Liberator! Part 10

Tim had a point to prove and a gospel to spread. He had seen the light, he could feel the liberation surging through his veins. He was reborn! He scanned the slightly tatty leaflet on both sides, then pasted the images into a document. Within an hour, he had a hundred sheets of double-sided print stacked in the tray of his printer. He then proceeded to take the pile and fold each A4 sheet in half to produce four sides of A5. The quality was pretty good, and while obviously not an original, first-generation copy, and the background had been darkened slightly on account of the source document being an off-white shade, the text was perfectly legible. Over the next few weeks, he circulated them as widely a he possibly could, leaving them in public places – pubs, the library, on trains and busses, even tucking them into and between books in various book shops, with particular focus on the self-help sections, in the hope of replicating for others the circumstances in which he first discovered the life-changing publication.

Walking down the high street, a girl stopped him with an extended arm. a leaflet advertising a new eatery or somesuch held toward him in her hand.

‘I’ll take one of yours in exchange for one of mine,’ Tim said flamboyantly.

The girl looked perplexed and probably agreed out of bewilderment, at which point Tim took one of her flyers and shoved one of the ‘Liberate Yourself’ handouts, folded in half, that he had been carrying in his pocket into her small hand.

Happy and confident that he had made some gesture toward altering the life praxis of another lost individual caught on the wheels of contemporary culture, Tim headed home with a spring in his step.

Arriving home his mood altered dramatically. The place was empty and unkempt. The surfaces were dusty and dirty dishes were piled high in the sink. The shower’s plughole was clogged with hair, wet towels lay in a heap beside the shower and unwashed clothes littered the floors throughout the residence. An odour resembling hot dogs permeated the whole bedroom. It had been a month since Amy had left and she hadn’t come back, hadn’t called him or made any form of contact, she had simply cut him out. Slumping on the greasy settee, a discarded pizza box and a clanking pike of empty beer cans about his feet, Tim felt tired, physically and emotionally drained. He rubbed his eyes with his thumb and forefinger. His skin felt rough and dry, his eyes sensitive and watery. He was exhausted, and this was reflected in his sallow appearance. No-one had called him in weeks. He couldn’t bring himself to check his emails or his Facebook profile. The last time had broken his rule and snuck himself a tentative sign-in the bottom had dropped out of his world when he saw there was nothing: no messages, no emails, no comments, not even a pathetic poke. Two months missing and the world hadn’t noticed his absence.

The realisation hit with a sickening thud and a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. Tim had gained nothing, learned nothing. He had simply replaced one set of rules with another, bound himself with new ties. Having cut the shackles of technological totalitarianism, he had embraced another equally restrictive mode of living, only this time one with even less sense of connection and community than the dislocated confusion of culture he had existed in before. Instead of finding freedom, he has enslaved himself once more, and this time, without any of the support mechanisms that ostensibly held together the web of mainstream society, he was alone. Was he to blame, or was it the instructions he was following? Had he interpreted them correctly? The world wasn’t changing enough to accommodate his alternative lifestyle, wouldn’t allow him to reject it without it rejecting him in return. The fact he didn’t need it was immaterial: society needed him a whole lot less than he needed hit.

If you want to truly liberate yourself, stay in bed. Do not go to work. Do not phone in sick. Just do nothing, and enjoy. If no-one contacts you to query your whereabouts after a week, you may as well kill yourself.

Tim knew what he had to do. He knew who his friends were alright.

 

 

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Liberator! Part 8

Over lunch on Saturday, Tim announced his intention to get out of the rat-race. He was going to jack in his job, and wanted them to move to the country where he would maintain a smallholding, a simple subsistence living off the land.

‘Are you insane?’ Amy squawked.

‘I’ve never been more sane,’ Tim replied evenly.

‘You’ve lost the plot,’ his girlfriend snapped, ‘and if you think I’m going to move out into the country and live some kind of ridiculous hippie lifestyle, you’ve got another thing coming!’

Tim went to speak, but Amy declared the discussion closed and ate the rest of her meal in irate silence. She carried her mood through the afternoon’s shopping, too, and while she went out with her friends for the evening, Tim decided to give the drinks with his mates a miss. None of them had been in touch to confirm the time or place anyway, and he’s not heard from anyone but Matt all week. Fuckers. They were all on the ever-lengthening off-limits list, cut off, excised, out of his life. He didn’t need them.

The following morning, Tim wandered around the house in his dressing gown and decided that perhaps his plan had been a bit radical. He didn’t have a clue about farming, so decided to modify his ambitions to more realistic levels. He’d start with an allotment and learn home brewing. He could sell or trade any surplus, thus creating his own micro-economy.

***

It slowly dawned on Tim that he didn’t have the first clue about gardening, or even where he might go to get himself a plot of land. Then he remembered his uncle had an allotment, and that he had been complaining about not having the time to maintain it, so he rang it up and offered to take it off his hands, or at least take over its running. His uncle agreed, and by that afternoon he had the keys to the shed in his pocket and was standing, surveying his new domain. It made a change from surveying dilapidated buildings as he did in his day-job. He felt a swell of pride and a small surge of excitement, despite the fact that the plot was badly neglected and massively overgrown. By evening, he had cleared some of the weeds, but was slowly beginning to realise that getting the land in order would be quite a major undertaking.

After the first week, anyone who initiates contact may be allowed back onto your list. However, should they fail to return your subsequent response within a week, then they are back off the ‘ok’ list and onto the ‘no contact’ list.

A week later and his patch of ground still resembled a weed-infested battleground, despite his having toiled from morning till night for the majority of the days. That said, he had indulged himself with a few lie-ins and leisurely breakfasts, and afternoons off down the pub. He had also given in and checked his emails a handful of times, and signed into his Facebook account. Each time he had done so, he had desperately fought the urge to update his status, although he found it impossible to resist responding to a fee of his friends’ updates and comments. While his bursting inbox and the number of voice mails on his phone, which were mounting by the hours caused his the same nausea-inducing combination of panic and dread, he was beginning to notice a shift in the nature of his correspondence, in that most of it was either work-related or otherwise spam, and that the number of direct, non-circular missives received by both email and via social networking was beginning to diminish.

His feelings about this were conflicting. On the one hand, it came as a relief as the pressure to read and respond to so much peripheral shit began to fall away. On the other, he began to feel as though he was already beginning to fade from society and from his friends’ thoughts. Out of sight, out of mind… he pushed these negative thoughts to the bank of his mind and slipped a DVD in the player. It had been years since he had simply sat and watched a film, at home, on his own, simply because he felt like it.

Over the next fortnight, Tim toiled on the allotment and spent the hours cooking up more ways of sustaining himself while pursuing his new, alternative non-capitalist existence with its corresponding technology-dependent modes of interaction.

Before he knew it, a month had elapsed. He had sent a letter of resignation to his boss after wrestling with his conscience over whether he really owed the cunt or the company so much as a formal notice but in the end drew the conclusion that it was only decent to honour the terms of his contract and besides, he didn’t want to be hauled through whatever processes, from tribunals to courts just to maintain his right to jack in his job.

Before too long – a month, perhaps – you will have a fair idea of who your true friends are. Cherish these people, and make every effort to remain in touch forever.

You will probably find that you have, in actual fact, far fewer friends than you thought. That’s because people are busy, self-absorbed and lazy. Or maybe it’s just that everyone hates you. Deal with it. The positive to be found in this is that you will have significantly more time to spend as you please.

 

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Liberator! Part 6

As he sat on the train a few days later, perusing the reports he had to digest ahead of the meeting he was travelling to, Tim glanced around at his fellow passengers. Engaged in conversation on mobile phones, tapping out text messages, watching DVDs on laptops and portable players, or otherwise cut off from the rest of the world by their iPods, Tim realised something he already knew but had never felt so aware of before: that everyone was so wrapped up in their own technological bubbles that all sense of community, or free interaction, had been lost. In subscribing to this conformist culture, Tim was engaged in active complicity in the reproduction of the circumstances of his own alienation. He hadn’t signed into Facebook for a while now, and while it was impossible not to check his emails – even a few hours off-line instilled an uneasiness in his stomach and caused his tension levels to increase – he was managing to resist the urge to respond to everything straight away, to click the links on every forward, even to read them all. But the nagging knowledge that there were missives demanding his attention remained in the background, and the flagged and unopened emails mounting up were impossible to forget about completely. He was appreciating the time and freedom to soak in his surroundings a little and to observe from a slightly different perspective but he didn’t exactly feel liberated either: far from it, in fact.

Just then, he noticed it. Sticking out from between a couple of reports, he saw a yellowy-coloured piece of paper. Its corner was slightly dogged. He lifted the report to see what it was. The pamphlet again. How had it go in with that pile of papers? he wondered. Concluding he must have put it down and then picked it up by accident when moving other stuff around, he paused to re-read some of it as he went to move it out of the way, then read on just a little.

For all of the above, allow yourself to reply to any incoming messages, and continue work-related activity as normal (failure to do so may prove damaging to your career). These directions apply only to non-essential outgoing social contact (Obviously, if you’re in the middle of a breakdown, then it’s reasonable to apply these instructions to all contacts as a blanket rule).

You may permit yourself three individuals who are exempt. These must be people who you know will respond to your emails or text messages or will answer or return your calls, and within a reasonable timescale. Two days to respond to a text, or a week to respond to an email is not acceptable. These technologies are all about instant communications, remember! Everyone else in your contacts lists, address book, are off limits. Do NOT contact them. Wait for them to contact you.

***

Tim needed to clear his head. Perhaps he did need to wholly liberate himself as the pamphlet suggested. As he passed the houses, he was able to see the outlines of figures moving inside, moving silhouettes, people’s actions projected like life-size shadow-puppetry. Some had not closed their curtains, or had just opened them, suggesting that dawn was just around the corner and they were making ready for work or whatever. As he wandered past these little compartmentalised lives visible through real-life television screens, he was able to look into their living rooms and bedrooms. He felt nothing, a complete detachment. It didn’t feel wrong. He didn’t feel nosey. He didn’t feel as though he was in any way spying into their homes or voyeuristically peeping into their private lives. Separated by the glass and the distance and the still, dead air, cold and silent, it was like watching television on mute. His presence went unnoticed as they played out their parts. He was simply a viewer, not participating or interacting in any way. Was this liberation?

 

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Liberator! Part 2

Back at the office, Tim’s afternoon raced past in a flurry of telephone calls and a short but mentally taxing meeting called at short notice by the department manager, who had to announce that there were ‘significant changes afoot within the company’s structure’. ‘We’ve all got to be seen to be on board with this, going forward,’ he said.

A break was called and everyone dispersed, headed to the coffee machine, toilets or outside for a cigarette. Tim loitered in one of the recessed areas and checked his Blackberry, which he had kept on silent while in the meeting. It showed he had fifteen missed calls. He rubbed his eyes with his thumb and forefinger. His skin felt rough and dry, his eyes sensitive and watery. He would have to deal with returning the calls later. As he made his way back to the meeting, he encountered a tall, skinny man with short, mousy hair and an ill-fitting suit that hung from his curved meatless shoulders who was loitering outside the generously-sized meeting room. The grey suit man acknowledged Tim.

‘Have we met?’ Tim asked hesitantly.

‘Er, probably not’, the man replied. ‘I’m visiting from Head Office.’ He introduced himself as Richard Fiddler, Executive Director, and gesticulated toward a seat midway down the long glass table as they entered. Another man in a navy pinstripe suit spoke, and asked Tim if he had met Barry Brown from the Manchester office previously. Tim nodded, as Barry, a chubby ginger bloke with a goatee bounded forward with his hand extended. He displayed an expression like a happy Labrador or a man who was meeting a friend he hadn’t seen in years.

The man in the navy pinstripe suit addresses Tim again, but he doesn’t quite catch what he says. He feels a little out of his depth in the company of all of these high-powered executives. To save face, he simply nods again. He feels has though he’s a marionette, his actions controlled by some invisible puppeteer, his nodding an involuntary action like a nerve twitch, a sleep kick, a cough or some kind of tic.

The meeting resumes. It’s insufferably dull. There’s talk crossing the table, line upon line of factual data and a grasp of figures and financial projections. There are flip charts and flow charts and Microsoft® Office PowerPoint® slideshow presentations. The presentations are slick. A beefy bloke in a navy pinstripe suit speaks commandingly about the business plan for the forthcoming financial year and the company’s ‘high-level’ strategies.

Some middle-aged bim with goofy teeth and a tasteless trouser-suit straight out of the 80s is presenting now. She’s clearly wise to using Microsoft® Office Fluent™ interface but her presentation is all style and no substance. She goes on for an age, extolling the virtues of ‘building relationships,’ ‘being progressive’ and ‘proactive cascading.’ She’s winding down her interim report and the business projections for the next six and 12 months and she’s pushing to end with a positive, but instead simply spouts more corporate bromides. The meeting concludes with more rhetorical throat-clearing and back-slapping both metaphorical and literal, faux camaraderie slipping across the smooth surface of the smoked glass table. Tim’s glad when he can make his exit: he has reports to write and calls to make.

As the meeting progressed – or, perhaps more accurately, became increasingly mired in relentless corporate self-absorption – Tim could feel his tension rising. Anxiety coursed through his veins, accelerated by a massive doses of adrenaline and norepinephrine secreted by his overworked medulla. Sustained high levels of catecholamines in the blood are a good indicator of chronic stress, and Tim’s were off the scale. As the realisation dawned that his job was potentially on the line, a fear gripped him and his head began to swim. A strange sense of disorientation began to wrap itself around him like a cloud. The remainder of the day was spent in a caffinated, adrenalized daze and he arrived home after seven in the evening tired, exhausted and drained and also tetchy and wired. He couldn’t help it. The simple fact was that he had been feeling decidedly fractious lately, and it was difficult to pinpoint the exact reasons why. And because he didn’t know, he felt he couldn’t really talk about it with Amy – what was there to say? It was his problem, and he didn’t want to push it onto her. Thursday and Friday bled into one forgettable grey mass of telephone calls, conferences, meetings and reports, and by the time Friday night finally arrived, Tim’s hands were tender from the relentless batter of forceful handshakes and he still hadn’t found the time to catch up on all of the calls he had missed during the lengthy meeting on Wednesday afternoon. He tried in vain to stifle a yawn, then rubbed his eyes with his thumb and forefinger. His skin felt rough and dry, his eyes sensitive and watery. He was exhausted, and he needed the weekend to rest and recuperate.

 

And if you’re loving my work, there’s more of the same (only different) at Christophernosnibor.co.uk