Incarcerated By Lies

The invitations are plentiful. As are the suggestions. Invitations? That’s not right. Temptations; offers of a kind. Buy this, come here, experience this, you have to do this! Modern life.
Apparently, your peer group can pull you up or pull you down. Given the choice, you would pick a peer group that pulls you up. You pick a peer group that lifts you up.
In the city, In these modern times, these times of relentless information and social media overload, the have-everything-now, spendthrift consumerism is not something that is frowned upon. It is encouraged.
We’re all middle class now. Perhaps your parents were not. They were job for life people, the scope of their youthful ambition never known to you. When they were growing up, there was no internet. A Mercedes was not a common sight, home ownership was not the norm. It was admirable, but not striven for in the same way as it is now. People use to buy a home to live in, raise a family in. Not as a potential investment.
Not now. Not now that we’re all middle class. It is a life of reaching and thinking of not only where to live for the best possible return on your investment, but, if you have a young family, where to live so as to get into the best schools. Maybe some idyll, away from the urban sprawl. Country living appeals to a lot of aspiring middle classes; bring up the children in beautiful, rural surroundings. So they move out. Not too far, money’s in the city after all. Everybody has the same idea, moving to the outskirts, expanding the city, looking for space but too afraid to be the one to break away from the bright lights, the action. All their neighbours are from the city. The competition – and it is a competition – continues. Nice house, nice car, nice holidays. The offers are made without the expectation that it may be beyond your means. Why would it be?
Friday night out? Drop a couple hundred drinking. Dinner? Not going to go to Nandos! Someone knows a place. Only about fifty a head, that’s good isn’t it? Yes. Of course it is. Put it on a card.
But you’re an adult. You would just say if it was all getting a bit out of hand, a little expensive? Right? Just like you know to say when you’ve had enough to drink on a night out. No?
There is the fear. There always is. The platitudes on Facebook and wise words of strangers that are liked infinitum, do not matter a jot when confronted with the realities of life. No one wants to hear you cannot afford it. Of course it okay occasionally to use that excuse. Not as a standard. Not every damn time. What are you doing with your money?! The offers, the excitement, the baubles, these are the things of your peers. Your peers. Perhaps you’re in the wrong…..stratosphere? Air is a little thin up here as it is, cannot have a wannabe sucking what precious little availability of it we have up here away! Need to keep up. Keep up and shut up. No one wants to know you’re struggling. We’re all struggling! Keep fucking smiling and stop making a fool of yourself. Do you think we’re all sitting on a pot of gold out here? There are a few, yes granted, but most of us are like ducks. Calm above the waters and feet going frantically below. Is it all a lie?
A lie? Of course not. A lie is deception and you cannot really deceive yourself, can you now? Or can you?

The smartest guy I ever knew: ignoring the Joneses

Robert Jacobs was boy in my class at school. He was popular, funny, good at sport, though not outstanding, intelligent and able to get along with just about anybody. Let me explain; I went to an…urban school. The school was ninety to ninety-five percent black students, mostly of working class, labour parented backgrounds. It was the late seventies into the eighties. Before social media and blogs. Before the proliferation of ‘talent’ shows, before everyone owned a mobile phone, before having a new car was a common thing, before it was necessary to have a college degree to work in a retail outlet and before metrosexuality. I went to a boy’s school where being a man was not only an aspiration, it was expected.
Life then was about appearance. We were teenagers, some with older brothers, trying to be men. How tough you were – I wasn’t – what trainers you had – strike two – and how good you were at football – always a last pick – school was tough.
We aspired to the things most urban, cash strapped, youth do; to be respected, famous maybe, make money. This was the message we had got from our parents and elders; make money, live better, be respected.
For most of us, our family members and their friends were not exactly captains of industry. For a lot of boys, the ‘big’ dream was to become a mechanic, a footballer or an entertainer of some description.
Robert Jacobs was, as I mentioned, talented. In fact he was so talented, that he earned a scholarship to Italia Conti performing arts school, the best and most prestigious of its kind in the country. He was on the up. As I said, he was popular, so no one begrudged him the opportunity. Even so young, we understood that he was perhaps destined for better things than the rest of us. Good luck.
Fast forward a decade of so and I see his older brother, also a nice guy, but much more a background kind of person, chilled. We chat, pleasantries, and we get around to chatting about Robert. I ask what he is up to, expecting that he is on the road to some sort of media career. What I hear takes me aback. He’s moved to Jamaica, the country of his parents birth, grown locks and become a farmer! A farmer?! Why would he do that? It was simple. That’s what made him happy. He had the talent, charisma, intelligence to do whatever he wanted. He decided he wanted a simple life. He wanted to be a farmer.
I have recalled that moment a few times over the years; as I’ve negotiated the rush hour traffic, struggled with weight, tried to build a business, changed relationships and tried to keep up with the Joneses. Robert Jacobs was not only a talented guy, he was a smart one. He knew where his happiness lay; not through the eyes of his peers or expectations of the wider world. He followed his heart and found his bliss. How many people can say the same?