19 Dec 2011

Women

2011? Jesus, how did you arrive here - on your dinosaur? Click here to go to hencewise.com, and stop a weirdo holding a candle in the dark, looking all dramatic and old-fashioned.





“The female of the species is more deadly than the male” – Rudyard Kipling, 1911.


Men are useless now. Years ago, back in monkey times, women needed us for a few things; we had to kill animals, and gather vegetables and sticks and carry them home without losing ourselves or dropping them, especially during pregnancy; we had to use our superior physical strength to fight or kill other poor idiot blokes like us when food was scarce; and finally, importantly, our ugly, shoddily-evolved genitals contained exactly half of the key formula for making more of us (along with all the evolutionary imperatives of grabby-gropey hormones.) Not any more.

While women still contain the all-important wombs and mammary glands, of course, whatever men were bringing to the baby-making equation – which was only ever a teaspoon of slop, anyway – they’ve had stored and refrigerated in sperm banks en masse and worldwide for years. If I was a paranoid man – and if anyone ever tells you that I am, don’t trust them – I would look at paid sperm donation as the beginning marker of a global conspiracy to further shuffle men to the cliff-edges of a well-deserved extinction. The majority of smart women now already regard guys as oafish, dense sort of muscles on legs – shaved up-right gorillas that couldn’t open a jar and answer a question without somehow exploding a shed – and who can blame them? It’s a reputation we actively encourage as we bloke around the pub competing for girls’ attention like dim puppies, constantly and subconsciously ranking our cocks against each others through sports, cars, beer and lifting. We’ve only ever had about two useful purposes throughout history anyway: sperm and strength; just about everything else we did involved getting in the way and murdering each other. Now women have access to incredible, industrial machinery, guns, sex toys, votes, and all the spunk, men are basically redundant, and it won’t be long before women start to realise this, and hopefully wonder why in the name of name of God’s ovaries they are still putting up with so much of our shit.

Because men, almost exclusively through the use or threat of aggression, have oppressed and subjugated women on-and-off, but mostly on, throughout history, with rape and violence, then religion and politics, then war and wages, then cultural and emotional control, and then porn and Lynx adverts.

But that tide, however slowly, is retreating.

Imagine a future where all men suddenly vanished from the planet – women, you can pretend we all simultaneously burst in a shower of glitter and compassion, if you’d like – the human race would surely not only survive with only the slight, lubricated aid of pipettes, but it’s not a difficult feat to imagine it would absolutely flourish; perhaps towards some kind of glorious war-and-worry-free utopia, with free-range flowers and fair-trade orgasms everywhere, and a future fresh generation of good boys that actually magically respected the women who birthed them. Reverse the occasion, though, getting rid of all the ladies – and men, you can imagine some terminal frantic orgy, if that helps – and not only would the complete extinction of humanity be looming within a lifespan, but that time would be spent in a violent one-handed rampant haze of reckless masturbatory abandon, rendering every continent uninhabitable to complex life by breakfast.

This photo teaches us something about something, probably


Men in their current form, then, are doomed, but fortunately for us (men, of which I am one) we still have some time to resist our fate -- a lucky and much needed head-start to improve ourselves -- because some of the silliest women now are still not quite over keeping themselves down. Ignoring the constant incredible cycle of make-up, plucking, shaving, bleaching, scrubbing, dying, waxing, cutting, trimming, poking, pulling, pushing, nipping, tucking, wearing of self-inflicted high-heeled torture devices, and whatever-else-society-encourages women to do in order to appear 'younger' or ‘prettier’ for us gnarled lumps, the worst culprits, in my opinion, are still the women who insist on being treated like a woman. “Chivalry is dead,” moans Nora Mongingbottom, a woman who is in no way fictional, whenever a man doesn’t hold the door for her, or pull out her chair first, or hit someone who insults her fat ankles. Brave women jumped in front of horses for that kind of equality, and every time some pie-footed dolt like Nora insists on preferential treatment purely because of their gender, they’re ignorantly menstruating all over those achievements, and giving some men exactly the excuse they need to keep oppressing women.

It is almost exactly these kinds of women, too, that are often the ones expecting men to buy them drinks at the bar in exchange for their company, or the potential chance of some future fucking, and reinforcing, always, the idea that they are sex objects – slightly subtle prostitutes that need only be paid with a dozen vodka-cokes and a casual compliment. Indeed, the withholding of sex, at all, by less liberated women is perhaps part of this same sad power struggle, even though this party-pooping peskiness relies at some level on the puritan notion that women don't need or enjoy sex as much as men, which if you are a woman, or have ever had sex with one in the correct hole, is clearly wacky. All the orgasms and the bouncing and the cuddling and such, it’s equally good fun for everyone, but once again some oppressive or self-censoring force seem to make it more difficult for women to indulge in the same entertaining, common and condomy exploits as men without earning some evil, oppressive label (far too often from their own camp) like 'slag,' 'slut,' or 'cock-slappy vagina wind-flaps whore-trousers.'

Regardless, it is the strongest women who do not seek sex for emotional validation, or withhold it for the same reason.

Agreed.


Yet it’s hard to find these positive role-models for young women in the Media today, led as they are in Music by sellotape-dressed twats covered scalp-to-toe-ring in a four-inch armour of make-up, slutting around on rooftops in front of on-fire helicopters, singing about lip-gloss and systematically exposing as much nipple and vagina as is currently legal to televise to teenagers; and in Literature and Cinema by Bella, the cooking, cleaning, can’t-smile, coma-dump, kill-yourself psycho-bint heroine of Twilight, a franchise that grossed enough money to reconstruct a Caribbean island in orbit entirely out of jaffa cakes, but has done about as much for the empowerment of women as 2 Girls 1 Cup. Indeed, even the young free-market economist and social activist Beyoncé Knowles, also the main one in popular arse-wobble unit Destiny’s Child and Jay-Z’s 100th problem, once praised “all the mommas who profit dollas,” [Child, D., “Independent Women,” 2000] but then later conceded in a radical reversal of her post-feminist stance (while thrusting and spanking herself in a swimsuit and heels) that “if you like it then you should have put a ring on it” [Knowles, B., “Singles Ladies (Put a Ring On It),” 2008].

"All I want is to be respected as a human and an artist. (Please untangle me.)"


Either way, while it is clear that more control is, and should be, shifting back towards women,  men have still obviously got a bit of time left to get their shit together, and develop at least some small reasons that women might want to keep us around if we want to have any part of a future rightfully belonging to peace-loving lesbians. I don’t know exactly how, but I’m guessing a good start would be to get over our runaway macho-macho bullshit, commit to the thinking of fairness, stop lying to get into girls’ pants, satisfy them when we do, give up words like ‘slut’ as nasty useless weapons, insist against our egos on sharing the bill and the drinks and the door-opening, stop calling women ‘crazy’ without the slightest acknowledgement that we may have helped, and learn that expressing a ‘girly’ emotion once in a while does in no way lessen our manly ability to punch to death a charging elephant.

SHE'S WATCHING YOU, MALE.
Then, and only then, may the future play out this common, heterosexual scenario:

A first date ends, and a ‘good’ first date it was too – there was some touching of the knee and elbow, not enough food because neither party wanted to be caught chewing, two bottles of whatever the fuck was 3 lines under the House wine (because nobody in their right mind knows anything about wine apart from what to order when they’re pretending they do), a bit of giggling and some eyebrows, one conversation about a mutually interesting topic like Paris or trombones, some lip-bitey business, then even a walk home that involved further cackling and some of those cheeky sentences with two possible meanings about "coming up" or "going down" or whatever. The increasingly convincing-looking pair eventually meander themselves intact all the way to the Man’s front door, and the Woman goes enthusiastically for The Kiss, maybe even a little penis, but the Man quickly pulls back. “I’ve had a lovely evening,” he says, “Good night.” He pecks her lightly on the cheek, and then jogs up the stairs, closing the door behind him. As the lady lingers on the step for a second, he leans back against the door and melts into a delirious dopey grin... before she finally turns away with a melancholy smile, hands deep in her pockets, the Man still on her mind, and walks away in to the long and lonesome night.

In conclusion, then, I'm not buying you a drink.

2011? Jesus, how did you arrive here - on your dinosaur? Click here to go to hencewise.com, and stop a weirdo holding a candle in the dark, looking all dramatic and old-fashioned.

8 Dec 2011

Weird / Different

2011? Jesus, how did you arrive here - on your dinosaur? Click here to go to hencewise.com, and stop a weirdo holding a candle in the dark, looking all dramatic and old-fashioned.


People are a fascinating bunch of animals because the more of them you meet, the more you become convinced they’re all basically the same, give or take the odd genital or language, but the more you also become aware of how much they believe they’re not.

There seems to be no end to the clever systems they use to divide themselves, or limits to the creative ways that they can split their oven-rising humanity pie into smaller and slimmer slices. It’s easy to waggle disappointed fingers at religions, nationalities, cultures, and political beliefs, of course, but they’re just the crust of the overly pie-based metaphor, and not the real filling of how people pretend to be different to each other.

The common consensus, essentially, is that there are two kinds of people. I don’t mean men and women, obviously, who would all be the same anyway if you actually managed to keep them away from each other for long enough, and I definitely don’t mean children and adults, who are only different in height, hairiness and how much they’re pretending to like each other. No, the two kinds of human are normal people, who are easily identifiable as the people most like you, and weird people, who are, obviously, all completely silly.

It’s a simple system, and the nicest part about it is you can start dividing people up straight away without having to obtain any of that pesky information stuff, which the internet has proved there is far too much of to do anything useful with, except maybe invent the internet to hold it all.

A normal person in America, anyway, does not need to learn where Montenegro is to decide that they’re never going there, which direction a Muslim is praying if he's not blocking the drive, or what an anarchist’s political beliefs are as long as they are far enough away from the living room that they can’t stamp on the cat or steal all the nice bowls.

Weird people are easy to find because they believe, look like, and get up to all kinds of bonkers. Some of them dance around on one too many axis, some live in bizarre places that are definitely far too something to live in, others do peculiar and unnecessary sex stuff involving the bum, and some have strange hobbies that make as much sense as stapling your shopping list to the middle of your back and going to a disco with lots of tinned soup in your hat.

Weird people’s eccentricities can be as vast and varied as they are obviously outlandish, but the point is they’re not normal.

Freaks



Normal people, on the other hand, are even easier to find because they’re the people like you. Nice, normal, lovely you. You know how normal you are? Well, they’re like that too. They’re a much smaller group of people, admittedly, but they are a lot more obvious because they are nearer and, well, they’re not so bloody weird. In fact, the key trick to finding these normal people, if you ever lose them, is to listen out for which group of people is calling a different group of people ‘weird.’ Give them a bit of cheese, and you're in.

That’s the current system, anyway, and people seem to like it because it maximises the amount of time they can spend sitting down, inflating themselves with wine, and hating people they will never, ever meet unless they accidentally leave The Pub for thousands of miles in the opposite direction of their television. On a personal level, it’s simple, easy and familiar, and it takes all that looky-thinky-choosey nonsense out of decisions about who to like and dislike.

On an institutional level, it works well for democratic governments because once politicians have figured out which group has the most members, or which people are most like the other people and least like the people not like the other people, they know exactly who to promise a future lovely biscuit to whilst they pepper-spray everyone else in their actual faces.

I'm afraid it's the pepper-spray for you chaps
And it also works well for companies and advertisers too, because they can keep selling people stuff that keeps them normal, like all the other normal people, and that business is safe in the future because they can even change what 'normal' is once-a-year by adding an extra gigabyte of Angry Birds to your bra, or insisting that Vicious Slut Red is the New Denim, and Bland Old Monogamous Red is for frigid trolls in wicker sandals who still think it’s 1991.

In fact, it works at almost every level of society, from countries to classes, from regions to religions, and from friendships to families. As long as the little folks know who the normal people are, they know who they are working with, and who they are working against.

It’s perfect.

Well, almost perfect.

To be honest, it does still have one single teeny-tiny pesky Sarkozy-sized glitch that prevents the whole thing from running quite as smoothly as it could. While you might think it would be as simple as Shakira for people to split themselves into the two groups provided, the problem is that everybody thinks they are normal. The Hindus and the hipsters, the punks and the priests, the socialists and the scouts, the chavs and the Chinese, the goths and the gays, the Eskimos and the emos, the drivers and the druggies, even the fucking Australians.

Basically, because everyone decided to jump aboard the Good Ship Normal, it meant that all the people who weren’t like them, which ended up being most of them, were automatically left floating somewhere in the big wide Sea of Weird, but all those same ‘weird’ people thought they were normal too, and that the other ‘normal’ people were the weird ones.

Bloody humans, nothing’s ever simple is it?

Either way, what could have been a beautiful and efficient engine has struggled on for years, like Eddie Murphy’s integrity or a car full of crisps, spluttering occasionally with the same small, common and continual inefficiencies. Hatred, discrimination, lynching, wars, etc. You know, minor niggles.

That's rich coming from black-and-white people

There is a very simple upgrade available, though, and that’s incredibly lucky because clearly the human race can’t do anything more complicated than carry an egg without murdering the Jews.

Firstly, to ease the transition, we can stick with the ‘normal’ category if we want – that part of the plan was working out alright anyway until we all piled on it like Dan Brown at a shit sentence buffet – but we have to change the second word from weird to different. That’s all.

Weird to different.

The problem before was that everyone was certain they were normal, because they were surrounded by other people who were like them, and because nobody ever introduced ‘different’ as a comfortable alternative, that meant they thought everyone who wasn’t like them was weird, even though they were normal too, just in a different way. It forced people, especially their awful fucking leaders, to invent all these incredible groups that only ever existed in their minds, arranged on concepts as diverse as music tastes, wealth, colour, piercings, philosophy, politics, hairstyle, diet, outfits, traditions, magic beliefs, accents, absorbency, puddingness, pigeonability, whatever. We forgot quickly that we were one thing, except in a few different shapes and colours.

And it meant a lot of problems because there was no room for anything that wasn’t normal, but that was equally true for both sides, so conflicts were as inevitable as the intestinal collapse you’d suffer if you had to drink a pint of liquid éclair every time Alan Sugar was unnecessarily pleased with himself.

Every day, everywhere, everyone gets up in the morning with roughly all of the same objectives- food, safety, shelter, love, health, happiness, avoiding wasps and Mormons – yet somehow manage to get in each other’s way at almost every available opportunity like too many pricks in too small a pickle jar. Humans cause each other almost constant unnecessary trouble and suffering for the simple reason that they don’t understand each other, and they don’t try to.

Hand, wall, stranger, BANG, world peace


The new system will gradually put an end to all that, and it’s incredibly easy to introduce. It’s slow but it’s simple. It just involves one person at a time realising that the word ‘weird’ has always meant ‘different,’ and that ‘weird’ only ever existed because we were so convinced that we were normal. We created all the sides and teams and classes ever, like a silly, magic spider conjuring more legs so it could kick itself in extra ways, and that is why it shouldn’t sound like naive idealism to say that we can get rid of them all again, if we want, with just a simple and consistent shift in our thinking; with one big, little realisation.

Nobody is weird and nobody is normal.

We are all just different.

Now can someone please tell that attention-twat Lady Gaga before she tries to wear a town as a hat, and breaks her neck penis-humping a prop made of tits and madness.


2011? Jesus, how did you arrive here - on your dinosaur? Click here to go to hencewise.com, and stop a weirdo holding a candle in the dark, looking all dramatic and old-fashioned.

23 Nov 2011

Death

2011? Jesus, how did you arrive here - on your dinosaur? Click here to go to hencewise.com, and stop a weirdo holding a candle in the dark, looking all dramatic and old-fashioned.



According to numbers and science and stuff, 100% of us are going to die. That’s a lot.

Yet despite this important, common event being one that we will all share regardless of race, sex and bank balance, the fact of our mortality is the one that we collectively seem the most poorly adjusted to. It’s the topic that we try to think and talk about the least to avoid unpleasantness, and yet the one that has caused the most problems for our species since we became the only animals clever and arrogant and silly enough to start worrying about it. Indeed, Professor Numbers from the University of Guessing says that 90% of the people on the planet are still so afraid of dying that they spend their entire lives pretending and telling each other that they won’t, and choose instead to believe that they’re going to come back immediately as a butterfly or live forever in a big cake in the sky.

The reason that these childish fantasies have persisted through thousands of years of science, philosophy and logic, is, of course, that we still don’t know what happens when we die. More specifically – because we do know what happens when other people die (they become suddenly, infinitely boring, then later smell funny and melt) – we do not know how to reconcile our weird, subjective experience of reality (our consciousness, or ‘soul’ if you want) with the idea of an objective universe without us in it to experience it. Sentences like that aside, we literally can’t imagine not existing. We’re very used to it, and we’ve never experienced the opposite. It’s impossible for us to think about what it’s like to not think.

Yet we know that one day we are going to die, we know that every living second brings it closer, and we know there is absolutely no way to cheat it.

It is no wonder, then, that the lack of any right answer to a question that fully changes everything terrifies us more than the thought of being locked in a room with Mel Gibson and some gin. And it is no further wonder that the impossibility of disproving any claim about death is what protects religion’s attempts to have a cheeky guess, and why people desperately want and try so, so, so hard to believe those guesses regardless of how little they seem to make sense or explain anything.

However, just because we cannot be Right does not mean that we cannot be Less Wrong, and luckily we don’t even have to die to realise that some of humanity’s biggest, or at least latest, theories aren’t entirely convincing. Take the Judeo-Christian idea of Heaven, for example, which looks absolutely lovely in the brochures but makes about as much sense in the real world as trying to give a surprise reflexology massage to a sleeping alligator.

We can forget entirely that Hell sounds exactly like the kind of place humans would invent to scare their kids into eating their peas, that separating people in to ‘good’ and ‘bad’ is a moral system about as complex as Danny Dyer’s acting, and that concepts like pleasure are entirely impossible without equal and opposite kicks-in-the-balls to compare them to, and dissect the notion of Heaven rationally, logically, and sarcastically, to figure out if it contains any impossibilities or paradoxes.

The idea of the Christian afterlife (and no other religion is much different) is that a being that exists separate to everything in our universe in an unknowable dimension outside of space and time, that has existed forever, don’t ask, apparently not evolving, created you, specifically, and your appendix, in a different dimension inside space and time that he controls, with a master plan, and free will to choose for yourself, obviously, don’t ask, because he loves you, ignore those fossils, but judges you, because he knows everything, Jesus, and can change everything, praying, then judges the sum worth of your obedience, forgiving you, sort of, on a simplistic scale of human behaviour from the separate and unknowable dimension, angels, to choose whether you should once again rejoin, somehow, that separate dimension outside of space and time, without sin, to exist as yourself, again, but forever, not evolving, don’t ask, or go to a third dimension, separate to all other dimensions outside of space and time, but hotter, which is for naughty children and those crafty gays.

White, handsome Jesus explains his appendix to some tramps
It’s all about as lovely-sounding and unlikely as the sky raining hammers on an open-air Justin Beiber concert. Still, I hear you ask, why would you want to strip this comforting illusion from someone, you smug, awful swine?

There is a common opinion, I think, that because atheism or science or mushrooms or yoga do not provide any convincing alternatives to the Afterlife that this freedom-from-facts is supposed to make good and rational people tolerate religious beliefs, no matter how bonkers they seem when you bullet-point them on a badger, as long as they do something, anything, to help people cope with the potentially agonising dilemma of Death. And it’s very hard to argue against the idea of giving a little comfort to someone who is frightened or grieving without looking like the kind of prick who would kick down a sandcastle and abuse Christmas in a basement, for almost the exact same reasons that it is easier to continue certain other simple lies rather than confront a difficult truth. But there is, I think, an extremely urgent, important and humane reason to challenge these beliefs.

Children believe in Santa Claus because a lot of us adults tell them he’s real. In one way, it’s an abuse of our supposed moral authority. Children ask us questions about how the world works because they’re truth-seeking, pooey little curiosity-machines, and then we tell them about flying, bullied reindeer, magic slave elves who prefer rich kids, and obese jolly men who disobey property rights and work for Coca-Cola. Of course, it’s generally regarded as an OK lie to tell, because it’s a pretty weak tangle of fibs that falls apart on the first tug of the tinsel. Children should work it out fairly young as long as you don’t drop them too much, and adults should admit to their collective deceit quickly unless they want to seem as daft as two ducks juggling.

The child cries for an afternoon, Mum apologises through the door, Dad has a brandy, Granddad falls down a manhole, and everyone carries on as normal with just some minor trust issues that therapy can always iron out later.

However, imagine for one christmassy minute that a child starts to wonder if Santa Claus is real, and asks the parents, who insist that he is, but who eventually get angry or end the conversation if it persists. Imagine if the same child kept asking other figures of moral authority – teachers, priests, politicians – and they all maintained that Santa Claus is real, got upset or angry or offended when the child kept asking, then also refused to continue talking about it. The two options for the child are obvious; he would either continue to believe in Santa Claus because it is too painful to imagine that all of the sources of moral authority in his life would lie about their lack of knowledge, or he would be ostracised from the collective belief by the Truth’s inevitable ability to expose liars, frauds, dicks, and sneaky, pretend present-givers.

This is, of course, atheism’s relationship with religion in far too much of the world.

Some people find it extremely difficult to hear because religious beliefs are almost universally protected, pandered to and pussy-footed around, but there is a reason that we’re afraid of death, and afraid to talk about it.

It is because religion cannot prevent our fear of death; it can only create, prolong and protect it.

It gives us the flimsy promise of an afterlife in exchange for our blind, unquestioning trust. It dangles the incentive of eternity in front of us, a reward for our earthly loyalty, and then tells us to close our eyes and wait. It performs a crafty but unconvincing magic trick, on children mostly, that simply defines mortality out of existence. Disregarding how much people really trust their faith, and I suspect the truth of that is masked often by the real, psychological harm inflicted on young minds by lying and abuse, religious beliefs are so profoundly damaging because they arrogantly divert us from perhaps the most important question of all.

What if we're temporary?

There is absolutely no reason to believe there is an afterlife, at all, and the people most likely to find that hard, sad or scary are the people who have always had their fingers in their ears, deluded themselves into passivity, and naively extended their existential expectations to the borders of infinite.

These people aren’t stupid. They’re not fools. Their irrational beliefs aren’t the product of an intellectual shortcoming of any kind. The reality is far sadder. They are the victims of a subtle but lasting dogma. They were told what to think by all those who claimed to care most about them in the world, people whose good intentions were so often only matched by their inadvertently disastrous results. To question certain beliefs, unfortunately, is to question the authority and moral good of the people who believe them, and there are strong emotional and social stigmas in place that make that difficult. You can see it, I think, in the way some people live their lives – especially when it looks like they’re not living them at all, but just trying to get through them as quickly as possible and without dropping too many jars in the supermarket. The worst offenders follow The Rules, whatever they’re told they are by anyone with a haircut, place their happiness inexplicably in collecting things, carbon-copy the lives of their parents, look increasingly like someone with a bag of charity shop clothes and a cruel sense of humour has mismanaged a walrus, and grow old and fat and slow in a house never more than 80 footsteps in any direction from the bit of land some awful vagina plonked them on to.

Death is a really important thing to adjust to, and not to hide from as we are so actively encouraged, because it should be the biggest driving factor of how we choose to live our lives, decide what we want, and manage our health and happiness. You are going to die, so is every one you know, that inevitably is governed by no rules or regulations about how, why, where or when, and as you get older with those around you, it will become an increasingly regular part of your life, and, of course, as looming, indifferent and ever-nearer a certainty as the next Fifty Shades of Twilight paper-tragedy.

Think about how quickly it felt that you got to where you are now, and then imagine, if you can, how quickly the second chunk ahead of you will go. There is no time to waste, really, and you will never be younger than you are now. There is no afterlife for you in any form that is like you are now -- this is it, right here, right now, and it shouldn’t take the clichéd near-death experience to trigger some productive, excited urgency deep in your bones. Life is the near-death experience.

If the thought of dying still scares you, it’s probably because you’ve never been given the chance to adjust to it healthily. It might be a kick in the head now, but it’s a kick in the head when you're napping on the train track. It might be painful, but it’s the radiotherapy that will cure the cancers of fear and doubt.

We should think about death, a lot maybe, and we should talk about it, and we should carry it’s presence around as a proud and constant millstone on our necks – not because it is depressing or frightening, but because it is what reminds us that we are alive now, and that we won’t be for long or forever. It should inspire us, motivate us, help us forgive, forget, and remind us not to worry about what we can’t change, or scream at us to repair our priorities from the bizarre and crazed arrangement that society now encourages.

And once you’ve killed the delusions of religion and refused the corrupt pledges of an afterlife, there is no reason to be afraid of death. None. There will be no final judgement on your character, no hierarchy in which you will be assigned a place forever, no eternity to anguish over your mortal mistakes, and, healthiest of all, no lasting reasons to despair over the deaths of others.

Amy Winehouse, as we all found out by text message, recently and accidentally boozed herself dead, with the final coroner's report concluding that she died of ‘misadventure,’ arguably the most fun of all the possible causes. The whole episode was pasted in the news as a tragedy, and it was of course, but for us, I think, not her. She was watching telly and listening to music, steadily glugging her way through several bottles of vodka, slipping numbly and unknowingly into her Last Sleep – and, perhaps for someone who seemed to fit so uneasily in this world, release. She started with nothing and ended with nothing. It is us who suffer, grieve, weep and wonder in her wake, or wait for a sombre, slapped-together collection of B-sides at Christmas, while she, simply, does not exist anymore. Her deathday was shared by hundreds of thousands of others on our planet, as is everyone’s, yet the fact that we cry most for those we know best should be the biggest clue to the personal fear at the heart of our grieving.

We have lost something, the Dead have not. Funerals are not for them.

Because when we die, we are not there.

When your time comes, it is not you who will die -- it is the Universe that will end.

There is nothing to be frightened of, because you wont be there to be frightened of it.

That's beautiful.

Death is not a call to Futility and Depression. It can be nothing, I’m sure, but one loud and desperate, pleading Call to Arms. To adventure, experiment and investigate, to dare and dance and drink, to race and run and fight and fall over, and get back up, crash around, and do it all again every day your body lets you; to trade pleasure with pain however you can, and to grow and change and fix yourself; to laugh at Fear and Doubt when they whisper their pathetic noises in your ear, to cram as much love and laughter in to your life, and as many good others as you can find, as you can, while you can -- to live as one big shiny, screaming Fuck You to whatever indifferent forces dropped us here without a map or purpose, and an even bigger one to whatever now keeps us from living how we want.

Death shouldn’t be the handbrake that leaves us rusting in some garage of our own invention, but a red and seductive pedal clamped to the end of our legs, that wont release us until the cliff edge is behind us, the canyon’s fall in front, and all we can think as that Last Wind rushes through our hair is what a great, mad ride it was when we really, really wanted it to be.

2011? Jesus, how did you arrive here - on your dinosaur? Click here to go to hencewise.com, and stop a weirdo holding a candle in the dark, looking all dramatic and old-fashioned.

30 Sep 2011

Children

2011? Jesus, how did you arrive here - on your dinosaur? Click here to go to hencewise.com, and stop a weirdo holding a candle in the dark, looking all dramatic and old-fashioned.



Humans absolutely love having children. That's not just my opinion, you can see it on charts. Some scientists even believe that the world's population is now so explosive and dangerously unsustainable that by 2050, the Earth will begin to tilt off its axis and float away from the Sun. That's not true, obviously, that's just a bit of fun. The actual reasons we're fucked are a lot more real and bleak and terrifying, but I don't want to upset any one in the meantime so instead I've compiled a happy little list of the Top 10 reasons why maybe not having so many kids could be good as well, yeah?

Top 10 Reasons to Maybe Not Have Kids


Children will ask you questions all the time as soon as they can yap their stupid little heads into familiar bloody sounds, and you’ll have to answer them all, try to, or at least lie to them. If honesty is a characteristic you cherish, and it probably should be, then you’ll very quickly find yourself having these regularly annoying and annoyingly regular conversations where you realise you can’t really explain why you’re wearing a tie, or why bedtime is at 9, or why you’re hugging one animal whilst eating another in a bap, or why you told mummy she 'looks pretty' even though she woke up like Picasso had smashed his minivan into a Fat Club picnic. You’ll have to try and explain these things, of course, and they’ll keep asking why, why, why, daddy, why, mummy, why, why, why, and then somewhere down that line of questioning you’ll realise that you have no idea why you’re saying what you're saying at all. You’ll realise there is no sensible reason that you wear a tie, or why bedtime is at 9, or why you do almost anything in life. Then maybe you’ll take the easy route, lie and tell them that Santa Claus wont love them if they don’t be quiet, right now, for the tooth bunny in Heaven so you can have a little bit of quiet time alone to put wine and sausages in to your head.


What if it doesn’t like being alive? That’ll be your fault, wont it, and they’ll definitely tell you with all the indignant whining of a prick with a dropped popsicle. You’ll get “I wish I’d never been born!” screamed at you every time you pause their MegaKillerStabbyGun game for two minutes, or make them eat a fragment of vegetable with their oven-melted chicken glow-sticks. Once they’re born, they’ll have to deal with all the confusion involved in being alive, stuck on a track now that’s hard to get off, and heading always towards that sticky and uncertain end. Maybe that little life is happy wherever it is in yours or someone else’s bollocks, and it shouldn’t be yanked into an increasingly busy and complicated world so you can have something to look at instead of your increasing dull life – maybe it’s swimming around somewhere, just fine, living a lovely little sperm life where you're not making choices for it at all.


You can’t drink with children. Well, you can, obviously, but they wont be very good at it. And they’ll probably grow up deformed and lumpy in all the wrong ways, and making bleugh-bloops-gurh-gurh noises instead of words until they're 29. Not only that, but it also becomes a lot harder to drink with parents, too, because they're now indefinitely more busy with wee, poo, snot, dribble, ear goo, and sick. Meanwhile, however, if you don’t have kids you can still be that smug arsehole who asks their mummy-and-daddy friends about how their Saturday morning swimming lesson was, all the way waiting impatiently to completely story-top that boring shit by replying that your weekend binge-eating LSD-laced doughnuts off young strippers’ bodies was “alright” as well.


What if you have a child and it just turns out to be rubbish? Imagine if you raised David Cameron, how absolutely fucking disappointed you’d be. You’re not allowed to put it in a big sock and hit it on the mantelpiece, of course, that’s illegal, so you’ll just have to keep cooking for it and buying it trousers as it gets taller and taller and louder and louder, until it’s just spitting, boozing and lolloping around your neighbourhood looking enough like you that it might as well be a big neon sign on your house that says, ‘WE'RE SHIT.’


On the other hand, blimey, what if it grows up and it’s just fucking brilliant? That’s even worse! Then you’ll have to worry about the thing constantly, as it inevitably runs around aiming itself at nails and blunt objects with all the co-ordination of a camel that’s had its bones replaced with butterbeans. And if it survives all that childhood giddiness, and nowadays it probably bloody will, that’s only the start of the never-ending nightmare of unconditionally loving someone. You’ll then have to worry about bullies, and perverts-in-vans, and if they're learning to spell quick enough; then they’ll get older still and you’ll have to worry about drugs, and STDs, and their precious, stupid hearts; then they’ll get even older, and you’ll still have to worry about their jobs, and their balding, and the ever-sneaking suspicion that their fated life partner is probably just some smiling, cheating demon who’s waiting to cripple them emotionally and steal half their plastic.


You haven’t always got to do what your naturally-selected instincts tell you to. You already have to pander to your biology every time you’re hungry or thirsty or tired or threatened or horny, all of which are hormone-induced feelings evolved to keep you alive and fucking. From an evolutionary perspective, it is hard-wired into us to fancy each other’s firm or curvy bodies, and then to try and plug our genitals into each others -- an impulse Nature uses to convert those hormones into more humans. None of us know why we do these things because there is no reason. No reason at all outside the unexplained-but-desired perpetual survival of our species. We already have to die as a necessary sacrifice to our collective gene pool, so why not keep screwing Mother Nature with a condom until she's quite ready to explain why exactly you shouldn't.


The World, as you'll know if you've ever been there, is already over-populated. Look around you, we’re bloody everywhere. Snow, deserts, volcanoes, space, Swindon, there’s literally nowhere shit enough that we won’t put bricks around us and sit there until we die. We’ll basically settle anywhere; in any grey, lifeless, bog of a hole, and yes, I know Swindon’s got a pool club. Humans move about, and spread into all the gaps, grinding the environments around them into stuff to make their lives more comfortable, and then continue multiplying like the virus-holding-sticks that they are. If everyone keeps having kids, they’ll literally be walking around banging into each other all day, with nowhere to live and nothing to eat, until we can finally invent a big, expensive NASA cannon and start shooting them optimistically in the direction of Mars.


And what about that Global Warming thing that everybody and their squirrel is radically altering their lives for? If you’re somewhat environmentally-conscious, or a hippy-ish kind of person who loves a bit of tree, or even one of these annoying new breed of people who masturbate over the idea that the human race should, for some clumsy reason, survive, survive more, and continue surviving, then you’re the last person that should be having a load of kids, unless your plan is to literally bundle them all into the walls like a horrific meaty insulation paste. You can cycle all you want to the airport, and compost your toenails, and wash an oil-covered crab, and put your 6 Blu-Ray players on standby while you separate your thick paper from your thin card, but if you choose to have a child your carbon footprint is still going to be the size of an Electric Elephant's. Our own methane emissions, our ridiculously lavish food demands, our burn-all-the-things energy and transport systems, and our childish desires to have every brand-new shiny iPhone 76 and the latest strip-screen, 4D nuclear-satellite television, means the act of having a child now is basically the same as popping out a smelly, smiley pollution factory. If you’re gonna do that, you might as well drive to Australia in an asbestos tank towing a caravan of large rare mammals and set fire to all your batteries in an igloo.


If you do get old (and there are at least 23 reasons why that might be OK too), and you do suddenly find yourself looking in every direction at an orchestra of happy parents around you while you’re lying swastika-shaped in a hot tub eating cheesecake from a cup and decadently farting, you might well be pray to a nagging, silly thought that somewhere in your Free and Farty little life you made the wrong decision, and now you’re missing out on something. By this point, you’re very likely to be staring at your misshapen and useless genitals, haggard and lonely, and weeping a single tear into your bath or mug of cake. But then, hopefully just before you reach for the toaster, you’ll remember... ADOPTION! That’s right, other people’s kids! While almost every other sheep-like, caring cretin in the world is holding hands and crossing roads with their accidental DNA-smashed-in-a bag offspring, you’ll be able to choose yours! What do you want? A fat one, a thin one, black, white, too many legs, not enough arms? They’re all there! Or you could just do what celebrities do now, and fly out to some entirely devastated African country-or-other with your publicist and a photographer, and bring back a few handfuls of your favourites in a sack.


Let's face it, all your bloody friends are going to have kids, anyway, and they’ll probably be more than happy to share. Who needs your own, when you can have a whole range of bonkers little things that you can parent a bit on a Sunday but then give back when the football’s on? You can even be that ‘Cool Uncle’ character entirely absent from Irish Catholic stereotypes, and teach them mischievous things like punching and swearwords, but then not have to deal with the boring consequences at things like Parents Evenings and Court. In fact, if you absolutely adore children, that’s one of the best reasons to never have your own. Just remember that bit of advice that’s famous for being entirely fucking creepy when used in the context of kids: Why read a book when you can join a library?


2011? Jesus, how did you arrive here - on your dinosaur? Click here to go to hencewise.com, and stop a weirdo holding a candle in the dark, looking all dramatic and old-fashioned.

18 Aug 2011

Page 32 (Ham, Coffee, and War)

Back in January, on the morning of the 17th to be precise, I was hung-over and on my way home from some stupid night in London where I had almost certainly treated my primary bodily organs with all the care of someone who didn't plan to continue using them. With the morning’s rush-hour commuters heading decidedly in the opposite direction of fun, I slumped down on the train and picked up a discarded copy of the Metro, a free city newspaper primarily published so people have something to point their bleak work-haunted faces at instead of each other.

I browsed lazily to find out what the Daily Mail media conglomerate believed me and every other literate Londoner needed to know about the planet’s adventures since the morning before.

Two people you're definitely not encouraged to judge immediately as freaks

‘We have 28 rats – and we love ‘em,’ reads the first headline over the page, underneath a photo of an unsmiling couple with a dozen pet rodents crawling on them, an oddity you’d probably notice quickly if it wasn’t for the massive and quite frankly hypnotic bogie suspended so proudly in her nostril.


After I eventually managed to pull my eyes away from the lady’s baffling inattention to things inside her face that she probably didn't want published, I meandered through a few more pages.

Headline highlights included: ‘Pickles admits ‘gentle’ battle,’ a small story about a Tory politician called Eric Pickles who did something or other that nobody gives a bun about because he is outrageously, openly fat, and called Eric fucking Pickles; ‘Kelly sex op shock,’ page 7, where ‘it has emerged,’ apparently, that Kelly Osborne’s former fiancé cheated on her with a transsexual, although it might as well have been an exhaust pipe or a rolled-up receipt or a damp cabbage going by his obviously crippled sense of judgement; ‘A whiff of Neverland puts the eau in Jacko,’ a title so baffling it makes the attached article on page 25 about an illegal immigrant selling perfume made from a deceased man’s flowers look absolutely fucking sensible; and finally, ‘British Bruce Lee makes it in China,’ where Ross McGuinness, who is clearly a genius for convincing at least one person in the world he's a journalist, begins his piece on page 29 with, ‘IF THE British had made a version of Enter the Dragon, it might have turned out a little like this,’ before going on to explain how the actual events that he’s word-spazzing about --a man from Brighton judging martial arts students aged seven to seventy performing solo routines—are so far unlike that film that he might as well have begun his article with ‘IF BRUCE Lee’s spirit possessed a cracker...’ then waffled on about some blissful, alternative reality where people called Ross McGuiness aren’t allowed within 10 metres of a keyboard.

Finally, I reached pages 32, the first half of a double-page spread that affected me enough at the time to save the entire newspaper, place it in a drawer in my desk, and ignore it until some elusive, future time when I would locate it again and write what I might have written then if I didn’t have so much flat booze sloshing around my guts.


Where page 32 was different from the rest of the newspaper, it seemed to me, was that it contained a small piece of text in the bottom-left corner, squashed beneath a massive advert for a credit card and two articles glorifying British soldiers for their past ‘bravery,’ that was actual news, here in fun-ending full:

"21 civilians die in string of attacks
 A TOTAL of 21 civilians were killed in two roadside bombings and an airstrike in Afghanistan at the weekend. Nine of the dead, including a child, were hit by a bomb yesterday as they drove to a wedding in Pul-e-Khumri in northern Baghlan province. Another six – half of them children – died the previous day in a Nato-led airstrike on two houses in mountainous eastern Kunar; local officials said. The raid killed ‘numerous’ insurgents identified as an imminent threat to ground forces, claimed the Nato’s International Security Assistance Force. Six civilians were killed by a roadside bomb in Helmand Province."

It was amongst the smallest pieces in the paper, yet it seemed to me to contain the most tragic of events. Why was it not a big story? Why was it not the biggest story? Are we so desensitised to war and violence that it just wasn’t interesting? Are we so far away from the consequences of our militaries that we just don’t care? Are we just so beaten down by the relentless stream of similar stories that we are too numb and passive to react? I don’t know.

What is perhaps more enlightening than the apparent insignificance of the death of 21 civilians -- including the three children killed by the entirely unaccountable Nato military force – though, is the context of the article within the Paper.

The top article, ‘Mechanic’s war heroics told on film 70 years on,’ tells the story of Wally Harris, a veteran of the Second World War, who shot and killed up to 15 German soldiers in an action the Paper and the filmmakers describe as ‘heroic,’ but which he himself describes as “terrifying” and “daft.”

Further down the page, but no different in its patriotic tone, is a second article, ‘Ex-soldier puts his MC on eBay,’ a story about the former infantryman Alan Owens who was awarded the Military Cross medal for his “bravery and selfless commitment” in Afghanistan, then auctioned his small piece of literally useless metal on eBay with a cheeky starting price of £25,000.

The connection between these two men, though their actions were separated by 70 blooming baby-booming years, is that they are both British and, therefore, the good guys.

As we digest the information that 21 civilians – real people, like us – were blown to pieces by explosives in a region thousands of miles away from the governments that sanctioned their deaths, we are equally expected to regard other soldiers who blindly followed orders as the bravest and most heroic of our citizens.

IT’S FUCKING BULLSHIT.

We don’t need to learn anything new to realise it, either, just un-learn some of the silly whizz that we might have never scrutinised. And, if you'll bear with me for a minute, I promise after to explain how this entire massive rant was the product of me drinking too much coffee, then getting annoyed at a packet of ham.

Humanity is a species whose work you’re probably familiar with. Lightbulbs, picnics, hinges, et cetera. There’s close to 7,000,000,000 of them at the moment, all alike except for culture and how they do their hair, and they’ve been divided crudely but apparently convincingly into about 250 major clubs that I refer to, perhaps far too aware of my own ironic tone, as ‘countries.’ Anthems, wars, netball teams – you’ve seen them.

However, these ‘countries,’ through the unattended practice of having political masters, leaders, hierarchical systems and governments, can and should be more accurately described as tax farms. They require things like walls, fences, borders, militaries, passports and ID cards to envelope an effectively non-consensual group of similar-ish people, ‘citizens’ we’ll call them, within their borders from whom they can forcibly extract money. Borders aren’t so much gatehouses to keep ‘them’ out, whoever those pesky problem people are, but more like the pen that keeps ‘us’ in.

Each club, or ‘country,’ has its own leader, or small groups of leaders, who, after attacking or tricking their ‘citizens,’ or at the very least spoon-feeding them the illusion of democracy, are protected in this role by the very guns and bombs and armies that they use to wrestle resources from each other, which they have done throughout history, and still do as completely obviously today to any one not living inside a discarded fridge. Meanwhile, these unbelievably violent and greedy acts of war are committed at the expense of soldiers, and funded by the very tax-payers that they claim to represent the interests of. Tax-payers, incidentally, that when asked would presumably insist on preferring better roads, teachers, nurses and water cannons for spraying fires and young people, than a trail of dead, brown people somewhere bloody foreign.

The 'them and us' has never been 'our' people and people from different countries, no matter how much we have always been actively encouraged in to that mode of thinking (the French! the Nazis! The Communists! The Immigrants! The Terrorists!)

The idea that there is an ‘us’ at all is perhaps the biggest and most constant lie told in all of politics.

It is also not hard to see what a farmer could want to take from another farm, and inherent in that shit, nursery-level sentence is the basic truth behind every single war since the beginning of these fucking cults we call countries. The 'them and us' has always, ALWAYS been the people of the world and those who rule them; those brainwashed and forced to kill each other, or fund it with stolen chunks of their pay-checks, and the people who control that system. You cannot have violence abroad without first having violence at home. You cannot point guns at foreign citizens without first pointing them at your own.

If all this is making me sound like a hippy-lefty-liberal-something-conspiracy-sensationalist-bloggy-twat-sort-of-a-man, here’s an illuminating quote from one of modern history’s particularly cuntiest cunts Hermann Göring, the Nazi general who had one of the nicer jobs in the long and unpleasant series of events we call World War II, who later picked up prizes in both the War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity categories of the Nuremburg Awards Ceremony, then killed himself the night before his death sentence:

“Naturally the common people don't want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”

Nothing has changed. It is not British soldiers fighting Iraqi or Afghan soldiers, for example. Thousands of men weren’t sitting around either side of a continent, twiddling their trigger-finger-thumbs and getting increasingly hateful towards another group of people they’ve never met before.

No. It is the British (Replace As Appropriate) government fighting its ‘enemies,’ and ‘our troops’ are merely the currency of exchange used to achieve whatever political ends are being sought. Oil, contracts, strategic military footholds, revenge, whatever -- it doesn’t matter really when we’ll buy any old twonk about terrorists hating our freedom, or weapons of mass destruction (remember them?) being pointed directly at our local pub.

We’re fools to believe that governments care about soldiers' lives. Soldiers are not individual people to these warmongering arseholes -- they’re pawns in a real-life game of chess. They’re dispensable. Statistic-wrapped resources. And the saddest thing is that soldiers will keep being used as tools and meat weapons because we keep pushing them into harm’s way with our dreadful, hysterical fucking nonsense.

Help for Heroes! Support our boys!

Hell, if you've stayed with me through all that heavily-caffeinated ranting, you deserve to know that the reason I remembered to write this thing at all today was that I went to the fridge to make a sandwich, and saw written on a packet, ‘SUPPORT OUR UK TROOPS PURCHASE THIS HAM;’ a pork product that was purchased for its primary function of being ham, incidentally, rather than its contributions to a pervasive culture in our society of glorifying those most blatantly abused by it.

Nationalist Ham

Slices of deceased pig, quite simply, should not be encouraging you to support soldiers. In fact, I’d prefer my ham to have very few political opinions at all.

So next time you see an article in a newspaper and it pulls out one particular dead soldier’s name (and, inevitably, neglects to mention the many, non-allied civilians who died that same day), praises him or her as a hero, tells you they were brave for dying to protect you and your freedom -- know the cold, hard truth.

They did not die to protect you... they died for nothing that can be deemed a moral good. Their glory, their fame, their front-page obituary, is tragic, temporary and fleeting; no more-or-less than tomorrow’s fish-and-chip paper. It’s a nudge in your ribs to keep you believing what you should.

To keep supporting soldiers.

To keep supporting war.

To keep supporting ham.

That soldier’s extinguished life, the lives they probably took as well, and the grieving relatives either side of the gun they were paid and ordered to carry --all that loss and suffering-- cannot be measured in gains to your freedom or safety but only in the bank accounts of the military-industrial complex, oil companies, politicians, lobbyists, contractors, mercenaries, and pork peddlers – nobody, NOBODY, who can legitimately claim to care about them or you.

When you glorify soldiers, praise them, worship them, or martyr them, you become a small part of the social machine that sends them to war -- one hand amongst many that pushes them towards danger and death.

Oh, Death, you wacky liberal

The whole myth falls apart when we value every human life equally. When you realise that EVERY SOLDIER on EVERY SIDE does WHAT THEY ARE TOLD and BELIEVES THEY ARE RIGHT, suddenly it doesn’t seem so fun to keep sorting them in to lines, pointing them at each other, and whispering in their ears what the other lot said about their mothers and a courgette.

When a war is ‘won’, and you won’t see much of that any time soon, what has really won is the idea that war can solve problems. That complex, intricate matters like drug trafficking or border disputes or religious fanaticism can be solved by splitting into teams and slinging a stubborn amount of violence, cash and ignorant rage at each other. Yes, kids, adults solve problems by trying to explode them; adults solve problems by shredding up each other’s internal organs with terrifying metal projectiles.

In fact, the primary cause of every war ever is Statism, and the division of people into these imaginary clubs by their owners. If you defend the State as a noble solution to social issues like education and road-building and healthcare, you also carry with you the millstone of the millions of deaths caused directly by their very existence. 40 million people in the First World War, over 60 million in Part Two, millions and millions more before, in-between and after due to the clashing ideologies and intentions of all those in power with the means to mobilise the world’s poor against each other with violence and financial incentives. Add to this history’s conquests, genocides, revolutions, civil wars, terrorism, government-caused ghettos and famines, and it suddenly becomes very difficult to make the case that the State and its agents were ever there to protect you. The encouraged mentality –and that’s mostly all the State really is, a firmly-rooted and heavily-propagandised idea in our collective consciousness-- has almost always been the biggest threat to your life and your livelihood that exists. Indeed, as it forces you to pay your taxes, auctions your future in the form of debt, imprisons you if you break its rules, has a monopoly on violence, can draft you into the military whenever it wants, uses propaganda to achieve its ends, and will always, always protect its existence over yours, it’s difficult to argue that it is anything but the absolute enemy of your freedom.

That’s why blind patriotism is so consistently encouraged by those in power.

A very lucrative myth would crumble without it.

We’re actively taught and encouraged to worship 'our' soldiers, to believe that simply being a soldier, regardless of any individual characteristics, makes one good and brave and heroic. We are further encouraged to maintain the long-established nonsense of past murdered men having “died for our freedom” rather than the enforced protection or expansion of borders and tax-bases.

To criticise this herd mentality, to remark on this zealous, foolish nationalism, or to even open a discussion to the idea that soldiers aren’t automatically amazing and brilliant and admirable, is to be accused of being unpatriotic, treacherous, unappreciative or ridiculous. It is the most powerful and perverse of social stigmas that those who care the most can so easily be accused of caring the least.

That is, perhaps, how four murdered children end up as a small note in a little grey box on page 32.


-----
Further Reading: U.S. Soldier Ethan McCord talks about his time in Iraq. A hard-to-watch but important video. Informative and tragic.

24 Jun 2011

The Evolution of an Atheist

2011? Jesus, how did you arrive here - on your dinosaur? Click here to go to hencewise.com, and stop a weirdo holding a candle in the dark, looking all dramatic and old-fashioned.


I was an atheist from a fairly early age.

Like perhaps the majority of the Western World’s greatest sperm, I was born. As such, my geographic location just north of London meant my dance with the divine began in an old, cold building with a white man in a dress putting his wet finger on my confused baby head. He splashed me a bit, read something from the best-selling book of all time, and a lot of older people I would later become aware of smiled cooperatively while pretending not to give a toss that they could have been three or four Bloody Marys happier somewhere else. At that moment, even though my cognitive function was not yet developed enough to avoid shitting myself all day, I apparently earned the rite of passage into the Christian Church. I know it might seem initially exploitative that I had no apparent free will when entering such an important spiritual contract but I can honestly tell you, at the time, I didn’t give two milky tits about it.

In fact, all that Christianity stuff worked out fine for years. This God bloke, despite being all-knowing and all-powerful, generally seemed to keep His nose out as I thundered around nursery school, falling over and bonking girls on the head with a big rubber hammer. He didn’t stop me making faces at the teachers, or peeing on the toilet seat, or putting my dinner in my hair. I liked Him, and it seemed pretty obvious that He was kind of fond of me too. He let me get away with loads of naughty stuff, sort of like a cool, hip dad that let's you drink some beer and shows you boobies if you promise not to tell your mother. One time, while all the strict adults were out and I was misguidedly trusted to look after a dog, God even let me take a decorative Shaolin sword off the wall and try and slice an apple in half with it, just like in all those movies I wasn’t supposed to be watching and getting ideas from. To my naive surprise, the apple didn't splice in two, cleanly separate, and slide apart like I had expected. It fucking exploded. I spent the next hour frantically cleaning up an incredible amount of apple matter from the walls, floor, ceiling, furniture, sword, and dog. There was almost definitely a commandment about not doing that kind of shit, I was sure of it, but it still didn’t seem to matter -- I got away with it again. Me and God, we were mates.

Not far from this time, then, did it seem entirely silly to the increasingly thinky thing inside my head that the World might just revolve around me. Boring adults were always telling me it didn’t, of course, especially whenever I did something obviously clever like eat all the jelly... but how could they prove it? I certainly couldn't. For all I knew, adults left the room and suddenly disappeared, just like my foreskin did that time I woke up in a hospital. On the other hand, I knew that I existed because I could smell myself. When I went to bed, the whole world went away just because I wasn’t awake to look at it, and then it magically came back again exactly as I finished sleeping. Then I got thinking about that definitely real, true story that I was told about Jesus. He was due back any minute now, apparently, but nobody knew exactly when. Well, I was the only person that I knew definitely existed, and I also seemed to me like a pretty nice kid, especially when you ignored all those times when other people thought I wasn't.

... well, couldn’t I be Jesus?

With all those songs they made us sing about being God’s children in primary school, no wonder the idea occasionally fluttered on the nose-picking periphery of my subconscious for a while. I was a good lad. When I was punished, I remember, it was always unfair. Whenever I did something wrong, it was never my fault. Whenever I was bad, it was only an accident. There was certainly no way in Heaven that I deserved to go to Hell. Burning, flaming, awful, unbearable torment and torture for all eternity just because I found swearing hilarious in school, pulled a wardrobe on my head, crashed a golf cart, threw fruit at cars, lied about kicking a mirror while practising karate, and occasionally stole a Twix? Yeah, right, I thought as I planned out my dream mansion in the clouds, complete with Sega Megadrive game library, Pop Tarts at every meal, and my beloved Right Said Fred tape on endless repeat.

It was around this time, though, that God stopped doing Himself any favours. On one hand, He kept making me taller, which I obviously liked for the immediate benefit of being able to reach more stuff that I shouldn’t, but on the other hand, he was giving me a bigger head. There was literally more brain in there, and it was using all the extra space it had annexed from the outside world to do more thinking about all the stuff going on out there. By the age I was falling out of trees with frightening regularity, I started to understand that not everyone in the world believed the exact same things about God, life and death as I did. On other parts of the planet, apparently, people didn’t think that Jesus was the virgin-born son of God who could save your eternal soul if you loved him telepathically, or that all animals exist because two of each species got on a boat with a 600-year-old farmer and survived a genocidal flood sent to cleanse the blood of humanity, or that evil exists in the soul of all people because a woman made of dust and rib talked to a snake then ate a forbidden fruit from a magic tree. No, these other people believed in all kinds of nonsense.

By my fingers-and-toes counting estimations there were thousands of people on the planet and the majority of them, it turned out, followed entirely different religions to the one I did. There were ones that sat down a lot, some who wore bedsheets or hats, others who didn't like women very much, some that pointed in a specific direction every day, ones that wouldn't eat burgers, and another lot that knocked on your door and pissed you off. At first I thought I was pretty lucky to get the right God, but then my increasingly pesky head started to think that it actually seemed a bit strange that most of the world’s population were going straight to Hell just because they weren't born in the right country, continent, or hemisphere. How could so many people believe such different things and still believe they were definitely right? It started to seem to me that there were more gods than Pokemon, and they couldn't all be in the sky, surely, otherwise there would be no room for the birds and the aeroplanes and Superman and Santa. I was young, but I was starting to figure out something that some of these taller humans seemingly hadn't.

Either nobody was right, or my friend God, the ultra laid-back babysitter dude who once let my young cousins and I entertain ourselves by throwing live crabs into traffic, was not really giving everybody a fair chance. To create a world and universe just for People, then send the majority of them to Hell just because they weren't born in the right place to read His autobiography seemed a bit devious and arrogant to me, especially when it was Him who chose to create them in the first place. It was sort of like hiring a teacher, stealing all their clothes, and spraying them with lighter fluid, then hysterically blaming them for being a dangerous, flammable pervert that ruined the carpet.

I started getting a bit brave with the Almighty. Testing him. I called him an idiot first, then a sky idiot, then a pretend, useless flipping cloud-twat. No lightning, no boils. So I swore at him, ‘God, you dicky twatcabbage... you tossy slapping prickhead.’ No floods, no plagues. It was then, somewhere between the age of seven and whenever I figured out how to swear properly, that I realised the World was the same colourful, silly, chaotic, fun, strange, dumb and indifferent place whether He was there watching it or not, and, quite obviously it seemed, He wasn't.

However, there were still times as a child that I would get scared, and my faith in my lack of faith would suddenly seem less certain; perhaps on rainy nights with coloured, cartoon covers bundled to my chest, and when the looming anxiety of getting caught for something particularly bad would creep under all defences and grip me like a vice; when I felt entirely powerless to prevent the unfolding of some uncertain future, I would still pray.

“Please, God, help me... please... I promise if you help me not get caught I will believe in you again... please... I promise, God, just help me.”

I knew it wouldn't change anything, I think, but if I did get what I wanted there was still one last thought I couldn't help but direct towards that expansive sky with no one in it.

“Haha, tricked you again.”


2011? Jesus, how did you arrive here - on your dinosaur? Click here to go to hencewise.com, and stop a weirdo holding a candle in the dark, looking all dramatic and old-fashioned.

22 Jun 2011

Aliens

2011? Jesus, how did you arrive here - on your dinosaur? Click here to go to hencewise.com, and stop a weirdo holding a candle in the dark, looking all dramatic and old-fashioned.


The gigantic smiling head that orbits our planet belongs, of course,  to Brian Cox. He’s a particle physicist and a university professor who also makes decent telly programs about space for the BBC and makes your mother a bit aroused. He seems like a nice, cheerful sort of a chap -- certainly the kind of person that you would rather hire a boat with for an hour than purposefully direct towards a sniper battle in a landfill.

So in a pub last week, if I had been the Supreme Leader of Planet Earth instead of just mildly alcohol poisoned, he was the person I would have chosen as my ideal ambassador for humanity in the eventuality of aliens ever landing here.

I think I owe Brian Cox an apology.

----

Aliens almost certainly exist. If you don’t think they do, you might just be a bit confused about how big the Universe really is. Have a look at this for a cheeky refresher – that’s just the bit of our galaxy and beyond that we can see and take photos of. Each one of those dots is a star like ours, and a source of energy to the planets caught in its gravity, just like ours, each a hub in space for all of the same elements we’re made of, and each governed by the same physical laws that arranged those elements into something like us. There is estimated to be between 200 and 400 billion stars in the Milky Way, our galaxy, and at least hundreds of billions of galaxies in just our bit of the Universe. Not that these numbers mean anything beyond stonkingly flipping massive by this point, especially considering that the pesky Universe hasn't proved itself to be anything but infinite just yet. Basically, we might as well say there’s a sillion bananillion gorillion stars and planets for the amount it helps us to comprehend the situation.

However, the reasons that aliens almost certainly exist are also the exact same reasons why we will probably never meet them, and also the exact same reasons why we never want to.

Our nearest star, Proxima Centauri, is about 4 light-years away, or 24,000,000,000,000 miles from us. To not help put that in some form of perspective, the interstellar probe Voyager was launched 33 years ago and has only just begun to breach the edge of our solar system 10 billion miles away. It will be another forty-thousand years before it reaches even the very nearest planetary system to us.  Me, you, Earth, the solar system and even Brian Cox are all effectively lost in this cosmic quarantine. Even the 100 light-years our radio broadcasts have travelled seems as about as significant as a widowed ant's anniversary plans when we consider that our Milky galaxy alone is 100,000 light-years from end to end. The space we’re hiding in is just so massive that the statistical improbability of advanced alien civilisations finding us is great enough that you could assume the word astronomical was invented for occasions just like this unnecessarily insulting sentence, idiot.

That’s also based on the slightly smug assumption they would want to find us at all. There are more stars just like ours than there are grains of sands in all the deserts in the world, so if life exists here and at least one other place, then it’s logical to assume it exists everywhere. Suddenly, we’re not the special, magical wonderstuff that invented trousers and bread; we are insignificant, common, generic. Like every commodity in existence, life is worth less when it is in abundance. We treat pandas kindly because they are rare, but we’ll happily plough a minivan through a parade if we think there’s the slightest chance we might kill an extra wasp. Aliens, if they’ve found us, and that’s generally the kind of thing they like to do, could have found so many other planets and life-forms that they would probably regard us with the same level of enthusiasm we’d devote to Paris Hilton’s opinions on anything more complicated than a sausage. The chances are, they won’t fawn over how impressive we are, or invite us to join some intergalactic ride-sharing space union, or begin imparting their advanced scientific knowledge to us. No, they’ll probably stop for a photo, giggle at an aeroplane, and move on.

The other common thread running through many science fiction stories and UFO conspiracies is that we want to meet aliens because they’ll probably be somehow like us. Even NASA, which you’d assume must contain at least a few people you could trust to hold a hot coffee without dipping their ears in it, seems to subscribe to this idea as they launched with Voyager a golden long-play record complete with a map of our solar system and an audio track of uncharacteristically peaceful messages from a planet that’s been at war almost non-stop since it was clever enough to invent nations, gods, sharp stuff and things that go bang. And right there could be our problem.

It’s exactly because they might be like us that we don’t want to meet them. To reach Earth, extraterrestrial life would need technology whereby they could travel trillions of miles in their life-spans, and we’re still executing each other with lumps of metal to get the best price on a finite, black liquid we have to burn to get to the shops. I mean, seriously, have you fucking met us? Think about how well humans historically have treated life-forms they see as inferior to themselves. Ask the Native Americans how being friendly to visitors turned out for them. Ask an African a few centuries ago how excited he was to see a boat. Ask the dolphins and penguins in the zoo how they came to the peculiar decision to move to a fish-tank in North London. Humans don’t discover anything and think ‘look at this thing doing absolutely fine without us.’ No, we bomb it, dig it, skin it, mine it, catch it, poke it, spill it, lose it, break it, plant a flag for the press conference, move in the bulldozers and set up a gift shop.

So while “Hello. Let there be peace everywhere,” might sound like a confident message to sling deep into the cosmic dark with a trail of breadcrumbs home, perhaps we’re more like the lamb that’s rolled itself in herbs and butter and is lolloping happily towards a man holding a pita bread, a shotgun and a barbeque.

These bloody aliens apparently possess wizardry that allows them to bound across time and space just for a laugh, and I was going to send Brian Cox to go and shake their hands/claws/tentacles like we’re equals? No, no, no, I’ve changed my mind. I’m so sorry, Brian. At the very first sign of a spaceship landing, please take my lovely, smiley Brian Cox, put him in a helicopter with a pencil and get him up a mountain somewhere thinking up new ideas for super guns.

If I can choose again, I vote for someone with at least one finger up their nose, a face that could divert traffic and a name like Wally Fumblebricks.

Better still, send a pig in a cardigan and hope they don’t figure out we’ve got 20,000 nukes.

2011? Jesus, how did you arrive here - on your dinosaur? Click here to go to hencewise.com, and stop a weirdo holding a candle in the dark, looking all dramatic and old-fashioned.

7 Jun 2011

Old Age

2011? Jesus, how did you arrive here - on your dinosaur? Click here to go to hencewise.com, and stop a weirdo holding a candle in the dark, looking all dramatic and old-fashioned.



The fact that something called 'anti-ageing' cream exists in our society tells us three things: Firstly, in a world of relative scientific enlightenment, a lot of people are still very confused about the relationship between moisturiser and Time. Secondly, this confusion about how lotion can somehow disrupt the linear sequencing of events means that the same people would probably continue buying it even if it was called something less subtle like Time-Idiot-Nonsense cream. Thirdly, it tells us that an entire silly industry can exist just because a lot of people aren't very keen on the idea of looking as old as they are, or getting old at all. Perhaps it's easy to see why, though, as older people are always gumming on about things being better in the old days, youth being wasted on the young, and cautioning us pups for not appreciating our fragile limp hinges. While they stare fondly back into a romanticised past that often seems more golden because they've forgotten the dullest lumps, the young are conversely obliged to resist their future of disloyal knee caps, talcum powder, mild-to-moderate racism, and putting their glasses in stupid places like the oven. Unfortunately for them though, no matter how many inch-thick layers of expensive fib cream they smear on their bodies, there will always be a grey, silly version of them waiting just the other side of their mortgage. However, to prove it wont all be completely dreadful, here's a list of the 23 best things about being old I could possibly think of, arranged for no good reason beside a bunch of photographs that absolutely fucking delight me.

The 23 Best Things About Being Old

Short-term memory loss means you can do things for the first time, lots of times. It also means you can forget names or birthdays and blame your batty old brain.
People have lower expectations of your physical and mental abilities. As well as making it harder to disappoint them, it also means it's easier to impress them. Watch Country’s Got Talent, for example, and you’ll quickly realise that all you need to win an audience's respect is the ability to do a normal thing whilst being old.
If crosswords and knitting are suddenly so entertaining, think how much fun you’d have at anything called a 'cocaine horse fight.'
Been there, done that. Now you've got a monopoly on twaddle, bullshit, jabbering nostalgia. “When I was your age," you'll say, "all we had was a Nintendo Wii, 14 megapixel camera phones and Facebook installed in our fingernails. Kids today don’t know they’re born.”
Wheelchairs. Stairlifts. Mopeds. No more of that leg nonsense.

You’re a drain on society, but it's basically an unwritten rule that nobody’s allowed to say it to you. In fact, as long as you look like some daft old fucker in a cardigan, you can get away with practically anything from stealing, to telling your relatives they’re fat, to using the word ‘coloureds.’ You can blabber on about any lunatic opinion you like and people will still defend your attitude as being "from a different generation."
You’ve forgotten more than most young people know.

You can grow an excellent beard, regardless of gender.
You don’t need to worry about how quickly science and society are progressing; you’re old and deranged, it’s a ‘democracy’ and all of your age-group vote. If you don’t want them young people to have their marijuanas or their raves or their human rights, don’t let ‘em. Humbug.

Who? What? Where? Exactly, it doesn’t matter. You’re staying in and trying to remember your name and which hole to put the biscuits in.

Viagra yaaaaaaaaaaaaay.

You can hang hang stuff on your Zimmer frame like it's a mobile storage unit. What about some shelving, a wind-chime, or a selection of fine, Italian cured meats?
There’s booze and buffets at funerals  (and normally at least one widow if you fancy a steamy session round the back of the crematorium.)
Morgan Freeman.
You get some money every week, or a bus pass, or free wood in the winter or something, don’t you? You're also worth increasingly little to kidnap. It's the little things.
By the time you reach old age, technology will be insanely, terrifyingly advanced. Just ask Japan. Toilets that clean your arse for you, years ago. Air-bags that catch you when you fall over, you bet. CarerBot9000 simultaneously writing your will, blowing on your soup, and scraping a layer of tough, orange fungus from your ankles, it can't be long.
Maybe death is a little worrying, but it’s got to be better than watching 20 adults fail to grasp the concept of probability every fucking day on Deal or No Deal.

You can now use words like ruffian, hoodlum, scallywag, delinquent, scamp, rapscallion, hooligan, scofflaw, lout, and rascal to describe any one under the age of 30 who is sitting on a bench.
After decades and decades of seeing ridiculous styles and trends come and go, every young, ‘fashionable’ twonk on the street will look like a yohgurt-minded fool to you while you loaf around shopping centres in your your warm, durable corduroy tracksuit.

Your piss? Yep. Your poo? Yep. Your problem? Not any more.
It’ll be exponentially funnier when you make crude, rude or cheeky remarks. Ever heard a sweet, doddery elderly woman say, "phwoar, I'd smash his back-doors in"? Me neither. Be hilarious though, I reckon.

You’ve made it this far, right? Global warming, peak oil, unsustainable population growth... - who gives a spine? Pass the smack and the nail-gun, let’s get on the motorway and drive at some traffic.
Life imprisonment”? Bitch, please.
I hope that cheered you up about your impending biological collapse, and if it hasn't, remember that growing old is a privilege not granted to everyone. Now I hope you're not too confused to get back to whatever whipper-snapping social media site you came from.

2011? Jesus, how did you arrive here - on your dinosaur? Click here to go to hencewise.com, and stop a weirdo holding a candle in the dark, looking all dramatic and old-fashioned.


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