ersatz wartime, part two

9 min readFeb 14, 2024

you develop a new game. there are a set
of traffic lights next to your cafe. you
stare and see if someone is hipster enough
to enter. and you observe what they buy.

i said that i would publish the second part of this relatively soon, but a lot of stuff has happened in the interim to discourage me from writing: the day after i published that, i became afflicted with a bout of consumption, and i don’t have the ability to write in that state. after that, writing seemed too menial to express how depressing a lot of things in life made me feel, but not menial enough for me to work out my general existential woes. somehow, my new year’s resolution (to write every day) has been failed, but i think this is still satisfying. as (yes, another) one of my favourite songs goes, my new year’s resolution was to write something of value, but a new year’s resolution to write something would be nice. i think that’s why i enjoy writing in all forms: despite it languishing within the in-between, it still has a purpose. that purpose… to be ogled by my millions of adoring fans. i thought for a while i would change the name of this blog but i think it’s evolved from snarky, to ironic, to ironically snarky, to snarkily ironic, to post-ironic snark, to whatever it is now. in a sense, we are all the 21st century nostradamuses (nostradami? i don’t know which declension my idol resided in.)

eventually this new game becomes too
existential for you to continue. you mutter
to yourself about the voyeur/homunculus
dialectic, before realising you are the hipster.

does anyone actually think the apprentice truly sorts based on who is the best at the (highly nebulous) task of business? not to deride the show on its true genre, being reality tv. seeing pompous arseholes who have ever-nicher occupations (pre and post-natal fitness coach is my favourite) fail at the simplest of tasks is truly wonderful. it is the licence-fee subsidised ointment to my perennial imposter syndrome. these people live in a fantasy world, perfectly encapsulated in their wake-up calls. they live in an undisclosed mansion, or glorified children’s home, or the ultimate benthamist wet dream, depending on who you ask. i think it’s a mix of the three. they are ostensibly woken up at 4am with a call from the receptionist- or occasionally someone else, if the show feels adventurous. someone runs down to get the call at a ludicrous time- suitably announced by the narrator, of course! they hear about meeting at a well-known, highly public, place, and for them to get ready in a silly timeframe. as an Audience Member, you are obviously meant to marvel at the influence of Ser Alan Sugar, Our Lord Almighty. he can book out some of the most recognisable landmarks for an assorted number of arseholes to stand around and listen to his incredibly focus-grouped remarks. they will go and do a “task”, where they go and produce some awful quality experiences, or food, or advertising campaigns. the task is very clearly edited to set both teams off of an equal front, but this is not done to show their competence. you see how equally incompetent they are! [i contemplated putting a spoiler warning here for a second, but if i did that, or if anyone desired that, we should collectively utilise the world’s nuclear stockpiles to wipe us all out in an instant.] in the task that started the show, the girls’ team used Crumble Mix. Crumble Mix! to make their fishcakes. because they thought the crumble mix was breadcrumbs. i am not making this up. they tried one of the fishcakes! they realised it tasted awful! they then wondered why they didn’t have enough crumble mix! i am not making this up! that’s not even the kicker. they won. they won the task. by a solid margin. in another moment of glory, a man with the ugliest beard i have ever seen in my life (seriously, it is. so ugly.) heard that his team got 50% of their takings refunded, and took this to mean a refund based on their profits, to which he did the lamest fist-pump of all time. i mean, all fist pumps are lame, but this one especially. obviously, this is not how it worked, to which one of his teammates gave the most disapproving headshakes that i have ever seen. and then this got me thinking about why i watch this show. it is not to see idiots fail at every single task a ten-year-old could pull off with some level of competence. if i wanted to see that, i would watch some other show that pulls that off without giving one of these grossly incompetent nitwits a quarter of a million pounds, and which also frames our knighted presence, sir alan sugar, in a good light. he is also an idiot. i watch it to revel in the second-hand embarrassment. to feel in community with everyone else watching the show, far removed from the simulacrum of modern business, who can see what idiots these people are. something that tethers us together. to watch the apprentice is the circuses to our bread. i am appeased, at the very least, by it. its hard not to watch, to be frank! hard not to talk about. hard not to think about (i mean, i am literally writing about it in my spare time of my own free will [no i am not doing a free will debate because that’s lame {that entire bracket was lame but i’m trying to go a bit stream-of-consciousness with this, and thought that bit important to leave in.}]) i think this also explains why i stop watching as the show progresses. not because i think that the second-hand embarrassment somewhat lessens, but because the show frames it as such. it has to frame it as such! how could it not frame the people who have a solid chance of winning two hundred and fifty thousand great british pounds as being mildly competent? if i had time, the will, or money, i would go back and watch the apprentice to see how it progresses through the years. or maybe watch some of the international versions. but i don’t think i need to. because these people are dumb. stone-cold idiots. the reason i watch them is to take comfort in discussing the idiocy, not taking comfort in the idiocy itself.

you mindlessly scroll, before the ultimate
remembrance: there is a war going on.
you think of one of your favourite songs,
before feeling guilty for that moment of joy.

this is going to be more overtly political (famous last words) but i feel that the current state of boycotting has strayed into the deeply polemical. not to say that i have “boycott fatigue” (one of the dumbest things i have ever seen in my life. starbucks, mcdonalds, and whomever else aren’t that good. have shame!) or anything like that. because that’s dumb. i think that the current wellspring it is drawing from- being anti-consumerism as a form of protest- is good! i think anti-consumerism is good! but boycotting, for a lot of people, seems to have become a process through which you can designate yourself, and particularly others, as good people. if you see someone have some starbucks, or go to dominos, or burger king, or wherever else, you have been cosmically deigned to conceptualise them as a bad person. i am a committed supporter of boycotts. i have avoided all of the places i have been informed to boycott and which have good reasons to boycott. i will be talking about starbucks and mcdonalds a lot because they are the big organic boycott targets. this is decidedly not about the bds movement, which i have long been a proponent for. one of the boycotts that bds have been focussing on for years has worked, with puma. they’ve stopped sponsoring the israeli national team! but with boycotts of starbucks and mcdonalds, two corporations with what seem to be only a passingly hegemonic support of israel, and the sheer fervour with which these boycotts, above all else, have been conducted, is odd to me. i don’t want to get all conspiracist here, but i think there’s something sinister about the way that two of the biggest fast-food corporations in the world have been sort of reified (see, i did tell you it would be a big thing in this piece) into the main tendril to which boycotts should be focused on. i think that this isn’t because of bad intentions. sticking it to “the man”, when the man is subpar food that’s everywhere, is overall a good thing. support independent whatever! yay choice activism! but i see some people talk online about the concrete impact boycotts are having on starbucks and mcdonalds and whoever else. and i wish that they were having this concrete impact, that these corporations are losing money out their arse because of boycotts. but i don’t think that’s true. i think it’s naïve to think so. but i don’t think it’s bad to think so. i mean i could make a point about how attaching yourself to this attack on a reified enemy (the spirit of israeli apartheid? the farce of capitalism? the banality of evil? i don’t know on this one what the enemy is. i think it’s a personal thing) stems from culturally-encouraged fascism, forcing a demonisation of the other, but that’s also polemical. which is what capitalism does. but this isn’t a rant about capitalism. everything i write is a rant about capitalism, except this. deleuze once said something along the lines of “kill the little fascist inside you.” i think those are words to live by. but drawing from my idea of semantic usefulness, maybe we should also kill the little influencer inside of us. raise awareness to your heart’s content! i’ve come around on that recently. godspeed to all posts about the awful things that are happening at the moment, since the media wants to obfuscate the content. i think that’s genuinely important. despite this, social media activism is not a means to the end, it is means to an end.

you used to proclaim yourself
as a “cynical optimist.
a believer, no matter what,
in the abstract good of humanity.”

you might be wondering how on earth i’ve managed to wrangle this back to instagram posting and the sociopsychology behind it. it’s a talent i practise and hone every single day. but i am not going to write/talk/metaphysically beam more about it. i did it to talk about compartmentalisation. the raison d’etre of capitalism. or rather the 24-hour-news cycle capitalism. where you have to stay informed because if you’re not informed, you’ll die, and you have to raise awareness, or else you’ll die, but you can’t truly comprehend the abstract news, because you’ll die. the amount of loss perpetrated by the society we live in, and by people at the top trying to (insert some catchphrase here.) i think i am an excellent compartmentaliser. if i weren’t i would’ve bid farewell to the mortal plane aeons ago. we all would’ve. if you don’t compartmentalise, you are an aberration. you are mentally “ill.” and i say that very lightly, since mental illness is a very real thing that capitalism doesn’t always affect. in the vast majority of cases, though, it does. i have had this cloud hanging over me the past couple of months. like the moon, it waxes and wanes, fading in and out of perceptibility. i think a lot of people have had this cloud. this cloud is not nebulous. it is not some unknown spectre hanging over me. it is easy for me to access. i have to stop myself from interacting with it. in tweets that i have to scroll past otherwise my day will be ruined, to news notifications i have to clear lest i spend my bus ride home gently weeping, to (yes) clicking past instagram stories because if i don’t i will land in a depressive stupor. i don’t think that this should be justified, or pathologized, or whatever. i don’t need to be told that it’s ok to log off, or whatever else people say to support their wilful ignorance. but i don’t want to see some of the most abject suffering in existence while blearily doing my daily newsreading. i am a very squeamish person and if i see stuff like that i am likely to vomit. and some people look at that every day! and i don’t want to play the awful, awful game of “well, someone has it worse than you.”, or talk about how much i hate that game, or even talk about talking about how much… you get the point. the entire conversation around it is awful. but i think it is genuinely deeply important to at least try and comprehend the scale of suffering. to do whatever you can to alleviate that feeling. that is ersatz wartime: death for the sake of dying, that you have to fight an enemy for, but an enemy that can’t reasonably be fought on the part of the individual. and dying that you also can’t do anything about. the only thing you can do is hope that after this depravity, something will change. i hope that something will change, even if i know that there’s a solid chance it won’t. i have to hope. if you stop hoping, they win.

an ambulance drives past the cafe. you
are back in the real world. the belief
in humanity doesn’t roar alive anymore.
it whimpers on, but never goes out.