Skip to main content

I write every day about living with bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression. I've written and published more than 1.3 million words


The Boy Done Good

6 min read

This is a story about achievement...


If I manage to slip the bonds of the United Kingdom tomorrow, I will have done extremely well. I know for certain that I do not have COVID-19, of any variety, because I am tested every week by the University of Oxford/ONS study, and I never leave the house except to go mountain biking on my own. Additionally, I literally just received the results of a very rapid but very accurate new test, which is about as good as anybody can ever get at saying "I haven't got COVID".

I mean, it's very simple: I just don't have it.

I don't socialise. I don't leave the house. My cat doesn't leave the house. I don't have children (which is the main thing) and I haven't travelled for 16 consecutive months, so it is impossible for me to have caught it.

The people who have caught it and who have been spreading it, are the people with children; the people who've been going to pubs and other social gatherings, the people who've been circulating amongst their friends and family... basically, carrying on like normal. Of course, then there are the people, for whom direct social contact is unavoidable. There are so many jobs which can't be done from the safe comfy confines of a home office, and those jobs are essential to almost all our lives.

However, in most cases the virus is being transmitted entirely unnecessarily: just close the schools; close the non-essential businesses... and by non-essential, I mean NOBODY'S GOING TO FUCKING STARVE IF YOUR GYM HAS TO CLOSE.

I am, however, a hypocrite. Although I have spent all year as a recluse - a hermit - and I wasn't one of the heaving masses who flocked to the shops when they re-opened, or rushed to the beach, or threw house parties. I wasn't one of the crowd. I wasn't one of the herd. Despite my laudable behaviour, regarding lockdowns and suchlike, I eventually needed a holiday. I am attempting to have a holiday.

I must admit that I was very sneaky. As soon as populist governments started talking about giving people a "normal" Christmas I knew that expectations would be set unrealistically, and it would be politically impossible to do a U-turn, having built up the nation's hopes of enjoying a very brief period of yuletide festivities: basically, to snatch away the nation's excuse to get drunk, spend loads of money, and eat loads of festive food, seemed unconscionable, once the expectation had been set.

It's a logical impossibility to say "we're following the science" and also talk about a "Christmas ceasefire"... let alone make a series of moronic date-based predictions, which were ostensibly not based on any science: nobody possesses a crystal ball. When politicians spoke of beating the virus by Easter, July 4th, the start of the new academic year... are they really so stupid? No. This is modern populist politics, where ideas are tested on focus groups and policies are driven by vote-winning data. Yes, politicians are following the science: the data science of how to push people's buttons, which is usually the preserve of the advertising industry.

So, I booked a holiday, with the dates intentionally matching the "Christmas ceasefire" with the virus, as promised by our Prime Minister. I thought, foolishly, that any U-turn would be such a huge disappointment, and spread such anger with the government's bungling of the pandemic, that they wouldn't dare to break their promises.

Instead, what we have ended up with, is a system so bureaucratically complex as to be unenforceable, and indeed a momentum in the country, which inevitably builds in the lead-up to Christmas, that martial law, curfews, road blockades, sabotaged bridges and other such activity, would not stop the average British family from proceeding with their Christmas plans, which were so meticulously made.

If German and English soldiers weren't prepared to kill each other, during the famous WWII ceasefire, and even played a game of football in no-man's-land, what policeman or solider is going to break up a typical family of otherwise-law-abiding and obedient servants of the crown, for the crime of getting their family together for an event so deeply enshrined in our culture? Even the most officious of policeman and soldier, is also indoctrinated by their cultural upbringing, and so they empathise and sympathise with the plight of those who have been asked to follow insanely complicated rules, at the last minute... so much so that the politicians and their 'power' are shown to be utterly worthless, in the face of two things: 1) a virus, which does not know about any culturally significant events in the calendar of particular civilisations; and 2) a population, which already knows and accepts that many of its elderly will not survive the winter; death is inevitable.

I'm the worst kind of hypocrite, because I know that I am prone to thinking that there's "one rule for me, and one for everyone else". Like the very most despicable people on earth, I know what's good for you. I do not, of course, practice what I preach. Perhaps, for example, I will be the individual who is unknowingly carrying a mutant variant of COVID-19, which will ultimately return humanity to the stone age. Because of my selfish individualism, all the "end of lockdown" partying and other acts of myopic idiocy will pale into insignificance.

The next time I write to you, I will have either successfully pulled off an egregiously antisocial act, which might seem small and inconsequential if considered in isolation, but, we must look at the bigger picture: perhaps I am the patient zero, and the ultimate hypocrite.

In fact, I cannot be the ultimate hypocrite, because I have always recognised the importance of certain festivals and other events in the calendar of different cultures, and I actually agreed that attempting to have a somewhat normal Christmas was the right thing to do. The unforgivable error, in my opinion, was the cynical attempt to do a U-turn, and hide behind an unfathomable rulebook, in the hope that the blame could be deflected onto the individuals, instead of the politicians who made promises they couldn't keep. I, personally, would have held a press release and just said: "you're going to kill granny and granddad, but you're allowed to make that choice if you want: you're not stupid; you can be led by the science too... it's not that hard".

Anyway, spare a thought for your poor author: laying on a comfortable bed in a 5-star hotel, penning this essay, tragically unable to utilise the swimming pool or eat in the award-winning restaurant. Spare a thought for the stress your author has endured, not knowing with certainty whether or not he will be able to board a flight to paradise tomorrow, or not. Your hand-wringing over a paltry 1.7 million deaths pales into insignificance, when compared with my own very real first-world problems.




I Need This Job

9 min read

This is a story about income...


Three strikes and you're out, is standard practice, in the workplace. I believe, for regular salaried employees, they are allowed a certain number of verbal warnings, written warnings, and then they can be fired, without fear of legal repercussions. Obviously the process of getting rid of a bad employee is fraught with difficulties, if you want to avoid employment tribunals, unfair constructive dismissal lawsuits and other such comeback, but generally speaking, if somebody is frequently reprimanded for unacceptable conduct in the workplace, they will find themselves booted fired from their job, eventually.

There are acts of gross misconduct, gross negligence, sexual misconduct, workplace bullying, discrimination on the grounds of a protected characteristic, conviction for a crime, and other extreme circumstances which are grounds for immediate dismissal, but those are not the topic of this essay.

Most people are grateful to have a job. Most people are grateful for their salary. Most people need their salary to pay their mortgage, bills and to buy food, not to mention school uniforms for their spawn, petrol to put in the car to drive their progeny to school in a massive gas-guzzling 4x4, and regular delivery of cotton wool in which to wrap their precious darlings in... and other associated costs of being a fully-paid-up card-carrying member of the "I'm a mindless animal, no different from a slug or a wasp" club.

Yes, for most people, the worry about losing their job is second only to their worry about their child being harmed or killed.

That's normal. That's been the same for so long, that we have started to believe that it's natural and perhaps even a law of the universe which cannot be defied, like the speed of light.

I have some shocking news for you: we don't need jobs, mortgages, money, exams, certificates, qualifications. If, as you all have demonstrated en masse, your only intention is procreation, then your car hire-purchase of an expensive shiny new 4x4, which you lovingly wash every Sunday, looks ludicrously absurd. "But I need that car to drive the kids to school, and to get to work" you protest. No. You do not need to take your kids to school. You do not need to go to work. "But if my kids don't go to school they won't do exams and get qualifications so they can get a job". Correct... you're just repeating what I just said: you do not need to take your kids to school. "But how will they get jobs?". They don't need jobs. "I need a job. I will lose my job if I don't go to work. I need to go to work to get money, to pay my mortgage". No. None of this is necessary.

You have been indoctrinated into a weird cult, where a person gets a job as a baker, so that they can get paid a salary, and use the money to purchase a slice of one of the loaves of bread that they baked.

Are you fucking insane?

"But I don't know how to build a house! I don't know how to harvest wheat!" you wail.

Well, guess what, if you weren't so fucking busy with your mortgage-car-loan-drive-kids-to-school-for-pointless-exams-going-to-pointless-job laughable existence, you'd have plenty of time to learn how to build a house, although you already have a house so that seems pretty pointless. You'll be able to learn how to harvest wheat... less than 1% of the population is involved in agricuture: 1 person can feed 1,000, so the labour is not going to be difficult or back-breaking, escpecially with agricultural mechanisation.


You cannot comprehend any other way of life than your current absurd one..

You have been indoctrinated into the weird cult, so successfully, that you can't imagine any other way of life, other than the miserable merry-go-round, which condemns your children to abysmal living standards; depression, suicide, poverty. Your refusal to open your eyes and see that we are heading in the wrong direction is condeming your children and grandchildren to a dystopian nightmare; a horrendously horrible life of suffering, pain and discomfort.

The point of my essay is this: I don't need your fucking job, OK?

I want to help people. I want to do useful stuff. I want to make a valuable contribution. I want to work hard, for the betterment of human society. I really really really really want to have the opportunity to use my skills and experience, to make the world a better place.

I'm bored and unchallenged and under-utilised and, frankly, I can't fucking stand it when I see idiotic shit happening, and I'm not allowed to go and help out; to go and fix things. All I want to do is build brilliant useful stuff and I fucking hate it, when because of organisational political bullshit, I'm not allowed to go and put my skills to use, where they would be most usefully employed.

Okay, I'm an arrogant arsehole, but I'm the arrogant arsehole who's made massive contributions to absolutely massive flagship projects for global organisations on many occasions. I'm not yelling "listen to me; do what I tell you to do, immediately"... I'm yelling "what the fuck are you doing, not using my extremely expensive and valuable talents, which I am desperate to give to whoever needs them the most". I'm yelling "I am extremely competent and capable and productive... what the fuck are you doing, wasting my valuable time, having me sitting around bored all the fucking time?".

I don't need your fucking job. I don't need your fucking money. I have a plan: if my contract is terminated, I'll just kill myself, because I am absolutely fucking sick of corporate organisational bullshit; I am absolutely fucking sick of the rat race, where the rats are 'just about managing' and everything is a colossal clusterfuck cock-up, and the fucking 'talent' are kept in the dusty trophy cabinet, untouched.


On the flip side, I'm sorry that I take out my frustration on people, sometimes. I'm sorry that I 'lose the plot' and go on big rants, in an environment which is supposed to be purely professional, but there's FUCK ALL professional about massive incompetence. There's FUCK ALL professional about massive FAILURE. I didn't go into a profession to be a FUCKING FAILURE, OK? I want to work on projects which are massive SUCCESSES, and the way I make that happen, is that I work REALLY FUCKING HARD on whatever is on fire.

So, I've taken out my frustration on various unfortunate parts of the organisation, which have felt the sharp end of my tongue, and that will probably end up with my contract being terminated early. FINE. FUCK YOU, YOU FUCKING MORONS. You don't need my help to fuck everything up, but you DO need my help to make things a success... so please understand that I'm REALLY REALLY SORRY that my frustrations have boiled over and I've been raging and ranting. PLEASE understand that I'm really sorry, and I'm doing everything in my power to fix that.


However, also.

Please understand, that I am BEGGING YOU for the opportunity to help make things a success. I'm not applying for a role, with a committee to decide on whether I'm the right man for the job, in the hope of having my job description changed, and some pointless fucking announcement from a waste-of-space middle manager. What I'm basically saying is: STUFF IS ON FIRE... LET ME PUT THOSE FIRES OUT. What I'm basically sayings is: YOU'VE ALMOST RUN OUT OF TIME... LET ME CATCH YOU UP.

It doesn't seem like an unreasonable request, to be begging to save your fucking project from being an utter shitshow.

And yes, I know "utter shitshow" is not tactful and diplomatic language, but maybe ALLOW ME TO STOP THE SHITSHOW and then I'll tone down my language.

On a personal level, everyone I work with is really nice and the project is really cool. But, seriously, I'M HERE TO FUCKING HELP.

I know that going mental at everyone could be [wrongly] dismissed as 'unhelpful' but somebody has to be Cassandra here. Also, I'm bringing you SOLUTIONS not PROBLEMS.

It's not personal. I'm not attacking the individuals. The problem is endemic in all large organisations. It's me who's the weirdo; the misfit. It's easier to get rid of me, and carry on with the shitshow, than to accept my help.

For my side of the bargain, I'll stop going apeshit when I'm no longer bored shitless, forced to watch an enormous about of stuff being horrendously botched, but not allowed to get involved and sort things out. When I'm busy fixing stuff, I'm happy, content, and I have no time or inclination to explode with frustration and annoyance, at the shitshow all around me, because I'm working as hard as I can to turn things around.

Just, please, for the love of god, let me do what I'm good at.

On a personal note, I've found out that people have taken things I've written very personally. It's not personal. I know everyone is working hard. I know everyone is stressed. All I can say is, that I'm very sorry; I'm full of remorse that upset was caused. But, please let me help you. I can't excuse the fact I upset you, but I can assure you that if you let me help you then my tendency towards screaming "WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS UTTER HORSE-SHIT?" is somewhat lessened... although such outbursts are never directed at any individuals.

This probably won't make for great reading, but what does it matter? The choices are simple: either I'm able to occupy myself productively, sorting out problems, or I'm booted out of the door, and my plans to commit suicide arrive a little sooner than expected. I'VE GOT NOTHING TO LOSE. I WAS GOING TO KILL MYSELF ANYWAY.





6 min read

This is a story about muscle memory...


Anybody who says that muscles have memory is an idiot. Let's just get that out of the way, straight away. Muscles are controlled by the nervous system, but they are not part of the nervous system. It's true that some of our reflexes can happen without direct control from our brain, but the reflexive action is due to motor neurons not muscles. Of course, it is the muscles which contract, pulling on the tendons, which ultimately creates the movement, but the muscles themselves do not have any 'memory'... they are not part of the nervous system, as I already explained.

This essay is about the strange sensation of 'running on autopilot', which is to say, the performing of a complex sequence of actions, without conscious thought process; without 'thinking' or 'controlling' what's happening, in a conscious way which makes us think that what we are doing is due to premeditated, pre-planned and voluntary action.

If I was, for example, playing a game of tennis, when my opponent served the ball to me, I'd like to think that I analyse the flight path of the ball, predict where it is going to land, calculate where I need to stand, decide to swing my racket at the appropriate moment, and guide my racket head precisely to intersect with the path of the ball, such that I strike it not too hard and not too soft, so that it clears the net and remains in the court.


I mean, sure, a total beginner might try to do that, but everything happens way too fast. In fact, once you reach professional tennis - which I never will... I'm pretty bad tennis player - then the ball is travelling so fast that there is not enough time for the images coming from your eyes, to reach the part of the brain which would do the 'conscious thinking' and 'decision making' and then get the instructions to the motor cortex, to send the signals to your arm to move the racket, in order to return the serve. There. Is. Not. Enough. Time.

So, what's happening then?

Well, the more tennis serves you return, the more 'hard wired' the reflexes become. A smaller number of cues provide a greater, and more importantly earlier, response than a person who's never picked up a tennis racquet before. In fact, the ability of the human brain to respond to the subtle cues can become so fine-tuned, that a professional tennis player will lunge left or right at more or less the same time as the opponent's racquet strikes the ball... which surely means it's impossible for the receiving player to be reacting... doesn't it? Yes.

Yes... what you think very often is you exercising your free will - making choices and deciding to do stuff - is totally an illusion. If somebody throws a ball at your head, you'll probably catch it before your 'conscious decision-making' brain has had a chance to catch up. You'll find yourself holding the ball in the hand you caught it in, but you'll still be wondering where it came from... and you definitely won't remember making the decision to catch it, because there wasn't enough time to follow the longer thought process: "I see a ball travelling towards me, I think it's going to hit me, I should catch it, okay I'm going to move my hand so it's in the right position to catch it, okay it's in my hand now, I should close my fingers to catch the ball"... nope... doesn't work like that.

So, that's the simple sports example out of the way. What about more complicated stuff?

Do you drive a car? Do you drive 'manual' (also known as 'stick shift' in North America)? If you think about the process of driving a car, there's a lot of multitasking. In the UK, where manual transmission is the norm, we are controlling the clutch, gearstick, accelerator, brake, steering wheel, indicators, horn, and sometimes lights at night and/or windscreen wipers in rain or snow. In addition, we are often fiddling with the temperature, de-misting controls and in-car entertainment. Finally, we are usually having a conversation with our passengers, while also looking at the vehicles around us in 360 degrees, using our mirrors, glancing at our children buckled up in the back seat, eating, drinking and maybe making phone-calls and/or operating the GPS. Do you think all of that happens with a lot of conscious thought? Nope. It's mostly the opposite: you're on autopilot.

Do you ever get somewhere, where you regularly go, and you can't remember a single thing about the journey? Autopilot. I don't mean that you own an expensive self-driving car. I mean autopilot in the colloquial sense, meaning that your brain just magically did all the thousands of thoughts and actions for you, without you having to think: you had plenty of time to think about other stuff even though you were hurtling down the road many times faster than you'd have been if you were riding a horse or running.

Where does autopilot end? What is the limit of autopilot?

My personal opinion is that it's virtually unlimited. Chess grandmasters can win games without having to think at all: they can play entirely in autopilot mode, and beat almost any opponent.

We love to think of ourselves as thinking creatures - homo sapiens, the so-called 'wise' man - but the bulk of everything we do, day in, day out, is just a circus trick which we have learned by repetition. We do very little thinking at all. Even the most incredibly complicated looking activities, like playing chess, have been proven to be nothing more than pattern recognition and autopilot responses, which have been learned over the course of thousands and thousands of games; indistinguishable from a chimp that's learned to press a button to get a piece of fruit as a reward.




Everybody Wants to Die Rich

5 min read

This is a story about retirement...

Opera house

It's unusual that nobody sets out to be impoverished in old age - quite the opposite - but most people will end up poor during the twilight years of their life. It is unusual that so much money is pumped into pension funds, but so few enjoy a wealthy retirement.

I suppose, for people who work but don't earn much, there's an ever-decreasing opportunity to build up any kind of pension pot. Since the demise of both final-salary pensions, and social housing, the difficulty of balancing the immediate needs of food, housing, clothing and other essentials, far outweighs the impending old-age poverty. Although the home-ownership fetish appears to lead to some security, in fact the cost of council tax, energy bills and food, is still substantial enough to erode anybody's meagre pension income, even without the cost of a mortgage. Old-age poverty is inevitable.

Given that we are all aiming for the same thing, in theory, it's remarkable that most of us fail to achieve it.

I suppose some will say that they love their work, and they're happy to accept that they're underpaid, because they are happy with their career. I suppose some will say that friends and family are their wealth, and haven't paid much attention to the trivial financial nonsense. In fact, they all care about what happens to them in old age, it's just that they assume - wrongly - that things will work out OK. Things will not work out OK.

Pensions are, unfortunately, a Ponzi scheme. All public companies function on the basis that very large pension funds will automatically have to buy their shares, once they reach a certain market capitalisation (i.e. valuation). Many private companies, angel investors, venture capitalists, private equity fund managers, entrepreneurs, investment banks, and whole swathes of other ancillary leeches, function on the assumption that there is a virtually unlimited supply of new suckers, prepared to pump a substantial portion of their wages, into the Ponzi scheme, allowing others to siphon it all off. There are more people withdrawing obscene amounts of unearned money, than there are honest hard-workers injecting new money into the system, and as such, failure is inevitable.

I find it very unusual that many people feel wedded to a particular corporation, which evidently pays them very little versus the market value of their labour, which can be worked out by the profit generated for the company. The argument is often that it's a "safe" job, that redundancy money provides "financial security" and that they're somehow locked into a pension scheme, which is expected to provide a "generous" retirement.


Everybody wants to retire well-off, but unfortunately, demographics and the refusal by the generation who most recently retired, and are in the process of retiring, has brought the whole Ponzi scheme crashing down.

Not everyone can retire on a final salary pension. In fact, already, far too many have been allowed to retire on a final salary pension. The huge burden placed upon the few at the bottom, by the massive number of grotesque fat greedy pigs at the top, creates an inverted pyramid which must, inevitably, topple over.

Yes, it's all well and good having a lot of industrial action to demand the impossible. Useless do-nothing people in do-nothing jobs went on strike, threatening to do nothing and harm nothing... then when they finally pissed off and made some space for others to get promoted and start earning a decent wage, there are now too few of the decent salary earners to pay for the disgustingly high final-salary pensions which were unearned by the lazy fucks who expect to spend a far greater proportion of their natural lives than any generation in human history, riding on the backs of the overworked and underpaid working class.

Yes. My granny and granddad spent approximately 15 to 20% of their lifetime in retirement, which was pretty good going. Now that has doubled. To expect to spend 35 to 45% of your life, with good health, living by picking the pocket of your sons, daughters, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, is criminal.

The generation who just retired and is in the process of retiring, will die rich, up to a point. Inflation eroded their debts and gifted them vast property wealth, without having to do a single day of labour. They will, of course, have to relinquish a small amount of that wealth when they eventually need to go into a nursing home, but because of good diet and medicine, they will enjoy the health of a 40 or 50 year old from their parents' generation... for many decades.

Meanwhile, the generation who are working now, today, will have no opportunity to retire rich, unless they are in the top 2 or 3% of earners; born into a wealthy family. For 97% of the country, nothing awaits in old age except for cold and hunger.

It is highly unusual that, despite all the furious energy expended, scurrying around busy as hell, so few people have managed to comprehend the fact that their effort is futile: they're going to die poor, and their children are already poor; their grandchildren are just utterly fucked. Take a look around: there's nothing for them... no jobs, and no comfortable retirement at the end of it. It's all fucked.

I'm afraid neither compound interest, financial planning, nor hard work is going to make the blindest bit of difference: the numbers are too stacked against you; Ponzi schemes always fail eventually.




No Consequences

4 min read

This is a story about machine learning...

Up a tree

We like to believe in karma. We like to believe that evildoers will get their comeuppance eventually. We like to believe that virtue will be rewarded eventually. We like to think that there are natural laws, which bring everything into equilibrium: what goes up must come down.

Not true.

I find it very hard to objectively analyse my present situation: is it a punishment, or a reward? Is this one of the best periods of my life or one of the worst? With no absolute scale - no universal yardstick - it's impossible to measure myself, either against prior experiences, or against other individuals.

Very quickly, we get bogged down in difficult questions: is the 'winner' of life, the richest soul in the graveyard, or the poorest? We instinctively ascribe success to the rich, but we do not consider how much they might have sacrificed in order to accumulate that wealth. "Can't spend it when you're dead" goes the old saying. It's true: how much living to people miss out on, because they're saving for a rainy day which never comes?

One of my life's most treasured experiences was homelessness and sleeping rough. Of course, it was insanely traumatic at the time, but as time has passed, all that I'm left with is the happy memories; the hair-raising anecdotes; the adventures.

Perhaps I never truly believed that I was ruined; that my life was destroyed beyond repair. But, how could I have known enough about the future, to predict the astronomically remote possibility of the crucial events which helped me claw my way back from the brink of oblivion? How could I have known that things would work out OK in the end? How could I not have given up any hope of ever re-entering civilised society?

Perhaps I don't believe that I really am back. Certainly my present life is very odd, versus anybody else who considers themselves to be a fine upstanding example of a model citizen, carrying themselves through life productively, and as a valued member of society. Where are my wife, children, mortgage, car loan, life insurance, home insurance, car insurance, dental insurance, unemployment insurance, phone insurance, insurance insurance and suchlike? Where are the trappings which trap me? I certainly do not behave like a model capitalist consumer.

I am continually willing the world to block my way; to throw me out on the street; to cut off my income. I am continually willing the world to chuck me out of the club; to bar my entrance from civilised society. I am continually willing civilised society to force me out and into the underclass. I am continually willing those around me - work colleagues for example - to snap and lose their patience, and to say "you don't belong here! get out!".

I fantasise about total isolation, without a gun to my head: a little patch of ground to lie down on, where nobody will bother me, ever. I fantasise about being free from coercion.

I can forget about how coerced I am when I am busy, so I try to be frantically busy at all times. I never want to be alone with my thoughts, because I am so horrendously coerced: I'm not allowed to be idle for a single second. Every ounce of my productive capacity is milked, and then it's milked some more for good measure, but it's still not enough to pay for the privilege of breathing: somebody will slap an extra tax on me; demand money with menaces. I'm running as fast as I can to stand still, but I'm still going backwards.

Conversely, when I abandon the struggle, the dire consequences are not dire at all. While I spend most of my waking hours contemplating suicide, when I am being coerced, as soon as I collapse from exhaustion and abandon the rat race, life becomes seemingly worthwhile again: a Catch 22. I know that life is easier if you are wealthier, but it's impossible to become wealthy, because the rat race is so unbearable; unwinnable.

I live with dignity: independent, undeniably productive and industrious. I have proven beyond all reasonable doubt that I'm as good as anybody at this ridiculous game, but what good has it done me? I still go to bed alone, exhausted, anxious, afraid, depressed, isolated... but I also have the knowledge that, at all times, I can flush the whole stupid mess down the toilet and I'll be fine... better than fine, in fact... it will be better when the time comes, to cut loose from this coercive life.





5 min read

This is a story about assisted dying...


Having spent an extraordinary amount of time thinking and writing about suicide, as well as receiving a massive amount of emails from strangers in crisis, contemplating killing themselves, I don't claim to be exactly the same as a doctor who has specialised in euthanasia, or a crisis counsellor, but it's quite possible that we might have spent the same number of hours contemplating the same subject. My ignorance is not better than anybody's knowledge, but we are, after all, talking about the unknowable. Anybody who claims to know the unknowable is a charlatan.

The original charlatans would have been witch doctors and shamen, I suppose, claiming to have magical powers. Later, with the decline of magic and the rise of organised religion, the charlatans were, and indeed still are, priests. Debatably in modern times, there are [some] doctors who are charlatans. Anybody who says that doctors are scientific and evidence-led, has not met [enough] doctors, and truly understood their role and behaviour in society.

Of course, it's incorrect to say that the practice of witch doctors, shamen and medical doctors can be dismissed as equally groundless. In fact, we can ignore the obvious stuff - surgery, effective treatment for infection, life-support techniques - and look instead at what's common between the voodoo conjurers and your family doctor: neither of them will save your life, or the life of your child[ren], but both enjoy high social status, and we believe that they possess a power which they do not, which perversely can have a positive effect on our superstitious human psychology.

We must, for a minute, acknowledge that it is better to be soothed by a priest, telling us that we don't have to be afraid of death because we are going to heaven, or indeed soothed by a doctor who is telling us that everything is going to be OK because 'medical science'. Neither, in fact, possess the means to ease the burden of mortality, nor any knowledge to transform the human condition, beyond assistance in invoking a person's own capabilities of inducing a delusion: namely that life is anything other than a meaningless, godless existence, which ends with pain and terror.

Most of us will be so frantically pounding on life's treadmill, that we will scarcely have a moment to contemplate mortality, and if we do, it will be in the context of soothing the anxiety of our elderly relatives, and young children. The contemplation of our own individual mortality is a rich-man's hobby, and therefore something which only a very small percentage of the earth's inhabitants will ever have the wealth and privilege to do.

I might be such an idiot that I'm unable to correctly perceive and comprehend the depth and breadth of my own stupidity and ignorance, but, you would be foolish to deny that I have not had a lot more time to consider things than you, given that I have not been spending the majority of my waking hours attempting to shovel baked beans into the face of my grubby progeny.

It's banal and routine to ridicule first-semester philosophy majors, in the North American parlance, for thinking they just solved all philosophical problems at the first attempt. However, once you've figured out that we all end up as worm food, and all of human history and evidence of any human existence, will be obliterated so completely it will be as though humanity never existed, frankly, then at that point, all philosophy starts to look the same; equally absurd and meaningless.

Of course, subscribing to a certain life philosophy, or indeed a collection of different bits of philosophies, can make the difference between bearable or even very pleasurable periods of existence during a short mortal life, versus the unspeakable horror of experiencing the futility and meaninglessness of everything, raw and unfiltered, until you finally, gratefully and gladly expire.

Human inventions, like the wheel, sprung up independently in different times and places. No one human can ever claim to have a monopoly on, for example, a particular philosophical thought, because that thought can be arrived at independently.

To claim that religion and medicine - or at least, doctors who don't practice any medicine, but merely occupy the high-status role, dispensing ostensibly worthless advice - are totally and utterly without value to humanity is entirely wrong: they are valuable. The church keeps a great deal of humanity occupied with futile pursuits, but we must ask ourselves if it's truly futile, if it occupies people when they might otherwise become, like me, preoccupied with their own mortality. Many medical doctors practice a new form of religion, where we worship them and elevate them well beyond their capability to forestall or otherwise arrest our inevitable death, but is their value over-estimated, if our irrational belief in them eases the passage of our lives.

I wish, very often, that I was stupid enough to believe in god, or doctors.




The Expectation of Better

5 min read

This is a story about strategy...


We might say, unquestionably, our lives are better today than the lives of our grandparents; our quality of life is vastly better than when our grandparents were the same age we are today. Infant mortality and deaths in childbirth are vastly reduced, antibiotics and vaccines have virtually eradicated major diseases, food is abundant, high quality, tasty and nutritious, war is almost a forgotten memory; certainly the horrors of war are long forgotten... the proliferation of jingoistic moronic idiotic imbecilic poppy-shagging flag-shagging brain-dead meathead pillocks, is alarming, and those utterly brainless waste-of-space people think that war is glorious; they romanticise war.... however, there is only a tiny fraction of the war we once had, and that's a really good thing.

Thinking about things a bit more, however, we cannot say that universally life is better. It depends what you value. If you value a job for life, a good pension, community spirit, lifelong marriage, affordable housing, pleasant and rewarding work, beating your wife, beating your children, beating homosexuals, beating Black people, beating Brown people, imprisoning homosexuals, murdering criminals, oppressing women, murdering, beating, and oppressing the native inhabitants of the far reaches of Empire, and other 'old fashioned' values, as well as watching a substantial number of children die before reaching maturity, women dying in labour, masses of people dying from preventable diseases, shorter lifespans... if that sort of thing is more your cup of tea, then yes, maybe life has got worse.

We might consider, on a shorter timescale, whether our own life is getting better or worse. My own situation is mostly unchanged: I would have been able to afford an apartment in very central London as a twenty-something, and I could still afford that same apartment today, but it would swallow a larger proportion of my income, and I would have to cough up a larger chunk of my life savings as a deposit. We might consider the realistic prospect of me retiring: in my early twenties it looked likely that I would retire at age 50, in considerable comfort. Now, retirement at 75 would be possible. I suppose my options have not disappeared altogether, but I am a highly unusual individual; highly atypical.

Perhaps it is my expectations which are wrong?


The range of my expectations includes committing a victimless crime - defrauding a bank or other parasitic organisation out of such a tiny fraction of their exorbitant profit that it wouldn't be missed by anybody - and either netting myself enough money to retire, or a custodial sentence to provide food and lodgings for the rest of my natural life: a win-win situation. At the bottom end, my expectations also include homelessness, and indeed sleeping rough, both of which I am all-too familiar with: they hold no surprises for me; I know what to expect. At the top end of my expectation range, there's nothing more than owning a dwelling of some kind, and having enough money to eat and pay the mandatory minimum bills... better than a prison cell or whatever shelter I could manage, sleeping rough.

This, again, is very atypical.

If we study most of humanity, we see that the strategy is very different. Most people are engaged in the bestial pursuit of making copies of their genes through offspring. Most people are in denial about the decline in living standards, and are attempting to use their sharp elbows to barge their way through the crowd, in the delusional belief that they'll be able to - through sheer willpower - bend reality to meet their psychotic hallucinations. "This will make for a great anecdote during your interview at The University of Oxford, dearest little Joshua" parents will be saying to their children, as they scavenge through a burnt-out supermarket in the shadow of derelict skyscrapers, unable and unwilling to ever accept that thrusting their progeny into the middle of the post-capitalist collapse of global civilisation, was perhaps the most stupid and selfish act ever committed by a supposedly sentient creature.

Conversely, you might think that I am stupid for not having children and shackling myself to a job that I hate for the rest of my life, in the hope of receiving a measly pension in the twilight years of my life, which I won't get to enjoy because of heart disease, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. I am prepared to consider that maybe it's me who's got things wrong. Except, you'll have lots of time to think about it, until your dementia sets in, whereas I won't have to think about it at all, because I'll be deliberately dead at my own hand, having avoided my own suffering, and having avoided inflicting life's suffering onto any innocent children.

These are not original ideas, of course, but we would be wise to consider the alternatives to what might appear, at first glance, to be the obvious answers.




Minor Discomfort

4 min read

This is a story about unrealistic expectations...

Cleaning cupboard

I'm not sure where this 'unrealistic' thing came from. Realistically, we will succumb to a horrible disease, and then die. This much, our parents knew for certain when they decided to have children. Realistically, our parents knowingly condemned us to a life of deprivation and want; disease and death. Realistically, our expectation should be to die in fear, agony and discomfort, after struggle and suffering.

Is there any point in counting our blessings? Why not count our curses? Either option is comparably meaningless as a mortal creature in a godless universe.

I wonder how frequently a minor inconvenience seems sufficient grounds for suicide, to me. Certainly in the past few years, I've been so consumed with horrendous anxiety over 'trivial' life events, that I've lived with near-constant suicidal depression. I've lost count of the number of times that I've promised myself that I'll end the suffering if a certain unfortunate event occurs. I've lost count of the number of times I've felt, for a moment, on a knife edge about to end my life, triggered by seemingly the most minor of things; the most inconsequential and hard to fathom, for those who aren't troubled with such extreme sensations.

It's hard to know if things are getting better or worse. Certainly, I overcame problems with moving house, potentially losing my income, some invasive background checks, plus the hurricane-strength headwinds of debt and other money worries, which completely eroded any hope and sense of wellbeing, constantly. I dealt with breakups, losing my cat, a car which had to be scrapped, another car which got crashed into, multiple organ failure... you know, that kind of stuff. Normal everyday ordinary kinda stuff.

I'm no fan of the contrived platitudes about counting blessings, or suchlike idiotic nonsense. However, it did occur to me that I'm grateful that, for example, I have no need to deal with doctors or dentists; I have no need to deal with solicitors; I have no need to deal, on the whole, with the general public. I suppose it's a somewhat charmed existence, certainly versus being one of the oft-mentioned starving African children, or indeed the one any only person on the entire planet who's got it worse than everybody else, and therefore by extension is the only person out of nearly 8 billion, who's legitimately entitled to complain or feel sorry for themselves: everyone else has to suck it up and "count their blessings".

I reserve the right. I reserve the right to complain. I reserve the right to feel sorry for myself. I reserve the right to kill myself, whenever I want. I reserve those rights.

It seems to me, that the only way that humanity's self-awareness can be balanced, along with the curse of intellect which allows the perception of the futility of existence, is with the ability to end one's own life. Sure, vast swathes of humanity are too stupid and ignorant to be cursed with the comprehension of the awfulness and meaningless of existence; afflicted by angst, ennui, anxiety, depression and other horrors visited upon those who are elevated above the level of rutting beasts. Sure, it would be soul-soothing to be swept up in the mass hysteria; too busily acting like a slug or a wasp, intent on passing on its genes, like a mindless beast... sure that would obviously be better, in terms of personal suffering, but it's unethical to knowingly inflict such awfulness on an innocent victim: namely those children who did not consent to be born, nor indeed should have been born into such a dreadful world. There is no excuse for the crime of bringing children into this world, to suffer and die afraid, in pain, after a life of struggle, discomfort and unmet want.

I suppose it's an incredibly unoriginal and banal observation, that organised religion provides a convenient but provably wrong fantasy for those who wish to justify and forgive their own wicked deeds. You might argue that morality is the sole preserve of organised religion, and in a way you are right: there are no supernatural entities who sit in judgement over any of us; there is no objective morality; everything is permissable, within the confines of the universal laws of physics.

So, in conclusion: commit suicide, or commit murder, or don't. Nobody gives a shit. Nothing matters. Life is meaningless and all human history will be obliterated such that any and all existence of humanity's existence will be utterly undetectable; totally and irretrievably destroyed.





4 min read

This is a story about wishing my life away...


As a child I wanted to be a grown-up so that I could drive a car and buy whatever the heck I wanted; eat whatever I want; do whatever I want. Life has, in fact, kinda worked out for me in that regard. Life has, essentially, turned out to be everything I expected it to be. It really is child's play in fact, provided you stay true to your childish ambitions: I do, in fact, enjoy driving, expensive toys, eating whatever I want, and doing whatever I want.

I don't think I was ever so naïve as to think that things didn't have to be paid for. In fact, if there's one thing which has been front and centre of my mind, since the moment that consciousness sprang into my infant mind, it's that everything has to be paid for. You have to pay to play: I've always understood this.

As with childhood, I know that there's no other route to get where I want other than waiting. I had to wait until 17 years of age to get a full driving license, to enjoy the freedom of the road on my own. I had to wait for everything else I wanted too. I'm waiting now. My whole life is mostly waiting. Waiting for the stuff I want.

Older people, and particularly parents, are somewhat idiotic in telling children and younger people to not wish their lives away. It's moronic to tell somebody who has no freedom and cannot get what they want, that they should cherish a time of misery, suffering, deprivation and unmet want. What is there to cherish about being homeless? What is there to cherish about being hungry? What is there to cherish about having the world flaunt everything in your face, while you can only look on jealously? What is there to cherish about the impotence of having your life controlled by others? What is there to cherish in the waiting?

I've often written about this, but if I could take a pill and wake up ten years from now with no memory of the intervening decade, but all of my earnings in the bank, of course I'd take it. There's nothing I want from the present. I only want the opportunities which money can buy, which are locked up in the future, with nothing but grinding standing in the way.

Grinding is a well-understood thing, amongst younger people. In the absence of any realistic prospect of being able to afford to buy a house and start a family, it seems obvious that virtual worlds would flourish. Starting with games like The Sims, and then the infamous World of Warcraft, there has been an enormous explosion in popularity of games which aren't won per se, but instead offer a virtual reality where achievement and progress are possible, in a way which is not possible in the real world. No amount of supermarket shelf stacking will enable a young person to escape from their socioeconomic predicament - their preordained doom - and as such, it's little wonder that their tiny amount of disposable income would be frittered away on virtual objects; purchasing power so inadequate as to acquire any of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, such as shelter.

The gamification of life is all-pervasive. School is not about learning, but about grades to get into university. University is not about learning, it's the only route into a career without a ludicrously low glass ceiling. Jobs are not about passion or vocation, but each one a means to an end: a stepping stone on a career path towards... towards what? Towards a pension, and death hopefully. At least, hopefully, a long, painful, uncomfortable, illness-ridden, but not impoverished retirement, hopefully. At some point along the way, a partner will be acquired - whose looks and intelligence will be scored - and later there will be children who will also score points for their academic achievements. Everybody is keeping score.

The grind seems necessary, somehow. A means to an end, perhaps. Except, the summit is never reached. The goals are never achieved. There's no winning this game.




No Retreat

4 min read

This is a story about one-way streets...


An important reason why people commit suicide, which demands further discussion, is the way that life is set up so that retreat is almost impossible. Nobody ever asks for a demotion. Nobody ever asks for a pay cut. Nobody ever wants to pull their kids out of private school to put them into state school. Nobody ever wants to cut off their kids' allowance, or stop paying into a savings account for their university education. Nobody ever wants to lose their trophy partner, because they can't afford to keep them in the manner to which they have been accustomed. Nobody wants to downsize or move in with family. It's all a one-way street.

Taken in aggregate, a small bump in the road can easily be understood as something which would prompt somebody to commit suicide. While you might say to somebody who's lost their job "just get another job" it's actually much more complicated than that: most people are only one or two missed paycheques away from major financial difficulties. The whole house of cards can collapse very easily: everybody is leveraged to the max.

Of course, you might say that it's silly to get worked up about material things. "Of course" everyone would understand about having to sell the fancy car, not go on holiday, leave the fancy school, not buy the nice things, maybe not have the same opportunities. "Of course" so the saying goes "we've still got each other" except it doesn't work like that. When the money dries up, everyone fucks off, and then the vultures move in to pick any remaining flesh off the carcass.

Yes, we really do have to acknowledge that we all become highly leveraged such that relatively small problems are life-destroying, and as such, they are life-ending.

We humans are optimists by nature. We always assume that the stock market is going to keep going up, the housing market is going to keep going up, our salary is going to keep going up: everything must always go up, according to our human proclivity for optimism. It's not that people are stupid, although of course they are that too, but there's a fundamental hard-wired kind of specific stupidity I'm talking about: the tendency towards optimism, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

If we were beasts of pure reason and logic, we'd kill ourselves as soon as we grasped our situation: a life of pain, depression, anxiety, suffering, hard work and other unpleasantness, met with an inevitable death at the end. Why put yourself through that? Our self-preservation instincts have evolved to counteract our higher brain functions, lest our species die out, but still... why bother? It's completely illogical to live your life hoping for anything: death is inevitable; illness, pain and suffering is almost inevitable. Almost nobody dies "peacefully" in their sleep: decades of slow, painful and uncomfortable dying await us all.

Obviously, we hope to achieve symbolic immortality through our genes, passed on to our children. Or rather, our genes hope to be replicated. We are, after all, just a vessel for genes to reproduce themselves, and it would be foolish - an anthropocentric arrogant delusion of grandeur - to try to convince ourselves otherwise.

In the eternally optimistic quest for a "better life" we strive to get a bigger salary, bigger house, more attractive partner, as many kids as we can realistically feed and clothe... then we move onto status symbols, like university degrees, professional qualifications/certification, fancy cars, luxury holidays... still we are not satiated.

At some point, pretty early on in our life, we become locked into a certain destiny. Pretty much, once you've got kids, you are locked-into a certain kind of life: although you might fantasise about selling your house and living in a camper van, you never will, because you are locked in, in so many ways. Even if you're wealthy and single, you're never going to sell everything you own and become a homeless nomad. You might have gone off on a gap year, you predictable tedious middle-class wanker, but you know that any more gaps on your CV wouldn't look good on your otherwise unblemished career track-record.

Those who are unlucky enough to suffer a misfortune most often go one of two ways: they're kicked out of mainstream life, and must accept their plight trapped in the underclass forevermore, or they commit suicide. There's no other line of retreat; there's no way back, for those who err or suffer a misfortune.

This might seem like a bleak outlook, but you know it's true.