Issue #5

Constant Awareness of Want

Would it be tasteless to write an entire book of poetry highlighting the harsh reality of poverty in the UK student population? In the aggressive face of the credit crunch, many no longer have the disposable income to read about the latest economic developments, even in a discounted newspaper for students. Many have to read the news on their recently downgraded laptops, with a slower broadband connection than last year. Forced into saving money wherever they can; avoiding TV license payments; drinking cheap(er) wine before going out (not my favourite grape I usually prefer a shiraz); slowly sinking into the bleak student life of Raskolnikov. Abandoning (or toning down) the amateur interest in consuming alternative cinema; surrendering a dependence on continental lagers – even those flavoured with cherry, or served in violent vases – weaning yourself off trendy fruit ciders:- resigning to the dullness of life without cocktails; no celebrity encounters at swampy nightclubs; taxis ceding to buses ~ except when at the most selfishly vulnerable.

Quality of life is sure to decrease significantly: accept this fact and prepare. You will not be able to justify buying gratuitous fancy dress costumes for those [oh so indispensable, those legendary, those so difficult to get out of,] novelty bar crawls: you may have to lower your expectations as to those compliments your costume will invite in flaming, acrid bars - where pub crawls venture too far from their source and motivation - and you will no longer be able to resemble your favourite characters from childhood shows, (those ones you had forgotten until arriving in freshers week and discovering the resurrected interests, the mass hysteria to bond groups with nothing in common but their accident of age); from bemused charity shops, or cynical, colourful, fancy dress shops (that multiply like bacteria populations throughout student areas), as you only abandoned them before ten o'clock on the floor of a pub covered with body paint and sick.

It becomes difficult to recklessly drain your detached plastic rectangle with that heartwarming golden authority, (the gold standard wasn't abolished after all so it's fine to use that definitive portal for everything even idly ordering shityouforgetabout from websitesyoustumbleupon.)

It's hard to be optimistic in the winter: pessimism rises with coffee prices – there is a much neglected stoic alternative – but consumption, assumption of growth.

At what point stop having eye tests? And at what point are drugs economically indefensible? And how low do you get before you get a free haircut from a junior stylist, even though they will put products in your hair that haven't won 2008 grooming awards? And when stop smoking for the hell of it? When turn the heating off? When turn (all) the lights off (as if there's a choice)? When give up eating three meals a day? You will have to rekindle the ancient skill of making fires. Learn about indigenous edible plants. Could you skin a rat? Some of you will find your knowledge more applicable to the situations ahead. You won't regret the debt. Analyse, discuss, as you watch everything slide.

You may have time to perpetuate (vainly) dying academic publications. Reasons, or precedents, for, or to, the mercenary warlords who run amok in Shropshire. The structure of the tenacious fortresses of society – the mounting constellations of landfills, rising as the cities fall, drawing those who feel comforted by a nostalgic presence of human products – they recreate some parody of an economy, a symbolic parody of a civilisation. The tensile strength, the contours of a piece of birch, the nettle fibres wound around a lucky find of fishing line. Metal. A ragged shard, maybe from a tin of luxury soup, maybe affixed to a broken tent pole, maybe a straight piece of elder, maybe with synthetic flights, maybe prey or defence.

You could be one of those who understands the vapours and the clouds, the ones to forage under, the ones to shelter from, (if anything around can protect a hairless head from chemicals with complex names of fading relevance). Or understand the reasons behind the flood, and the drought, and the fact that southern England can no longer support any varieties of grass. Or the motivations for the collaborative, symbiotic slaughter of one billion people, driven to huge scale conflict and genocide, as Africa, and (flaming) Australia, (and Malta) drain away their fortuitous-fragile-habitability. As some as yet unidentified sexually transmitted disease decimates Europe (and the Americas (and probably Asia)).

Maybe you're a hypocrite: just because you're paranoid.

The Subjective Manifesto for Human Progress

1. The brute fact of the new system motivates vitality in any organism to be observed. A mechanical evolution motivating the selection of those with aspects reflecting machinery.

- A large metallic Dragonfly prompts a child's thoughts of his remote control helicopter. To get ahead it has shed the organic weakness and appearance of its predecessors. No longer so conspicuous, it is admired by those visiting the redeveloped canal.

- A contemporary re-imagining of a Dickensian street-scamp, a Fox delves in a skip to beat the credit crunch. He prefers a Big Mac, but these days he'll settle for a non-branded burger, and an evening overlooking the city lights.


- Throbbing and growing, never more alive, mutating at a rate to please Richard Dawkins (the God and overseer of evolution) Zebra Mussels thrive in the output of a new generation of nuclear power stations.

2. The existence of organic matter; its capacity for decay; stands in direct opposition to the planned international masterpiece. An eco-system sure, but one where variables are carefully monitored and controlled. Away from the terror of unknown equilibria. Limit the potential and multiply the possibility for order. A majestic putting green on the Great Barrier Reef; a successor to the great project of Atlantis.


3. Cultural buzzwords generate and die like bacteria populations. Scraps of black drift and swirl with intent over a newly planted field. Crows; plastic bags tomorrow. Emergency vehicles accept transgressions, with sirens for a purpose. Readjusting the expectations of a small town. For jobs, gradually subsuming casual racism into parlance. For a haunting web of ironic defence, for bewitching many with unpredictable semantic corruption. For casual becomes causal. For the unexpected, for the shocking, face to face with a spoonbill at the edge of a field.

He had been there so long that he had moulded into the ground,

The birds had learned to ignore his constancy,

To now and then marvel at his solemn routine.

Until everything was shattered by a letter,

And it was all downhill from there.

The sky gradually changed colour,

The river was choked with plastic and blood.

He tried to control the birds,

He carved his name into the tree,

Everything struggled and then fell apart.

4. With such inevitable progress in universal living conditions, we are heading for a golden age of human civilisation, the kind of optimum domination which enlightenment philosophers could only dream of; flexible but powerful rule over every acre.

Who can but marvel at the conditions of possibility that our species have brought into existence? Cleverly tensing the planet, supporting, and propping, to maximise the amount of our own joyful brethren, with the benevolent result of exponentially increasing the sum total of potential positive human emotion.

Used cooking oil on the wind,

A multi-culture on an awkward crossroads.

Street and traffic lights leaking and draining;

fading other lights and the national grid.

A mesh of battle lines and road markings.

The Stockholm cage of those who stride along,

Beginning to clutter,

Starting to stress.

We never stop before we go too far.

A 1 in 2 cull, and stop halfway to here.

Toby Hobbs

[Toby Hobbs is in the final year of his BA.]