Holding Facebook’s Beer

I was mildly amused when a Facebook game came by asking me to score points for admitting to foolish/sad/criminal behaviour in my past. And making it public to the entire planet. I mean, how could one resist the temptation to fill in the little chinks in the information brick wall. I’m just a little surprised they didn’t include a section that asked for sexual fantasies and credit card numbers…

Well, here at the Backstabbers Guild Of Australia we feel that this sort of blatant attempt at coercion is all very well, but should not be done on an amateur basis. If you are going to ask people to condemn themselves publicly, you need to give them more tempting chances. If they’re going down the sewer, make it a big one.

To this end, we have devised the following quiz for social media. There are no points scored, unless you count the knowing looks that people will give you at your next party.

Have you ever…

a. Shot a police cruiser in the grill work with a 17 pounder anti-tank gun from a camouflaged position?

b. Flayed an Albigensian heretic?

c. Written a song about your feelings and then played it to people at a party, accompanying yourself on guitar? All 15 verses?

d. Served week-old warm runny egg salad sandwiches from a service station cabinet to people at a church social?

e. Counterfeited a draft card to allow your underage classmates to buy beer at the local liquor store? Then phoned ahead to alert the local police?

f. Removed a ladder from an attic access hatch while someone was up there and then gone quietly home and had a good dinner?

g. Switched tops on the spray-paint cans in the local Bunnings store cabinet?

h. Put salt in the plaster mix of someone who is trying to invest a casting?

i. Invited a religious caller in to tell you their entire story by using an accent rich in unidentifiably foreign sounds, mixed with blatant grammatical error –  and then insisted that they sit down and drink toasts to your country? Used water tumblers full of hard liquor and cooking oil?

j. If they lasted the course, showed them the Albigensian skin…?

 

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Civility And How To Avoid It- Part 1

With the rise of civil behaviour and good manners in the last few years – prompted in large part by the election of Mr. Donald Trump to the American Presidency – there has been an increasing feeling of unease in the backstabbing community. The Guild hopes to be able to reassure members and the general public and to set us all back on the proper pathway. Because everything off the pathway is strewn with mines.

Let’s start by making sure that people know what civility actually is – it is no good starting at phantoms and then letting real dangers slip in the door.

Civility is adult behaviour of considerate men and women who take care to treat others with respect and who do not cause unnecessary suffering. It is related to politeness and kindness, as wens are related to furuncles and boils, and it is equally welcome. Civility is the cement of societies…a thought that may comfort some until they realise that cement is also used to weight bodies that will be dumped in the harbour.

Civility may also be defined as a social pavise that allows one to get within easy crossbow-shot of the unsuspecting. As such, it is not that bad. You can paint soothing mental pictures on the front of it to make people think that a work of art is creeping up on them. Then, when they have been lulled into an aesthetic sense of safety you pop up and let one loose at them. If you do it in a completely calm and unemotional voice they may not even believe it was you. Quietly crouch under the protection as you wind your windlass and prepare for a second shot.

It’s not likely that you’ll get a third one off undetected, so be prepared to creep away. In some cases it is wise to creep as fast as your feet will carry you.

It has often been said that it costs nothing to be civil. True, and in many cases the behaviour is worth every penny you pay… In the case of Backstabbers Guild members we would advise a more commercial approach – be as polite as you need to be for as long as you need to be. Once your object has been achieved you can stop the pretence and go back to normal.  If you do it unobtrusively the memory of your kindness will continue far after you have resumed being cruel.

Remember that Mary Poppins – a Backstabber if ever there was one – said that a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. She was, of course, speaking before the current research into diabetes, obesity, and social virtue damned the sugar industry. And she was likely on the payroll of CSR. But she was right – you can sweeten vitriol, paraquat, and curare quite effectively if there are no hypodermic darts available. We advise that you never lick the spoon.

Part 2 will detail civility in different civilisations, though we have no data for Tasmania or Newfoundland as they are not civilisations

 

Reforming The World

A number of my friends would like to reform the world. They wish others would think, vote, spend, and behave in a way that seems correct…to them.

This has become evident in conversation and in reading the things that they have written. In some cases they have undertaken concrete action to try to initiate changes, but I do not know if there has been much success…time will tell.

I have few such ambitions – my desires for fundamental world-wide changes sort of peak at hoping people will not park too closely in shopping centres or leave chip wrappers on my lawn. This may seem sad or pathetic, but it at least has the advantage of providing daily reward – when my car doors are undented I sleep in peace.

My ability to affect Theresa May, Kim Jong Il, Donald Trump, or even Justin Trudeau is equal to my ability to juggle dugongs. I hesitate to even consider the mechanics of the thing. Any anxiety on my part about what they do remains untreated and untreatable. I could as easily alter the second law of thermodynamics.

So…what do I do when I want to do a bit of reforming…a bit of activism…a bit of righteousness? I turn to the nearest sinner and grasp them firmly by the conscience and turn on the guilt lamp – turn it up high until they start to sweat and twitch and gibber. Then I compel them to tell me all their misdeeds and browbeat them until they are a nervous jelly. By the time I am finished they have surrendered their entire psyche to me and are ready to be moulded anew. I demand – they obey. It is like training animals in a circus – a flea circus.

Of course I need hardly tell you that the nearest sinner to me is…me. It is a very efficient process – I know my peccadilloes intimately and can go right to the heart of the dirty little matters. No good pretending to me that I wasn’t there – I know where I was and I can prove it. If there is any argument I give myself a quick cuff round the ear and yell at me. It works every time.

And the great thing about it is…I never learn. I’ll be doing things that are worth sneering at for years to come. I can be as domineering to me as I want to and there is nothing I can do to stop me.

Browse the Shelves

Want to find out all about someone? The real info – the skinny – the down dirt?

Forget the internet. Forget the public record office. Don’t hire a private detective – save your money. All you have to do is look for a bookshelf. People can hide everything from anybody nowadays but they can’t conceal a thing from long-dead authors…

a. If there is no bookshelf in the house, because there are no books in the house, you know a very valuable thing. The householder probably doesn’t, but…

b. If there is no bookshelf in the house but there are piles of books lying about the floor and on every available horizontal surface you know a different valuable thing. Look at the books – if they are dust-covered and uncut, you may be in the presence of a collector, a publisher, or a dolt.

c. If the books are pawed – spines broken, jammy fingerprints on pages, bookmarks everywhere, marginal notes in pencil, etc. you can ask the householder questions and are likely to get useful answers. If the marginal notes are written in lipstick or blood, don’t ask the questions.

d. If there are numerous bookshelves with books neatly arranged, a big wing armchair by the window, and a smell of coffee and cinnamon buns in the air – do your utmost to ingratiate yourself with the householder. It will be worth it.

e. If, in addition, the bookshelves are labelled, numbered according to the Dewey decimal system, and sport signs reminding you that you are being watched, try not to rattle your teaspoon in your cup of camomile and be careful of making eye contact.

Now – all the above having passed, look at the titles of the books. The books most important to the householder are likely to be those closest to hand. The first three show you their mind – if you need to know it, study those books carefully. What you do with the knowledge is your own affair.

Note: To be fair to my readers I will list the three books I keep closest to hand:

  1. George Washington’s Rules Of Civility And Decent Behaviour.
  2. Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanack.
  3. Thomas Paine’s Common Sense. This volume also contains The Rights Of Man and The Age of Reason

” Do Tell Me You Loathe it “

The cartoon is pinched off the internet…in turn pinched from a copy of Punch magazine of the 1930’s. The fun it pokes at Moderne architecture and the pretensions of the owners is dated, but priceless. However, it would appear that with the advent of the social media campaign, satire might now be spread into our era.

We’re currently seeing several campaigns in our social media to do with changes to marriage law in Australia. A questionnaire has been sent to us all asking if we would like to see same-sex marriage introduced. We get to answer yes or no, and the Australian Bureau of Statistics will be making the result known to the parliament. What they do with the opinion count is anyone’s guess.

The form is simple – yes or no – but from the way people are behaving on the social media section of the internet, I think it should have included a number of additional questions and options:

a. Yes, and I want the ABS to tell everyone on my Facebook list. And I want to get a signed receipt from each one of them to show that they know what I voted for.

b. Yes, but not when I’m looking.

c. Yes, But can we have something in it about the participants not writing their own vows and reading them out to the assembled guests before the bar opens? Please?

d. Yes, but not for certain people on the list I’ve enclosed with this form. Especially not No. 4 and No. 17 on the list. Not after what they said.

e. No, but not because I am a bad person. Because you asked…

f. No, but you can change the inheritance laws if you like.

g. Yes and No. Well, you asked. If you wanted a definite answer you should have made it a lot more vague. Hint first, then qualify that hint. Like a legislative game of ” Clue “.

h. No, but then yes, and then no again. And then yes. That should use up a couple of parliaments, if I know Canberra.

I’ve been watching the informed debate, the uninformed debate, the emotional outbursts, and the cynical jockeying for validation that is Facebook. I know that if I entered into any form of discussion I would be instantly shunned by half the people I know. If I espoused the opposite view I would suffer the same fate from the other half. I would become a social pariah…wandering the cold halls of the internet knocking vainly upon closed doors.

It is the one cheerful image that keeps me going…

” Break Not A Jest ” – Or – The Sturmovik In The Teacup

I think I have need to apologise to the shade of General George Washington – I’ve failed to follow his 64th rule for civility and decent behaviour – the one that prohibits ” breaking a jest where none take pleasure in mirth “. I may also have laughed out loud as I did so, which is further sin.

In my defence, it was a passing thing – an odd remark seen on the internet called forth an equally silly reply, and then a series of increasingly hyperbolic posts – culminating in  the heading picture of the Ilyushin Sturmovik and an account of a pilot who uses it to strafe the Oktoberfest grounds just for old-time’s sake. Please note that the picture is an Easy Model 1:72 scale model…$ 14.95 at good hobby shops all over town.

Well I probably would have got away with the joke if the person hosting the thing had not been worried about me interrupting her satirical Facebook page. The page itself is a hilarious send up describing arrogant and entitled people who live in the posh beachside suburbs of our city. Well worth a read – and apparently it has some 1200…or was it 12,000 readers in her data base? I can’t remember exactly how many she mentioned, but it was a lot, and I’ll bet that they all like that bit of good biting satire.

Apparently I also made a blunder when I described the old pilot of the Ilyushin as a Slav. Unbeknownst to me this word is racism, and needs to be apologised for, or so she says. Bit puzzling, that, as the Wikipedia article on the Slavic people lists a great deal of their history and seems to say that they are very nice. This is my opinion too, as nearly all the other people who I have met with some claim to the title seem to be energetic, intelligent, and cheerful.

I am going to have to be much more careful in the future – not about mentioning the various divisions of mankind ( or womankind…) – after all, everybody has to be from somewhere – whether that be from Pilsen or Posen – and no-one need be ashamed by any of it. I mean, I know about the Posen bit – that’s where my Grandmother Elizabeth came from. And the Pilsen was home base to a branch of the other side of the family.

No, what I’m going to have to do is make sure that the people I break a jest with take pleasure in mirth.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go pull through the prop on the Ilyushin. The front two cylinders tend to clog up with oil and Oktoberfest is just around the corner.

Compelling Affection

I’ll start right out by saying that you can’t do it.

Not in a physical, mental, or emotional way. And not in commerce, politics, or religion, either. Not even with a high-pressure air compressor…and you can do a lot of other things with one of those.

Affection may make us happy or sad, but it can only come unbidden. Anything else is the cloying substitute…affectation. Just a few letters different, but a world apart.

I’m dealing with this thought just now while looking at photographs taken recently. I attended an anniversary party for a couple who had employed me as their wedding photographer 20 years ago. The hotel function room was crowded with their family and friends dressed in Hollywood costumes and everyone had a whale of a good time. And the degree of affection felt throughout the room was delightful.

I should wish it on all my friends. If it could be extended further, well and good, but you can’t strain at it. Probably the best plan is to be careful, then civil, then friendly – in that order – when forming new relationships. Let time and experience create the affection if it can.

If you find it necessary to stop before taking the next step, you can do so unobtrusively. You need never regret things you do not say. Certainly it is better to arrive at a state of equilibrium by a slow upward journey rather than a downward one. You get to the same point in your life but with fewer scars and stitches.