More cynical than usual, this one..
by Pseud O'Nym
If you’re reading this post, then quite possibly you’ve read some of my other one’s and so what follows won’t come as a wholly unexpected surprise.
Last night at 8pm people gathered on their doorstep or balcony to shout, cheer and clap their support for the NHS and other emergency staff who have steadfastly remained doing their job of keeping us safe and well whilst we stay indoors. As is the modern way of these things, this was initiated and rapidly spread on social media. It even, I found out later, had a name, ‘ Clap for Carers’. I mean, I know the NHS is fucked and all but really? What next, ‘Syphilis for Scientists’? My housemates were going to do it and at 7.55pm, when they told me about it, it was the first I’d heard about it. Was I going to join in, they asked?
I thought about it for, maybe all of fraction of a millisecond before I said ‘No’. With curiosity possibly tinged with a hint of disapproval, they asked why. I could’ve said it would be more meaningful of people had instead of shouting, had donated a packet of toilet paper. A two-roll ‘savers’ pack, not a thick quilted 4 ply Andrex, obviously. Lets not go made here! Or gone online to a medical supplies store and ordered some face masks or protective clothing, and have it sent to their nearest hospital. Or cooked a properly healthy and nourishing meal, put it some Tupperware and gifted it to a police station so they don’t have to eat the normal take-away shit they do when on shift.
I could’ve said that as a rule, I tend not to partake in most communal things such as this for the very simple reason that the only people it benefits are the people who participate in it. They get to feel virtuous; they feel as if they’ve done something, even if they’re not quite sure what that something was. But the main thing is, they did it and that’s something. The people who are meant to take something – again with the something! – from it, get nothing.
Sure the cheering and clapping lasted until people got cold and went back indoors. Oh, not forgetting the feedback loop of social media, which helps create it, allows people to report on it while it’s happening and then post pictures and films of them doing it afterwards and to share with others who’ve done exactly the same. And the newspapers, who play an increasingly irrelevant role now, but who report on it AS A GOOD THING, and reinforce the idea to their readers that something that had any actual effect on anything actually happened. They were all at it this morning. But aside from that, aside from collective onanism on a massive scale, a virtue signalling gesture as empty as the pasta shelves at Sainsbury’s, they got nothing.
Not in any practical way. It was – to me at any rate – the equivalent of when a work colleague you barely know, finds out your suffered a bereavement, and says “ If there’s anything I can do to help, just call me’ You both know it’s bollocks. But it’s socially sanctioned bollocks. But that’s not easy to get across in a pithy riposte. Not when you’ve a speech impediment anyway.
So instead I settled for the obvious – to me anyway – answer, “It’d make more sense,” I said “ if they just shouted ‘I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore’.” If some tumbleweed had blown across the room at that very moment, shocked I would not have been.
Reading this through, I’m struck by how incredibly cynical I am. It doesn’t make me wrong though and it isn’t a recent affectation either. At any point in my life since I was a teenager if you’d have presented me with the exact same scenario, you’d have got a broadly similar response. Not exactly the same, as my cynicism has been informed by contact with other humans over many, many years. For me to think any way, therefore, would be insane.