Saturday, 23 July 2011


To go beyond is as wrong as to fall short.
-Confucius, Analects

Lately I have been troubled by a cliché or misconception in anthropology. It is taken for granted, at least in middle class circles, washed through young minds and there retained for a lifetime: Successful individuals have either reaped the rewards of hard work, or are gifted with extraordinary ability, or both. The former assumption - the work-horse animal - is the label with which we prejudice, earnestly nodding our heads in a hurry. It is this former assumption and its discrepant narrative to which I think people should show more hostility. In spite of fortitude, is it not the case that hard work can, in many cases, exist as a euphemism for cock-sucking? Or, bearing in mind feminists, cunt-slurping?

In this desensitized, digitized (and so on) age, there are, of course, successful anonymous professionals, or students, who are brilliantly sycophantic, extraordinary at ‘networking’ (at convincing strangers of strangers), apolitical, nice, up to date (what does that even mean?), and robotic when they tick off items of landscape or culture as what they have ‘done’, not living for where taste leads. Vanity, the boring kind. Lots of saracsm. No irony.

Thus spake the moron: “It’s ok man, it’s postmodern, indie, surreal” etc. They take themselves (but never their words) seriously and, when in danger of being found out, resort to performing silences of pseudo wisdom - a romantic stare, eyebrows a curve, lips pursed. And when, eventually, they are found out, there is a wounded face currying apology, so that the whole masochistic thing can begin again, the object of Jarvis Cocker satire. Many young readers will know the kind of dick I am referring to.

These are morally and intellectually repulsive people we are talking about here. But because of the recycled first assumption - the hard work that implies courage - these people do, however, check into the popular conscious as morally and intellectually normal (or better). Probably the worst culprits are those who pretend to be gifted with extraordinary ability despite merely working hard on their digital-preoccupation existence. (By this I don’t mean someone who takes a calculator into an office or an exam.) This is the only stereotype of human being on whom I would ever cast the fragile, overused and hence fractured insult: pretentious. This sort, peddling illusion, could only be considered at the most quasi-religious. If a religious person pretends to know what can not possibly be known, then surely a pretentious person is someone who masquerades as knowing what is in truth understood by less superficial, rival primates. I think "pretentious" inferior to religious, since its essence defies either compassion or any system of ethics, prescribed or still evolving.

In other words, this well-rehearsed saga, reducing the human being to either a technically or mentally strong footballer in an early console game, has nothing to do with merit. It makes for a far easier life, outside of the brain, to push beyond the point of extinction the meaning of real narcissism and of ‘real’ fraudulence so that we might avoid the reversal of such accusations.

This is vulgar, hardly revelatory, thinking on my part. Perhaps it invites suspicion of lazy or traumatised writing. Or, that it is not on my part, and that I have borrowed, non-specifically and without a great deal of disguise, from authors I especially admire: namely Sigmund Freud, George Orwell, Milan Kundera, Bret Easton Ellis and Christopher Hitchens. Really what it comes down to is the word nice: another prepubescent infection, determined to stay. Nice, as distinguished from loving, generous or courageous. But in order to break off entirely, I have to stop weighing everything as carrots at the self-checkout in Sainsburys, and, for now at least, work harder.

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