Douglas Bastard's Rants of Rage

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This article was written on 27 Mar 2017, and is filled under Uncategorised.

As if on a darkling plain…

I’ve been winding people up on the Telegraph message boards and Something Has Happened, which I will share. Much as there are two or three times in my life when I said something I thought was a flippant way of discounting an issue and ended up saying something I later realised was true, I set out to irk another commenter by posing as someone who was angry that I seemed largely indifferent to things he held dear. These things, in no particular order, were people dying for me, the fact that I am tolerated by society and, bizarrely, thinking the world owes me a living. All very odd.

Much as I wanted to say something flippant and started replying in that vein, I realised that what I was saying was stark, and truthful and, as a result, as horrible as reality is when its stripped of all its pretensions. It’s as though someone went up to Brad Pitt, pulled at his skin and it all fell off, showing a titanium exoskeleton beneath, or realising, in a sudden, sick moment that the person you always fancied is actually an idiot with the intellectual depth of a paddling pool on which someone has ill-advisedly written ‘clever’ in black marker.

Addressing first his statement that people had died for me, I said, baldly, that they hadn’t. I was born in 1973, so the idea of people committing to armed conflict for my benefit is absurd. They might, abstractly, have gone to war for future generations, but even this is uncertain. I was born because my parents felt amorous and had a shag, not because people had gone to war with some vague sense of destiny years before. As events had it, the First World War was a mass carnage that the world could well have done without and Britain might easily have refused to participate in, which rendered the Second inevitable. Had people refused to fight for the sake of future generations, then that would have been entirely different.

Similarly, I was told that society ‘tolerates’ me, when the truth is that society itself is a nebulous concept. Thatcher, she of blessed memory, said that there was ‘no such thing as society’ and, much as I hate her, I am minded to agree with her. Conceiving of a huge mass of people, all with different views and feelings as somehow intertwined is idiotic. You’d struggle to make a single society out of the vile small town where I grew up, let alone forge one out of the disparate communities in the country, so the idea of a single, unitary entity ‘tolerating’ falls at the first hurdle. I am a National Insurance Number, as far as ‘society’ is concerned, and I pay taxes because this ‘society’ would take away my liberty if I didn’t. This is not the stuff of romance.

Given this, I clearly do not consider that the world owes me a living. The world, if it’s safe to talk of such a thing, is indifferent to me. To paraphrase Yeats’ superb ‘An Irish Airman Forsees His Death,’ no likely end could bring the country in which I was born loss or, leave it happier than before. My existence, in this geographical space at this moment in time, is attributable to my parents shagging forty odd years before. The sun rose before I was born and will continue to do so after I die, and I expect nothing of it in between than basic indifference. Individuals or, in isolated cases, institutions, may be capable of individual kindness on a purely discretionary basis but in general, we are better if we expect nothing.

There are collective social experiences, in amongst this, which, unlike taxation, we’re invited to take part in and which I feel suitably complicated about. Most notable of these is voting and I choose, as is my right, not to take part. In fact, in a small, private ceremony, I tend to burn my ballot cards, even though I’m aware that I could probably vote without one, and have been pestering the local council to remove my name from the electoral roll because I no longer wish to participate, such is my huge sense of animus towards the whole, botched process. If we were fined for not voting, I’d pay the fine. If the alternative was prison, I’d go along and draw a winged, spunky cock on the ballot paper and toddle off on my way.

We are alone, to paraphrase Matthew Arnold just a grotesquely as I paraphrased Yeats further up the thread, as on a darkling plain, wandering around and banging into other, sporadically being kind and then, also sporadically, standing on someone by accident or by design. Such is life and such are the times in which we find ourselves. You can yell about honour, about duty and about other abstractions, such as patriotism, but you can’t make anyone live them as realities. That, I think is the lesson I have drawn and that, I think, is oddly terrifying.

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