Evidently A Good Person…

How often are we greeted with this over the morning egg and coffee? In most cases it is quite the opposite – a beloved entertainment figure is held up to scorn and calumny for some sexual offence – a local official is found to have stolen money – the schoolmaster is pictured dressed in an SS uniform at a Christmas party. It is not so much a case of shaking our faith as preventing it from developing in the first place.

I am always willing to assume the worst about people…but secretly hope that I am wrong. I would be delighted if the monster that is booed from the political platform was kind to puppies. I might not be prepared to vote for them, but I would trust them to walk the dog.

Equally, I am fair-minded when it comes to actual criminality – as long as it can come before a magistrate who is not elected by the local community. I have faith in the British system of justice, though the British can give me an ache in the pancreas as often as not when they start to spout John Bullshit. Done fairly, the British court system does mete out justice in most cases.

It depends upon evidence – evidence that can be clearly presented, seen by the magistrate…and everyone else in court…and that can stand the test of proof. The cases where there is a lack of evidence are harder to deal with, but I still think that they err on the side of caution enough to allow justice to prevail. Unfortunately they can also err on the side of the ruling classes in more cases than you’d think, but this is dying out.

I should still prefer to stand a trial in front of a standard magistrate here than the Supreme Court of nearly any other nation in the world.

” Don’t be Ashamed Of Your Urges. “

Some people are hard to startle. SAS sergeants, nuns, cess pool cleaners… They have seen more than you will ever been exposed to and are still sane. You would be silly to try the title of this essay on them, expecting them to jump. They would take it calmly and just punch you.

On the other hand, there are people who are ready to jump 10 feet in the air, turn left, and explode if you merely look at them and smile. While it’s a lot of fun to do so, it’s really tame sport – you are facing no challenge. Better to look for someone in the middle and exercise your talents on them. Here are a few suggestions:

a. Schoolteachers.

The masters, mistresses, heads, principals, or whatever of the education system might be thought of as hardened as our aforementioned SAS sergeant. After all, they face the enemy every day of their working lives. But you only have to ask them a question particularly attuned to their speciality to watch them wind up like an alarm clock. You may have to do a little research into whichever discipline they teach, but once you get there you’ll discover that there are pits of lava and landmines everywhere.

At a noisy cocktail party ask a mathematics teacher if they read the news article today that said a teacher in Adelaide has successfully squared a circle and proved it. Use the noise of the party to make your getaway, but be assured that your victim will be awake and at their desk at 4:00 AM trying to figure out how.

Or ask an English Lit teacher to justify Barnaby Rudge in the context of existential slavery reform. You can toast marshmallows on the resultant heat.

Or just mention that there was a parliamentary petition in Facebook to reduce teacher’s salaries to a sensible level and that you signed it…

b. Health professionals

You can torture a biochemist with anti-vax memes but this is tame game. You can annoy a dentist by challenging them to defend the practise of root canal therapy ( and there are some good pamphlets available likening it to poisoning wells…). You can freeze a physician by asking them to justify their practice’s rate of death and disfigurement over the last three years in light of recent discoveries. But the most fun of all comes when you find a marginal worker who massages spines or prepares dilute water drinks to cure broken legs. Then you don’t deride them – you praise them – and ask them to publicly declare their faith to all the people around them. Some will start to do so…

c. Sales persons

It doesn’t matter what they sell – they have been compelled to tout some dud of whatever object or service in which they deal at some time in the last three years. Ask them about it…and then challenge them to defend their decisions.

Cold sweat is a marketable commodity. Have a mop and a jar ready to collect stocks.

 

Negativity Is Your Friend

Do not be bullied by Facebook contacts who post bright and shining memes every day. They are just trying to jolly you into feeling good. On the contrary – pay attention to the serious counsel of the Backstabbers Guild Of Australia. We would never lure you down the path of happiness and then abandon you smiling.

You need the bad news in your life and you need it first. It can make all the difference to whether or not you’re going to be able to recognise good news later on. Remember a spoonful of bile helps the sugar go down. And we are here to make you bilious.

Let’s take a concrete example. Suppose someone told you that a harbour cruise with business associates would promote team spirit and help you with your commitment to the family. Sounds good. Then they tell you it will be with Cousin Salvatore and Three Finger Louie Custozza and the concrete will be setting around your feet in a bucket…If they’d have mentioned the specifics of the thing first you wouldn’t have had to smile and make small talk while they tied the ropes.

Let’s face it  – good news brightens a moment but bad news works far longer.

If you want to be pessimistic yourself – either on a professional level or in the amateur league – you have all the vast resources of CNN News, the ABC, and any number of chaired academics to draw upon. You will not have heard of the academics before, but if you stand still long enough and pay them enough for appearance fees they will become a household name. They hope.

In any case we’ll all be ruined, says Hanrahan*, and we can accept this as authoritative since it has been the steady verdict since 1919. That’s a hundred years of dismal and you can’t ask fouler than that, can you…

*  North American translation – famous Australian bush poem. Go google.

 

Arranging Adequate Outrage

If you wish to draw attention to yourself – for commercial gain or personal pleasure – there is no better way these days than to demand that people be outraged. The way society has been carefully prepared and cocked, they are all to happy to be triggered off by something. Anything. Everything.

If you are an artist and your work is selling badly, or not at all, you would be well advised to arrange to become a victim of something. Then demand that others be distressed at your plight. Believe me, there are plenty of people out there who will be incandescent with rage about whatever you set in front of them. They would have been equally so at the sight of a tram ticket, but that is beside the point – you want their angst in a pressure vessel that can be sprayed onto the market garden in hopes of a crop of money or publicity.

If you are not particularly arty – perhaps you are a maker of water pipes or own a firm that resurfaces driveways – but still want to benefit in a commercial way from the instant publicity of a lynching or sexual misconduct allegation, you are going to have to become artful. The capture of the mob mentality is certainly possible, but you need to appeal to their best worst instincts.

Attach the name of your product to some currently popular concept. Animal kindness and/or cruelty or gender politics ( and let me tell you, their how to vote card is a steamer…), or the canonization of Che Guevara. Then complain that someone will not let you do something. Cite the vested interests or the police or the church or Woolworth’s. Cite anything at all, but get the readers to groan with the perceived injustice of it all.

Remember, every Facebook like, emoticon, share, or angry response is money in the bank. Not yours, necessarily, but someone’s. And some of it may overflow like lava onto you. It’s all hot sugar and somewhere there is a mountain of it just laughing to itself…

The Joy Of Recognition

Most times there is a joy in recognition. I experience this each time I call at my local hobby shop to spend money. Four of the staff greet me by name and we pass pleasantries. I am buoyed by the encounter and undoubtedly spend more money because of it.

I notice that it is also a feature of the old-time radio station that broadcasts locally. People ring in to say how much they enjoy the shows and each caller is acknowledged on air. It can be a little long-winded but I’ll bet it ensures that the callers stay tuned.

As I get older I can sometimes forget the names of people I meet – an awkward situation if I’ve just been introduced to them. There are few opportunities to ask for a repeat, and even fewer chances to get away with it if I have to introduce them in turn to other people. I can sometimes get away with it among friends if I refer to them all as ” Gertrude ” but this cannot extend to several people at once and is awkward if you are dealing with the Anglican clergy. Catholics are easier; ” Father Gertrude ” always works.

The real problem is the casual street meeting with someone from your past. I never sired children outside of marriage so there are no surprises there, but I did treat vast numbers of patients in my time as a dentist. They often remember my name but I can rarely reciprocate. Fortunately retirement keeps me out of the places where they congregate and I can peer round a corner before I enter a room.

The current mania for masks has made it easier to go unrecognised. I like to wear my evil clown one on visits to the supermarket.

The Ill Manners Award

We often see award ceremonies on the television. They can be for motion pictures, television productions, or other public entertainments. It’s no surprise to see this, as the mechanism of entertainment is best placed to laud itself.

In the publishing, press, and literary world this sort of thing is also…well…rife. Not content with just the Pulitzer prize contest, many organisations make subsidiary contests with awards of honour to whomever their committee decides upon. I suspect some of these, but then I was always a cynic about the $64,000 Question, too.

Step further into the market place and you will encounter literally hundreds of trade-related awards that are trumpeted and bestowed every month. Every division of every business that wants to have an excuse for publicity can invent a contest and an award. Lucky you if you can afford to win or buy a trophy.

I propose an award from the Backstabbers Guild of Australia that will focus upon ill manners. I’ll survey the year’s crop of Facebook posts, news headlines, and scurrilous rumours and award first, second, and third place to those people who have been outstandingly egregiously foul. I have one candidate already.

Do you wish to nominate someone? How ill-mannered of you. Award date is the first of July.

Your Government Grant Is Ready

He’s right there at Appomattox Court House. Just waiting for you. General? General Lee? Are you going to get out of bed? General ?

Well that was probably the last US government Grant that did any good at all – though poor old R.E. was probably not in a good mood to be getting one.

I’m more sanguine. The feds and the state government seem to be showering the coins down just at present. Adding together the factors of my low income, age, and health care card seems to have opened up the coffers somewhat. I won’t get paid for not being at work because I am not employed anyway, but they threw $ 750 at me, then another $ 100 or so every so often to ease the rates or the water or other utilities.

This is good, as I do not propose to go travelling or buy expensive motor cars or caravans. I eat regularly and well, but I cook regularly and well, too. There’s a link there that I intend to foster. As far as purchasing expensive clothing with the money…well I have a closet and a wardrobe full of expensive clothing that never gets worn. Even the pile of cheap underwear and socks has not diminished – so the economic stimulus will likely go to groceries.

Is the household doing poorly? No, it’s not. It’s warm, cosy, fed, watered, and entertained. The local library sent a mystery book hamper that is being read through and these are apparently available as many times as we ask. Don’t mind if I do. The beer fridge is full.

I shall watch the account to see if further amounts arrive.

The Key To Happiness Is…

What? You expect me to tell you? How the hell should I know what your key to happiness is? I’m not you.

My happiness? Toy airplanes and rum toddies and pinup girls. Hardly do for you…I don’t think you could build a toy airplane if your life depended upon it. You need entirely different keys. The only thing I can help you with is to tell you where to look for them.

Where you left them, dummy. They will be where they were before you went off and started scrabbling for a living. While you still had it all before you to do, the things that you loved to do were your key. Now that you have been doing the no-fun stuff for years the old keys may seem rusty or inadequate…but they still fit the lock. Time to polish them up and give it a try.

Were you an explorer and traveller as a kid? If you were and hated it, stay home and be happy. If you loved it, go out the door and don’t come back in until way after dark. When the world opens again, stay away overnight…then the weekend. Then go anywhere and you’ll be happy.

Did you love to read? You can join multiple ending libraries, haunt bookstores, build your own library. You can write your own books – journals if you are shy, or novels if you are not. Remember that you can tell lies as well as truth when you write so take yourself seriously.

If you wanted to paint, go buy the fanciest and most useless box set of paints in Jacksons and burn canvas. Or go sketch live models at a class. Or get a camera and take pictures…I promise you it will seem easy until you try to get better.

Nearly every division of human endeavour can be done to some extent, and there can be happiness found within the boundaries of that pursuit. And you can tailor the key to suit the lock perfectly.

I Used To Be A Cynic…

But then I lost faith in the whole thing.

My childhood ambition was to be a Navy fighter pilot flying a jet armed with rockets that I could use to blast my schoolyard enemies with. It was probably a confused thought at the time. As I grew up my eyesight worsened and I realised that I would never be given my own Cutlass to fly…

However, as I read more and more humorists and columnist’s books in my youth a second dream slowly took form; I would be a Walter Winchell cynic; a gadfly who would blast those enemies* from closer to the ground. No rockets – just the darts of barbèd wit. By the time I finished high school I’d tried a few volleys and found they served well. I was too young to realise how blasting some adults could make them into hardened enemies and how they could revenge themselves decades later.

Then followed a long period of being kind, both professionally for a price and privately for  amusement. It was wearing but fortunately there was always the thought that I could fall back on ghastly behaviour in retirement. It’s here now and a kindly fate presented me with the platform and opportunity to write daily columns as my own editor. I look on each morning as presenting me with a new page, upon which I may write. Some mornings the inkpot contains perfume and some see it full of blood. I like the vitriol days the best, as you can wash anything in it and it comes out clean.

*  Who were they? I have no idea. I was ten at the time and foolishly failed to keep records.

The Emotional Support Caterpillar

I am locked down in viral-fear prison and look to be so for weeks, if not months, to come. I can’t afford an expensive dog and the cat provides no support at all. Yet I need someone to talk to.

How fortunate for me that I found Curley. He was out on the brick pathway yesterday between rain showers roaring along toward the bushes. When I saw him he stopped dead. I think that’s a defence mechanism – apparently a successful one as Curley is about the size of a Volkswagen. I have no idea how big a butterfly he’s destined to become but I’ll bet he needs a thick runway to take off.

As I watched him I noticed that he did not move at all, though exposed. Once I picked him up he rolled into a ball and when I deposited him on the surface of the photographic table he still stayed curled. I reckoned he couldn’t stay that way forever so I turned the nice warm lights on and readied the camera. Eventually I got bored and went to put on a cup of tea.

I was only gone a couple of minutes  but when I got back Curley was headed off the edge of the table. He’d seized his chance. As soon as I saw him, he froze again – and didn’t move at all, even though he was half off the surface.

Not wishing to terrify the grub any further, I rolled him up and put him into the bush he was first heading for. He’s welcome to eat it all and eventually fly away. My only regret is I shall not see him do it.

Who says they are mindless? Curley knew what he was doing.