JG Ballard’s What I Don’t Believe

JG Ballard didn’t write this. I wrote it. But I wrote it as JG Ballard.

(I wrote it for a Birkbeck Arts Week event on Ballard’s non-fiction. My Birkbeck colleague Mark Blacklock is hoping to edit a Selected Non-Fiction, to expand on A User’s Guide to the Millennium.)

In 1984, Ballard published a credo, What I Believe. You can listen to Ballard reading part of it here. This is my imaginary update.

Over to Jim –


Ballard, 1984, by Fay Godwin


What I Don’t Believe


I don’t believe in economics.


I don’t believe in consciousness.


I don’t believe political science. If it is political, it isn’t science, and if it is science it isn’t political. Not political in the true sense, which Donald Trump understands. Political science is a parlour game for blindfolded ideologues. Pin the tail on the key economic indicators. Tramps going through your trashcans have a greater sense of supply and demand. Trump is just such a tramp.


I don’t believe in a state of grace, not even for tennis players at match point in the Mixed Doubles Final at Roland Garros.


I don’t believe common sense is anything but a minority concern – a high ideal invented by wishful philosophers to bulk and bulwark against the tidal-wave of mankind’s subconscious drives, its’ oceanic lust. What most people want is a by-proxy derangement of the senses – and we are now at least halfway there. Watch Fox News.


I don’t believe in the proletariat or, at least, I only believe in it when it manifests as crowds running in panic or being strafed by fighter planes. In such a situation, my avatar boyishly cheers the pilot as the camera dollys behind me – I cheer the pilot and not the individuals created by their momentary, cutaway deaths. I cheer myself.


Despite the tennis, I don’t believe in sport – although I have some curiosity about the foreplay of the changing room, where the posture of the players’ limbs in relation to their lockers already foretells the eventual score. Squash, however, when played in glass boxes, has some potential as an arena for enraged testosterone and expressions of sub-geometrical wit.


I don’t believe in self-contradiction but I see hypocrisy everywhere.


I don’t believe in sexuality beyond good, straight paraphilia. We are all one another’s objects of desire. We all, because of the conservatism of surgeons, have a limited number of holes.


I don’t believe in the great outdoors, there is more metaphysical space in the airship hangers of Cardington than on the top of Ben Nevis or K2.


I don’t believe in conspiracy theories because everything, perpetually, is a conspiracy of the libido – and in this I include clothing, architecture, food and education. Prison and the legal system most of all.


I don’t believe in disbelief.


I don’t believe in the survival of the fittest; I believe in the survival of the most immediately ruthless and the most energetically, untiringly brutal. These survivors of massacre almost certainly will not endure long, although their lives will have moments of livid glory. The true survivors will creep out, mammal-like and horny, from beneath the fallen carcasses – and they will feast.


I don’t believe in royalty or nobility. I believe in aromatic charisma and the ludicrous mystery of those whom the cine-camera adores. Men and women are crowned with cheekbones, not with diadems or the Divine Right of Kings.


I don’t believe in rescue, I believe in escape; if escape is impossible, I believe in psychosis. No-one can judge the insane, least of all the insane themselves. Their pleasures know no boundaries, and in this they are the cartographers of a desirable future towards which we are all playfully aspiring. Bring back Bedlam.


I don’t believe in dystopias. They are compromises between lazy imaginations and insufficient technological R&D. If only one Maserati survives, the world is safe.


I don’t believe in negation, despite having made a decent living from appearing to believe in it. Steven Spielberg never says no. He employs an army of people to do it for him. To dream, as he knows, is to say Yes to the appalling abyss of all we do not really want to want. We are buried in a glassy wave but on the bright beach are the people or corpses we will one day succeed in being – from this distance we can’t tell which is which.


I don’t believe in the phrasing of suicide notes, unless the attempt is deliberately unsuccessful. Suicide notes are merely bargaining positions, opening bids in an existential Dutch auction.


I don’t believe in nice stationery. If a writer is fussy about their paper and pen, or their typewriter, their writing itself is likely to be fussy – like the Fourth Amendment or the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


I don’t believe in J.G. Ballard, although there might be a slight chance for Jim – if he keeps his wits about him.