Long Time Reader, First Time Writer
by Mixed Bagara, with art by Renée Bertini (@renee_arts_around)
I’m not from around here, but I’m reaching out, and I want to share a few thoughts with you. I have spent the last three years studying at the great Kingsley College Londis, the educational home turf of mid-nineties rapper and transatlantic challenger to Warren G, I am of course talking about Jono Keatz. I’m sure you’re all familiar with his more mainstream hits like ‘Ode to that Bitch’ and the longer, arguably more lyrical and certainly more explicit ‘Labia’. There are of course more obscure, diehard fan favourites which seldom get the recognition they deserve; I’m partial to enjoying ‘Lazy When Blazin’’, which muses on the figures of love, ambition and rap passing Jono’s subconscious by while he slumps into a sesh with the boys.
Three years at this place and I still haven’t settled in, and I don’t just mean the university, I haven’t been able to settle comfortably into anything. I am more clueless than when I started, ever curious, but ultimately and relentlessly clueless. I’ve tried my best to take it upon myself to gather information, to be as much of a sponge for knowledge as I can, and having done that for three years I can now say that it’s done absolutely fuck-all for clarity.
I try with different philosophies. Wouldn’t it be lovely to be able to pick a certain stance and stand firm on it? I am a Utilitarian. I am a Hedonist. I am a Hegelian. I am Aristotelian. The same goes for religions. I am a Christian. I am a Muslim. I am a Buddhist. These are all bold claims to make. Much like many religious arguments, aggressively contradictory political ideologies often derive from similar source material; Nietzsche is sited as one of the forefront influencers of the existentialists, the post-WWII leftist French thinkers, and most commonly of Nazi doctrine (though largely bastardised by his sister). Even so, you can see where these ideas come from. I try to read books by the left and the right, Slavoj Zizek is a communist in the strictest sense, believing that the whole capitalist system needs to be brought down before it can be rebuilt. I am no lefty, but I can see his point. I don’t agree with him, but at this moment that’s based on little more than intuition.
Politically, I like the appeal of centrists, Macron, Trudeau; Nick Clegg had his charm before we burnt him at the stake for student fees. Most recently Rory Stewart in the Conservative leadership race. He’s a breath of fresh air and someone whose name I would be happy to sign my ballot cross next to. Having said all of this, even with these figures, the anti-capitalist argument logically could argue that these centrists exacerbate and prolong the issue, upholding a system that is fundamentally flawed. Apparently a vote for Macron in the most recent French presidential elections was called, by both left and right commentators, as a vote for Le Pen in the next election, as it would merely anger the anti-establishment voters further if another pure establishment leader got in.
I am no right-winger either, so where does this leave me? There are convincing arguments on the right, there just are. Social liberalism is almost clearly the way forward, and this should really be clear to all by now, but does taking issue with extreme social justice movements place me on the right? The social justice warriors have their critics on the left too. Fiscal conservatism and free-market ideologies have the same real-world, reality-based appeal of the centrist figureheads. Does my fear of becoming a champagne socialist restrict me from embracing what would perhaps be natural left-wing, empathy driven views? Or is it just my hatred of the students who typically express these views? Is there ultimately the possibility that I am just a people despising Tory? I hope not.
I am fascinated by the Romantic era in art. The idealistic, utopia-chasing, flowery, starry-eyed poets, the lone wanderer of paintings and gothic novels, the sublime music. And yet, I do find myself nodding along to a lot of Nietzsche’s cocky assertions. He was brutally scathing of the Romantics. Where on earth am I in all this? There’s too much to take in, too much nuance to every argument. I would love to know where I stand.
A similar sentiment falls for people. The people at Kingsley College Londis, oh my, the people. If you’re looking for a zoo-like experience of the biggest nobs in further education, look no further than my Kingsley College Londis Philosophy Department. Great thinkers of tomorrow? Nah. Totally useless, vapid, glorified wet wipes.
Never trust a big group of friends, they’re not natural, they’re not lasting. Mystery Inc. had its tiffs and there were only five of them. The groups are made demonstratively out of guys, and there’s usually one Queen Bee who does what I call the ever-disturbing ‘mum-zoning’. The initial stage is friend-zoning, pretty standard, but what follows is a Freudian mothering from a peer who’s six months their junior. The guys don’t know what’s hit them, one minute they’re grafting their socks off, the next they’re getting the crusts cut off their sandwiches and being referred to by every name they were christened with, in full, all the time. Mum-zoned. Nothing worse. I mean, I’ve had more than my fair share of friend-zoning in my time, even by the Queen Bee in question, but I refuse to be mum-zoned. Truly, these guys have more of a chance of fucking their own mums than they do their anointed surrogate.
What’s the plan for life, philosophy students? Anything good? No? Oh! You just want the simple life. Maybe a bit of travelling. Money comes, money goes, man. It’s no biggy. Yes, it is, actually. The sound of the stream and the smell of the flowers won’t help you when you’re stranded in Tottenham Hale and having to work at Subway to afford your organic coffee addiction.
And then there’s: “I just need to get to Paris.”
That is an actual sentence I heard someone say, in full seriousness, while on the course. Yeah, same, sister. I just need to get to Mars. As long as I get to Mars everything will be okay. It will just be me, my three buddies, the planet, our duties of building a new civilisation of oxygen insulated tents and Matt Damon-esque potato growing, oh, and our slowly developing multiple cancers. I won’t just be the same depressed, pathetic person on Mars. No way.
Christ, I need to calm down, take a breath. Oh wait, I can’t, I’m on fucking Mars!
I do. I do hate the people from the course at Kingsley College Londis. Still, I am conflicted. These people are surface-level kind and caring. They have interests, they have friends, they’ve all been very nice to my face. Is it that same intuition deep down inside that convinces me they’re bellends? Is it just that same unjustified belief which I hold, just as I do against the radical communists on the left and the anti-abortion protestors on the right? I do have logic behind these views, but, fuck me, is it difficult to put it into words.
Being honest, there have been some gems on the course, thankfully there always are. People who know themselves well and push on with their own endeavours, providing platforms for bombastic young writers to let off literary steam. People who don’t fall willingly into collectively- categorised cesspools of mass opinion. I’ve counted the gems on the course and the number is in single digits. Good on you, Chiara! Oh, no, sorry, I mean... Kiara.
I am no better. In fact, I’m the worst. I’m a self-proclaimed outsider, a ‘loner’ who is constantly invited to join in and chooses not to. I throw more stones than Goliath’s David stuck in a time loop. I’m judgemental to the point of it being an obsessive hobby. I’m vain and insecure, I secretly seek the validation of others, though I put them through rigorous testing to deem them ‘worthy’ of validating me. I have an insistence on devil’s advocacy and general twattery, but, I don’t care, and for some reason that means that I’m continually allowed to get away with it. Even now, the people reading this might claim that I’m only including this paragraph about myself in order to justify the former critiques made about others, and they’d be right. In truth, I really do believe that I am bloody brilliant.
Okay, outside the world of KCL, outside of the world which grows at alarming rates in my own head, I have in fact met someone who makes me so very happy. I am a student of Kingsley College Londis, I hope to go on to great things, a bit like Jono Keatz, I am certainly a rapping romantic in the creative sense. I do worry that my cynicism, pessimism and irrepressible sense of awe in the face of strife are vitally instrumental to my ability to shit words onto a page. But that worry is not big on my mind at the moment, because I am happy, and I am still writing.
Being happy is great, isn’t it? I think that at least I can maybe offer this to you today, dearest readers. If you are feeling down, if your anxiety is crippling you, if love is hurting you, if cupid’s arrow has been shot directly into a tiny part of your temple and is giving you a very special kind of jealous and overzealous migraine, then at least you can now be aware of my happiness. You can revel in the fact that my life is going great, however shit your’s is. You’re welcome.
Finally, I remember an English lesson from school, for some reason we’d been asked to write a small paragraph describing a hand, or a pair of hands. I think this had something to do with our study of Heart of Darkness, and descriptive power in prose. I’ve always enjoyed writing but this task didn’t excite me in any particular way. There are two reasons that the creative writing task didn’t excite me back then; one is that I was mentally constricted in assuming that I had to write in a kind of romantic, elegant and densely-eloquent style, the second is that I had no hands to write about. But I do now, so I’d like to give the paragraph another go.
‘Her fingers are like breadsticks. Very slim breadsticks, mind you. They’re slender and narrow and pale. They’re simplistic and moorish, I just can’t get enough. Like all hand descriptions, especially with girls, they are delicate, her breadstick fingers, but they are mighty. There is great comfort in the breadstick, they’re the centre piece of a nibbles platter laid out at a party that you don’t want to be attending. You can focus all of your attention on these treats, the surrounding room falls out of awareness, it’s just you and the breadsticks. She doesn’t like me looking at her hands, it makes her self-conscious. She’d be mortified to read this. But she does love party snacks, including breadsticks. I love them too. She’s a total party snack to me.’
I focused on something small, for just a paragraph, and for once I knew exactly where I stood on a topic. It’s a good feeling.
Pretentiously, predictably angrily, definitely pompously, for once happily, unregretfully and perhaps sincerely your’s,