Culture of Alientation, Boredom and Despair
Guy Mankowski argues that we all have a responsibility to revolt

Flowers in rifles. Chinese students resolute in front of tanks, immovable in the face of oppression. The sixties and seventies gave us images of youthful rebellion that can be pinned to fridges and emblazoned on student walls. But as the world’s economy avalanches in a blaze of recrimination it seems there is as much to rebel against as ever. The image that seems presently most potent is that of the gluttonous banker, shielding with his ample belly the irresponsibly earned bonus he fritters on cocaine while the developing countries which made it topple into recession as a result of his greed. If these self-congratulatory Gordon Gecko’s are target of the day, then are there more subversive developments occurring which could also benefit from scrutiny? In the modern age organisations seem to limp slowly through fields of red tape. Big businesses claim penalties from customers for overspending while being accountable themselves only through faceless complaints departments. Governments refute criticisms with statistics that can be made to represent whatever they desire. The only complaints that are upheld result in endless ‘root and branch investigations’, whitewashes and more useless quangos. The methods by which these companies claim to be accountable consequently seem to serve only to insulate themselves from criticism. So what is the result of such stifling bureaucracy? Confusion, lethargy and disempowerment. A new culture of alienation, boredom and despair.

‘The west is a huge loan shark and we’re crippling developing countries that could develop…the banking system is going to collapse’ Thom Yorke, 1997

If these subversive developments are a cause for concern then what can be done about it? Take a spray can to your useless vote? I’d argue that in such a self-serving age we all have a responsibility to revolt against such developments when we can. When we are employed by companies who ask us to say ‘that’s just how the system works, sir’ we should question our managers and strive to gain reasonable answers. When we feel a twitch of conscience that we are not giving someone the answer they deserve, but know we are covered by ‘company policy’ then we should just do what we think is right, without fear of being sued. Because unless as a mass we reject this culture of self-protection, we will only continue to eventually fall victim to it ourselves. In a world in which the individual is alienated by endless Kafkaesque bureaucracy, we must question, and kick up a fuss, and demand answers from a system which only isolates us further as it gathers strength. At the moment it seems that criticism aimed at any procedure designed to facilitate positive change is seen as criticism for the principle which underlies it. This is a dangerous mistake which stifles the freedom of debate that’s so integral to a forward-thinking culture. If we are not in a position to revolt, then we at least have the right to debate what are told. If you’re accused of being ungenerous, or incorrect, or ungrateful for doing that, then remember that the voice which tells you that is speaking for something far more subversive than you are.

Don't Bail Out The Banks demo, London, 11.10.08
Demonstrators got into the mall at the Royal Exchange (Pic: Guy Smallman)

‘You’re obliged to pretend respect for people and institutions you think absurd. You live attached in a cowardly fashion to moral and social conventions you despite, condemn and know lack all foundation. It is that permanent contradiction between your ideas and desires and all the dead formalities and vain pretences of your civilisation which makes you sad, troubled, and unbalanced. In that intolerable conflict you lose all joy of life and all feeling of personality, because at every moment they suppress and restrain and check the free play of your powers. That’s the poisoned and mortal wound of the civilised world’ Octave Mirbeau, The Torture Garden

Guy Mankowski is lead singer of Alba Nova. They can be found at