How To Be A Good Person
David Lynch was asked to go see a therapist. Apparently, he asked the therapist, “will this affect my creativity?” The therapist said, there was a chance. He left the room as soon as he could. I can confirm, as someone who has had some help with his strange little mind palace — the kind of mind palace melting at the edges, a rabid dog loose in the boudoirs upstairs, a fetish hung on the mantlepiece reading ‘let me out’ in various dead languages, and something on fire in the back yard — that it does indeed change the creative flow. And for some time, it did not change for the better within me.
I found myself in a position many could call content. My situation hadn’t changed — working in an education industry (industry being the powerful all-consuming word) that is permanently on deaths door, penniless, and finding alcoholic sustenance through the abuse of friendships strong, powerful, and obscene — but I could sit in the overgrown garden, watch the cats try & fuck one another, smoke a cigarette & sip a cup of black, stinkingly-cheap coffee, and find in the maelstrom of my momentary, absurd existence a kind of calm, a kind of zen-peace, that my present moment was indeed only mine, and that nothing could possibly go wrong. But in that peace, in that contentment, which could better be defined as comfort, the words would not flow; I could not write a damn word without it being a fight. Yes, my counsellor — a lovely man with patience in bucket loads — had helped rewire my batshit crazy thoughts into something resembling a human mind (something that didn’t try and eat itself at night, or murder me in the morning), but whatever assortment of neurones I had utilised to create (to write plays about sad misogynists & fascists) were not firing in the same way. There was a dense fuzziness that used to come with writing. A heavy bewildered imagination. It had left me. For all the good that had come of my self returning to me — like it had been on holiday, and returned with my luggage, and for a time I didn’t recognise the sweater, t-shirts, and assorted dildos it had come back with, even though I knew these were my belongings — the weird creative daemon that had inspired my fictions had left in its stead. Or rather, it felt like, instead of running rampant through the gilded hallways of my effervescent consciousness, it had found an armchair to curl up in, developed a bit of a belly, and was chainsmoking Superking Blacks like they were illegal.
Over time an epiphany formed. I never trust epiphanies. People who have epiphanies are the kinds of people who suddenly go vegan, but still get a kebab when pissed. People who have epiphanies are the kinds of people who follow QAnon. But an epiphany I had. The reason none of this was working, was I wasn’t writing from a position of truth. I wanted to write about the glory days of hedonistic depression — because, what the kids today won’t tell you is, depression is fucking fun — and instead all I had was a Frankenstein’s Monster of vaguely lefty ideals, the remnants of an anarchistic soul, and the fury & rage associated with discovering that a friend, perhaps, turned out to be an abuser of women. A veil had been lifted from my vision; rather than a depression from within, fuelled by self-admonishment & nihilism, I had a depression from without, fuelled by dystopian dictators, misinformed misandrists in every pub, and artists preaching community but handing out a bastardised syphilis of support. And rather than write about that, I wrote about — well nothing.
So here I am. With this title. How To Be A Good Person. How adorable.
I went to see a counsellor for a simple reason. I had reached a point where my nihilism (and not the good kind; not the intelligent philosophical kind, but the kind that chain smokes cigarettes as a suicidal alternative (as if I ever stopped doing that)) had become hedonistic. I had lost touch with what really mattered to me, the people around me. I had become not just empty, but cruel. They say (whoever the fuck they are) that depression is anger turned inwards; what they don’t tell you, is that eventually that anger has to go somewhere. The reason why I could not write was in fear I would write something cruel again. I had debated and assaulted my counsellor with my understandings of good & evil (and don’t worry, darlings, I’ll get to that soon) and concluded I no longer wanted to do bad things, especially if they hurt people. And out of that came this very real fear I could become that man again. My epiphany — as dangerous as they are — is that I can write again. I don’t need to write nicely. I just need to write fairly. That is how you avoid writing cruelly.
Which leads us, quite neatly, to the task at hand. How To Be A Good Person.
Here’s the lowdown.
You can’t be.
I don’t care who you are reading this, I can already assure you, you are a bad person. In fact, I can assure you, when you die, surrounded by loved ones (oh, how I should be so lucky) you will head into whatever afterlife beyond this horrid little mortal coil as a bad person, an evil person, a malignant blotch on time. I write this, sincerely, from a quite eurocentric position. The West. I’m a straight white male, which translates pretty simply as a colonialist who could probably experiment with his gender more but is too afraid of losing all the nice shit his gender comes with who likes girls with big tits and small waists who cook for him. Whatever I do from this point onwards — no matter how many babies I kiss on the forehead (if you expected that sentence to go elsewhere, shame on you), no matter how many pigs I save, or what phone company I go with — I’m going to die within a system designed to keep me evil, and I’m going to do pretty much the bare minimum to change that. No matter how hard I try, no matter how many people I intend to help, support, guide, give financial support, emotional support, hugs, food, shelter — I am not a good man. I can do good things, sure. But the gross sum of my actions in this world will arrive neatly at somewhere close to diabolical. And you know what? If you’re reading this, more than likely, so will yours.
You can tell me all day & night that my meat consumption is evil, but on the one hand I have Crohns Disease so me and my stomach have an on-off relationship as it is without introducing a high fibre diet (and if I see one comment that there is some bean secretion with the same protein value as deep-fried bats I’ll murder a kitten), and on the other hand, to keep up with Vegan diets the number of soybean plantations is destroying forests all the world over, and the packaging isn’t exactly recyclable regardless of how many happy pigs you put on the lid. You can tell me to #metoo and #blacklivesmatter until the cows come home, and although those movements have done considerable good around the planet (and I wholeheartedly support such achievements, movements, radical action, but god forgive me for calling ‘being informed’ radical), but to do so I have to use Facebook and Twitter, one run by a homicidal Roy Batty wannabe with milk for blood, and the other run by a man who still thinks Orgons are still a thing, bathing in neutrino tents, and following #conspiracy. And let’s be honest, you’re going to be doing that on a phone we know built by Chinese Orphans, and we know has a board of directors comprised of ex-conservatives who decided the homelessness solution to be “kill them all!”, so slavery isn’t that much of a problem for you, as long as it’s far away. I can build an art community, but until I get some funding, I’m basically perpetuating the ideology artists don’t matter, and if I do start paying artists I’m supporting the capitalist machine, no matter how many YouTube videos on Marx I watch. I can vote Labour, but even if I don’t vote Conservative, I’m basically announcing my allegiance to a system that lets Conservatives happen. I could vote Green Party, but the same happens; voting lets UKIP exist. And even if I do vote Labour, we all know politicians are tricky bastards who’d eat their own Mother if it meant sitting in a comfy chair. If I buy from retailers that donate money to charities with every purchase I make, I’m participating in a gross misuse of diffusion of responsibility. Any culture that inspires me is on some level cultural appropriation, even if it’s so past the point of no return we don’t even see it as such any more, which somehow makes it worse. Even the legalisation of marijuana has only moved the means of production from hard-working labourers to Big Money, no matter how many of us need it for physical, emotional, and mental ailment. Pepsi may have palm oil in it, but Coke was made by fucking Nazis.
The West has, since time immemorial, suffered the inamicable response to all problems by putting a sticking plaster on a gaping wound. Over time the wound bleeds through, but we just put on another sticking plaster. And this has created systemic problems on every level of our homogenised, internet-infused, macrocosm of wonder & debauchery, systemic problems that have put every single one of its citizens in a position of unavoidable evil.
So I’m giving you permission to give up on a very simple idea. An idea that is dangerous. An idea that has turned you into a whining little scrub that keeps Bret Easton Ellis up at night. You are not a good person. And you don’t need to try and be a good person.
And right now I sound like the kind of man who shares Jordan Peterson videos and uses Facebook apps to add flags and the like to their profile pictures. I sound like the kind of neoliberal, libertarian fuckwit fighting for paedophilic rights because ‘everyone should be able to do what they want’. I can assure you, dearest darling reader, I am not like that. I may be a bad person, but I’m not a bad person.
Rather than waking up every day with the ubiquitous terror that you may not be a good person — a thought that has given rise to depression, suicidal thoughts, and social anxiety all over my horrid little British Isles — I’d rather suggest that you just try and not be a bad one. Gender isn’t a binary, therefore neither is morality. We have elected to believe people are either predominantly bad, or predominantly good, on a sliding scale like editing a video game characters nose. But rather, it’s far more amorphous and untrustworthy a concept, like all concepts. Everything we’ve ever achieved as a civilisation, as a species, has stemmed from language, and language puts things in neat little boxes that nothing has ever fitted in. The rule I’d like to present to you now, is rather than living in self-absorbed loveliness you are achieving good things, that instead, you should just own the bad things. You will at some point offend someone, upset them, destroy something, perpetuate something entirely incompatible with human existence; this is unavoidable. What makes someone a bad person isn’t the act of doing something bad, it’s the fact they do nothing about it. If you unconsciously create something evil, you should try your best to inform yourself as to why, and do something to try and combat it. The battle of good and evil exists because evil exists. We have to keep fighting it. If we just do good things, this isn’t killing off hoards of evil, this is ignoring them as they come through the back door. You must own your evil. You must embrace it, and the chaos that comes with it, and make up for it, through actions, and not more language. And not more philosophising over whether shopping at M&S is morally superior to shopping at Morrisons.
To top off this steaming pile, let us preach one last lesson. People do not do good things to do good things. People do good things so they can tell people about it later. People do good things to feel good about themselves, so they can head to the pub later and tell everyone about all the good they’ve done. There hasn’t been a charitable donation, a freed dolphin, a water well built, a sandwich offered to the less fortunate, a truth leaked, a village saved, a baby cured, a puppy loved that has been done out of only goodness, to create goodness; they have all come from a place of pride, the warm fuzzy feeling that tomorrow you can tell someone how fucking nice you are. But I tell you what has never created that feeling; owning up to your mistakes. And owning the evil you harbour every day.
And I know what you’re thinking. If good & evil are this amorphous and unreal, then why should I even try doing good things? And in response, I say, if reading one petty little rant by a 28-year-old child is making you reconsider the good things you are doing (whether out of pride or not) then maybe you should just stop doing good things. This world is not about good & evil. It’s about what you find comfortable, and what you find uncomfortable. Do the things you can live with, because one day you’ll die. And if the things you find comfortable are fucking infants and stealing from the poor, then ask yourself why? What happened to you?
Which brings me back. David Lynch was scared he’d lose his creativity. I did for a bit. But now I’m back. Not to be a good person, or to write lovely things. This isn’t even to own up to my mistakes, to put a salve on my evil, I’ll do that away from the keyboard. I’m back because I need to say something. I’m back because the iniquities of the world should tremble at the necessity of my words. And although I am but a small pale nicotine-soaked straight white cis dude with a god complex, I need to write again. I need to write about all the things you’re doing wrong.
I’m jacked up on nicotine & coffee at 2:14am, and although this piece has surely been inspired by the inimitable Spider Jerusalem, my other pieces will be entirely inspired by myself (and all the other things that inspire me, like Burroughs, Lynch, Spider Jerusalem); who knows if I’ll write again. This could be a one time moment of madness. But I’ve been told to embrace the chaos, which is just a synonym. This isn’t a personal blog. This isn’t an op-ed. This isn’t even gonzo journalism, although I wish it was. The wave is cresting. The words shall come again. And I don’t care if you like it. I don’t care if you read it. Just stop being a good person.