Friday, 14 April 2017

A(nother) Little Argument With Myself

When I was a teenager, the papers were full of anti-immigrant chat.  All the time.  And you couldn’t spread your arms in a pub without touching someone who would gladly furnish those present with uninformed opinion and bigoted rhetoric on a range of subjects.  Whether solicited or un-.  The papers were absolutely full of articles spouting some alliterative shite about Barmy Belgian Bureaucrats Banning Bendy Bananas.

When I was a kid, all that was true and you could add The Loony Left and Political Correctness to the bogeymen of popular culture.  It was all “Loony Left London Council Leaders Ban Black Bin Bags Because They’re Racist”, and that type of bollocks.
So, my question to you is: what’s really changed…?
And my answer to me is: the atmosphere.
For a long time, there’s been some mileage in being a contrarian political commentator, and a political insider.  Now there’s neither.  Mind, dumbasses on the bus or the pub or at work used to annoy me with their inane blather and contortions of the English language – now there’s that AND the entire internet to get annoyed by.
Every time someone shares a video, I want to shake them hard and shout in their face:
NO ONE HAS DESTROYED THE PRESIDENT AND NO AMOUNT OF COMEDY VIDEOS CLAIMING TO HAVE DESTROYED ANYONE ACTUALLY HAVE THAT EFFECT.  I’m glad the video made you feel better about it, but it’s not a solution!  In the case of the President, the popular hope is that he will destroy himself.  (Many of us do that, one way or another…)
I always wrote about “political stuff” when I was younger.  I had so much to express, I could never get the words out quick enough or well enough to satiate the desire to keep going.
Political stuff was easy to talk about, because it didn’t reveal much about myself – it’s personal in an impersonal way (and, I suppose, impersonal in a personal way – never could resist word play).
Still, out of the noise and chaos, a few strands of wisdom shine: t’was ever thus.  That’s not Because The Internet, it’s not because of Now, it’s just The World.  Or, at least, the world of mass communication.  And it’s better in so many ways than the pre-post-modern, pre-mass communication, pre-affordable-mass transit world.  You know of that other, old world, don’t you?  Yeah – affordable for whom, exactly.  But it’s the world where education was basically just organised child abuse, and people had more excuse to be ignorant of other countries/cultures and geopolitics, and outsiders weren’t a problem because most people never met any….mind, it’s also the world of stable communities in Western countries, full employment, strong unions, non-ironic entertainment, artistic innovation and bearable pop music.  So…swings and roundabouts, really.
A time when you had to just turn up (insofar as possible) when you said you would, instead of saying “I’ll text when I’m about…”  Everything seems frayed around the edges these days, don’t you think?
Well, current events may have thrown all of this into sharp relief for some/none/all of us.  Kicked us out of complacency.  Not for me, though.  I have never/always been complacent. 
I always thought the world was pretty fucked-up, but I felt like a lot of people didn’t realise what was going on, or were just comfortable enough, that far-away suffering couldn’t touch them, they didn’t want to make the connection between the two, and understand that they were inextricably linked…
Oh, what a time it was to be alive – but to be a young humanities student, was very heaven/hell.
Well, these days – I say, these days, everyone seems pretty unsatisfied at the state of the world, don’t they?
Careful what you wish for.
Everyone young wants to shake things up, don’t they?  Resignation and cynicism are for old people, or defeated people.  The worst thing television and advertising ever did to us was to encourage our cool cynicism and ironic detachment.  Just another example of something cool and subversive being co-opted by the very things it was made to fight against, I suppose. 
Because every peaceful, progressive avenue for change has been blocked, closed off, discouraged, blunted and co-opted, hasn’t it?  So, maybe no surprise that people are as het up and disillusioned with the status quo as a twenty year-old know-it-all student, is it? 
But there does seem to have been a flip, I suppose, contrary to my earlier suggestion that nothing much has changed, in that rather than buy space to reach an audience, now the audience is the product that advertisers purchase – data, people at which to aim specified advertising.  Disgustingly clever, isn’t it?  But, the thing is, we’re always ahead of them.  Well, someone is – young people are, you know what I mean?  Advertising, public relations, political parties, they’re so desperate to look good that many of us can see right through them.  Especially young people, maybe because they’re so used to bullshit. 
I read Manufacturing Consent, or I was supposed to, when I was at university.  I probably read a chapter from a lecture hand-out, or just enough to be able to quote in an essay.  That and some of the Situationist stuff:  Democracy is staged!  Pure Spectacle!  HUMAN PROGRESS IS NOT A STRAIGHT LINE TO A GOAL!  Jouissez sans entrave!  Great stuff.  Inspirational.
Something we used to say to the fash, when I were a lad – God, listen to me, I sound like my Dad…anyway, we used to say, put it on posters and placards and all that:
All your hate is going nowhere – or nowhere good, at least….
The more things change, the more they stay the same!
If I made up a slogan for kids today, it would be something like
But, y’know, better than that; that was just off-the-top, you know.
Right, more pints – oh, you’re off, are you…?  Alright, no bother, nice talking to you, see you again, yeah?  Take care.  Yep.
Bye then.

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