Tag Archives: capitalism

The next boat back to Tuvalu

FIFA has certainly had a rough patch of late. Dodgy deals behind closed doors, confederation presidents handling suspiciously overstuffed briefcases, botched bribery attempts from the chronically awkward Brits (bless them), more expensive Swiss watches than even Salvador Dalí would know what to do with and a couple of incredibly misguided venue choices for the next two footballing extravaganzas. Could it get any worse?

Amazingly, yes.

Continue reading The next boat back to Tuvalu

The Russell Hobbs stampede

Well, we’ve made it. We deployed the stiff upper lip, the fearless spirit that has seen Britain endure three plague epidemics, two world wars and a Margaret Thatcher, and we’ve survived Black Friday for another year.

About three years ago, the biggest shopping day in the United States migrated to her little cousin across the pond. The lack of a Thanksgiving Thursday over here would no longer stop us elbowing our fellow Britons in the jaw in a bid to secure the best deals on massive TVs on Black Friday. Videos of snarling housewives showed the lengths we’d go to for a good deal, dependable consumers that we are.

This year was no different. There were 14 arrests after a mass brawl at Tesco Extra in Watford, and six staff were treated for smoke inhalation as furious shoppers reacted to the Solihull John Lewis selling out of Dell Inspirons by setting fire to the Customer Service counter. A man died in the Russell Hobbs stampede at Lakeside.

Only none of that actually happened.

Continue reading The Russell Hobbs stampede

The router incident

The internet is in so many ways a wonderful thing, but it doesn’t seem quite so bloody marvellous, liberating, enlightening or whatever else it’s supposed to be when you can’t fucking use it.

How exactly am I supposed to survive the day when I can’t explore the latest top tips on how to pluck my eyebrows? Life just isn’t the same without being able to consult those useful guides to picking your nose whilst driving.

Hardly the world’s most original thought this, but BT are bunch of unscrupulous, money grabbing, deceitful and wholly unpleasant fuckers. It’s just a pity that I didn’t realise this until I signed up for their broadband service.

Continue reading The router incident

Imploring clocks

A few weeks ago I was asked if I knew of a decent podcast app my friend could pipe idiots talking bollocks about nothing into her ears through. Pausing for a couple of deep breaths, I turned to the computer and pressed roughly 19 buttons to establish that the best such app out there was something called Pocket Casts. Tens of thousands of users, rave reviews, and not a bug in sight.

She thanked me for my skill at using the internet, all too rare in these days of increasing dependency on the Encyclopaedia Britannica. But there was a problem.

“It’s £1.49! Fuck that!”

Continue reading Imploring clocks

Playground training

Every year I vow I won’t put myself through it again, every single year. But without fail I still watch it. It’s event TV for the unimaginative, it’s infuriating and it makes me shout angrily at the screen as idiots in expensive suits make fools of themselves.

The Apprentice, Alan Sugar, and naked capitalism – a trilogy of things I hate, but still put up with annually. The producers are particularly savvy in their selection of candidates, as are the editors who tweak the narrative for maximum impact. It’s a parade of stupidity, and it makes me genuinely angry.

My girlfriend hates The Apprentice too, but she loves my apoplectic expressions, my consistent assumption that if I were on the show I could do better. The advertising slogans they coin, even the names they give their shitty and short-lived ‘teams’, lack even a simplistic sense of creativity.

Like a sycophant, I assume that if I made it onto the show I could win Alan Sugar’s favour, and his measly investment in whatever half-assed idea I sold him. The Apprentice sells the narrative that we all need a benevolent and wise mentor to guide us through life and it both appalls and entices me.

Watching this show makes me realise that my character isn’t as strong as I thought it was. I know that I should just ignore it, and let myself breathe more easily. The competitiveness, the backstabbing, and the anger that the candidates display is absurd, and frequently childish. The whole process makes these apparent professionals regress to their playground training, pulling hair and refusing to share the toys.

For me, there are some principles in life that we should defend rather than attack. There are some higher ideals that we should strive towards, instead of letting shitty human nature take over. We should aim to collaborate, and work together with others. And we should know that what we do collectively is always going to be better than what we do by ourselves.

But The Apprentice doesn’t aim for anything higher than naked profit. It champions those who squash, lash out, and venomously attack others. And it sucks us in with its logic.

Years and years ago, in the mystical dark ages of the 1960s, a sage called Richard Alpert discussed the legacy of LSD on the free market system. He claimed that if we all killed our egos, and if we all became mindful of the fact that we’re one consciousness experiencing reality subjectively, the world would become a healthier, happier, and more peaceful place.

It seems that if Alan Sugar, along with his business advisers and his yearly cohort of hopeful candidates, understood that life had more meaning than the arbitrary financial boundaries they believe in, The Apprentice could have a better legacy. It could be a TV show that highlights the positive aspects of humanity, rather than its ugliness.

Perhaps we should dose them all with LSD, we could watch consciousness expand, and we could realise together that there is no they or other, there’s just us, the collective. We could share in the candidates’ joy as they overcame the need to compete, and we could revel in the understanding that to be good to others is to be good to yourself.

There’s magic and beauty in the world, and sometimes we need a healthy dose of mindfulness, and we need to step outside of what we know and the ideas of self that define us to find it. But The Apprentice doesn’t allow for that kind of thinking. It’s an experience that makes everyone poorer. The candidates hurt each other, Alan Sugar watches on like the worst kind of prophet, and everyone celebrates wealth, opulence and greed.

If we don’t partake, if we don’t join in, and if we do it deliberately and vocally, then bad things stop. We don’t need to feed the beast; I could just turn the TV off. My girlfriend would lose out on some entertainment, but my mind would be better for it. The noise, the squabbling, squawking shrieks of anger and irritation, would be silenced. 

But what would I do instead on a Wednesday night? I could read a book, maybe explore my understanding of my own place in the universe. I could come to realise that by analysing the candidates on Alan Sugar’s shit show I become just like them. I could take a breath and realise that by judging others I’m judging myself; that our collective consciousness is harmed by the divisive them and us philosophy espoused by wealthy establishment figures like ‘Lord’ Sugar.

But I don’t have time for all that. The fuckers are naming a shampoo brand and they’re shit at it.

But it’s cheap

There’s pleasure to be had in the very act of argument, provided it’s about something meaningful and not “I can’t believe you didn’t reply to my text, it’s like you don’t even love me”. Sometimes you can lay out the most coherent arguments in a debate, trumping every opposing idea with the calm dexterity of Lincoln or Aristotle, knowing no sane person could resist your electrifying reasoning and that they will undoubtedly embrace your philosophy with immediate effect. You lean back contentedly, basking in triumph.

And your opponent slowly lifts their gaze from their smartphone and says: “Hmmmm? Oh, sorry. Just sorting myself out an Uber.”

I’m not imbecilic enough to think I can prevent a single person I know from adopting this logic as their own: traditional taxis are expensive; public transport is the preserve of lunatics and the damned; cheap taxis would be brilliant; Uber offer cheap taxis; there are considerable downsides to Uber; they’re cheap, so fuck it.

Why would anyone pay more for something than the minimum they’re allowed to? It’s a question that goes to the heart of who we are as ‘consumers’. Do you see the inherent value in something and believe you should pay what an item or service is worth? You’re probably at least vaguely socialist, even if they word conjures up images of bearded men printing pamphlets nobody will read. Or do you think the value of an item or service is not somehow built within it but decided by ‘the market’? You’re probably a scumbag, and you know it but don’t care.

Uber’s offering is straightforward: use a phone app to find a car registered with their service in your vicinity, and that car will take you where you want to go, for cheaper than a cab you’d hail on the street. You’ll need to know where you’re going, because chances are the Uber driver won’t given he only started doing this last week. How much the ride will cost you involves some mysterious combination of speed, distance, availability of cars in the area, whether it’s raining or Pancake Day and how successful the CEO was at the roulette table the previous night.

Your driver will have been through rigourous background checks, to make sure he hasn’t complained to any previous employers about working conditions or attempted to join a union. He could be a champion rapist of course, the criminal background checks are cursory at best, but what’s a cab ride without an edge to it? Boring, and who needs that at the end of a great night out with the girls?

And it’s cheap.

A black cab, however, is a relic. The driver will try and talk football to you all the way, he’ll go all round the houses to charge you more and you can’t even get one with your phone when you need one. Only of course there’s an app for that now too, most drivers have no interest in talking to you as you dribble and fart drunkenly on their back seat and, given they actually know the streets of the city thanks to the furiously hard tests they have to pass, they could actually be getting you where you need to be quicker than if you had to Google Map it for some dickhead whose geographic knowledge is inextricably linked to the satnav he can’t stop talking at him in Mandarin.

Black cab drivers are self-employed and pay taxes like any other small business, and not many of them make such fabulous wealth from their job that it’s clear they could easily live off lower fares. Uber also pay taxes, “in full, in all jurisdictions they are due” as they no doubt put it when accused of being dodgy bastards. And as any good capitalist knows, register yourself in Luxembourg or Equatorial Guinea or somewhere and watch as your UK tax bill legitimately shrinks to nought while George Osborne chuckles paternally at your mastery of international fiscal affairs.

But it’s cheap.

Think about the last time you did whatever job it is you do. Think about the effort you put into each task, from replying to emails to knocking up slidefuls of presentations, taking part in crucial meetings and generally making a good employee of yourself, and money for someone else.

Now, just for a moment, be honest with yourself. Do you think someone could have done all those things as well as you? Doesn’t matter who, just anyone given the training you’ve had. We all know we’re replaceable, that’s how they terrify us into behaving ourselves, so there must be people out there who could do your job as well as you. What if they offered to do it for less money than your company pays you? Would you say it was fair for your employer to replace you with the cheaper model?

What if they weren’t quite as good as you, but capable enough to get most of the job done to a satisfactory standard? Still fair enough? Because if at any point you’ve felt that little spinal shiver suggesting you’re one management shrug away from destitution, it might be worth thinking twice before firing up that app in an effort to save yourself £6 for a journey from Hammersmith to Harrow that might leave you with a sore arse.

Or maybe we just leave everything to ‘the market’. Sorry cabbies, it’s just the way the game works – if you can’t take the pressure of your job, ferrying ungrateful bastards around a city that seems to hate you, Iain Duncan Smith is peddling job advice at food banks now. You can use your comprehensive knowledge of the streets to find the busiest and most lucrative spot for your wife to attract businessmen to suck off to pay the kids’ school dinner fees. And though you’ve put your entire adult life into being a cab driver and dealing with all the shit people throw at you, ‘the market’ has decided punters deserve a simpler, more convenient service, so thanks for everything and the current is generally fiercest around Rotherhithe this time of year.

Sometimes a service is worth defending, not for tradition’s sake but because the alternative underlines how frighteningly disposable every one of us is. Black cabs will die, an honest occupation will go with it, Uber will put their prices up and the moment driverless cars become a reality they’ll be all over it like Cameron on swine. And when your boss calls you into his office and tells you you’re being replaced by Sergei, who can’t speak a bean of English but by Christ can he Powerpoint, spare us the whimpers that your skill and experience make you worth that extra couple of quid because you brought this on yourself.

Still, it’s cheap, right?

Mutualisation

I wander in out of the rain, shaking my barnet about like an outwitted sheepdog. The doors have handles but a sign tells me they’re automatic; motorisation added as afterthought, which will need to happen to me if the noises my legs make when I dare crouch are anything to go by.

I’m met immediately by a man who demands to know what I want. I can’t tell if he’s a doorman solidly and professionally making sure I’m sent in the right direction, a bouncer grimly explaining I almost certainly have the wrong shoes to get into the fightiest club in town, or one of those wretches whose souls died long ago directing you to the self-service supermarket checkout. As it turns out, he’s all three. I can be nowhere but the Post Office.

Many things polarise, but fear and hatred of the Post Office is not one of those things. Tell anyone you have to send a small package across three counties and they’ll gaze at you with a heartfelt sympathy they were unable to muster when you told them you had bowel cancer. Everyone dies, but some people, somehow, manage to avoid the Post Office.

This weekend my mother turns an age I can’t specify for fear of labelling her injudicious as a youth. Unusually, the woman actually had a proper answer when I asked the time-saturated “What do you want for your birthday?”, meaning I’m not able to just send flowers or something similarly un-thought through. I have to buy something in a shop or get something sent to me, wrap it up and put a little tag on it, and I obviously resent none of these things.

But then I have to somehow get it 200 miles to the west, and for this I find myself begging for a Delorian to nip back and erase at least two generations of my family, if not more. I will do anything to avoid a trip to the Post Office. That I had the package with me this morning is down to my having confected a reason not to post it on the two previous days when I’ve had countless hours on my hands and a wish to spend none of them listening to a man yelling through a bullet-proof screen about a £70 postal order to the Nigerian High Commission.

Instead of taking it to my local Post Office, which is of course a 20-minute walk away in the back of a newsagent’s that’s shut four days of the week and has no website telling you which days those are, I’ve put it in a backpack and dragged it all the way into central London; I’d rather waste the dwindling time of my employers than my own. But the branch here is a large one, with self-service tills, foreign currencies of the countries with consulates nearby (Cuba, Zimbabwe, even Australia), and wall after wall of jiffy bags you can put something in, seal, write on and pretend you brought in with you. And a major branch like this brings with it fresh complications.

Chief among them is this buffoon now demanding to know what’s in my package, in a gravely booming voice designed to alert nearby sniffer dogs. Naturally confused, my response is “It’s my mother’s birthday present.” Not good enough: “What is it?”

Look mate, I love a good mum like any respectable internet user should but it’s a bit beyond the call of fucking duty for you to be checking my old dear’s getting something sufficiently nice for her big day. I didn’t even know you’d met her. I’m minded to respond with words designed to establish the nature of their relationship and whether he’s the missing puzzle piece I’ve been ignoring since the fucker walked away 37 years ago. Perhaps a simple: “Daddy?”

What I actually say is: “It’s a camera.”

An alert goes off behind his eyes. “Is there a battery in it?” he demands. BECAUSE IT WON’T WORK IF THERE ISN’T. “I don’t know. Probably.” This part of my trip to the Post Office ends with the words on which this man bases his entire existence: “We need to know for security reasons.” Security reasons. An overwhelming calm comes over me as I realise these words are the 21st century precursor to: “I accept you are no threat to us, and you may continue.” Or: “You’re boring me, cunt, go over there.”

I’m directed to a counter marked ‘Foreign currency’ where a woman will, obviously, enable me to send a parcel to Somerset. She’s been told there’s a battery in it but this news has no effect on her vacant visage. I’m expecting her to ask me how much it’s worth and I know to say “not much” to avoid conversations about insurance, but of course if I say that now everyone’s going to think I’ve bought my mum a camera made by Aigo or BenQ and my shame will be incalculable. No, I don’t think I’ll pay an extra £19 to cover the possibility that you’re about to take my cash and my parcel and throw the latter into a sack marked ‘NO’, but thanks for double- and triple-checking that I’m willing to trust you to do the one fucking job you’re here for.

“Have you written your address on the back?”

Schoolboys laugh at novices like me. I ask to borrow her pen and she looks at me with incomprehension. I can only assume it’s because I’ve missed a few steps in this inexorable dance, where I look around for a pen, see a chain made of tiny ball-bearings hanging from the counter, pick it up to find the pen’s been ripped off by a previously ripped-off punter, return my gaze to my partner and only then will she pass her pen beneath her shield.

Eventually I pay for the package to be signed for at the other end, which the woman tells me ensures it ought to get there at some point but not that it won’t have been booted around the corridors of Mount Pleasant in the meantime because I refused to insure my own mum’s birthday present, scum that I am. I look her in the eye and thank her warmly, which she can’t even be bothered to take as sarcasm through her thousand yard stare. I also thank the man on the door and promise to say hello to my mum from him. I think I heard him mutter he’d be seeing her first.

This may be the sole example of a service that could actually be improved by privatisation, which is doubtless why our market-obsessed overlords promise to go no further with it than ‘mutualisation’. I don’t know what that is but if you searched ‘politicians wanking’ you’d probably find pictures of it, along with a few other things. Don’t worry, Pete Townshend got off, you’ll be fine.

There’s nothing to be done about all this. We are doomed to spend hours of our lives being tutted at loudly by people behind us in staggeringly long queues, feeling a peculiar guilt that you’re buying stamps while someone behind needs to do something far more important, like buy some stamps. I’ve looked up franking machines on the internet but they cost so much it suggests these bastards actually want us to go into their hideous dungeons of delivery hell. We can’t ban birthdays, as far as I know. Or can we?

And in the most literal sense imaginable, I blame the parents.

We’re not interested in quality

I’m no media guru, but I think anyone with any semblance of sense would find it near-impossible not to agree that “We’re not interested in quality” is a fucking terrible line to start an advert with. Yet in another instance of someone okaying another farcical entry into the commercial world, like those “Ride me all day for £3” South Wales bus adverts held up by naked men and woman, we now know that Papa John’s couldn’t care less about the quality of their pizzas. Way to make a first impression, Papa.

It’s like if Pizza Hut started an advert saying: “Here at Pizza Hut, we don’t care about pizza.” Oh wait, they’re kind of already doing that by slowly changing their name to Pasta Hut. Conveying a healthy image is all fine and well, but nobody goes to Pizza Hut, or any pizza joint, to be healthy. You go because Nando’s was full a bunch of dickheads trying to have a ‘cheeky’ meal (whatever the hell that actually means), and you fancy something easy and greasy to eat, at a reasonable price. Maybe if they’re offering you free access to the salad bar you might pick up a slice of cucumber or two, or maybe not since you want to save room to gorge on the unlimited ice cream dispenser (hoping you can pull off not looking like a child catcher while in the queue for it). As consumers all we care about is the pizza. We want pizzas from pizza places. Some things are inherently simple, and this is one such thing.

And yet pizza advertising has something clearly wrong with it. The aforementioned Papa John’s line is a testament to how they’ve misjudged the majority of their audience. People need a fast hook, and if you start off by saying “We’re not interested in quality” – even if you follow it up with the ever-so-clever caveat of “we’re obsessed by it” – then people will move on quickly. Or, at the very least, that is the one line that will stick with people afterwards.

And while we all like food that actually tastes pretty good, who actually goes to a pizza chain expecting something supremely delicious? If you want proper pizza you go to a middle-class Italian restaurant (or maybe Pizza Express, which, though a tad pricey, is an exception to the rule of pizza restaurant quality). Otherwise you should be aware that you’re getting pre-prepared dough squeezed between the sticky hands of a university student trying to earn their way out of absolute debt. Competent as that student may be, you can only get a certain level of ‘delicious’ when you’re titting about with something a machine made earlier.

We eat it anyway though, because pizza is really tasty and easy to eat. Still, why they think they can sell a pizza for just short of of £20 remains a mystery. When you try to sell something people want a basic pleasure from, keep it simple, and keep it cheap – which is why a £5 pizza from a kebab shop never goes down poorly. It’s not pretending to be anything more than it is, and sometimes it can actually be pretty damn good.

Because kebab shop pizza makers aren’t too interested in quality or ‘delicious’, and instead are putting all their energy into getting you and your drunken stupor out of their face as quickly as possible. Sometimes all the advertising you need is a lit-up menu board with a crude and gratuitously glistening picture of unhealthy food, and the price. Media gurus, you might want to take note.

The last Granny Smith

Thrilled. That’s the word she used. I’m not a fan of workplace violence but if we in this building were trusted to open the windows she’d currently be worrying the front wheels of a number 17 to Cannon Street.

The woman who sits next to me in my mercifully temporary ‘job’ wastes most of the breaths she has left on words and phrases such as ‘personas’ and ‘overarching user needs’. It’s some kind of research the government allows her to do in preparation for online projects which can not and will not be influenced in any way by that research, due to civil servants whose lives depend on sticking fast to impenetrable policy guidelines. Anyway, the government is all about job creation as they’ve been saying for months, and she has one. And she’s thrilled about it.

More specifically she’s thrilled at the re-election of the government which has for the last few months allowed her to get paid for work so meaningless she may as well be ordering Advent calendars for the citizens of Kathmandu. As she told me of her elation on one of the worst Mondays in living memory, she seemed truly delighted that we’d avoided what she clearly regarded as a catastrophic Labour-led coalition that would have caused immediate and irreparable damage to her bank balance and almost certainly allowed a battalion of filthy drug addicts on massive benefits to move into her spare room.

She’s not the only one I’ve heard puffing their chests out in pride at the wonderful decision many voters made in an election that’ll go down as the start of the end for many things some Britons hold dear. Equality, the BBC, the NHS, foxes; all these and more now face a variety of restrictions, cutbacks, bans and culls. Poor people will freeze and starve in great numbers as the ghost of Darwin taunts anyone not in a ‘hard-working family’ with visions of fights to the death over the last Granny Smith, which has rolled into the gutter beside the upturned stall of a recently bundled-away immigrant market trader. Their very first action will seemingly be to repeal the Human Rights Act, and I can provide no finer summation of them than that.

‘We’, though, ‘we’ will be fine. This ‘we’ includes the people who have worked hard enough to own outright at least a fraction of the property they live in. This hard work could have come about via traditional hard work, i.e. sitting bored out of your nut in an office. People in jobs that require them to go to the same place every day to do the same thing that they hate slightly more than last week, hatred they internalise as raised blood pressure rather than releasing at anyone in authority – these are the people who can now expect to be rewarded with a waterfall of golden gifts known collectively as ‘a stronger economy’, however that manifests itself.

It doesn’t have to have been your own hard work, of course. This government will probably reduce inheritance tax to allow people to pass more of the money that has been in their family for generations down to heirs who must wait patiently for interest rates to go up. If anything the wait for the Bank of England’s announcement is harder work than any performed by bleating blue collar plebs, like farmers paid below cost price for milk or cleaners not knowing how many hours they’ll get that week. Imagine having to wait a whole month to find out if grandpa’s millions will be worth millions or billions for the subsequent four weeks. Terrifying.

It could also have come about via a good stroke of fortune. Did you happen to bend over gracelessly in a nightclub packed with leering rich wankers, one of whom brought you gaily into a life of blissful married indolence? Well done, you will be rewarded by the government at the expense of someone who was born ugly through no fault of their own and who, because one low blow is never enough, can’t even find someone to fuck to keep them warm when the gas company doubles their prices because of something that happened to a pipe in the West Siberian Plain.

What are you fucking moaning about? You’ve got a pound haven’t you? Play the fucking lottery. Though, it’s two quid now. Sorry.

A few days ago all of this would have made me furious. But I’m done. If you people are going to voluntarily elect a government for the richest people in the land in the hope that they’ll somehow turn into a million Warren Buffets and shit a few bob on you once in a while, well frankly you can fuck off, oh mighty British voters.

In five years’ time, when the UK is out of the EU, Scotland has legged it and even Northern Ireland are casting glances over their shoulder at the possibility that maybe reunification isn’t such a bad idea after all, I’ll have flogged the farm and fled to Finland. You’ll be left wondering why you did this to yourselves, why all the fat people seem to have all the money, and why no matter what you do you still can’t seem to get rid of Wales.

When you look away for a few seconds and turn back to find the hunting ban repealed, don’t be throwing your arms up in anguish that they’ve inserted a clause in it to allow the hunting of homeless people with packs of beagles. Not that it matters to you, unless you find yourself unexpectedly turfed out because the land you live on has been sold to a Saudi beneath your feet and you can’t afford to live anywhere in your local area, and can’t find work outside that area that will pay your ever-increasing bills. That’s capitalism I’m afraid, that you’ve just voted for in your millions assuming bad things only happen to people who deserve it.

Well guess what: you all fucking deserve it. Your lack of faith in liberalism means you now have half a decade at least of the exact opposite. Included among a list of synonyms for ‘liberal’ in the dictionary are ‘broad’, ‘large-minded’ and ‘tolerant’. Its antonyms are ‘buttoned-up’, ‘fusty’, ‘unprogressive’ and ‘hidebound’. Thrilling. Welcome to the life you’ve chosen, and goodbye.

The Start-Up of You

Quick tip for book lenders: unless someone has asked you to borrow the book, they don’t want it. They’ll probably accept it, because they don’t want to insult you or your reading habits. But they’ll resent you for it, because when they get home, it will sit in the corner, looking at them for weeks, and making them feel guilty for not having started it yet. If you begin asking them questions about it, like “Did you get a chance to read it yet?” they’ll start avoiding you like you have Ebola or something. This will be your fault.

Eventually, out of guilt and resentment, they will return the book and say they ‘couldn’t get on with it’. What they mean is, they haven’t looked at it, and never intended to. Let that be a lesson to you.

Anyway, the other day, a well-meaning friend lent me a book. Actually, it’s my own fault. Since I complain about my job all the time, sometimes well-meaning friends get the funny idea that it’s a cry for help of some sort, and not just my favourite pastime, and they offer suggestions or advice about shifting jobs or careers, unaware that for me, shifting careers has about the same appeal as selecting coffins does for someone on Death Row.

This book was called ‘The Start-Up of You’, a title which manages to combine all the things I hate about modern publishing, or actually life, in a pithy and disgusting four-word phrase. Well done. The subtitle was: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career.

Transform Your Career? Transform it into what? What are they talking about? Naturally, I was terrified, and threw it in the corner. Later on, sheer morbidity prompted me to pick it up and browse the contents page. The first chapter was called “All Humans Are Entrepreneurs”. What? Was this book written by an alien? Or are there other species on Earth who can read now? I continued. Later chapters developed the theme: “New World of Work”, “Strengthening Risks”, “Structure and Maintain Your Network”, and so on.

I’m sure you are getting the gist. The gist is, the world of work isn’t what it used to be. Gone are the days when you left school and cosily snuggled up under the protective wing of a large and benevolent enterprise, who would pay you a steadily increasing salary, plus healthcare and pension, as you moved inexorably up the escalator. These days, wages are stagnant, add-ons cost extra and, where once you could confidently say, ‘the world will always need customer service subscriber managers’, now things are not quite so predictable. Quite frankly, an answering machine could probably do your job better than you, and next week it probably will.

The keyword now is ‘flexibility’. The Start-Up of You teaches you how to think and act like an entrepreneur, all the time.  The usual examples are trotted out: that wanker who started Facebook, and look how rich he is, and what about Fuckface who invented that app nobody likes but everybody uses? How did Fuckface get to start his Fortune 500 company? Why, by exploiting his network, you imbecile. There are many other similar examples. You have to be thinking creatively, pivoting constantly, and if you do nothing, then a career tsunami is going to come along and sweep you out into the street where you’ll be eating cat food out of bins for the rest of your life, and you’ll deserve it.

The whole prospect, of course, is designed to terrify. Nothing sells like total fear, and for those of us (like me), who spent the first thirty years of life just  getting over the trauma of being alive, and never bothered about career until it was too late, the prospect of having to suddenly build network intelligence and navigate career opportunities is pure gothic horror. Already, in my reasonably steady, horrible job, I spend a fair amount of time with my hands resting on the keyboard, staring out of the window thinking, “What the fuck am I doing? What the fuck am I doing?” over and over again. In the past we were allowed to be quietly but complacently miserable. Those days are gone.

Back in the old days, you sold your soul to a company, but at least when you’d put in your working hours they let you alone, to go home and watch TV or something. Now, unless you bounce out of bed with fifteen different ideas about how you can maximise your skill set and generate career opportunities, you are basically a slacker, an old-world caveman who deserves to be swept away in the tsunami.

The world of work, formerly contained in offices and factories, has come spilling out into the streets and cafes, where hipsters line up their identical Macbook Pros and develop their profiles. Work follows you home like some blob from a 1950s horror movie, and it sits in your house, making you feel guilty for watching TV instead of expanding your network. TV is no escape. Everyone is at it on every channel – thinking like an entrepreneur. Christ, round me, even the beggars have been reading The Start-Up of You. They used to just beg. Now they all have a sideline in selling stolen books or doing performance outsider art. Soon they will be asking me to endorse them on LinkedIn for smelling of piss and drinking K cider. What chance have I got?

The Start-Up of Me makes an executive decision. I decide to place The Start-Up of You in an out-of-the-way spot where it can languish for enough time so I can give it back to my friend. Later on, I will tell him it was interesting in parts but I couldn’t really get on with it. I enjoy a horror story as much as the next guy, but some things are just too awful to contemplate.