That feeling of exasperation when you are surrounded by people all trying to be cooler than each other – and the end result is the ambient temperature drops dramatically. And these desperate social actors live on drama…
I was always a conservative and repressed little fellow. Primary school and high school saw me dressed as my mother commanded and – to be honest – there was not a lot of sartorial splendour in rural Canada in the 1950’s. You could be well-dressed in a flannel shirt and jeans. The delightful thing for me is that this is still the case 70 years later.
You were also not encouraged to be either high, wide nor handsome in your opinions and speech. This may still be the case in Canada, though you are allowed to be scornful of the American President as long as he is not a Democrat or coloured. Hey, Canada has some standards, even if they are double…
But getting back to conservatism…it need not be a bad thing. It’s just a matter of context. No-one really wants an eye surgeon or dentist who is wild and cutting-edge radical – particularly when you’re their their patient. And few of us welcome return-to-the basics airline pilots who always fly at 500 ft. and stick their fingers out the window to see which way the wind is blowing. We reserve these things for their natural place.
Likewise we might well do with a politician who is not continuously at the barricades – particularly if they have no idea in which direction to throw their paving stone. A person who is not driven by popular shrieks from the mob is helpful. Even the shrieking radicals appreciate them, as they provide convenient targets for mindless abuse.
So calm down a little. You’ll still be able to subvert western civilisation and look kewl but you can do it at a less frenetic pace. And better dressed.
I shall set up my small wood lathe and turn a truncheon out of hardwood. Sanded, sealed, and polished, with a small brass plaque bearing the title of this essay; ” As Opposed To What? “. I shall carry it with me wherever i go. And when someone tries to tell me, sell me, or smell me, I shall strike them with it.
The number of times I do this will depend on how repetitive they are in their plaint.
All day long I read advertisements from people outside my reach. The newspaper, computer screen, and social media are always telling me what to think or what to buy. I can do nothing about this save binning the rags, blocking the posts, and snoozing the monomaniacs. But when they approach me in person I will have my trusty truncheon o’ cynicism handy in my pocket. As Mae West might have put it…it isn’t a pistol but I’m still glad to see you.
Every shill who wants to extract a shilling – every zealot who wants me as an acolyte – every fellow traveller who wants me as a useful idiot – will be fair game for the T 0′ C. I shall invite them to join the club by the most direct means…
Now, what was it you wanted to tell me?
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It makes all the difference – just saying it to people as you meet them. If it is a social meeting, it shows that you are determined to be pleasant and if it s a commercial encounter, it shows you are going to be polite. It invites a similar treatment.
I also find it is a useful greeting in the afternoon and evening as it concentrates the hearer’s attention – they think they have misheard you and listen harder. Never give the game away – do it dead pan.
When you leave, ” goodbye ” is much better than ” see ya ” or any such thing. No-one can complain of formal politeness.
a. Because they may be a deal more powerful than you. If they find out the extent of your animosity, they may call in an associate and have you turned off.
b. They may not be 100% hateful. They may do a certain amount of good – and if you hate this good, you will be as hateful as they.
c. Because you may not have been told the entire story – see (b.) above. Or you may have been told frightful lies by other people with other axes to grind. You may be a dupe or a dope.
d. Because the sun rises in the east and sets in the west every 24 hours. Tomorrow things may change and the person you hate may do admirable things. Stake your virtue claim too early and you could be on the other side of the fence.
e. Because hating lessens you…not the object of your hate. They rarely even perceive your angst. And it takes a lot of time and energy that you could devote to fun stuff.
f. Because you can occasionally appear ridiculous in your anger. It’s all sturm und drang to start with but as soon as people start to laugh at you the wind changes. You rarely regain the upper hand.
g. Because you call increased attention to your own behaviour…and this is rarely a good thing.
Some of the best questions in life have a yes or no answer.
” Do you want a beer and a sandwich? ”
” Do you realise you just won a free tank of petrol? ”
” Can I have a real pony, Daddy? ”
All answerable in either the positive or negative and they put an end to speculation comfortably. Even the slightly less pleasant ” Is it true that you threw your sister-in-law under the tramcar? ” can be dealt with by telling the truth, and will bring no further harm to the poor woman.
However, as soon as you introduce a qualifier you make trouble. You may indeed want a beer and a sandwich, but you invite criticism straightaway by asking what sort of sandwiches are on offer. Even worse – if, after the list is recited, you ask if there are any other sort…your welcome is over.
Worse can become worst. If the question about the dear departed and the public transport vehicle is asked in open court by the public prosecutor, and you counter-question:
” But wasn’t that what you paid me to do? “…
All hell may break loose. Make sure you keep a copy of the receipt.
” Oh? As opposed to what? Reading me like a pair of socks? ”
This isn’t about condemnation of trite phrases. I don’t condemn ’em – I use ’em. And when they are particularly apt I like to say they fit me like a…pair of socks.
But when someone says that they can see through you, predict your thoughts, or mysteriously control you by saying that they read you like a book, it’s a load of hogwash. Think of the books that you can read and in which you’ll understood nothing. That can be anything between Hegel and Kant to the instructions for your kitchen blender. The only reason that the world still turns and the blender still blends is that they do these things of themselves without you understanding a damn thing about it.
You may regard me and your regard of me in the same light. I move, turn, and blend whether you understand how or why I do it. I am a mystery to myself, and I never read mysteries.
Note about the heading image: When you were a kid, how often did you find signs or posters around the place that used nothing more than a question mark to try to get you to do something? Whether it was to go to a mystery dance at the high school auditorium or buy some new 45 rpm record…was there ever a triter or more valueless graphic approach than a bare question mark?
I eventually welcomed seeing it, as it was as good as a wave-off or a minefield sign.
When someone wants to mock you, to offend you, and to try to pressure you into an angry response, they will very often make a number of foolish errors. How you respond to these can make all the difference.
a. Direct insult in a private place is best answered by either direct insult or genuine laughter. it’s not often that you are overcome with the second, but when it comes, let it flow. The look of horror on the face of the other person is priceless.
b. Direct insult in a public place is best answered with a dog whip across the face of the miscreant ( throw the contaminated thing away afterwards ) or again by genuine laughter. Or you can maintain a stony and complete silence and ignore the ranter – they will try harder and eventually exile themselves from any public approval.
c. Facebook insult is harmless, and can be treated with witticism and lighthearted banter. This may charm the insulter and convert them to a genuine friend. When you next meet you have a chance to dog-whip them.
e. Extraordinary efforts to mock or offend – performances that go beyond the mere side-comment – should be treated as theatre. Applaud them between movements. Encourage others to join you. Sing along with the chorus. Ask for a CD. Shout ” Encore “.
You do not need to make your detractor look foolish in the eyes of other people – all you need to do is make them look foolish in their own eyes. Then close the scene on that note and they will gnaw their own hearts out ever after.
f. Some mockery is deserved. If you perceive it to be, acknowledge it to be so, thank to perpetrator publicly, and offer to shake their hand. 95% of them will refuse, and then will appear to be ill-mannered brutes. This scenario actually raises you in the eyes of the spectators.
g. Some mockery is beneath contempt. Racialism, religious attack, sectarianism…all come into this category. Also any reference to physical distresses or financial circumstances. Just ignore it as you would the sound of someone flaying themselves with their own set of steak knives.
I don’t actually, but don’t let me stop you.
Go for it. You do whatever you feel is right, or virtuous, or kewl. I won’t say you nay, or yay for that matter…because what I say doesn’t matter. You might be in a different situation – perhaps you are an American voter or an influential journalist or the Leader of the House of Representatives. If so, I will stand back and let you make your own mistakes. I meant decisions…did I say mistakes? I meant decisions.
For the rest of the world, it might be a more honest response to ignore the orchestrated hate exhibited for Mr. Trump and concentrate upon our own actions, nations, and leaders. We have far more power to raise or lower our guard, standards, or local political careers than we do those of Washington, Moscow, or Peking. That we do not says more about us than all our memes and protestations on Facebook say about the targets of our bile.
Look, take a break. Detest someone else for a while and give your Organ Of Hate a rest. Excoriate some African or South American robber-dictator. There are more than enough of them to give you a Miss Maud’s choice. You can do a hate du jour if you wish, complaining about a different regime each day for a month. You’ll end up sounding ever so much more cosmopolitan and kewl than just banging away on Donald. And you may make undying friendships amongst the migrants.
Or undying enemies. Your choice.
A question addressed to me in our local grocery store as I stood 1.6 metres away from the next shopper.
She, in turn, was 1.6 metres away from the one in front…but the consequence of having a half dozen shoppers was the queue stretched down into the actual shelving aisles. If we were trying to prevent physical touch it was working, but the possibility of getting adequate air exchange to blow away the cooties was never going to happen.
Hopefully all is well, and I am back home holed up behind the glacis of goodness. I am not touching my face with hand sanitiser or coughing into anyone’s elbow. I’m not even posting lockdown ikewl2 anti-Trump messages on Facebook.