“Today you use so many rude words.”
“Because the people of my country are fuckwits.”
I’ve been in a philosophical mood for the last few days. There are a couple of reasons. One is that I’m deeply disappointed with the results of the recent UK election, and the other is that I’ve been reading Paramahansa Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi.
My friends know that, although I’m pretty much a card-carrying atheist, I read a lot of ‘spiritual’ books (usually rather skeptically. A lot of Yogananda’s miraculous anecdotes of karmic badassery remind me of a quote from The Simpsons: “That, er, never happened did it Homer?”)
Some wise old Native American dude once said that “Religion is for those who are afraid of hell, while spirituality is for those who’ve already been there.” Like everyone, there have been ups and downs in my life. I’ve had it a lot easier than some, slightly more difficult than others. I have never been to hell. But I have a feeling that if I return to the UK at any point over the next five years, that’ll be pretty much the closest I’ve come to it.
In a democratic country, a political party can only ever be a reflection of the people who have chosen them to govern. What does it say about the British people, then, that they have chosen a party of smug, self-serving arseholes who would happily stick a hose in the mouth of a drowning man if it meant gaining a place on the lifeboat?
To my eyes, a chasm has emerged between my parents’ generation (the Baby Boomers) and everyone who has come afterwards (‘Generation WTF Happened?’) it’s an increasing gap that I can see as strongly in the east as I did in the west. Only the other day, I was talking to a colleague who is depressed because her mother is pressuring her into marriage instead of studying a new language to increase her dwindling job prospects.
I don’t pretend to know anything about politics or economics. I’m not an intellectual or an academic. I’m just a normal bloke. Maybe I’m a little weird because I prefer silence to most music, or because I prefer books to most of the shit they put on the telly, but my idea of bliss is probably similar to yours: walking on a beach, sipping a cold beer in the garden, or staring at a nice cuppa that comes with the Chinese character for ‘tea’ sprinkled on it. Whatever my deficiencies in ‘education’, however, I know enough to realize that the world we have been given by the previous generation is ailing, unable to breathe and as hollow as a chocolate Easter egg. What’s more, the egg is about to crack open under a massive hammer.
We are the first generation in human history that is financially poorer than our parents. We have inherited an economic and political system that is on the verge of collapse. The people who you have chosen to lead your country are flying a plane into the mountainside and arguing over what they should have for their in-flight meal. I don’t know what we’ll run out of first: land to live on, fossil fuels to burn, food to eat or air to breathe, but it will eventually happen. The reason it will happen is because nobody is angry enough to put a hand in the air or raise metaphorical fist to metaphorical balls and shout “stop.” This is what my Chinese colleague was trying to explain to her mother. This is why she (nor I, nor most other sensible people I know) want to have children.
The Baby Boomers were too distracted by their comfortable houses and decent cars and handsome reflections in the mirror to force any kind of peaceful, positive change. Growing up, my peers and I were too distracted with the NES to give a fuck about the NHS. My best friends have a young child who won’t even know what an NHS was (not only because there isn’t going to be one, but because – like me – he’s unlikely to return to England for anything but a holiday or a visa renewal). If you voted Conservative, and you have or want to have children, I find it very unlikely that your kids will end up thanking you for it.
What has this got to do with the ‘spiritual’ book I’m reading?
People are often surprised by my dual nature. How can I be so compassionate and self-effacing yet so quick to pull the hair-trigger or tell certain people there’s a cupboard I know that’s just big enough for them to go fuck themselves in?
In the New Testament there’s a story of Jesus Christ marching into a church and tipping over tables, because his father’s house has been turned into a place of commerce. In fact, a lot of stories about Jesus* actually make him sound like a pretty angry motherfucker. Gandhi was angry too, as was Adolf Hitler and those guys that make South Park. Let’s get this straight. I am not comparing myself to Hitler or Gandhi. I’m certainly not comparing myself to Trey Parker. I’m just saying that angry people (for good or ill) tend to get shit done! They tend to get shit done because they’re so sick of looking at the world as it could be, or should be, and having people tell them “Doesn’t work like that, mate.”
“There’s plenty of jobs out there if you keep looking.”
“The problem isn’t the government/consumerism/over-population, it’s immigration/terrorism/the last guys who were in charge.”
Might I humbly suggest that we all grow the fuck up? Nobody is coming along at the eleventh hour to sort this shit out for us.**
Selfishness got us into this mess (the writer Ken Wilbur has subtitled the Baby Boomers “the ‘me’ generation”). Voting selfishly will not get us out. Blame won’t help either. Sure, the Boomers fucked up, but it was the great philosopher JK Rowling (who votes for the other guys, by the way) who pointed out “there is an expiry date for blaming your parents for steering you in the wrong direction. The moment you are old enough to take the wheel, responsibility lies with you.”
So what can we do? How can I end this post with a ‘spiritual’ message? Well, I know enough about storytelling to know that happy endings are all about the same thing: change. The hero looks deep within themselves during a moment of doubt,*** then realizes it’s time to get their shit together.
Winston Churchill had this advice to offer people who are going through hell:
* (including the one where he’s coming back with a sword aflame to get zero century on yo’ ass)
** (unless that story about yer man and his flaming sword of decapitation holds much credence? Me, I’m thinking it was possibly a metaphor).
***(Rocky Balboa stares forlornly at a huge poster of Apollo Creed, knowing that he can’t win the fight. Superman retires to the Fortress of Solitude and grows a beard of sorrow. Yer man stands in the garden of Gethsemane, contemplating his forthcoming crucifixion)