(in the nicest possible way, you understand)
Hi there, person with a functional Internet connection, competence in technology to the point of being able to navigate to and within websites such as WordPress, and vague interest in reading (or, I suppose, me) and discussing ideas! Because despite all those things you, and dare I say I, have going for us, life is often a bitch, whether it’s international terrorism, disease pandemics, the social intolerance that undermines a worryingly high number of people’s opinions, the uselessness of my degree, or the fact that I’m having to wear smart clothes this evening like a dickhead; then there are all the ‘people problems’, that you’re probably alone, if not your relationship is going to end in a breakup or death, and that we, as a species, seem incapable of entering into a union with another human being, for life, and appreciating them as such, without a big party, lots of cake, and spending more money in a day than the majority of people on the planet won’t see in their lives, which kinda trivialises the whole notion of human interaction and companionship into nothing more than a process of sliding rings onto fingers and wearing some stupidly impractical clothing.
But this isn’t just a rant from me today, there’s a second clause in that title I’ve yet to mention; the idea that, despite all these problems, life goes on. Today I woke up at noon, changed my underwear and decided to write up a review of Gnarwolves at the Camden Underworld instead of having breakfast, all while those problems I mentioned earlier continue unabated and unchecked.
This isn’t because those problems are somehow foreign or alien to me – even if I’m not being discriminated against based on my gender, race, sexuality or beliefs, for instance, it still hurts to see others suffer in this way – but simply because life’s too short to realise that life’s too short; I’d consider myself a cynic and a pessimist, but it’s frankly exhausting to keep the shittiness of the world in the forefront of one’s mind for long periods of time.
It helps to be aware of the world’s problems when doing something about them, for instance; if you’re marching in support of free education, it’s useful to be aware of the fact that going to university is future-crippling expensive for a lot of people. It’s also useful to have a broader appreciation of how much the world sucks in a general sense; it’s harmful to be deluded in pretending that life is full of kittens and rainbows and meaningful relationships and people that don’t think you’re a wanker, because those things constitute a very small percentage of all the things in the world.
However, this is strictly a background appreciation, one that you can reflect upon or turn to should the desire arise, but one that isn’t shoved in the forefront of your mind all the time. Because having negative thoughts, no matter how accurate, as the centre of your attention is a decidedly harmful experience: this is where intolerance comes from, that you defensively blame other people for all these problems that you suffer from; this is where fear comes from, as you start to perceive everything in the world as further evidence of the world’s problems, which exaggerates the real issues into insurmountable Goliath-sized problems; and this is where self-loathing comes from, that your life becomes little more than a journey from one shit day to another, so what’s the point in trying to make today a good day when a kid in Africa will die of malaria every 30 seconds?
Often, these negative responses come from the best of intentions too, that a person is so upset by that stat, and so determined to change something, but feels powerless or insignificant, furthering the ‘life sucks’ cycle further, turning an international medical problem, to be solved through the work of millions of people and generations of infrastructural developments, into just another way in which you are a worthless idiot; you couldn’t single-handedly cure malaria, so you’re a prick basically.
I am speaking from personal experience here, by the way, that a side-product of my three year slog through years 11, 12 and 13 of school that gave me kick-ass GCSE and A-level grades made me realise how good I was at reciting King Lear, and how useless and ineffectual I was in solving real-world problems, which was only really made worse when we did the Israel-Palestine conflict in Geography, which kinda put my fear of getting a B in AS French into perspective.
And I don’t want to sound like a bastard here, but my advice is old-fashioned apathy; be aware of the problems of this world, but put them aside and get on with your life – yes, 233 women are reportedly raped a day in England and Wales, but does that piece of information really make it easier for you to go and buy milk this morning, or walk a dog, or decide which jacket to wear with which shirt to a fancy party? There is a time and a place to consider these problems, and discuss solutions to them, but that time isn’t 24/7, and that place isn’t within the darkest recesses of your mind, where you turn over ideas and reactions without telling anyone for years at a time, and then you end up defending Sam Pepper or Ched Evans without realising you’re on the side of the rapists, because this is the first time in three ears you’ve opened your mouth on the subject.
It’s also important to note that putting problems aside for the sake of getting on with your life doesn’t make those problems less important, nor does it make you less involved in discussing them; I will happily tell you at great length and with great enthusiasm that UCL need to not eliminate the Women’s Officer position in the vote next Tuesday, or that if you oppose gay marriage you’re probably a twat, but the rest of the day I’ll be sitting reading a poem or walking around Regent’s Park in a rather more docile fashion. The two sets of actions are not mutually exclusive, and I’d say it’s impossible to live a life solely based around the ranting, shit-giving model, or the docile park-walking model, with no overlap between the two.
So yeah, life sucks, and so do you. But by the same measurement, my life sucks, and I’m having a rather good time balancing my degree with flat parties until three in the morning and going to gigs every other week, and I know that you can do the same. Remember there’s a time and a place to be downbeat about the genuine problems that exist on this god-forsaken rock we cling to as a home, and there’s a time and a place to forget all that, watch The Apprentice and have a chuckle about how much of a dick Stuart Baggs was.
Here’s to problems, best ignored until solvable!