People in London feel loosely connected. London is a city where it is possible to be connected to people without commitment or obligation. In such a diverse, large and fluid city, apathetic social interaction is the norm, you can if you wish spending your whole life hooking up, meeting for a coffee, with, to paraphrase Morrisey, people who don’t care whether you live or die.
This may seem a sad goal of anyone, but for many people this is quite a relief, it depends in part on one’s experiences. Many people who come to London do so to escape a lifetime of abuse and chronic fear. Being subject to abuse and chronic fear can change a person’s psychology so that they become deeply fearful of human beings generally, and deeply unsure about whether they have the potential to appeal to other people, about whether they can provoke love and affection in others. Such people naturally want to shie away from other people, and yet paradoxically, they, like all humans have a deep desire and need to be with people. The solution is to come to London, where one can be with people, one can rub shoulders with people, without having to face up to people, without demanding or being obliged to commit. Such people may not be capable or able to form tight-knit relationships, but they feel the light touch nature of much of London’s social relationships is something they can achieve and will give them some degree of feeling connected to be people and alleviate the feelings of loneliness.
Furthermore, some people who come to London to be loosely connected include those who come from places where people are tightly-knit, and where the obligaitons and expectations were too much, they just want to try a lighter touch, more independent approach to life. In this sense people come to London to break free of the identification, classification, expectation, obligation and treatment they received at the hands of those they lived with in the place they moved from. Adult children from Catholic Europe escape to London to put some distance between them and their overbearing families, mothers in particular, who want them to be with the family at all times, and want them to act in the interests of the family. This is about escaping a form of slavery, in this case, emotional slavery, of becoming a person, of being juxtaposed, subjugated, positioned, classified in a way that does not want to be.
Some people come to London to be with people without connecting with them, they want to be surrounded by and focused on activity and things, the products of people, without being with people. Again it might seem a bit depressing to be in this state, but this depends on what you’re dealing with. Some come to London to anaesthetize themselves to the pain of past loves and relationships, they want to stop feeling the pain, and therefore want to stop feeling, they want a life without emotion. They come to London to escape past loves and relationships, putting distance between themselves and all those places, once the location of starry eyed romantic liaison, which whisper to them of their love that turned sour, which now feel painful to the touch. London offers a huge range of distractions, a blinding and bewildering array of sights, sounds and smells, as well as a bouquet of cultural and intellectual offerings, refreshed daily, which help to occupy the mind and senses, and keep the emotions at bay. Knowing this some people come to London to have their mind and senses occupied, as an anaesthetic against the emotional state they experience in the place that the come from.
A place for recreation
London is full of people who wish only to be loosely connected, and who appreciate promiscuity, and the next new thing or the next new person. Some people come take advantages of this culture of loose connections to experiement, to recreate themselves, they see London as providing them with the space in which they can reflect, consider and create new kinds of relationships, new juxtapositions and interactions, out of which a new identity and being emerges. One Londoner, a woman living in Dalston, East London, reckons, “I’ve learnt that this place lets you reinvent yourself more than anywhere else I know. Backgrounds can be rewritten. Skinny guys who spent the Noughties playing World of Warcraft suddenly own nightclubs. Your moustached, hulking tattoo artist probably grew up at a prep school in Coventry. That arty guy who tried to persuade you to pose for saucy photos at an all-day bender in Stokey has a fucking title, for God’s sake.”
The problem is, is that the new identities formed rely on consistent interaction with others, who crave the next new thing, who tire of you, so that with time those who have established new identities, who have recreated themselves, grasping at thin air, with their contemporaries having moved on, leaving them to try once again to establish a new identity.
For some people recreation requires a period of reflection, sometimes depression, an often derided state for the fact that it makes people vulnerable, but actually the source of true emotional creativity and recreativity. The culture of looseness and distance and weakness of social relationships in London allows people to slip into the shadows unnoticed, to be forgotten about, to sit in a darkened room, and not be attacked and harangued for it, for not failing to live up to a fully functionining automatuman. Arguably many people come to London, because it offers an opportunity to drop out and reflect, whilst not being completely alone, whilst remaining in touch with the energy of the anonymous masses.