“Neoliberal England is a boring dystopia. Here’s why.”
August 7, 2015 10:15 AM   Subscribe

The Evil of Banality
The writer, theorist and academic Mark Fisher recently set up a Facebook page called ‘Boring Dystopia’, and invited the submission of photographs of Britain in the 21st century to illustrate the concept. I’ve already uploaded a few snaps, as manifestations of dullness and decay have long been an interest of mine, particularly the places where the banal and the broken intersect, and the true, terrible, tedious horror of modern life is revealed.

via DYSTOPIA IS BORING: CREEPY IMAGES OF OUR VAGUELY ORWELLIAN LIVES
The “About” page of the first entity is admirable in its brevity and lack of pomp. All it says is, “Neoliberal England is a boring dystopia. Here’s why.” After all, if the images don’t communicate it, then no amount of rhetoric will make the group one worth visiting. There is little partisan emphasis on Labour vs. Tories as the source of any of this, which makes the critique somewhat more potent, and it’s the case that the images almost uniformly derive from the U.K.—this group is not about documenting the U.S. culture of “IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING.” No, the great elders of dystopia, Aldous Huxley and George Orwell, both happened to be British, and this project feels most of all like a tempered, less hyperbolic presentation of the IngSoc of Airstrip One, for those who remember the setting of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.
‘No Original Response’: J.G. Ballard predicts Social Media, CCTV, Reality TV
posted by the man of twists and turns (40 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
Cheeky Nando's, or, what went wrong?
Americans, apparently, don’t ‘get’ what a cheeky Nando’s is.

Of course, you know what a cheeky Nando’s is. It’s when you’re hanging round the centre of town with the lads, just doing the usual, great bants all round, but you get proper peckish and you say ‘lads fancy a Macca’s’ but then your mate Cresty who’s a top notch lad and always on form with the suggestions goes ‘nah lads, I got it, let’s get a cheeky Nando’s’ because he’s a ledge and you go and Snapchat your meal and it’s well banging. Top.

Except sometimes you start to forget things. You know you’re in the centre of town, but how did you get there? What town? You don’t remember waking up in the morning. Haven’t you always been here? It’s England; this could only be England. Soot-stained bricks chipped to bleeding red. Trees in wire mesh. Chewing-gum and plastic pigeonshit grit. Not a big town, nothing here is big enough to be in a big town. It isn’t anywhere.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:25 AM on August 7, 2015 [38 favorites]


Topics:
Amusing
posted by RogerB at 10:32 AM on August 7, 2015


keep the aspidistra flying! :P
posted by kliuless at 10:32 AM on August 7, 2015 [5 favorites]


Some bleak urban spaces and depressing tabloid headlines - nothing I haven't seen on trips to the UK going back over 30 years at this point. Britain is arguably far more of a neoliberal dystopia now than it was in, say, 1985, but they're not capturing the essence of why here.
posted by ryanshepard at 10:34 AM on August 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


The most dystopian aspect about this is that they've chosen "Facebook page" as their method of publication.
posted by Pyry at 10:41 AM on August 7, 2015 [25 favorites]


look when you allow a sealed city tower for the super rich to be constructed in your capital and then name it THE SHARD then we have to assume dystopia is a look you're aiming for Britain.
posted by The Whelk at 10:47 AM on August 7, 2015 [28 favorites]


After all, if the images don’t communicate it, then no amount of rhetoric will make the group one worth visiting.
How boring would my life have to be before I visited a Facebook group to look at pictures of someone else's boring dystopia? Much more boring than it is now, I reckon. I did look briefly at the link to Dangerous Minds—which isn't boring, usually—and I chuckled at a few of the pictures published there. If unintentional bureaucratic humor is pointing the way to an Orwellian nightmare, then I'm laughing all the way to room 101. This is my favorite ... ah ha ha ... do it to Julia ... oh ha ha ... oh you're killing me ....
posted by octobersurprise at 10:51 AM on August 7, 2015


England was far, far worse in the 50s.
posted by colie at 10:56 AM on August 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


I can't find it but somewhere William Gibson said that he found that applying the term dystopia to the futures shown in his work struck him as odd because it's a matter of perspective. For the characters he writes about who are usually on the bottom of society, it's a dystopia, but for the corporate drones life is probably fine, and for the rich life is great, and that the same is true of the world today.

Life a is a boring dystopia for the middle class, it sucks pretty hard for the poor, but I imagine if you're rich in London it's a playground.
posted by Sangermaine at 10:57 AM on August 7, 2015 [14 favorites]


look when you allow a sealed city tower for the super rich to be constructed in your capital and then name it THE SHARD

I wish the one in my city had a name as cool as that.
posted by sparkletone at 10:59 AM on August 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've been in the Shard, despite my horrific poverty, so it's not particularly sealed.

The Facebook page just reminds me of the Daily Mail mindset - isn't the modern world just dreadful? Let's get all het up about Katie Hopkins and traffic cones (and a bunch of things that aren't even in England anyway).
posted by sobarel at 11:00 AM on August 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


I know some rich people who either live in London or visit there often and for them, it is indeed a playground.
posted by eustacescrubb at 11:06 AM on August 7, 2015


London is your playground simply if you are lucky enough to be young, clever and healthy. Rich people are boring anyway.
posted by colie at 11:19 AM on August 7, 2015


The Evil of Banality

Also, this title sums up in four words nearly everything that annoys me about the internet these days, or as I might say if I were writing this for my kewl blog instead of on a boring forum, THE EVIL OF HYPERBOLE!!
posted by octobersurprise at 11:21 AM on August 7, 2015


Now I'm reminded of Spike Japan. Man, I miss that blog.
posted by longdaysjourney at 11:31 AM on August 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


look when you allow a sealed city tower for the super rich to be constructed in your capital and then name it THE SHARD

I wish the one in my city had a name as cool as that.
posted by sparkletone at 1:59 PM on August 7


The two Trump towers built here in Canada have rained literal shards of glass down upon the plebes below. So...win-win?
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 11:35 AM on August 7, 2015


England has always been Ballard's High Rise, except flatter.
posted by maxsparber at 11:35 AM on August 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


If you want a vision of the future, imagine online sophisticates yawning at the nightmare of the political-aesthetic world we all share — forever
posted by RogerB at 11:41 AM on August 7, 2015 [5 favorites]


I suppose Facebook is the only place where a misspelling of omelette could count as a critique of neoliberalism.
posted by sobarel at 11:47 AM on August 7, 2015 [5 favorites]


While I like the site, it does convince me that people should wipe the word "neoliberal" from their vocabulary, as its getting horribly cliche.
posted by markkraft at 11:48 AM on August 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


And misapplied demands for consumer culture-esque novelty are grating as hell.
posted by deathmaven at 12:31 PM on August 7, 2015


I wish the one in my city had a name as cool as that.

It does if you're British, because 'Trump' means fart.
posted by pipeski at 12:51 PM on August 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


The other day I was watching a BBC documentary about the beginnings of electronic music in the UK and how early groups found an inspiration in the fiction of JG Ballard and Anthony Burgess and the banality of a brutalist cityscape in the 70s (go to around 10:30 for Ballard). And then came Joy Division.
posted by sukeban at 12:59 PM on August 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


Neoliberal has not meant more than "boo" since the financial crisis. England has meant nothing for decades. Our flag is mostly about football now.
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 1:00 PM on August 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


look when you allow a sealed city tower for the super rich to be constructed in your capital and then name it THE SHARD then we have to assume dystopia is a look you're aiming for Britain.

It was originally named, boringly, "London Bridge Tower", but when the English Heritage Trust criticised its construction as "a shard of glass through the heart of historic London", the owners realised that was far better, if a little long, and renamed it accordingly.

Not unlike how the Spice Girls got their nicknames-cum-stage names.
posted by Doktor Zed at 1:11 PM on August 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Why is Taylor Swift granting permission for some old women to perform "Shake it off" a sign of dystopia, exactly? Is there any answer that doesn't involve contempt for young women or old women or pop music?
posted by alasdair at 1:13 PM on August 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


While I like the site, it does convince me that people should wipe the word "neoliberal" from their vocabulary

Or at least one should be able to challenge anyone applying the term to explain how whatever/whoever they are applying it to derives from Hayek/Friedman/the Mont Pélerin Society on pain of some sort of penalty.

The same rule should apply to the term “Marxism”.
posted by acb at 1:40 PM on August 7, 2015


I kind of get what they're talking about. One of the best examples of a "boring dystopia" is an concourse in any airport around the world. Or the decor of an airliner cabin.
posted by Nevin at 1:48 PM on August 7, 2015


In my imagining, I've always conceived of England as portrayed in Scott Christopher's "The Guardians": overcrowded, gritty, ugly riot-prone Conurbs, separate by a fence from the pastoral, neo-Victorian Country, and never the twain shall meet. I've seen it as being this way for 40 years, and this FPP does nothing to change my mind.
posted by happyroach at 2:05 PM on August 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


Regarding names of glass skyscrapers, 30 St. Mary Axe got the name "The Gherkin" because the builders (riffing off the famous 19th century glass exhibition hall of Crystal Palace) were calling it "The Crystal Phallus" and the financiers were worried it would stick.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 2:14 PM on August 7, 2015 [9 favorites]


How about this: Leicestershire police are experimenting with only investigating burglaries on even numbered houses. Burglaries of odd numbered houses will be ignored. They claim no impact on crime rates or public satisfaction.
posted by biffa at 3:32 PM on August 7, 2015


""boring dystopia"

That reminds me... I need to use emergency vacation days, as Central Services has finally responded to my request, and will conveniently drop by between 6am and midnight, sometime during the next couple weeks. I'm getting my ducts painted a lovely sky blue!

So, anyone got a 27B-stroke-6?!
posted by markkraft at 4:08 PM on August 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


If boring is the worst thing you can say about your surroundings in today's world, you're either very, very lucking or fucking goddamn blind.
posted by AdamCSnider at 5:53 PM on August 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm sure it's a horrifically boring dystopia when seen in person, but judging from the images in the links that don't require a facebook login, it doesn't look bad. So long as you ignore all the idiotic or incomprehensible words on signs, and think charitably of the ones that could be profound statements of something (ALL HARM IS PREVENTABLE, tURD). If you live there, perhaps it would help to be illiterate.
posted by sfenders at 7:04 PM on August 7, 2015


No? What if you could be illiterate only while in billboard-infested territory? I think I just discovered the killer app for google glass: adblock for the urban outdoors.
posted by sfenders at 7:24 PM on August 7, 2015


I kind of get what they're talking about. One of the best examples of a "boring dystopia" is an concourse in any airport around the world.

That is one of the key settings for Marc Auge's concept of hypermodernity, and once you start noticing them you can't stop seeing them. I think it is a more useful concept than "boring dystopias" because it emphasizes the connections, rather than the disconnections, to everyday life.

How about this: Leicestershire police are experimenting with only investigating burglaries on even numbered houses. Burglaries of odd numbered houses will be ignored. They claim no impact on crime rates or public satisfaction.

Good grief, has the BBC been bought by the Onion?
posted by Dip Flash at 8:42 PM on August 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


I came in with an insightful comment about the DYSTOPIA IS BORING link. Then I got confused about Cheeky Nando's and fell into the internet.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 9:17 PM on August 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Britain is arguably far more of a neoliberal dystopia now than it was in, say, 1985 1984.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 9:31 PM on August 7, 2015


go to around 10:30 for Ballard

Film featuring Gabrielle Drake. One of the things I actively like about England is that footage of J.G. Ballard and Nick Drake's sister (most famous for wearing a silver jump-suit and shiny purple wig in a TV series about killing alien invaders) rubbing her breast on the door-frame of a car can illustrate the profound technosexual influence on the founder of Depeche Mode's record label.

Another thing I liked about the programme was that they were more interested in interviewing Chris and Cosey than Genesis P-Orridge.
posted by Grangousier at 2:06 AM on August 8, 2015


The photos on the Facebook page all do seem very boring, but I'm not seeing anything dystopian about the vast majority of them: stuff like a photo of pregnant woman holding a colander of vegetables, two police officers on bikes talking to each other, Simpsons gifs, a band's setlist, part of a beer bottle's label, a link to Charlize Theron's IMDb page... Pretty much all of it except for the crisp sandwich shop, which would fit right into a dystopian hell. Are people just posting photos and links of whatever happens to be in front of them, or am I so immersed in my own (USian) boring dystopia that I can't see it?

From what I've seen of Britain's depiction in its modern media, it does seem a bit dystopian, and the other two links to photos seem to portray the "boring dystopia" somewhat better (especially the one that octobersurprise linked), but the Facebook page is just all Facebooked-up, I guess.
posted by Maladroid at 8:46 AM on August 9, 2015


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