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Paranoid road trip in a world of uncertainty

It’s 5-something-am on another howling day in the depths of winter. The world is hitting out hard right now. We’re on a paranoid road trip.

An image of a quiet road in the mountains.

As I wrote this article in the early dawn, I'd not yet seen the news. I hadn't yet read the flurry of updates about the UK falling into recession. It was only once I had finished writing that I checked socials and saw it all unfolding. The chimes of yet another bad thing in our society, caused by a government that attempts to run its citizens into the ground. Another stretch of road in our paranoid trip. A trip where we can pretend we’re on a different route by grabbing our small moments of ‘I’m doing ok’ and showing them off to the world. I know, I do this too. But I don’t know about you, but I cannot keep pretending while we live in such times. Economic uncertainty is rife, and it’s making us anxious, we’re paranoid, and beneath it all, we're frightened.

As I write this now, it's 5:30am and I’m already thinking about the mesh of projects I need to uphold, the things I need to do for any hope of security. I know I'm not alone in thinking this way. That I need to be a creative person around the clock, thinking of the next idea, concept or way to cut through the evergrowing noise that exists out there. I’ve written before about the online attention economy and why for some of us it is survival. I’ve written about my past relationship with social media and how I once became addicted to it. I’ve not written about the offline world so much in this sense as it’s a bit heavier to tackle but paranoia is there too. We’re all on this road trip together, but some of us have better seats or faster vehicles. Some of us don’t even have a bloody car and are left simply wandering along behind in the dirt. Coming away from the metaphors, what I am saying is that irrespective of our individual circumstances, to some extent, we are all living in fear or worry about what is coming next or whether we are going to be able to make ends meet in one month, six months or a year.

This world we live within, and its system of neoliberalism makes us paranoid and insular. It grips us from within and tells us that we need to do whatever it takes to survive, but never can we reach out, never can we talk to someone else and Christ, whatever happens, never can we post truth-to-power statements on social media. We are not ever really allowed to share our worries with others to mobilise out of them, even though we may be living them collectively. This is why we’re all on this road trip but we’re not travelling together, instead, we are racing to end it.

An image of a quiet mountain road with heavy clouds across th skyline.

I think that one of the problems of living in a world of economic uncertainty is the relativity to others. As neoliberal citizens we are imbued with social comparisons and preoccupation with status, that’s just who we are and I know you probably wouldn’t believe me if I were to tell you that could change. Take social media for example...

You log on to Twitter / X, BlueSky or whatever platform you’re doing your thing on. The first thing you see in your ‘For You’ or whatever the algorithm has suggested is a post that hits you right in the heart. It’s talking about a story of someone with a disability who’s being discriminated against, or someone who has just been diagnosed with a horrendous illness. It might be a story about someone who is grieving a sudden loss, or even someone who has lost their white-collar job because they were too working-class for it. Whatever the story, at some point when you join these spaces, there will be someone out there who will share something that connects with you. This is because irrespective of what neoliberalism makes us feel, we are not all that unique and our pains and trauma are often collective.

But then, you see the other stuff. The status and comparisons. X / Twitter, in particular, is frequented by middle-class folk so this means…. (everyone stopped reading here)…

Anyway, what I am saying here is that on social media we see our collectivism but never truly enact it. Because we all have our own reputations, brands, identities, pursuits, Yada-Yada to uphold. Unless we are in the #Blessed group of the relatively privileged who frequent these spaces, we simply have to move on and not talk about it further. Privilege is not just economic, it’s social too. And those with less of a need for privacy are more readily able to speak out. That said, not being able to share everything isn’t entirely a bad thing. I truly don't believe that this share-all and shout-loud culture benefits us other than for a short burst of resonance. That stuff is for virality, you know that as well I do.

But returning to the economic uncertainty that we share, there are some disparages. Where we live in a world where there is such scarcity in job markets and the things that people are really good at seldom exist as a means of income, this leads our road trip to turn hostile. Be it online, offline, or on another planet, once humans are placed into survival mode they will fight. And what we are seeing now are silent battles caused by this paranoid road that we’re travelling along.

An image of a quiet road in Scotland with mountains in the distance.

Insecurity and paranoia drive us straight into a state of doing whatever it takes to survive and regardless of how many of us bleat out a ‘#BeKind’ or alternative statement to make it all seem kinder, this world, it’s a battleground. This is why those we think of as friends are watching our every move to make their own a better one. It’s why competition is so rife, and it’s also why we are actively encouraged to engage in meaningless conversations to keep up the pretence that it’s all ok. This article is inspired by Muse’s, ‘Revolt’

How did we get in so much trouble?
Getting out just seems impossible
Oppression is persisting
I can't fight this brain conditioning
Our freedom's just a loan...

As Matt Bellamy hauntingly sings, I can feel your pain. It’s true. We are on this road trip together and we can feel each other’s pain and paranoia. But we don’t believe we have the freedom to get out of our cars and talk to each other because of money. We’re frightened that if we help someone else we will end up facing the same adversity. Because none of us want to go without and so many of us are restricted in how we can earn an income. That’s why so much of the fleeting happiness we feel is centred around achieving our career goals rather than living our everyday lives. It’s economic, it’s capitalism and it feels crass to write about so openly but from what I can see it’s also the truth.

So, maybe now is not the time to start sharing everything online for superficial reasons. But perhaps it is the time to start seeing each other, coming away from the competition and spite caused by our collective paranoia on this trip, and if someone else has broken down, maybe offering them a ride rather than driving on by on our own journeys. By doing so this might allow us to step out from the paranoia and begin to fight the real problems of this world.


Thanks for reading. If anything here resonates, feel free to share your own words below.

The pain is real, our freedom is collective.


Feb 17

Much to think about. Governments across the world are putting pressure on the majority by stripping away even the essential things once considered a human right.

People look back in history at the social evils our ancestors had to endure and they think they could never return but they can and sometimes the modern versions are worse.

People do try to live alternative lives often focused around self sufficiency but even that demands capital and a small income.

The only thing I do believe is that all we can try to do is keep our lives simple and needs modest and try and build an emergency fund . Really appreciate some will struggle but if you can it does not…

Feb 17
Replying to

Thanks for reading and leaving some really key points here.

Completely agree with everything you have said, especially the points around self-suffiency and modesty. I think that in some ways, we are actively encouraged and conditioned to sign away our lives with false promises of 'security' and 'status' by taking on big financial comments and other things that require us to work for the overall economic system we live within (not ourselves). For those of us with disabilities, illnesses and other long term barriers, participation in these things is extremely difficult and often become a target of the media. As you have said, maintaining a modest life and having a backup is key rather than being drawn into this continuous…

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