Australian Cynicism

We have often been accused of being cynics in Australia. This underestimates the citizens of this wonderful nation. We are greater than this – we are perfectly capable of being cynical in every country on Earth…with the possible exception of New Zealand. No-one is cynical in New Zealand, though they have been trying to establish a program to breed it for years.

Some have looked to climate, ancestry, ethnicity, history, and any number of other reasons for the national characteristic. It is all very well to score a PhD or a publisher’s advance upon this sort of speculation but the truth is that it is none of these things. The reason Australians are cynical is geography – we are far enough away from the rest of the world that we figure we can get away with it. We cock a snook at the various Kims, Vlads, Donalds, and Angelas…as well as the unpronounceable leaders of Africa, South America, and Canada and it is rarely sheeted home to us.

Oh, mind you, if we are of certain ethnicities that maintain spy networks here and dungeons back home into which our relatives can be thrust, we tend to be a bit quieter…but there are still pictures of Winnie the Pooh and copies of Charley Hebdo magneted onto the refrigerator in spite of official disapproval. They probably get whisked away when a national festival dinner party is held, but they come back afterwards.

Be fair to us – we are cynical about ourselves as much as we are about people overseas. Indeed, there is no topic more dear to the hearts or the sphincters of the Australians than our own national and state governments. Oh, and the local government, too. We’ll cheerfully discuss how much we despise our fearless leaders at the drop of a beer bottle cap. Our leaders hold us in similar affection.

It is known technically as a Mudgee Standoff – we don’t get to keep machine guns in our houses but Bunnings sells rope and there are trees aplenty  with stout limbs, so the checks and balances of the Westminster government are still in force. We were once told by one politician that ” We’ll keep the bastards honest. ” Actually I think that was just a case of someone making a mistake with the punctuation when they reported it. What he really  said was:

” We’ll keep the bastards. Honest… ”

But that’s just me being cynical.

 

 

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The N Word

Students of modern society and manners know that one never uses the N word.

Likewise, one apparently never uses the K word in South Africa without risking a jail sentence. There may be other things that are also risky there, but you would need to depend upon other people’s first-hand knowledge to list them. Best ask a South African.

Are there other restrictions upon the alphabet? Well, a different K word would probably draw ire in New York and fire in Tel Aviv. The B word in Prague and the G word in Pyongyang as well. And there is probably a list of other letters banned from the lexicon all over the place. Languages that depend upon letters other than the standard Roman ones may have banned their own symbols as well.

Yet…you can seemingly get away with it when you are associated with the motion picture industry. I walked down the hallway of our local picture palace and noted a poster advertising a new movie coming  – the title consisting solely of a G word. This might sell it to a less sophisticated audience and, of course, here in Australia this G word does not trigger off the interest that it would in the USA. But it is a dangerous thing to do, if you want to promote something…there are other G words that can be brought into play in the American border states that work quite in reverse.

Probably too late for this movie, but future Hollywood executives might want to consider not using pejoratives as their main calling card.

A Guilty Plea From A Habitual Criminal

I have been advised by my solicitor to plead guilty to making jokes and to throw myself on the mercy of the court. He said this as he dumped all the papers into his briefcase and left the court. He could have had the decency to laugh as he went through the doors…

Making jokes is not normally a criminal offence – with the possible exception of Melbourne Comedy Weeks – and most jokesters do not need fear jail time. Of course if they crack the wrong jest in Iran, North Korea, or Saudi Arabia they can expect to be jugged and tortured…but then that could happen for eating cornflakes with the wrong spoon there. They are tough rooms to work.

Poking fun at people here in Australia is fairly safe, if you aim lower than the Magistrate’s Court when you do it – anything there and above is surrounded by enough statutory dignity to make funny business dangerous.  I would be interested to see a magistrate laugh, and to see what sort of entertainment would provoke it. I cannot imagine that they laugh at the foibles of the human condition – for so often they are the very people tasked with sorting out peccadillos and punishing people for having them. Perhaps their humour is of a transcendent kind, incomprehensible to the lower orders.

But sometimes you fire off good ones and nothing at all happens. No laughs, no smiles, – not even the alternate satisfaction of an outraged response. Zip. Nada. Pure silence. And after a period of time the horrible truth starts to dawn – the person sitting there in the audience like a lump of suet really has no clue as to what the joke is about.

This can be the result of stupidity – as with the frankly stupid – or of ignorance, when someone has no points of mutual reference for a topic. Sometimes that’s age, though I must say youth more frequently deprives people of understanding than does middle age. Old folks may not know the pop tunes or latest cultural reference, but they know a helluva lot more about the world than ever the young are taught. And they can take as much fun in simple and mannerly jokes as they young do with swearing and shock tactics. The old people reserve their shock tactics for worse situations…you don’t wanna be there when they cut loose.

Whatever the reason for the blank stare and the deadly silence after the punchline, the comedian should never panic and start to explain the joke. It might seem that it will right the situation – that it will result in a peal of laughter – but it never does. Frequently the dullard cannot grasp the joke even after it is dissected and laid out on a pin board – and every minute that they stand there goggling and gulping, the joke teller loses traction.

The best answer is to abandon the thing immediately. Move on to another joke or another topic. Or just move on – but as you go, turn to someone else in the audience and ask them to explain the failure. With a bit of luck they will.

Feeling For The World Is Not the Same…

It is not the same as feeling with the world, nor is it the same as feeling at the world. Let me explain.

Note: It isn’t about feeling at all. Put feeling out of your mind – unless you want to feel. It is about how you live your own life in relation to everyone else.

A. If you feel for the world you act to please other people – but you act to please them in expectation of some reward. The reward might be income, plaudits, interest, trophies…all legitimate things, but all really a fee that you hope to earn with your feeling. ( It’s not about feeling unless you want to feel. )

The greatest danger to you is if you do not please the world and they do not reward you. You don’t get the job, you don’t win the prize, you don’t get a good review…the only thing that is left to you is guilt and despondency.

The second greatest danger is if you do win the approval, job, prize, love…if that occurs you are a bought body. They have you, and you cannot break free without condemning yourself to…guilt and despondency. You might as well feel bad early and get used to it.

B. If you feel with the world you are a marvel of sympathy. Everyone can demand this emotion of you and everyone will get it – until eventually you are ready to kill the next person you see. Extreme empathy is as dangerous as nerve gas or Lewisite, but without giving you that warm fuzzy feeling. Once you start to be compassionate for everything that comes onto your computer or television screen you will be marked as a mark. And it can mark you for life.

You will receive the most appallingly crass machine-made letters in the post asking for money for undefined orphans in ill-conceived places. The only thing that will really relate to you is your name and address, and you may have given this over in an entry to a supermarket contest. No amount of money will be refused but no amount of money is ever enough. You are connected by your own hand to a financial milking machine and until you throw off the suckers you will have extremely sore teats.

C. If you feel at  the world – defy it and dare it to do its worst – you can  sure that it will take notice of you and diligently fulfill that request.

The internet will be your court and the trolls will be your judge and jury. Anything you do will be laughed at ( unless you are a stand-up comedian ) and you will be mocked mercilessly. Memes will be drawn and written and shared – and they may not even be funny memes. You’ll have to wear it, because if you don’t…you’ll be pilloried as a bad sport. if you acquiesce you’ll be pilloried as a coward.

Try to get a pillory with a padded seat, as you’ll be there a long time. Get used to the sound of derisive laughter and the feel of squishy tomatoes hitting you in the head.

So. What to do?

Well, I was going to suggest that you feel your way along – being sympathetic to real people for real reasons…and not really caring if they can ever repay you. And that you still rage against things you feel are wrong – but don’t feel bad when your desire for change or justice or revenge or a dry pair of socks is not fulfilled. And that you feel for your wallet and   make sure that it is still there while feeling for the bin – and that’s where the dodgy charity letters can go.

But I’m not exactly sure how I feel about that. I’ll need to log into Feelbook and see what I’m supposed to feel.

PS: Also a good idea to feel around behind you for a good big rock, occasionally.

 

Pense-ing About…

It makes a difference whether you do it in France or Soho. You’ll be elected a fellow of the Academie in one instance and arrested on suspicion in the other. Neither is considered much of an honour.

This illustrates the problem we have in modern society – so many of the languages that we use are derived from other ones that we do not. Cross-overs, appropriations, intrusions, and slang all combine to muddy the pure streams of communication. And despite the efforts of  academic societies and their government stooges, the mixture is just going to get worse. As people migrate they haul languages with them.

Pensez – ” to think ” in French – has given a name to a small government stipend called the pension. In its turn, this has become the name for dingy hotels that people receiving the money inhabit. They are dingy because they are cheap – that government money does not go far. The end result of it all is that the inhabitants are reduced to thinking how they would like to have more money so that they could move away and not have to think any more.

There is a deal of thinking going on at the government offices, too. Some of the workers think about how they can stop giving out the stipend, and some think about how long they will have to stay at the counter dealing with angry citizens – in short, how long until they can get a pension and go and think for themselves. It is complex and disturbing,

In contrast, the Soho ponce just hangs around street corners and bars soliciting vice and corruption. Their only worry is when the pubs will open and whether the cops are watching. It is a much more settled and comfortable existence and I should recommend it to all.

Note: I have been informed that if I spell pense with a ‘c’ and a capital ‘P’ I will be put under official scrutiny by the FBI. Okay. Anything to get readers…

 

I Think Of You As A Good Person

But I’ve been wrong about these things before…

I try. I really do try. Every day I attempt to have a good opinion of the people I meet. Some days are successful days and some days are just…well…days. But the good news is I am prepared to reset the mechanism at midnight and re-consider your character in the morning.

This means that in many cases you will have a chance to do better – to appear kinder and more intelligent and more honest than on previous occasions. And each time you do, it will raise you in my estimation. You may reach a plateau – like a level in a video game – that means each thing you do is going to earn you extra psychic points. This is wonderful, and eventually you may get to the point where you turn into a princess or a prince and the golden moneybags start to appear on the screen.

Conversely, every time you foist something on me via Facebook that has been supplied by the latest fake news source, you drop down a notch. Please be aware: there are only so many notches before we reach rock bottom.

In case this sounds really arrogant…well it is. It’s part of the mechanism that I employ to navigate through the world. So far I have hit remarkably few rocks and shoals and I’m willing to attribute this to the personal cynicism about which you are reading. As long as I keep it inside, it is not going to do you any more harm than you deserve. If you behave as a lady or a gentleman should, you will be treated as such.

And we will have a successful day.

Note: Unfortunately this sort of philosophy requires me to be a good person as well. It is annoying, but there you are. You can’t make omelettes without breaking expensive kitchen utensils.

 

The Best Comedian Loved The Best Audience

You’ll hear a lot of guff about comedy today – every seedy pub that can afford a microphone and a wooden stool thinks that they can find Dave Allen in their general population of drunks. They can’t, of course, but that doesn’t stop them from chopping off fingers left right and centre in the search…The audiences would be better if they were working on ears…

The guff is generally to do with how vile and obnoxious you need to be to succeed as a joke teller. There’s a fair contest to lower the standard of the art and I must say that some comedians seem to have set their hearts on the Marianas Trench. Dark, cold, and under tremendous pressure – the only creatures to be seen have bulging eyes and enormous teeth. Melbourne comedy festival pub stuff all right.

Mustn’t bag the Victorians too much – I’ve seen local fun merchants roll jokes off the deck here in Perth with the pistols set for 5000 feet and then watched them wait with a silent mic until they detonated. They were so far down by the time that happened you could barely hear the pop.

I’m sorry for the passing of the clean comic. The family comedian who could run a half-hour show on a television network each week and not lose the custom of either the audience or the advertisers. Some of the classics could crack the screen with nothing more than a dead-pan doubletake…a signature silence that you waited all week to see and laugh at.

The humourist – stand-up, sit-down, or whatever – in the days of strict television and print standards had to respect their audience and craft jokes that amused without abusing. They wanted to be laughed with, as well as at, and the very best of them went further than that – they got the love of the audience as well as the applause.

PS: The lust of the audience is also good, but make sure that your clothes can be dry cleaned.