Do you know what really bugs me? (Goodness, there are so many possible correct answers to that question, even if you hazard the wildest guess, you should probably get it right.)
I’ll tell you what I’m thinking of. Superficiality.
I’ve usually got several thoughts whizzing around inside my skull, bumping into one another, jostling for space, meandering into what looks like a nice place at first but turns out to be a maze from which nothing will ever return and all that; some of them border on the outrageous, others have troubled mankind for aeons and baffled the sharpest minds, so it’s no small wonder that I’m often clueless and confused. One that’s played on my mind this week is:
how much better it is watching England games with the sound turned off because then you don’t have to endure the unashamedly biased commentary from television employees paid by a British company, you would expect, to be mindful of this fact and retain some degree of professionalism and at least attempt to feign impartiality so as not to aggravate the non-English listener with every nauseating, blubbery “we” and “us” when many listeners want England to lose when did respectable society evaporate?
Now, you could be clever and question that we ever had a respectable society. Indeed, there has always been gambling and boozing, blasphemy, adultery and assorted villainy. Men who would trade their wives for some pigs, that sort of thing.
I’ve decided, anyway, that it’s when Princess Diana died in August 1997. All that outpouring of sentimentality and synthetic grief for someone we didn’t know, didn’t always care much for in truth. Surely some respectability got washed away with the simulated tears shed for the beautiful, hard-done-by princess who Tony Blair then claimed was the “Queen of Hearts” which made us sob even more.
Since then, in the UK, we have worshipped the victim instead of the hero. There aren’t many heroes left, it has to be said. After all, heroism isn’t nearly as profitable or as easy to come by as celebrity, and for all of Diana’s championing of very noble causes, she was in essence a tabloid creation. And so we have those in the not always respectable professions of law and the media peddling the myth that everyone likes a victim, because being a victim means not only compensatory reward but sympathy, and the ever-increasing displays of pity and condolence supposedly make us all feel better about ourselves in this absurd artificial reality we have deceived ourselves into believing is authentic, modern living.
We’re a bit behind the USA in Britain, I know. You’ve had this for years.
If you’re not wailing loudly, the supposition is that you don’t care very much. The one that cries the most must be hurting the most. It is inauthentic, fabricated grief put on for the public’s attention and I, for one, am offended by it. We’ll see plenty of it as the anniversary of the terrorist atrocities, in New York particularly, is marked for the tenth time this weekend. I hope those with more cause to feel offended than I have don’t find that the indulgence for tragedy detracts from what should be personal and private grieving, at least to my mind. Across much of the world people will be mourning, and though I like to believe that they will do so in memory of the needless loss of life and out of sadness and regret at a decade of raining bombs destroying the lives of untold millions, I think much of it will be fickle and patriotic.
As a recent study that told us something we already knew showed, being a victim is the way to escape blame. It doesn’t always work, but there’s no harm in trying.
Or is there? Aren’t we all victims of something now?
The event of 9/11 changed the world forever, but it created more victims than heroes. The firefighters caked with toxic dust, the strongest image superimposed on every memory from that fateful day, are now more likely to develop cancer to go with their respiratory diseases. Soldiers have always been valiant yet unknowing dupes in senseless wars and what of them when they are no longer able to fight? Alex Stringer lost three limbs in a bomb blast in Afghanistan yet is now struggling to get about in his sixth-floor flat. Take the Chilean miners trapped underground for more than two months as another example. For bravery and selflessness, the firefighter, soldier and miner would be everyone’s choice for recognition of their heroism, yet all are victims whether or not they wish to be perceived as such.
As a few of us have decided, I think, that we are all bourgeois now, so too are we all victims. I don’t know which is more depressing, but I do know that it sure as hell doesn’t make for a more respectable society.
As the Chilean miners, New York firefighters and the likes of young Alex Stringer are finding out, society doesn’t care for long whether you are a hero or a victim once it has had its pound of flesh and shed crocodile tears over your misfortune.
The chatroom will be open to depressives everywhere from 3pm (UK) today. If you’d like two hours of moaning about the state of the world, do pop in.