Troy Southgate: Is There Anybody Out There...?

Thursday 22nd July

Dear Diary,

I don’t think that I can bear another day of this mind-numbing drudgery. Every morning it’s the same: my fellow termites and I leap aboard the seven thirty-eight from Canterbury East to Victoria and stare blankly at one another for an hour and a half. No one utters a solitary word, but we are like brothers in our servitude, bound inextricably in a passive acceptance of life’s eternal misery. Sometimes our very thoughts appear to hover momentarily above our heads, thrashing frantically as though imprisoned within a frustrating pool of inevitable non-fulfilment. Around the luggage racks they fly, seeking vainly the most vague and minute opportunities of expression amid the restraining boundaries of conformity and dull repetition. It’s nice to dream. This morning I noticed an ugly, overweight man with a large grey moustache staring quite unashamedly at the legs of every female unfortunate enough to choose the same compartment. I suppose that even his desires - as grubby and repulsive as they may be - constitute a dream of some description. A passionate yearning for satisfaction and release, perhaps, or a lifelong quest for personal betterment and success. Isn’t that what we all want? My own dreams are getting more frequent these days and, to be totally honest dear Diary, I much prefer to lose myself amongst the pleasurable kingdoms of my own imagination than in the puzzling complexities of the London Underground system. Or, for that matter, in the endless corridors and drone-strewn hallways of Canary Wharf. Freedom! That’s what I want. The freedom to have political, social and economic control over my own destiny. Ha! Some hope. Who the hell do I think I am? An idealist? An Utopian, even? Am I merely the proverbial angry young man, a lonely and isolated face in a flowing sea of economic units? The silent Raskolnikov of my age? Whilst my mind repeats the rhetorical verbiage of emancipation I, like all the other pin-striped insects, find that my body is leading me towards the escalators, the ticket barriers and, ultimately, the office. My daily subservience to the capitalist system is a reflection of my helplessness and despair. The helplessness and despair of society in general. How did we ever get into this mess? And, more importantly, how the hell are we going to get out of it?

Friday 23rd July

They say that only generals and virgins write diaries, but to my knowledge the likes of Samuel Johnson and James Boswell were neither. I wonder if they had this much trouble? At least Anne Frank had hers written for her. Attempting to describe the events of one’s own life is hard enough, without the additional burden of having no life to write of. I do try to steer clear of the ‘got-up-went-to-work-came-home-had-my-tea-and-went-to-bed’ syndrome, but it’s extremely tough without a regular variety of exciting footage at hand, I can tell you! Not that there is anything particularly false in that rather condensed and mundane statement, of course. Most days undoubtedly do contain those specific elements, but I still have my thoughts. What I think and how I live my life are two quite distinct opposites. Indeed, never was a polemic so absolutely polemical. Variety, we are reliably informed, is the spice of life. If truth be told, your humble narrator has a profound disadvantage which renders his earnest scribblings both invalid and irrelevant. ‘What is it?’, I hear you cry. Well, for one to recognise the tedious nature of human existence it is surely necessary to have previously experienced an alternative to life in its present form? In other words, without first having lived through a period of relative happiness and contentment it seems impossible to make a basic distinction between that and sufferance. That’s the theoretical view, anyway. In a more practical sense I just know there has to be something far better and worth striving for. One of these days I’ll find out what it is.

Saturday 24th July

The weekend. Surely the enemy of all businessmen? Hardly. The weekend is a useful tool for those who like to extract their profit from the blood and sweat of the workforce. Two days that have become a recurring pressure-valve. A period when the cage door is thrown open and the beleaguered cogs in the economic machinery of the nation have a chance to stretch their legs. They also have the time in which to spend the money they have earned from their labours. And, in their ignorance, end up giving it back to the financial wizards from whence it all came in the first place. Every Saturday the deceived masses file into the shopping complexes, the department stores and the burger bars; the materialist playgrounds of the modern age. As I study these people they seem to resemble a scene from a macabre pilgrimage, where the high priests of the retail trade receive millions and millions of pounds in return for a hollow communion of plastic, pleasure and polystyrene. The faceless individuals at the top know precisely what they are doing. It is a form of manipulation and control which economic analysts like to describe as ‘demand management’.

Even the bedraggled teenagers congregating in the town centres - the casuals, the punk rockers, the hippies and the New Age Travellers - they, too, have been systematically created or directed by those who call the tune. As they stand idly on the street corners or sunbathe drunkenly in the parks, bored out of their minds, they are under the misguided impression that they reflect the rebelliousness of society at large. Far from it. The capitalist entrepreneurs have the means to create an ‘alternative’ market and these so-called ‘social outcasts’ can be seen wearing the T-shirts, the leather jackets and the jeans of the big fashion conglomerates. The originality of man has become submerged beneath a barrage of commercial junk. There is no room for personal initiative and identity whilst the conveyor belts are churning out a meaningless pile of solidified hype. And, like an unspoken curfew, the busy streets are always purged of their bustling occupants shortly before the mystical tea-time benchmark. The bloated, satiated and fully-consumed fleet of carrier bags flocks homewards to watch Pamela Anderson’s boobs, Jeremy Beadle and the National Lottery. And what a pitiful sight it is, too. I’ve seen them through the net curtains, silhouetted figures sat wide-eyed and dribbling in their armchairs, observing little coloured balls and dreaming of yet more shopping.

My own weekend, apart from the obvious social observances, was spent rather differently. I occupied myself with the small array of vegetables that I have grown on my little piece of English soil (or at least that which is currently mortgaged to the local high street bank). In a way I suppose that I was pretty confined myself - within an area measuring little more than thirty square feet, in fact - but at least I was able to feel the dark soil fall between my fingers and have the sun beat down upon my shoulders. I am one of the lucky ones. The pathetic inhabitants of a high-rise tower block in Bermondsey will never experience such simple pleasures. Today I tried to spare a thought for those worse off than myself. This individualistic society, however, is not renowned for its charity and when all is said and done most people are simply out for what they can get. Are these selfish, apathetic slugs really my people, my compatriots, or my brothers and sisters? Such people make me want to throw up. There must be others who, like me, care enough to want to bring this whole stinking system crashing to the ground. There has to be something.

Is there anybody out there . . . ?


Troy South gate is an editor of the SYNTHESIS, an intellectual and cultural journal devoted to Anarchy, Occulture and Metapolitics. He contributed this article to

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