Author : Ellery James Roberts
Ellery James Roberts was the former lead singer of WU LYF. He now teamed up with Ebony Hoorn to form Lost Under Heaven. After three years spent in Amsterdam, he just returned to Manchester, his hometown, in a post-Brexit context that he explains below.
How does it feel — when you are in your mid-twenties — to experience a context of isolationism choose by people who “prefer to stay home watching daytime TV”? How do you react to hate and “stupidity” after having lived in a European city based on tolerance?
pre-distribution. You do not own the virtual you. Privacy is a fundamental element of a free society.
This morning I returned to the city I grew up in, after 3 expansive years spent in the ports of Amsterdam. I had left the perpetual grey of Manchester, England in a spiral of disillusionment, falling ever further into a cycle of angst against the culture of the town and country of my birth. After a few months of wandering, penniless and restless, around the European continent, I ended up in Amsterdam. I was immediately taken by the laissez-faire attitude of “live & let live” that I, as an outsider, projected onto the rich tapestry of aged psychedelics, pioneers, occultists and pimps who populate the wilder fringes of the city. I felt like I was witnessing the authentic lives of people who still enjoyed the liberty to explore their own unique eccentricities, at a respectful distance from the carnival of clean-cut yuppies and red-eyed tourists. The first 21 years of my life had been dominated by a homogeneous cast of deeply-conditioned pod dwellers, Pavlov’s puppies rolling in their own filth. Now I was encountering apparently decolonised minds that had successfully shaken off their inhibitions. It was an invigorating reaffirmation of human potential.
I soon found myself feeling completely out of place when visiting my former home. Worse still, a new stench was now emanating from my old country.
I for one hadn’t really taken the whole pandemonium seriously, only being able to stomach a couple of minutes listening to the gas bags as they chatted bubbles on the matter… My opinion was that this was simply a new spectacle of engagement, like a football match or something.
I woke on the morning of June 24th confident that the turkeys wouldn’t have voted for Christmas, but turned on the radio to hear the sound of headless clucking about market fluctuations. My heart briefly blasted a beat. Had they really gone and done it? Had the timid, socially conservative island that prefers to stay at home watching daytime TV over rioting about the perpetual degradation of love, life & liberty really gone and rocked the good ship Status Quo? Just like 48.1% of eligible voters, I listened in disbelief.
A million people march through the capital in a symbolic gesture of refusal, and it receives less publicity than the leopard print stilettos of Musty Mother Theresa and her pantomime concerns over the burning injustice, which just serve to continue the myth that there are no alternatives.
Like many others, perhaps I had a limited understanding of what it meant to be part of a united Europe. Regardless of its monolithic bureaucracy, at its core there lies a principle of commonality – an “all for one & one for all” in this private members club – that means to be a part of it is surely better than to stand alone.
Reject the artist as entrepreneur, embrace the artist as cultural seer. Find new possibilities. At some point during my recommenced, auto-didactic education, I came across Buckminster Fuller‘s Critical Path. Like many before me, I was both overwhelmed and energised at the common sense of these workable solutions to the fundamental issues facing humanity. The primary idea particularly resonated with me: the world must be looked at holistically, our planet’s finite resources considered as the rightful inheritance of every citizen, to which we thus all have equal claim.
Britain has long since been culturally irrelevant on an international level. A mixture of arrogance and ignorance defines the myth of our nation. We are going to win everything, right up until the second we lose. At which point, we briefly shudder before drowning that thought in five pints and picking a fist fight with some one who looks different to our reflection.
Finally, the environmental effects of industry are being felt. Temperatures are rising. Copious amounts of pollution being produced in the pursuit of steam.
Knowledge is denied to the masses, in order to sustain the elites.
This is a culture of stupidity, one that prefers a frontal lobotomy over any in-depth meditation on the dichotomy between the individual and the community. One where constant rushes of dopamine scrape away at that tiresome empathetic node with hyperbolic fiction. One where fluffy blonde fascists are somehow able to position themselves as a protest vote against the establishment.
Allowing this state of affairs somehow manages to dignify the sociopathic tendencies enshrined in our monarchy. Ignorance as a manifested denial of the hierarchy of eugenic supremacy. This is what the Monarchy is a beacon of: those who are born better, who we have the privilege of celebrating.
“No man is an island to himself” read the tasteful typeface of an alternative “remain campaign” poster. In this globalized hyper-reality, all of us who partake in modern life are unavoidably complicit.
We all are complicit in this culture, those of us who have lived through the apparent stability and ease of the West, where the more uncomfortable, exploitative and destructive tendencies are simply swept blindsided under a rug. Not in my back yard, chump.
All is bullshit on repletion and censorship by omission, within the narrow parameters of debate. The richness of crucial, meaningful debate is so desperately needed on this planet, rather then divisive fractious arguments over the imagined other that rein supreme in towns with the lowest levels of social integration.
Progress is the people who take action, beyond the pantomime of participation constituted by ticking a box when permitted, following months of empty rhetoric.
Complex issues are cringe-worthily reduced to phatic soundbites, as “what does Brexit actually mean” starts trending. Grey Britannia is pushed into answering in black or white.
That it was allowed to happen, for nothing happens by chance in this culture, intends to destabilise us: chaos reigns, we fear one another, the future haunts us.
After a few months, I found myself acquainted with an international community who, as with many of my own generation, were over-educated for a world that does not & cannot exist. We’d habitually spend intoxicated nights prophesising dystopian possibilities of the future. The thought of any positive gains in our lifetime seemingly rooted in the Gezellig idealism of the past.
Reinforced by self-affirming social bubbles, perpetuated by the algorithms of social media.
And yet here I am, here we are… Sat looking at a screen, in dialogue. Subvert, and refuse the grinding cogs of stupidity that repress human potential.
Mass media coverage, the disproportionate time given to fringe bigots.
Social conservatives, nervous, timidly fearing the future, against the wave of technological progress.
Refugees of water wars, the privileged lifestyles of the free world. European affluence is contributing to the deterioration of others. Should our circuits flicker, pandemonium ensues.
One of the last voices of intelligence within pop culture said: “I’ve been dreaming of a time when to be English is not to be baneful, to be standing by the flag not feeling shameful, racist or partial“.
Yet it shaped me, left a scar on my forehead so deep that no cosmetic transformation can hide it. Look beyond the micro-management of national politics to consider our planet of finite resources as a whole. Equality, freedom and solidarity with our species, our root commonality beneath the prevailing authority of dead desert religions.
What continuously surprises me is the ignorance of our time, even though it is framed by the potential for dialogue and the sharing of knowledge. For the digitized dialogue only manages to communicate the surface of our experiences: I can watch in conceptual horror, but I do not feel. Was this genuinely shot on a consumer camera, or is it an elaborate Hollywood construction favouring first person perspective for that gritty realism that our voyeuristic boredom craves?
A decision of such cultural importance was reduced to a nonsensical popularity contest between old school chums. Throwing sand in the eyes of rational thought, I watched in disbelief at how seriously this pantomime of engagement was taken by grey-faced media hacks.
The phantom of democratic freedom. Pantomime action. This was allowed to happen. Destabilising the union. Devaluing the currency to soften/enable the inevitable move to crypto currency, as the mechanics of our 21st century economy implode. At this point, I would not be surprised by anything. The news feed refreshes with a sense of foreboding, the inevitability of harm done to innocents during the slow motion implosion of this rotting asbestos house of cards.
Divided and blindsided to the issues of real, vital importance, we sit dumbfounded, desperate for entertainment that allows us to slip into more continent worlds. Nicely rounded narratives with perfect bodies and personalities. Distancing ourselves from the cross-wired mess of complexity, the cold truth of our situation. We are destroying our home and dignity in the pursuit of an ambiguous whatever. Damn, I don’t even know, the denial of human frailty. Flaws of the human condition.
We roll our eyes with exhausted empathy to the waves of migrants forced from their homes by violence nurtured on the whole by the vested interests of the West. Mostly in securing the sticky icky black gold that fuels our addiction. I shed a pre-emptive tear to the next wave of thousands, millions of climate refuges that said lifestyle of the west has created, as the effects of the past 100 years of industrialised free-for-all ravages our planet. The damage has already been done.
I return with the sentiment that I take responsibility for my life and the world that I exist within. In Amsterdam, I have existed as a bewildered observer to the world, an outsider through choice. But the time now has come to partake in the community that raised me. To contribute to the cultural discourse, for there seem to be too few that voice an alternative. To live the world without received knowledge, to come up with fresh answers. In this complex and uncertain world, it is essential to see the world through many different eyes.
And why? Not because I find perverse fulfilment in pushing the boulder of freedumb up a mountain. No, it is because I can see the draught has turned this mountain into a tinderbox and I am an apprentice in the ancient art of telling fire. All under the heavens is in chaos; the situation is perfect.
This is not some accelerationist snarl with a white power bike death wish. Rather it is a spooky tremor of the sublime shaking (post-)humanist fundamentalism into a deep & full-bellied ROFL@ The Cosmic Joke.
In the rubble of what once was, perhaps something may be uncovered. The blossom in the abandoned factory that suggests enduring life, regardless of the structures imposed upon it.
(Yet Another) Solipsist Troubadour with a Righteously Bloodied Nose