Guest Post: Dear 21st Century NZ

A guest post from Jeremy Callender:

Dear 21st Century NZ,

You exhaust me.

I want to care about you and your continued existence – I really do.  My own existence is, after all, somewhat bound up in it.  But you do make it so very hard.

And it’s not the endless news stories of endless state/group/family/individual violence, the nauseating ubiquity of celebrity worship, or the cultural embracing of narcissism as if it were the virtue next to godliness.

It’s the noise.  It’s just the [insert adjectival colouration of choice] noise.

You just don’t seem to know how or when to bite your tongue.  When to pause and consider your response.  When to quietly refrain from sharing your every thought.  When to just shut the hell up. 

You just have to have your say.  You have to get your ten cents in.   To share the bottomless depths of your Google-fuelled wisdom.  To raise your banner proudly in the crucial swing-state of Facebook and on the bloody battlefield of Twitter, confident in the sanctimony and self-righteousness that are so deservedly yours.

And I understand.  I get it – I really do.  After all, there are so many issues about which to sanctimoniously and self-righteously speak.  Here are just a few of the issues:

  • Poor people are lazy bastards who live to defraud the taxpayer
  • Rich people are lying bastards who live to defraud the taxpayer
  • Brown people are whinging bastards who do all of the above
  • Yellow people are an insidious peril and must be stopped
  • White people live a life of undeserved privilege built on the spilt blood and trampled souls of innocent indigenous peoples who – prior to white people turning up – had never ever done anything remotely discourteous or otherwise warranting disapproval 
  • Black lives matter
  • White lives matter more
  • Yellow lives probably matter, but secretly we’d prefer if they didn’t
  • [insert name of preferred celebrity] has an opinion about something
  • Somebody somewhere said something about something – and I was offended
  • Donald Trump is alive
  • There’s a housing crisis
  • There’s a methamphetamine crisis
  • There’s a poverty crisis
  • There’s a pandemic
  • Minorities have rights
  • Animals have rights
  • Old people have rights for now, but think how convenient it would be if they didn’t?
  • White people (especially white men) shouldn’t have any rights at all

So many issues.  So many topics about which to sensibly converse in an informed, restrained and respectful manner.  

Flight of the Conchords used to sing about the issues:  “Think about it – think, think about it.”  I miss them.

See, the thing is, there have always been issues.  For as long as this ridiculous troupe of B-grade circus freaks that we call Humanity have been in charge of things, there have been issues.  The threat and reality of war. The possibility and reality of famine, plague, pestilence, immigration, emigration, social upheaval, injustice, poverty and inequality.  Overpriced avocados and underpaid sex workers.  

Et cetera and ad infinitum.

There have always been Donald Trumps and Kim Jong-Uns. There have always been environmental challenges to deal with.  There have always been people and groups of people who have possessed more and less than others.  There have always been people thinking and saying and doing things with which other people vehemently disagree.  There has always been pain and suffering and difficulty and unfairness and unhappiness.  This may come as a surprise to you, but there really is nothing new under the sun.

And in saying so, I am by no means implying that I think such things are great and wonderful and we should all be really stoked about it.

What I am saying is this: enough already.  Just …… enough.  Enough with the Facebook posts and the tweeting and the memes and the moral outrage and the hand wringing and the righteous vitriol and all of the other completely pointless and thoroughly unhelpful bullshit.

None of these things are going to go away.  They will always be with us in some form or another.  There will always be objects of fear for those who wish to fear.  Sources of offence for those who are determined to be offended.  Opportunities for exploitation by those with the will and the means to put their own desires first, irrespective of the cost to others.  There will always be the possibility of suffering, struggle and ultimate doom.  There always has been – just ask the dinosaurs.

Do you really think it matters in the long run if you’re Left, Right, up, down, black, white or yellow with purple stripes?  Conservative or liberal?  Casually religious or militantly less so?  Hetro He-Man archetype or ‘flaming’ homosexual?  Rich or poor?  

‘Coz it doesn’t.  

We’re all still incredibly imperfect human beings – isn’t that enough?  Aren’t we a sufficiently wretched species already?  Do we really need all of this other rubbish as well?  The cyber-fortresses of absolute righteous certainty?  The razorwire-topped walls of pseudo-ideological division?  The endless streams of senseless rhetoric and brain-dead invective in the “Comments” section of [insert name of preferred propaganda outlet], borne of ignorance and hurt and stupidity and fear?  

Do we need them?

Why is it so important that we each get our moral oar in?  Why is it so hard to accept and admit that we may all be as ill-informed and deceived as each other?  As biased as each other?  As bloody stupid as each other?  As lonely as each other?  As mortal and as scared as each other?

Why are we so determined to fight the possibility of smoke with the actuality of fire?  To crush any and all who dare to have a different point of view?  A view perhaps based on an experience of life that has been nothing like our own…

Is it fixing the problems?  Is it healing anyone’s pain?  Is it making us better people?  

Are our little online echo chambers helping us to sleep better at night?

Please tell me that they are…

Here’s a random theory that’s probably worth disregarding entirely:

If your journey brings you into contact with people whose opinions differ from your own, consider treating them gently: hearing them out and trying to understand them.  I mean, at the very least, you’ll be following Sun Tzu’s (and Rage Against The Machine’s) advice to know your enemy.  And if there are people around you who are living their lives in ways that just don’t quite gel with your ideas of how things should be, consider asking yourself – or, God forbid, respectfully asking them – why it is that they do what they do the way they do it.  

Who knows?  Their reasons might be better than – or the same as – yours…

Alternatively, you might just try quietly minding your own [insert adjective of choice] business.

If your ‘enemies’ – or their children – are hungry, then instead of bad-mouthing them to your friends, blogging about it or writing to your local representative, maybe you could consider taking them a meal.  If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.  And if they’re clearly not going to win the annual award for The Visual Embodiment of Perfect Middle Class Parenting any time soon, perhaps you could offer to babysit their kids from time to time.  

And if you’re deeply fearful that the condition of their front lawn may be negatively impacting property values, then perhaps consider pulling your fat head out of your righteous arse and offer to mow it for them. 

I think I remember once hearing about this guy who suggested that we should try loving our neighbours as we love ourselves……yes, yes I’m fairly certain I read that somewhere. 

But then again, what could a Jew have possibly known about suffering…?

Flaglouriously yours,

Jeremy Callander

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