tagNovels and NovellasNo Future Ch. 20

No Future Ch. 20


The Good of the Country

"Eric Esterhazy is a cunt."

Psychlone, or Simon as he was still known to his mother or Psy as his friends called him, liked the lyric's essential message, but it raised a host of obvious issues. If he incorporated the phrase into his next release, would anyone even know who Eric Esterhazy was? If it hadn't been for his Second Class degree in Political History, Psychlone probably wouldn't have known either.

It was only five years since he'd been an undergraduate at the University of Extern when he was equally well known as either Simon or Pothead. The nickname was a reference to two facts about him at the time of which one was that his surname was Potter. So, despite being screwed every month since graduation for interest repayment on his student fees, his three years at university couldn't be totally wasted if he could use the name of an obscure mid-century politician in a lyric. All listeners needed to know was that Eric Esterhazy was one of that shady group of wankers who'd formed the English National Unity government and in the process fucked up the country and what little was left of its international reputation.

The single line left Psychlone with another rather more intractable problem. What word rhymed with 'cunt'? He couldn't use 'National Front' although that was the first rhyme that sprung to Psychlone's mind. Associating the National Front' with Eric Esterhazy and the mid-twentieth century Conservative Party would be both inaccurate and unnecessarily obscure. Who knew enough about the history of English politics to understand the reference? There was probably a better rhyme to use. Something pithy. Something witty. Or perhaps he should use a different word to describe the former Chancellor of the Exchequer? Then again, 'cunt', unlike 'bastard', 'motherfucker' or 'arsehole', possessed exactly the degree of contempt that Psychlone wished to express.

When his lyric was conveyed from his laptop along with the software-generated symphonic orchestration to his hundreds of millions of downloaders, he knew that a little word like that could propel it into the international chart of the top one hundred tunes for that particular week. And the more downloads the greater the trickle of revenue into his credit account. A million hits translated into a million English pounds. And that would be enough to just about cover a week's rent for his crappy squalid studio apartment in Exeter with a bit left over for a take-away pizza or curry. He needed a few hundred million downloads a month just to finance his repayment on student loans and his dope habit.

Despite having gained an Upper Second in Political History, Psychlone still wasn't entirely sure where his political allegiance lay. That complicated matters for him. Most people held a one-dimensional view of politics, just as they held a one-dimensional view of religion, the environment or nuclear warfare. It was easy to say, for instance, that the continued mining for oil in the Antarctic was bad because it would accelerate the already alarming collapse of the glaciers that covered the continent. It was easy to say that the increased expenditure on nuclear warheads by the various belligerent nations was a bad idea. But when looked at it other angles, the same issues seemed much more multifaceted and far more intractable to resolve. Although petroleum was now an impossibly expensive fuel, it was still required by the plastics industry. What could people afford to sit on if there wasn't plastic furniture given that the cost of wooden furniture was beyond the reach of most people's pockets? And when a nation such as England and its allies in India, the Republic of North America and the Mediterranean Economic Union were confronted with nuclear weapons on their borders with Northern Europe, China and the Northern United States, what good was it to be neutral like Russia and the United States of South Africa? What was the right thing to do when a gun is pressed against your forehead?

And so too with politics...

It was easy to say that Eric Esterhazy and Ivan Eisenegger and the rest of the Government for National Unity were reactionary shits whose longest lasting contribution to the United Kingdom was to pull it apart. Their actions were understandable given the tension of the times and the overweening power of the right-wing news media. It might seem quaint today now that the media had become essentially impotent and the right-wing resurgence of the early twenty-first century had collapsed into a miasma of its own making, but at the time it was a message with genuine electoral appeal. Many people genuinely believed the nonsense spewed out by the media. It was just a shame that what would be merely diversionary to the general thrust of change—like fascism in the twentieth century and the counter-reformation in the sixteenth century—had a greater impact when its actual result was to cripple the necessary political will to tackle the real problems in the world just as the window of opportunity of doing so effectively was steadily slipping away.

But you can't get all that in a five minute dance number.

Psychlone was one of the top hundred or so dance producers in the world. His music was rocking the decks from Lhasa to Reykjavik, from Pyongyang to Sao Paolo, and from Exeter where it was produced to Beijing where his revenue stream was calculated, subdivided and redistributed. It might be pitifully small but at least Psychlone was able to make a living from his art. It was all conceived and generated on his laptop where only thirty years before the sounds he created would have taken the resources of the world's best recording studios (when such things existed). These same compositions were distributed to the usual outlets from which they were downloaded and eventually caned on the world's best dance floors.

Psychlone was often asked about his musical influences in the frequent web interviews he had to give. It was a crap question because after two centuries of recorded music and a century and a half of electronic dance music there were so many of them. Was it dubstep, techno, reggae, bongo or epsilon that influenced him the most? Psychlone soon learnt that the best responses weren't the truthful or reflective ones that addressed the complex legacy but those that best pandered to current fashions. The real man behind the Psychlone pseudonym had to feed the electricity meter and keep his laptop running on batteries during the frequent power cuts. At the moment the fashion was for a soulful, bass-heavy beat with multiple cut-ups and a disorienting dance step so he could claim that his primary source was fractured dubstep, although Psychlone also listened to Shostakovich, Ligeti and Reich.

"You think too fucking much, Psy," said Ellen, Psychlone's long-suffering girlfriend. "What does it fucking matter what your influences are?"

She was sitting on the battered mattress the couple had bought second-hand from the market despite the presence of a prominent brown stain. She was skinning up a spliff stuffed with sawdust since cigarette tobacco was many times more expensive than its chief ingredient. Psychlone had only moments before finished his online interview with a Los Angeles DJ from the Western Union who'd been enthusiastically dropping the latest Psychlone number. This was a mellow tune influenced by the music of Joe Zawinul and Flying Lotus.

"I dunno," said Psychlone. "I'm an influence myself, you know. I kinda feel responsible. There are guys all over the planet that listen to me on webcasts. I mean, it's fucking LA today. They're the good guys. They play the good stuff and they've got the world's best fucking weed. And then I might give an interview to some schmuck from Houston or a DJ from Casablanca, you know, in the fucking Mediterranean Economic Union. And they're like the bad guys. They're the ones whose governments put a ban on every fucking thing except stuff like dance music and quiz shows, Shouldn't I be doing a bit more than saying I dig these hundred year old MP3s from Croydon? Shouldn't I be doing a bit more?"

"Fuck, Psy," said Ellen passing over the spliff. "Just take a toke and fucking shut up, man."

Psychlone took a hit or two and handed it back. He let the fumes fill his lungs and listlessly watched the bluish smoke billow out from his nostrils.

"It's fucking tense, you know," said Psychlone. "It's more fucking tense than it's been since the cold war."

"Cold war?" wondered Ellen. "What the fuck's that? Some kind of ice cream franchise quarrel."

"Cold war. Late twentieth century. The whole world was split between the Soviet Union and the United States of America. They had missiles pointing at each other. It could have been curtains."

"Yeah," admitted Ellen. "I heard something about that. Didn't come to fuckall in the end. The Soviet Union disintegrated because no one believed in it any more. The United States disintegrated because the states in the North and West got pissed off with how the wingnuts in the Republican states were fucking them over. Though the nuclear warheads didn't go away."

"Yeah," said Psychlone. "They're still around. They're just pointing in different directions."

"So what you working on at the moment, Psy?" Ellen wondered to steer the conversation to a different direction.

"It's something political," said Psychlone. "It's to do with the English National Unity Government."

"What the fuck?" Ellen said in despair. "Don't you ever give up? Who fucking cares what happened half a century ago? It was a fuck up from beginning to end. People want to dance to your music. They don't want to be preached to."

"Yeah. But where's the stuff that does the preaching these days?"

"Fuck knows. Wherever it is, no one's actually listening to it."

"Yeah. I guess you're right."

Psychlone put his headphones back on and continued working on his number. Perhaps the lyric would have to go. Maybe he could dispense with lyrics altogether. They were always a drag and Ellen was dead right when she said that people didn't really listen to them. On the other hand, if he could just put together some words that captured the anger and frustration he felt then he was sure his music would grab the attention of a few more people, get more downloads and then maybe help pay off a bit more of his student loans. Perhaps he should try something that related to events in people's actual lives.

"What about if I put down some lyrics about power cuts or the battery shops being fresh out of juice or the broadband transmitters getting fucked up?" he asked Ellen.

"You what?"

"You know: if I put in lyrics about stuff that really pisses people off."

"Is that what pisses you off most?" wondered Ellen who passed the spliff to Psychlone so he could take a few more tokes. "Not when there's a dope famine or something like that?"

"When's that ever happened?"

"Not in my lifetime," admitted Ellen. "But it could, couldn't it?"

"Yeah, but I want a lyric that's something people can relate to. You know something like: 'My battery's flat. Lord knows, but my battery's gone flat.' It could be called something like My Battery Blues..."

"It could be, but you'd need a wicked beat for it not to sound real naff. Something that doesn't make it sound like you're just whining."

"What's wrong with whining? It's not like I can write about being blown up by a nuclear warhead. Or left starving in the streets. Or being drowned. But people do get pissed off and whining is exactly what they do."

"Fuck, Psy. You wanna do something political then do something political. Just don't expect me to have an opinion. When I go dancing it's to get away from all the shit. I don't wanna be wallowing in it. Lighten up."

"I dunno," said Psychlone. "I was just trying to put something together. The last tune went down real well. It got some real good reviews on the blogs and there was a real buzz. I just want to capitalise on it."

"What you need is a blowjob, you sad fuck."

"You think so?"

"Just a moment," said Ellen who breathed in a lungful off her spliff that burnt the paper right down to the roach. She shook her head as the smoke wafted round her lungs and stubbed out what was left in the ashtray.

She then pulled off the tee-shirt which had covered her small perky breasts and swaggered over to Psychlone wearing nothing more than a pair of white panties and plastic sandals. She threw the tee-shirt to one side with the logo advertising Pepsi-Coke Fizzy Cola prominently displayed on the back of the chair where it fell.

"Out with your dick, DJ Psychlone!" she commanded as she knelt in front of her boyfriend's bulging crotch. "I know just what you need to cheer you up."

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