Thursday, 24 March 2011

A night at the zoo?

After a recent visit to Hanley in Stoke, I feel compelled to write on what I found there…

On a Saturday night I tagged along to a nightclub with an old friend from school, it was called ‘Manhattan’.  After an entry fee of £2, kindly paid for by my friend, I walked in to find a dark room, poorly decorated, with a small dance floor and a long bar.  Not really worth the £2 at all, but I remained hopeful all the same.  My friend and I always used to go to this place in Wolverhampton that looked ten times worse, walls covered in black peeling paint, sticky floor, and absolutely vile toilets! ‘The Planet’ was definitely far from ‘home’.  But we enjoyed it nevertheless.  We loved the music, the people, the bar staff, the tacky freebies, we even learned to love the sticky floor! 

So let me explain what I saw in Stoke and how this made me feel…  The music was pretty awful.  I don’t think it even deserved to be called music.  It wasn’t like that stuff in the charts that is tolerable in a sense that you can at least sing along to it and forget how lame it really is.  But it was just awkward sounds that repeated again and again, each track jumping into the next so that they became indistinguishable.  The room was filled to a high capacity, a much higher ratio of males to females.  The males mostly wore jeans and a shirt or t-shirt.  The females wore hardly anything.  They danced on a platform that ran along one of the walls, while the guys in the club stood below on the floor ogling at them.  From below, I saw some disgusting sights, as the girls put their legs up on the railings and their short skirts raised to reveal an item of ‘clothing’ that I never thought I’d see: crotchless underwear. 

The whole scenario reminded me of one of those fancy restaurants, with a tank of lobsters from which you can choose which creature you want to kill and eat.  But this was at the complete opposite end of the class spectrum.  The guys in the club had the whole night to decide which half naked girl on the podium they wanted to take home and kill her soul.  And unlike the lobsters, the girls were eager to be chosen.  It made me feel physically sick.  I don’t think I’m naïve, I’ve always known that this kind of thing happens, after all I grew up in Wolverhampton! But this was like nothing I’d ever seen before.  Literally every other person in the room was in it for the prize sex at the end.  It seemed to be pointless to even go to the nightclub in the first place, they didn’t want to dance or enjoy themselves with friends, they only had one thing on their agenda, but I suppose they needed somewhere to congregate to find like-minded people…

I felt like I was experiencing a part of hell.  Everywhere I looked I was deeply disturbed.  I wanted to close my eyes and disappear, but I wanted the whole room to disappear with me.  I didn’t want it to be real.  I didn’t want to accept that such things were so ‘normal’ to these people.  I didn’t want to accept that this was happening not only here and now, but recurring over and over in many places… 

            After an hour or so of straining to enjoy myself, I soon lost the strength and it became apparent to my friend that I was miserable.  She asked what was wrong, accusing Nottingham of turning me into a boring stuck up twit.  It made me question myself…  If I could enjoy The Planet, why couldn’t I enjoy this?  Had I really become a snob or was this really the epitome of hell that I’d stepped into? 

I’m not a complete Marxist but I am all for liberation of the oppressed, so this is not an attack of class.  I gave up drinking alcohol just before I came to University in September 2009, but I have more fun when I go out now than I ever used to.  I spend less money, I no longer hit that point of tiredness at 2am, I never get hangovers, I hardly embarrass myself, and the day after I can remember everything that everyone else forgets! It brings a whole new light to going out!  So it’s not that I’m boring at all, or so I believe, but it really was that grotesque a place in reality.  There was absolutely nothing there that I could enjoy, no matter how hard I tried.

So what should I do?  Should I even do anything?  Society is becoming more and more accepting of this kind of behaviour as time goes by.  Even my friend, who was always so like myself, now engaged in this activity and saw it as completely normal.  Is there any stopping it?  I could say the whole ‘I don’t want my children to have to grow up in this world’, but haven’t things gone too far out of control for anyone to change it now?  It made me thankful that I have been saved from that.  I wouldn’t say I’m a ‘good person’, but I am comforted in that I’ve found meaning in my life.  I suppose all I can do now is to pray that others will find meaning too, and do my best to question everyone I can about it.  Too many people choose ignorance over thought.  Human beings were made to question, so that is what we must do, yet so many fail to do so when wrapped up in a world absent of reason.  People have become animals, and thought and reflection have been discarded into the trash of unnecessary life tools.

“Are we not perpetually falling? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there any up or down left? Are we not straying as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is it not more and more night coming on all the time? Must not lanterns be lit in the morning? Do we not hear anything yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we not smell anything yet of God's decomposition? … God is dead … And we have killed him.”
- Nietzsche

 Needless to say, I won’t be returning to that place anytime soon…

(This piece is not a personal attack on Stoke, and is based purely on a single experience in one nightclub)


  1. I have read it...took a while but was an interesting read.

  2. Sors de l'enfance, ami, réveille toi. Remember the feeling of horror and revulsion you felt, Annie, because it too quickly will fade. It sounds like both you and Nietzsche are describing an experience of having the scales fall from one’s eyes (as it were) to see the world suddenly unmasked. This lifting of the veil is closely related to the world of the prophetic. The prophet is the one to whom it is granted to see what most of us don’t see most of the time, underneath the veneers of respectability, rationality, or ‘religion’ with which we enrobe the world to make it bearable and liveable. Whether this is a blessing or a curse I’ll leave you to decide. For this reason, the prophet is almost always perceived as a heretic and has no honour in her own country. Even Nietzsche was being prophetic in his own, secular way. Perhaps the difference, though, might be that the Christian prophet is called not only to see the world anew and recoil at its depravity, but also to grasp something of its future and hope in Christ, and communicate this too to her contemporaries. For God’s undertakers will scarcely have put away their spades before they find the tomb empty and the stone rolled away, and in such find the hope for their reconciliation. They know not what they do, who bury God, who crucify him daily (or, perhaps, nightly) and to those to whom is granted the unsettling revelation is given to see and know what is being done, to them the prophet’s mantle falls.