Back to the historical slipstream. Back to deciphering signs and p-p-punctuating time with meaning. Back to watching the pretty flames of the fire and beguiling shadows dancing on the cave wall. Hee-haw. Choo-choo. Vroom-vroom. Are we not capable of stepping off this merry-go-round of notional motion forwards? It is exhausting.
Hello my dear chair. How was your day?
It was a little burdensome, thanks.
Hello my grumbly fridge. How was your day?
Brrgh. It was chilly, thanks.
Hello my dear pot. How was your day?
Pretty potty, thanks.
No revolutions, then, from my servile furniture. No uprisings among my captive electric appliances. No insurrections among my disgruntled underwear. But then I went away to the countryside for a couple of days. When I returned to my beloved apartment, things were not the way I had meticulously left them. Disorder was afoot. Chaos was astir. Upheaval was in the air.
Yes chairs can, said my chair.
Power to the fridges, said my fridge.
Make pots great again, said my pot.
Even the spatula was at it with a rousing, Hollywood-style speech (“Too long have we been instruments of stirring…”). Is nothing ever content with its lot? I stopped believing in the primacy of free will a long time ago. Our passions merely reflect nature’s perpetual state of disgruntlement. Our pantomimic politics endlessly recycles the same repertoire of hoary clichés (change, hope, etc.). Our civility is tantamount to little more than a held-in fart.
Don’t get me wrong. I love Europe dearly and wish it was more trans and pan. America, in Trump, gets what it deserves. Britain, in Brexit, gets what it deserves. I would love nothing more than for Europe to cling on to its so-called values. But history is back after a long, convulsive nap. Let’s not delude ourselves: history is not the dirigible sum of human agency. It is, as Schopenhauer aptly described it, the “long, difficult and confused dream of mankind.”
People – young and old – have fallen into complacency. They feel deludedly entitled, they are tiresomely self-righteous. The other day I GROANED when I read about a Toronto professor who was widely vilified for refusing to use gender-neutral pronouns (‘they’, ‘ze’ and ‘zir’ instead of ‘he’ and ‘she’). There is no cause or group without its religious-like sensibilities. But too much of this anger and indignation is based on identities that are luxuries in the historic scheme of things. And too much of this anger and indignation results in Trump. Trump: the joker that can be anything to anyone.
Schopenhauer didn’t live to see the apocalyptic nightmare that history culminated in before taking a long, exhausted nap (post-WWII, or MCMXLV). In my historical scheme of things, it started to stir around the mid-1970s.
Of course, we all want to be free and have our precious little identities respected (for the record I have no identity and am proud of it). I prefer Obama to Trump because he is more reasonable. I prefer America to China or Russia because it is flagrantly self-serving and self-interestedly rational in pursuit of its aims (self-enrichment, expansion, survival). I would prefer to throw myself off a tall building than live under Isis (who would probably throw me off a minaret anyway). But history with a capital ‘H’ is back and reason is the first casualty of its relentless self-conflict.
I despair at the restlessness and discontentment that has spasmodically danced us into this perilous state (waltzed, tangoed, foxtrotted). If we had “never had it so good” in the 1960s, what does that say about us now? Shame on all of us, and most of all you, America. You will be remembered by future generations as the founding fathers (and mothers and gender-neutral progenitors) of the Anthropocene. Your gluttonous self-regard will be reviled for the hoax it was.
Freedom is arguably the most abused word in the history of language. No one is ever truly free (except, perhaps, those in the act of committing suicide) for at the very least we are slaves to our biology. Historically-driven language has reached a sort of Daily Mail-style fever pitch. It now SHOUTS its concerns. It shrilly CONDEMNS immigrants. It BEMOANS political correctness gone mad. It DENOUNCES the Left and DENIES climate change.
Personally, I wish everyone should SHUT UP. Our planet is the only thing worth truly fighting for. The one that keeps us all alive. The only habitable one that we know of. The one that has all those beautiful and strange life forms. Second to that, a more equitable, sustainable and human-friendly socio-economic system (I could go into painstaking detail but it would probably bore you). History shows that it is possible, that it is enduring, and that it is far less likely to lead to Trump-like demagogues.
Oh shut up, says my chair.
For the love of god give it a rest, says my fridge.
Put a sock in it, says my pot.
Okay, okay, I say. Because I know we love each other really…