On the face of it, 2016 is a great year to be peddling hate.
Ostensibly, the page you’re staring at now like a cow looking over a fence is intended to allow people to vent their spleen at everything from falafel to football via fatwas. Its purpose as I conceived it was to allow people to laugh or rage at life’s many stupidities. People hate a lot of things and there’s unlikely to be a giant jay cloth of joy passed among all 7.4 billion of us to wipe that all away any time soon. Might as well try to make light of it, accept the futility and anticipate the next disaster with a shrug, a pint and another pint.
This year above all should be a great year to write silly rants about what you loveable humans have been doing to each other. And yet here we stand, halfway through what seems to be the beginning of the end, and what I’d foolishly come to believe was my heightened ability to chuckle at even the most heinous event is cracking under the pressure. Civilisation is going stunningly wrong, and I can think of barely a goddamn thing to say about it.
I’ve never yet found myself struck dumb at what people are capable of. Planes were flown into buildings 15 years ago and, horrific as that was, within a couple of weeks I was laughing at a stand-up comedian raging at the ‘flag-waving ra-ra bullshit’ response of the USA. Paedos and scandals from paedos in sandals leak into the daily papers with surprising regularity and all I can think of is how to manoeuvre them into one-liners, ‘I’m sweating like Stuart Hall at the funfair’ being this week’s fave.
But I can’t be alone in being overwhelmed by recent events. We’re at a point in humanity’s development that someone, lone madman or not, finds a way to justify ploughing a lorry through a crowd of people, swerving about like he’s savouring a spree in Grand Theft Auto. For God’s sake man, we may allow our children a pre-bedtime hour in a glorious open-world testament to conscience-free felony, but that’s just pretend.
In the name of a somewhat questionable – that is, completely made up – ideology, atheists are machete’d to death in Bangladesh, holidaymakers in Turkey are sent skywards by bombs rather than aeroplanes, the unsuspecting are massacred in gigs and clubs for the dreadful crime of enjoying a night out, and ever-dangerous fruit sellers and textile merchants are blown up in markets across Iraq. Religion: peace be upon us all.
There are people in the world right now justifying the murder of a woman for dishonouring her family, with the words “But what else was he supposed to do?” Get some fucking perspective, ideally, because wanting to live your own life by your own rules ought not be punishable by being drugged at dinner time and strangled in your sleep, by your fucking brother.
Elsewhere, not only do police mete out capital punishment without recourse to costly courts, they now find themselves assassinated in the street. Given you get put on administrative, fully paid leave for it, the safest retirement plan for police officers in America may actually be to shoot a black man.
Politicians are as horrified as the rest of us at all these events but seem so comically unable to do anything about it we’re left with the likes of Francois Hollande and Barack Obama standing slackly at podiums, ashen faced, telling us we need to ‘end hate’. Do you not think we would if we knew how? Do you not think we prefer laughing to wailing in grief? Their response is little more than an appeal to better nature, and if we’re learning anything right now it’s that a great many people’s nature is to be really fucking horrible to as many other people as they can.
My own fair isle has declared itself sick of continental collaboration, and has decided to go it alone because if there’s one man who really needs a boost it’s Vladimir Putin. We have a new government, staffed by condescending rich white people. Never saw that coming. And in the days after our comedic EU vote, foreigners were being told to get out. It turns out membership of the EU was little more than a way to keep a lid on the inherent xenophobia of the British people. And if you argue it’s a lid best left in place, what are you, a Paki or something?
An argument often put forward is that the world is no more angry than before – we just hear about it more. Twenty-four hour news and social media, the twin-pronged pitchfork of globalisation, might make learning of a new atrocity almost instantaneous but not in itself more likely to occur.
Horseshit. It would be nice to think that a suicide bomber’s brain was filled solely with thoughts of sex in the afterlife before being filled with fire and shrapnel, but be realistic: if he didn’t think the world would swiftly learn of his deeds, would he bother? Virgins are one thing, but hasn’t being remembered become the point of human existence? What are we all here for if not to leave a mark, ideally on countless families in the form of brutal, concussive crime? What’s the point doing anything any more if no-one tweets about it?
And believe me, tweet we will. Who among us hasn’t heard of a terrible event and turned to the internet to voice their views? We condemn, we appeal for calm, we extend sympathies to people we don’t know. In short, we do everything we can to make the world think we’re a decent person who recognises barbarity for what it is while putting in as little actual effort as we can get away with. Everyone talks, all at once. Listening is over.
As I’ve been writing this, an announcement came over the loudspeaker in this office demanding we embark on a minute’s silence for the victims of the nutter in Nice. That’ll certainly help. Perhaps later I’ll sign an internet petition about something, though hopefully that’ll take less than a minute because I have important things to do to help my species progress along the same path that’s shepherding us to the brink. Please allow me to stay in my ludicrous bubble of wilful ignorance because I fervently believe if we don’t keep calm and carry on mindlessly, the terrorists will win. Near the top of this morning’s headlines is a British electronics company being bought by the Japanese. Oh no.
This isn’t accusatory; I’m no less to blame than the rest of you. I’m one voice among billions, and what I say matters no more than the cross I put beside Remain a few weeks ago. I wake up every single morning with a sense of low-level dread I can’t explain, as though every day is filled with public speaking and weddings and all the other things that make me want to reach for my revolver. There’s nothing to fear but mortality itself, but there’s something new and different about 2016, some new strain of enmity that isn’t restricted to religious fanatics or fuckwits fixated with firearms.
And what’s that coming over the hill? It’s a disputatious blonde child with his well-manicured finger on the nuclear button, and if you think 2017’s going to be any better you’ve not been paying attention. He’s going to build a wall, and we’re all going to pay for it.
Not for the first time I’m glad Bowie and Corbett aren’t around to see what we’re doing to each other. I don’t have any answers for you. Could be I’m part of the problem. Maybe all this striving for apathy isn’t the noble cause I hoped it would be. Maybe every little fleck of anger, every cutting comment or nasty jibe, just makes the whole bloody business worse.
I’d make a reference to the goo in Ghostbusters 2 at this point, but they’ve even gone and fucked that up now. What a year.