I was wondering today what the effects are of detachment from one’s homeland. I am, perhaps, a useless subject on the matter because I have been adrift upon the European continent since I was but a twinkle in my father’s eye, who himself lived the life of a wandering agricultural salesman, of the plough and the planter alike. A life of a cock, and of a bull. While I feel the constant pressure of losing out on friendships that, frankly, have not been so easy to acquire, I also fear the loss of myself that will render me unrecognisable. I can honestly say that minds work differently in different parts of Europe. And this is not only evident in language. The social rules are different, and the unwritten rules are different too.
When I talk about unwritten rules I mean those things that, if mentioned, are the equivalent of social suicide. Facebook is a great example of this phenomenon. I have been thinking about this over the past week, as, seven puppies and a better half down, I was feeling pretty shitty. I really wanted to announce to the world how bad I was feeling (basically, I rely on facebook to keep in touch with my friends in the UK – who I consider to be my bestest friends – while I’m in Bulgaria), but I refrained from doing so and called my mother instead. I think we talked about handbags or something (for the record, I still don’t own a handbag at 29), but what the hell, it was a larf. I’m actually withholding most of the sordid details of that evening (except for the phone call to my mother) from you here, because, again, it’s not polite. I guess this might be why we are still a lonely nation in the UK, in spite of social media. What this tells me is that it is not the social media per se, but it is the wrong type of social media.
This whole business of unwritten rules and vulnerable people reminds me of my recent stint at the EPA (European Psychiatric Association; where Freud meets the Common Man in a bizarre, tight-fitting conflagration of the social, political and philosophical). I talked to the leaders of the SUPREME project, which is a pan-European network that functions much in the same way as sites like MIND do, in the sense that they provide support for young people who are feeling vulnerable in some way, but it is the only site of its kind to be continually monitored and analysed in order to assess which advisory and interventional strategies are actually working. This is a great, pragmatic approach that asks the question: where do we want to be, and what steps must we take, in light of how young people actually find information, to find out what we need to do to get there? This is a very simple question, but one that is not asked enough. It is also, needless to say, a refreshing contrast to the mirage of social media, in which being ‘liked’ or told a lame joke serves as the sole means of consolation. I really think it’s addressing this gap in light of the growth of social networking.
(As an aside, I didn’t realise until talking to these guys that perhaps a decade ago if you typed ‘suicide’ into google (well, it was probably Yahoo! or *regretfully* ask jeeves back then) you would come up with a bunch of forums that gave you advice as to the best way to kill yourself. With a huge effort from charitable networks to push these sites down into the obscurity of double digit search results pages that I unhappily share, the highest ranked sites on google are now dedicated to providing constructive help.)
Anyway, that was a digression. What I was talking about was unwritten rules. I’ve finished now.
This morning, I was reading the article that Boris Johnson submitted to his sparring partner, the New Statesman, in which he drew, like so many others have, the line between left and right: the left revel in the (political or literal) death of their opponents, he said, while the right are more gracious in accepting their victories. As an example of this, he compares the New Labour term with the new Tory term in office. Something he fails to admit in this argument, although it is something I am sure he is aware of, is that New Labour are not considered to be the political left. This formed part of the irony of the New Labour movement: the illusion of ‘choice’, the rise of the left. In fact, there is little or no political left in Britain that wields any force – there is no place for it in a landscape that is entrenched in the fetishism for commodity (when I tried to explain that the left was consumed by the right, leaving only the centre and the right, to my daughter whose perception of handedness is unadulterated, you can imagine the confusion that followed.) I realise that I am bastardising Marx here for my own purpose, but I like the term, and I’m not exactly the worst culprit for bastardising philosophies. In a capitalist society, we as individuals – and I think this is particularly relevant in the UK, where we triumph in long working hours that are substantiated mostly by tea and biscuit breaks as evidenced by our comparatively poor rates of productivity – are commodities just as the things we strive to attain – physical objects, “happiness”, etc. – and as such we become abstracted ourselves. This is the paradox of the society of the individual. Or rather, we are abstracted by the system, as we abstract the weaker among us.
Political ideology, much like our definitions of the left and right, is something that is really an abstraction of the reality of the world. And, as with any abstraction of reality, it hides a complex truth that must emerge sooner or later. Just as someone on the political right might think of the left as comprising individuals repressed by their parents (giving rise to their belief in equality), the left similarly think of the views of the political right as concealing some individual self-repression, even purely a repression of the belief that a hierarchical society is intrinsically natural, and therefore unquestionable. Here, I think the Hegelian argument is perfectly justified: i.e. which left? Which right? There is no such thing in this context, in the sense that you cannot ascribe the same feelings and reactions that are expressed by a vocal minority to (let’s just say for argument’s sake) 50% of the population when faced with an event such as the death of a strong political figure. In this same way, it doesn’t matter what I think about the whole thing. And as such, I will abandon this post without further ado about it.