Resistance to change is the reason the world is currently en route to hell via Haditha. The pace of globalisation frightens the bejesus out of old people, bearded men in black and those little brown tribes that emerge blinking into the oncoming path of a JCB in South American jungles from time to time, always wearing loincloths in a blow to naturists’ rights. Things are fine as they are, even when they’re not.
Still, change has always struck me as good. To those who would bemoan the state of things, beginning sentences with ‘In my day’, I would point out that to an alien invader life would appear a great deal better for humanity in the 21st century than it was in, say, the 11th, when leprosy was treated as a much-loved household pet. Yes, we all used to leave our doors unlocked before the 1980s invented both burglars and murderers, but previous generations would be forgiven for suggesting that overall improvements to healthcare and childhood survival rates, previously unthinkable access to knowledge and never having to say “Yes masser” to a man in a top hat wielding a flail could be regarded as positive developments.
And then smartphones arrived to tell me I’m lying to myself. No, this is not a diatribe against smartphones. Clearly I despise what they do to people, encouraging them to stare dim wittedly at a glowing box as they stride into the path of a number 82. I know few actions I loathe more than the upward finger flick that indicates someone gormlessly scanning their Twitter feed, wilfully blind to the fact they chose to follow all those people whose tweets they’re now merrily ignoring in favour of a Vine of a parrot riding a labrador.
But I’m coming to realise I hate more what they’re doing to me: forcing me to realise I’m starting to resist change. I’m starting to get left behind. This way lies UKIP and I’m scared.
I live one stop from where the Northern line pops out into the open air. The moment we emerge blinking from the city’s hellish depths, 95% of tube passengers reach lustily for their phones to tell Facebook they’ve survived 35 minutes beneath London. Not me; even if I have an important message to send – when, where and whose round – the phone stays in the pocket. I won’t succumb. I stare dumbfounded at the sheep around me. They’re having more fun than I am and it inexplicably sickens me.
Change is becoming something that annoys me by default. I found myself on a new-design Victoria line train last week. Turns out the handrail above your head is now half the usual length, leaving me clutching air like the girl at the start of Cliffhanger, doubtless seeming to other passengers as though I was waving away the last of my sanity because, really, why would a handrail that’s been there for years suddenly not be there? Why change that, of all things? I see people almost every day using handrails of sensible lengths; I promise it was fine how it was.
In a cafe not long ago I heard two old men chatting. During a conversation about pizza I heard one of them throw in a gag about a bong. When did old men start knowing what bongs are about, or pizza for that matter? The abrupt angst that the world is marching on oblivious to my pointless rants and ballooning prostate hit me like a police car on the A55. It made wonder if I’m no longer willing to keep up, because what equivalents will I need to know about 20 years from now? Virtual-reality intercourse and GM kebabs?
A few years ago I was keen to move further into the centre of London, having established procreation is little more than an excuse for someone much younger than me to make me drink less, and I’m not falling for that. It’s become clear to me recently, however, that suburbia matches the aims and tolerance levels of a man who has worn the same style of plain, black hoodie for the last 20 winters despite the chill edging ever deeper into his marrow. Further into town would involve enormous change, and for the first time in my life that’s as appealing as a holiday in Hull.
Nothing is allowed to be left alone. I saw a packet of flavoured pork scratchings in a pub the other day. Do our swine die screaming just so we can spray their remains with alternative entrails to make them taste of Cumberland sausage? Can we not just enjoy those nasty little hairs poking out of ventricle blistering fat without the whiff of black pudding assaulting our senses?
What will I not accept if I make old age? When will I know I’m done accepting ‘new’? I’ve spent the better part of four decades enjoying progress, such as embracing multiculturalism and doing everything to combat homophobia short of scaling the shaft myself, but suddenly things are getting out of control. I’ve started bemoaning the invention of ‘craft beer’, because warm, flat, traditional beer tastes nasty enough without some wanker adding daffodils and gas to it. Can I not let them have their craft beer without complaint?
No. Fuck virtual reality and fuck craft beer. Fuck pubs that make staff wear aprons, and cafes that serve alcohol. Fuck the Independent going digital and the NME going free. Fuck ‘multiplayer online battle arenas’ and every ’emoji’ ever squeezed from Satan’s left grape. Fuck mixed martial arts, fuck goji berries and fuck Elon Musk and everything he stands for.
Fuck progress and fuck change – I’m staying put in about 2009, before Clegg licked Cameron’s balls and you got hit by a number 82.