Thursday, 13 November 2014

Machineries of Joy

   ‘I know it’s happening all the time; I know the death squads are torturing people  and the Israelis are behaving like  Nazis and Pol Pot’s preparing his comeback tour; you keep telling us; you always told us! And people just scream and die; get tortured to death because they’re poor or they help the poor or they wrote a pamphlet or they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time; and nobody comes to rescue them, and the torturers never get punished; they retire, they even survive revolutions sometimes because they have such fucking useful skills, and no superhero comes to save the people being tortured, no Rambo bursts in; no retribution; no justice; nothing… and that’s just it!  There has to be something more than that!’

     ‘Why?’ Kenneth said, trying not to sound angry. ‘Just because we feel that way? One wee daft species, on one wee daft planet circling one wee daft star in one wee daft galaxy; us? Barely capable of crawling into space yet; capable of feeding everybody but… nya, can’t be bothered? Just because we think there must be something and a few crazy desert cults infect the world with their cruel ideas; that’s what makes the soul a certainty and heaven a must?’

     Those two paragraphs have been going round in my head since yesterday afternoon (from The Crow Road by Iain Banks, one of my best, favourite, all-time top ten books. If you haven’t read it yet, read it. NOW. But er, if you could come back and finish reading this too, that’d be great). It’s hard not to feel defeated sometimes. The world just seems so full of misery, pain, suffering, people being shitty to one another, war, conflict, Jeremy fucking Clarkson, climate change, cancer, food poisoning, health scares, dodgy journalism, rubbish in the streets, homeless people, sexism, depression, crap telly, overpopulation, immigration, scaremongering, UKIP, AIBU, twitter storms, unsolicited junk mail, the mess The Blondies leave behind themselves, fucking hell the car needs new tyres, discontinued raspberry pannacottas, fake sheikhs, misogyny, Ebola, twatty celebrities who are famous for being famous, Iain Duncan Smith’s continuing political career, scandal, twatty blogger breakdowns in Liverpool Street Station, corruption, Ofsted, the NHS being sold off under our noses, people dying too young, mental health, The Daily fucking Mail, famine, refugees, civil war, Liz fucking  Jones, violence against women, racism, Dapper fucking Laughs, inequality, poverty, shit parenting, the continued presence of ‘romantic  vintage shabby chic’ bollockery in shops, people being twats, fucking car drivers with a sense of entitlement bigger than their white 4x4s, relationship breakdowns, torture, injustice, Ched fucking Evans and his crew of merry rape apologists, discovering you’ve run out of skimmed milk and only have vile almond milk to put in your coffee, the rise of the far right, bankers, FIFA, none of my clothes fit me, Blondies having meltdowns for no conceivable reason, spammers, people conning the elderly and vulnerable, Christmas adverts that make me cry, being let down, Piers fucking Morgan, clickbait articles, finding your blog has been ripped off, paedophiles, pissing yourself off because you still haven’t replied to those emails, Katie fucking Hopkins, victim blaming, theft, vandalism, people banning fun, inappropriate sexualisation, health and safety gone mad, the PC brigade, you, you massive twat… apathy.

     And what seems to make it so much worse is that when people do stand up and challenge those who are responsible for so much sadness, anger, and hatred, they themselves get attacked. They get threatened, shouted down, abused.  To take two very recent (and ongoing at the time of writing) cases – Dapper Laughs and Ched Evans. To see the amount of abuse campaigners and critics get, it’s tempting not to support the people you believe in, because it’ll only draw negative attention your way, and you know you probably won’t change anyone’s mind. You might feel a little better for having the courage to speak up, but the amount of crap you’ll have to deal with cancels it out. I know, I had it with Richard fucking Dawkins' followers, sending me rape threats and all kinds of other lovely endearments when I blogged about him.

     And it’s horrible. To think that people can be capable of such nasty, vicious unpleasantness. To see beneath the mask of apparently civilised people who walk amongst us, and realise that there isn’t much covering the contempt they feel for other people, and seemingly think it’s ok to abuse and threaten others. Or not even that. To throw out hideously offensive statements, just for attention. To fuck other people’s heads around, for no reason. To play games and feel they’ve somehow ‘won’ by hurting others.

We’re of primitive abolution
Like a hobbyist of deranged proportion
Or the wait is yours and we’ve failed again
The fleshy existence you keep to yourself is secure

      It makes me question why we’re here as people. Is this what we’re here to do? To wallow in other people’s misery, to belittle, to throw insults, to maim, to wound, to destroy? To keep pumping out shittiness, wave after ceaseless wave, pushing the boats back against the current, to stand by and do nothing because it’s ultimately pointless? To see others struggle, hurting, and merely stand by? To know all of the world’s problems, and instead choose to add to them, instead of taking time to make the smallest gesture imaginable to improve someone’s day? It doesn’t take much.

     But then yesterday, something wonderful happened. Philae. And it brought home just what humanity can be capable of. Not just intelligence, but co-operation, hope, and ambition. We can be those things. We can push further, harder, stronger, be better, brighter, bolder, make the world feel like the kind of place where it is possible to do something that seems unthinkable, by reaching out and connecting, in the best way imaginable. We can do all of those things, be those people. Not necessarily by landing on a comet, obviously, but all of us can play our part in making things better. It doesn’t matter how we do it, just as long as we do. Instead of letting the misery spray us with hatred vomit, we can fart glitter, laugh, and make our own little difference to other people, even with something as small as a crap joke, or an unexpected compliment.

     And now, have my earworm du jour*

     *I love this song. I fucking love this song. It’s one of my favourites ever. I’m not allowed to listen to it in public because I can’t listen to it without dancing like a toddler impersonating a ninja**. Seriously, it’s just the most uplifting and incredible song I think I’ve ever heard. The story is sad, but the message is a reminder that some people will sacrifice themselves for the good of humanity, and that is something we should remember, and take with us. Listen to it, and let the euphoria of it just bloody course through your veins and realise   what we can be, and what we can do.

      ** Really not joking. I don’t even really dance to it. I spin, and punch the air, and kick, and jump, conduct an imaginary orchestra, and possibly indulge in some headbanging airdrumming, and oh Crysakes, I’m bouncing in my chair now, just listening to it, even as I type this because fucking hell, IT IS THAT GOOD, and it just makes me feel so happy. Of course, you may feel differently (thinks of one reader in particular).

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