To paraphrase Dory, “what do you do when the world gets you down?”
Well, that’s me at the minute. The world is just getting me down, down and further down. I can’t really articulate what it is that is making me feel like this because it feels that it’s everything yet nothing at the same time, but let me try to unpack that a little.
I was on a couple of news websites last night before I went to bed and found that nearly all the news articles were reporting on cruelty, violence, hatred and division in one way or another. Stories of people doing unspeakable things to one another and to defenceless animals and children, or stories that perpetuate lines of difference and division between people and so on. But it’s not just that that is getting me down it’s the way that other people talk to each other about the things that are being reported.
For example, the “gay bakery” story that has been in the press for a little while and which was resolved last night (for those who don’t know what it’s all about, here is a link to catch you up to speed). There has been a massive debate about the rights and wrongs of the case, which in our society of free speech and “right to offend” is one thing, but the sheer hatred and vitriol that is injected into the debate has left me despairing of how we now talk to each other as fellow human beings. The thing that makes me despair most about this story is that Peter Tatchell, a leading gay activist and spokesman, has come under fire for his comments on the results of the appeal. The world has gone mad when one man says that free speech must be allowed to happen, even if it offends others. And this is from a man who speaks out on behalf of those offended by the actions of the baker. I despair, I really do.
I’m talking about the people who comment in the forums rather than the journalists in this case, but there are plenty of news stories out there where the journalists are just as guilty of driving wedges between people and celebrating the “them and us” mentality that is rampant wherever you look, and it’s an example of how the world is getting me down just now
Another example is the way that the people in Calais have been portrayed in the press: their so-called refuge away from a war zone has been dubbed a “jungle”, they are not talked about as people but as migrants in a pejorative way. It’s an issue that has polarised people, and we are now in a position where people who speak up (or speak out, depending on which way you look at it) are ridiculed and jeered at for saying what they think.
Take Gary Lineker. He tweeted that he thought the way some people were treating the refugees in Calais was “hideously racist”, and he has been absolutely lambasted for it. The Sun newspaper has called for him to be sacked immediately (full story here) on the grounds that he is a celebrity and therefore shouldn’t express his personal views, no matter what they are.
He is criticised for speaking out, he’s criticised for NOT speaking out. Everyone seems to have an opinion and if you’re not at one extreme end of the scale or the other then your view doesn’t count. Or so it seems. And it gets me down.
But it’s not just what people say about what people say that gets me down, it’s the situations that they are talking about in the first place that get me down too. Why do the people flock to Calais in the first place? Why do they have to leave their homes? Why is there war and conflict? Why do we supply arms to keep that conflict going? Why can’t we promote peace instead of war? What’s going to happen if Trump wins? Or Clinton wins?? And so on. It gets me down.
These things are on the world stage, but there’s things that happen locally that drag me down too. Why have the local kids vandalised our church grounds again? Why was my nephew beaten up just for walking down the road a couple of weeks ago? Why do people do things like this and think that’s an acceptable thing to do?
It’s not just that though.
We’re coming up to Halloween – a bit of fun? Or a celebration of the dark side of life where it is acceptable to frighten people just because it is done in the name of “fun” (fake spiders, killer clown masks, knocking on doors and expecting sweets from strangers etc)?
There are already Christmas adverts on TV and on hoardings – whoah there, calm down! It’s another two months away yet!!
Year on year, Remembrance has been turning from something quiet and dignified into (yet another) occasion for people to outdo each other in the sentimentality stakes, and for each side of the “you shouldn’t glorify war” argument to polarise and have a go at each other. And yes, it gets me down.
X Factor – the cries of “it’s all a fix!”, and “another money making scheme for Simon Cowell”, and “I thought it was a singing contest so what is (insert current debatable act) doing still in it?” echo throughout the land. (“I say Honey, you say….”).
Strictly – “why is the BBC so racist?”, “why didn’t Anastacia have to dance in the dance off”, “how can Ed Balls hold his head up when better dancers have been voted off already”, and so on. It comes round year after year, but each time it does, it gets me down. It is supposed to be some lighthearted fun, a bit of colour and entertainment in the dark evenings of autumn and winter, with a bit of banter and some nice dancing. But no, we now have the annual slanging match that comes from people with nothing better to do than cause trouble and leaves a bitter taste in our mouths.
And guess what – IT GETS ME DOWN!!
Perhaps it’s me. Perhaps I need to grow a thicker skin. Perhaps I need to not engage with the world so much so it can’t hurt me and drag me down.
Perhaps I’m suffering from the “red car” syndrome. You will have experienced it at some time yourself too, maybe in a different way, but you will have had this, I’m sure. It’s where you don’t generally notice the colour of cars as they pass you, or in the stream of traffic that you’re in until you get a new car. Say it’s red. All of a sudden, it seems that there is a proliferation of red cars on the road. In fact, every second or third car is a red one. There used to be lots of silver or black ones, so where did all the red ones come from? Is this a major coincidence? Is it a world conspiracy that suddenly a load of red cars have flooded the roads just at a time you have just bought one yourself? What’s going on??
Perhaps it’s because I’m feeling so very down that all I can see in the world is misery and division among other people. It’s a different version of the “red car syndrome”, but one where I can’t see past the misery to see the good things in the news, on Facebook and in people’s lives because of my own viewpoint.
I’d like to think that I had the energy to do what Dory says, and “just keep swimming, just keep swimming”. What other choice is there?