Wednesday, 26 May 2010

LibCon Lifestyles, and the preferred method of Hara-Kiri

The ushering in of a new double-edged parliament has been met mostly by derision from more upper class sorts. Of course, absolutely loads of regular people hate the idea of David Cameron having some semblance of power, but mostly now that the general election has passed, making way for the Eurovision Song Contest (oh yes, it's back, baby) and the World Cup, people have mostly began to get back on with whatever it was they were doing. The election's anti-climax has made it seem like a forgotten trip to the kitchen. Why am I here? What was going on? Oh well, I might as well put the kettle on.

Now, with the Liberal Democrats helping out whenever corners need holding down or bowls need licking, the country should be happily balanced. We've got neo-fascism covered, but we've also got greenhouse gases and student fees covered too. Instead, what seems to have occurred is a strange twilight world where ageing relatives claim David Cameron would be a nice son-in-law, and Nick Clegg is seen as the saviour of the universe, the economy and the Galapagos Islands. Obviously both of these things are obscenely exaggerated - David Cameron as a son in law would involve the family having to become accustomed to his cyborg endo-skeleton and his occasional lazer-shooting indigestion fits, and having a great relationship with your kids can't really do much for the Brazilian rainforest. The excitement has passed, and the world is getting on with its life. If anything, the contrast between parties and the mess of the country in general has given people even more to complain about than usual, which in British terms, can only be a good thing.

The LibCon government (so called in a Su-Bo, J-Lo, Brangelina way so us plebs can easily recall and repeat it) has not just brought a very-similar-but-slightly-different cabinet full of suits to the table though. Oh no. Read any lifestyle magazine article on the subject and you'll be surprisingly enlightened to find that Dick (again, shortened for plebs) has ushered in a new fashion - nay - a new way of life, for those living above a certain income bracket. The name of this hellish existence? Oh, Lib-Con of course. It might be a new lifestyle, but it certainly isn't anything approaching unique.

The Lib-Con life, as outlined in this article for the Times, involves a lot of chinos and striped long-sleeved t-shirts. It requires an aspiration to own chickens and a vegetable plot, and a need to repress memories of an exclusive education at a private school. To be a true Lib-Con live-in, you need to have kids called Charlie and Lily, an awareness in conservationism and energy saving, but not necessarily a keen interest in either of these things (after all, where you live there are so many potholes a simple two wheel drive just won't cut it, and besides, "Mix blue and yellow and you get a murky green, so Cleggerons have a water butt, not a water feature. Composting is a must, and solar panels would be, too, if they didn’t cost the earth.") Whenever possible, a Lib-Con should cycle everywhere, on a contraption that allows Charlie/Lily to be hauled along, attached to some circus-like contraption involving faux-home welding that actually cost quite a lot of money from an independent bike shop in the nearest town, ideally with a huge flag poking out of the back to remind other drivers how great you are for pedalling like a Victorian. Perhaps a sticker on the back of your helmet too, with the evolution fish on, despite your hidden deep-rooted fears that perhaps you should be believing in God after all. All your friends have denounced religion at the moment though, in favour of thinking more about allotments and dry-stone walling, and so you've decided to join that particular faction (for now).
[coming soon, to a tandem near you]

Perhaps the most startling of all the statements made in this frankly desolate view of the future was the introduction paragraph. The broad sweep of discomfort knocking you off your feet and forcing your heart to drop into your spleen.

"If you’re of a certain age — more than 35, far from 50 — you may feel the same. You may have young children and the mild possibility of a pregnancy yet to come, or older kids glued to MSN and Jack Wills. Think about it. Trampoline in the garden? Ecover washing-up liquid by the sink? Planning a holiday in a yurt?
It’s entirely possible that you’re a Cleggeron too."

MSN? JACK FUCKING WILLS? Yes, of course, older kids using MSN is a new phenomenon, exploited only by those with middle-class mini-mansions in the pseudo-countryside. Apart from every single child having used it in this country, this might be true. Jack Wills though? Jack Wills? Give your children some credit. Just because you like to live a life filled with huge reclaimed ceramic sinks and Fat Face fleece jumpers, doesn't mean that you can dress your kids up like total pricks. If you need any evidence of how awful the Jack Wills scene is among the offspring of the semi-elite, just take a trip to Harrogate, or your nearest well-to-do spa town. Jumpers tied around shoulders, turned up polo shirt collars, deck shoes - and this is just the curly-haired Arian boys of grammar school we're talking about. The girls have baggy-yet-expensive hoodies and denim skirts, resembling scruffiness, but with an air of the designer, tanned legs showing the world that despite the recession, she spent her winter on a beach "somewhere bijou". I will not link to Jack Wills, but should you need to do further research, I suggest you also try Joe Browns and Fat Face. Bought in excess, these clothes can bring about the same effect - "I like having lots of expensive outdoor fun doing healthy exercise and generally eating fruit as snacks."

Also, we should all resent having Ecover and therefore any small act of environment-saving looked at as exclusively middle-class. I don't think anybody has said it better than Mr Andrew Hoolachan, who commented on the original Times article.

'You missed out:
"We need lifestyle columns to validate our lifestyle choices and mask our deep-rooted insecurities"'


Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Violations of Privacy

I might not be the only person in the world who gets upset (in the Victorian "harrumph" sense) when my personal space is invaded, but sometimes I feel like I am the person most likely to overreact. On a recent trip to London I found myself quipping endless sarcastic comments to people brushing past me in tube stations, compounding evidence to prove that I do in fact suffer terribly from Small Town Syndrome. One such example finds me claiming to be able to crush a baby if forced to fall on it, after being rammed in the foot by an impatient mother and her lavishly expensive buggy-mobile.

Have you ever heard of Paris Syndrome? It's a strange-sounding form of culture shock suffered by, apparently, the Japanese alone. Building a romantic image of the world's most cliché marriage proposal hotspot has led the Japanese as a culture to believe that France and especially it's capital are tranquil, quaint and set somewhere in the 1920s, with mild mannered bakers whistling 'je ne regrette rien' on their way to the market. As fellow Europeans (and as semi-racist English people who take any chance they can to have a pop at the French for some reason or another), we know this dreamlike vision to be false. Extremely false. Any trip to the Champs Elysees on wheels will leave you feeling that perhaps France has gone totally and uncontrollably mental. Nevertheless, tourists visit Paris with these heady preconceptions, and are left with shock so severe, repatriation treatment is needed in order for them to be able to go back to their normal lives.

Sometimes I wish there were classes to go to in order to get over shocks that life throws at you from time to time (or if you're me, every day). Forget repatriation to England, I'd like a course on how to deal with everyday ocurrances in a more human-like way. Things like missing an important train, or forgetting my keys, or saying an unfortunately offensive sentence in front of people you don't want to aggravate (eg. saying Gordon Brown was a legend for calling that awful woman a bigot in front of hardened Tory semi-relatives). They would be so useful I'd consider paying for the entire scheme myself.

My reason for wishing there was such a thing as "life school" comes after my 'last straw' moment, when I freaked out so badly over a broken window that I called the police. Some would say sensible. I, however, was concerned that perhaps the broken window was a vendetta against me as I will be possibly appearing in court as a witness soon, and was convinced i was going to be kidnapped or murdered in my sleep. As it transpired, the cause of the mysteriously round hole in the window was made by a stray golf ball, chucked - no doubt - by the horrible little monster children that let themselves in my garden to see what rubbish we have worth taking. Last week they took an old pushbike and a broken oven off our hands and our patio. This week, who knows? Perhaps the Polo? Or the cat?

The window-hole caused much palpitations and panicking, but I wonder - had I been trained to deal with situations like this, would I have been any better? Or is having your home and personal space violated so inherently awful that you can't help but feel vulnerable and isolated? This one broken window showed me that just because I had walls around me didn't necessarily mean I was safe from the world around me. I could leave the house in the morning and get flattened by a falling grand piano. Precautions need to be taken, which is why I am staying in bed all day today with the cat, eating tomato soup and feeling sorry for myself. I need to move back to the country.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Atheism and its Cult Following, or How My Dad Believes in God Less Than Your Dad

I dislike those ticky boxes on Equal Opportunities forms. Not the "single, married, other" boxes - to be worried about ticking one of those either makes you Bridget Jones or in need of some serious life validation (worry about more important things, dude. Like 2012, shite conspiracy theories or whether Red Dead Redemption is actually going to be sweet mega kickass or not). I hate the boxes where you tick which religion you are. It's not that I despise pigeonholing myself (ugh, I hate that term) or that I have wider beliefs that cannot be measured by mere penstroke, I just don't see why it's an issue. I don't believe in anything apart from good old-fashioned scientifically-backed empirical evidence. This statement is usually met in two ways, both of which, in my opinion, are as bad as each other, but we'll get to that in a bit. What I'm trying to say is that whether I believe some guy ages and ages ago whipped us all up out of archaic Play-Do or not shouldn't be a way to define my character. Do I meet people and immediately announce "I REALLY LIKE ANGEL DELIGHT"? No. Because people don't really care about that, and if they wanted to know more about me, they'd be interested enough to ask. Later on we might have an Angel Delight party, and laugh whimsically about that time when we both realised we both loved dehydrated pudding mixes. Until then I'd keep schtum and tell awkward mum jokes like my life depended on it. That's how I make friends.

It seems odd to me, to start out a relationship with somebody by giving them an opening statement about what you do and don't believe about the world around you. To some people of course, religion is an all-encompassing obsession ruling every detail of their lives, and so it would make sense to blurt out "Hi, I'm a Taoist and I believe in crystal therapy". In these cases, I like to be warned. Crystal therapists are not allowed near me for their own protection. I can shout very loud. Still, really? Is that how you want to be defined? Surely that's on a par with telling people you're nickname back home is "Batshit Mentalcase" on your first day of Uni, even though it isn't. It'll get annoying after a while, trying to explain to people that "that's not all I am though". You might be a wonderful, loving, caring individual, but if you told me you were a Christian as soon as I met you, no matter how lovely you are, all I'll be able to hear when you enter a room is my head saying "She prays when she's sick instead of nailing Lemsip and Vodka". It's mental. And please don't explain it all to me, I know why you believe et cetera blah, I'm just so arrogant that I know that me not believing in God is the right thing to do.

And so we come to everybody's favourite type of person - the Atheist. The leftie leaning doctrine of choice. Notice how I even slag off my own belief - it's called equality. I am an atheist. I haven't always been, mind, I went to a Protestant primary school and a Catholic high school, and believing in God and Jesus and all those friendly little elves that help them out to bring the easter eggs made me feel happy and safe. It was only until we were told in high school that the contraceptive pill would make us infertile that I began to question what type of a God I believed in. I studied Religious, Moral and Philosophical Studies (one of a class of 7 - not a popular subject) in order to get to grips with the psychology behind why people believe. As you can imagine, I was not a hugely popular child - I was researching Kierkegaard while my friends drank Jack Daniels in the park. I'd meet them after. It turned out that my beliefs didn't centre around a God, per se, but in a totally unexpected belief in human nature. Here I was thinking my entire life that I was a cynical little fuck. So I began to think I was a Humanist, and loved reading about all that Victorian Humanist stuff, about the Inductrial Revolution, building the Forth Road Bridge and all that jazz. It was fulfilling. Unfortunately it became clear very quickly that 150 years on it made a bit less sense to send up the Human Race as the best things since pre-sliced cheese since we were all hell-bent on destroying everything, so like the handlebar moustache, it became less fashionable to me, and I looked for something else to believe in. For a short and admittedly embarassing time, I was a Solipsist. This may have had something to do with me being a tiny depressive metalhead girl, but I thought the only thing that would make any sense was if the world was all a dream, dreamed up by me. Then I finally watched the Matrix and thought "pffffffft".

So back we go to some kind of Angel Delight dinner party. Beliefs have come up in conversation (even though we were talking about Supernanny US - some people just love to change the subject so they can reel of information they read in Dawkins) and I've probably mentioned that I don't believe in God. Here we have those two outcomes I mentioned before. Both as bad as each other, remember.

1) How can you not believe there's anything out there? There are so many unanswered questions about our Universe, you can't just rule out a supreme being - or even a supreme race! (Adding in a bit of Sci-Fi there for good measure. People think I'll agree with them more if they add aliens.)

2) Oh, me too! It just makes sense, doesn't it, I mean a big bloke in the sky creating the world in 7 days? Get real! Do you read (lists off several thousand Atheist blogs) and go to (some form of Atheist meeting group)? Oh, you should, it's so interesting to hear opinions from people as enlightened as us! HAHAHA!

Person number one is possibly naive but essentially harmless. I could maybe get out of this conversation by shrugging my shoulders and saying "Well I believed in Santa wholeheartedly until I was given solid evidence contrary to my beliefs in his existence." Then there'd be a bit of an awkward mumble, somebody would call me an arse, and we'd get on with the party. Person number two is a whole different kettle of fish. They are the reason I am ashamed to admit I am an Atheist. Somehow they believe that because they don't believe in God that they are some kind of new-age genius, far above the rabble, much more intelligent than those pathetic, praying proles. I love talking about Atheism, debating and hearing different opinions, but generally Atheists make this so hard. If you disagree with anything Dawkins says, for example, you are regarded as a total whimpering idiot. We mustn't disagree with Dawkins, or Sagan for that matter. Why? Oh, is that because you've set up a nice little religion for yourself have you? With Gods who tell you what to think? And you meet in a room and listen to ideas and ideologies? And you want to make everybody think the same way as you?

Holy crap. Atheism as a religion. It's found a way to isolate me. And here I was just thinking I'd finally found a way to independently reign in my thoughts and find new ways to explain life on this planet. If Jesus existed, he'd be weeping.
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