The Grass Is Greener…

And the days are longer and the people are better and the government is kinder and…

If you live in Australia or North America you will probably have noticed that life is always lived better in places that you are far away from. I most cases these are European places, and tend to be the parts of Europe where you will probably never go. The culture is richer, the people are better, and the political system is far grander than on your own benighted patch of ground.

This is no new phenomenon – it has been the constant message from any number of media presenters for decades. At one time the more desirable places were the Greek islands or tiny towns in Tuscany. Now they seem to be Iceland or Finland or Sweden. Really, they could be anywhere that you’re not likely to have actually visited…because then you might begin to suspect that it is a load of hooey.

Oh, I’m not saying these places are not wonderful for their residents, but the superiority that they are credited with in 2020 doesn’t seem consistent with what they were in 1920, 1940, or later. Had they been such paradises of human delight, the tens of thousands of European emigrants that sailed to Australasia and North America would have stayed home in the first place.

The attempt to sell a culture with propaganda is one thing…the attempt to sell a cultural cringe is another. It was tried in Australia in the 40’s and 50’s and didn’t fly.

By all means tell us of the wonderful traditions of the scandahoovians but try not to invent too many of them as you go along.

A Designer Smarm Bracelet

Well, I got what I asked for this Christmas. A designer smarm bracelet.

It’s made of 100% recycled memes from the internet – political propaganda, passive-aggressive sneers and disguised bigotry. It’s got an adjustable catch and one size fits all.

Now I no longer need to be afraid that I won’t be able to sit with the cool kids at lunch. The smarm bracelet has something for every situation and all I need to do is turn it around on my wrist until the best snappy retort is uppermost and then wave it in front of my frenemies. If the brilliance of the charm doesn’t blind them, the jangling sound will deafen them. Either way I look like the winner.

And best of all, each meme is fastened with a clip that lets it come off. If it turns out that the fashionable opinion changes I can just get a new handful of buzz phrases and attach them. You can get the memes by subscribing to CNN and the ABC talk shows.

Playing The Game For Dislikes

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and all the other electronic three-card monte games have one thing in common*. They reward you with the ” likes” of other subscribers. As you are human, you grow to desire more of these likes…and you put more of yourself out there to gain them.

Sometimes you succeed – and there are a number of websites and blogs that teach you just what to write to stimulate the flow.  And ou can pay people to boost your likes.

I think this is a little like paying people to twiddle your knobs. You get the knobs twiddled but that’s your joy – theirs is the money you part with. It’s a trade-off to get off. Just don’t expect a receipt that will satisfy the Tax Office…

I propose to start an instruction course  – through the Backstabbers Guild Of Australia, of course  – to help social media users get a more valuable feedback – the ” dis” like. I don’t know if there’s a special symbol that the readers press to indicate this, but there are plenty of the little emoji signs that can serve. We want to get a healthy stream of disapproval started.

I’m sure there is a need for it – else why would we see such a fuss about the American presidency or the latest popular cult figure. There is a deep wellspring of complaint in most people on the computer and we can tap into that. But what do we, as  social writers, get from this?

  1. Truth. Where the “like ” is vague, the ” dislike ” is concrete.
  2. Information. The advertisers of the social media scene are adept at flying target sleeves and seeing who fires at them. We can do the same with our posts. The respondent who screams bloody murder tells us where their sensitivities lie, and we can make use of that.
  3. Echoes. Everything we post, the Great Ghostly Algorithm marks down and sometimes connects to others’ writings. Most often these are just as bad as our own but sometimes you get lucky and find a good writer. Then you can pinch their work.

You never know who your friends are…but you can make sure of your enemies.

*  Actually they have a lot in common and I suspect that includes the owners and the scam advertisement writers. Wanna invest in a bitcoin top that spins forever on tea-tree oil in a Queensland time-share? I could know a bloke…

 

O.K. Baumer

Orville Baumer was about my same age when I met him in grade school. We went to the 5th grade in Riondel and lived not too far apart. We also joined the Cub Scouts that same year, though Orville was a lot better at doing the badges than ever I was. I can only recall getting two in all my time – one for cooking and one for woodcraft. Orv got semaphore and shelter building and a lot more. He went on to Boy Scouts as well.

Orville was a home soul – he stayed in the town long after I had moved away. Went to high school there and eventually graduated a year ahead of me; I had dropped back a year through moving to Australia. He also stayed in the province for his university time, and got out faster with his degree than I did down here.

Orville had girlfriends in high school and university. A lot more than I did. He married a little earlier, though maybe that was a mistake – he ended up with a divorce from that first marriage. Thankfully, his second has worked out well, and he’ll be well into his thirty-some anniversaries.

Orville does like I do – keeps his cars until they are about 13 years old before trading them in. He never buys big ones – always just little sedans. He’s only taken two overseas holidays in his life. He lives in a regular house with the average amount of old furniture, cranky pets, and unsuccessful grass.

But Orv is different from me in one important respect. When tasked by some unknown  teenager with being responsible for all the ills of the world, Orville cringes and apologises. He says he is sorry for whatever the kid complains about and promises to do better. Orville bows his head in shame for owning his own little house and car, eating regularly, and minding his own business. Orville shys away from the internet groups and protest demonstrations and people who complain in malls.

Orville would never tell a work-shy, over-age, quasi-student who plays the welfare system like a xylophone for money, opiates, and sympathy that they are a public pest. He’d never call them pinko parish parasites. He’d never tell them to stuff their puerile secondhand manifesto where the sun don’t shine.

In many respects, Orville Kitchener Baumer is an admirably civilised person. I really should try to emulate him. One day. I’ll let you know which day I choose.

Thanksgiving Outrage In Britain, Europe, and Australasia

Facebook commenters all around the world are gearing up to be outraged at people in the United States this coming November 28th as the Americans celebrate Thanksgiving. Special scorn memes are being written for use whenever the poster’s attention score drops.

Of course there will be lots of them that target the American President for calumny, but that is pretty well a constant throughout the year. There will be any number of sneering and pious ones that mention pilgrims and the native tribes, but funnily enough the pilgrims will be the only ones held up to ridicule. The day will draw fire from the religiously-inclined as well as the opposite camp. One thing you can be sure of – if it is American, it’s going to be judged wrong…

Yet.

Yet Canada – that other North American plot of land – also celebrated a Thanksgiving day on October 14th. And no-one raised a peep about it – perhaps the crafty Canucks sneaked it in while people were looking the other way or were preparing to be culturally outraged about Halloween and Trick Or Treat… maybe people were just sympathetic to Canada for suffering another Trudeau Election and decided to give them a bye this time.

I’m thankful all the time – I go to sleep in warm bed and wake up each morning. I eat and drink my fill. I read whatever I like and build toy airplanes every day. The only part of this that makes me nervous is the thought that Facebook commentators will batten upon me and become outraged. I can’t decide whether I should pay more attention to them…or less.

Racialism

Please read carefully. You don’t want to stumble over the rest of this post. I wrote it carefully because I didn’t want to stumble either…

We often hear people being accused of racism. Or things being referred to as racist. Both are deemed wrong and unacceptable. A great deal of writing and speaking, as well as legislating and litigating, is done to eradicate this. Time will tell whether it will be successful, though I have my doubts when this might be achieved entirely.

But how about eradicating – or at least reducing  – racialism. That’s what I call the all-pervasive concentration upon race and upon ethnic matters so that it becomes the pivotal point of all thought and behaviour. Not just seeing black and white things as black and white, but deliberately turning down the saturation on the rest of the world so that there is nothing to see but black and white.

Don’t believe it can come to that? I have heard people make a racial fuss about sandwiches, numbers, and hair styles. I have heard people make a racial matter out of the choice of a colour scheme for a new car. God knows what they would do if someone asked them to buy a non-racist, non-sectarian, gender-neutral water pump.

I can even do it. I can look at certain teeth in certain jaws and even if I cannot see the rest of the person, I can tell you whether it’s likely they come from Beijing, Leeds, or Dresden. ( Though I was fooled by Cyril von Shanghai once…)

The main effect of racialism upon me is boredom, and a feeling of dread. It is an indication that the conversation will be directed to take a decided turn for the worse at every possible opportunity. That every pathway will be a political one and none of them will be worth treading. It will as if the old bolsheviks and their fellow travellers had risen and gained traction again. The brave black – and white – banners will be flying and it will only be a matter of time before they break out the bayonets and the marching songs.

Bah!

( Not baa, or baa baa, because that would suggest black sheep and we would get nasty notes from the NAACP, the Farmer’s Federation, and VMF 214… I could stand the first two but the thought of Boyington’s ghost terrifies me)

” Aren’t You Afraid That Someone Will be Offended…? “

On the contrary, my dear.

I am afraid that no-one will be offended. Because if that is the case I have failed to read the social currents and have cast my bait onto a lee shore. All my effort is in danger of being disregarded. I have done my best work and it is languishing…

This is 2019. We’re in the Offended Zone. Everything we say can be taken amiss. Oops, sorry…that should be taken aMs…no, aperson…

We may be the least controversial, kindest, and blandest of creatures but we are still bound to be guilty in someone’s eyes. And with the internet it will not only be their eyes that condemn us – they’ll be able to post no end of condemnatory essays about us. We’ll be memed to death, if we’re lucky. The best outcome for most of the witch hunting will be a quick stake and bundle of blazing sticks.

Now I’m a hunted man. Oops, I’ve just admitted that I’m a man and written the word ” hunt “. I can hear the convoy of activists starting their engines and heading for me.

Is there no end to the torture? Can I never please everyone?

Well, no. No, I can’t. I’ll offend someone by being a Jew and someone else by writing Jew instead of jewish. I’ll anger someone by being male and someone else by doing it since 1948. I will make one section of the country angry by being healthy and another section by writing. Lord God, don’t let us consider what I’m about to cook for dinner…the criticism would be all too much.

So.

So what do I do? Do I jink and dodge like a Halifax bomber whenever someone attacks my tail or do I just sail along and shoot at them with the quad .30’s? Do I try to buy the admiration and approval of people who are determined to neither admire or approve? Or do I eat my dinner, drink my toddy, and brush my teeth before bedtime as I have for 71 years – bidding defiance to politics, trends, and rituals of others?

Ask me tomorrow, it’s just about dinner time.