When did it start and when did it end, this place inside of me that I call the 90s — as in, the 90s for me is a construct, right, not an actual time and a place (the place inside of me is a metaphorical place, a placelet to go along with the platelets and buy-to-lets that define our time)? That time and place in real life (“irl”) is easily defined, as in, just look at the clock, and there it is, a range of times, a time span, defined by hours, minutes, seconds, making up a decade. Even that is debatable. Time is continuous, time as we know is contiguous units of (arbitrary) discrete intervals. We know that time is flat, isn’t it? There is no getting into a lift and heading up to a different floor of time. I mean, this is me and my brother getting in a lift in an IBIS Budget in Birmingham. We emerged on the same time plain (Digbeth).
But that prior time — that time of dial-up squawk preceeding my daily mail ‘delivery’, the mounting anxieties of the penny a minute internet bill, the empty places that were soundtracked by songs I listened to on the radio, on borrowed CDs from the library, on tapes – where does that time and place and essence live? I didn’t know then what I know now. I didn’t know that Web 1.0 would give way to Web 2.0 will give way to Web 3.0 (computer sentience, the Cylons, our eventual demise).
I mean, the 90s was shit at the time (gel, plastic clothes, Lads). It’s shit when you look back too (Shed Seven, Sash! and News International). Is it in me – as in, when I die, if I were to die now – would it be dissipated into nothing? Where do the memories of Shed Seven go? John Major? No one knows even now after all these footnotes to Plato. We’re still on about it, as the world turns to piles of rubble and the cradle of civilization is rocked by the hand of God(s).
Now canned beer is sold at £5 a go and has brand names like HOBO (and my battery hovers constantly in the red zone, flashing, I’m tired, I’m tired). Progress embraces the weary City folk only to chew us (who is ‘us?) up in a spewing washing cycle of irony. That is, if (and ‘if’ is a big word) we escape the negative equity and the unjobs, the unpeople that we end up being when we live only to please ourselves and pleasure ourselves, seals, fat and stupid, bathing in the sun-strewn rocks off the coast of a nuclear sadness. Waking up to belief and waking up to believe aren’t the same thing, after all.
No, what we want is something beyond want. Its to move beyond want without having to go through want. To be spared even that small indignity of education, progress and learning. To never have to be humble. To be born into an Instagrammed picture of a sunset in Malibu or the Maldives. To be there and suffused in a dim glow of satisfaction without first knowing the lack of that light. The elders bequeathed to us (who is ‘us’, anyway) a deliberate hebetude of narcissism and New Feudalism. The poet was right, in a way, a not very ‘satisfactory’ way of saying it : satis factory!, there has been enough commerce. This is the new World and now we are the Products, the workers and the ones who get to complain into the ether.