The first time little Willy says “Are we there yet?” in the back of the car there’s a mixture of amusement and obvious trepidation that there’s more to come. The second utterance confirms the fear; the bastard’s never going to shut up.
From the third to about the 15th, there’s anger and frustration rumbling just beneath the surface and an overpowering urge to pull over and strap the child upside-down to the outside of the car so that his forehead very occasionally scrapes the tarmac of the M25. But from the 16th onwards, it becomes a lot easier to ignore it and eventually you can serenely rise above the din, knowing that little Willy thinks he’s really pissing you off when in reality you couldn’t give less of a fuck.
No question, when the current trend for online petitions began it was laudable, effective and made everyone involved feel like they were making the world a better place. There were petitions demanding an end to homelessness, to keep countries out of wars, for equality in various shapes, colours and sizes and all those other causes that make Shami Chakrabarti’s labia minora thrum with pleasure.
And now we are all little Willy, loving how effective we are while the fucker in the driving seat ignores us completely.
At some point some pillock began a silly petition that became depressingly popular and got on the news – ‘deport John Prescott’ or similar – and that was that, floodgates off hinges. Though idiotic, comedic or attention-seeking petitions were a thankfully short-lived burden we’re now delivered a new raft of petitions every week on topics that many of us actually care about, and care about more than it takes to enter one’s name and email address into a pair of boxes on a web page.
That’s what you have to do to sign a petition now: click a link, enter two pieces of personal information, hit a button and you will be rewarded with more virgins in heaven than Obama and Osama combined. You are special because you care about your fellow men and women on Earth, and pressing a keyboard 30 times proves you’re willing to go the extra mile.
And naturally the ease of signing has made online petitions utterly redundant. I used to actually read what the petition was about but now I simply look at the headline, too-long-didn’t-read the rest and click the link if the fancy takes me. No matter how much I want to save elephants or prevent people looking at your tits on Page 3 I will almost certainly fuck right off without signing if I can’t double-click the first box and have my information entered automatically by the browser.
If we can’t bring ourselves to care about the content how are the people these things are aimed at – government ministers, usually – supposed to give a damn about how many people took eight seconds out of their day to sign it? I can picture Jeremy Hunt laughing as another 35,000 ‘signatures’ land in his inbox without a drop of ink or effort spent, begging him not to brand nurses with pound signs or whatever his latest NHS wheeze might be. Picturing that bastard laughing makes me so angry I’m tempted to start a petition to have his lungs privatised.
By far the most guilty exponents of this unstoppable petitiongeddon are Change.org. Right now their ongoing petitions include the following: ‘Theresa May: Mothers’ names should be on marriage certificates’ (I couldn’t care less if apathy paid); ‘Stop Israel from murdering innocent people: It’s time we put a stop to this diabolical act’ (and a petition is what we needed all along!); and ‘Remove Nash Grier from Vine, YouTube and Twitter’. He’s a horrible cunt, apparently, and when the petition is ‘successful’ with all of 100 signatures I’m sure ‘the internet community’ will have no problem getting him to spread his horseshit via some other medium.
There are some victories to be found among these thousands of petitions but almost every one I can find is for the type of sop you can imagine the government feeding us to keep us happy in the back of the car. My money flies into pub tills so fast I have no idea whether there was a woman on the banknote, and whether I’ve just fingered Jane Austen doesn’t strike me as a major concern as I use that afternoon’s sixth Guinness to drown my many inadequacies. While Cherry Groce’s family are doubtless delighted Chris Grayling has granted legal aid for the inquest into her death, an online petition about someone who died 26 fucking years after the riots in which she was paralysed is fairly unlikely to resurrect the old girl, unless there’s been a breakthrough in molecular immortality that passed me by.
The more people who instigate shite like ‘Bury Council: Not to start 3 weekly bin collections’ the more it’ll be impossible to make people in power take note when something that actually matters kicks off. I’ve stopped signing these fucking things, with the exception of ones about beer prices and not shutting pubs down, because if I can’t drink you’ll all suffer. I strongly suggest the next time you’re tempted to tap tap tap into the two little boxes you redirect that energy to rolling a joint or flicking yourself off instead.