Being Mzebonga.
By Mzebonga

I am Mzebonga, I'm 24 years old and there is nothing else that I can tell you about myself. Having just come off the tail end of a wet weekend in which I sat down and watched Office Space and American Beauty, I have found my life suddenly floodlit by moments of clarity and woeful inadequacy.

I'm a small man, which is something that is quite a trick at six feet two inches. I aspire to lofty goals, I fiercely defend those I love and I am, to put it bluntly, all mouth and no trousers.

I could title this article the same and give you a run-down of my daily life except, well; I have nothing to fill it with. There is nothing of any possible consequence that I could relate to you that would be worth putting in this article. The key thing that Lester Burnham highlights in his day in American Beauty is jerking off in the shower: something that I don't even allow myself the time to enjoy in the morning. Besides, why would I artificially enhance my day only to have it fall away beneath my feet? Much better to have something to look forward to when you get home after a long day of manoeuvring yourself around equally small people with their own selfish agendas and their individual Reichs.

This is the point at which I start relating to each of you in turn the things of no consequence that pepper my days in the belief that, if I share the frank details of this, it will somehow help you rationalise and justify your own drab existences. The difference this time being that I don't actually subscribe to that anymore. You're all being made far-too-painfully aware of how little life inspires and challenges you. You don't need some random third party telling you all over again. All I can do is tell you that I know and I feel it too and I'm sorry.

There should be more to life than this. Life is something more complicated than 9am to 5pm of trying to make yourself look busy by moving paper around a desk and covering up the fact that you are talking on the phone to the few friends that you have left in your advancing years. And, yeah, advancing years really covers the day that you leave education because that is the day that life suddenly comes knocking on your door asking for you to pay back on your account. The interest payments on that are horrendous and you'll be paying them for 40 years or more.

Welcome to the 6 billion strong zoo where specimens are successfully being born into captivity at a rate of about 4 every second (Outstanding achievement award goes to China for meeting 25% of that quota) while only 2 manage to find a way to get out every second - that way being, inevitably, in meeting one's demise. But, yeah, they're finding ways to make you live longer and fight off more diseases. Moreover, they are finding new and exciting ways to make your life completely and utterly drab.

It's just self-fulfilling: they want you to be obliged to do your work to feed into the system to make things work for some rich guy at the top of the chain so that he can live a better life. The trouble with that is, from all accounts I have read, rich guys don't seem to have a lot of fun because people keep on dreaming up new and exciting ways to make their lives stressful. What you're looking at here is a machine with 6 billion miserable people in it serving only to make more people to be miserable so that the machine can be bigger. What is the point in a machine that makes itself bigger but does nothing else? There isn't one. Yes, I happily concede that the human machine is an innovative one. We have travelled to space; we have developed ways on producing and storing energy and we continue to push back the boundaries of our knowledge. But what has this done for the machine? While the machine gets bigger, the process isn't getting any smoother: the cogs aren't continuing to grind down the people who the machine comprises of.

In fact, innovation has really only so far made us aware of how tentative our grasp on existence is. Meteor collisions; Global Warming; cancer, HIV - how can you not sit around and fear for your life? But then, what kind of a life have you got to fear for in the first place? Will you miss the office when you're gone? You fear for your life because it is the only thing you have going for you. Moreover, that life you hold so precious is being ruined for you despite every attempt you make to turn its downward spiral into a soaring ascension.

If you're anything like me, innovation is ruining you. Chances are that, as you're reading this website, you're somewhere in the ballpark of having my mundane habits: television, Radio, games consoles and, worst of all, the Internet. Oh, the Internet, it's a medium of the lost and damned. It coddles like a mistress with none of the warmth or intimacy. In fact, it's very much different to a mistress in that it's gone ahead and made the wife redundant and replaced her with something that seems real but just isn't.

THE INTERNET ISN'T REAL.

This is a message that people need to learn. I'm not sitting here claiming that the collection of wires, servers, switches and such that comprise the sprawling mass of the World Wide Web doesn't exist - merely that what it offers people does not substitute the real thing.

Are you agoraphobic? Are you becoming more so because it's easier to sit at your PC and have a “social life” than it is to go out and meet people? Damn, I wish I remembered how to talk to people. Apart from work, where it feels very much like trying to dodge bullets and trying to avoid confrontation with people I detest, I seem to have limited my face-to-face social interaction to being once every three months or so.

I don't think that it can be argued that a social life is upheld by daily IMs and mooching Sunday dinner at your parents. These days, I don't normally talk to people online who I haven't met at least once in person but there's still something about Instant Messaging that fails to fill the void in your life that should actually be filled by proper human interaction - touching, feeling, smelling. Laughing instead of LOLing, for Christ's sake. The Internet is getting better for this, only last week I sat down and actually talked to someone who is pretty much my best friend, downed some beers and pulled faces on webcams whilst horribly drunk. But it's just not enough for me. It's not enough for anyone. Human Beings are not meant to be locked up in rooms or cubicles or any other artificial structure. We're meant to exist out on the range, lying around in packs in the foothills staring up at the sky and collectively wondering. You can't get that from a computer - even if you have a 17" TFT screen and surround sound speakers, believe me, I know.

The funny thing about all this is that we exist in bubbles: relationships are, for the most part, one-to-one things via IM and we fail to prioritise our position in the wider scheme of things. There's no social dynamic, there's no wider group interaction and it's a very artificial way to have friendships. After 7 years or so of being an Internet user, I think that my capacity to have normal functioning relationships has been seriously damaged. My best friend from college met a guy 4 months ago and I am completely unable to rationalise this because all I am able to personally understand is my relationship with her. Looking at it now, with a sudden moment of epiphany, that is just messed up - I'm not jealous that she's with another guy because I never wanted that sort of thing from the friendship but I somehow think that I will cease to be important. Funnily enough, I was enough of an asshole about that and we haven't spoken in 4 months.

I have, to this point, lost the capacity to actually behave like a normal person when put in a group of people. I over analyse everything and I hold myself back: all of which I did before I started leaning on the Internet as a crutch but all of which has only become worse. So, yes, if I didn't get the message across before, let me do so now:

THE INTERNET ISN'T REAL. Go out and talk to your friends, phone them, sit in a public place and chat about something, have lunch, go see some historical sites, take an interest and have fun. Don't get to believing that the conversations you have on the Internet are remotely a good enough substitute for actually sitting down and spending time with people.

I don't even know where to begin on people who do cyber-dating and such. I've had a cursory flirtation with this and it just doesn't come close. I've said before, the Internet has no intimacy or physical contact. There is nothing in an Instant Message that you should get from a direct physical relationship. What are you people doing? I'll tell you: you're simultaneously masturbating in the hope that somehow that constitutes the kind of connection that you wish you really had. It doesn't and anything to the contrary is a hollow lie. If you can't go a month without sex, there's something wrong with you and if you're not seeing your partner at least once a month, there's something wrong with both of you. You cannot have a committed, intimate relationship where you don't see each other for extended periods of time - it's not normal and it's not healthy. It'll all end in tears, I assure you.

Then there's the celebrity crush. Oh, geez, what a mess that is. I remember images of teenage girls balling in the streets when New Kids On The Block and Take That went their separate ways. It's not rational. We project our hopes and aspirations onto these people in the hope that they will succeed for us, like children - except that we (mostly) want to jump their bones given half a chance. It's not something I've been immune from and it's something I've been baited about on one or two particular occasions. We cannot have relationships with people we have not met because we are just imagining them. Do I need to spell it out?

I remember at the age of 15, I developed something of an infatuation with a girl in my class. We never really spoke: she used to occasionally throw derogatory remarks in my direction and I lapped it up. So, to cut a long story short, she was a complete moron and a bitch and I knew nothing about her.

If you don't know anything about someone - or only the brief glimpses you see on TV or via IM - you can only fall in love with an idea of them. Not actually them. Okay?

I suppose it's just the circles that I keep that lead me to believe that the world is slouching towards a lazier way of making and keeping acquaintances. I, personally, have lost all my social skills and I would like them back. If anyone checks them into the lost property office, could you please inform me ASAP? If you happen to find some discarded sex appeal, I'd like to lay claim to that too.

Things just don't seem to be happening for anyone I know. Everybody has something to worry about. When things get better for my friends and family, they never seem to break the cycle - it's just a rung on a ladder. It's just another part of this huge machine that engulfs us all. I think I sometimes find it hard because even my simple aspirations of doing a job I actually like seem to be these huge hurdles to overcome and the long term goals of settling down, starting a family and - God forbid - actually being happy seem to be a product of mere fantasy. Not that I don't hold hope.

If I didn't hold some hope; if I didn't believe that I could somehow break the cycle and get off the world at the next stop, I swear to whatever deity may be listening right now that I would jab a blunt object through my skull and make this article my last message to mankind - a suicide note, if you will. But I won't.

The fact that life has nothing to offer me is not a problem with me: it is a problem with life. In a change from my normal stance of having nothing to back up my grand claims, I have decided that the line I draw in the sand shall find its final resting place here: I refuse to concede to an opponent who stacks the deck against me. I have just the chips that the croupier dealt out to me on Monday, 13 th July 1981 and I refuse to crap out. I will reinvent the game if I have to.

I am the Mzebonga and I will roar into the dark, cold, rainy night as a beacon to those who will follow.

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