It’s the Easter holiday in the United Kingdom and when I was a child the television would be full of religious films. Stories of God, Jesus and Moses and if we were really lucky we might get Spartacus chucked in for good measure. Now it’s just chocolate and bunnies.
I’ve been pondering the notion of common decency of late. Mainly because it seems to have become an oxymoron. There have been a few occasions in my life over the past few years when I have been struck dumbfounded by how some things that I would regard as basic manners or courtesy have been conspicuous by their absense. I quietly watch with a sense of grim fascination just to see how far people push the boundaries of just how shitty they can act, both on a local and a universal level and it never ceases to amaze me just how far people can push the envelope.
In Britain at least, there seems to have been a massive sea change since the arrival of Tony Blair onto the political scene. There was a time in politics where even a whiff of scandal or disreputable behaviour would cause heads to roll but when a clearly deceitful Tony Blair dragged us into the Iraq war, it was with the most tangible of contempts. Since then, there seems to have been a swift race to the bottom, both politically and socially to see who can sink the lowest.
Call me old fashioned but I would like to think I have a very defined sense of right and wrong. I’m particularly appalled by hypocrisy which is a problem as it seems to be rife amongst the local middle class mafia that likes to add insult to injury by using the word ‘community’ as a justification for every atrocity that they inflict locally. There seems to be a very prevalent mindset that if you pay lip service to some notion of doing good, however woolly that interpretation may be, then it instantly excuses you from all the horrible stuff you might do at the same juncture.
In writing this I looked up various definitions for human / common / basic decency (I don’t just rattle stuff out of my head), the general consensus is, politeness, honesty, treating others with the same respect that you wish to get yourself. There is very little respect around… Granted, there is a fair argument for it needing to be earnt but then it seems that so few people seem to even respect themselves anymore, so how can someone with no self respect show any to anyone else? What manifests as a simulacrum for respect is often a sort of fear, fear of being ejected from a social grouping for example. Fear of being rejected, fear of not fitting in…. The odd thing is, that in many of these situations, if you talk to any individual member on their own you will find that they each feel exactly the same fear and dislike and even contempt for the rest of the group. People really are quite strange…
I had a quick look at the 10 commandments and I’m in trouble with a few of them, the ones that are basically brand loyalty in the belief mainly. As for the rest, number two get broken all the time. Do not make yourself an idol, well, that’s every politician, ceo and pop, rock and film star for a start. Locally, I can think of at least a handful of people who have done this, exagerating their talents and over inflating their impact on the world at large. I had a conversation the other day with someone who was convinced that some of the most poisonous, the most egotistical, the most narcisistic, the most disruptive people in town, of which they were on the periphery, were actually a force for good. It’s a neat trick, being able to lie to yourself, being part of a vague mob of fifty people tops in a town of eighty thousand, convincing yourself that you are the bees knees when the other seventy-nine-thousand-nine-hundred and fifty at best find you tedious and at worst a bunch of complete c**ts. If your main talent involves setting up an event and then inviting your rent a mob of the same hardcore of people to it who will only turn up as they know they won’t ever hear the end of it if they don’t, then that really isn’t a talent worth having.
The next non God one, honour thy mother and your father… It’s a tricky one that. I think I’ve done alright by my parents and, in truth, better than they have done by me. I haven’t done anything to disgrace them in any way. I have seen so many people who have treated their parents like shit, members of my own family included. Treating them as surfs to earn money on their behalf while they arse about in some way. I could cite a litany about one sibling on this, rat infested bedrooms, house destroying , police calling parties, utter contempt really… Yet my mother still loves them. I guess that is why it gets the carved in stone treatment, exploiting loving parents is like shooting fish in a barrel. It’s cowardly in the extreme, knowing that someone loves you enough to do anything for you and using their love for you to degrade them or put them in harms way or somehow take advantage of them…. Words fail.
The next is don’t murder, this goes without saying really. The interesting loophole is the word used. Hollywood changed this to Thou shalt not Kill, in the Charlton Heston bible movie but it’s actually murder. It seems killing is ok, remember this is old testament land, an interesting and rather dubious difference. I won’t be doing either, thank-you. It’s strange though how some people become comfortable with the notion of death and directly or indirectly causing the death of others, politicians seem to take it in their stride, be it through wars, or the taking of arbitary decisions about financial strategies that cause death for little more than the adherance to one political ideology or another. Personally if I thought for one second that I was complicit either directly or indirectly in someone’s death I would hang my head in shame for the rest of my life and keep a very low profile. I’m constantly amazed at how many don’t though.
After that we have a good one, do not commit adultery. I can honestly say that I have never cheated on anyone, ever, not even mentally. I doubt if I can say the same for some of my exes though. What you have to watch out for here are some of the loopholes. For example, recategorising your relationship as ‘just friends’ is an all time classic, so that even though you are still having sex it doesn’t actually count as a relationship, the next old chestnut is the ‘we were on a break’ loophole where you walk out on someone, see (and by ‘see’ I mean have sex with) someone else and then come back from said break without technically having cheated, because “you were single, right?” Wrong! You cheated on someone! Not only did you cheat on them but you tried to insult their intelligence too. If you do stuff like that then you are just a really shit person and you need to face that and either change your behavior or be honest about what you are. I have been in the bizarre position at various points in life of being looked down upon by some pretty loathsome people, a couple of home-wreckers included. I would not be able to sleep at nights if I had done some of the immoral things I have known others to do and a few have the gall to work in positions where they can actually write reports upon the behaviour of other people. If you merrily waltz into someone else’s marriage / long term relationship, particularly when there are children involved you deserve nothing but bad luck, plus if that person will do that to their spouse, it won’t be long before you get the same treatment yourself.
Then there is the don’t steal one. This is great in principle but becomes ever and ever more complex in practise. This only really works when everyone is onboard and we also get a spot on definition of what exactly stealing entails.yes, it’s wrong to steal from a supermarket, but it is also wrong for that supermarket to under pay its suppliers, to steal the intellectual property of designers by doing cheap knock offs of their designs, it’s also wrong to have those things made by sweatshop labour on the other side of the planet. How far back does the unacceptability of theft last for? Do we recompense other countries for stealing their people in the form of slaves and exploiting their resources in terms of empire building? Shouldn’t we redistribute the country’s land as it was all plundered and looted at some point in the past. Isn’t trading in stocks and shares theft? Quantative easing, isn’t that state sponsored fraud? I personally thinking that claiming money in the form of grants for bullshit events and counterproductive charity work is a form of fraud. So where do we draw the line and with whom. So long as it isn’t the poor who as usual get well and truly shafted.
Don’t bear false witness is next on the list and it’s another one with a really interesting turn of phrase. There is a reason it doesn’t say “thou shalt not tell lies” or something like that and that is so as not to leave any wiggle room for any of those sneaky sods out there. I suppose your classic example would be Bill Clinton not having sex with Monica Lewinkski because putting your penis in the mouth of a white house intern doesn’t count as sex so long as you look at it from a certain angle. Not his penis but the phraseology. From my own point of view, if you talk dirty with someone via semaphore flags it counts as being unfaithful but I’m old fashioned like at I guess. There are so many ways of telling lies without actually lying, you can just omit certain people and/or activities from events to make an orgy sound like a tea party, mumble the key points whilst walking away, add a date and time loophole , no I didn’t have sex with blah blah (on that afternoon), truth to a given value of true. These sort of tricks are notorious amongst politicians and the legal profession and are also used to great effect by civil servants and local government workers. In fact (whatever one of those is) wherever you find a meeting, a committee or indeed any seasoned public speaker you will find the truth of anything nigh on impossible to find. It’s depressing talking to an inveterate liar as, in the end, even they don’t know what is true or not. The only consolation is that they are rarely very happy people as even they can’t cope with all their falsehoods in the end.
When we come to the last commandment, which is don’t covet, I am in deep trouble. I have been coveting a Nintendo Switch all the while I have been writing this blog. I keep on nipping over to the website to see if they are in stock again as I have finally saved up for one but they have all sold out. If coveting that isn’t bad enough I am also coveting a bathing ape x bounty hunter (both in harajuku Tokyo) hoodie, glow in the dark forest spirit toys from the anime princess mononoke, a folio society book illustrated by Dave mckean an iMac and an a3 Wacom drawing tablet. I also wouldn’t mind getting myself some double knitting cotton yarn to knit myself a new bed hat either. That is my failing, I like stuff. I’m sure other people covet much more than I do, well, that is my story and I stick to it. If coveting so much myself wasn’t bad enough, I make a lot of stuff that other people covet, which actively makes me wholly complicit in the act of coveting from both angles. It’s true! I am a terrible person! Slap the cuffs on me now. Joking aside though, we live in a society that thrives on greed and desire and without it so few people would have the motivation to get up most mornings. We polute the world with all the crap we have and yet we still want more and, like so many addictions, we know the damage it is causing and we still keep on doing it.
I guess we are all guilty of something and my dirty little secret is wanting more stuff and whoever you are reading this I bet you are on there somewhere too, I only hope that if the commandment you like breaking is the murder one that you live a long way away from me.