Well, We Never Killed Anybody…

I was busy adjusting the world the other day with my friend Warren – we meet during the week to condemn the guilty and praise the worthy. It is a mad session of tea and biscuits.

We agreed that we have both been very fortunate – his time as an airframe rigger in the Royal Australian Air Force did not result in any crashes or loss of life. For my part, my time as a dental surgeon did not result in any fatalities or overweening infections. We can both sleep soundly of a night with no ghosts haunting us.

But it begs the question; how many of the people we know can say the same, in their own fields of endeavour? We know many of the same people, and then others in different social sets…somewhere in that lot is bound to be a death or despair. A bankruptcy or suicide. A soul that was lost because of something that someone did…

I don’t want to know the answer to the question. It would colour my perception of the persons involved – even if there was no possibility of redemption or repair. Far better to remain ignorant of it.

This may not sound like the thing that the Right Evil Bastard of the Backstabbers Guild of Australia should say…but there is a difference between deliberate and artistic evil-doing and mere accidental disaster. I would far rather ambush a bus full of orphans with a 17 pounder than run over a cat with a Suzuki…

Warren is not so fussy. He has a new truck and is more impatient than I – he is hunting for lane-changing idiots on the road. I can hear the maniacal laughter now…

 

 

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The Last Of The More Hickums

I see a comic artist has seen fit to resurrect the legend of the smallpox blanket as a comic piece in his daily strip. The strip veers occasionally to a biased and politically correct scolding thing, rather than a chuckle, but did make me wonder  if there was any truth in the matter.

It turns out that there was  – and it was the British military who thought to try the trick on the American Indians back in the 18th century at Fort Pitt. There is some controversy as to whether it actually worked.

In the 19th century there are stories about the trick being tried again, but again, there is little evidence that it was the actual cause of devastation. Devastation did occur, but the transmission means seems to have been accidental rather than deliberate. Not that it was for want of trying, but it just didn’t work out that way. Go google up the wiki articles and then follow the reportage trail and see for yourselves. If you are biased, you won’t see very far, but do look anyway.

Then I tried to trace the question of whether syphilis had been dropped on the Old World by sailors returning from the New World in the late 15th century. There’s been a scientific fight – probably fueled by nationalism and racialism – about that for some time, but the thought that it was a Western hemispherical disease that spread east seems to be gaining the upper hand.

And then there is the thing about HIV virus coming out of Africa, but not through the agency of any shadowy CIA conspiracy – by the simple process of sex with the natives.

So perhaps the score cards are even. But still…handle them with gloves…

I’m Not Sorry I Met You…

I just regret that it was at a dinner-dance and not the morgue.

We can all think of people we wish we had never encountered. Ex-partners, schoolyard bullies, dishonest employers, social-club sponges, etc. Of course there are people we regret for the sake of the world; Putin, Trudeau, Mussolini, etc. but they are somewhat removed from our own circle and in most cases we need not take any responsibility for whatever it is that they have done. They are roaches that have not run over our feet.

By the same token, we must be fair – there are undoubtedly people in the world who think of us as unmitigated blisters and regret our acquaintance.  We’ll know of some but be surprised to learn of others – it is a sobering moment when you find out that a friend regards you badly. What we do about this discovery depends upon our characters and the time-frame involved…if the revelation comes in the middle of soup while dining at the Bishop’s palace, all you can really do is continue slurping and excuse yourself after the savoury. Or pour the tureen over your enemy. Equally good.

The best time of all is to be had watching two separate individuals who have both confided  previously in you that they detest the other…and then see them brought together by  circumstance and forced to be civil. If you can arrange the meeting, so much the better. Just be close by as the atmosphere cools and the language stiffens. It is better than a play, though not quite as good as an Auto da Fé.

Is it fair to set these things up? No, of course it isn’t. Now that we have gotten that out of the way, here is how you do it:

a. Determine who hates whom. Only the loudest of mouths will advertise themselves in this way – the others need careful attention and the occasional trick question. Try Donald Trump as a touchstone for this and ask if anyone in the social circle reminds your victim of Trump. Or use Justin Trudeau, if you don’t mind the sort of language this will generate.

You goal is not to find someone who hates everybody, but someone who dislikes someone – in particular. It need not be overweening hatred – distaste will do nicely. Then find out if the object of this negative emotion entertains a reciprocal dislike for the first person. If they do, you have your fighting pair.

b. Bring them together. Social club gathering are good for this, as are barbeques, theatre nights, and sporting events. If you can arrange things well, you will have major ingredients to hand with little obvious work.

The ingredients? A crowd who knows one another and who is drinking alcohol. This gives you an audience and a chemical that relaxes natural caution while fuelling passion.

Find a space that does not allow either party to stay aloof to start with nor to escape readily as things heat up. Like a fission reaction, it must all be contained for a microsecond to build up enough pressure to detonate.

c. Introduce a topic upon which they disagree. It need be no more than the correct way to spike tyres – the main thing is to arrange it so that they are both right in the eyes of themselves, wrong in the eyes of others, and unable to back away from the fight. Politics, religion, and sex are always good for this. If you can get them to fight over nothing that anyone else understands it is even better.

d. Try to calm them down by reminding them that people are watching. This will have the effect of making more people watch. See if you can get people to video it on a mobile phone and to be seen by the combatants doing so….It is encouraging and modern.

Make peace by telling them that they are grown-ups. This will bring out the childishness. If you can go beyond shouting and scuffles to actual hair pulling and scratching, you have a chance for a viral YouTube clip. Your combatants will cherish this in years to come.

 

 

Why Don’t You Want To See This Ad?

Facebook asks me this question twenty times a day as I hide advertisements but only provides a limited number of possible responses. Let me correct this by supplying the real reasons the ads were turned off:

a. There are too bloody many of them. Whatever shit is being shilled, the fact that one cannot goggle over the love life of friends or look at cat videos is the real irritant. Reduce them to one an hour… and I’ll let you know which hour.

b. They are blatant and/or sneaky. Either way, they are trying to sell something to someone who is trying not to buy.

c. If I wanted to read an advertisement I would google up the product I fancied, in the sure knowledge that I would be inundated with the spiels. I read Facebook for gossip, not commerce.

d. Who engages you to press debt upon us? We are fighting like cats to repel it – you do yourself no good by trying it on. We know how it fits already.

I realise that you have purchased my profile from Google, who sees everything I do and that you are on-selling it to the people who want my money. This is basic piracy and I respect that. But how can you get it so very wrong? I want model airplanes and hot rods and Chinese camera lenses and pin-up girls. You must have some somewhere – why try me out with cruises to tropical hell-holes or on-trend shoes? If you must pester me, pester me with the stuff I want…not the dreck that other people choose.

 

The Glitter Bomb Parcel

For the one person on the continent who has not seen the YouTube video of the glitter bomb parcel that punishes package thieves, we’ll suspend this column and wait…

Okay. Back again?  Good wasn’t it? You really wanted it to work, didn’t you…including the fart spray?

But did you notice a few things about the thieves? Some were black and driving around in packs, but some were white, driving an expensive car around alone…but still stealing parcels. The couple out for a stroll in the neighbourhood were just getting good exercise…while they stole parcels. The constant factor for Winnetka, Illinois ( where it was filmed ) is that people steal parcels.

Here in Perth I daresay we have some parcel thieves as well – from druggies and vagrants to bored teenagers and hunter-gatherer packs from squalid suburbs. But it may be less of a problem due to less packages being left. I spoke to a friend in the courier business and he detailed some of the problems there can be in actually getting things to the doorsteps of houses that will not allow a close approach – but who still want unattended drops. Some of the recipients sound like they are not thinking the thing through.

Again, there can be some delivery firms – thankfully not the one that my friend works for – that have a cavalier attitude to actual delivery. They may skip up to the door and ring the bell, but run away without waiting for the arthritic or hard of hearing to get to the door. Then the sequence of trying to collect a parcel from some distant depot starts, and you wonder if any on-line shopping is worth the hassle.

I’m lucky, my parcels are generally delivered by a very nice Indian man who waits for me to get to the door and passes the time of day with me as we sign for things. I can feel confident that he does not leave me in the lurch. And I will have no need to develop my own glitter bomb. Though I may make up a few fart spray presents for birthdays. People do appreciate an effort…

The Backstabbers Guild Guide To Visiting

Visiting during the holiday period is a tradition with many people. So are torpedo attacks if your family grew up in the Kreigsmarine. What the Guild wants to do is to make sure that if you are going to visit, your victim will go to the bottom in the swiftest manner:

a. Do not call ahead, but make sure that you have as many co-visitors with you as possible. Dress well, and warmly, and carry what look like expensive presents*. It is harder to turn a large group of people away than a small one, as the Germans found out on D-Day.

b. When you gain access to the premises – also known as breaching the walls – be hearty. Be loud. Be exuberant. This is a perfect cloak for someone in the crowd of visitors to rifle through to presents under the tree. A package slitter is a good thing to carry.

c. Make sure that your host is aware that you are thirsty and hungry. And not for just a cup of tea and a biscuit. This is the holidays. Unless they are prepared to put out a complete dinner with turkey, nuts, and crackers, they will appear to be Scrooge. It is a nice touch to carry a small crippled child who can call out ” God bless us one and all ” as you go through the refrigerator and pantry.

d. When it comes time to exchange gifts, have your gift assessor examine the goods closely before you let go of yours. Portable x-ray machines can sort out the difference between socks and Rolex watches.

e. Be ” Genuine “. Nothing beats genuine. Jesse James was one of the most genuine people you could ever meet.

f. Remember that it is the thought that counts, unless you are having the sort of thoughts that Harvey Weinstein used to have. Then only DNA evidence will stand up in court.

g. Be kind to the little children. Be civil to the slightly older ones. By the time they are 14 you can be downright rude. It will fit their frame of mind perfectly.

h. Good visitors curtail their stay before they become a nuisance. Now think – whose column are you reading? Is a Backstabbers Guild Of Australia member going to leave before all the food is gone and the bathroom drains are clogged? Of course not. When you visit  you VISIT…

Some people can stay visited for years.

*  Which you may bear away to your next port of call.

 

 

 

The Guild Guide To Social Signalling

The BGA has always taken an interest in social behaviour. If that interest sometimes led to sirens in the night and lifelong enmities it must be remembered that you cannot make an omlette without cracking eggs. The trick to a really good omelette is not to crack the pan either…

Social signalling is a popular topic right now – the forms of communication that we see on the internet in forums, social pages, websites, and columns such as this one. Each has its own special format and in some cases the purpose of the signal can be quite different. Here are some examples:

a. The virtue signal – this is a posting on a social site or a column written to draw attention to the goodness of the writer – to their virtue. The world abounds in evil and misery, and the virtue signaller has a wide choice of topics they can discuss – to make themselves look good.

No-one can pretend that murder is a good thing. So the virtue signaller comes out with a passionate cry that murder is not good – confident that everyone will have to agree with them. They appear a good person for decrying a bad thing.

It becomes a little fraught when they mix politics, religion, sex, and commerce into this cry of virtue. They tend to give off hints of their own prejudices, bigotry, malevolence, and cupidity even as they wave the banner of goodness.

Some people have asked what the best response should be to a virtue signal. The Guild feels that you must either preserve a dignified silence or respond with wholehearted enthusiastic agreement. Whichever course you adopt, attune it to the level of virtue that the original signaller has tried; if they are modest, be modest in your silence – if they are flamboyant, be the same with your stonewall. Likewise, if you pretend to agree with them let it be either a modest social tail wagging or a complete public leg-hump.

b. The vague signal – this is the social post that starts with air and ends with clouds. No part of it is either intelligent or intelligible. You are lucky to see it on Facebook or Twitter -if it came to your email account your ISP would spam-can it staunchly.

Well, a signal is a signal, and this one indicates that the signaller wants you to make earnest and sympathetic enquiries about them. This is so that they can tell you their troubles and, if possible, blame you. This may not be convenient.

The Hearty English Major approach is best here:

” For God’s sake buck yourself up and stop whining! ” is a comfort for many in this situation. Not for the signaller, of course, but for you. Try to snort as you type – it comes through in the punctuation.

c. The outrage signal – this is sometimes linked to the virtue signal but may be a separate thing. In the purest cases it is a reaction to some horrid world event. The signaller foams and imprecates, threatens and howls, finally throwing themselves into a corner in tears. Most of the targets of their anger are far away and untouchable, and nothing ever comes of it.

If the targets are not far away – if they are local persons, firms, and events – it becomes a little more interesting. Publishing a rant doesn’t constitute defamation in many cases but borders on it for others. Responding to a rant as a disinterested third party is a temptation but you really don’t want to include yourself in the ring. If you feel the need to press something, press the emoji button and claim later that it was just your knuckle brushing the keyboard.