Vatican Shadow (Live in Shipley, 2015)

Back in 2015, I drove over from Hull to Shipley for The Quietus to watch Vatican Shadow shake the foundations of West Yorkshire.

The folks at Golden Cabinet are amazing and, whilst it was my first and last time there, I hope what they do continues. It was one of the best days out I’ve ever had.

The Arrogance of a Drunk Stiffened Corpse

Remember the Arctic Monkeys’ first album? I know I do. Heck, living in Yorkshire in the mid-00s, everyone already had all the bootlegs and live tracks and had a friend of a friend who went to school with them all.

That was 2006. Music listening habits were often defined by the odd moments where you could snatch a listen to it in its entirety. I remember my Mum dragging me out to the shops and, whilst she went around doing whatever, I’d always come back early and just sit in the car, the CD player on, letting the muffled sounds of Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not echo around a half-empty car park feeling cool as fuck for those 40 minutes before my Mum came back to drive us home…

Roughly a year later, it’d be Burial’s album Untrue instead and I got to listen to that on my own time, uninterrupted. Times changed fast back then.

I might have known Burial but I didn’t know K-Punk in 2006. No one I knew heeded the cry of bullshit from his corner of the internet. “Where is the chorus of disapproval and disquiet about a group like the Arctic Monkeys?” he would ask in his brilliant post, “Is Pop Undead?“:

Granted, it is not that the Arctic Monkeys are significantly worse than any of their retro forebears (although if anything ought to set alarm bells ringing, it is a situation where ‘not being worse’ than mediocre predecessors is thought of as worthy of comment, still less of muted celebration).

I think this might have been the very first K-Punk post I ever read and it certainly caught me at the right time, when a discontent with the indie obsession of just about everyone I knew was starting to get a bit intolerable. I’m sure I shared it on Facebook on the occasion of the release of the Arctic Monkeys’ second album, by which point I had no time for anything that involved sleazy men and guitars. (I was infinitely disgruntled by the fact this also included the entirety of my social life in Hull at the time — a city still barely over the dull intensity of that moment.)

The indie explosion of the 00s had (and has) a lot to answer for but what was so surreal was just how oblivious everyone was to true nature of things. Reading K-Punk at that time was like donning the sunglasses in They Live but, rather than seeing the infrastructure of societal control writ large, you would instead see all these images of Oasis, Arctic Monkeys, The Fratellis, Coldplay, Kaiser Chiefs, Franz Ferdinand, Hard-Fi, Kasabian, The Killers, Muse, Razorlight, The Kooks, Klaxons, Mark fucking Ronson, The Hoosiers, Kate Nash, Newton Faulkner, Editors, Keane, and The Libertines with a new set of eyes.

They all looked the same anyway but suddenly these images were all replaced with the word “CUNTS”. You looked around you and all the Gallagher clones also looked like cunts and the club on the high street that had the one indie night which suddenly played indie all week had changed its name to “CUNTS” and the magazines with the free CDs also changed their name to “CUNTS” too whilst offering you the chance to hear the new cunts before they were famous or, better yet, even be the new cunts if you sent them your MyCunt band page and all you could imagine was the poor cunt intern at CUNTS magazine having to listen to all those millions of cunts.

This may have been 13 years ago but what never fails to surprise me is how these cunts just keep on living. If I go home these days, they’re still all there with their Gallagher haircuts and sex pest swagger and you turn on the TV and they’re still there too.

What misfortune I felt earlier tonight having this grace my Twitter feed.

There are some signs that things have changed. The BRIT Awards have always been an utter shitshow but it’s interesting to see the likes of Kamasi Washington get nominated by International Male Solo Artist (although the cynic in me puts this down entirely to the BBC Radio 6 Music zombie boomer contingent which is also so desperate to congratulate itself on how interesting it is.)

The odd outlier aside — exemplary of the fight that R&B has brought back to the charts in this country — it’s still a largely white affair. As Mark would note:

Indie may have all but driven black musics out of the British charts, hybridity may be off the agenda, but you can bet your bottom dollar that all of those Indie bands just love hip hop and r and b. Pop at its most febrile was stoked by critical and negative energies that are now exhausted — or which have been exiled as far too impolite for today’s pot-pourri, pomo buffet in which you can have a bit of Indie here, a bit of r and b there, where contradictions and anomalies have been photoshopped out, where it all happily fits into one well-adjusted consumer basket. If the revolutionary tumult of the postpunk era was characterized by restless dissatisfaction, anxiety, uncertainty, rage, harshness, unfairness — that is, by an atmosphere of relentless criticism — today’s Pop scene is suffused with laxness, bland acceptance, quiescent hedonism, luxuriant self-satisfaction (ALL those awards shows!) — that is by, PR.

Nothing’s changed there. In fact, that’s all I hear. With my They Live headphones on, every time Alex Turner slurs the words “rock’n’roll” into the microphone, all I hear is “PR… PR… PR…”

Their acceptance speech is nothing but a testament to Mark’s most damagingly resonant indictment: “What Pop lacks now is the capacity for nihilation, for producing new potentials through the negation of what already exists.”

Please someone negate the Arctic Monkeys to fuck already.

The Event of Depression: Notes on a Thought That Hides From Itself

Cos I’m a clinically sad person, I’ve been invited to do a sleep study looking at how radical changes in sleep pattern can aid treatment of depression. I’m fascinated & said yes but I’m wondering if this isn’t like jury duty. Only interesting-sounding if you haven’t done it yet. [1]

As mentioned a few times recently — in a recent post and chronicled in the Twitter thread linked above — I’ve been getting ready to take part in a sleep study this weekend.

I’m planning on doing a separate blog which chronicles the whole experience and talks about why I’m seeking experimental treatment, but I also wanted to try and finish a post I’ve had lurking as a draft for almost a year now — something for myself which gives shape to my depression and which might give other people a new way into thinking about their own.

Originally, this thing was a monster. A 10,000-word post that I’d been working on since about April 2018, which I began shortly after posting “Fragment on the Event of ‘Unconditional Acceleration’” when I was really into Deleuze’s Logic of Sense.

Unfortunately — or, perhaps, fortunately — I never finished it. In fact, at some point between then and now, I lost it. I don’t remember deleting it but those 10,000 words are now nowhere to be found.

What I do have are about four or five attempts to restart it. That’s sort of what this post is made up of. But these various false starts seem to capture something else for me which is more truthful than some surgical and in depth analysis. So I thought I’d just post them anyway.

In the original post, I was trying to write about my depression from within the midst of it, trying to make it impersonal (as Mark urged us to do) and take a sort of objective view of my own emotional landscape: recognising a neuro-tic interiority as an outside folded in; attempting to understand how I was feeling in context — from within a structure of feeling — in case that helped me to let go of it; to maybe talk myself out of it.

It didn’t. It only made things worse.

I think I had something of a breakdown last year as a result of this. I didn’t try all that hard to keep it under wraps but I was in such a state of denial that I don’t think I realised how bad things were. I knew things weren’t right, however. Each time I tried to blog about it, it always just ended up triggering the worst panic attacks which would force me into submission and further repression.

Still, I tried persistently to excavate something; to drag it out of hiding. And this became a part of the whole sorry process.

Trying to explore the experience on the blog became a game of chicken played with my mental health. It was bad. I was drinking a lot at the time. Smoking too. I remember the last day I worked on this mammoth post I was in The Fat Walrus in New Cross, making use of their beer garden plug sockets at about 12pm, very soon after they’d opened. I’d had a pint already and I was starting my second, already halfway through a pack of cigarettes — this was the only way I thought I could write at the time — and then, out of nowhere, or somewhere, I wrote a sentence which seemed to clarify the sensation anew and my whole world suddenly started spinning.

It was like chasing my own personal Predator, inferring the blurred outline of its cloaking device in the jungle, or like drawing attention to the Thing in my midst. I already knew it was there, lurking, and I felt powerful and confident as I stood against it. When it revealed itself, however — its true form — the terror was incomprehensible, and it was always too late to retreat.

I ended up on the floor of the pub’s bathroom, overcome by abject panic and nausea, my whole nervous system ablaze. I managed to pull myself together enough to stagger home — fragile, mortified — at 1pm.

That was something of a turning point. I knew then that I needed to get some help.

The post I was working on at the time was centred around guilt, and an acknowledgment of this guilt tended to send it into overdrive. For at least six months of last year I struggled under the weight of it and, at its worst, it made me deeply suicidal. I’d been living in and amongst a load of high rise buildings in south-east London and things became so bad that I couldn’t walk to the shops without having to fight a very real urge to climb onto the roof of one. They leered over every street like a taunt that I found very hard to ignore.

But I never said anything to anyone. Not really. But not out of shame or fear or a lack of desire for help. The only person who knew was my girlfriend, who I’d tell my worries to repeatedly, but every time I let go and cried and ran to her I felt like it just came out as melodrama, like I was over-complaining, afflicted by Man Flu of the brain.

This was also unhelpful because the guilt that was stalking me had, seemingly by proxy, attached itself firmly to her. It became somewhat externalised. It was my parasite but she was hosting it. We have been together for many years and I found myself neurotically fixated on past mistakes — some recent, some ancient — in a way that was utterly compulsive and paranoid, exacerbating the fallout of words regretfully said or things done.

I had legitimate reasons to feel guilty. I have regrets, as we all do. The challenge became separating recently acknowledged mistakes from the intensity of the feeling they provoked. I hadn’t murdered anyone. I hadn’t committed any crime. I hadn’t done anything that untoward. I’d been selfish, maybe. Inconsiderate. A bit of a dick. That was true. But I struggled to convince myself that the consequence of my actions shouldn’t be the death penalty.

Ironically, traumatically, perhaps even understandably, many of these feelings were rooted in the nine months after Mark’s death when I spent 4 days a week drunk and consistently neglected what was then a long-distance relationship. My “Second a Day” video chronicles a lot of the fun had but leaves out the horrors for the most part. When I watch it, however, they are inferred.

Left to my own devices, lonely and depressed, I become an endorphin junkie. Self-centred hedonism as self-medication. A year later, I find I can’t escape the memories of this previous depression and so find myself within a meta-depression, where intrusive thoughts about selfish behaviour whilst depressed became the foundation for a new low.

These thoughts only served to legitimate the delusion. I deserve to feel like this, I’d tell myself, obsessing over a moment from a year ago or three years ago or six years ago — sometimes even longer ago. There came a number of breaking points, where I felt I couldn’t live under anymore guilt unless I went to some sort of confessional, but talking about it didn’t help either. I would release my tensions and worries, having meaningful and constructive pillow talk, talking of love and forgiveness, only to wake up the next day with the beast there again, stalking me, sitting on my chest, like an emotive Groundhog Day where any sense of emotional progress was violently neutered.

Only now, in hindsight, having doubled by dosage of antidepressants and feeling much more serene, can I tell the difference between these irrealities. Nothing about how I have been feeling for most of last year was normal, I can now say to myself with confidence. But guilt remains the most ruthless symptom of my depression. It’s more painful than any numb sadness or self-hatred because, though its source is internal, it manifests externally — or at least, that is part of the illusion. It feels like it can only be remedied by apologies and repentance and self-flagellation; a kind of neurocatholicism wherein friends and family become benevolent gods with the power and right to smite me. I am adrift and at their mercy. There is nothing left for me within — only an impotence through which suicidal ideation is curtailed only by the prospective guilt of what more misery it would bring to those around me. Because then the guilt might be eternal. Salvation, instead, comes from the outside; but, despite following through on my repentance, the outside hides.

There was no amount of philosophy that helped to alleviate these paranoid delusions, but medication has helped a great deal, even if my confidence in treatment is still pretty low. If I forget to take my meds for a day or two, the feelings return. Did they ever go away? Am I just masking them chemically? Realities eat each other, much in the same way my sense of self does. Mental health deteriorates physical health deteriorates mental health. Wellness distrusts illness distrusts wellness.

However, from within this elongated moment of distress, something hit me, both depressing and liberating in equal measure. How could I ever hope to consider my own mental illness impersonally from within the electrified cage of my own inferiority? As I attempted (and often succeeded) to reach the very edges of my sense of self, I was always met with a persistent jolt that knocked me back, violently, making me feel innately claustrophobic and encouraging a desire for complete social isolation. But then it made sense. Thinking from a perspective of relative wellness, Fisher’s call for impersonality no longer felt like a riddle to unlock.

The worst thing I could have done — which I, of course, had repeatedly attempted — was to give an archaeology of my own depression, doing as the “Cognitive Behavioural Therapists” do, generating endless narratives, different versions of each traumatic twist and turn that made it so uniquely and generically mine. At the limit, I find only a hall of mirrors — the last defence against my arrival on the shore of my own outsideness.

An impersonal view of depression is all well and good a goal when you’re not in its jaws. When you are, the challenge of lacerating the ego without the body filling in as a go-between become impossible. How to view depression depressively without letting it win?

I ended up revisiting Nick Land’s essay for the first issue of Parasol: Journal for the Centre for Experimental Ontology, and found “Neurosys” — the essay’s titular concept — resonating profoundly.

I realised, coming to terms with the delusions of the past year, on the side of a relative, if medicated, “wellness”, that this new found clarity did not afford me a privileged position of outsideness, it simply exacerbated the mirrored irreality of wellness itself.

Do you ever get that sensation, within the midst of a really bad cold, where you forget what it’s like not to be full of snot and aching all over? You forget, for a time, how it feels to not be sick? The danger of mental illness is that, in its longevity and subtlety, this sensation can arrive without knocking.

Because the guilt I felt real. It felt deserved. It felt like my truth. Now, I pop a pill every night and my truth has changed. My reality has changed.

Do I side with the new perspective because it hurts less? Do I long for the authenticity of intolerable feeling? Which one is the illusion? Does it matter? The inside becomes a folding of the outside with reality scuttling way into the shadows of its creases. Land writes:

Realism begins as a subtraction of attachment to illusion — as disillusionment. To determine it positively, from the beginning, would be already unrealistic (in exactly the same way that naive realism is unrealistic). Reality hides.

I found this resonating with the half-remembered thought that spawned my lost 10,000 words. It triggered a memory of something sketched out from reading of Logic of Sense in a not-drunk-not-sober mania which, in turn, triggered the melting of reality on the piss-stained floor of a grubby New Cross pub bathroom.

Depression is an event; “a becoming whose characteristic is to elude the present.”

“Come, there’s no use in crying like that!” said Alice to herself, rather sharply; “I advise you to leave off this minute.” She generally gave herself very good advice, (though she seldom followed it), and sometimes she scolded herself so severely as to bring tears into her eyes; and once she remembered trying to box her own ears for having cheated herself at a game of croquet she was playing against herself, for this curious child was very fond of pretending to be two people! “Why, there’s hardly enough of me left to make one respectable person!”

The expression of trying to consciously give shape to a depression from within the midst of it is like the flawed rationalising of Alice in Wonderland. The difficulty of writing about depression is that it is never in time. The vast jumps across time that guilt demonstrates in its ultimate depressive mode only serve to exacerbate this. What hides, in those moments, is a present. When you glimpse it, it terrifies, revealing itself to be a mesh of fragmented flows and rushed stitching which hold together the illusion.

In this way, to talk about a “present” depression feels like an impossibility to me. Time resists it as a measurement. Unable to measure emotion through slithers of time, the self takes slices off itself and throws them on the scales. It feels worthwhile but soon enough there’s nothing left to read the outcome. Again reality hides.

Deleuze writes:

Insofar as it eludes the present, becoming does not tolerate the separation or the distinction of before and after, or of past and present. It pertains to the essence of becoming to move and to pull in both directions at once…

His book, Logic of Sense, has felt like a Bible for understanding depression over the last year but, true to itself, I’m not sure I could ever do its teaching for this depressive mode of being justice. In my reading of the book, “becoming” is interchangeably swapped out for depression in my mind’s eye. The book’s lucid tensions between sense and nonsense start to feel like an exemplary description of this most difficult and unruly of psychological processes, but they are fundamentally philosophical processes also. Attempts to grasp reality as it happens are inevitably always irreal.

This is also one of the implication explored by Land in his Crypto-Current book, carrying forth the shadow of Neurosys:

Glimpsed at its distant pole of unbounded abstraction, the cryptic is the ultimate philosophical enticement. At this point of origination, two-and-a-half millennia behind us, philosophy was nothing other than abstract cryptography. Its concern was hiding.

To see it for what it truly is is not a moment to wish on anyone, least of all yourself. Nevertheless, the hunt goes on.

I don’t know what to do with any of this.

Update: A response from Axxon N. Horror on Twitter which I found very resonant:

Coincidentally I re-read Wolfendale’s ‘Transcendental Blues’ earlier this week and especially its Neuropunk section (with the swathe of links, particularly SSC) was the closest experience of a textual ‘viewing depression impersonally’ I had so far tbf. [1]

An ever-recurring figure there is that of complex vicious loops, cyclical traps, catch-22s, so maybe ‘eluding the present’/reality hiding, as you describe it, is a good demarcation of the transcendental horizon of these loops, how impossible it is to break out of them, egress. [2]

As you’ve often mentioned before, writing itself is in some ways the sought momentary impersonal relief, becoming a stream of consciousness, an other, an automatic practice (also see 4.1 in TB). [3]

It’s always interesting to get back to the question of getting it out there, blogging it to others, producing. It’s different for everyone I’m sure, but in the long run most would probably affirm it’s better than heaping things up inside. [4]

The Witches of Creswell Crags

If there is a gateway to hell, a portal from the underworld used by demons and witches to wreak their evil havoc on humanity, then it could be in a small east Midlands cave handy for both the M1 and A60.

Thanks to @qdnoktsqfr for sharing this #CaveTwitter tip-off.

The Guardian reports that, in the town of Creswell, between Sheffield and Mansfield, two cavers have discovered “the biggest concentration of apotropaic marks, or symbols to ward off evil or misfortune, ever found in the UK.”

The two keen-eyed cavers thought there were perhaps two or three markings; it soon became clear there were dozens and then on further investigation up to a thousand. And counting. “They are everywhere,” said Baker. “How scared were they?”

I spend a lot of time in this part of the world, home as it is to my in-laws, so here’s hoping we get a Xenogothic field trip out to the crags sometime in the future. In fact, there are a lot of areas like this in the area. The Devil’s Arse at Castleton, for instance, has a very similar atmosphere, by the sounds of it.

John Charlesworth, the caves’ heritage interpreter, said natural landscapes were once regarded as scary places. “These are places where supernatural forces in an untamed non-human environment could be at work. Local people are in the jaws of this monstrous landscape.”

I’d never quite thought of this before, but it’s very true. Castleton is likewise famous for Mam Tor, on its outskirts, a Bronze Age hill fort high up on the nearby “shivering mountain”. These hilled areas are exposed and must have been tough places to live, but at some point these settlements moved down from the hills and into the valleys, and these valleys are intimidating landscapes. Snake Pass is out in the open air but its steep descents makes you feel like you’re entering the bowels of something.

The article continues:

Up close the walls are a remarkable frenzy of marks. Everywhere you point a torch there are overlapping Vs, a reference to Mary, virgin of virgins. There are also PMs, as in Pace Maria, and crossed Is, referring to Jesus on a cross, and odd-shaped As.

Alison Fearn, a Leicester university expert on protective marks, recalled first shuffling on her backside in to the cave and realising what she was looking at. “I think I said a very naughty word.”

The letters and symbols were Christian but should not be looked at in that context, she said. From the 16th century to the early 19th century, when people made witches marks, there may have been a lack of association with religion, such as today when people might cross fingers or say “oh god”. She said: “It just becomes a protective symbol. It was a mark you always made to protect yourself.”

What the marks were keeping out, or in, can only be speculated on. “It could be fairies, witches, whatever you were fearful of, it was going to be down there.”

Black Snow

Just as it was foretold by the CCRU.

The Siberian Times reports that locals in the Russian cities of Prokopyevsk, Kiselyovsk and Leninsk-Kuznetsky are reporting black snow falling from the sky and covering the landscape.

Pictures shared by locals show alarming black winter scenes with one comment reading: ‘Is this what snow looks like in hell?’

Others have claimed there is a beauty in the bleak snowscapes.

Local media have blamed the gloom on local plants processing coal.

Whilst pollution is one solution, the locals might also do well to consider the geotraumatic influence of the Channel Zero black snow cult.

As long as the local media continues to report on the phenomenon, things must be okay. It’s when things go quiet that we should start to worry.

In the words of Blind Humpty Johnson: “Nothing comes out of the black snow.”

Nothing comes out of the black snow / Nothing comes to you through Channel Zero / Coming to you unlive / Coming to you unrecorded…

Zeroing in on you

That’s what we foresee / A wave of black snow / An impending absolute collective blindness / And from among the tatters of electromagnetic shadow / Seething out of the lost signal / Pour the chaotic myriads / To return the earth to its sub-primordial state.

Nothing comes out of the black snow

A Few More Angry Notes on Class Consciousness

For class consciousness is never a mere matter of identifying a state of affairs that already exists; the making visible of the structures that produce subordination immediately de-naturalises those structures, and changes the way in which subjugation is experienced. When that learned sense of inferiority is rejected, who knows what can happen?

K-Punk, “Going Overground”

The discussion around Jodi Dean’s memorial lecture rears its ugly head again, with the “Cautiously Pessimistic” blog (from now on “CP”) writing a longer follow-up response to Mark’s essay “Exiting the Vampire Castle“.

A few weeks back, we had a disagreement about the importance of Mark’s text in the comments of one of my posts about Dean’s lecture. Having said in my post that I’ve never read a decent critique of Mark’s essay — just a lot of hot air and bitterness — CP responded by pointing to their own post, written around the time that the article was originally published.

Unfortunately, I had already read this post before and didn’t think much of it. It is guilty of doing the very thing that Mark critiques in “Exiting the Vampire Castle” — it disarticulates his class position. And, as Mark wrote, “the founding move of the Vampires’ Castle is the dis-articulation of class from other categories.”

First of all, in this original post, CP claims that, throughout the essay, Mark’s “(lack of) understanding of class rears its confused head” — confused because Mark’s definition of class apparently has “nothing to do with your position in society or what your material interests are, or whether you work for a living or live off other people’s labour: it’s just, like, a thing, you know, it just is?”

Is this insinuating that Mark is some sort of oppressive millionaire? Or hadn’t written at length on what constitutes class and our experiences of it elsewhere?

What should be clear, for any reader of Mark’s work, is that he knew experiences of class were not so easily contained by reductively academic definitions. This is not to double down on Mark’s apparent vagueness but to acknowledge that British class politics is a very complex topic, and that is perhaps more true for people who actually are working class than those who theorise about such definitions which fail to contain lived experience.

As a result, I have very little time for people who argue that you can somehow graduate (perhaps literally) from your class position, as CP argues in their comments and new reply.

Economic situations can change, yes, but there is far more to class than this, necessarily so. Presumably CP wants to guard against the self-made men of this world, who loved to talk about starting from nothing and blowing hot air up the rear end of their own biographies. But these are the same people who disarticulate class from experience. They’re not saying “class is important”, they’re dismissing it on grounds of individualised success and personal luck. CP simply inverts the argument rather than challenging it, insisting, just as they do, on the deconstruction of platforms for solidarity.

So, personally, I agree with Mark, broadly speaking. I agree with his call for more working class voices in our media, in our culture, in our politics, in our schools and universities — and I don’t just mean “entrepreneurs”: I want better voices too — but the paradox is that, if you somehow get there, your working class identity is void — at least according to CP. If you publicly fight for working class issues, on a larger platform than most, you’re a sellout and a hypocrite… It’s a facile and reductive argument and one which Mark himself derided.

The specific suggestion made by CP is that all people from working class backgrounds who make it into academia are somehow ignorant of the positions they hold. To disavow this knowledge, which Mark shared his thoughts on repeatedly and very publicly, is incredibly disingenuous. It also demonstrates the precise function of the vampire, sucking agency and options and histories, disavowing experiences for the sake of some quasi-fascist purity of position that is, in reality, completely nonexistent.

I said all this — with far more brevity — in the original comments, dismissing the post as trash and suggesting that if CP really wants to offer up a good critique, they’ve got to try a lot harder.

Well, they’ve gone away and come back. There is less evidence of trying harder here though, just elongating the same bogus and self-righteous argument.

Inevitably, this post is an elongation as well, although I intend to back up this one with the proper references.

CP’s argument is essentially unchanged from the one posted five years ago, although this time it’s been articulated less polemically, as if written solely because they feel guilty about the fact that the person they previously criticised is dead now, not wanting to be lumped in with the other idiots who simply proved Mark right in the aftermath of his death by gloating about it.

I’m sorry to say the attempt is bullshit — the tone was never offensive, the ignorance was, and all that’s happened here is the tone has been replaced, in a weak attempt to save face, whilst the ignorance remains.

As a result, I’m not going to address a lot of the later comments in this new post. Most of them are weird, given the context. Whilst CP continues to disarticulate Mark’s writing on class, they actually end up parroting the argument he himself makes in “Exiting the Vampire Castle” and elsewhere, choosing a supposedly nicer way of articulating the same call for solidarity using “non-cancelled” references. It reveals many of the issues taken with Mark’s original essay to be straw men or misdirected grunges. If CP read something else by Mark other than Capitalist Realism they might realise just how pointless much of what they’re critiquing is.

The main offence persists, however, with CP demanding that Mark should have made some clear-cut definition as to what “class” exactly is. They offer up two definitions of their own but, ironically, it’s difficult to follow what exactly these definitions are. They’re ultimately vague and elastic — such is the central problematic of class today.

To agree with Mark’s essay is not to gloss over these problematics but to answer his call and acknowledge that the building of solidarity is something to be pursued despite them.

In another previous comment, critiquing Dean’s lecture, an anon proclaimed with scorn that it was as if Dean — and, perhaps, by extension, Mark himself — had never heard the term “intersectionality” before, and yet here we have another response which does far more to deflate such a concept than Mark ever did. “Intersectionality” is not a term for overdetermined and individuated identity pockets, as it’s so often deployed in the naive “identity politics” milieu: it’s a word that demands transcultural understanding as a foundation for consciousness and solidarity. It’s the opposite of an individualised politics.

When CP gets bogged down in over-defining class — insufficiently — and just ending up being cynical and bitter about the existence of academics, this is, again, the point that is missed. (At least until later, but we’ll come back to that.) They betray their main disagreements to be personal bugbears and semantic preferences. There is little understanding here. Just the griping of an individual.

At one point, for instance, CP seems to conflate the figure of the working-class academic with the likes of Sajid Javid, the current Home Secretary often tokenised by the Conservative party for the fact he’s the son of a bus driver and of Pakistani heritage. Javid may very well be those things but they do not cancel out the fact that he is a Member of Parliament for a sitting government that has enacted countless racist and classist policies since being in office, some of which he has personally presided over. The suggestion seems to be that being a “working class academic” is the careerist equivalent of saying “I’m not racist, I’ve got black friends.”

Are these things really equatable? In some respects, yes, I think they are. In fact, this is precisely the blurred line which Mark’s essay contends with. Of course there are innumerable academics who preach the gospel of Marx whilst doing nothing to alleviate class struggle. They are the gatekeepers repeatedly criticised by Mark all over K-Punk. These are precisely the people that the Vampire’s Castle attempts to skewer: the people who covet class politics as something for them and them alone; for their careers and their own self-interest.

Despite what CP seems to think, Mark was not one of these people. To suggest that he was is yet more ignorance. He was aware of the predicament of being working class and in an institutionally bourgeois position, and he wrote about these tensions on numerous occasions. This came through most vividly in his writing on culture, where his post-punk and pulp sensibilities informed a class politics that refused to relegate class consciousness to a form of academic posturing.

This is why Mark loved The Hunger Games, for instance, once writing that what author Suzanne Collins achieves is “an intersectional analysis and decoding of the way that class, gender, race and colonial power work together — not in the pious academic register of the Vampires’ Castle, but in the mythographic core of popular culture — functioning not as a delibidinizing demand for more thinking, more guilt, but as an inciting call to build new collectivities.”

Now, CP obviously prides themselves on not being an academic — and academia at large emerges as the primary straw man here, with Mark propped up as some imaginary representative of all its bourgeois functions — but they are certainly mind-numbingly pious. Worse than this, however, is the sheer ignorance behind their piety. CP isn’t only guilty of disarticulating Mark’s class position but so much of his other writing and political activity as well.

At one point, for example, CP points to Nick Cohen’s appropriation of Mark’s essay as a sign of how bad it must be but, in truth, CP is more reminiscent of Cohen than Mark is — conveniently ignoring the scorn Cohen received and the k-punk clippings sent to Cohen in the aftermath of the article’s publication that insulted him in vitriolic terms.

Mark repeatedly challenged “Cohen’s manifold fallacies of reasoning, grotesquely inapt analogies and factual errors” regarding his op-eds about the Iraq war, but these are likewise the things CP is guilty of as well.

The worst offence for me is that, in proclaiming “working-class academic” to be something of an oxymoron, they deny Mark’s inspiring and unparalleled political activity on campus, creating political groups with students and contributing to campus politics, raising more awareness about class consciousness than anyone else in his department was perhaps able to — precisely because of his background.

A more concrete example: here — starting at 15:12 — is a statement Mark prerecorded for the People’s Tribunal which saw the active building of solidarity between students, academic and non-academic staff — activity ironically cited by CP in a comment and deemed as good on-campus class-conscious worker-supporting activity, without acknowledging just how involved Mark was in this and how he directly inspired the atmosphere that allowed such activity to happen in the first place.

I think these experiences were so important to Mark because he knew what it was like on both sides of the divide. He knew what it was like to have your class experience disavowed as a student and he related to and directly supported students who expressed an affinity with him on this issue. He strove to help them channel it into activity inside and outside of the classroom. He wanted to be a good influence in this regard and to give hope to kids who were like he once was. He even writes somewhere that this was the explicit goal of Capitalist Realism: to write a politically engaged book that his 16 year old students would enjoy.

This is why he wrote so enthusiastically — because he knew the power of seeing and hearing people like yourself; how that affinity and consciousness raising is, first and foremost, validating. He wrote about the term “popular modernism” to discuss just that — the importance and sad loss of that experimental form of class-conscious expression which did not tokenise itself and understood the value of its own voice beyond the tropes of a neoliberal authenticity, just like the voices which inspired him in his youth but which were, today, something of a rarity.

Rightly or wrongly, Mark saw Russell Brand as one of these people. Maybe he was wrong there — I can’t say I’ve ever found Brand to be that inspiring — but also, in 2013, it was very slim pickings… He was overly protective of the few examples we had. There are more now, but not enough.

Regardless, I admired the way Mark openly struggled with this ideal he set for himself. In fact, the resonance of this with his writing on depression is not coincidental. In “Good For Nothing” he wrote:

Writing about one’s own depression is difficult. Depression is partly constituted by a sneering ‘inner’ voice which accuses you of self-indulgence – you aren’t depressed, you’re just feeling sorry for yourself, pull yourself together — and this voice is liable to be triggered by going public about the condition. Of course, this voice isn’t an ‘inner’ voice at all — it is the internalised expression of actual social forces, some of which have a vested interest in denying any connection between depression and politics.

This resonates with his desire to talk about class experience and Mark’s essay goes on to insinuate as much — he likewise points to this sentiment in “Vampire Castle” — noting how this internal voice would disarticulate his class position long before the outside world did. It also makes CP’s comment from their original post all the more distasteful.

… perhaps if Fisher fucked off out of academia and got a real job somewhere, preferably doing manual labour but really just any job where you have a supervisor constantly breathing down your neck to make sure you’re working and not pissing about on the internet, he might find it considerably easier to escape “the psychic pathologies propagated by these discourses.

The offensiveness of this comment, expressed again in the new post (if unpolemically), is that it betrays an ignorance regarding Mark’s openly discussed job history when articulating his experiences of depression.

(CP ends their post with an acknowledgement of this bad taste and expresses regret for it, but the same ignorance is still present behind every other argument made, even if it’s not expressed so cheaply. Again, all that’s regretted is the tone, with no attempt made to educate themselves on Mark’s various positions outside of a single article.)

This, again from “Good For Nothing”, is worth quoting in full:

My depression was always tied up with the conviction that I was literally good for nothing. I spent most of my life up to the age of thirty believing that I would never work. In my twenties I drifted between postgraduate study, periods of unemployment and temporary jobs. In each of these roles, I felt that I didn’t really belong — in postgraduate study, because I was a dilettante who had somehow faked his way through, not a proper scholar; in unemployment, because I wasn’t really unemployed, like those who were honestly seeking work, but a shirker; and in temporary jobs, because I felt I was performing incompetently, and in any case I didn’t really belong in these office or factory jobs, not because I was ‘too good’ for them, but — very much to the contrary — because I was over-educated and useless, taking the job of someone who needed and deserved it more than I did. Even when I was on a psychiatric ward, I felt I was not really depressed — I was only simulating the condition in order to avoid work, or in the infernally paradoxical logic of depression, I was simulating it in order to conceal the fact that I was not capable of working, and that there was no place at all for me in society.

When I eventually got a job as lecturer in a Further Education college, I was for a while elated — yet by its very nature this elation showed that I had not shaken off the feelings of worthlessness that would soon lead to further periods of depression. I lacked the calm confidence of one born to the role. At some not very submerged level, I evidently still didn’t believe that I was the kind of person who could do a job like teaching. But where did this belief come from? […] The form of social power that had most effect on me was class power, although of course gender, race and other forms of oppression work by producing the same sense of ontological inferiority, which is best expressed in exactly the thought I articulated above: that one is not the kind of person who can fulfill roles which are earmarked for the dominant group.

In disavowing Mark’s class position, CP simply echoes the depressive voice in Mark’s own head. “That’s not the right job for you.” Well, what is?

Just as infuriating, in light of this, is CP’s passive advocation for “joyful militancy”, as if this too is alien to Mark’s own writings. (It’s not.) But similarities between these positions elsewhere does not undermine the tone of “Exiting the Vampire Castle”. It’s okay — good even — to get sad; to get angry. It’s a question of why you feel that way and what you do with it. Again, Mark wrote of the goal for himself: “From anger and sadness to collective joy…

“Exiting the Vampire Castle” was just that — an exit — but Mark went on to do far more valuable things elsewhere and in other contexts. Exiting was his first step on the road to collective joy — an affect that is very rare on Twitter these days and just as rare in meatspace — but he did a great deal to try and find it. All he found on Twitter was anger and bitterness, misdirected, turned inwards, with no one to make contact with it.

Resonantly, Mark wrote about this kind of contact when reviewing Sleaford Mods’ album Divide & Exit for The Wire:

It isn’t always the role of political music to come up with solutions. But nothing could be more urgent than the questions which Sleaford Mods pose: who will make contact with the anger and frustration that Williamson articulates? Who can convert this bad affect into a new political project?

Not CP, that’s for sure.

The Return

Alright, I’m back. It really hasn’t been that long, has it? It feels like months to me.

The past few weeks have been a weird black hole in the middle of 2019 where I’ve barely left my flat. Nothing has happened. It was nice to have some time off but, to be honest, I’ve missed blogging way too much.

I may not have acted on any wandering and tangential thoughts… But I still had them… Over the last two weeks, I’ve written some of the quicker missives and made them scheduled posts. I was sad to see other thoughts drift away from me.

I feel like the desire for a little hibernation was just a sign from somewhere else in my body that I was gonna need it. Far too much of the blog break was spent in bed. I caught a cold, then a throat infection and rounded things off with a sinusitis chaser that I’m still getting over. It has been a prolonged load of bullshit. And, yes, it did actually look a lot like this…

(Eternal thanks to Prat for these illustrative snapshots into my squalid and sickly life. She is quickly gonna become this blog’s unofficial illustrator if she’s not careful cos this isn’t the first time. I’m gonna need to find a way to pay her a salary.)

In between the constant napping and procrastinating, I have thankfully managed to do what I’d planned, which is get “Egress” into good shape.

I have a manuscript, if perhaps still an imperfect one.

Blogging is still gonna come second to finishing it off but, at this point, I don’t feel like abstaining from the blog is actually helping with productivity anymore. It’s good to have it as a offshoot for stray thoughts that can otherwise clog up the brain pipes.

At the moment, I’m working on the book’s final chapter, and it’s one that has caught me very much by surprise.

For months I’ve been trying to fit the pieces of the jigsaw together, seeing if anything I’d written about Mark on the blog over the last 18 months could help tie off the loose ends of this manuscript that has been lying around for about a year in near-completed form.

The issue has always been the ending. It’s never quite felt right before. But it does now.

I ended up collating last year’s Westworld posts into a long final chapter, bringing Deleuze and Guattari back into explicit orbit of Mark’s later writings and arguing that his emphasis on “consciousness raising“, in the last few years, when infused with his Acid Communism, would instead look like a DeleuzoGuattarian “unconsciousness raising”. If communism requires a newly conscious collective subject, acid is the qualifier to drag the unconscious along with it.

This was surprising because those Westworld posts were initially written with patchwork in mind, but it served as a reminder that much of last year’s research explicitly grew out Mark’s interests in new forms of collectivity. It gave me a kick up the butt to start collating some of those posts into something long-form as well. Maybe I’ll have to take another break soon to hammer out a patchwork book…

This, in turn, has got me back on an American literature kick, so expect more frontier psychiatry over the coming weeks.

The main reason for wanting to dip my toe back into the blog is that there are some new things on the horizon that I want the blog open for documenting — the main one being that I start my sleep study on Friday.

I mentioned this a few weeks back on Twitter. I’ve been looking into new forms of treatment for my depression over the last few months. I doubled my SSRI dosage at the end of last year but I’m still on a criminally long waiting list for receiving any other sort of treatment on the NHS.

Things still aren’t that great with me and the main issue is fighting the uphill battle of looking after myself. As pathetic as it feels and sounds, I’m actively looking for help and support with a lot of basic stuff, like eating better and whatever else.

My weight is fluctuating a lot, which is probably helping to make me so sick, and my physical energy levels are nonexistent as a result. This is always a dangerous position for me. Whilst the depression itself may be being kept at bay by medication, the constant war between my brain’s utter indifference to my physical health and my body’s frustration at my mental health persists, and worsens when I’m supposedly keeping my shit together.

After the last month of sickness, I’m starting to worry more and more about some kind of future singularity where the two low points meet.

Then, out of nowhere, a lifeline: just as I was getting desperate, I got an email invitation to take part in a sleep study being run by a university here in London, looking at how light therapy and changes in sleeping pattern can help support the treatment of depression. Their hope is that, if the trial returns promising results, they’ll start offering this kind of sleeping pattern reset and light box therapy on the NHS.

The treatment sounds pretty out there and I’ve just found out that I’m due to start it this weekend. I’m not sure what to expect but I’m going to be spending a few nights in the hospital where therapists are going to keep me up all night. (Something ironic about a sleep study where the doctor’s intention is to keep me awake.) I’m assuming I won’t be allowed stimulants or sugar to assist in keeping me up artificially but keeping me up all night is what they want then letting me blog all night would be a good start.

I’m going to keep a diary of how it goes — hopefully with pictures — and probably post somethings up on here later. In the meantime, enjoy a few things that have been sitting in my drafts for a bit. I’ll post again next week.