8. A Socialist Rises

At 12minutes to 4 on a Monday afternoon, 5th of May 2012, Alex Chistiakov finally arrived at a set of traffic lights near a terminal that would see his bus arrive in just under five minutes, and see him home in another forty. He had muttered obscenities under his breath every step of the way from a job interview that ended ten minutes ago. His feet ached from his quick pace and his jaw was stiff from scowling at young children, pets or anything else that caught his downcast ire as he went.

Never before in his working career had Alex encountered such an extreme level of buffoonery as he had experienced that afternoon. This man had easily spent an hour and a half talking about himself and, when Alex was finally invited to speak, sat there with the contemptuous gaze of a man who genuinely considered himself to be the voice of fourteen million pounds. His attitude smacked of arrogance and the subtext was that only arse-kissers need apply.

“Prick,” spat Alex, for what felt like the hundredth time this afternoon. The mood at the traffic lights was equally as restless. Commuters eager to return home after a long working day vied for space on either side of the road, advancing and retreating in platoons to view the volume of oncoming traffic. Invariably they would decide against a dash for freedom: the distance was too great and the cars too many.

“This,” thought Alex, “is the true face of Capitalism. A man who has no objectives in life beyond earning more money. He will work the hours, he will earn you millions, but he will barely pass the Turing test. Didn’t he ask me about my relationships and goals, only to scoff at them but give no clear answers himself? Say that because I have a loving relationship I am somehow a second-tier citizen, as I can never find the hours to compete in his workplace? That he accused my five-year plan as trite fantasy, whereas his could have been an advert for Google SEOs? This man has no idea what he wants, yet he is the type of man that will decide my future for me. He will ruin my prospects and own my soul.”

The crowd’s eyes collectively widened as a renegade cautiously stepped a few feet beyond the pavement and then walked quickly, but coolly, across the road. Our Lenin took the form of a tall, thin commuter dressed in a slate-grey suit, with black thick-rimmed glasses and a crop of curly black hair. People fell silent as they watched him step gracefully around oncoming vehicles, neither cheering nor condemning his behaviour. Some waited for that first car horn to sound: a signal to other drivers that their prey, no matter how bold, was only human. The rest would then inevitably follow and in a horrendous cacophony of noise chase the revolutionary from the road in a humiliating display of supremacy. Remarkably this didn’t happen. Instead, with a little under halfway to go, he deftly skirted the final approaching vehicle and, dignity still in tact, lightly trotted to our side of the street.

“It wont be long before people decide they’ve had enough of this. On the one hand we have a society tricked into believing the problem is the idleness of our poorest, whereas in fact it’s the Cronyism amongst out richest. This is a recession, yet our leaders have shown more than ever they want to push the same culture that caused this disaster. If they push any harder, it wont be long before people unite, and hit back.”

A man sporting a shell-suit two sizes too small spat a lump of phlegm the size of a golf ball at Alex’s feet. Alex looked up, and was greeted with a vapid, crooked grin.

“That’s it!” He declared out loud. “I’ve had enough! All of you,” he turned to the crowd accusingly, “all of you, as far as I’m concerned, can go to hell! God knows you’ve earned it.” A few people blinked and the rest stared blankly; this type of behaviour isn’t unusual for London. His parthian shot complete Alex turned towards the road, looked once each way, then sprinted to the other side; past the traffic lights, past the bus stop and towards home.

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1. Depression

“Except they were just…what’s the word?”

“Counterfeits?”

“Counterfeits! Fakes! I warned him about buying clothes abroad but he wouldn’t listen. Now he owns a wardrobe  full of nothing that’ll probably just disintegrate in a few months.”

Amy heaved a laugh from her chest. It came free of her lungs then bounced through her throat like dry tumbleweed. Mike smiled dozily at her as Sam took a sip of her sparkling wine, ready to change topic.

“Of course house prices are dropping now,” she noted. “Mike and I were considering purchasing somewhere before the chance slipped us by”

Mike’s eyes flickered and his grin spread. As his face became more open his brow contorted, squeezing free a thin rivulet of sweat that dried a quarter inch down his temple. Amy noted his uncanny responsiveness to the conversation and immediately understood the topic was an old one for the two of them. 

“Except that now of course, given the climate, we’re unlikely to find buyers for quite a long time. But it’s important to put something aside for the future, don’t you think?”

Amy smiled and nodded with sincerity. She agreed it was important to consider the future, although it struck her as strange that a house could once be worth so much, and now so little, without having physically changed at all. Even now looking at her two friends, under the harsh overhead lights with their smiles and earnest expressions, she saw how delicate they truly were. A few misplaced words here or an act of nature there could so easily cause their world to cascade into oblivion. Mike and Sam’s sweaty, grinning countenances’ gave them the appearances of melting wax-works, struggling to hold themselves together under a rising sun.  

Depressions occur when we discover our fine clothes are invisible, our houses made of glass and that the friends we always knew to be impermanent reveal themselves as wax mannequins. If we examine the cause of a Depression economically, we see a situation of distrust and uncertainty created through plenty of optimistic thinking and excess. Previously grandiose plans can fold based on a relatively minor event that cascades like a house of cards back into their deck. No-one is prepared to lend to anyone nor take risks, and banks sit around trying to figure out what it is they do own and refuse to move until their basic needs of who they are, what they can do and where they go from their position are established. Sometimes, they need a helping hand from everyone else: the Government. They used to know this information and need to figure it out again soon. If they don’t, they’re open to bankruptcy and nationalisation.

Depressions foster depressed people for much the same reason. Previously their identities were bound with their ever burgeoning lifestyles; their property, their investments, their hopeful outlook on the future, but there is more people can learn from the economic crisis  beyond the message of placing faith in money. People have a tendency to over-inflate themselves as they are forced by society to put their personalities in the hands of something unstable. It may well be that a family are totally content with their daily routine, a city visit on the weekends and quiet nights in, and if so they’re the lucky ones. For others, there is a need to bloat their personalities to match their goals as the road to success can only be travelled at breakneck speed to keep up with everyone else. It’s inevitable there will be several crashes, from which people may or may not recover, but each one means another person gains frustrating moments on you until they crash themselves.

Sometimes, a depression is nice. It’s when you’re stuck on the roadside, the wreckage of your car formed from your history, your plans, your relationships and your ambitions, that you’re forced to take a look around and recognise the world beyond you. Usually it just zips by and you never get to see it, but for a while it’s right there in front of you. You know you can’t stay there for too long, but nonetheless, it’s welcome when it’s otherwise so easy to forget that it exists.