Matthew Gilbert | BA English and Creative Writing, Stage 2
Here I am, deep in the jungle. The air is heavy, making breathing difficult. The scent of coffee and cigarettes floats around me like a cloud of nostalgia.
I take another drag.
I take another sip.
Raindrops pitter-patter on the canopy above my head, marking the beat for the inconsistent chitter-chatter of my surroundings. The sound of feet splashing in puddles gives away the presence of the zombie-like fauna that inhabit the jungle. Their necks locked into position, their fingers racing and their eyes glued forwards. The phone-zombie generation. As I stare up, away from the fauna it becomes impossible to distinguish the grey of the buildings from the grey of the sky. I look left, I look right; the buildings all blend into a grey snake stretching both ways into the distance. Colourful shop fronts become the pattern of the snake’s underbelly. I take another pull of my cigarette. The smoke lingers, affording a mystical and horror filled view of the zombies walking the concrete jungle of Plymouth City Centre. I see a specimen in a vest, followed by another in shorts and flip-flops, and I think to myself, when did this disaster strike? When did the British zombie stop feeling the cold? In their attempt to stand out, to be unique, inside their own bubble of space, they fail to see – to recognise – that they are copy and paste of each other. In the modern jungle, the fauna has adapted in such a manner that, in order to avoid becoming prey, they all look the same. The same clothes, same walk, same idealess heads. Evolution has adapted to the commodities that have been presented to it. In a search to be different, different has become normality.
Human nature is a marvellous thing. As a species we are capable of stereotyping by sight. Not only that, but we seem to enjoy doing so. How funny, that in any concrete jungle, that could be anywhere, the same stereotypes exist. The same people are stereotyped for the same reasons. What is it that makes a city so special, when every city is the same? Uniqueness is a term that has been long gone. Individuals may be unique, as the word suggests, individuals. Although individuality is lost in the collectiveness of society and, to be frank, all societies are the same no matter where. Copy and paste cities in which copy and paste societies are formed.
It is said that God created us in His own image but I disagree. God made a handful of templates and pressed print. Number of copies, over 7 billion. The distribution was decided in a game of “Risk” with the Devil, but the Devil cheated. He managed to place poverty, inequality and famine amongst some of God’s copies, spreading them across all five inhabited continents. The Devil knew God was smart and would discover his cheat, so he hid greed, jealousy, sloth and pride amongst other templates to prevent a solution being formed, and thus getting away with both his tricks. The Devil was the first Trojan horse. The target? God’s world network. Identical societies began to grow in greed and pride, whilst poverty and inequality only became worse.
Now, as I observe the Plymouthian jungle from the comfort of my seat outside of a café, it is clear to me that the Devil won. The zombies are immerged deep in their mind-numbing technology. It feeds them snippets of information to their brains as they walk in herds, following each other. Has technology adapted to us, or have we adapted to technology? Television no longer seems to serve its function as informer. Celebrities-for-Sale seems to be the order of the day. Celebrities who nobody has heard of, whose career is going downhill, starring in shows labelled “reality TV” yet staged to the very end. With these thoughts drifting through my mind, I lean back and close my eyes, as if disappearing from all existence.
“Another coffee, sir?” asks the waiter patiently.
I open my eyes, smile and nod. “Yes please”
This may be a time where uniqueness is lost, where individuality is a common belief. Every city may look, feel, smell the same way. The rain dances on every street of the world, of that I have no doubt. Zombies in a jungle, techno-fuelled zombies in a techno-controlled labyrinth. Yes, the Devil won, and I for one am thankful he did. Things may seem bleak, and the smell of rot rising through the drains, but I am sure death is no better. My coffee arrives, warm in my cold hands, the strong smell of black coffee opening up my sinuses. A streetlight flickers to life on the opposite side of the road, and I think: I could be anywhere, and that makes me unique.
My coffee now gone, the bill paid for and a generous tip left for my attentive waiter, I rise from my chair. As I struggle to gather my possessions; wallet, tobacco, lighter and phone, I notice my own reflexion in the café window. Phone in hand, poised to text or make a phone call, makes me realise. An obvious realisation really, but one that had momentarily escaped my train of thought. I stare at myself, noticing the passing zombies behind me, and become aware that I too am part of this society. Although I don’t follow trends, or consider myself copy and paste, isn’t that the truth about what everybody thinks? I may consider myself better informed than others, yet I also gather my information using technology. Am I a victim of my own view? Am I not part of the society that the city hosts? These questions pound at my conscience, at my beliefs, while I travel home.
Later that evening, sat on the sofa with my loved one, I asked her “Do you believe I am unique, different in any way from society?” She looks at me and smiles. “You are to me,” she says.