I refuse to comment on such things as the death of Thatcher. Her death has been going on this week. Far be it from me to comment on the whole sordid affair, because really there has been no need now, and noone outside of the UK cared in the slightest anyway. I will now attempt to illustrate, though, for the sake of posterity, what goes on in the wake of such an event of a figure that divides an audience so we don’t have to alienate our acquaintances via social media with our uninformed, irrelevant, agenda-driven and idiotic opinions when it happens again.
One side will run around shouting, yay, someone has died that we don’t like and that is a good thing. Let us act, but not thirty years ago when it was relevant; let’s act way beyond the fact, achieving nothing but giving ourselves a reputation for being idiots, because really we just like making a bit of a mess.
Another side will run around shouting, you can’t say that about a dead person because, unlike Bin Laden or Hitler, we like this person. So it’s different. It must be because you are a communist, therefore all economic liberals and anyone else that thinks that an social elements of democracy are a good thing are idiots just like the rioters and protesters; then let’s talk dewey-eyed about how much better things were as a result of this person.
Time for a tangent
Things getting better… I am always wary of this argument, which is baseless in the face of logic unless ideology is applied. And that is why you will never convince someone with opposing political stance of your opinion on the matter. Ideology can mean that I think that an unfair world, people born in an unfair way, means that those in power should strive to correct that somehow for people less fortunate. It can mean that I think economic progress is the key to things being better for everyone, but that we should accept that the world is an unfair place and that I personally should reap the benefits of my own hard work.
Things getting better… I am wary of this argument because, aside from the fact that noone can know how things would have turned out had someone else got their hands on the reins, we are uncertain as to how suicide rates (the statistician’s leap of faith, perhaps off a cliff, in quantifying unhappiness) have changed over the centuries. What I am asking is, are we any happier now, with all of our Twitters and our velcro hat games, than we were centuries ago when we were crapping out of windows, writing epic poems, and perhaps secretly knocking one off at tapestries of Lady Godiva while the wife was out sowing barley. I’ve never crapped out of a window, so I’m not even sure I’m in a position to judge.
In this vein, one could conceivably argue, as people often do, that the rate of technological advancement is accelerated. Again, because this can only be a perception, it probably has something to do with our placement at the fresh, rather than the murky, scholastically evaluated end of history.
Dan Aykroyd was good once
When people talk about living in exciting times, they are referring to a rapid pace of change – even though people hate change, which is why we have loyalties to geographic locations and people that we once knew. We put a lot of faith in advancement, in technology, in politics, to give us the happiness that we think is attainable, that we expect. We expect that we can improve the way things are by organising, by creating new things, new ideas to solve our problems. Without going into the obvious ways in which a capitalist system takes that and runs with it, let alone the intrinsic Pandora’s box nature of innovation, we generally look forward to new scientific discoveries with excitement. We are looking forward to the day that we can all drive through the clouds on rainbow roads, when we can read each other’s thoughts, when we can get our bodies replaced when they start getting a bit old so that we can live forever (and stop fucking each other, presumably. The only pleasure of life. Noone ever mentions that.)
‘Futurologist’ has become a pretty familiar job title in the media. I enjoy the reverence with which we treat them, in somewhat the way that we should treat meteorologists. They both do a poor job of their predictions, but at least one is trying to make sense of some real data.
John N Gray, who I am basically in love with as you can probably tell and – interesting story – who I thought was French for a long time (he’s actually from South Shields!!) believes that the illusion of progress is a myth that we entitle ourselves with either through Christian or capitalist indoctrination. Things sometimes get better, and things sometimes get worse, but not for all things uniformly, Gray says. I mean, you are reading this and probably thinking: dur. Dur brain. But I still feel it has to be said, because things don’t always get better. They get better for some people, at some times. Sometimes, the people for whom things get better are the people in control and that is seen as highly unfair by the rest of the country/world. But, as we have said, the world is unfair.
Things don’t necessarily get better, but at least we should attempt to change the things that we consider to be unfair or unjust. And if we really love futurologists so much, really value progress so much, really don our retrospective caps to authors such as HG Welles an Arthur C Clarke, perhaps it is time indeed for the science fiction section of the library to be promoted from its tucked away corner in which geeks may hide their pimples between the sheets, instead of being an object of ridicule by the 20-20 visioned patrons of contemporarians such as, oh, Nancy Drew, Inspector Rebus, and Harry fucking Potter.