Or, perhaps a rant within ‘not a rant’…
In the pub, at half-time that other Tuesday, I returned to my seat after a visit to the bar to find that three twenty-somethings had materialised. I hadn’t gone out of my way to notice them, it’s just that in a relatively large room with literally no-one else in it, they had decided to park themselves right in front of the table that me and a friend were sitting at. I asked them politely if they wouldn’t mind moving ever so slightly, so that I could see the screen. Their mixed reactions, as they turned to address my request – ranging from disgust to utter indifference – almost prompted me to check the mirror, just to make sure I hadn’t accidentally returned to my seat as one of the many hate figures of popular culture, or perhaps to see if I was there at all. As someone who occasionally likes to encourage the best in people, I was unperturbed by their rebuke, presuming that maybe I’d caught them off-guard, so I suggested that instead of sitting so as to obscure the screen, they could fetch themselves some of the comfy seats from around the corner and use those instead. This was met with the same response. Without even clocking the second-hand clothes I was wearing, or the holes I’ve had in my shoes since January, they’d already decided I was ‘Other’.
In contrast to their antipathy towards me, I could – to an extent – empathise with them. In my twenties, I myself might well have viewed some people over the age of thirty as as good as dead. I can also clearly recall my excruciating post-adolescent insecurities, mixed with a wholly misguided sense that I was the first person in the world to be doing whatever it was I was doing. Without a doubt, though, I was always aware of my own sentience in relation to others and theirs. I have always believed in cliches like, ‘people not like us, are people just like us’ and ‘it’s nice to be nice’ and these, and others like them, have always underpinned my values in a social context.
Now I had noticed the three twenty-somethings, it became apparent that all of them were wearing identical clothing brands and sporting slight variations on the same box-fresh haircut. All three gestured and postured in the same affected way and after the initial excitement of initiating their intimate banter circle, they all took out their smart phones and proceeded to watch the whole match through the medium of Twitter, only occasionally lifting their heads to acknowledge one other; the disconnect, all too apparent.
This isn’t your regular, nihilistic, we’re-all-going-to-hell-in-a-handcart-beware-the-coming-insurrection-dystopian type forecast, common with the reflexive impotent. I’m not going to take it upon myself to start expropriating smart phones, I don’t want anyone to start hugging trees and I’m not even asking you to reject capitalism: you are all free to create your own realities (with the usual caveat of not being mean to others attached with an asterisk). I just want to know that people are participating in their experience and experiencing their participation because it’s the insistance on placing so much stock in the superficial that’s propogating bigotry in all it’s forms.