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Ann and I were pondering the apparent prevalence of stupidity in the modern world. From flat-earthers to anti-vaxxers to people who seem incapable of writing or speaking decently in their native tongue, the world just seems to be swarming with Dunning-Kruger dullards and deplorable dimwits. And I wonder if the internet has simply revealed them to us, or helped to spread the contagion. Both, I suppose, but more and more I see the eagerness with which the stupid spread their stupidity online as being very analogous to their readiness to spread Covid-19 amongst the wider population.
I’m sure you’ve done very well in your life, right? Maybe good at school, a degree... a doctorate? Pretty wife, beautiful children, yet still... shhhh... be silent. Consider it possible that you would have done better to say nothing, here. That I, the person whose choice of words you chose (for some puzzling reason) to quibble with might, just possibly, have a better command of the English language than you, or even if he doesn’t might yet still have sufficient facility with his mother tongue to know precisely how he wishes to use words in order to convey his ideas.
Once in a while, sir, I would ask you to take a deep breath, both literally and metaphorically, and still your instinctive desire to challenge or attempt to correct those who are simply expressing a personal view. Sit back and consider: why must you contend? Why must you
so? Could it be that simply holding your peace might be the better option, in the larger scheme of things? Is that at all possible? Might it lead to greater mental peace for you, and for those unfortunate enough to be exposed to your endless fucking cantankerousness and profoundly ignorant blabber?
If I were American, the fourth of July would be a day set aside for mourning. The American Myth has never stood more exposed than it is today. A rank, rotten mountain of myth based on shamelessly unfettered capitalist greed ; rapacious consumerism; a wholly unwarranted sense of exceptionalism; a witless and anachronistic worship of death-dealing weaponry; a selfish, thoroughly blinkered, idiotic rejection of decent, humane social values; the celebration of vacuous vulgarity; a dimestore culture of wilful ignorance and - oh, let us not forget - ingrained and institutionalised racism. Today, patriotic Americans should be setting bombs, not letting off fireworks.
I have been thinking about why my lifelong interest in magic has been resurrected. The last time I spent serious time and money on it was in the nineties, when I was married and life was stable. It seemed to add to the joy and fun of life back then. This cannot be said of my latest return to the dear old hobby. It started when my personal life was in turmoil, and it continues to thrive during separation from my love, and global crisis. This time it seems more of a comforting old toy in a time of nightmares.
A little past five AM. The penultimate night bus. Still not too busy, unlike the newly-reopened pubs. I am sitting at the very back of the upper deck. We drive into the low sun as it just crests the trees of Clapham Common. Behind is the pale, sun-washed face of the full moon. It is early July, but there is a distinct chill, just starting to fade under the spreading morning gold. If summer days would just stay like this, I could bear them. If life could just remain an endless cool summer morning, I could bear it.
The thing about you precious pricks who don’t wear masks is that you’re like anti-vaxxers: you think your opinion trumps other people’s safety. I don’t care what your bullshit reason is for not wearing a mask; the bottom line is you have decided that your opinion is better than the scientific and the social consensus, and you are willing to stake the health and even the lives of others on that cocksure, disgraceful arrogance. You are all disgusting, vile specimens of humanity and I hope someone you love dearly dies of Covid-related illness. Not you: someone you love.
Being dead won’t be bad at all. A statement of the obvious, perhaps, but it is surprising how many people struggle to accept it. We all know the lazy atheist trope - that it will be like before we were born - but that statement, while entirely true, ignores the curiosity of the living: it’s not that we’re scared of oblivion, it’s that we hate the idea of
. Hitchens said it well: you’re at a party, having a good time, then someone taps you on the shoulder and tells you that you have to leave. Hell with it. Parties suck.
I had lived with that garden shed ever since I moved in to this flat, thirty-two years ago. Of course I saw immediately that it had a corrugated asbestos roof, and I knew even then that this was a bad thing, but I really didn’t care. The thing was old and weathered-in, and it wasn’t like I spent much time in there. But recently, so much later, the neighbour noticed, and was horrified, and concerned for his kids playing on their trampoline adjacent to the shed. And that was fair enough. Today the old shed is no more.
It is definitely predominately young people ignoring the “rules” about mask-wearing on public transport, and social distancing in general. So okay kids, this “boomer“ has the following to say to you: you want a generation war? I’m down with that. Opening sallies: you whine about not being able to buy houses, I say “Fuck you”. You whine about how boomers ruined your future, I say “Fuck you”. You whine about how hard it is for your generation, I say “Fuck you, you cellphone-addicted, parent-living, spoilt little snowflake shit.” Okay, kidster? We cool? Are we having fun yet?
“Irregardless” is not a word, and Merriam Webster is not a dictionary; both are fucking abominations. Stop starting every damned sentence with the word “so”. Stop saying “The point is, is...”. What on earth is with that superfluous “is”? Learn how to spell the word “lose”. The plural of “octopus” is not “octopi”. That organisation was not
better than that other one; it was
better. And so on, for far too depressingly long. Please understand that not having a good command of such really elementary facets of your goddamned mother tongue makes you look like a goddamned idiot.
Things that make it really obvious that you are a terrible person, and make me despise you instantly:
- you cycle on the pavement.
- you cycle and jump red lights.
- you spit in public.
- you keep sniffing loudly instead of blowing your nose.
- you think it’s ever okay to not wear a shirt in a bar or restaurant, or on public transport.
- you screech and laugh loudly and incessantly in public. I don’t care if you are drunk.
- you ever, ever, hold train doors open.
- you do not wear a mask in public, especially when near to others.
Today’s shit list.
Squeamishness seems to be a trait unique to humans. I cannot think of any animal known to display it. Fear, pain, distress, shock, sadness, joy... yes. It seems pretty plain that many animals know and express these things. But this strange and often irrational sense of nausea and disgust at certain mere thoughts or ideas; of sensory impressions and even imaginings; of foods, tastes, tactile experience, sights, smells, sounds... no. At most, some animals appear to experience distaste, or even revulsion, but this is not the same thing as squeamishness. Squeamishness is like a sort of allergy of the imagination.
I used to be afraid of the dark; now I am not. The dark used to hide lurking demons; now it conceals me from them, or rather, it conceals them from me. Bedroom shadows used to seem like looming monsters, waiting patiently to pounce as soon as I succumbed to sleep. Now they are friendly familiars; they watch over me but will never touch me. Now all the demons are in plain view, and it is the light that makes them terrifying. The dark is escape, a hiding place, a safe house, a trailer for the infinite darkness of death.
I have long used the expression “monkeys in clothes” to describe humanity. Boy, are we seeing just how true that is now, eh? The anti-vaxxers, the anti-maskers, those who remain blithely untroubled by the unapologetic and gleeful savagery of the US police. Dunning-Kruger dimwits; braying buffoons; gormless gobshites; smug, scumbag irrationalists every one; uncaring and careless with the lives, safety, security and health of others; arrogantly imagining they are making some sort of stand for “liberty” as they endanger us and make hateful bloody fools of themselves without the slightest awareness of or concern for the fact.
The race is still on. Finally, my upstairs neighbour’s solicitor has agreed to act on our long-delayed lease extension, and the necessary legal actions are, apparently, underway. Meanwhile, Stuart’s mental and physical deterioration continues apace. He cannot remember things you tell him minutes before. His concerned friends pay a call and find his flat filthy and him in a state of deep confusion. They talk of getting power of attorney over his funds. I hear him fall heavily upstairs, and the subsequent moaning. I check he is okay. He says he is. But he isn’t. The tension is dreadful.
I keep hearing Manu Chao’s wonderful song “Me gustas tu” in my head, and of course you are the “tu”, and the fact that the song holds special memories for us also doesn’t hurt. And I guess it is living in my head right now as a reaction to all the terrible “tus” out there being massive dicks and ruining the world, cleaving to insane conspiracy theories, voting for viciousness, sowing discontent, spreading hatred and lies, indulging in brutal violence against legitimate protest, stoking the fires of conflict and generally making life miserable for the likes of me and tu.
We become jaded as we age not merely because we feel like we’ve seen, heard and read it all before, but because when we are younger it feels like life and real possibilities lie ahead of us, so music stirs our hopes; books and words speak to what seem like realistic anticipations or future joys, possible change, realisable improvements to our lives. When we are old the paths have merged and narrowed into one dark, rutted track. We know where it leads, and as we get nearer to that destination the shimmering music and stories of existence seem increasingly irrelevant.
I simply do not understand optimists at all. I do not understand how they can look at this world, and life, and human beings, and how organisms behave, and the endlessly stupid things people do over and over again, never really paying attention or learning from the past or ever really thinking carefully and honestly about the future... and then feel hopeful, as a general way of existing. On they go, breeding like particularly dim rabbits and grinning like goddamned fools. To be honest, I think “optimist” is just a nice word for “stupid, inattentive, lazy-minded dreamer in denial.”
Received wisdom is often just plain wrong; usually when it comes in the form of a lazy platitude or soppy soundbite patently contrived to induce cosy, comfortable feelings rather than to contain any genuine truth or insight. I am being irritated by a crop of these things variously suggesting that human beings are all the same at heart, where it matters. What abject arse gravy. We are more different than alike. I mean, we all have the same bodily features, more or less, but inside it’s chalk and cheese, and you know how many different types of cheese there are.
First trip to Portsmouth this year, and a necessary one to prevent me from having to sign the route off. Some drivers love doing that so that it’s one less route that can be assigned to them. Slackers. I worked hard to get this route down and it is also my favourite run. No way did I want to lose it. And it is a beautiful day: clear blue and surprisingly cool. Now, a full English, sitting outside a reopened harbour front cafe. My first “eat in” since the crazy began. I wish I could share the experience with her.
Of course I expected that should it come to it, you would join the moms on the front line. I understand the righteous anger at the descent of your country into overt fascism and vicious repression. And you know that I would be right there with you, if I could. And you also know how it makes me worry terribly, and fear for your health and safety in the face of these monstrous, evil thugs. But you, I, we, all of us, must not be “good Germans”. It finally came to America. It has to be faced, and faced down.
Doing an astrophysics degree all those decades ago really did seem to kill off the childhood fervour with which I viewed the marvels of the deeper universe. The boy who happily spent many night hours plotting meteor paths from a freezing garden became the man who couldn’t be bothered with Halley in 1986, or the 1999 eclipse. And now I have made no effort at all to see this latest comet, Neowise. See, I know about the marvels out there. They have already made their lifelong mark. I no longer need to actually witness them to be comforted by them.
The grim and truly shocking events in Portland and elsewhere in the US are bad enough, but just as bad, in an almost more worrying and sinister way, are the people who try to defend the militarised thugs perpetrating extreme violence against their fellow citizens. Here is my bottom line, for those people: if you do not have a behavioural line beyond which you are unwilling to go, and for which you would sooner be made homeless, or be imprisoned, or even die rather than cross, then you are morally bankrupt, you disgust me, and you are my mortal enemy.
The London summer weather has, for once, been mostly tolerable this year. We have had a few properly hot days, but far more have been temperate, if occasionally a little humid. I have had to resort to my normal survival method of frequent self-immersion in a cold bath only a handful of times. It seems that in previous years this had been an almost daily, and sometimes several-times-daily occurrence. When the weather is hot this gasp-inducing, nerve-rattling deep relief is the only thing that makes life tolerable for me. Well, that and getting hammered, obviously.
We Brits love the humour of affectionate (and sometimes, to be perfectly honest, the not-so-affectionate) mockery. The ironic insult. The piss-take. The wind-up. To deliver such treatment can be weirdly affectionate. To be on the receiving end of it can generate a unique emotion for which I do not think there is a name: a sensation formed of mild miff, sneaky admiration and, most importantly, a sense of being part of a special club, a unique mindset: the fraternity and sorority of the mutually assured and honestly enjoyed personality deconstruction. The band of badinagenda-driven brothers.
This is worse than last year. Last year I was fooling myself, telling myself the constant aching grief was just the inevitable pain of loss; willing myself to believe I was “moving on”. A whole year of that; almost five months of this (and counting...) but this is worse. This is worse because I am under no illusions now. I love you without question and it isn’t me or you now keeping us so painfully and cruelly apart. It is this. This fucking virus; this fucking situation. The fragility of us is down to separation. I need you with me.
I am never late for anything. I am the most punctual person you would ever meet, and if we did meet, I would be on time. I am punctual because I do not like stress in my life, and because I am polite. I regard lateness as either incompetence or disrespect, and usually a little of both. I have never been late for work. I am never late for trains, planes or meetings. And if we arrange to meet, and you are still not there fifteen minutes after the appointed time, I will leave. Because I have good manners,
Don’t just try to make each other happy, try also to be interesting and stimulating. To generate engagement and diversion in your fellows. If you tell me you like me, or buy me a drink, you will make me happy. But if you tell me something truly fascinating, or you make me think, or look at things in a new, stimulating way, you will make me live again. I don’t actually care that much whether you like me or not. Kick shit over and make my mind reel.
“The Mind Reels” is the name of my new psychedelic folk band.
Almost two years of alternating hope and despair about getting my flat’s lease extended on the cheap ends today. It ends in resigned disappointment, if not exactly despair. I should never have allowed myself the stress of hope. Hope really is stressful. It’s also overrated. Hope sets you up for a fall, and makes it hurt more when it comes. I will lose around fifteen hundred pounds on this fruitless, frustrating exercise, and that isn’t even the worst of it. The worst of it is I came so very close, only to have it snatched away at the eleventh hour.
All my adult life I have had evenings where I drank myself comatose and woke up on the sofa (or even the floor) in the very late early hours. All my adult life I have, on occasion, crashed out drunk and alone. I say this not in some weak attempt to generate scorn, pity, disgust or any other emotion in the reader; I say it as a simple observation of a fact about myself. That said, it had not happened for quite a few years. This week it happened twice. I feel that things are getting on top of me.
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