LIVING WITH ANDROIDS For most of my life I've been contending with people that I've come to think of as androids. Androids seem to be not only in the majority, but actually the governing force in politics and the way in which we live our lives. My stance towards androids is one of active artistic and comedic resistance. Although I often joke about them, deep down, I believe that androids and the android mindset are overwhelmingly harmful to the planet and human development Strident protest or aggressive terrorism would be completely useless in the war against them, since such methods are too close to the ones used by the androids themselves. 

 How do we define an android? Simply, I would define one as a person with a rigid, almost aggressive adherence to a version of normality dictated by fear and shored-up by a triumvirate of advertising, press and television. An android has little or no imagination and does his or her best to tamp down any thoughts of unorthodoxy which may surface. The cornerstones of an android life are: The car, shopping, the holiday, sport, television, popular fashion and the acquisition of wealth. Android desires and goals have surged way beyond the simple need for food/ shelter/ warmth/ entertainment and into a kind of mindless gluttony. It is not enough nowadays to want all the trappings of consumerism, you must be seen to want them and to feel left out if you haven't  got them. 

If it were a simple case of acknowledging that androids like that sort of thing and it's best to just let them get on with it, perhaps I wouldn't be writing this tract. But it isn't. Androids are actually pro-active and make life hell for anyone who tries to explore any alternative way of living. Their targets may include their children, their schoolmates, their work colleagues and anyone vaguely different who strays into their orbit during group recreation activities. Androids are not class-bound. They exist in all conventionally defined social classes. Androids are not necessarily unintelligent -or at least not within the narrow definitions of common educational intelligence. Where androids seem most deficient are in the realms of creative or imaginative intelligence. Briefly, androids are people who are programmed -or have programmed themselves to quell imagination and limit their creativity to all but the most prescribed activities -such as decorating their houses or tidying up their gardens. 

Androids aren't without emotions though and it's easy to baffle or anger one. For instance, if you wanted to upset androids en masse here would be one theoretical way of doing so: Let's take the popular sports programme The Big Match. Supposing the TV company replaced the normal football game with an arts documentary about a giant model of a household match, built say, in a football stadium by hundreds of unemployed artists. The whole afternoon's viewing might feature dedicated profiles of the some of the Big Match's creators, with them telling the nation about the problems they encountered in the construction of the Big Match. Music for the afternoon might be commissioned from one of the Eno brothers In addition, an informative match-related commentary by a popular figure such as Prince William dressed as a matchbox could culminate in the lighting of the match and loud hurrahs from the excited crowd. 

Undoubtedly, many sports fans would be disappointed, even furious that such a programme had replaced their football game. Even so, it might provoke thought in a few viewers and go some way to firing the dormant imaginations of others. It is precisely this sort of inititative using the medium of television which could restore Britain to its original artistic greatness. Supposing Coronation Street was screened at peak times as, not a popular soap opera but instead, a still portrait of an ordinary street which happened to have the same name? After half an hour, viewers might concede that normality is indeed drab enough and that perhaps they ought to do something to brighten the world up a bit. 

On a smaller scale, popular android slogans which have become damned by their own ubiquity could be changed or subverted. For instance, that trite workplace slogan could be changed to: " You don't have to be mad to work here -in fact it's ideal if you're not." Similarly, a Rosebud doll may be easily affixed to a small plank with a four-inch nail, to cheer the back window of an android car with the statement: "Baby On Board " And what could be more apt in our ever-changing sexual climate, than that old saying: "Always the bridesmaid-never a Swedish police dog-handler called Lars." 

One of the chief causes of distress and bad behaviour in androids is of course, the car. Cars are bad. They discourage exercise, they kill people and they cause cancer. Were the government to take the type of robust stand that they've taken against smoking, it might go some way to curing one of society's greatest ills.Trebling the price of cars, forbidding the advertising of them and emblazoning the cars themselves with large messages saying: DRIVING KILLS and CARS CAUSE INJURIES, may be too much for androids to take on at present. Far better that all cars sold in future are bright yellow with big red spots on and a top speed limited to 30mph. They might be shaped like ladybirds and have a friendly- sounding Toytown train whistle. Androids are very keen on telling you how much they NEED their cars. If that's the case, and I have no reason to doubt it, let them all have cars such as the one I've just described. I'd predict a vast downturn in android car-use. If I needed a car I would be deleriously happy with just such a vehicle. Do not underestimate however, the android's deep emotion about his mode of transport. Androids will often shout, cry and even fight if their car is in some way  threatened or not working properly. 

 It's errant to assume that androids don't have a sense of fun. Shown a picture of a leukaemia- -stricken child, they will happily put on a frizzy purple wig and do a sponsored-walk or cycle- ride to a nearby landmark. Ugly men and women will cheerfully grin for local newspaper photo -shoots, having had all their hair shaved off in the bar of their pub in aid of a hospice.On Comic Relief Day, the shopping precincts will feature at least one middle-aged female sitting in a bath of cold baked beans to assist MS sufferers. This will all be in the name of fun. What an android WON'T do, upon hearing of some ghastly tragedy, is to stop drinking and immediately chuck the rest of the night's beer money into the collection box, then go home to read poetry. Far better to hire an acrylic Bugs Bunny suit and then take part in a sponsored bunjee jump two months further down the line. 

Reading the local newspaper can teach you more about androids and what they think and do than practically anything else. I learnt from a front page of my own local paper that there would be: " Five Years Of Fun." as a result of permission being granted for a street festival. The very phrase filled me with forboding and depression. It sounded like a sentence handed down by a magistrate: " I find it incumbent upon me to sentence you to five years of troupes of twelve year-old majorettes dancing, men and women dressed as Disney characters, a rhythmically- challenged Salsa band, face-painting workshops, clowns, jugglers, magicians and teams of dull-looking stewards in bright yellow t-shirts with the council logo on, all shaking buckets. 

 At night in the towns, androids can be altogether more menacing. Small herds of young androids in identical smart/casual clothes crowd the fun-pubs pouring down pints of IQ reducing-lager, chased with with diabetes-inducing vodka/energy-drink cocktails. Initially fired-up by these -and perhaps a few lines of cheap cocaine, the spirit will be one of bawdy enforced gaiety. Two hours on, this mix will bring out the brooding but unspoken dissatisfaction in their souls and they'll begin to fight. With any luck they usually only injure each other.The reasons for the conflict are mostly very trivial. One android might have a less-expensive shirt than another. Two others may be vying for the attention of a female, who although crying and hysterical will be actually enjoying the frisson of excitement and violence she has helped to cause. 

Androids maiming each other isn't really a serious problem. The real trouble occurs when the androids roaming the streets, meet anyone they perceive as even remotely different from themselves. The ensuing persecution of the different by the normal helps to discourage all but the bravest souls from deviating from prescribed fashions from a very early age. And so, with repeated beatings, threats and bullying, from schooldays onwards, society hammers its waverers into the idea that a little imagination can be a dangerous thing. 

Androids hate and fear deviants for two main reasons: The first one is competition. If an android has made all this effort to get the right clothes/ car/ house/ garden etc, he's usually quite happy to compete with other androids who are all trying to do roughly the same things That's fine and readily comprehensible. If however, an android is confronted with someone who rides say, a second-hand bike, dresses in charity shop chic AND seems perfectly happy with things, this is a disaster. The person isn't even competing. He doesn't care. It makes the android concerned -and all his efforts to get ahead- look irrelevant. This is why androids most disdain non-competitors. The second reason androids fear anyone different -especially if the deviant is young-is because youth combined with individuality represents a very potent threat. Supposing it's the beginning of a movement? The android might be left behind. This in turn reflects on the android's own lack of self-worth and individuality. The miscreant must therefore be derided, chased and finally "taught a lesson". 

 Androids cannot buy enough. There is not enough time to go shopping. There is not enough money to spend. There are not enough things to buy. When I was finally forced into the choice of either buying a house or moving to another town to rent somewhere cheaper,I managed to scrape up a mortgage. People in pubs shook my hand and told me it was the best investment I'd ever make, welcoming me to the capitalist society. Athough my move was tempered with some relief, I regarded becoming a home-owner as a small defeat. On a shoestring budget I furnished the place with nice second-hand furniture. I was amazed at how cheap second-hand stuff was: A carpet 10 pounds. A lovely old table 25 pounds, and so on. Months later, listening to a discussion by two middle-aged androids in a pub about the thousands they'd spent on new furniture, I told them that it was perfectly possible to furnish and fit out an entire small place for under a hundred if you bought second-hand. One of the men said to me: "There's nothing wrong with second-hand furniture, Martin." He said this in such a way as to indicate to me that he thought there was EVERYTHING wrong with second-hand furniture. Had we been discussing antique second-hand furniture, the matter would of course have been an entirely different wardrobe of tapirs. 

From dressing their children: " Nothin' but the best for MY little princess." To taking a holiday: "We've bought a run-down farmhouse in Tuscany." your android can't stop buying stuff. Not buying stuff like an impassioned book collector buys stuff. Not doing without food to get a cherished record. But actually just buying stuff and filling the house and garage with it. Androids love domestic appliances. Discussions about the merits of fridge freezers, dishwashers and vacuum cleaners are staple stuff. Getting a discussion about the economy, foreign policy, asylum seekers or crime will, if you manage to do it yield all sorts of prejudice-tarted-up-as-common-sense. Unsurprisingly you'll find that most androids garner their opinions from those mid-range papers which balance indelicately between tabloid and broadsheet. An android fuelled on drink over Christmas, can be amazingly clear on what he or she thinks - routinely hanging criminals, dispatching gunships and sending people back on the next plane home -with every Christmas card they write. 

 What androids really like... is Christmas. Christmas involves lots of shopping, lots of consuming, a bit of religion and quite a lot of fighting. Many androids become hysterical at this time of year and the results can be by turns, hilarious and terrifying. For some reason, androids -those who are seasoned drinkers and those who only ever go out occasionally, think that the time of year has conferred immunity from intoxication upon them. The attendant confusion and discord which surfaces when the androids have drunk too much is best avoided unless you have a Saracen armoured vehicle in which to fashion your escape. 

Androids are actually painfully ill-equipped to deal with the immensities of life. Celebrations of birth, marriage and death are mostly left to the supervision of a quietly-spoken pervert in a big underheated building called a church. The principles and beliefs governing the church are largely commendable, espousing as they do, love peace and caring. These unimpeachable ideals are paid scant regard by many of the androids attending,who afterwards get into their cars and go on to another venue where they gorge themselves on food and occasionally, fight each other viciously. The Jesus Christ of legend is regarded by many androids either as a sort of imaginary friend whom you talk to when you need a new fridge, or a bloke in charge of a load of cosmic surveillance cameras who watches you the whole time. Rarely is he regarded as a pretty decent chap whose ideas are actually very sound and whose principles might better the human condition were they to be interpreted correctly and acted upon. 

Far more important to the android in everyday life is the television. For androids, the lines between television and life are increasingly blurred. So much is this so that actors playing nasty characters in soap-opera stories have been attacked in the street by confused androids who don't know that it's only make-believe. Thanks to a profusion of 'reality' (sic) shows on TV, many androids now think that they too have the talents required to be pop stars or presenters. This causes even more confusion, tears and jealousy among the androids as the TV medium gradually begins to cannibalise itself to death, with androids immitating androids immitating other androids. 

 Androids are keen to deplore violence. Which is why the more intellectual androids are at pains to point out what a great film director Tarrantino is. Eric Idle's definition of one successful film director as being a small man who makes films about big men hitting each other is not far off the mark. Android news programmes are chock-full of politicians condemning violence whilst despatching bombers. A typical android pugilist in a pub will often say: " I won't like... start a fight...but if someone starts on me, it's gotta be done." 

It is possible occasionally to de-programme an android. The death of a loved one, the loss of a job or even an overly-strong drug experience will sometimes catapult an android into realms of the imagination. Sometimes an android may fall in love with an unsuitable partner -one from another culture, religion, sexuality or dimension. The subsequent persecution by fellow androids may isolate or shock such an android into individuality. From there it's only a short step to listening to better music, buying less stuff, dressing differently or just realising that some of the best things in life really are free. 

Androids and their version of normality have blighted my life for half a century. I have suffered physical injuries at their hands, almost been killed by their cars, lost or walked out of jobs because of them and been insulted by them. On the positive side, I've had endless laughs at their expense, caused a good deal of confusion amongst them from time to time and generally done my best to undo the damage that they cause by not consuming too much myself. It's been a lot of fun. Long may it continue. 

 Now try out some of these subverted sayings on an android that you know: It's not what you know it's...a car showroom run by a kindly Snow Leopard called Rita -which can be a bit peculiar on occasions. 

The bottom line is.........the world's first sodomite shipping firm

 Life's tough and then....four men with a wheelbarrow keep you awake all night making bubbling noises outside your garage. 

 You know it makes....little raffia mats -provided that you feed it regularly. 

Still waters run....in a special marathon in the Uranian Olympics which you can only enter if you're a type of liquid. 

An Englishman's home....when he's not out somewhere. 

Too many cooks....and not enough plumbers. 

 There's no place like...upstairs in my wardrobe, with a fruit-flavoured condom and a tea-towel on your head, shouting: " Wah-hey!" zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz 

Copyright. Martin Newell, Wivenhoe, July 2003.