look after huge pension funds also do no work. Pension funds simply own huge portfolios of stocks & shares, interest bearing financial instruments and property. Instead of society being run to benefit our children, our workers, and protect the vulnerable, instead we toil so that an ever-growing number of retiring baby boomers can be idle.

I don't begrudge people some time off if they've earned it, but baby boomers are responsible for the proliferation of nuclear weapons, climate change, pollution, deforestation, war, famine, economic ruin, the end of free university education, no jobs, unaffordable housing and keeping politicians in power who are intent on destroying all life on earth. Instead of protesting at the planet being raped, these insufferable hippies sat around taking drugs and passed on all the problems to their grandchildren.

For me to teach a starving African to write computer code is ridiculous. The world doesn't need any more websites or apps. We've had programmable electronic computers for 60 years, and the world has become a more unequal place, still full of suffering and pain.

For me to volunteer at a soup kitchen is ridiculous. We are manufacturing homeless vulnerable people faster than we can feed them. The Salvation Army was founded in 1865, and there are still shamefully large numbers of people who are homeless and hungry.

For me to work for a charity is ridiculous. The charity model of fundraise & spend has completely failed. The church model of a tithe on our income has completely failed. The government model of taxation has completely failed.

We live in a pyramid scheme, and those at the top of the pyramid want to be idle and earn money effortlessly. There is no dignity in labour. Through work we only impoverish ourselves, because the wealthy get more wealthy while not doing any work. We expend our energy and the finite years of our life, but our wealth is eroded faster than we can earn money.

We shape ourselves in the image of those we are trying to keep up with. We imitate those who we aspire to be. We aspire to be wealthy, and in so doing, we protect our wealth from taxation and tithe. We believe we are being virtuous by being thrifty. We believe we are being smart by saving our money instead of spending it.

In actual fact, the financial system has broken down and fails to serve 99% of the people who are trapped within its confines.

The most effective thing that we can do to fight poverty, income inequality, injustice and the enslavement of the 99% is to campaign to flip the iceberg upside down. We can't afford the rich, and the plutocracy has to end. Our political system is overrun with public schoolboys who earn their money from trust funds and offshore investments, meaning that they pay nothing in tax. We can no longer be governed by people who don't play by the same rules as the rest of us.

The House of Commons was supposed to be a democratic instrument. The House of Commons was supposed to be representative of ordinary working people with a conscience, not Bullingdon Club Tory toffs who've only known a life of wealth and privilege.

I'm not waiting for my neighbour to be more generous before I decide to contribute more to the greater good. I'm looking for my opportunity to topple the cruel elites who have their snouts in the trough, greedily stuffing their ugly faces.

The most effective thing you can do with your time and your money? Campaign for political reform. Campaign for economic reform. Campaign for societal reform.

It makes no sense that the whole of the planet and 99% of humanity is there so that the baby boomers can have an idle retirement. If it was up to me, I'd ban the over 65s from voting until the climate and the economy start improving. You can't leave this kind of bullshit fuckup as a legacy, and expect to reap any rewards or have any say in a future that you ruined.

Here's my golden rule: leave things better than you find them, or else you are antisocial and you should be excluded from society.




Alan the Alcoholic

31 min read

This is a story about destiny...

Beer cans

I've been writing short stories all this week to fill my boring days at work. I wasn't going to share them, because I already share thousands of words every week, but this is one of my better efforts.

Anyway, without further ado, please allow me to introduce The Factory:

* * *

His mother had warned him that if he didn't try hard enough at school he would have to work in a factory, but this conflicted with Alan's day-to-day experience with his teachers. Alan's teachers always told him that he had amazing potential. Alan's teachers always told him that if he just applied himself, he would be a brilliant student. Perfect! No effort required then, until the exams actually counted for something. Why burn yourself out over mock exams and other work? Keep your gunpowder dry until the real battle.

Was it lazy? Was it arrogant? It seemed smart to Alan to not bust his balls on extra homework and every essay and assignment. School was going to go on and on for years and years, and then there was university after that. Yes, it was generally assumed that Alan would be going to university, because he was a sharp cookie. Just needed to apply himself. Just needed to try a bit harder. Why bother trying until the day of his GCSE exams, his A-levels, and his entrance examination for Oxford or Cambridge? Why break a sweat until then? Why get anxious about tomorrow's problems, today?

Whenever Alan did turn it on, concentrate, try hard, he found that he was showered with praise and good grades. His experience bore out everything that the world told him every day, except his mother's prophecy that he would end up working in a factory.

But now he worked in a factory.

In the factory, there were warehousemen who drove fork-lift trucks, ferrying pallets of supplies around the factory buildings, or loading the boxed up products being dispatched to the wholesalers. There were machine operators, who pressed oversized industrial buttons, to start and stop the various plant that mixed chemicals in huge vats, pumped liquid, or carried things on conveyor belts. The machine operators were responsible for hitting the big red STOP buttons in the event of an industrial accident, so they were slightly higher paid than the warehousemen, who only had to have a fork-lift truck driving license.

The lowest paid workers in the factory were those who performed repetitive manual labour that could not be easily automated. The manual workers took cans off the conveyor belt, stuck a sticky label on them, and then loaded them onto another conveyor belt. The manual workers picked out any cans with dents or loose lids, and put them onto large trolleys marked "Quality Control" which were wheeled to another area, where somebody else would check to see if the product could be salvaged or not.

There were the supervisors, who had risen through the ranks by doing one of the many jobs in the factory for 25 years or more. That was about how long it took to get promoted. If you had stuck it out for 25 years, and you'd managed not to make a fool of yourself, you were pretty much automatically promoted into a supervisor role. It was well understood, and it was the reason why many people were sticking with their low paid jobs, holding out hope for that promotion. The supervisors were paid marginally more than their colleagues, but the big bonus was that they didn't have to do any work anymore. The supervisors would march around, clean and smelling fresh, putting ticks on a checklist clipped to their clipboards.

Supervisors would escalate issues to management. Management were all the sons, daughters, husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends and close friends of the family who had originally owned the factory, or another factory. To enter into management, you had to be born into management, or marry into management. There was a legend, often told, of the boy who used to sweep the factory floor who got promoted to be a manual worker, then a supervisor, and then a manager. This legend was the lottery-winning chance that everybody in the factory secretly hoped for, but of course it was a myth. Whenever new managers were needed, only people who were already managers would be eligible for the role. Can't get the job without the experience, can't get the experience without the job. That was the Catch 22 that kept the riff-raff out of the boardroom.

But, there had been a new role that had been created, that nobody felt qualified to do. Some of the managers had hired family members, friends, to try and do the role, but nobody had been able to perform the duties required. There had been several rounds of telephone interviews to screen candidates. Human Resources had then called in promising candidates to understand if they had the right cultural fit and commitment to the mission of the company, to be suitable. Then junior management had held some day-long sessions where candidates fought it out with each other, in some real-world scenarios that had been set as a test. Then, finally, there were several more face to face interviews with senior management, before at long last the CEO personally vetted the remaining handful of hopefuls, and selected a winner. A job offer was dispatched and the factory's newest recruit joined the team. However, every person they had recruited to date had left, soon after starting their new job.

It was time to try the open market. Jobs were routinely advertised on the open market, but invariably it would be somebody known to somebody else who would be recruited. You had to know somebody. Any candidate from the open market was there just to make up the numbers, and to pay lip service to the idea that there was some meritocracy to the process, but everybody in management knew that unless you were already in management, your face simply didn't fit: you weren't part of the club.

And so, the unprecedented step of hiring somebody on the basis of their Curriculum Vitae was made. Their aptitude and qualifications were actually considered on merit, and the interviewers actually mulled over the answers to the questions that were asked. The management team was getting desperate. It was time to hire somebody who might be capable of doing the job, rather than simply recycling the same pool of people who had been born into privileged positions. Management were out of ideas, because they had only ever taken their ideas from an insular pool of people with the same background. It was time to try an outsider.

Alan had been through the same gruelling rounds of telephone interviews, HR grillings and face to face meetings with various junior and senior managers. Alan had suffered the same dismissive attitudes, because he had never held a management role, because his family had never owned a factory and gifted him a job. Everybody who interviewed him let him know, subtly, that he wasn't cut out for management because he wasn't part of the club. However, begrudgingly they had been forced to recommend their favoured outside candidate. Alan had been chosen for his strengths, not because of nepotism. Management were not happy about this. This was not the way things worked.

Finally, the CEO had awarded Alan the job. The CEO knew that the factory had little choice. It had an unfilled role that was very important. Nobody from the pool of those with managerial experience had proven able to perform the duties. Of course none of the supervisors could be promoted. That would be ridiculous! Alan had good grades and had studied at Cambridge, so on paper he was a cut above everybody else that they had interviewed, except the one thing that would normally disqualify him from ever entering management: that he actually had to apply for a job, rather than just being gifted one by his family.

Alan's roles and responsibilities had been explained to him at length during the interview process, but now he had an HR meeting to discuss his salary and his final job description.

"There's been a slight change" said Sandra, the HR woman. "There's actually just one thing we need you to do" she explained. Sandra pushed a piece of paper with some text printed on it over the desk towards Alan. "Is this some kind of joke?" Alan asked.

The salary negotiations had taken a new direction now that Alan knew that his intended role had somewhat changed. Normally, candidates enthusiastically accepted pretty much whatever was offered in terms of remuneration by the time that they had reached the point of a job offer. The purpose of the interview process was to make a candidate so relieved when the stress and the anxiety of the whole awful ordeal was over, that they wouldn't want to risk losing the job offer when it was on the table.

"I want twice as much money" Alan plainly declared.

"Ridiculous!" Sandra had replied. "You'd be paid more than the CEO if we gave you that much" she spat, contemptuously.

"But look at what you want me to do" Alan pleaded. "What you're offering just isn't enough to do that".

Eventually, Sandra had backed down. She was shocked. She'd never actually had to negotiate with somebody before, and even when candidates had tried, she just held her ground and they gave in. She'd met people like Alan before, but she'd never come up against such stubborn determination. His attitude had seemed to change completely when she told him what his new role would entail.

Alan started his new job with something of a sense of happiness. He was going to be paid an obscene amount of money. He couldn't believe his luck. Even though Alan knew that the size of his paycheque bore no relation to his actual value as a person, he still felt special and appreciated to be receiving such healthy remuneration for his efforts. Alan was almost cocky and arrogant, knowing that he was the highest paid person in the factory. He was the highest paid person he knew. He calculated how much he was going to earn every hour, every minute, every second... it was a lot.

Three supervisors met Alan at the factory gates and gave him a brief tour of the facilities. Alan was soaking up his surroundings with glee. It was nice to feel part of something. It was nice to see the efficiency of everything, as cans and boxes, and crates and vats of liquid were ferried around the warehouses, and vast quantities of products were stacked up ready to be dispatched to customers.

Alan was shown to the testing room. Everything had been prepared for him.

The testing room was a cube in the corner of one of the cavernous warehouses, with a door labelled "TESTING ROOM" in bold black text. The testing room had a round silver door handle, and a piece of plastic that could be slid so that the words "IN USE: DO NOT ENTER" could be displayed, or hidden when the room was unoccupied.

"Yes, it's ready to go. Please start when you're ready" one of the supervisors said, gesturing towards the door.

Alan slid the plastic so that "IN USE" was displayed, and stepped inside the room, closing the door behind him.

Inside the room, there was black folding chair in the centre, and 4 blank walls. The walls had a slightly glossy shiny look to them. There was a sharp chemical smell in the air. An extraction fan whirred above, sucking away the fumes. Alan sat down in the chair, and begun to look at the walls.

After 12 hours, a loud whistle blast could be heard throughout the factory, including inside Alan's room. The factory workers queued up to clock out of their shift, and then disappeared out of the exit to the car park and bus stop. The supervisors jumped in their battered old cars and drove home. The manual workers queued up in the rain to catch the bus. Alan queued up for the bus too: he would have to wait for his first paycheque before he could think about buying a car.

The next day, Alan arrived and made his own way to the room. He opened the door and there were a couple of men in there who were just packing up their things. One of the men said "all ready for you" and then the room was left vacant. Alan slid the sign to show "IN USE" again, closed the door and sat in his chair, waiting for the factory whistle while looking at the glossy walls.

After 11 or so hours, Alan started to wonder if his eyes were playing tricks on him. Were the walls slightly less glossy? There certainly seemed to be patches where the walls looked somewhat more matt. There were areas that were still shiny and reflecting light, but there were large parts that seemed to no longer have the same sheen. Before he could think about this much longer, the factory whistle blew and everybody left for home.

Alan had a troubling night of sleep, wondering what he was doing. Had he made a mistake in taking this job? It was certainly very well paid, but it wasn't at all what he imagined he would be doing for a living. He started to think about the nice new car he was going to buy himself with his first paycheque. Yes, just focus on the money, he told himself as he drifted off to sleep.

The following morning, two men were just leaving the room as he arrived. They were carrying rollers, brushes and cans of paint. "Morning!" they cheerily called to Alan. "Morning!" Alan enthusiastically replied. It was nice to be greeted by his colleagues. They seemed happy to have him there.

Inside the room, it had been repainted in a wonderful bright new colour. This made Alan joyously happy. This minor change in his environment and routine was well appreciated and his whole 12 hour shift passed quickly. Alan felt noticed, cared for. Perhaps his doubts about this career were misplaced.

In the evening, Alan considered taking out a car loan. I mean, now that he had found a job that he enjoyed and was well paid, surely there would be no risk in taking out some finance to allow him to have a reliable vehicle to transport him to work? It would be a nice treat that he could have now, rather than having to wait until his paycheque. He would be able to drive to work rather than taking the bus. That would be a big improvement in his quality of life, not having to stand and queue for the bus in the rain.

Now the working week was nearly done. Alan felt really happy about the approaching weekend as he rode the bus on his way to work.

The painters were leaving his room again when he arrived, carrying their brushes and rollers. Wow! This was exciting, Alan thought. "What colour have they painted my room today?" he wondered.

Inside the room, the walls were the same colour as the previous day, Alan felt sure. What the hell? Were his eyes playing tricks on him? Was his memory fading? Maybe the paint simply needed a second coat, but it had looked pretty good yesterday, he thought.

Alan's 12 hour shift was spent pondering the conundrum of the paint colour. Strangely, he was almost but not quite able to enjoy watching the glossy sheen of the wet paint change to a matt texture, as it dried. He made a little game, of checking each of the slower drying areas intermittently, to see if they were still shiny.

Friday brought another almost identical day. The painters were leaving as Alan arrived, and the colour was unchanged. The only thing that was different was that Alan was now certain that no further coats of paint had been required in order to give even coverage. The walls had been adequately coated with paint the day before. This extra coat of paint was wholly unnecessary, for even the most diligent decorator.

Clocking out of his shift, Alan was troubled and locked into his own mind, questioning what he was doing and why. His eyes were glazed over and not engaging with the faces of his colleagues as they left the factory. On the bus ride home, Alan started to shake off his doubts and just enjoy the fact that work was over until Monday. It was the weekend and he could relax, knowing that he had successfully got though his first week, and he was a little closer to his first paycheque.

The weekend was overshadowed with niggling doubts. Alan had been planning on going to the car dealership to enter into a finance agreement and arrange to take delivery of a brand new car. Instead, Alan was almost in a daze, unable to shake off the feeling that his new job was not quite what he had bargained for. Were things going to change? For sure, on that day that the walls had been repainted, he had felt that things were going to be OK, but then the end of the week things had made no sense.

By Sunday evening, Alan had started to become quite anxious about the week ahead. If the colour of the walls changed again, that would be better, but it still didn't really answer the question of what he was doing there. If the colour of the walls didn't change, he would be forced to question what the purpose of his role was. He knew that it was important that he didn't ask difficult questions or voice his doubts, and he didn't want to risk that big salary. How long could he hold his tongue?

On Monday morning, Alan felt extremely tired even though he had not stayed up late or slept especially badly. He felt tense. His muscles ached. He felt butterflies in his tummy. Why would he be so anxious? His job was easy and he'd made it though the first week with no problems. There was no reason why he couldn't continue day after day, week after week, year after year, decade after decade. Think about all that money he could save up for retirement. Think how rich he was going to be.

Alan arrived at work with seconds to spare. He was almost late. The room was empty, but the walls were shiny and wet with fresh paint. The painters had obviously left shortly before Alan had arrived.

For the first three days of the new week, the paint remained the same colour but it was always freshly repainted. Alan never saw the painters again because he was arriving later and later to work, questioning what on earth he was doing and how he could carry on without understanding the purpose of it all. It was so meaningless, so purposeless, so lacking in rational explanation, so wasteful. He was the highest paid person in the factory, and yet he didn't understand the importance of his role. In fact, his role seemed pointless to him. He persevered, thinking about the money and the new car.

On Thursday, he was torn between just quitting his job or marching into the boardroom to demand answers from the senior management. He knew that either option would pretty much spell the end of his career.

Arriving exceptionally late, Alan turned the handle and opened the door of the testing room a fraction. Inside, the walls had been repainted a different colour. Alan was flooded with a disproportionate amount of relief that something had at last changed. It had been more than a week since the colour had been altered, and even though it had happened once before, he was now overjoyed that it had happened again. It had seemed like forever that he had lived with the same colour of fresh paint, day after day.

On Friday, the wall colour changed again, and now Alan was almost ecstatic. He felt giddy with the waves of emotional relief that swept over him. He was almost drunk with feelings. Everything seemed to make sense, even though they didn't. Everything seemed to be slotting into place, even though they weren't. Alan spent his whole shift daydreaming about driving his new car, and resolved to rush to the dealership first thing on Saturday and sign the car finance papers.

Alan's sleep was very disturbed with excitement about getting a new car. Of course, he would not be taking delivery for some time, but that's not what he was thinking about as he fitfully slept until the earliest possible opportunity he could get up and rush to the dealership when it opened in the morning. At the dealership, Alan borrowed far more money than he had originally intended. Buoyed with the optimism of last couple of days at work he'd just had, in stark contrast to his misery and anxiety at the start of the week, Alan felt that he must purchase the very best car that he could afford, in order to give everything some meaning.

Then, as soon as the door of the dealership had swung closed behind him, he felt a sense of regret, rising panic. What had he done?

Now his weekend was doubly anxious. What if he had another week where they didn't change the colour of the walls? What if he lost his job before he got paid? What if the new car was not as wonderful as he hoped it would be.

Alan tried to console himself in daydreams about him driving the new car. Alan tried to picture how much happier he would be, owning and driving a new car. It didn't seem to be quite enough to settle his deep sense of unease, that he was now trapped into his job in order to keep up the repayments on the car finance. The thought that he now had no option but to stay in his job, or else face both unemployment and insolvency, was a terrifying amount of pressure.

The following week was sheer agony. The colour of the walls remained the same every day, even though they were freshly repainted for all five days. Alan tried to lose himself in daydreams about taking delivery of his new car, and driving it for the first time. He tried to imagine the new car smell. He tried to imagine tearing off the plastic that protected the brand new seats, like tearing of wrapping paper at Christmas. But it didn't work. Time dragged incredibly. Every second felt like a minute. Every minute felt like an hour. Every hour felt like a day. Every day felt like a month. The week felt like a year. A year of pain. A year of staring at the blank walls, wondering what he had done, but feeling completely trapped by his finance agreement.

Alan made it through a second week that was much the same. He dare not arrive late, for his financial security depended on him keeping this job. He dare not raise his concerns with senior management, for he needed this job. He was locked in. He had to keep quiet and just keep doing what he was doing.

When he woke up on Saturday it was 3pm in the afternoon. He hadn't gone to bed late, but the stress and anxiety were exhausting. He was wrecked by the constant tension, the constant worry, the constant doubt. He was lolling around in bed, not really wanting to face the day because he was too emotionally drained. And then he remembered: he could collect his new car today.

Instead of joy, Alan felt trepidation. He procrastinated in getting ready and travelling to the dealership. There was too much riding on this. If he didn't enjoy his new car, his life was over. How on earth could a new car solve the misery of his day to day existence? No material object was capable of resolving his crisis, surely?

Arriving late, the car dealer was only just able to complete all the paperwork in time to let Alan have the car that day. Alan thought he was going to literally collapse and die when he was told that there might not be enough time before the dealership closed, and he'd have to come back another day. Perhaps the dealer had seen the grimace on Alan's face, and had been taken aback. Instead of being fobbed off, the dealership had pulled out all the stops to get Alan his car, while he sat exhausted in the waiting room.

At last, Alan was handed the keys and led to the car park where his shiny new car was ready to go. The paint colour wasn't quite the same as the one he specified and the dealer had forgotten the upgrade to the wheels that he had been promised, but he didn't care. Alan wasn't going to refuse to take delivery now, when he'd been working for so many years to get this prize; or so it felt. Alan signed his name and stepped into the driver's seat. This was finally happening.

It was certainly nice, like he had imagined, being in a brand new car with the smell of plastic and foam. Everything was unmarked, blemish free. Alan had to pinch himself to be reminded that this was not one of his many daydreams he had been having in anticipation of this day.

Driving to work, Alan drew envious stares from fellow work colleagues who he had previously taken the bus with. He apologetically cringed, knowing that they were thinking how flash he was, displaying his wealth so obviously like this. He felt like a traitor, having taken the bus with the ordinary factory workers, and now flaunting his privilege, while his co-workers were soaked from the rain. However, it had been a remarkably enjoyable journey to work despite the traffic. Alan arrived at his room feeling remarkably relaxed and happy.

Now, Alan spent 12 hours waiting to be able to enjoy his drive home. The anticipation of it almost seemed to make the time go slower, but at least he was carried through the first half of the day with a bit of happiness from his drive to work. He fantasised about perhaps going on a long drive at the weekend.

The week dragged, but it was not too bad. As an added bonus, the room had been repainted on Thursday in a new colour. Alan's week was almost tolerable. This could be sustainable, he thought.

Another couple of weeks passed with Alan's car getting a little bit dirtier, scratched and dented from the daily commute and people carelessly opening doors in the car park, or brushing past his vehicle with sharp protruding zips or studs on their clothing, damaging the paint. Inside the car, it was littered with discarded coffee cups from Alan's commute, which now seemed painfully slow as he queued in traffic. The bus zipped past him in the bus lane, as he sat fuming at the wheel. Driving to work was an added pressure, an added anxiety.

The same nagging doubt about what he was doing, became bigger than the novelty of driving to work, which had quickly become the norm. The changes in wall colour were as routine as anything else. Alan simply spent 12 hours sat in his room questioning his very existence, and trying to will himself to think about the money, which was very much less than before, because of his borrowing obligations. Working to pay off his car loan really did not seem to make any sense except in the context of his job, which also didn't make any sense.

In a way, Alan hankered for the days when he used to take the bus, because he didn't have the pressure of having to drive himself and the crippling financial burden of the loan he had taken out to buy the car. Of course, the car was now well careworn and uncared for and was worth a tiny fraction of what Alan had paid for it. He would never be able to repay his debts by selling his car. He would have to keep the job, in order to keep up his loan repayments. He was trapped, and it was destroying him, knowing that he was damned if he did, and damned if he didn't.

Alan started to drink heavily. At first in the evenings, to deal with his anxiety at facing the working day. Then he started to drink at the weekends, to deal with his anxiety at facing the working week. Then he started to drink in the mornings in the car park, so that he would be drunk at work and the day would pass quicker. Alan had no problem hiding his drunkenness at this stage, because he was inebriated around-the-clock. He would never let the alcohol levels in his bloodstream drop, because he would start to get the shakes and start throwing up. He had woken up in the night, soaked in sweat, when he had suffered an epileptic fit in his sleep.

Now physically dependent on alcohol, Alan's his body would complain with horrific withdrawal symptoms and seizures if he stopped drinking. He was also psychologically dependent on intoxication to be able to cope with the monotony of his job. Sobriety was barred to him, because he was unable to continue to work without alcohol, and he needed the job to pay for his loan. Alcohol numbed the stress and anxiety of the situation.

His mother had warned him that if he didn't apply himself at school, he would amount to nothing, and would be a manual labourer in a factory. He was now the highest paid person in the factory, and higher paid than even the CEO. He had a lovely car, and he was on top of his finances. His credit rating was sky high. He could borrow as much as he wanted, to buy a house, a boat or whatever he wanted. However, he was now wary of borrowing any more, knowing that it would shackle him more to the job that had driven him to alcohol. There was no way out. Material things brought temporary relief, but only at the expense of further tying him to a pointless job that denied him any sense of purpose.

People asked Alan why didn't he just retrain as a circus juggler, or a bricklayer? Perhaps he could be a flower arranger, or a concert pianist? Did these people not understand that those salaries would never allow him to service his debts? Did these people not realise that it costs money, on rent and tuition fees, to be able to retrain, and all Alan's money went on rent, debt and alcohol. "Why don't you save up some money and go travelling?" people asked. Saving money meant less alcohol, and it was only through alcohol that Alan could make it through the day. He was mortgaging his health in order to keep his job, in order to repay his debts. Couldn't people see he'd love to dream. Alan was not short of dreams and ideas, but how could he pursue them when he was so trapped?

Riding the wall of death, faster and faster, round and round. Alan had to keep drinking more and more in order to maintain his intoxication, as his body became more and more tolerant to the copious amounts of alcohol he imbibed. Three bottles of wine every day. Cans of super strength lager to keep him topped up. Then a bottle of whiskey every day. Then two bottles of vodka every day. Then he lost count. There were bottles in his gym bag, in his car, littered throughout his flat. He had hip flasks in every pocket. He lived in constant fear of running out of alcohol and getting the shakes, having a fit at work that would cost him his job.

Nobody seemed to notice that Alan was tanked up on alcohol the whole time. He was functional. He was turning up to work and doing his job just like he'd always done. He was reliable, dependable. He was uncomplaining. He didn't ask any questions. He was the perfect employee. Moulded to fit his job perfectly. He had filled his role better than anybody in senior management could have possibly hoped for. The CEO was overjoyed with Alan's appointment, and the work that he was doing. He was worth every penny of his salary, even if Alan felt worthless.

Knowing that he was an alcoholic and unable to function outside the narrow remit of his role, Alan was even more trapped than before. There was no way that he would find another job. There was nobody who needed somebody with such specific skills and experience. There was nobody who could afford to pay Alan the salary that he needed. There was no way that a functional alcoholic could hide their problem throughout the gruelling interview process. There was no way that a functional alcoholic would be able to start doing something new. He was just surviving on muscle memory, on practice and routine. Alan's brain was shot to pieces.

Alan wondered if suicide would be preferable to his existence. He knew that he was slowly committing suicide anyway. Soon his liver would be destroyed. Soon his health would fail completely, and he would quickly die. Wouldn't it be better to do it swiftly, before he got hospitalised and he painfully slipped away? Death would be unpleasant, as his organs failed one by one and his body gave up due to the ravages of alcohol. Surely it would be better to just kill himself quickly.

Stockpiling paracetamol from the chemist, buying boxes two at a time, Alan gathered hundreds of pills.

There was no moment of doubt when he did it, swallowing handful after handful of white tablets, washed down with whiskey. Alan had selected a fine single malt to end his life. Leaving no suicide note, he had however tidied up his flat and set his financial affairs in order. Everything would be found neat and tidy, when the police were sent by the factory to see why he hadn't turned up for work at all that week.

Of course, people were sad when he'd gone. "He could have been anything he wanted" they said. He had amazing potential. He just had to apply himself to something. The world was his oyster. There were so many opportunities.

Nobody saw how trapped Alan was, and he had known that he could never explain. People would never understand how he could be so trapped, when he was so well paid and so good at his job. He was steady and dependable. He never rocked the boat. He never complained. He just got on with his work.

His mother didn't mention her prophecy about the factory at the funeral. Many of his work colleagues attended the burial, and it would have been insulting to talk about factory work as undesirable. There was also a subtle point that Alan's mother had missed: he had ended up working at a factory, just as she had warned, but she had been proud of him because it was a prestigious role.

What Alan's mother had failed to understand was that the men who manually laboured in the factory felt like they made a difference. Every full lorryload of product that left the factory felt like some small achievement. Even a full day spent sticking labels on cans and transferring items on conveyor belts felt somehow useful.

However, Alan had never figured out what the purpose of his role was. He knew that he was well paid, and that he was a valued employee, but he didn't know why. Alan had been unable to place himself anywhere in the grand scheme of things. Alan had never been unable to get over the most basic reduction of his job description to the simplest possible explanation, which was now chiselled into his gravestone in commemoration of his great work: 

"He watched paint dry"

* * *




Drug Dealing & Prostitution

6 min read

This is a story about getting rich quick...

Weed girl

Don't get high on your own supply, they say. It's good advice, because weed seems to dull the wits of my friends, and to curb their enthusiasm for anything more than the getting of more weed, and the consumption of shit food and crap TV.

When I meet young people who feel like they're part of a counter-culture revolution, because they smoke a bit of marijuana, I think how easily they have been duped. How foolish you are, to think that you're fighting the establishment, through your choice of intoxicant.

Governments and the police are mightily pleased to have a stoned population, who are too doped up to be bothered to get off their arses and do anything about social issues, or involve themselves in politics. Chuckling at low-brow humour that is designed to appeal to the stoner brain, is never going to change the world.

The energy and passion of youth has been quashed by the dreaded weed. You're not cool or "fighting the power" by smoking dope. You're actually playing into the hands of the establishment. The cannabis leaf - that ubiquitous emblem - sells tons of merchandise. Camden Market is London's second most popular tourist attraction, and it's mostly because of drug culture.

But what hopes have young people got? They're never going to be able to afford a house, pay for a wedding and be able to support a family, without topping up their income somehow. For those kids with wealthy parents, they might be able to go with their begging bowl to Mum & Dad, but it's hardly the independent self-sufficient life that we should all be entitled to live, is it?

You bust your balls all through school, get some grades, and now what? You can get a massive student loan that will only cover your tuition fees, and you still have to figure out how to pay for accommodation, food & books for your 3 years of undergraduate studies.

Maybe you can save up money before you go to University, but under-18s will be paid £3.87 per hour. Do you think a 17 year old is less capable of stacking a supermarket's shelves than a 64 year old? Why on earth should a young person be paid just 54% of what an old person earns, for doing the same job?

While you're at University, you'll be paid slightly more for your bar work, waitressing or whatever part-time job you can get. You'll get a whopping £5.30. That's still 26% less than somebody with arthritic joints and early-onset dementia. Who would you want working behind a bar? The young attractive, energetic student, or the miserable old codger who shuffles around?

So, what do the most enterprising individuals do, to cope with the crippling debt burden that they face, with little hope of elevating themselves from a position of poverty? Well, some of them will sell their bodies, and sell drugs.

If you deny people a legal route to pay for a quality of life that they're entitled to, they will turn to a life of 'crime'.

Got weed

The two bestselling commodities, in the history of humanity, are sex & drugs. Ugly people need to fuck, and people want to get high and forget about their shitty lives. The drive to get intoxicated is not even a uniquely human thing. There are plenty of examples from the animal kingdom of non-human species that get off their faces, using various substances.

You might think that demanding plenty of interest on your life savings and wanting a nice fat pension, is OK, because you're entitled to a cushy retirement. However, your young, beautiful and fresh faced daughter or grand-daughter might have few options to live independently, other than being a stripper, escort or 'flatmate with benefits'.

If you browse the London property adverts, you will see a shocking number of offers of free accommodation in return for sex. This is the society that has been created, by structuring everything around the pension funds, instead of investing in young people.

Can't get the job without the experience, can't get the experience without the job. That's the Catch 22 that entraps most young people into minimum wage jobs and living in shared rooms in atrocious quality housing in big cities. It's no fucking picnic being young at the moment, and weed is probably the only thing that allows people to forget the hopelessness of their situation.

A pint of beer in London is £5 or more. That means I can buy two pints for £10. For the same amount of money, I can buy a gram of super-strong skunk weed, and get dribblingly intoxicated for at least a day. Two pints would make me slightly tipsy, and because I'm well-off, I could then easily afford to have 3 or 4 more pints and get violent, abusive and urinate and vomit in the street. However, it's more economical - as a young person - to get stoned out of your mind and not do anything.

The girls who have sugar daddies, hustle for tips as waitresses and strippers or even sell their bodies - these aren't fallen angels, forced to prostitute themselves because they have a drug habit. Often times, the drug habit is a result of having to use what mother nature gave them, as a means to make money. These girls have a plan. They're smart. They've figured out that no amount of shelf stacking for a supermarket will allow them to ever escape poverty.

Our prettiest daughters and grand-daughters are living in luxury apartments in the city centre, taking taxis, eating in expensive restaurants and ordering cocktails at the bar... but how is that lifestyle funded? Every gorgeous pouting selfie you see on Facebook or Instagram... doesn't that say something about the sexualisation of an entire generation, through economic necessity, to you?

The boys will grow weed, or cut coke. The girls will strip or fuck. This is what we've wished for. The olds sit idle in their big empty houses, while their sons, daughters and grandchildren have no option but to pursue the most economically profitable path they can: drugs & prostitution.

I'm painting a bleak picture, but I don't think it's inaccurate.

Making a Joint

"It's only a bit of harmless dope" right? Wrong. Can't you see that people's eyes are dulled. The fire has gone out of people's hearts when they're just sitting around stoned. Where is the energy and enthusiasm to change society for the better?



How to Break Your Children's Hearts

7 min read

This is a story about respecting your elders...

My granny

Who's the responsible one round here? Who's got to carry the can, at the end of the day? Who's got to live with the consequences of bad decisions, and clean up other people's mess?

There isn't a class war going on. There's a generation war.

The baby boomers drove around in gas-guzzling cars, burnt dolphins to stay warm, dynamited the glaciers, blew up nuclear weapons under the polar ice caps, and generally whizzed around the globe spraying deadly chemicals on everything and saying "FUCK YOU GRANDCHILDREN, HA! HA! HA!".

I remember at school, when I was 10 or 11 years old, me and my friend Ben used to write long rhymes about saving the environment, and read them out at school events. We basically urged a modicum of control over the unmitigated climate disaster we saw all around us.

Growing up in the Thames Valley, huge numbers of my friends were asthmatic. Particulate emissions from internal combustion engines, gathered in the river valley, and in central Oxford the percentage of kids suffering from respiratory conditions was at the highest level in the country.

My friend Ben's parents had responsibly given up smoking for the health of their children, but mine would not listen to my pleas to stop wasting a significant proportion of the family income on something that was destructive to the health of us all. It was selfishness, plain and simple.

I still vividly remember one time when I begged my Dad to stop taking drugs. "Do you expect me to be a boring old fart?" he asked, incredulously. The tragic thing is, that I didn't need him to take drugs to look 'cool'. It was his own insecurity and pathetic attempt to impress young family members like my cousin Sue, that meant that he thought he was some kind of counter-culture hero, just because he took addictive drugs.

My Dad was adamant that I should not get to go to University, nor my sister, even though him and my Mum both enjoyed a free University eduction. My sister and I were both educated in state schools, even though my parents enjoyed the option of private/selective schooling.

My parents had substantial financial help from my grandparents to purchase their first home. No such help has been forthcoming from our parents, and indeed I bought my house without any financial support from my parents, as well as paying for my wedding & honeymoon out of my own pocket. My sister has - as a percentage of her income - possibly been even more financially independent than me.

As kids and adults, my sister and I have certainly been very economical, responsible, mature, in ways that my parents don't even come close to. We've paid our own way in life. We've grafted harder than my parents could possibly imagine.

And for what? So that my parents' generation can tell us that we're profligate, reckless with money, irresponsible, lazy? My parents' generation tell us we should save money for a rainy day, when the pensions that they draw bear no relation to the actual amount of money that they've saved up. The baby boomers are hoping to have hefty final salary pensions that far outstrip the amount of money they've paid into the schemes, to the point of causing a massive black hole in the nation's finances.


The upper-class Victorians used to say "children should be seen and not heard" but those children were reared by wet-nurses, nannies and au pairs, plus all the other servants. If you don't have servants to rear your children, you don't get to say such obnoxious things, because you're the only person in your child's life.

Infant mortality used to be very high, so ordinary Victorians cherished their children. Having a healthy child was a blessing, and something to be celebrated. There wasn't this strange culture of worshipping people with old-fashioned ideas, who sat idle for 30, 40 years, just criticising everything. Yes, we'd all like to retire and just sit around in our favourite chair reading shit newspapers and being mean to everybody, but the retirement age was always supposed to be just 1 year more than the average life expectancy.

Our economy is structured around the 'grey pound'. After the banks, the most powerful institutions in the country are the pension funds. These massive piles of money, managed by asset managers and institutional investors, for the benefit of their pension-drawing clients, decide everything about how this country is run. When we talk about things being run for the benefit of shareholders, those shareholders are mostly pension funds.

If anybody ever says to me "what have you given back to your parents?" or  "be grateful your parents gave you the gift of life" I'm going to struggle not to scream in their face with rage.

My whole life has been generating value for shareholders. Every penny and pound of profit that I have generated for my masters has gone into dividends and higher stock prices, to inflate the asset value of a pension fund somewhere. My whole life has been toiling to allow the baby boomers to have a life of idle luxury, not that they're fucking grateful.

But you know what? Things have gone way too far.

The older generation has fucked up the environment, fucked up the economy and demanded that young people suffer austerity, University tuition fees, job insecurity, wage stagnation, eye-watering rent, impossibly over-inflated house prices and listen to a sneering arrogant bunch of lazy grey-haired cunts telling them they're lazy and stupid the whole fucking time.

They say you should be nice to your kids because they'll choose your nursing home. Damn fucking straight, but you don't get to have 20 years of idle luxury before you go so damn senile that you have to be put in a home, so that your hard-pressed children can continue working all hours to pay for your profligacy, laziness and arrogance.

Yes, it's true that a huge proportion of wealth has been diverted into the hands of a few eye-wateringly rich families. However, WHO THE FUCK WAS ASLEEP ON THE JOB WHEN THAT HAPPENED?

Why the hell is it me who has to go on political marches, to demand that wealth is more fairly redistributed? My parents were too busy sat on their fucking arse taking drugs and reading books and newspapers to actually get off their lazy backsides and engage in the political process, for the good of the country and the good of us kids and grandkids.

Don't pretend like voting to leave the EU is somehow in the best interests of the country and future generations. One lazy pencil cross in a box doesn't make up for the idle years spent enjoying a free University education, job security, high pay, reckless drug taking, low cost of living, great housing, foreign holidays, new cars, superb pension and lots and lots of disposable income. YOU HAD IT FUCKING EASY, YOU STUPID OLD CUNTS.

As you can tell, this is a fairly calm and measured response to being sold down the river, and having my future destroyed by a bunch of people who won't be around to suffer the global warming and economic depression.

Literally, almost everybody I know my age or younger suffers from depression and/or anxiety. What a legacy!

Global warning

We used to sing "he's got the whole world in his hands" but where is your fucking God now?



Breaking Point

7 min read

This is a story about dirty tricks...

One billion dollars

The Government and affluent Londoners have completely misread the public mood. There is a complete disjoint between the media, politics, and the concerns and struggles of the general population.

Youth unemployment, ballooning student debt, a lower minumum wage for people aged 18 to 24, unaffordable house prices, ridiculous cost of living... these things don't just affect young people, but also their parents. Parents are waking up to the fact that their kids aren't lazy & stupid, but in fact millennials are far better behaved than any previous generation. You just have to look at falling alcohol consumption, smoking and teenage pregnancy rates, to see that today's young people are far more responsible than their parents and grandparents ever were.

Meanwhile, there's a population bubble that is coming up to retirement age and hoping to collect a final salary pension - an income that is not at all linked to how much they have paid in and asset values - that is causing a massive deficit that nobody is talking about.

Everybody's dug into their trenches.

Students quite rightly demand the same standard of education that their parents received, but must get themselves tens of thousands of pounds into debt, and there isn't even the guarantee of a good job at the end of an expensive education.

Pensioners quite rightly demand the same retirement age as their parents, but are going to live much longer, healthier, lives in their retirement, and expect to continue an extremely high standard of living: 3 foreign holidays a year, new cars and large empty houses, with expensive luxury kitchens & bathrooms, lavishly decorated.

Parents quite rightly expect their kids to move out, live independently, get married, have some grandkids. But that's not going to happen unless parents share some of their wealth, and many parents are already worried about whether they have enough money to maintain their high standard of living. So, the reality is kids never leave home, never become financially independent, are never able to escape the demeanment of being dependent on their parents.

Driving this drop in living standards is the fact that the West has been exporting its inflation for years. The postwar boom years were achieved by abandoning the gold standard and printing money. The only way that the value of the Pound, Dollar, Euro and Yen have been propped up is by an agreement called Bretton Woods, which defined a basket of so-called "hard" currencies.

Now, the people of the developing nations are demanding payback. These people have worked far harder and saved far more money, than the arrogant West. These people are quite rightly dissatisfied with being economically enslaved by a culture that broadcasts its profligacy to the world. If Hollywood is to be believed, we all live in mansions, drive supercars, fly helicopters and know the President of the United States of America, personally.

People want everything they were promised, but reality is a real let-down.

Even in London, where the streets are paved with gold, we live in tiny damp flats, with paper-thin walls where you can hear every little noise your neighbours make and the din from passing traffic is incessant. We are like sweaty sardines on a dangerously overcrowded public transportation network, working the longest hours in Europe, in the hope of affording some ludicrously overpriced piece of real estate. Pollution and crime is all around us. Yet, we are high-brow Guardian newspaper readers, who deign to patronise the ordinary working people outside the M25.

Nobody in the provinces gives a shit about a few malnourished brown people. They just want the cushy life their parents had: with a free University education, a seat on an uncrowded train, a 9 to 5 job that has a big enough salary for one parent to work, buy a house, pay the bills and raise some kids. However, that dream is never going to come to fruition.

Voting against yourself

People have been disengaged with politics for years. The disillusionment with the instruments that maintain the status quo, has reached crisis point. The wealthy elite have been too greedy for too long, and they have completely misread the public mood, the will of the people.

We're going to have problems when even the middle classes become squeezed, because their kids are a massive drain on their finances. The middle classes are the ones who still wield some political clout, and can even become somewhat radicalised.

Finger-pointing at immigrants will fool some simple-minded folks who didn't pay attention at school and who fail to see the spine-chilling parallels with the rise of far-right fascism in 1930s and 1940s Europe. However, it's only going to buy a very small amount of time, before the UK descends into all out chaos and destruction.

While one generation goes on strike, to demand that their final salary pensions aren't touched, and the protection of jobs that have become unnecessary due to technological advancements, another generation will have their lives made ever more miserable. Young people have to suffer train strikes, on services that are already overcrowded and cost a significant proportion of their income, in order to get to a job where they're paid less simply because they're young, and their money disappears into the black hole of the pensions deficit, with no hope of ever owning a home and having the luxury of going on strike themselves, for fear of losing their job.

We are being turned against one another, and against minority groups like immigrants and Muslims, when the real culprits for our suffering are the public-schooled wealthy elite, who become career politicians and rule over us. The real culprits are those who take out more than they've paid in. The real culprits are those who expect us to work harder than they would work themselves.

The enemy here is inequality, not immigration. The thing that we should be correcting is the rich:poor divide, not dismantling the safety net of social welfare, and blaming people who suffer long-term disability, or immigrants.

We have been manipulated by the media and politicians into voting against our self-interests. We have elected politicians who have massively increased national debt, while at the same time making people more insecure in their jobs, less financially well-off.

Now, the politically inactive class have become radicalised, in voting for right-wing policies, and for relinquishing politically progressive ideals, which had given us greater protection for ordinary working people.

A vote to leave the EU is further playing into the hands of wealthy property owners, who want to see the clock rolled back to a time when there were no labour unions, worker rights and there was no job security or opportunity to better yourself. Brexit is vote to increase the power of a bunch of Eton-educated toffs, who have never done a hard day's work in their lives.

Yes, things need to change, and things need to change quickly, if we are not going to suffer a terrible rebellion by a hard-pressed working public, that could sweep away most of the advancements that our society has made, at great expense.

However, reversing the result of a referendum that was already held once before, is not the way forward. The House of Commons should be just that: representative of the common person. Getting rid of EU gravy-trainers simply hands more power to the wealthy elite, who have presided over a shameful decline in the British public's standard of living, for far too long.

Voting Brexit sends completely the wrong message to the elite, and to nasty bigots, like UKIP's Nigel Farage. Voting Brexit emboldens those who wish to divide and rule us.




Work Will Set You Free

14 min read

This is a story about ingratitude...

Big gates

Give me liberty, or give me death!

How do you like living in the free world? Freedom of speech, not that anybody's even listening and you'll never get into print. Freedom to work, if you can get a job, and you'll have to pay exorbitant taxes. Freedom to do what you want, if you're not dead and have any spare time and energy after working a job until you're nearly 70 years old. Freedom to buy what you want, except you probably can't afford it.

There: that's the ingratitude part out of the way. Do I actually think like that? Some people think I do. You'll have to read between the lines to see where I am being self-mocking, humorous, sarcastic and even a little farsical in the interests of courting controversy.

This talk of death and suicide sounds a little flippant, a little melodramatic, but in actual fact, it's shaped my mindset.

I was always impossible to manage, and fearless talking to people of all ranks and status. I refuse to be cowed by credentials and hierarchy. I refuse to know my place.

If you were to just dip into part of my story, and try to make a knee-jerk assumption about me, you might assume that I think I'm better than other people. You might think I'm an entitled snob, a spoiled little brat. You would have misjudged me, and instead you've failed to understand that I'm coming at things from a totally different end of the spectrum.

I'm not claiming that I'm hard done by and that I've made my own luck and worked my way up from the bottom. On closer examination, these claims always prove to be horse-shit. When we look at people who claim to be self-made success stories, the tale is always ridiculous. For starters, many of the ones I've encountered came from loving homes in middle-class families, with parents who had a profession, a job for life. There has been financial security and a good education, even if they paint themselves as some sort of working class hero.

My tale is slightly different. I'm judging things based on the experiences I had when I had nothing. No roof over my head, and no money. I'm judging life based on how close I came to death. I literally made a life-or-death decision... actually on a couple of occasions.

So, I write from a position of knowing how it feels to have nothing. I write from a position of knowing how it feels to have to choose to act to stay alive, or else inaction would lead to death.

Based on this standpoint, I judge things very differently. You might think I'm ungrateful to have a "good" job. You might think I'm ungrateful for my opportunities. In actual fact though, I'm just judging things relatively. I think to myself "am I more or less happy than when I had nothing" and "am I more or less inclined to die, than the time that I nearly died before".

There's a cold hard rational core within me, that could quite easily slice my veins open, in a sudden brutally decisive act, if I decided that the effort of maintaining myself in a state of perpetual unhappiness and struggle would be ridiculous.

British Commerce

As a subject of Her Majesty the Queen of England, I was indoctrinated in the state schools of the United Kingdom, to become a loyal wage-slave, contributing to stability, increase and ornament of British commerce. Does it give me any pleasure or pride to say that? No, not really.

My very first job was for a Ministry of Defence subcontractor, and I actively contributed to Great Britain's military capability, as a naval power, to further their imperialist ambitions. Should that give me a lump in my throat when I see the Union Jack and hear the national anthem? Actually, no, it makes me think about the high price that is paid by the nations we have subjugated, in order to pay for the lifestyle I enjoyed.

Do people enjoy their lifestyle? Huge numbers of ordinary working age people can't afford a house, a family, a wedding. Most ordinary working folks hate their shitty jobs and their long commutes. Most ordinary working folks fret about getting ahead in the work rat race, or getting their kids good exam grades so that they can die an early death due to stress-related illness. But the good news is that you're not going to have to die in poverty if you drop dead at your desk, given that the pensions are in a meltdown.

It looks so hypocritical. The Westeners sit there in their sedentary jobs, comfort-eating themselves to death through obesity-related illness and giving themselves repetitive strain injury from their mouse and keyboard, cataracts from their computer screen and a bad back from slouching in a chair all day. Our short life expectancy is a function of stress, depression and poor lifestyle 'choices'. Meanwhile, the developing world slaves away, with the dream of attaining a western-style lifestyle. Supposedly, the West is the model the world should follow.

However, maybe we got it wrong. In other cultures, the smartest member of the family gets sent away to study and work, so that they can send money back to their family to support them. Isn't that something to get out of bed in the morning? Being the breadwinner for your family.

Instead of the young, fit and active people being the economic providers, we have instead tipped our society on its head, where we worship the 'grey pound'. Since the pension funds became the biggest investors in all our companies, and all the wealth pooled in the accounts and property portfolios of the baby boomers, we now have an impoverished youth, who have a much lower quality of life than their mothers and fathers, and far fewer opportunities to provide for even themselves and their own offspring, let alone feathering the nest still further of their elderly relatives.

I went to the Southampton Boat Show last year, and instead of successful young businessmen treating themself to a toy, as a reward for their hard work, ambition and ingenuity, it was baby-boomers who were spending their kids and grandkids inheritance, as a reward for having created an asset bubble that has meant crashes in both the stock market and the housing market.

I know that all the pounds of economic output that I generate will simply disappear into a pensions black hole, to pay out final-salary schemes for a generation who have nothing but contempt for their kids and grandkids.

Would you toil and toil, if you had no prospect of ever being self sufficient? If you were simply working for ungrateful masters who called you lazy and stupid? If the wealth that you generated simply inflated asset prices further out of reach, concentrated in the hands of the idle coffin-dodgers who didn't work to create the very assets that they own?

Tie Die

Since when did it become a bad thing to be motivated to work? Why should we be so fearful of immigrants, who are young, fit and economically active? The very language smacks of greedy hoarders who are like a dog in a manger.

Every year we have more students than ever before achieving the top exam grades, yet we print headlines and stories asking if exams are getting easier. Homework and the pressure to succeed is driving ever increasing numbers of young people to suicide, but yet it isn't good enough.

The prospects for young people are awful. The minimum wage is lower, and they'll never be able to get married, have kids and buy a house like their parents did. Why do we label them as 'gangs', 'hoodlums' and 'thugs' and mock them for their materialistic attachments to modestly priced bling, like gold cellphones and other trinkets that cost a fraction of the homes and cars that their parents had as their status-symbols?

Why do we not see the link between demanding endless dividends on our shares and ever-increasing capital gains, and the need for corporations to suppress wage inflation, which impoverishes our working-age people?

There are many people who would say that I'm not entitled to ask these questions, given my six-figure income. There are many people who think I should just shut up and take the money, because it's there.

In actual fact, I'm going further than just asking difficult questions. I'm actually putting my job on the line.

I lost two big money contracts because I refuse to be bought. I refuse to stay my tongue, just because I'm being paid a lot of money. Is it unprofessional, arrogant, reckless, stupid? Actually, it's none of those things.

I struggled a lot with middle-class guilt, but predictably, I did very little about it. I used to wring my hands and say "but what can I do?" while reading the Observer and The Guardian newspapers, and having passionate discussions about putting the world to rights, while quaffing expensive wine in fine restaurants in North London. This was hypocrisy. The final straw would have been going on a sponsored run and doing some kind of gift-aid contribution out of my salary every month, to salve my conscience and give me some kind of sense of smug satisfaction that I'd played my part.

Instead, I went on a journey. I've been to the bottom and back again. You might think that my risk was underwritten by my middle-class family, but they actually turned their back on me, when I had apparently left my social rank and become 'untouchable'. I was disowned, disinherited.

I can never claim to know what it was like growing up in abject poverty. My parents might claim that they never had any money, what with my mum being a student and my dad working behind a bar in a caravan site, when I was born. However, my granddads were both professional men with good pension provisions, who were able to bail out my drug-addled hopeless parents whenever they really hit hard times. The same privilege was never extended to me. Perhaps I should have recklessly sowed my wild oats, and then pled poverty when there were extra mouths to feed, like they did.

Me in the office

A parent's relief that their child is alive and physically healthy has no bearing on whether a person feels grateful to be alive. I didn't choose to be born and I don't want to go on living, if life is just endless misery and suffering. If you expect your kids to love you unconditionally, you're just plain wrong. It totally depends on how you treat them, and there's a real generational problem.

Handing over a planet and an economy that's absolutely fucked, and then retiring, is pretty ridiculous if the generation who are going to have to clean up the mess, accept austerity measures and live a lifestyle that is unimaginably frugal, in order to allow pollution to return to safe levels. It's a bad deal, by anybody's reckoning.

It's in my nature to question everything and anything. There are no taboos for me. There is no 'respect your elders' bullshit, because the first question is "why?". Why should I respect the generation that proliferated nuclear armaments, caused global warming, deforestation, pollution of the water table, an asset bubble that's priced ordinary working people out of the market, an unprecedented increase in the rich:poor gap and widespread economic calamity and didn't think about how they were going to afford their retirement, except by mortgaging the future of their children and grandchildren.

Why do I work? I can't tell you, but I can tell you what damage working does to humanity.

The wealth that I generate goes to corporations, who pay it out in the form of dividends or use it to inflate asset prices, to generate growth for their majority shareholders, who are institutional investors - asset managers - whose job it is to generate yet more wealth for an idle elite who expect to receive final salary pensions and an amazing lifestyle, in return for having wrecked the world.

And you wonder why I struggle to get out of bed in the morning and get excited about going to work?

People that I've worked with throughout my career have read what I've written, and I'm slowly making myself unemployable. How could you employ me, knowing that I don't subscribe to the groupthink? How could you employ me, knowing that I speak my mind, and have no respect for the instruments of power? How could you employ me, knowing that I'm not cowed by fear and insecurity?

I'm impossible to control, using the millstone of debt and the threat of destitution. For me, destitution is freedom. Freedom from the oppression of working a job that only serves to line the pockets of an ungrateful elite who have no respect for the workers of the world, and are only interested in a comfortable retirement at the expense of over 50% of the world's people.

Obviously, I think to myself "I must take this down" or "I must cover this up" or "I must keep my mouth shut". There's a part of me that just wants to take the king's shilling and let him call the tune, no matter how maddened I am by degrading myself as the court jester.

There is so much false promise. Work today and be happy tomorrow. Fritter away my cash on good times to forget about the soul-less day-to-day existence and futility of it all, is what I could so easily do. I've done it before.

I sometimes laugh at myself, so full of middle-class angst, but there's a deep seriousness here. It's just bullying groupthink to call somebody a hypocrite or a champagne socialist. The fact of the matter is, somebody has to do something, because we're sleepwalking towards disaster. The middle classes are just about comfortable enough to write letters and furrow their brows with concern, but not enough to actually risk their jobs or their reputations and good social standing.

Every day I sit at my desk, unable to not think about the bigger picture, unable to put the futility of it all out of my mind. I think "what the hell am I doing here?" and even though I'm good at my job and I am perfectly capable of toeing the line and keeping my bosses happy, I inevitably start to rock the boat, just because I have so much barely concealed contempt for a system that so obviously fails to serve the bulk of humanity.

I've let a genie out of the bottle, by considering the wider questions that we face as a species. I've gone down a rabbit-hole of thought, and I can't stop chasing that rabbit, even though I'm throwing away golden opportunities that people would love to have themselves.

Please try not to get caught in the trap of thinking this is a simple case of ingratitude.

Office worker bee

My values and my work are really not at all aligned, and it grates with me, to the point where I really don't give a shit if I lose my job, but I'm not stupid... I know that I only have to play by the rules for a short amount of time, and then I can let the world know what I really think and who I really am, before my horrified bosses get rid of me. Please just kill me.