The city is incredibly vibrant and wonderful. Its energy permeates all aspects of life within it. The machine works tirelessly, as we who live in it do too. It goes on and on, the elliptical sequence sapping on our life force to keep the ephemeral city-life alive. The irony is that it’s slowly killing us.
Death is a weird thing. It came to me recently when my grandmother died. She was the only grandparent I ever knew and looked after me when I was young, since both my parents needed to work. Her death wasn’t unexpected as she had been in declining health for five or so years, with numerous trips to the hospital after some brutal falls. So when she did die, there was no shock element at all, and really I felt relieved since she didn’t have to suffer anymore. The week of her death we had a huge family gathering to remember her. Everyone had swiftly moved on with their lives after this, as all the grieving was scheduled to that day and the day of the news. I, along with some cousins were stuck babysitting, and so it didn’t really feel any different than an ordinary get-together to us. I just wanted it to be over so I could get back to my plans of studying and work. I realised I wasn’t grieving. I wasn’t grieving for a family member that meant a lot to me, let alone the only death I’ve ever experienced. I don’t have time for it.
This got me thinking about how living in the hustle and bustle of the city means having to budget so much of your time. Anything unplanned gets in the way of my increasingly demanding goals and deadlines. Having to (or at least feeling like I have to) dedicate every minute to something worthwhile overrides all else as the key motivator of existing in the city. This perceived need to be hyper-efficient and running at one hundred percent constantly. It’s desensitising, and makes one less human. We’re all so busy, too busy, whether it be the time commitment of university studies (or the avoidance of it), trying to support ourselves, commuting, and other daily commitments – everything just feels like a chore to get through. The city, the infernal factory owner, smiles at outsiders and tourists as it shackles us, it’s lifeblood, to routine and the ashen grey of the assembly line. I personally hardly even have time to meet with friends, and go to the cinema; never mind having to factor in the costs on top of this all. It’s exhausting just thinking about the next day and plans that need to be fulfilled. We’re at a point where it’s normal to feel guilty when we spend a day doing effectively nothing. We shouldn’t feel like that, there’s no harm in wanting to relax and laze about. But the city angrily says ‘No, this won’t do!’ as it cracks its whip. Like a Marxist nightmare we’re isolated from ourselves, and each other.
I might totally be in the minority on this as I’m quite a solitary and misanthropic person, having lived my whole life in the city, from a lower working-class background… and not getting out much. But it does seem that the never-ending cycle of the city does impede one’s ability to feel things that those strange human creatures do. Surely this is the gloom that we Londoners often feel? We’re less human. At least I am, as I apparently don’t even have time for death. It’s just another chore in a world where everything is a chore. The machine of the city has made a machine out of me.