In America we would call the lead character Ian of Everything’s Fine ‘work douche.’ Ian is a person that loves his job, that believes in the company he works for, and believes as the novel says, “My company has the desires and needs of its staff at heart.” The lead character reminds me of the people I have worked with at restaurants over the years: fellow employees that got paid less than 10 dollars an hour but still worshiped the company they worked for. There was a cook at one place who seriously wore a Red Lobster coat around, and was very proud of it. Red Lobster gives out rings when you reach 20 years and I have seen people wear those rings with pride. I have seen low ranked employees or as Socrates Adams calls them “tiny shit heads” go up to the bosses and ask about other restaurants, talk deeply with the managers about the remodeling that is going to occur, about the new meal promotions, and how Red Lobster will advertise them. The Ian character is very real, they exist, we all know them.
Ian is that human being that grows up in a highly technocratic developed democracy that ends up working for a giant corporation with a huge bureaucratic structure, but this is the fate of most of us, we don’t end up farming, hunting, or doing any primitive activities that require any sense of adventure or human spirit. We are forced by circumstance and the need for money to beg giant corporations to let us work for them, and if we don’t fit into the mode of ‘good worker’ we are sent to the “tiny shithead department.”
The first person narrative is very cognitive, to me a very accurate view of stream of consciousness. The story isn’t told in first person but in thoughts Ian is having, for example when Ian gets beat up, Ian thinks, “He pushes me really hard and I stumble backwards, apologising again as I fall. The back of my head hits the pavement and then I am not aware of being there anymore.” Adams could have easily written, “The man pushes me, I fall to the ground. While I was falling I told him I was sorry.” But not saying, “The man,” keeps the Other on the outside, it keeps the Other at a distance. You can feel the push so much better the way he writes it. Focusing on Ian’s head hitting the pavement is remarkable to me, I feel that Socrates Adams took a lot of time and really visualized the scene in his head. The writing is not poetic or beautiful, I think what matters here, is the author’s ability to visualize what it would mean to get into a physical altercation concerning his character Ian.
There is a large statement made about what it means to live in the postmodern era, how humans have studied human psychology to the point that we know why we do everything. When Ian’s boss talks to him he says, “I think it is time for your sales training, Ian. I am confident in you. I think you will be able to build rapport very effectively, Ian. You might have noticed I have put my hand on you shoulder. That is because I am building rapport with you. A physical connection means that an intellectual and emotional connection will follow soon afterwards. We are so close to having rapport, Ian. You can almost taste our rapport.” Adams illustrates here and in many other places in the novel how postmodern humans are equipped with knowledge of psychology, and that we are very aware at all times of verbal and non-verbal behavior and what it means. If you have gone to college, if you have studied basic psychology, sociology and consumer behavior, hell, even if you have watched Dr. Phil enough, you have a basic understanding of how humans operate.
Before in human history postmodernism was restricted basically to a novel knowing that it was a novel, but now, humans know that they are living a life. That everything they do and say is just psychology and can be recorded and analyzed by psychologists and sociologists. Which leads to this awesome passage by Adams, “The problem with humans is they don’t know what they were made to do. None of them knows what their natural state is. That is why so many of them roll about and cause a nuisance and end up not doing anything throughout their entire life.” Adams hits on the problem of the modern person living in a highly developed technocratic country perfectly, humans living in countries like America, England and Japan don’t know what they are supposed to do, but at the same time given a million options of things to do. Now, I personally assume it is because there millions of people living in those countries, and to make those countries function they have to create huge corporations fitted with giant bureaucracies, capitalism and corporations are just the end result of having millions of people living in one place. I think Adams understands this, he doesn’t proclaim revolution against the system, only that it is stifling to the human spirit. At the end Ian leaves the modern world and enters into the wild untamed wilderness of the Italian Alps. Ian finally escapes the shitty world of corporate nothingness. But Adams shows that Ian does not know how to live in the wild. The modern man has lost their ability to survive in the forest, modern man has lost their ability to be natural. I think that Adams is making a Nietzschean statement here, that Europe is a continent full of The Last Man, who seek comfort and warmth instead of adventure and danger. Ian does not care any longer about comfort and pleasure, but wants to prove himself as a hardy individual that wants to show evidence he has a reason to exist. Sadly there is no reason to exist for Ian.