Over in society, there seems to be a plethora of creditable, highly-networked protest movements of late, all principally involved with bringing down the traditional power structures that they see as governing our world. Few days go by without society’s news media telling society’s members that Anonymous, Occupy or some other loosely affiliated opponents of something or other are marking their dissatisfaction at something or other.
It seems they are principally concerned with the imbalance of power in society and the failure on the part of society’s leaders to properly look after their rights, money, access to employment and institutions. In this respect, I have great sympathy for them. Their cause seems just and noble enough from the perspective of someone from society.
Comprising these movements is an impressively disparate variety of interest groups. There are environmentalists, human rights campaigners, fiscal reform campaigners, animal rights campaigners, freedom of information campaigners, anti-capitalists, anti-globalisationists, Marxists, certain varieties of Anarchists, Feminists, Gay Rights Campaigners, and many many more colours of disaffected, usually young, usually technology-literate individuals.
But, individuals though they are, they have something in common that binds them together in a way that could doom their desired revolution. By opposing a system, they inevitably recognise it, defer to it and allow it to imprison them……… (TBC)
Future writing: How did the UK Riots of 2011 differ in their scope from this other form of disaffection?
The word “parrochial” exists in Spanish but, of the two definitions in English listed by the Oxford dictionary, Spanish only permits one; the one that means “relating to a Church parish”.
The other definition? “Having a limited or narrow outlook or scope”
Waking up one morning and realising I was a fictional character in someone else’s book might have been difficult to take. But, instead, I chose to view it (or, my creator chose for me to view it) as liberation.
I could no longer stand reading about the characters upon whom I was based: the picaresque creations of Miguel Cervantes, Henry Miller and so forth, without acknowledging that I was a partly plagiarised archetype undergoing the requisite low level of character development that all my kind are condemned to.
But, I was happy to recognise that us Picaros are blessed with an uncanny sense of survival and an ability to understand society without ever having to invest in it personally. This seemed like a reasonable trade off when pitched against the fact that I don’t actually exist, other than in the minds of those I befriend, love, hate or deceive.
I wondered all day what else being a Piccaresque creation implied for my prospects of success in life, but recognising that my moral standards were likely to remain, at worst, guttural and, at best, relativist, and that I was absolutely destined to remain on the fringes of society by choice as much as personal failure, the question was rendered irrelevant.
I thought about how I had done much in life so far whilst managing to achieve demonstrably little. I had convinced myself that I was in love a hundred times with the least and most eligible of women, but failed to assimilate a life acceptable to both parties. I had ardently criticised the society I felt marginalised by without stopping to consider how much my marginalisation afforded me in intellectual freedom. Yet I had survived, prospered even, on my wits alone. And it could rarely be said that I had suffered at the hands of anyone but myself. How picaresque.
It seemed that accepting my destiny as preordained by the hand of my creator was an ostensibly religious epiphany. But it was not classically so. I did not believe in any higher force controlling the destiny of all mankind. I merely believed that there was a higher force controlling the narrative of my existence. I did not feel that my creator was some great unifying force. I simply felt that I was a conduit for their feelings on a society to which he or she, perhaps uncomfortably belonged. And, if this were true, he or she had likely created someone who did not share his or her sense of impotence. In fact, I was the essence of their power- their release, their catharsis. Therefore, it was impossible to say whether or not my creator or I was the “higher” force and there was nothing classical about this.
How novel, in a world of prescriptive belief, that one should feel empowered by being the created, rather than the creator. How empowering the sense that one’s destiny was someone else’s concern, but that it would be cared for in such a way that the created should not feel any fear of the future.
But there was one problem. Such epiphanies are uncharacteristic of us Picaros. Such understanding of our place in the world is not the mainstay of the archetype. Self awareness is not our forte. This could only mean one thing: that I am wrong about all of this. I was so convinced this morning that I wasn’t real but that very realisation seems to have convinced me otherwise. It turns out I must be real after all, unless this day of existentialist reflection was merely a departure on the part of my creator into some other literary sphere of which they have only a basic understanding. So, if I am real, this epiphany was rather useless. And if I’m not, my narrative seems to be getting a little muddled.
Everyone needs an “in”. Mine is working in an English academy. It’s a way of meeting people, I suppose. That’s how I try to view it. This particular school is run by 2 English misfits in their mid-forties. One seems to be the classic backpacker-English-teacher-turned-school-owner, strung out after years on the dope, a gentle giant who wanders the classrooms and common rooms like some old eccentric relative that is best ignored. The other of the duo is a nervous, socially-inept forty-something, who dedicates all his free time to triathlon training and uses his holidays to compete, ostensibly against himself, all over the Iberian peninsular. And one can imagine that he enjoys the long hours of training and competition as much for providing a pretext for him to not have to speak to anyone else, as he does for the mere challenge.
These two are certainly testament to the lack of aptitude or acumen required to own an English school in Spain. It’s always been easy money and now, despite the acute problems the Spanish economy faces, is boom time once again as the people of Cadiz, statistically Europe’s capital of unemployment, seek to prepare themselves for flight to northern Europe to find work where everybody has a friend who’s “doing really well for himself”. The English schools are full; the English industry here a big illusory basket brimming with freshly laid eggs. Of course, the schools aren’t complaining.
Well, they’re not complaining about business, at least. But our misfits did have something to say about my attire. The triathlete approached me on Monday asking if I had any trousers. I had a moment of panic thinking that the dream where I go to work semi-naked had become a reality. Apprehensively looking down, I was relieved to realise that the reference was to the style of trousers. My jeans are smart but they aren’t trousers and, since so many people of his ilk seem to live in a world of convention where objectivity would better serve, I understood that I was being asked to accept the purely sociological notion that trousers were somehow more smart than jeans.
I did mull this over momentarily, admitting to myself that he was far from the only person who bought into this disregard for logic. And, that being so, he was likely to have a point on some level, even though his point depended very much on the principle of the tyranny of the majority.
“No,” said I, truthfully. I don’t have any trousers. At least not here. He thought aloud, practically admitting defeat, knowing that it was unjustified to expect someone to buy some trousers for a job that was only worth about 30 Euros a week to them. I left him muttering to himself and went to make a cup of tea. No more was said that day.
On Wednesday, the strung-out-old-relative approached me beside the kettle, moments before class. Smalltalk was had. Football was mentioned. The weather was discussed. And then, as if (conspiracy of conspiracy) the smalltalk was a mere lead-in, I was asked again about trousers. It’s strange, I thought, how these curious animals had yet to ask me a single pertinent question about my approach to teaching, my needs as a staff member, or my opinion on whether my class members are likely to be ready to take the exam they are supposedly preparing for this December. Neither have they confirmed my hourly wage, something which I perversely feel the longer it goes on, the stronger my bargaining position. But the two of them instead seem singularly fixated on the eradication of denim among their workforce.
“I don’t think I’ll be buying any trousers for my 2 hours a week of work,” I asserted. “It makes no financial sense for me.”
“You can get 2 pairs of chinos for 50 Euros. They’ll last you all year,” came his reply.
I smiled as enigmatically as my face would allow, leaving him to work out whether it was a gesture of submission or mockery.
Fucking chinos, I thought. Where am I? 1993? I’d rather the naked dream came true than be seen in a pair of those twat pants!
We meet, introduced by a drunk acquaintance who forgets both our names mid sentence. She nods in my direction by way of saying “hello”. It may have been shyness- a nervous reaction that compelled her to suck a mouthful of her drink through her straw, peering up at me from behind her glass. But, however she intended it, in our world without absolute truths where competing narratives are the basis of understanding, my own narrative classifies it under the heading sexual gestures.
My attention aroused, I ask her about herself. Sound interested, I tell myself. They like that. If only the people I met of late had actually been interesting, such reminders would not be necessary. I’d much prefer being interested than merely sounding so.
But here is a place of little depth, where meeting new people is infinitely more valued than getting better acquainted with those you have already met. People like me, who have much to say to those I know and too much caution to risk saying it to those I don’t, don’t thrive here. It’s the extroverts, the jokers, the unserious and the naive who belong. More power to them.
Julia, she said her name was. A German Julia with a “y” sounding beginning. Drunks swirl around us staggering from leg to wobbling leg. They’re making me feel a bit dizzy. I lean in to speak to her. She doesn’t understand what I say. I ask again, more slowly and more precisely, about what she does. In Berlin, she’s a waitress. Is that interesting? What’s the follow-up question here? I don’t know. Do you like it? Is it rewarding? What’s waitress in German? Fuck. I’m staring down a series of unlit tunnels. Do I want to have a moronic conversation? Can I open this up? She seems interested but I’m already bored. Ask me about me, I think. I can talk about myself. You’d be impressed, I’m sure. Shut up. Sound interested, I remind myself. Interested in what, though? I can’t sound too interested in waitressing in Berlin. I’d seem like a maniac. Change the subject.
What brings you here? A better question. An opportunity to explore her desires, her motivation, her character. But an opportunity for me to hear the same old recyclable cliches. I’m already second-guessing the answer. Sound interested!
Oh yes, it is lovely, isn’t it. Yes, we’re all so happy here. The beach, yes. Beautiful. And cheap too. Why would anyone live anywhere else. We’re so lucky to have discovered this place, and so few people come. It’s a well kept secret, let’s keep it that way.
What a prick! You’re talking crap. Tired old crap. What do you want from this girl?
She is quite attractive. Should I ask her on a date now? But what would we talk about? Why is everything so boring of late? My nan used to say that boredom is for boring people. Was she right? Probably. She was right about most things. She hated the Germans, though. That wasn’t on. But, I suppose the war would do that to you. God, the war? That was terrible. I can’t imagine that happening now.
She’s still speaking. Something about work. She can’t remember the word for work. She’s saying it in German. I know some German. Arbeit. That’s work in German. As in “Arbeit macht frei”.
Fuck. I just said that out loud. She begins to laugh. Is that nervous laughter? I don’t think so. She’s not doing the sexy straw thing – that was nervous. This isn’t. She acknowledges that I know German, if only some Nazi slogans. I assure her that I’m not a Nazi. She chuckles promisingly.
This is more interesting, isn’t it. It’s bloody ridiculous but it’s more interesting than before. Now we’re laughing about the Nazis. From talking about her holiday plans to laughing about the Nazis and their funny slogans. Yes, this is definitely better. I can’t take this much further, though. Where does one go from here?
Nowhere, it turns out. Bye then, Julia (with a “y” sound). Nice to have met you.