The door drew to a close behind her, turning slowly on her heel she began to make her way down the corridor. That smell was familiar and ominous, of dust mottled into the rubber painted floor – a mixture of out-of-date watered down cleaning chemicals, dead skin, heat from the walls coming out of the classrooms, and what was once food bits; all ground into the glossed over sandpaper style linoleum. She edged towards the head teacher’s office. The middle-aged woman occupying the coveted position of school top dog wasn’t quite Miss Trunchbull, but nevertheless the temperature invariably seemed to drop, the moment one placed a foot into the carpeted office. As the head teacher looked up from her desk, Agatha realised the woman perhaps wasn’t as middle aged as everyone thought.
Agatha had recently turned eleven, and since this landmark event had become acutely aware of the awkward fun-sized furniture arranged in the classrooms, the poverty and inadequacy of scale in the playground (there was simply nowhere to hide, as she’d spent her infant playtimes believing), and now she was seeing the head teacher as a more human formation, and actually, not so old. . . Especially not in that red dress at least, that polyester-cotton mix, postbox red, and almost body-con (had it contained lycra, been proper neoprene, or not purchased from that section in Dorothy Perkins that looks like a hybrid of Bon Marche and M&S). Lol, actually it was probably from River Island’s smart-casual line.
“And how much attention do you pay to the world outside this School?” The head teacher asked Agatha this before anything else, which was out of character and distinctly unnerving, as normally the beginnings of office based head-child interactions consisted of asking a student their name, form group, and why they’d been sent to the office.
“I watch Newsround every day, Miss”
“I see, I was however asking a rhetorical question, implying there is concern surrounding your ability to follow the law. Yes, Agatha, don’t look so shocked – even you must know you’ve been attracting attention to yourself. Anyway, it’s come to a head and fallen to me, of course, to give you a bit of context regarding things beyond yourself and Grasshaven Primary.”
It had always seemed a funny name, other schools were more in keeping with their location. Lyndhurst Primary School was near Lyndhurst Way, Dog Kennel Hill Primary School was on Dog Kennel Hill, Crampton Primary School was near Crampton Street; and Michael Faraday was named after someone who was famous in the olden days, which was good as that particular school had been whittled into the appendix of an old, orphaned Modernist estate – its mother site ripped apart and left, forever waiting to be turned into student living and luxury city worker penthouses – so there was a lack of ‘heritage’ street names to dole onto that school’s bars anyway. But Grasshaven wasn’t a local street, or landmark, or, to anyone’s knowledge, a famous dead man.
“There are laws, Agatha. Laws are made by elected representatives and one of the recent laws passed, albeit before you were born, was a law born from the graceful Move Forward, banning anger. And you, my dear, are angry.”
“But, I only said to Cai that-”
“Enough! You did not say, you screeched, and screeching is for angry lunatics that need to be locked up, we debate Agatha, and you need to learn from boys like Caiden the art of this. Like I’ve told you, you have been attracting quite a lot of attention to yourself.”
Agatha tried to look her in the eye, but found it to be too stirring, so settled for looking just past her left ear, at the head teacher’s framed photograph of herself in a wedding dress, kissing a gelled man in a lilac tie. Agatha had stopped listening to the head’s repeated details of The Angry Law, of course she new about The Angry Law, who didn’t, it defined everything – adverts, identities, the way that kids manipulated each other by perpetuating the fear of being caught ‘angering’. In fact, Cai had hissed in Agatha’s ear just before she was sent out, “I’m going to tell Miss off of you for angering at me.” Anger wasn’t allowed, but she felt a rage inside her, a rage because she wasn’t angering at Cai, all she’d been doing was explaining that he shouldn’t keep jogging her. He was a competitive little shit, he had to be the best at everything, so if you were good at something he wasn’t, he would either aggressively try to outshine you, or (and more usually) sneer at, undermine, and/or sabotage your progress in the exercise, as proof that only the activities he excelled at, were cool.
After school she made a resolution to herself: she had to understand anger, and would dedicate her summer to doing so. When she began at secondary in a few months, she would know anger inside and out, and evade the constant teacher-scrutiny that had become the punctuation of her last year at Grasshaven. First stop to understanding anger was The Mesh, over the years her family had been able to put a couple of extra Meshes throughout the house (in the living room and parents’ bedroom), these were additional to The Mesh in the kitchen, which, like insulation and energy saving utilities, was a compulsory feature of newbuild housing.
She scanned in with her eye on the top rod of the oblong partition frame between the kitchen and the dining room area. The empty space in the frame slowly emitted light, as if from each air molecule, and then greyed into about seven different tints in two seconds – A Shades of Grey entourage. Finally, the space in the frame reached the candescent grey shade most appropriate to the lighting of the open-plan eat-lounge setup. She reached towards the middle of The Mesh, tapping, and spreading her fingers into the darker hued Centrale, fervently speaking-in. She had to be careful in her search as she didn’t want to log any suspicious usage, or worse, risk her parents hearing what she was doing.
Her searches began obviously,“The. Move. Forward.”
"Wounded Amazon" by Phidias
“Britain. World. Court. Hearing.”
“Vote. Britain. Awarded. Stay.”
“Happy. New. Era.”
The Mesh threw up all the usual bubbles, BBC news, fox-gov, etc. etc. She swiped these to the left out of the mesh and kept in a few of the more random bubbles the Centrale had hiccupped out. 'A Really Happy New Era?' was the most vocal anti-anger law bubble, that had passed inspection with the Happiness Agency,
The 'A Really Happy New Era?' Bubble had spawned a further four sub-bubbles in Agatha’s searches so far. She dared herself on further, and spoakin to The Mesh “Pre-Law Anger Movements”. But again, it was the standard school textpad overview of a damp and unhappy Britain that the world hated before Anger was banned.
She decided to think more abstractly, or 'outside the box', as Agatha’s form teacher had instructed her year six class not to do in an Arting micro-lesson (full lessons were reserved for Biology, Maths, and Meshwork). She spoakin “Angry culture, before The Move Forward.” A bubble came through her fingers as it emerged out of the Centrale. This bubble looked innocuous and of normal appearance: a diaphanous, respiring, shape – covered and embedded in all its four dimensions with Content Layout Floats (CLFs). But this bubble had the words of something from another era, no another planet. Agatha reread the title CLF, and then swiped the bubble to the right, into her save-to-user memory lake towards the edge of the mesh frame. It hovered for a few moments before entering her frontal lobe, as it passed over her it affected the contours of a translucid napkin, the bubble’s content stitched into it, out of focus. She muttered its title CLF repeatedly to herself, due to some subconscious fear that the bubble may at some point be forcibly extracted from her memory. She was intent on corporeally-memorising this one.
“Look Back in Anger, play, John Osborne, 1956. Look Back in Anger, play, John Osborne, 1956. Look Back in Anger, play, John Osborne, 1956. Look Back in Anger, play, John Osborne, 1956.”
Look Back in Anger was a play about an intelligent but disaffected young man of working class origin (Jimmy Porter), the play spawned the term "angry young men".
'Angry young men', was a label applied by British media to describe young British writers who were characterised by a disillusionment with traditional English society. The term went out of vogue and eventually became an insult around the time leading up to, and during, the period of The Move Forward, and was increasingly interchangeable with descriptions of terrorists linked to anger movements
A formidable angry woman called Angela Davies once said:
"It's very interesting that white people have been called radical for a very long time, and black people have been called militant."
But what the play is best remembered for, are Jimmy's tirades. Some of these tirades are directed against generalised British middle-class smugness in the post-atomic world, which is why the play was banned after The Move Forward, in 2032.
Agatha inhaled, sometimes when she was deep into the mesh, as she spoakin, she felt as if the pale fossil coloured molecules of the CLF were being sucked through the cracks in her useless teeth. . . And the tips of her fingers tingled whenever she dropped something into her save-to-user memory, probably her frontal lobe capturing the information, but nevertheless, it gave an encouraging semblance that her and the mesh were symbiotic creatures, respectful and seeping in amongst one another and around a certain space, together.
She spoakin two words, which were to change her direction, her search, words through which she came of age: “Anger. Aesthetics.”
Prior to The Move Forward, what is termed ‘counter culture’ emerged generally along with Angry Young Men. Counter cultural movements enabled signifiers for loose, or specific, and varying, ideological opinions of the persons garbed in the alt-attire:
This garb included styles worn, books and films consumed, but also affectations internalised, identity construction, gestures adopted. Refusal of hegemony embraced personal freedom. Personal freedom fitted with a questioning of that which the Old Contemporaries saw as standard, generating a context/movement/fashion, they called Postmodernism.
As anger movements gathered pace, and as the response became harsher, counter culture resided increasingly in this 'personal', supposedly becoming its own ouroboros, eating away at itself. Refusal of hegemony was now hegemonic, a total Western fascination with ‘being an individual’. When we look back, we see how anti-global that was, but they weren’t to know. There were of course some Old contemporaries from these Pre-Move Forward movements, who noted the tubercular nature of all this, matter:
Camatte, On Organisation, 1972, begin quote:
“The existence of the gangs derives therefore from the tendency of capital to absorb its contradictions, from its movement of negation and from its reproduction in a fictitious form. Capital denies, or tends to deny, the basic principles on which it erects itself; but, in reality, it revives them under a fictitious form. The gang is a clear expression of this duality.”
Individuality was often equated with free markets, because a political mantra titled Neoliberalisation had begun, and its’ pace had co-opted postmodernist ethos. Any negative, any anger, any counter, was a reachable, purchasable, thing. And, for a moment, anger was less of a fear.
This upset a man
Htsf e3, 2013, begin quote:
"Irony is the dissolution of authenticity, via the collapsing of temporal, geographic and ‘historical’ symbolic reference, and has proved itself in many ways to be a zero sum. Drawing on Sloterdijk’s Critique of Cynical Reason, Bifo describes irony and after-’68 cynicism. The cynicist, more often than not, slips back into the ironic gesture from which they are attempting escape. According to Bifo and Sloterdijk, cynicism encapsulates the recognition that something is failing, or wrong, such as a power structure, yet remains on the side of said power structure. On the one hand dealing with it, on the other, just dealing with it."
Bifo’s bubble-bio described him as an anger fluffer, but somehow Sloterdijk sat between censored and embraced: the best position they could have you in, she thought. Still though, a neat claim to fame . . . Sloterdijk’s bubbles – the self as part of a spatial understanding of consciousness, world, and history. Maybe Mesh really was blood. As far as she could tell, well, from what she gauged from the sanctioned in-bubble representations: Sloterdijk wasn’t that special; just a spongy, foetal, and even folky sort of guy – in a Pre-Move Forward Central European kind of way.
This period, for many of the babies of this so-called Post-Modernism, was a period of disillusionment with representation and it’s consistent internal nodding, in particular they said they were “pissed, because Relational Aesthetics couldn’t cut the mustard”, whatever that means. The happening was a flashmob. They set about assessing the thingness that had become counter-culture, “where and how did that other - stuff - go?”
Was all emotion flicked into one ironic wink? Many of them, on what we now call the Beta-Mesh, looked at Lauren Berlant, an overt neigh-sayer. She showed them that relational importance is inherent to neoliberal desire, and neoliberal desire, was a desire to establish the Self within State, (in stark contrast Pro-World desire, the desire to establish self though happiness).
Berlant’s term: Cruel optimism, manifests as a relational rubric of attachments, towards something that sustains the good life fantasy, albeit cruelly. This rubric, for a time, enabled Pre-Move Forward persons to live in their world’s un-liveable time; and live amongst its anger. Cruel optimism isn’t the object, it’s the apparatus of coping. As put by Lauren Berlant, "it’s not the object that’s the problem, but how we learn to be in relation.”
Affect kicked out the neoliberal ‘Individual’ as a consumerist-filled construct, and The personal, The Subjective, became the singular version of collective. As put by Donna Haraway: “subjects are constituted from concrete individuals by being “hailed” through ideology into their subject positions in the modern state.”
Around this time visual artists wanted to get away from their parents’ Postmodern formula of fucking with what art was – i.e. anything: and some of these works have been banned as the way that they broke with Postmodernism definitely intersected with anger. For the majority of these banned works, there were two methods for angrily breaking. The first method was concerned with context, rather than the art object, the artists looked at their world and fetishisation of previous anger aesthetics and counter cultural movements. These artists explored the mythologisation of angry things’ ontologies. . .
The second breaking method followed from Berlant, and attempted a reciprocal transgressive encounter with an object. . .
Melika Ngombe and Daniella Russo, Unintended Circumstances, 2013
The sun came through Agatha’s window, like a cold bleach encasing her the way that it does when you’re on a 6am lulled high. She’d set an alarm but had woken up before it anyway. Pulling on her clothes she focused in on her Brevis Pollicis Plate, scanning over the bubbles she’d swiped out of the mesh into its BPchip.
There were many bubbles containing information on eradicated anger of all forms, by people she thought could even, still be living. Where was the mess after the party. . . where was the Gesamtkunstwerk? & How many nice ways can you think of to say, ‘I don’t actually like you’?
Agatha knew she could be a sad lonely girl, but for her that didn’t achieve any sort of release, or articulation, especially when in her mind’s eye she still had Cai’s twisted face in hers. Every move her body made to vocalise conformity, she was instead spotlighted, gaslighted. Every un-angry thing Agatha imitated, on her looked like riot.
“You don’t understand, she said Cai was confident, but he was angering I promise-”
“Please darling, STOP, you used to be so good, and now - all this angerering – it doesn’t suit you. Your Dad’s home soon, so take deep breaths, think before you open your mouth, what you also need to do. . .”
Anger wasn’t what defined her as a human, she was just angry because the situation was infuriating – she was as mad as hell and she wasn’t going to take it anymore. Anger is not Control. Her mind went off, into her faux-airport den. It was something she really liked doing, imagining what she must look like to the medley of complete strangers in an airport, and then retreating from that thought as it was followed up by creeping anxiety, a concern, that the strangers assumed she was poor, or angry, or both.
Admittedly her pastime had begun out of her enjoyment of contemporary airports, the novelty of an interiorised city centre, like Vegas County’s casinos and their Air Crystal Display skies. Yet, as she had grown, her imagination turned to the old airports, from before The Move Forward, from before she had existed.
It was a solitary game as she was embarrassed about her abject fascination with the dread-filled, old-order flight depots, set out in Mesh dramas like Snowden in Moscow. Truly pre-teen, she had a thirst for something niche, and bad. On the surface, old airports were like now (pro-world, non-nation). But they were also opposite: an area of quarantine, precisely because of nationless-ness. Agatha would sit, and in her mind try to conceptualise the containment of so many, the complete paradox. The airport was tool for the movement of persons, rendering continually accumulated total movements, across space and time and body, as stasis. Sanctioned areas, occasionally slipping, a bluebottle fly unexplainably present, a microscopic failing in a window’s silicon. Recycled air is an airport, is kinetic energy, is nation-free air.
Agatha’s images were of revolving sites, so perfectly planned, citizens wandering in no-land, alt global, for brief and infinite moments. And sometimes this movement became a prison, a purgatory, allowed to live but not to step out and participate. She knew it was wrong to enjoy this kind of stuff, but in a short time had begun not to care, she knew her journey had to move out of The Mesh, out of her BPchip, and out of her mind. She had to find other angry bodies, if they really were still alive. If her debate was anger, then so be it. There had to be a body, somewhere. Bodies made matter, and where were Sara Ahmed’s wilful subjects? Where was Brian Massumi’s promised autonomy of affect, of an immanence safe from total subsumption. Did anger not evade cruel optimism?
She reached the opening, a door acting as quarantine to the rest of the world. Without Anger Britain was part of the one-world, and that one-world said:
But now she was here. This place was Mesh-restricted, timeless, formless, all matter no order. Bodies syphoned amongst it into weightlessness. She had arrived at her anger. And this was how it was, the old airports were still around, repurposed, you could still live and not participate, you could still be a non-citizen of sorts. A long woman opened the door just before Agatha could knock on its plain front. It was as if those on the inside of the Old Airport were only and always waiting for Agatha to join them. The tall woman had ‘Angry Black Man’ tattooed across her chest in Tyrian purple, Agatha read these markings and then allowed her eyes to be drawn up the woman’s neck. Agatha stopped, meeting the woman’s lash-less eyes, staring at her.
(Nkisi is the name for a spirit, or for any object that spirit inhabits)
Rolling into her words the woman cried, her rage was caring, loving: “Did you know that everything good is always fleeting? Do you understand us, us spectres that you visit? The only route to true happiness is to sit in amongst your own disgust!
Sorry, not sorry”
By Rózsa Farkas