Published in The Huffington Post
Do you ever catch yourself, during the machinations of your day, pretending to be someone that you’re not? Like when your best sussed mate drones on about his piece of high-end pocket hardware and you smile and nod, except you really don’t give a toss? We all have to do a bit of pretending. Reading from the right script at the right time defines what it is to be normal, and in regards to gadgets, avoids you losing friends.
I’ll let you into a little secret. I pretend to be someone I’m not all day every day, but it’s a bigger act than faux diligence at work. I pretend to be a man. No, its not a transgender issue. I mean being a man in the traditional day-seizing, lady-killing, shelf-putter-uppering sense of the word. I’m not bad at pretending, and for the most part, people seem to believe me. But I’m rubbish at actually being one. Because, when it comes to being a man, my toss giving abilities are close to zero. Don’t cry! Don’t show weakness! Don’t be like a woman! Every time I’m expected to read from the pre-written script, a nagging voice inside my head reminds me that its not really who I want to be.
And it’s not just me. I know men that would love to go down on their girlfriends but can’t, for fear that their mates will find out and call them a ‘pussy’. I know stay-at-home fathers who lie, when asked about their profession, and say they work in an office. I know men for whom the most devastating possible insult is being called a woman. It makes you wonder what we teach young boys about women when they’re growing up.
So here’s another secret. I don’t think there’s anything wrong in being ‘like a woman’. If being a woman means I can demonstrate a little empathy or humility then I want to be one. We are more alike than we are unalike. And the people that say we live on Venus and Mars are only doing it to sell more self-help books.
Women often wonder why men behave like ‘dicks’. Well I’ve got the answer. Society, to paraphrase Naomi Wolf, sets men up to fail. Every day we’re expected to perform roles that, if we’re being brutally honest, don’t often come naturally to us. And that’s confusing. And Irritating. And uncomfortable. You can’t programme a computer to perform a task it wasn’t designed to perform. If you do it’ll crash. The HAL 9000 computer in 2001 went berserk and rubbed out the space crew when it was given conflicting primary orders. Well, men crash by behaving like arrogant, domineering, eye-wateringly stupid macho dicks throbbing with impotent fury.
Men behaving badly – when they’d secretly rather not – are everywhere. Packs of beery blokes that leer at women when they really just want a hug. Bluff politicians that spend all day on the attack, when they really just want to get things done. Hard-arse businessmen on the land grab that just want to provide for people they love. Imagine Sir Alan Sugar staring at the mirror, in his smalls, in the dead of night. I don’t have special access privileges to his bathroom, but I’m guessing that, minus the pinstripes and cowering lackeys, Alan the business titan looks and feels very much like Alan the vulnerable and bewildered boy.
Macho behaviour is not only engrained in our culture, it’s positively celebrated. But its not what any of us actually want. Men are committing suicide in record numbers because they feel they cant live up to expectations, say the Samaritans. More men die each day as a result of suicide than road accidents, HIV and assaults combined say the charity CALM.
Personally, I’ve had enough. The next time, when I’m not feeling very much like reading from the script, and someone tells me to ‘Man Up’, I might very well stab them in the eye with a biro. But before I get sent down for aggravated assault, I’m going to write this regular Huff Post column to find out (a) who wrote these man scripts (b) who makes sure we follow them and (c) what happens when you tear them up and start again.
It doesn’t make me politically correct. It doesn’t make me a wimp. It probably makes me a feminist. It definitely makes me a real man.
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March 19, 2012 Comments Off
Ever since he was appointed as the government’s new Efficiency Tsar, people have been saying unkind things about the Topshop boss Philip Green. Its been suggested that he avoids paying taxes like the plague, that he likes to get maximum value from his workers abroad, and has an almost psychic ability to think of the exact same ideas as other people and make money on them before anyone else. All of which makes him over-qualified for the job.
But through painstaking research, I can now reveal an altogether more sinister possible alleged unsubstantiated agenda. Philip Green is attempting to infect the British population with a race of bedwetting metrosexual goons, or Wag Lads. He’s carrying out the operation via an intensive breeding programme at outlets of Topman. And the scenes that unfold in these places each day are horrific.
Tens of thousands of young men are being sucked into the stores each day. Conveyer belts ferry recruits into intensive conditioning rooms, where they are bombarded with bright flashing lights, droning promotional messages and Vampire Weekend singles over and over again. The walls are covered with giant images of limp-wristed, pale-faced fopps; horrific visions of what the recruits are about to become.
There is no let up. Subjects are exposed to a steady flow of over-styled and derivative trends with excruciatingly naff names such as Electro Shock and Contemporary Punk. Soon enough, the boys’ own sense of style and taste are reprogrammed with an insatiable appetite for garments with unnecessary zips, buttons, pockets and prints.
The air is thick with the stench of D&G aftershave and Studio Line hair gel; the boys are conditioned to repeat endless grooming routines. They adopt humiliating hairstyles that rob them of any dignity or self-respect. In between styling sessions, they’re subconsciously feminised at in-store cafes. Sitting crossed legged in groups, they sip milky coffee, talk about their feelings and gently stroke each other’s hands. Soon enough, they are carrying manbags on their forearms, flicking their quiffs and jealously eyeing each other’s shoes. Just when the torture subsides, troops of hollow eyed staff arrive with trolleys of carrot chinos and the brutality resumes apace.
Recruits are treated like meat machines, not human beings. All their natural desires are completely frustrated in this crowded yet barren environment.
Eventually, they are released back onto the high street, looking something very much like this.
Any sense of masculinity is overpowered by a desire to preen and mince. Never again will they feel what its like to be a real man – to perform physically demanding work, to test their limits, provide for others or simply face the day without Touche Eclat. They are emasculated drones, ready to obey the command of their new master.
It’s not entirely clear what Green intends to do with his army of fops, but it looks like social engineering on a grand scale. And there is little or no resistance from designers or the press. His sponsorship and advertising budgets buy silence, maintaining a vice-like grip around the throat of British fashion.
One thing‘s for sure; if, god forbid, this country should ever need to defend its sovereignty from attack, we shall surely be crushed if our first line of defense is this.
September 20, 2010 4 Comments
Published in Vice
It’s all coming true. The dystopian prophecies of doom that typified cinema in the 70’s and 80’s are slowly, inevitably coming to pass. Zombies walk the malls, drones patrol the skies, drivers mow down pedestrians for sport, and everyone’s banging meds so they can meet their quotas at work. And now this. Synthetic meat is to be grown in giant vats outside the superstructure; it’s the only way the population will be able to feed itself in forty years time.
The technical term for this stuff is In Vitro Meat. Its laboratory-grown muscle fibre that tastes and smells like meat, but has never played any part in moving an animal around a field. Stem cells are cultured in giant Petri dishes, the muscle fibre is pumped with chemicals, and then exercised to turn it into a tougher steak-like consistency, not entirely unlike the tragicomedy that unfolds each day down Fitness First.
It sounds very much like Charlton Heston’s ‘70’s nightmare Soylent Green, except there won’t be hordes of angry protestors rampaging through the streets demanding justice for being fed human slurry, because android replicants of Sophie Dahl and Gordon Ramsay will be wheeled out to convince everybody that In Vitro Meat is the up-market consumer choice of rich and successful people and if all us plebs want to climb the ladder of social mobility, we better start eating it too.
Pulsating hunks of brainless meat don’t sound very appealing, but they can’t possibly be any worse for us than the ‘real thing’.
Let’s be honest. When a grown man walks into a fried chicken bar and orders a 99p box of Popcorn Chicken Nibblets, he’s not asking for meat; he’s not really asking for food; he’s asking for The Final Solution. He’s saying ‘I’ve been ripped off, lied to and promptly shat out the backside of the system, and the only thing left for me to do is to kill myself slowly by eating hydrogenated fat with a blend of 11 herbs and spices from The Colonel’s secret recipe. And the fact that a small animal suffered for each and every second of its miserably short life in order to fill my stomach only adds to the poetic misery of it all’.
Come to think of it, The Colonel and his nuclear chickens could help us fit the last piece of the dystopian jigsaw puzzle into place. In the 1976 film Logan’s Run, the population is managed by ‘encouraging’ people to kill themselves when they hit thirty. Scores of young adults, resplendent in flowing pastel tunics, file into an enormous mirrored carousel and wave flashing crystals above their heads before the lights go off and an invisible force vaporizes them all. It could be the same thing at designated KFC Suicide Zones, except people would be in grey tracksuits and waving chicken bones instead.
It must have been great, going to the cinema as a teenager back in the 70’s, marveling at dystopias like The Omega Man and TX1138. The prophetic gloom was all very believable, but far enough in the future to breathe a sigh of relief when the credits rolled. The tragedy is that those same people are now in charge of planning and contingency and, even with the benefit of hindsight, they still haven’t got a clue how to sort it out.
Never mind, it’s us who’ll have the last laugh, as we spoon-feed them frankenmeat dinner in their cosy retirement homes. They’ll hobble, in between courses, to the toilets and open their bowels down pipes that feed directly to the food processing plant next door.
‘Oh you are lovely, coming to help me with my dinner, son.’
‘Eat up Dad, your chicken’s getting cold!’
Published In Vice
September 19, 2010 Comments Off
Published In Vice
Lets get the disclaimer out of the way first. I’m not very clever. I failed all my GCSE’s apart from English and Home Economics, which I passed by the skin of my teeth. I’ve got nothing to formally prove my intelligence because I don’t have much and the only reason I’ve managed to claw my way up to the middle has been through brute force, white lies and sheer fluke. To be honest, it’s a miracle that the people who run this site have given me a regular column.
That’s the disclaimer over. I’m thick as shit. But there are some people, and I take no comfort in saying this, who are as thick as the lead doors on a maximum-security bank vault. Its not best practice to say this in public, even if you really mean it, because it undermines the line about us being snowflakes of individual beauty, united by a faith in human nature that makes billions of people want to buy the world a Coke. Thankfully, we now have irrefutable proof that this line is very, very wrong: the Raoul Moat tribute pages on Facebook.
If you’re the kind of person that likes to watch motorway pileups in slow motion, you’ll probably have logged on to RIP Raoul Moat You Legend ♥. The wall posts, appearing at the rate of one per second, read like the transcript from the dayroom of Belmarsh Psychiatric ward. ‘Hiz GF woz a cunt and she deserved it’… ‘All those waanbes in prizon thats the way to do it not fuking licking cop ass to get shorter sentence or grassing mates’… ‘Raoul Moat, hunted and executed by the corrupt Police’… ‘My mates in the army think Moaty is a LEGEND!!!’
Five minutes on that page (or its many successors) and a very large penny drops; people really do think Moat is a legend, a superhero who evades the cops, settles some scores and levels the playing field for all the downtrodden people who’ve been fucked over by the police who, in cahoots with ‘the man’, are hell-bent on making everyone’s life more miserable than it already is. He’s a soldier, pure and simple, just like in the video games – the same games that liberals claimed were harmless because people couldn’t possibly be so stupid as to confuse a game with real life.
It wasn‘t long before the self-righteous (but no less angry or stupid) brigade swamped the wall, whipped to frenzy by the goons on GMTV. The hunt was on. ‘I HOPE YOU GET CANCER IN ALL OF YOUR BODY AND FUCKING AIDS WHILE YOUR KIDS AND FAMILY AND GF HAVE TO WATCH YOU THROUGH THE PAIN I WANNA SEE U FUCKING DIE LIKE A BITCH’.
Then it was time for some cabaret, and a sensitive number from beefy topless thugz Triple R; ‘He don’t give a shit, he blew away his wife, just like I do for all my pain and strife whoop whoop!’
Thanks lads, now who fancies a conspiracy theory? ‘Why did the authorities send SOOO many highly trained ‘special forces SAS’ just to catch ONE man?’… ‘Maybe he knew something explosive that could damage the establishment in some way’. No one had any answers, so conversation inevitably turned to the telly. Who’ll play Moat in an ITV1 drama? Maybe Danny Dyer? Mick Hucknall, if he took some steroids ha ha. No, it has to be, it can only be loveable hardman Ross Kemp. By now most of the 30,000 page members had indeed returned to the telly, leaving a dozen Anti-Fascist and BNP members to tear each other’s throats out. Some time later, a member who joined the page in protest of the violence threatened to kill the admin and the page was put out of its misery.
Facebook is a bottomless can of industrial strength Ronseal that strips away any lingering veneer of faith in human nature. It’s a live action feed on the collective ramblings of what Walter Lippman called the Bewildered Herd. The majority of the population, according to Lippman, is incapable of understanding and making sense of the world with any accuracy. ‘Worlds of interest are waiting for them to explore’ he said, ‘and they do not enter’. People make up their minds before they define the facts; they lack the competence to take part in anything meaningful. And so they flounder in chaos, bewildered, frustrated, frightened and angry.
The trouble starts, of course, when you let herd run free and they end up trampling over everything. Which is where education is supposed to save the day. Except it doesn’t. A report out this week says that 1 million adults in London can’t read. And here’s another horrifying statistic; after spending £500 million (the most money ever spent) on the National Literacy Strategy, reading skills rose by less than one lousy percent. It would have been a tragedy, if more people had read about it.
The common interests of the public are too tricky for little people to get their heads around, concludes Lippman, so its necessary for the big people to manufacture consent, to ring fence the bewildered herd and feed it sanitized information. The herd can then distract itself with shopping and social networking and football while the big people get on with running things. It makes sense to me.
Do I enjoy being one of the little people? No. Do I trust the big people to do a better job? Yes and no. Are we already fenced in, for our own protection, by a 10ft wall of bullshit? We’ll probably never know.
Published In Vice
September 19, 2010 Comments Off
Published in Manzine
A woman plans to leave the marital home for the weekend to visit her parents, opening a two-day window of freedom for the man. In the build up to the event, the man imagines the debauched possibilities he could indulge in, and get away with, unfettered by the wife. The weekend becomes a beacon of hope that helps him through the weekly grind. And yet when Saturday finally comes, the orgy of vice never transpires. And he finds himself eating a greasy takeaway curry in bed.
Why would a grown man subconsciously associate junk food and poor hygiene with freedom? Because he is a nihilistic hedonist – he just doesn’t know it yet. Emasculated by society, enslaved by machines and impoverished by his paymasters, the only sane option is to self-destruct. It’s a kind of rational pessimism. Knowing there’s no real chance of bucking the corporate system, the nihilistic hedonist accepts his miserable fate, but vows to go out all guns blazing.
There are two ways a man can go about it. If you’re the kind of guy who’s glass (and wallet) is half full, you could pursue death by luxury. The film La Grande Bouffe is the key reference here; a group of men hire a master chef and a gaggle of prostitutes and retreat to a remote chateaux. At which point they resolve to, and succeed in, eating and shagging themselves to death. It’s quite a scene.
For the truly miserable and/ or down at heel, the more realistic option is to trade down instead of up, and embrace everything that is shit. Smoke Lambert & Butler. Drink White Lightning. Watch ITV2. It’s a death by a thousand low-grade, mass-produced cuts. The misery becomes irresistible over time – like a scratch on the side of your gums that would heal if only you could stop tonguing it. Soon enough your behaviour starts to drive loved ones away. It’s around about this point in the journey that a man will discover biltong.
Biltong is one of the most repulsive snacks ever conceived by the fast food industry. The idea of snacking on bite-sized chunks of dead animal flies in the face of ethical consumerism and self-improvement. And being loaded with fat, salt, sugar and MSG, biltong possesses many other qualities prized by the self-destructive male.
Looking for a reassuring stomach cramp when you wake in the morning? Eat biltong late at night. Want to repel fellow office workers with visible meat sweats? Keep a chunk under your tongue all day. Enjoy frightening pretty girls on the bus? Whip out a packet and tear great chunks with your teeth.
The initial experience with biltong can best be described as a challenge. The taste and smell is so strong, you’ll want to spit it out. It’s only natural – you are, after all, chewing on the backside of an industrially reared and slaughtered cow that’s been sitting in a packet for any number of years. Fight the nausea and keep chewing. As the juice trickles down your throat, you feel a meaty electric shock coursing through your veins. A film of grease collects on the roof of your mouth, just like McDonalds fries. It feels so wrong it can’t possibly be right. But the MSG kicks in and you’re reaching for another hit.
By the end of the packet, your breath will be so fierce it could melt lead. Years of social conditioning will compel you to reach for the Wrigleys. Don’t. Walk towards the nearest acquaintance and converse. The more you talk, the more the air fills with the stench of undigested meat. The look of horror on their face is unmistakable. You are repulsive. But that’s OK. They loathe you, you loathe them, and most importantly, you loathe yourself. This is nihilistic hedonism in its purest from.
In this life, a man can rely on few certainties. But he can guarantee his personal failure on a diet of pessimism and dried meat snacks. A man who not only confronts but promotes his inevitable demise, in the manner that he sees fit, is truly in control of his life. And expecting only the worse, he can rest assured that the world will never, ever disappoint him again.
September 19, 2010 1 Comment