THURSDAY 30th SEPTEMBER

 

I had almost forgotten that today was my birthday. It caught me so totally unawares that it seems I have crossed the threshold into adulthood and a certain indifference to, if not ironic detachment from, the whole idea of celebrating one's birthday. When one is a child one looks forward to such an occasion with an air of enraptured expectancy, as though something near-miraculous were about to happen - not exactly a rebirth so much as the receiving of the most wonderful presents in an atmosphere of love and joy. Today, however, my birthday means scarcely anything to me, having the empty and superficially ironic ring of the single card which, received from my mother (as might be expected), blandly reads: 'Have a wonderful day!' If my birthday contains any particular significance - aside, that is, from its numerical value and my mental registration of the fact that I am now officially a year older than yesterday - it can only be in the sense that, on account of the residue of a few sentimental connotations remaining from previous birthdays, I would like the day to pass without too many disturbances, shortcomings, or indiscretions on the part of both me and my neighbours. As it happens, I am almost afraid that it will be spoilt by a few idiotic and puerile grievances between us. (Strangely enough, I'm reminded of the seemingly futile efforts made by various sections of the industrial working-class to consistently enjoy themselves when, during the course of a three-week summer vacation, they are obliged to make an attempt at doing so, else die of boredom. Somehow, one can never quite elude the impression that they're fighting a losing battle in the face of the overwhelming odds of a hard-working past stacked so unmercifully against them. Perhaps I am in a similar fix vis--vis my neighbours?)

Be that as it may, it rather looks as though I shall have to get along with the day's events, come what may. This time next week I'll probably be accustomed to thinking of myself as a year older and be a lot less prickly about how fate treats me in consequence. I expect my mother is even now pricklier about it than myself. Either that or she doesn't really give a toss any longer!

So twenty-four years' existence has led me, Michael James Savage, to this room, this journal, these thoughts, together with certain acquired facts and experiences, a few of which I now contemplate with a distinctly ambivalent frame-of-mind. In attempting to placate her propagative impulses my mother was ultimately compelled to thrust me head-first into a doctor's gloved hands, and no sooner had I woken up to the realization that I no longer had a womb to protect and nourish me than I commenced hollering. Thus life began for me, as for everyone else, from the strictly autocratic point-of-view. Henceforth, I would be obliged to accept and respect my parents. My childhood would be one long orgy of gratitude and dependence.

For a moment, I endeavour to contemplate the notion of my father having his way with a fairly intelligent, though fundamentally lascivious, woman who subsequently became my mother. Coming from a Catholic background, my progenitors were strictly forbidden the use of contraceptives, so it was evident that they would either have to produce offspring or drive each other mad from perversion. As might be expected, they chose the former course, and that is how I came into being. Despite his Bible and rosary beads, good manners and ideals, aesthetic predilections and intellectual preoccupations, my male progenitor was the possessor of a circumcised penis which, as the focal-point of the 'will to life' (in the philosophical sense somewhat narrowly espoused by Schopenhauer), ejaculated semen into my mother's womb, and the long-term consequence of one such ejaculation - probably one of hundreds and not necessarily the first either - was a tiny male baby who thereafter grew to be the young man of twenty four who sits here today sadly contemplating his birthday.

Of course, there is reason enough why it would be almost justifiable for me to heap accusation after accusation upon my progenitors, to criticize them for their apparent lack of foresight, to condemn their delusions, weaknesses, fears, and conventions in the self-righteous name of my current dissatisfactions. But I know only too well that such a procedure wouldn't get me anywhere, seeing that I would only further torture myself in their absence. For, when all's said and done, one is essentially alone in this life and the best one can do, short of seeking asylum in some political or religious organization, is to persevere with it without unduly and foolishly torturing oneself with misgivings, at the risk, needless to say, of regular psychological crises.

To be sure, any criticism of one's parents' apparent inability to restrain themselves from committing the 'supreme folly' (as I think Sartre not unreasonably called it) of propagation can, with equal justice, be levelled against one's grandparents, great-grandparents, great-great-grandparents, and so on, until one eventually approaches the source of modern life by discovering, in one's most distant ancestors, the morally irresponsible imbeciles whose origins were evidently more ape-like than human! No doubt, they all acted in good faith, realizing that any satisfactory sexual pleasure to be obtained through their respective partners would inevitably lead to propagation, and that they would consequently have no choice but to tag along with it and obey nature's dictates, since there weren't any serious alternatives in a primitive community, and one, moreover, where concepts like birth control, celibacy, and solitude would have met with ridicule in view of the way wild beasts and enemy tribes preyed upon one another with intent to advancing their own interests at the expense of those weaker or stupider or less ruthless than themselves. But I don't want to go into the history of the world or, indeed, of evolution on my birthday, since it is a thorny subject at the best of times, without the necessity of my dragging it into this literary journal because of a need to do something constructive and even courageous (reckless?) today no less than on previous days. Still, this subject of propagation intrigues me, so, despite my superficial qualms and regrets over how best to tackle it, I think I'll persevere with it a while longer.

To begin with, there is my own life, a not particularly eventful life (as we have seen) but a life of sorts all the same, and then there are the lives of others, a great many of whom are undoubtedly suffering in the most appalling conditions, whether here in England or, more usually, far away in less-temperate parts of the world. Whenever I think in terms of world population, I invariably shudder with fright. For, regardless of the fact that the globe is fast becoming an increasingly overcrowded place, the population of a majority of countries continues to rise, as though nothing were happening and there was little reason to take birth control seriously. Naturally, the chief powers are now building better armies, navies, and air forces than ever before. But all that is somehow relative to the apparent need of modern man to destroy en masse and universally, rather than on a restricted scale corresponding, say, to the Battle of Hastings. There is something evolutionary about it which makes it unlikely that the process could be dramatically reversed. Neither can alliances be made, armaments be sold, manoeuvres be carried out, or forces be maintained, if not increased, unless one is guaranteed an enemy or, at the very least, a potential enemy, so that the world, or a substantial portion of it, can be divided into two or more hostile camps which then fly competing flags in the names of freedom, democracy, communism, fascism, capitalism, equality, nationalism, industrialism, religion, ecology, fundamentalism, liberalism, or whatever. The interrelativity of things is inescapable, and no successful armaments manufacturer can avoid being effectively indebted to the enemy, or potential enemy, for supplying the continual need of defence.

At this very moment, throughout virtually every corner of the world, soldiers, sailors, and pilots are earnestly undergoing preparations for another major war by perfecting the art of martial aggression, whether defensively or offensively or even some paradoxical combination of the two; by learning new combat techniques which will enable them to keep ahead of the enemy; by acquiring new military hardware which is superior to anything the other side may possess and which, when combined with everything else, will ensure that they'll be on the victorious side if and when another war is declared and they suddenly find themselves being rushed into action, called upon by society to justify the expenditure incurred in both training and equipping them, to utilize their martial skills, defend their country, sovereign, principles, rights, freedoms, and so on - a veritable host of magnificent ideals!

Were Hermann Hesse alive today he could doubtless be relied upon to offer a credible prognosis concerning the future course of world events with the same eloquence and perspicacity as if he were talking of Germany in the 1920s and '30s. Since then, however, the world has pressed on again, re-drawn its frontiers, and crowned its evolutionary aspirations with wider-ranging ideological incentives which now require new warnings, analogues, criticisms, and prognostications.

It may seem strange, but a majority of those who daily live under the threat of nuclear or biological extinction are still capable of being reasonably responsible. They sense the war god towering above their teeming populations, leering down at them, mocking their attempts at reform, yelling at the top of his cynical voice: "No life without death, no peace without war, no love without hate, no light without darkness, no right without wrong, no human being without human nature!" and they huddle closer together into various philanthropic organizations, consider compromises, suggest propagation-amendment laws which forbid families from having more than two children; suggest compulsory euthanasia for seriously malformed children, congenital lunatics, dangerous criminals, victims of painfully incurable diseases, geriatric invalids, etc.; suggest state-controlled abortion, state-run contraception, compulsory vasectomy, artificial insemination, and whatever else comes desperately to mind. But well-intentioned though some of these schemes may be, their implementation would probably spark off a violent revolution and thereby defeat their objectives. The existing governments of a majority of countries would be unable or unwilling to authorize such measures, being obliged, instead, to watch the war god looming over the masses in a threatening posture, to let the masses propagate at random, to bludgeon one another in the name of freedom, and eventually to thin one another out by the conventional method of mass extermination - another major war!

No, euthanasia, state-controlled abortion, propagation-amendment laws, and the like are all very well theoretically. But their literal implementation would ultimately conflict with pro-life teachings of the Church and thereby place the entire democratic system in jeopardy. If the worst comes to the worst, another world war will curb the current population of the globe quite adequately. In fact, there'll hardly be need for a plague afterwards, the war will have ...

Damn it! I'm not going to torment myself with any more of that kind of idle speculation. It seems likely, after all, that the world's population will continue to rise for some time to come. There will undoubtedly be more screaming brats and overcrowded flats, more social frustrations and national inflations, more congested pavements and homeless vagrants, more social handouts and moral cop-outs, more long-term unemployment and military deployment. In the main, however, people will continue to take things more or less for granted. Indeed, some of them will even kid themselves that the world is becoming an increasingly better place to live in, that today's youths have far greater opportunities for 'getting on' in life than any previous generation ever had, that the standard of living has improved beyond recognition in recent years, and that the one definitive all-knowing God of the New Testament, not to mention His all-powerful Old Testament progenitor who in some countries counts for a great deal more, is both protecting and guiding the world towards a still brighter future, while simultaneously restraining the impulse to personally intervene, in order that His followers may faithfully continue to work in His name until, ever mindful of the Last Judgement, they die in a condition of optimistic resignation rather than pessimistic foreboding!

Throughout the coming decades, the average man will continue to be so habitually deprived, both materially and spiritually, though especially spiritually, that he will be unable to comprehend or objectify the extent of his deprivation. So much will it have become a part of his daily routine ... that he'll have no real option but to take it for granted. He may even go so far as to consider himself relatively fortunate that habit and insensitivity have largely blinded him to the extent of his personal misfortune, and that he is still 'better off' than certain other categories of people - the mentally retarded, for instance, or the incurably insane. He will get up early, every weekday, feeling utterly dejected at the prospect of having to go to an underpaid and overworked job for some seven or eight hours. He will struggle through the day like a man at the end of his psycho-physical tether, and when he eventually arrives home again to an equally tired, humiliated, and short-tempered working wife, he'll automatically turn to the TV, sprawl in front of it for the rest of the evening, take the most part of what he sees for granted, no matter how vulgar or violent it may happen to be, and, finally, clamber into bed with a filmic hangover, absolutely dying to submerge himself in the inky darkness of world-defying night!

Indeed, he will have become so accustomed to his personal hardships that if a man were suddenly to faint in front of him in the street, one day, he would walk over his prostrate body as though it didn't really exist. He will see millions of cars, buses, taxis, vans, trucks, and lorries, but he won't worry too much about the extent of their combined exhaust fumes or the degree to which they daily pollute the atmosphere. Neither will he wonder where all the new vehicles are going, those being regularly churned-out of their factories on a conveyor-belt process which, once sold, will make the roads an even noisier, busier, dirtier, smellier, and more sickening experience than they already are at present. Oh no! He will have to turn what is commonly known as a 'blind eye'. For once the industrial cogs have started turning (and turning with increasingly desperate momentum as time goes by), you can't just stop them overnight and make millions of men redundant, even if their labour does contribute to making the world a worse place to live in, an increasingly hazardous arena. He will simply have to accept so many absurdities, imbecilities, misfortunes, tragedies, and other regrettable facts of contemporary life ... that any genuine self-respect, personal dignity, or individualistic principles to which he might still lay some sort of attenuated claim will be brought into utter ridicule as an affectation of vainglorious egocentricity - the sort of delusions of antiquated grandeur an easily dispensable and relatively insignificant social pawn shouldn't have any recourse to, no matter who he happens to think he is! Social pawns should be seen and not heard, used and not touched, bought and not sold!

No sooner have I written the above than it occurs to me that, in society's impersonal eyes, I am also an easily dispensable and relatively insignificant social pawn, to be pushed around the glorified chessboard of the marketplace by those who have a vested interest in securing a few extra points for themselves at the expense of all those less well-placed pawns. Admittedly, I'm not being pushed around it very much at the moment, especially with a recession biting the hands of the pushers. But, all the same, I don't have any real say in things and I'm certainly not asked for an opinion as to how best the game should be played, so that, for once, the pawns, and not the pawn-pushers, might be the ones to profit from it. Even if I do occasionally hit upon a solution to a given problem with a conviction that puts alternative considerations beyond doubt, it is a completely gratuitous event so far as the world in general is concerned, something that isn't guaranteed to appeal to the pawn-pushers, and something that, transferred to paper, may well lose much of the cutting-edge of conviction as it undergoes literary transmutation and becomes diluted with fictional lies in the interests of a more commercial presentation, a presentation which even then might prove too unadulterated for the liking of those people whose preference is rather more for blissful ignorance than the painful truth!

Yes, but I have to do something too! I have to dispel time's cruel tyranny as best I can, no matter what the outcome. There is a fair possibility that, even with the vagaries of fate to consider, I may have to live through another fifty or so birthdays before I die and pass beyond their reach to an eternity of self-oblivion the other side of mortal death. During the intervening time, I will doubtless have to keep myself reasonably preoccupied: to write, think, read, listen to music, watch TV, etc., as well as to eat, drink, sleep, walk, talk, etc., in accordance with human necessity. But I know for a fact that I am by no means resigned to the possibility of ever being partly responsible, as a parent, for condemning another human being to 70-odd years experience, whether directly or indirectly, permanently or temporarily, constantly or intermittently, of such places as Crouch End or Muswell Hill, and to such things as constipation, diarrhoea, glandular fever, bronchitis, appendicitis, tonsillitis, peritonitis, tuberculosis, pneumonia, influenza, coryza, colds in general, stomach aches, earaches, toothaches, headaches, migraine, eye strain, myopia, insomnia, growing pains, cramps, B.O., nausea, vertigo, mumps, measles, chickenpox, V.D., schizophrenia, cancer, sciatica, halitosis, dandruff, boils, pimples, warts, moles, cysts, sties, blisters, mouth ulcers, stomach ulcers, alcoholism, tobacco addiction, drug addiction, destitution, nightmares, boredom, worry, mental strain, nervous breakdowns, frustration, regret, despair, guilt, fear, hate, suspicion, humiliation, anger, manic depression, depressions in general, neurosis, psychosis, loneliness, unrequited love, anachronistic institutions, graveyards, derelict houses, excessive pollution, traffic congestion, traffic noise, traffic accidents, accidents in general, overcrowded pavements, smelly money, inflation, economic recession, commercial exploitation, cacophonous music, predatory advertisements, political incompetence, noisy neighbours, noisy neighbourhoods, hammerings, drillings, sawings, barkings, dogs' shit on pavements, dogs' piss on walls, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, plagues, wars, famines, droughts, thefts, rapes, murders, perversions, suicides, lies, purges, putches, riots, tanks, bombs, warships, warplanes, nuclear submarines, revolutions, racism, jingoism, deluded philosophers, deluded philosophies, prisons, lunatic asylums, mines, factories, courts, offices, barracks, etc., etc., ad nauseam!

No, I have no pressing desire to propel any prospective child of mine into that kind of world, however tempting it may sometimes be in the light of social and/or sexual pressures. Yet, despite that, I just can't imagine myself being so selfish or weak or besotted as to alleviate my boredom, depression, loneliness, tension, desire, or whatever, at the expense, effectively, of a poor naive young child who wouldn't understand what sort of a world it had been born into until it was too damn late.

Yes, the truth, it seems, is rarely flattering to our egos! Yet for some considerable period of time now it has been the policy of society to coat certain aspects of the bitter truth in sweet lies, in order to propagate universal delusion and thereby mitigate the harsh reality of having to swallow a pill which would otherwise prove unpalatable to all but the most fearlessly honest.

People who are philosophically conscious of striving after the truth, however, have little stomach for the lies with which the pill of factual reality is normally coated, since such things go against their philosophical grain and may even lead to a type of mental indigestion or blockage which would be far more damaging to their souls than ever the truth could be. Such people must look into the various things with which they are concerned as honestly as possible, examine them closely, and then endeavour to formulate rational judgements about them which may lead to a discovery of their true worth.

Thus when I considered what I regard as some of the more unfortunate consequences of propagation, a short while ago, I was attempting to do just that, and I must confess it deeply troubled me to think that, in a moment of mental weakness or under the tyranny of love, of possessive emotional obsession with another person, I too might be forced to follow my parent's example and wind-up condemning an innocent child to a lifetime's sentence in the prison of contemporary reality!

Of course, I know something about love or, at any rate, unrequited love, so I'm aware that, under its pressing influence, a person may commit a child to life without appreciating the true nature of what he has done - indeed, that he may be so powerless to resist the sway of his beloved that anything short of propagation would appear unrealistic, if not downright foolish and self-defeating! But I'm also aware that one day his love will disappear as suddenly as it came, leaving him, in later years, with two or three wretched adolescents on his hands who will probably despise him for having plagued them with modern life. Furthermore, I'm well aware that there are plenty of young women in this paradoxical world whose principal justification for marrying would be the experience of raising children and thereby securing for themselves an acceptable degree of maternal preoccupation, without which their lives, ever subject to menstrual pressures, would doubtless become quite intolerable, since they wouldn't know how else to justify themselves to themselves, and the justification for living with a man would sooner or later be called into question, if not completely invalidated.

To be sure, even today, in this age of female liberation, there are many such women in the world, women who seek in marriage the experience of raising a family not simply as a means of both justifying their natural obligations and exploring their maternal potential in all its ramifications, spiritual as well as physical, but of justifying and cementing their relationship to a man, forcing them to tolerate the vicissitudes of marital life for the sake of their children, with the possible eventuality that, having grown up and left home, these same children will do them proud in later years, and perhaps even protect or support them, not to mention honour their place of burial - assuming they're not cremated - through the posthumous commemoration of their 'deathday' in the fragrant afterlife of floral tributes?

Once these children have grown up and left home, however, the parents may still decide to remain together, in order to be of some consolation to each other during their remaining years. It may even transpire that they will then find time to look back over their earlier years together, to reflect on the nature of life in general, to formulate little prohibitions which may be of some help to their grandchildren, and to frown upon the promiscuous trends of modern society, with its polygamous decadence where some are concerned and polygamous barbarism where others are concerned, neither of which categories would greatly appeal to the monogamous conservatism of our imaginary couple!

Naturally, they'll have the recollection of a full and varied life to console them in the face of the manifold iniquities of contemporary youth, satisfying themselves that they did their matrimonial duty, and that their deaths will accordingly summon the blessed full-stop to a well-executed sentence of living. In their declining years they'll also learn how to preoccupy themselves without the help of children (occasional contacts with grandchildren notwithstanding), much less the panacea of casual sex. But that bridge will have to be crossed when they get to it, and not a moment before!

Meanwhile the world's population will continue to rise and the standard of living to fall, as the cost of survival becomes steadily higher and the prospect of paying it correspondingly lower!

 

 

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