The other night as I lay awake at 3 in the morning, as does happen from time to time, the thought suddenly hit me, among many others, that in 13 years I will be 60. Fuck me 60! I have to admit I felt a twinge of fear, a spike of horror, a stab of insecurity.
“Okay Motta, all is not lost, you’re only 47, 3 years from the half century and let’s face it, life is good.”
And life is good. I have a house, car, beautiful partner, 2 well-adjusted lovely children, healthy income that enables me to put on weight, travel and fill most of my consumer needs. And I also have time. From the moment I left school I knew inherently that time is of the utmost importance and have built that into my life since then so I can pursue all my creative needs.
But ‘time’ is what produced that fear at 3am, the fear that I was running out of it. And what was so fearful about the slowly emptying hourglass of life? The answer reverberated around my skull:
Had I achieved, become everything I wanted to become or needed to be? Had I recorded all the songs, written all the books, performed all the comedy, painted all the pictures I had inside of me?
I’m sure I’m not the only person that has had this moment of early morning solipsistic terror.
And then I looked at the sentence from a distance, and it was quite revealing, for it was simply about me, about what I wanted to be, what I needed to be. Me me me me me.
Am I simply a product of the age? I have lived for some time now in the ‘age of the individual’ and quite arguably we are at the height of that era right now. Just look at the name of some of the biggest well know consumer goods:
Is this not a symbol of the ultimate need to poorly attempt to show you’re an individual? Just take a look at social networks as people fight to stand out from others: the loudest, most stupid, ridiculous voices will be heard. Don’t believe me? Spend 5 minutes on Tik Tok.
But seriously how free really are we? Or more to the point, how free am I? Since my emergence into the world, specifically the UK, I have only ever known a competitive society, through my years at school, at work and through recreation. We live in a society that is run from the top down, with a royal family that undemocratically has a higher ranking in our society than most. At school we are taught to be competitive, not essentially to work together, and the same is repeated throughout our working existence. To be a celebrity is a dream, a dream where everybody celebrates ‘you’ as an individual. Britain, whether you like it or not, choose to see it or not, has a class structure. It is simply not in the nature of British society to work and collaborate together for the people, for the society.
Thatcher is famously quoted to have said: “There is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look after themselves first. It is our duty to look after ourselves and then to look after our neighbour.”
So, I have to ask myself, am I product of this? Has my behaviour been influenced by the unseen, underlying structure, the driving force of the society of which I am part of? Have I as an artist who has believed to be singing, writing novels and comedy about an unjust system, actually just been playing my part in it unaware of the beautiful irony as I push and promote myself in a self-serving manner?
Or is the system simply a part of the way we as humans’ function? Is the system like this because we are inherently self-serving individuals? Can I blame my environment for the way I am, or does it function like this because of the way I, and many others are?
Of course, there are areas where people do work together in the UK, movements wouldn’t happen otherwise, but from a simple cursory look around you will see rampant individualism and its effects.
Last year my father died of cancer. Due to COVID I couldn’t see him when he was in a hospice until they felt he was going to die. Nervously, after the phone call to tell me I could visit him in his last hours, I put on smart clothes and drove to the hospice. It was an odd experience. One I am glad I witnessed. He lay on the bed asleep through drugs to relieve the pain before he finally let go.
I sat with him and spoke to him. Walked about the room and thought about his life and my life with him. It was a somewhat existential experience. I didn’t break down or fall to pieces as I thought I may. I just looked at him, thought about life, the high, the lows, what one can do with the time and what he truly meant to me.
He didn’t die when I was there, but two days later I got the call. He was gone. He had left the table, as so many do every minute, every day.
And it was then that I thought: Are we really that different from anyone else? Are we really under the illusion that we are individuals and special?
We are born, we do something in-between and then we die. In a sense it is that simple.
We are part of humanity as it moves through the ages and subject to the ideas, systems and structures of the time we are born into and live through, which in turn shapes our characters.
But if we choose to question…