The Family History As A Method Of Torture

I spotted it in a trice – on the shelf of the council library. It was a self-published history of a local family. Paper-bound, A4 size, but about a centimetre thick. I’m a bit hazy about the exact family name but I remember it referred to a country town where they lived and styled them as ” Pioneer Nobility “.

That’s a concept you don’t see all that often in an egalitarian society – but it lurks in the heart of every amateur genealogist. If they can assert that their family is noble, and get you to believe it, they can control the universe.

I come from a mother and a father. They, in their turn, came from mothers and fathers. Funnily enough, so does everyone else riding the N0.507 bus to the train station. And so do you. It is the common experience of mankind to be born because of the combination of a mother and father.

The lucky ones get to know who they were. Even better – they might have gotten to see them for some portion of their lives and can treasure this. But there is a catch to the treasure – a curse, if you will…if you try to grasp too much of it, it turns to fire and burns away your happiness. And that fire can consume all the social oxygen and leave everyone around you asphyxiated.

I met today with a relative of my wife – a pleasant man who is the amateur genealogist for her family. He is good at it and has facts and figures of all the extended family at his fingertips. You have only to sit still long enough and you will find out when in 1887 one cousin shifted addresses in Adelaide, and how we know this, and what it means for the Scottish branch of the family in 1934…

It is not polite to sneer or yawn. Neither is it to run and hide in the toilet or fall lifeless to the carpet. One must look bright and attentive. And not scream.

But, just as with the accounting of dreams, so the history of someone else’s distant family connection to even more distant relations who have done no more than breed and move is the saddest and most banal of communications. No-one wants to know.

None of us are remotely interested in the thing, and unless you can prove in court that you are a direct descendant of a liaison between Benjamin Franklin and Cleopatra, we’re not likely to care. Publish all you like, prattle all you will, thrust forward parish records from the 19th century all you may – We. Don’t. Care.

But let me tell you about my uncle Agnes and the time she met the Kaiser in Woolies…

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I Know Where You Live

And I’m going to visit you. And there’s nothing you can do about it.

You’ll never see me coming…because I’ll never phone ahead. You’ll hear the doorbell and open it and there I’ll be. And I’ll force my way in and sit down on the sofa.

From then on it’ll be a nightmare of horror. I’ll demand a cup of coffee, and biscuits. Good biscuits. And more than one. And a second cup of coffee.

I’ll want to use the toilet pretty often. And the bathroom. I don’t use guest towels – I use your bath towel. And I’ll be looking in your medicine cabinet, you bet.

Is this a bad time to call? Who cares? I’m here and social mores demand that you cope with it and smile. I know that and will press the visit as long as I can to maximise your discomfort. If it overlaps your meal time you are either going to have to go hungry, invite me to eat ( And I will…) or commit the social blunder of leaving me in the lounge room while you bolt your food. Be sure that everyone in our mutual acquaintance will know of this within hours.

Do you have pets? Expect them to either detest me or love me more than they love you. Whichever it turns out to be, you’ll be sorry. I’ll feed them greasy treats and you’ll be scrubbing the carpet later.

It’s no good hiding behind the sofa. Your car’s out front. You stay crouched behind there long enough and I’m going to get bored and write you a note. ” I called but you were out. ” is particularly poignant when it’s keyed into the duco.

Note: I can always leave something on the mat. Particularly after that bad taco I had for lunch.

I Prayed For Guidance

And then that darned ‘ol God told me to do something different from what I wanted to do. Talk about annoyed. I mean, what’s the point of having a God if they’re going to boss you around…

So I switched gods. The second one I chose allowed the thing I wanted to do – indeed made it into a virtue instead of a vice. And then snuck up on me and hit me with dietary laws that meant I couldn’t cook my favourite recipes. Not only that, I had to not eat all day for a month. Not even a chocolate bar.

So I decided to ditch the Almighties and find a guru, sage, or wise man  ( or wise woman ) to tell me that I could do whatever I wanted to do without guilt. Took a bit of shopping but I got the combination I wanted. And then the bill hit me – it turned out the guru’s idea of tithes was my pocket open all the time to pay for his Rolls Royces.

So I’m back on my own again. My People have rejected me and they talked to Everyone Else and they’re not having a bar of me either. I’m either going to have to become an atheist or start my own religion. Neither idea seems really appealing as they would both require a good deal of thinking. And you never can tell where that might lead to – like as not I would be forbidding myself from things. And then where would I be when it came to being happy?

They Get To Complain And You Get To Not Care About It

And that is the most efficient way to resolve many problems.

If you’ve got a Facebook account for yourself or through some other group, you’ll have seen the posts that complain about something. They are sincere, sometimes…and self -serving, sometimes…and totally obscure, sometimes. Some people can actually write the trifecta, if they wish.

When they do,they may get a number of reactions:

a. Everyone will ask them if they are alright.

b. Everyone will suggest that they are all wrong.

c. No-one will react at all.

In each case they can derive some benefit from the exercise:

a. They’ll have gotten their pain/opinion/baited trap out to the world for all to see. The internal pressure will have been relieved. In some cases it takes time for the smell to dissipate.

b. They’ll find out whether they have any friends. And what their opinions are. And how they can be goaded in the future.

c. They’ll be able to receive targeted advertisements that touch in some way on every word written. You might not think that the social media engineers can make a credible marketing strategy out of the word ” and ” but you’ll be wrong. The writers should be prepared to be shilled with heavy-calibre ordnance.

The readers will also benefit:

a. They’ll know someone is alive. This may cause them joy or pain.

b. They’ll know all the deepest secrets. If people are dumb enough to write them.

c. Read (b.) again to yourself slowly…

c. They will have an opportunity to explode with rage and/or love. I cannot say which will be worse.

d. They will have been freed from the inclination to ever again have a thought on the subject. A great boon for some topics.

It Is Good To Fail Occasionally

I never thought I would be making a statement like that…it sounds vaguely memetic and that is really only one letter removed from emetic. But I have made a few blunders and errors in the last few months that have given me to think.

When I am riding high and doing all the things I want to, it all gets too seductive. I start to get arrogant and flippant with others. They generally don’t know it as I keep it to myself, but it still poisons my perceptions – both of them and of myself. I need a little failure to remind me that I am, as stated before, a plain bun.

Fortunately no-one got hurt and nothing got spoiled by my mistakes. It was a nuisance, but not a disaster. And I can do something that mends the faults in the future. I can also be darned grateful that the times when I really did mess up either did not get noticed or go through to completion. I think I got saved by a number of bells.

Here’s a final thought to send you all off thoughtfully sucking on the end of either a pen or a dagger – we often make ” B-for-Bucket ” lists of things we want to do in life to tease ourselves into action. Or we make ” F” lists to tell us things we do not want to do or people we don’t want to deal with. All good so far. We’re about as likely to follow one list as the other…

But how about making an” M ” list for yourself – call it a Muckit list – a list of mistakes that you have made in your life. You can make it as vague or as specific as you like, but when you’ve got the first part you should make a matching section that tells you what you’ve learned from each blunder.

Like the “B ” and ” F ” lists, the ” M ” list should be strictly hidden and kept a secret from everyone else. If they are going to see anything, let them see you getting better and better for a mysterious reason.

The Thing That They Took Away From You…

You know – that…thing. You remember – all those years they took that thing away from you. Your teachers did it using the school system. Then your employers did it. All those years.

” What thing? ” I hear you say? ” What’s missing? I got good marks in school and I got a good job. I’ve been going to it for years. I’m still going to it every morning. ”

And you’re coming home from it every evening, with a bit of luck. You’ll need a fair amount of money to do this – money for bus or train fare or money for the car and all its expenses. And you’ll be busy for a while. If you commute from an outer suburb into a city centre or ravel across town on the freeway, you’ll be spending time waiting on platforms or standing on a crowded vehicle as it grinds between stops. You’ll be banked up at the freeway on-ramp and then again at the off-ramp. If it’s cross town you’ll get to see many lights. Red, green, yellow, and then repeat…

The thing they all took from you was the time of your life. You didn’t have it sailing or fishing or dancing or reading novels. You didn’t have it in your hobby room or in bed with your partner. You didn’t have it in the garden or the library. You had it on the train platform or the bus stop or in the car and then it was gone…

You won’t get back the thing they took. But if you are smart you’ll figure out some way to stop giving them any more of it. Sell from home, write from home, invest from home. Make your food at home. Or do it at such a short distance from your bed that you can walk to where you do it. Then you can use the thing to your own advantage.

I’m being sort of smug about this as I have retired and am in the years of play again. I do have a once-a-week bout with morning traffic when I go to my hobby club but I can avoid it on all other occasions. I am not saving time – I’m spending it in the best way I know how.

How To Foster Disapproval For Fun And Profit

Those of you who have enjoyed our previous BGA How-To entitled ” Treason For Tots ” will particularly enjoy today’s episode. You’ll learn how to turn smiles into frowns and curses into cash. Make sure you have your pencils and notebooks handy!

Disapproval is one of the most valuable of human emotions – it can be used in nearly any social situation to command attention. In the past, however, many people did not realise that it could also make money for them. Fortunately with the advent of the internet and social media this can now be tapped into.

When you disapprove of someone or something, it is a sign that someone is responsible for displeasing you. Oh, you might hear people complaining about the weather or losing at the horse races, but this is just small talk – the real point of any conversation is to disapprove of something concrete and to demand that someone be made to pay for it. The payment need not always be a lot of money – abject apologies and grovelling servility are also acceptable to some extent – provided, of course, that there is some cash on the table. It may be difficult to get an adequate apology from a young person who has no source of income other than a weekly allowance, but they can save up, and it builds their character.

On the other hand, if someone disapproves of you, it is perfectly in order to cry out that you are a victim. You can choose from a wide range of angst these days – racism, sexism, religious bigotry, age discrimination, etc. If you are a champion of fine cuisine, you can complain when your food is not available. If it is provided you can complain that it is not cooked well. If your diet consists of raw things only, you can complain that it is not fresh enough. Eventually you can bring it down to being bitter about the patterns on the china plates. It’s just a case of persistence.

Being a victim means that you can march, carry signs, scuffle with police, and set fire to things while wearing a mask. Those people who have pointed out that this is what arsonists do are just tools of the fascist fire brigades.

The assiduous Guild member will be able to foster disapproval of nearly everything by nearly everyone, and be able to whip the average crowd into a frenzy of mayhem and rage. Really skilled practitioners can work up a crowd of Buddhist monks and Amish Quakers into a knife fight, after which they withdraw and disapprove of the whole procedure.

Remember the Guild motto:

Where there is a wrong , there is a right, and your position is right behind that – picking up banknotes with a grain shovel.

Featured Image: A teenager asked to clean up their room…