How to deal with the world going to shit

Dreams are made of this, sadly

It’s enough to keep you awake at night, or worse: last night it was a nightmare in which I was killing zombies with a hammer. In Macbeth, after the King is killed, Shakespeare writes that nature turned against man, and the horses ate each other. This was Shakespeare’s way of implying that killing a king upset the natural order — or so my high school English teacher told me. I think of that line a lot nowadays. Everything that I knew seems to be turned upside down. Reality TV has become the News, and the News often reads like badly written fiction. Right now we’re in a twilight zone, it’s getting harder to tell the shadows from the ghosts. I’d expect to look out of the window and not be surprised to see a horse tucking into another horse. Stuff is so bad that sometimes I just zone out and forget. Life feels ok again, and then some news seeps through the shutters of my imagination, and I make the mistake of thinking about it, and back I am, sliding down a dark hole, no bottom in sight, the light at the top a distant and dimming flicker.

Maybe the world was always this bad, but we didn’t have Social Media and 24 hour streaming news to remind us of that night and day. But no, I think it this is a ‘special’ time, with some really ‘special’ people running things (into the ground).

I do remember back when I was a kid, and Thatcher, Regan, and Gorbachev were in charge. Nuclear weapons were everywhere and we genuinely lived in fear of a nuclear war; like real fear, not just deterrent fear. There were stories of air-raid sirens going off by mistake, and people sharing all their secrets, thinking it was their last 3 minutes. During the day we thought hard about how to survive a nuclear attack, and lived out those plans in our nightmares at night.

The 1980's Protect and Survive booklet by the British Government on how to survive a nuclear attack (more here)

Then there was the terrorism. I grew up in a London regularly being bombed by the IRA. It became relatively normal. I have distinct memories of hearing explosions at night, and friends narrowly missing attacks. One time a friend was in a street being evacuated, and we were all pretty blasé about such things as it happened every day. She casually decided to walk into a nearby pub until things calmed down, and as she did the bin outside blew up.

HSBC, City of London, after the 1993 Bishopsgate bombing by the IRA

There were the fears of pandemics, plagues, floods, all of which didn’t happen. But then it feels like things went a bit quiet. There was a nice time when all the politicians were boring and centrist. Everyone basically agreed on everything, nobody seemed that keen on killing each other, and the economies were all doing ok. Peace in Northern Ireland, Peace in the Middle East, Clinton, Obama, Blair, Cameron — all basically nice guys, balanced, dull.

So yes, now is different. It’s happening on all fronts. If you take the time to read in detail you’ll see how Russia is involved in a massive global campaign to destabilise anything and anywhere that is not Russia, or an ally of Russia. China would rather have a nuclear armed North Korea on its border than a militarised American-backed unified Korea. America has completely lost the plot: the NRA, backed by the gun manufacturers, lobbies politicians so that they continue to allow people, including the mentally ill and suspected terrorists, to build up arsenals that would be the envy of many foreign armies, with which they frequently massacre American people. Somehow, despite all the other insanity in America, that one thing seems to show just how corrupt, dysfunctional and broken America is. The American Right pray for the dead as they rush to arm the next killer.

And then my own England, that green and pleasant land. I wake up one morning to insane Marxist pronouncements from Corbyn and his Labour party. They mean well, and much of what they say about society is to be commended, but then they just keep going, into nationalising banks, and scrapping capitalism. The prospect of a Labour government is terrifying, and I say that as a life-long Labour voter. But then the next day I wake up to the Conservative Government, in all their back-stabbing, self-obsessed, myopic lunacy. They are so incredibly incompetent, stupid, and tragic that it seems like anything would be better than them, except that the other option is Labour and Corbyn. Quite how the UK managed to get to a point where the only political options are Corbyn or May is beyond me.

So I listen to comedy. Satire is good, as it blows farts in the faces of such awful people. But any comedy helps. Historical comedies are good, like the BBC’s lovely ‘Upstart Crow,’ which is about William Shakespeare and gracefully mixes contemporary political satire with clever English-class jokes about his plays, all wrapped in crude scatalogical and phallic puns. Saturday Night Live continues to give hope that beneath the quagmire of red-hat wearing, gun-toting, red-neck morons there are still civilised, educated, people in America just waiting to be liberated from their own form of hell.

And I write. Like now. I get it out of my system. A problem shared is a problem aired, or was it the other way around. Ranting into a Word document and getting a ‘thumbs up’ from a reader on Medium is like a friendly pat on the back; a nod and a wink, as if to say, ‘don’t worry, I know, me too.’

I find an expensive red wine also helps, alone or with company. Possibly as Kim’s bombs reign down on my head, or I shelter from the hail of bullets fired by an American who owns his own arsenal, or as either Boris Johnson or Jeremy Corbyn walks gleefully into Downing Street, followed by the horrible screeching sound of Sterling sliding into oblivion, and the hollow crashing of Scotland physically separating from the Kingdom, I will be sitting with a glass of red wine, listening to some Radio 4 or SNL comedian take the piss out of the whole damn thing.