” How Do You Know That I Don’t Know What You Ought To Know That I Found Out? “

” There. Hah ! You can’t answer that, can you? ”

Well, no I can’t. I don’t even understand the question, let alone any answer. I lost traction at the second ” Don’t ” and slid off the road. As it is, I don’t think I’ll get back up – just let me lie here for a awhile.

This sort of rhetoric is all too common in the criminal worlds of marriage, CNN news reports, and Senate Enquiries. It starts off with the determination to accuse, then confuse, and then finishes by refusing to be defused. It’s like a German bomb at the bottom of the garden – you know it’s deadly and you don’t want to go anywhere near it – but the privy is right next door and eventually you’re going to have to pee…

As a younger person I was fearful – and when I was a student, a junior practitioner, or a shop employee, I always felt at such a social disadvantage that any sort of bullying like this always succeeded. I was always flustered. I was always defensive. I played right into the hands and wandered right across the sights of anyone who wanted to set one of these things up.

Now I am older, retired, and irresponsible. You may think that I should have phrased that last bit differently – that I should have written something about having fewer responsibilities. Possibly. That, too, But I’ll stick with irresponsible because I know me very well.

However you phrase it, I am a different creature. I still fluster, but only in traffic jams, and even then not so much. I have traded defensiveness for offensiveness and find I like it far better. And if you essay to bully me I regard it as an invitation to a fine day’s sport. I am retired and I can play all day.

I also have the advantage that I laugh at myself and suggest to others that they do so as well. This removes the weapon of scorn from the bully’s hand. I am financially independent, which takes the whip away from the boss. I’ve done my time on the gurney and the operating table and have lost a lot of fear of the physical thereby. And I have all day to play.

Ask me a bullying question, Mr. De Mille. I’m ready for my close-up…

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You Can’t Say That!

But I did say it

” But you are not allowed to say that! That is not acceptable! You are not allowed to have those opinions! We forbid it! ”

We? Who is this ” we ” that you write about?

”  Me and all the other the moral people! The people who are caring and sensible and good and right and virtuous! The people who demand that you toe the line and conform to our moral standards and only print our opinion! ”

So no other opinion is permitted?

” No! We are a free country and you are free to think as we do or suffer our displeasure! ”

Do you always speak in exclamation marks?

” Yes! We are never wrong! “

Cynical? Naw – Don’t Trust Myself That Much…

I have been accused of cynicism and irony.

The persons who said this were probably hoping I’d offer them a bribe to change their minds. I would be happy to send them a bouquet of roses and a box of chocolates for their opinion – It has opened my eyes to the value of mistrust and suspicion.

Of course there are others who see this philosophy as detrimental – who cry that all men are brothers and all women are sisters. Take a look at a family that is composed of brothers and sisters and count the bruises, scars, and other souvenirs. You don’t get that as an only child. if you want to be savage you have to go away from the cozy hearth and the bosom of the family. Strangers are your only legitimate targets and the world only has 9 billion of them left.

As far as the irony, I do think I may have been a little indiscrete with that. I have laughed where I should have cried and pointed out follies that others wished to be hidden. It has made me enemies, though not the sort of quality fiends that I really want. Mostly just people who snarl at me in passing. Some, of course, adopt the sensible course of putting on stern disapproving looks or blank RBF looks. There is little one can say to them, though there is a great deal that can be written about them. I tend to do this on the doors of lavatory stalls. With pictures.

Cynicism has saved me a great deal of money in the past, and as internet promotions ramp up, I’m looking to it as a real shield. Of course I disbelieve anything that comes over the telephone these days, particularly if it is spoken in a Peter Sellers accent…but I am also binning any number of contacts that urge me to do things on email or Facebook. When you close down the latter the air clears remarkably.

 

Treasure The Honest Shopkeeper

If you find a shopkeeper who will refuse to sell you something on the basis that it is not right for you, you have a gem.

These people may be hard to find – but if you enter into conversation with them over a regular basis -and if it is a genuine and respectful exchange…you can find a whole new world of intelligent help out there.

I talk regularly to the family who run our local post office agency – and to the lady and the chap who run the Asian food store in the shopping centre. I talk to the man who runs the bottle shop, and to the lady who is teller at my local bank. The result is I get told how to cook well with the Asian ingredients, when to change my deposits for good interest rates, and how to send postal items safely at low cost.

Occasionally the bottle shop man warns me off a dud or mentions a good deal. I am always repaid for listening.

Moral: Your local retailers are human beings who appreciate being treated as such and who  will  make your life better if you recognise the fact.

The Morality Machine – Part Two – My Favourite Vice

My absolutely favourite vice is a 3″ Record located in my Little Workshop. I inherited it from my father’s workshop some 36 years ago and there isn’t a week goes by that it doesn’t make my life easier.

As far as moral failings go, I treasure some of these too. I am not religious and so am rather denied the pleasures of sinning, but I can still have flaws – and some of these can be considered vices. This is by people who don’t want to do them or who do rather fancy them but have never succeeded. There is a great deal of jealousy in the assignment of terms like vice and virtue and whenever anyone essays to do it, they reveal more about themselves than those they judge.

I’m happy to say that none of my vices seem to do much harm. No-one has fallen ill or dead from mine and the occasional bruise or loss of skin is no more than you would get from an ice hockey match. I do not frequent dens of iniquity – but equally I do not enter bastions of righteousness. I have to be satisfied with small vices and limited consequences.

As far as eradicating vice, I am all for it – provided it is someone else’s and major enough to be worth the outrage. I look closely at the causes I am asked to espouse and the height of the moral horse I am expected to ride. I’ve been known to choose the Shetland rather than the Percheron. Do not expect me to be much of a knight in shining armour for any but the foulest of dragons or fairest of maiden. The middling ones can get on with it between themselves and good luck to ’em.

Will I be a BETTER PERSON if I eliminate vice from my life? Possibly, but who could tell – they don’t know from what horrid depths I spring. Drenched in blood, stark naked, and chasing the Lord Mayor up the High Street with an tomahawk may indeed be a vast improvement from what I was a week ago, and thereby deserve your praise. Likewise my appearing in vestments singing a prayer may be the sign of a drop into deep depravity. You need some accurate foreknowledge to calibrate your judgement.

And I’m not going to give you a chance to form one – I’m vicious that way.

Do You High Five The Computer?

No. I point at it and yell ” Bumpah ! ” when I finish writing a knockout column.

Then I put it in the draft section and let it sit for at least a couple of days before I re-read it. If it is still ” Bumpah! ” I can post it. The two days lets me see the typos, and introduces a certain degree of calm into the thing. It also means that sometimes the exclamation is changed to”

” Trasho! ”

Thanks to Mr. W. Rogers, I am taking more of the opportunities to shut up that are presented to me. I hope silence will smooth relations with people in the future and serve as an elegant setting to the occasional flash of diamond-like wit.

Would that world leaders who resort to the mobile phone keypad whenever stressed to send out tweets were as cautious. It might prevent a great deal of angst in the rest of us.

Do We Know Who Our Enemies Are?

And I am not talking about political enemies, class enemies, or national enemies…You can leave those to the government to deal with. They’ll make ’em for you and then arrange for you to meet them when it is most inconvenient.

I’m not even including hostile institutions or businesses – the organisations or groups that plot your destruction during secret meetings in dark caverns. These are a normal facet of life.

I’m thinking about personal enemies – private individuals who hate you. People who would get at you if they only could. They come in different varieties:

a. Someone whom you have wronged. Stolen their treasure, perhaps, or murdered their father in a duel. Seduced their wife/husband/partner/lawnmower man. These are persons who contemplate a blood feud but cannot decide yet which of your veins to open.

b. Someone whom you have done a favour or service for. This can be a potent source of enmity, particularly if the good deed was observed by others and required an equally good deed in return…that was never done. Your enemy is enclosed in a guilt-edged cage.

c. Someone of whom you have been contemptuous. Even if this is no more than a word or a glance, you can be sure that it is the deepest poisoned cut of all. If you have made your contempt amply plain in public, expect no abatement of their anger.

d. An ugly person, if you are beautiful, or a beautiful person, if you are ugly. Whatever a mirror might reveal, your enemy can see themselves in you, and they hate what they see.

Now, what do you do about enemies?

If you cannot think of one, leave it go at that. They’ll still be there, but if you don’t see them, it’s like having mice in the wainscotting.

If you suspect someone is an enemy, go to them and ask them if they are. If they aren’t, they’ll say ” No ” and if they are, they’ll say ” No”. Then they’ll ask you why you asked…and you can tell them that you were worried about it. Then they’ll have to start being overly friendly to defuse the awkward situation. Make them pay for coffee.

If you have proof positive that someone is an enemy, treasure this. An enemy is a very valuable person. They will always be interested in you and the best ones will know where you are at all times. You can ring them up and they’ll always answer – try this at 3:00 AM and see how true it is. Remember that as you are their enemy they worry about you far more than anyone else does.

Sort of touching, in a way.