Do you want to live in a smaller world?
“The place where I come from is a small town. They think so small, they use small words.” — ‘Big Time’ by Peter Gabriel
I turned on the news the other day and every other word was ‘Be isolated and ignorant…’ and I was like, ‘wait, what?’
I saw the news a week ago today and — oh boy — it went from hideous to heinous to heartbreaking in a matter of hours.
Perhaps it’s the same as it ever was. Every day is exactly the same, so it’s hard to get any real sense of perspective. Your Facebook wall full of harrowing tales from around the world. Mass shootings sitting alongside ‘news’ about your friends new job and your cousin’s baby scan, and think-pieces about far right propaganda trussed up as a socially acceptable swipe at a world gone mad. Don’t worry because it’s me and you that’s going crazy, not them. No, no, they’re fine. They also don’t think we need to increase investment in mental health provision, whilst driving us out of our minds, but that’s another story… Or the same story, it’s just an incredibly long choose-your-own-adventure novel with no ending. You won’t get a choice of the health service is privatised, that’s for sure.
Hold up. Wait a minute. This was meant to be about hope, not fear.
Dream big, they said. Explore, see the world. Try new things... And yet every other voice on the news is preaching a new kind of insular. Be small, close the gates, feed the crocodiles in the moat…
Whether it’s Trump or Farage’s far-fetched foraging for a better time, reminding “us” — through the steamy mist of nostalgic cup of rosey lee (tea) — that we’re living in the dirty ashes of a fallen empire.
There’s no hint of irony to their side of things. Just an illogical conundrum that one minute ‘we’re taking our country back’ so we can return to a time when we were ‘going over there, colonising their countries’ which was at 8:32pm on the most perfect of Tuesdays. You know, back in the time when we were truly putting the Great into UK.
I’m not sure I even understand why the Commonwealth isn’t a national embarrassment. We live in odd and divisive times. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be in the bubble of fear and self-interest.
It’s stranger still to see facts and stats and lies (tied up in empty rhetoric) that go unchecked in a time of the internet. In 2016, when ignorance should be at an all-time low, it seems to be increasingly a badge of pride. The experts must wrong. They must be. Mustn’t they???!?!
Opening Facebook the other day I saw something ridiculous about how many potholes there are whilst the EU is spending money building bridges... Try this tax-wriggling-out-of search engine to see what you find. Fast forward and just imagine Michael Gove telling you to buy an SUV instead of complaining about potholes. Or Boris suggesting some fun games your kids can play to count the bumps in the road.
“There may be trouble, ahead…”
Seeing the Vote Leave signs as I drive around London’s commuter belt makes my heart heavy. Overhearing conversations about how much better this country would be if we could just get our hands back on the reigns of power and lock down our borders, then, and only then, will we be safe and secure, and hermetically sealed in a perfectly little village where nothing bad can ever happen. There will be no-one who is Other. Nothing new to experience. Nothing to fear. (Oh how wonderfully jejune…)
Meanwhile, turn on the news, open up Twitter; and you’ll see plenty to fear. A lot of things your defensive tendencies are sparked by. What I fear isn’t people fleeing war, what isn’t being said. It’s what isn’t coming is coming from the snouts of those on the cups of being in charge of pressing that big red button that launches a nuclear attack.
You think Putin is scary, just imagine how the Middle East will feel about Trump and Boris’ special relationship. You’ll have so much to fear that you’ll slowly become anaesthetised to it and stop feeling any empathy. Coming soon: The death toll will just be another number before they say how many goals were scored today.
It’s sadder still to see a younger generation slowly imploding into a different kind of small world with a constituency of one. The world wide web becoming a black mirror. The new age of narcissism is creating a different kind of conservatism and self-interest.
And yet, and yet, and yet… Like a dolphin, I don’t feel like I’m from a town or a country or a continent. I’m just an inhabitant of earth. A member of the human race. On a planet. In an infinite universe.
Sure, I live in a kind of globalised village where I end up talking to members of indie bands about Bernie Sanders on Facebook, then get into a IM chat with a friend in LA at 3 in the morning and wake up to the BBC news telling me about wars in places I’ll never be able to visit, and famines in places that will still have a famine in a few months time but we won’t hear about it anymore…
What I’m trying to say is, why think so small? I can empathise with the fear but I can’t get my head around why you would want to close a window of opportunity, to be part of something sprawling with chorizo and ouzo and wine and winter wonderlands... If you slam the window will another door open or will you need to eat the blue pill to fit through the tiny door?
Why live in a country, with closed borders, when the world is your proverbial oyster. You could work or retire anywhere in Europe, for starters… just as long as they can understand you speaking English slowly and LOUDLY, as you ask for a bowl of porridge, as that’s the only thing you eat, out of choice. Oh, and Chicken Korma. With Heinz Ketchup. And a nice china mug full of rosey lee.